Fulbright, Gilman & Other Prestigious Scholarships

By Philip Benesch

To have three student Fulbright successes in a two-year period may seem remarkable.  However, the classes we graduate each year include many highly intelligent and capable students.  We should encourage more of our students to consider Fulbright.

The new application for U.S. Student Fulbright grants opens today, Monday April 3rd (http://us.fulbrightonline.org/component/school/6505?view=school).  This Fulbright application cycle will support study and teaching opportunities in the 2018-19 academic year.  Students must be U.S. citizens at the time of application and must have completed a bachelor’s degree before the start of the grant period.

Please encourage your students to attend the Fulbright Information Meeting on Friday April 7th, from 12:15 (lunch included) in NG.203 (perhaps you might accompany them?).  And please ask your most promising students to contact me (benesch@lvc.edu) now, before the end of this semester, so that I may work with them over the summer to prepare an effective application.

The April 7th information session will be conducted by Jennifer Connor from the Institute of International Education (IIE), the agency that administers the U.S. student Fulbright program on behalf of the United States Department of State.  The IIE also administers several other federal scholarship programs for international study, such as the Gilman and Boren awards.  I have asked Jennifer to share with us information on the Gilman award, which provide financial support to Pell-grant eligible students so they may participate in undergraduate study abroad.  If you know of Pell-grant eligible students interested in our study abroad options then the April 7th meeting may offer important Gilman Scholarship information to them (http://www.iie.org/Programs/Gilman-Scholarship-Program#.WN51Xvnys2w).

LVC students have been successful in competition for the Fulbright award.  Last year Hannah Pell (Physics and Music, currently studying systematic musicology in Austria https://hannahfulbright.wordpress.com/), this year both Jasmine Olvany (Biochemistry and Art, soon to embark upon a yearlong research project in Hungary) and Megan Lough (English and Secondary Education, preparing for an English Teaching Assistantship in Bulgaria).  These three are but our latest Fulbright successes.  We also had successful Fulbright applicants in 2000, 2005, and 2009.  From the mid-seventies through to 1990, 9 LVC students earned prestigious scholarships administered, as the Fulbright is, by the Institute of International Education.  These include Douglas Ebersole, who we will honor with a Doctor of Law degree this commencement.  Ebersole completed a Fulbright year (1978-79) in Australia before entering Stanford Law school for his JD.  Ebersole and Mike Gross (1982) were remarkable in another way.  They were two of only 240 American students to receive the ITT Fellowship – which selected the very best Fulbright applicants and upgraded their award.

Let’s encourage more LVC students to follow in their steps.  Please ask your students to attend the Fulbright Information Meeting on Friday April 7th, from 12:15 (lunch included) in NG.203.


Mentoring versus Advising

Mentoring vs. Advising – It’s Not Only Good for Students

by Michelle Rasmussen

I think we all know that one of the major advantages to obtaining an education at a school like LVC is the small student-faculty ratio. It makes it possible for all of us to get to know each student as a person rather than just a number, as they are often considered at larger institutions. This clearly impacts how we teach in the classroom, but more importantly, it gives us the opportunity to mentor our students instead of just advising. Mentoring is so much more than just helping a student choose what classes to take and when to take them. Because we can take the time to know each student individually, we can provide more effective guidance to maximize opportunities during their time at LVC and give them personalized advice when it comes to making the critical decisions related to their career goals.

Articles about undergraduate mentoring are typically framed to highlight the benefits or advantages for the student being mentored. However, the part that is often left out is that the process can and should be beneficial for the person doing the mentoring as well. Speaking from the point of view of the sciences (but realizing that this is relevant across all fields), effectively mentoring my students requires that I stay up-to-date with what is going on in my field. What are the requirements for graduate programs or industrial positions and how those might be changing? What is the current job market like for chemists? If a student is interested in a specific area of chemistry, what types of jobs might they be able to obtain and how much education are the required to have? Even more specifically, what areas of research are rapidly expanding and which are dwindling? These are just a few in a much longer list of topics that I like to discuss with my advisees throughout their time at LVC.

My goal is to set aside some time each week or so to read through recent literature and job postings. Sometimes it is difficult to find the time to do this but what has surprised me is that, while my purpose for doing this is to be an effective mentor, I stand to gain a lot from this process. Staying current with chemical research directly contributes to my ability to design new research projects, write funding proposals, and develop collaborations with other researchers in my field. It can also help me to improve or change the direction of current projects. The other major impact of this process is to show the students that I’m invested in them and their future. They appreciate that I’m willing to spend the extra time on them which, in turn, makes them more likely to come to me for guidance or advice.

An Unexpected Benefit of Teaching Online

By Lou Manza

“So, Lou” Ann started “do you think you could put something together about how teaching an online class helped to inform your face-to-face teaching?”  With a little arm-twisting, I agreed.  One of the issues that factors into my answer to this initial prompt, however, is understanding why I took the plunge into online education, and the roots of that go back to somewhere in the vicinity of 1995, when I first arrived at LVC.  As I recall, online learning was rising into the consciousness of higher education at that time, and I remember reading articles in the Chronicle about various upstarts that were making grand claims about the long-term, and positive (from their view, at least; these were, after all, the companies and/or institutions that were promoting online learning as the future of education) prospects of “distance” education.  My initial take on all of this was that it seemed intriguing, and it was certainly framed around taking advantage of the then-new technology of the Internet for use in teaching.  But I also thought that face-to-face (FTF) learning was critical to engage students in conversation, as communication involves more than the mere exchange of words – seeing students’ expressions during conversations, or watching their body language communicating some type of discomfort when dealing with challenging topics, was unique to traditional forms of learning.  I did not think that online education could replace that.  Then, when a Valley colleague made the comment – that he meant, 100% — that “this distance learning is bad for us – we’re gonna be out of business in a decade” I again thought “no way.”  Online learning might indeed be around in the future, but it won’t supplant FTF interaction as the dominant form of education.

Now, sitting here 20+ years later, while my associate’s prediction proved (thankfully) to be false, I have also developed a deeper sense of the utility of online learning.  As the 1990s turned into the 2000s, and Internet-based courses started to proliferate across the landscape beyond Annville, I watched this growth via published reports in the Chronicle, and comments from friends, relatives, and students completing these classes within other institutions.  Some of what I was seeing was certainly bad, pedagogically-speaking, but the one message that persisted was that distance education was here to stay, and if schools did not get on board with this, at least to some degree, they’d be left behind.  The most direct way this impacted my own work here at the Valley was in seeing summer course enrollments (for my own and others’ offerings) consistently drop with each passing year (bottoming out with undergrads completing an average of 838 total credits each summer from 2012-14), until the summer of 2015, when the College started to move a majority of its summer classes to the online platform – and the students returned!  1,267 credits were completed that term – a 51% increase from the previous 3 years — and the growth continued during the Summer ’16 session, when 1,320 credits (a 58% increase over 2012-14) were completed.  When I was then asked, in the Fall of 2015, to consider offering my Junk Science and Paranormal Phenomena course in an online manner during the following summer, I gave it some serious thought.  Yes, this would require a substantial amount of effort up front, translating the hands-on interactions that occurred daily in my FTF classes into online activities, but I was up for the challenge.  The additional carrot for me was that I wanted to make my preparatory work get me the most bang for the buck, by purposely taking what I was learning about online courses and use it in my FTF classes.  With that, the 2015-16 year became an exercise in absorbing boatloads of knowledge about online learning, and crafting my class to be an engaging educational experience.

During the run-up to my Summer ’16 online course, I was required to complete the College’s Course Development Institute (CDI), and with this activity structured as a class, I was afforded the opportunity of seeing online learning as a student, and this then stayed in my head as I prepared the activities for my own course.  Since I wasn’t going to have FTF contact with those taking my class, I wanted to at least make sure that they could navigate the course page, submit assignments, and post to discussion boards as effectively as possible.  Seeing that my online students were able to take care of these tasks in an effective manner, it motivated me to utilize a similar model within my FTF classes during the Fall ‘16 term and beyond.  While I do interact with the latter students on a daily basis, I do offload some preparatory course work to the Canvas platform, and I’ve paid better attention to making sure that the instructions I give for those tasks are crystal clear.  This then allows me and my students to focus more of our class time on interactive hands-on learning, and not required, but less meaningful, clerical work.

My work in preparing for and then delivering my online class also exposed me to new technology (beyond the Canvas platform) that I’ve found useful in my FTF courses, with one standout being audio software.  I found that while the overwhelming majority of my communication with online students came in written form, there were times when verbal interactions better-conveyed my intentions.  This is easy to do in FTF classes, but a little more work would be needed in the online world.  So, I did some searching for audio-based software, picked the brains of several colleagues, and landed upon Audacity.  After schooling myself in how to use this platform, I could easily upload brief messages and podcast-like comments to the class, and this skill then translated into my FTF meetings when I wanted to get similar messages to those students (especially when we’d be apart for extended periods of time (such as Fall/Spring Break), or when inclement weather disrupted our standard meeting schedule).

In addition, preparing activities in my online class taught me how to get students to engage with one another as opposed to using traditional methods for peer-to-peer contact.  For example, my FTF classes frequently involve students finding classmates to work with on team-based activities, as well as engaging in peer reviews of various assignments.  Prior to my initial online teaching, I’d accomplish the former by posting sign-up sheets outside my office, and while this method was effective, it wasn’t always convenient for all students, especially those commuting to campus.  My experiences within the CDI helped to learn how to create pages within Canvas that students could manipulate on their own, so now I can accomplish those same clerical tasks online, with students having 24/7 access to those materials, and their classmates.  While this can be a minor pedagogical element, I’ve found that little details such as these DO matter to students, and anything that allows students to maintain a positive attitude towards their courses is important.

Working in the online world also allowed me to encourage my FTF students to develop a mindset that favors independent working.  Before entering the world of distance education, if I needed to distribute course materials to students, I’d print copies of everything and then distribute them during class periods.  Since there were no class meetings in my online class, I needed to store documents, in Canvas, in an organized manner to facilitate students’ ability to locate them online.  The effort in making hard copies was, therefore, gone, and it dawned on me that I could easily adapt this model to my FTF work – plus, it would save the College money related to printing costs, and since many of these materials could be utilized in an electronic format, it’s turned out to be an environment-friendly outcome.  If students want access to course materials, they need to find them on their own; again, this is a subtle process, but does, I believe, encourage undergrads to take personal responsibility for course materials.

Perhaps the most critical way that my online teaching has informed my FTF efforts has been in the context of enhancing the flipped classroom approach that I’ve utilized in the latter for many years.  I’ve never been one to lecture endlessly in FTF settings – I encourage students to interact with myself and their peers on a daily basis — but this requires a high degree of preparation on their part for our FTF meetings to be as productive as possible.  I incorporated this work in my online class as well, when assembling a variety of discussion-board activities, and my facility in learning how to accomplish this has now spilled over into my FTF classes – specifically when creating Instructional Equivalency assignments in these settings.  While these activities occur on an infrequent basis, when they do pop-up I’ve been able to merge them into my courses in a relatively seamless manner, from the work itself (e.g., discussion boards used to engage students when the College is closed due to inclement weather) to the grading rubric necessary to ensure that students approach the activity with the same seriousness-of-purpose they employ for other, traditional, requirements.

Teaching online is not as easy as some perceive it to be, especially if one designs courses with the intent of ensuring deep student learning.  There is a significant time/energy investment involved in getting such a course together (to say nothing of the work required to administer it), but the benefits are not limited to cyberspace interactions.  Teaching online can easily make one a more productive instructor in FTF settings, allowing students working in the latter environment to develop an enhanced degree of learning that may not have been attained if a faculty had no exposure to distance education.


More than a Poetry Recitation

By Holly Wendt

On the evening of January 25, students from high schools across south-central Pennsylvania gathered at the Ware Center for the Arts in downtown Lancaster for the regional Poetry Out Loud finals. The event was organized by Marci Nelligan, Program Coordinator for South Central PaARTners/Millersville University, and featured recitations by ten students, each representing a single high school in the region. More than 6,700 Pennsylvania students from 108 schools participated in Poetry Out Loud this year, and the program has thrived across the nation since 2005.

During the competition, the ten finalists recite one poem each during the three rounds. Scoring is cumulative. The poems are chosen from a body of work selected by the Poetry Out Loud organization, either from the Poetry Out Loud website or from the current print anthology, and there are requirements: one of the poems selected and recited must have been written prior to 1900 and one must be fewer than twenty-five lines.

What that meant in a practical sense was a wonderful diversity of recitations: each round moved us from writers like John Donne and Ben Jonson to Edna St. Vincent Millay and H.D. to Larry Levis and Carmen Giménez Smith.

I served as one of the five judges, four of whom evaluated the students’ recitations while the fifth gauged the speakers’ accuracy. The criteria for judging ask students to develop a thorough and nuanced understanding of the poem, such that the meaning of the poem is evident in both intonation and gesture, but successful recitations also stop short of dramatic performance. The level of understanding necessary for a high quality recitation means that students are fully immersing themselves in and connecting with works sometimes hundreds of years old, often written by speakers whose experiences and identities are very different from the reciters’ own, an act that requires both intellectual acuity and a developed sense of empathy.

The event offered me a welcome opportunity to participate in a vibrant arts education initiative and to meet other arts educators and advocates—including faculty from West Chester University and Franklin and Marshall College, the Executive Director of Berks Arts Council, and a graduate student and arts organizer from Millersville University, who were also serving as judges—but the best part of the evening was witnessing the power of the arts in action. On a chilly night in January, the Ware Center was full of proud family members, friends, and community members coming together to support students in an event that has, at its heart, a deep understanding of poetry. And it was fun, made even more so by four performances by high school students from the We Rock the Mic program at Arbor Place, who read their own compositions, translating their personal stories into verse and sharing powerful moments of witness and resistance from their own lives.

Poetry as performance, entertainment, expression, and commentary has ancient roots. As a writer who is also a medievalist, I think first of the scop, the poet of the Anglo-Saxon meadhall. In Beowulf, the scop in Danish king Hrothgar’s hall uses his tales to both celebrate Beowulf’s success against Grendel and to offer cautionary tales to the poem’s young hero, lauding Beowulf’s mighty deeds while warning him to be careful of his ego, mindful of his great power. But poetry is not lecture; the cautionary tales are delivered obliquely via stories of a truce selfishly broken that results in much bloodshed and a once-great king who grows jealous and paranoid of his power and does not act as a leader ought, to the downfall of his people. As the scop weaves his words, listeners (and readers) invest in the narrative, watch the circumstances unfold, and hopefully learn from others’ mistakes and abuses of power. Despite being an epic that most remember for a hero killing monsters, the lessons of Beowulf emphasize using one’s abilities for the greater good rather than personal gain and the value of open hands over than closed fists.

In Beowulf, the hero takes heed. Despite immense physical strength and a life of great privilege—first as a king’s nephew, then another king’s son by affection if not by blood, and finally as a king himself—the poem gives this final epitaph for Beowulf:

cwǣdon þæt hē wǣre   wyruld-cyninga,
manna mildust   ond mon-ðwǣrust,
lēodum līðost   ond lof-geornost.

They said that of all of the world’s kings,
he was the one most benevolent and kind,
most gracious to the people and eager for renown.
(Beowulf 3180-3182, translation my own)

Because the West Saxon word lof-geornost can also translate to glory or fame, that Beowulf is eager for fame or glory may sound self-serving, but the poem’s context clarifies the meaning. The renown Beowulf wins, while accomplished through his physical prowess, is predicated on service to others: first to Hrothgar and the Danes who are terrorized by Grendel, then to his own Geatish king and the king’s son, and finally, as a king and an old man, to his own people, who have no other hope against the dragon that Beowulf defeats at the cost of his own life. Fame, in Beowulf, is not its own end, but a reward for worthy deeds and generous action. Praise at the Poetry Out Loud competition, for excellent recitation, was not for its own sake, but also in recognition of the participants’ ability to reach the audience, to stir both heart and mind to emphatic and empathetic purpose.

Taj Morales, the regional winner of Wednesday evening’s competition who will compete in the Pennsylvania state finals in March, recited Billy Collins’s “Fishing on the Susquehanna in July” as his first selection. The poem is a somewhat tongue-in-cheek meditation on the titular concept—told by a speaker who has never been fishing on the Susquehanna in July, preferring to go to museums and the like—but the poem hinges on the power of the imagination: by looking at a painting, the speaker can imagine the act, can imagine the pleasure of it, and though poem never actually takes speaker or reader out onto the river, one can’t help but leave the poem feeling as though it has. The poem bridges experience, speaker to reader, place to place. When, later, another student recited W. D. Ehrhart’s “Beautiful Wreckage,” a poem cataloguing heartbreaking what-ifs that might turn the horrors of the Vietnam War into mercies, into healing, listeners were transported again and to still more striking purpose: historical truth, personal sacrifice and personal failure, and the wild and fragile hope of healing in a world more kind.

As the participants and performers at the Poetry Out Loud Regional Finals kept demonstrating, access to the arts and arts education is transformative and powerful, not only to those who stood on stage, and Poetry Out Loud highlights language in particular. But it is important to use that power with careful intent and generosity of spirit; language inspires action, for good or for ill, as the world—both local and global—continues to remind us.

For more information on Poetry Out Loud, an initiative supported by the National Endowment for the Arts, click here.

Why the Protests

By Mary Pettice

One of the best but undersold goals of persuasion is to reach those who still won’t agree but will understand that those on the other side are decent and well-meaning people. That’s a huge prize for the writer/argument because it opens the door to rational debate and discussion. That’s what I hoped my essay would achieve.

When I posted this piece on Facebook, my cousin shared with me a friend’s friend’s comment on the post. He wrote, “Obviously I don’t agree with all of this. But this piece is so heartfelt, so articulate and so patriotic, I can’t help but respect the writer, and others who feel this way.” His sentiments are exactly the response I hoped for while writing.

If you’ve been questioning the protests against Trump and assuming that his opponents are just sore losers, I’d like to talk to you.

First, it’s Americans’ right to protest, no matter the motivation. Can you see into the hearts of the protesters? No, you can’t. But it’s easy to dismiss them all as people you dislike and whose views you can’t stand.

It’s too easy, and probably not how you like to see your friends and neighbors who disagree with you politically. The protesters aren’t removed from you; they are a whole lot like these good people with whom you agree to disagree.

Guess what? I know some protesters. They are marching for me and for you. Protests are happening because some Americans are afraid.

Patriotic, informed, and educated Americans are among them. Give them some credit; they’re not sore losers, they are trying to alert us all to potential dangers we face from within. Don’t easily dismiss them with derogatory terms—don’t take tweets as a model for rational civic discussion. Talk to them. Find out why they’re afraid. Find out what they care about. You may be surprised.

I started voting in 1980. I disagreed with President Ronald Reagan’s policies. I disagreed with President George Herbert Walker Bush’s policies. I disagreed with President George Walker Bush’s policies. But I tried to remember, even when I was angry, that they were likely decent people trying to draw from deeply held belief systems, both spiritual and political, that persuaded them that their policy decisions were the right moves to take in the interest of the American people—our safety, our economic health, our moral direction, and our sovereignty. Both Reagan and Bush 43 had been governors; Bush 41 had directed the CIA.

They knew about the structure and process of government. Their interpretation of the role of the federal government differed from mine.

We were on opposing sides that are as old as the Republic itself, and both sides included politicians, newspaper columnists, scholars, activists, and voters who, despite their differences, had many values and goals in common as Americans.

But this president is different.

Yes, I’m personally offended by who he is. I was aghast when he belittled Senator John McCain’s military service. I was furious when he mocked a disabled reporter. And I seethed with hatred when I heard how he talked about women. As one of those “liberal elites,” I was horrified when he said he didn’t read books and when he didn’t seem to know the standard way to refer to Second Corinthians. I found his reference to his “sacrifice” laughable given his inheritance and the real day-to-day sacrifices our soldiers and struggling families make. And I admit I was continually baffled by his lack of coherent sentence structure and his extremely simplistic view of the world and its problems.

But that’s not why I’m writing this. Personal politics, character, and academics aside, I am afraid, and I know a lot of protesters who made the trips to D.C. and other protests nationwide yesterday and today are afraid, too. We are afraid of his ignorance of and disdain for the rule of law. He says he believes in it but he’s shown that he thinks he and his family are above the law. We are afraid of his reliance on the real forces of division in the United States. We are a diverse nation and by promising to deny the equal rights of whole populations of people—women, members of the LGBT community, Muslims, Mexicans, etc.—and by seeming to embrace the support and counsel of white supremacists—he threatens the true promise of democracy itself. And as some of his more violent supporters have shown, he has emboldened the worst of the worst into committing terrible and violent acts of hatred. Yes, bad people are on “both sides,” you say, but collect some data—the uptick in attacks throughout the country on ethnic non-European and LGBT Americans can’t be explained away.

And we’re afraid of his ignorance of foreign policy and his disdain for federal employees who have devoted their lives to strengthening our ties with our allies and finessed well-informed working relationships with the rest of the world. Can you imagine if Senator Bernie Sanders, a self-described Democratic Socialist, were suspected of having ties to Russia? I can—and the Right would make the loudest condemnations. During the 1992 presidential campaign, President Bill Clinton was roundly criticized by his opponents and the sitting president for visiting Moscow while a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University. This criticism occurred after the breakup of the Soviet Union and during the age of glasnost because the specter of the nuclear standoff between the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. continued to haunt us. Did you follow Russia’s incursion into Crimea, formerly part of Ukraine, in 2014? Putin’s forces seized a sovereign country’s territory and upset the balance of post-Cold War Europe. He’s testing the waters. Ukraine is not a part of NATO. But just wait.

Trump’s ties to Russia, even if they are ultimately found to be innocuous, are troubling enough to be investigated. As it was, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s suspected ties to China were grounds for suspicion held by her opponents during the campaign, and, were she the president today, the country would be in the right to investigate if the evidence were as compelling. China is an actual superpower; Russia wants to be a superpower. Therefore, we negotiate very carefully with China because of its sphere of influence, economic power, and military strength. We exercise more authority when dealing with Russia, this aspirational superpower. But we should also see Russia as a threat, and prepare to stand in the way of further aggression against European countries.

Who’s in Russia’s way? Europe and the United States. Do you have friends who are Finnish, Ukrainian, Latvian, Lithuanian, or Estonian? Ask them what they think of Russia and specifically Vladimir Putin. President Trump admires the actions and behaviors of a leader who is not constrained by the U.S. Constitution. He criticized President Barack Obama for not being “decisive” like, apparently, Putin. The United States of America was founded by people who knew too well what an unpredictable strongman—King George III of England—could do to treat his subjects unfairly and deny them their “inalienable Rights.” Our Founders decided to craft a government that did not give a president unlimited and unchecked powers. Additionally, no U.S. president should support leaders who themselves violate the values we hold dear and have codified into our Constitution. We can negotiate with them, encourage good behavior, create opportunities for our citizens to learn from each other on a cultural level, but no, we should never help them achieve their aims if they wish to violate the national sovereignty of our allies.

This is why people are protesting—not because they lost but because they fear we are losing our country, its promise, its pursuit of justice, its humanity, and its place in the world. They’re afraid for themselves and for you, too. They don’t think Trump will fulfill his promises to make his voters’ lives better. They have seen him lie before, and they’re troubled by his “do as I say, not as I do” attitude to business and manufacturing abroad and pretty much every other area of his self-absorbed life. They’re afraid that Americans will be harassed and denied basic human rights because of their gender, religion, disability, looks, accent, economic status, and ethnicity under his administration.

If we’re scared for no reason at all, good. Of course we wish all Americans prosperity, equal rights, and happiness. We hope for clean water and air, for safe and affordable housing, for accessible medical care, for world-quality education, for decent jobs, and for increased, not decreased, reliance on scientific findings that will allow us to guard our health and our planet’s health for decades to come. We hope for laws that encourage rather than discourage people to vote. We hope for a healthy and functioning democracy.

I have to admit, however, that I’m not hopeful, particularly in light of Trump’s Cabinet appointees. I could come up with a list of terrific Republican politicians, thinkers, and writers for every single post. The difference between my list and his list is that my appointees would have a record of involvement with the sector of government they’re being asked to lead—and not from a business perspective of knowing how to get around the rules. They wouldn’t be billionaires. They wouldn’t be intellectually incurious people who were born into wealth and who would echo the president’s distorted view of life in America. They would be people who truly wanted the job and had studied the parameters and goals of each Cabinet department. They would understand current federal law.

That’s not too much to ask. These people are applying to some of the most powerful positions in the country and they should be prepared to lead with understanding and knowledge from day one.

The protesters don’t like the new president or his policies. But they’re afraid of what he might do to destabilize our country. In my lifetime, we’ve been afraid before of unchecked presidential power—and President Richard Nixon resigned over the discovery of his unlawful deeds. We’re afraid again, and given the continuing commitment of many of today’s protesters throughout the years to civil rights and justice for all, we don’t scare easily.

Give the protesters some credit. No matter how pleased you are with the new president, understand that the protesters are exercising a right granted to them by the Constitution. And understand that their protest is deeper than politics; it’s against a perceived threat to the Constitution and our country itself. Be grateful for those who might today be standing up for your rights tomorrow.


Generation Z Goes to College

By Sarah Greene

This past fall term, Academic Affairs and Student Affairs personnel formed a book discussion group to read Corey Seemiller’s and Meghan Grace’s recent publication, Generation Z Goes to College.  The group aimed to learn about the newest generation of college students, Generation Z, and discuss ways they might best serve them.

Both Seemiller and Grace are higher education professionals.  Seemiller has a 20 year career in higher education and is currently an assistant professor at Wright State University.  Grace is a student affairs professional at the University of Arizona.

The book identifies Generation Z as those individuals born in or after 1995.  Seemiller and Grace conducted a study between August and October of 2014 to survey Generation Z students at fifteen partner institutions.  The study did have limitations.  It used a relatively small sample size, and each participating institution selected the students who would be surveyed.  Some of the generalizations made about Generation Z in the book need to be considered in relation to these limitations.

Despite these limitations, the book gives a good overview of this generation.  It covers topics related to their beliefs and attitudes about social media, relationships with parents and friends, careers and the purpose of higher education, economic self-sufficiency, and global citizenry.  Seemiller and Grace offer suggestions on how higher education might adapt to serving the needs of this generation.  Chapters 9 and 10 explicitly address the kinds of changes needed to maximize success with Generation Z.  Chapters 2 – 4 provides an overview of their beliefs, desires, and their relationship to technology.  If you have never heard of Snapchat, or don’t understand why students expect an immediate response to an email they sent a 1 a.m., these are the chapters to read.

Generation Z Goes to College is an easy read providing a good, general overview of this generation of college students.  If you want to dig more into Generation Z and the differences between them and other generations, I recommend the work of Marc Prensky.

A Message of Hope

by Don Raiger, Director of Advancement

On Sunday, November 6, my wife Dawn suffered a seizure. She’s never had seizures in the past, and there was no warning as to its arrival. She was upright and mobile one moment and on the floor and unconscious the next. It’s as jarring an experience as you can imagine. She was taken to the local hospital via ambulance, and upon our arrival in the emergency room, she received a battery of tests including a CT scan, which indicated a possible brain anomaly, and warranted an overnight stay for further testing and observation.

She was brought up to a regular hospital room. She was stable, acting much like herself. I left her at about 11:30 PM to go home and get some sleep. At 2:00 AM, I was awakened by the telephone. Dawn had experienced three separate seizure episodes and was moved to ICU. I went back to the hospital to find Dawn unconscious, but stable after the seizures subsided. From there, it was on to an MRI and more tests.

Later that day, we experienced one of those surreal conversations with the doctor who had reviewed her scans. They had found a “gum ball-sized mass” on her right frontal lobe and had begun consulting with Penn State Hershey as to next steps.

In short, more stark terms, my wife has a brain tumor. It’s most likely benign, but we won’t know for certain until it is removed and analyzed. She’s currently scheduled for surgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore on Monday, 11/21. The prognosis is good – but she still has to have brain surgery.

So why am I telling you all of this? I’m just trying to drive home the fact that on 11/5, everything about our lives was normal. By 11/9 we realized she had a brain tumor, and on 11/21 she’s getting brain surgery. That’s how fast life can change. However, change is inevitable, whether its good or bad, and it’s not the change that matters, but how we react to it. Both Dawn and I very easily could have wasted our time feeling lost and sorry for our situation. We could have simply waited for things to happen – more test results, more referrals, etc. Instead, we took charge and made phone calls, connected with friends and family, made appointments, canceled others and stayed focused on the problem at hand. Friends spoke on our behalf and opened doors that otherwise would have been much harder to open. For instance, there’s no way we’d be in the place we are at Hopkins without a friend and co-worker reaching out to a cousin who reached out to a colleague who reached out to – you get the idea. We’ve had total strangers working on our behalf because of folks who spoke out for us.

It’s strange how something like this can actually rekindle your faith in humanity. Most people you meet are genuinely good, and they want to do the right thing. The best part is that if you give them the chance, they generally do.

If you’ve read this far, God bless you. Some key points I’m trying to make amidst this rambling dissertation:

First, we are not in control, but that’s OK. Despite our best efforts, life will find ways to punch us in the gut or pleasantly surprise us. Control what you can and put yourself in good situations and when life does what it does, adapt accordingly.

Second, accept help. Let people make phone calls, make meals, write references – whatever. No act is completely unselfish. Helping you out makes them feel good, and you could probably use the assistance.

Third, manage your relationships, because if you don’t, there won’t be help from anyone to accept. You never know who is going to step up and make a huge play on your behalf. Respect the folks with whom you share this rock, and they will never cease to surprise you. Do it because it’s the right thing to do – not because you think they can help you. Karma is real (regardless of what you call it), and you get what you give.

It Mattered and It Still Matters

by Teddi Sakellarides

Last Friday, I scrolled through my phone and counted 16 texts and emails from individual people (Hillary-supporters and non-supporters alike) telling me they were sorry for my loss, that they knew how disappointed I was, that they were aware of my 10-year commitment to this candidate, and they were sad I didn’t get the woman president I had dreamed about for so long. The messages were genuine and written in a language that truly reflected a form of deep sadness.

The fact that people felt the need to write me and say these things reminded me of what is critically important:

Hillary mattered.
A woman president mattered.
This campaign mattered.
This loss matters.
It will continue to matter.

There was a widely-circulated narrative during the election that there was simply no enthusiasm or excitement surrounding Hillary. For whatever reason, people really valued this narrative. They liked thinking that Hillary was a weak last-option and that the majority of her supporters were just passionless voters shrugging their shoulders in resignation and pressing a button because no one else was available. Her supposed mediocrity made a lot of people feel better about her success and (I believe) in women’s success in general. A woman could be a default option; nothing more.

But this story simply wasn’t true. All the messages people sent me are proof it wasn’t. I was excited and hopeful about Hillary, possessing the joy and zeal that no one wanted to think actually existed in her fan-base. And I wasn’t the only one, either. Over the last three days I have talked and cried with so many people who exhibit a disappointment so intense it resembles nothing short of grief. They were people who the morning after the election asked “How are you?” and then could barely answer the question themselves without their voices cracking. They were people who lost sleep, who didn’t know how to go throughout their day, who walked around in a fog feeling like they lost something irreplaceable–not only an election, but an entire hope for the future and vision for their home. They were sad Trump won, but they were also sad Hillary lost. They didn’t just reject him; they believed in her. That’s an important distinction, and it debunks all the claims that Hillary was nothing more than a last-resort. People were invested in her campaign. They cared and believed.

The sadness that comes with this is real and profound, but it will inevitably subside. It may evolve into anger, and hopefully after that, resistance and activism. In the meantime, I am honored to be surrounded by people who are sad, because it reminds me that the last year and a half was not for naught; it reminds me that it all mattered, and that it will continue to matter. One day I’ll tell my daughters I was a part of an important effort in this country, and I grieved with others when it didn’t work. And although it wasn’t a win, I’ll tell them all that with pride too.

The Things That Matter: What a WWI Cartoon Can Teach Us About Assessment

By Kevin Pry

We’ve all had our frustrations with collegiate assessment processes—how to assess, what to assess, when to collect data, what kind of data to collect, how to interpret data collected, and how the hell to find the time to do all these tasks, and in a manner that can lead to practical results. Consultants and other experts tell us assessment is necessary to improve our programs; accrediting organizations and governmental bodies demand that we produce it to justify our methods and our budgets, and administrators swear by it (and, if the truth were known, also swear at it.) Most of us on both sides of the process slog through the  assessment trenches, hoping that by soldiering on our end result will have some lasting effect on our work and institutions, but many of us despair along the way—how can we possibly make our assessment—or our demands for them—worth  the sacrifice of time and energy involved?

I’ve been in the middle of my department’s annual assessment process, going down that long, long trail a-winding while fighting the usual classroom and rehearsal battles to stay effective. In an infrequent moment out of the firing line, I turned for momentary relief to the work of one of my favorite cartoonists, the legendary British WWI artist and infantry officer Bruce Bairnsfather, and ran across this classic darkly humorous take on the way assessment was often conducted in the British Expeditionary Force of the Great War:



Haven’t we all been in Colonel Fitz-Shrapnel’s place? We’re fighting like hell to carry out our primary function, things are going like hell (and sometimes to hell) all around us, and out of seeming nowhere we’re politely invited (notice the word “please” at the opening of G.H.Q.’s “request” for data) to ignore the current difficulties and dangers and carry out an assessment that looks from our dugout in the front lines to be both immaterial and irrelevant.

At the risk of analyzing the comedy right out of  Captain Bairnsfather’s classic squib, let’s wonder why at the height of the bloody fall offensive G.H.Q. may want the information about the tins of raspberry jam* at this particularly inconvenient moment:

  • Could G.H.Q. be checking to make sure that the right supplies are reaching the Colonel and his unit? That sufficient resources are getting to the people who most need them?
  • Is G.H.Q. concerned that important resources are somehow being diverted from where they really need to be going to wasteful and low-priority parts of the front? Is G.H.Q. about to divert our allotment of jam to some other outfit?
  • Are the folks at G.H.Q. under pressure from the War Cabinet to justify the expense of putting lowest-bid contracts out for a variety of jams to ensure that frontline soldiers don’t have their morale undermined by monotonous rations?
  • Is someone at G.H.Q. looking to make up some impressive documentation to prove that their clerkly function is vital to the war effort and thus deserves recognition, reward, and promotion?
  • Does G.H.Q. want to reserve all the raspberry jam for its own use?
  • Is Col. Fitz-Shrapnel’s outfit getting more than their fair share of the raspberry jam?

Some—though not all—of these motivations may be useful and warranted, but from Col. Fitz-Shrapnel’s viewpoint, understandably obscured by the falling debris from his rapidly-disintegrating dugout roof, General Headquarters’ request at this dangerous and busy time is absurd, prompting  these complaints:

  • Who gives these orders, anyway?
  • Who in his outfit has seen any kind of jam except plum-and apple since the start of the bloody war?
  • Why hasn’t the Colonel been told the “why” of this particular data collection? Why the secrecy about for what the data’s being collected? Is there a raspberry-jam procurement scandal that needs to be hushed up?
  • Why is this urgent? Is the jam poisoned/? Contaminated? Are we all about to get dysentery?
  • Why hasn’t anyone up the chain of command given any reason for requiring the information, nor explained how the data might lead to better decision-making and allocation of resources that would directly benefit the Colonel’s outfit—that the Colonel’s battalion might get more raspberry jam?
  • Why has no one up the line bothered to tell the chaps in the front line how raspberry jam fits into the “big picture?”

Denied any context, Colonel Fitz-Shrapnel and his lads will just shake their heads in disbelief at the polite request— and question the motives and sanity of those at G.H.Q.; if the front line fellows survive their current situation or are given some timely support and relief, they might have time to comply with the data collection directive, but without explanations of the relevance of and the use to which the data will be put, why should they be enthusiastic about the task placed before them?

So, what’s the takeaway from Captain Bairnsfather’s minor masterpiece for those of us in the assessment trenches? Open and transparent communications about assessment tasks, communications which keep everyone informed on an equal footing, will go a long way to remove the suspicion the front line has of Headquarters’ motives and will earn G.H.Q. better and more informed cooperation from the folks at the sharp end of things. If we can openly discuss why we want the assessment information and demonstrate how its collection will be used directly to benefit, and not punish, those from whom it is collected, we might just get out of the trenches alive—and end up with more raspberry jam.

*Raspberry jam was very scarce on the Western Front in the first half of WWI.

Engaging Students in Research

By Courtney Lappas

At LVC, we strive to provide students with an education that does not merely introduce them to vast bodies of information with which they must become familiar, but also endows them with the ability to approach with confidence that which is not yet known.  B.F. Skinner once said that “education is what survives when what has been learned has been forgotten.”  Many of the facts, figures, and methodologies that we teach our students will be rapidly forgotten or become obsolete as scientific, technological, and theoretical advances propel our disciplines forward. What cannot be forgotten or become obsolete, however, is the ability to think logically, the capacity to ask and answer significant questions.  These skills are not innate.  They are learned through experience, and a central component of these experiences is the opportunity to conduct original research.  By engaging students in research, we provide them with a vehicle for personal and professional growth–to become “world-ready.”  Many of our students publish peer-reviewed papers with faculty members and present research projects at local, regional, and national conferences. Through these experiences, students learn to be critical thinker who are persistent, resourceful, and objective.

Mentoring undergraduates is not easy.  To the contrary, it is often difficult.  It requires significant time outside of our already heavy teaching load, and may even impede our own scholarly endeavors. It is, however, an integral component of our role as educators, and can be exceedingly rewarding.  I have observed a student beam with pride at a national meeting as he realized that our poster, which bore the LVC logo, was sandwiched between those that bore the emblems of Johns Hopkins University and the National Institutes of Health. I have watched a student excitedly rush into my office to show me the journal issue in which our research paper was published.  And I have seen summer research students begin the fall semester with a new found sense of confidence and purpose.

LVC is not unique in its efforts to engage students in research:  liberal arts colleges across the country offer similar opportunities.  This fact does not diminish our efforts, but rather underscores their importance.  The opportunity to participate in research experiences is no longer a luxury, but rather a necessity if our students are to be “world-ready,” able to compete in the job and graduate school markets.  If we truly seek to empower students to pursue a life of learning, citizenship, and success, we must continue to teach them.