Sunday, December 13, 2009

A Hannukah party - final exams and grading way too many papers......

Last evening I attended an annual Hanukkah party at the home of my colleagues Ron and Naomi - it is always a wonderful event and not just because Ron makes the best latkes I have ever tasted. It is a gathering of good friends - many of whom work here at Saint Michael's College and some of whom are their neighbors. It is a luxury at this time of year to be able to gather socially with friends and colleagues and while we attemptto keep the conversation away from our students and/or our teaching, it is inevitable that we talk about the semester. For me the highlight (in addition to the latkes :)) was the shared reading of a children's story by most of us gathered there - after the lighting of the candles on their menorah by Ron and a couple of the children who were there, we all gathered in the living room for the reading of a children's story and as Naomi so wisely pointed out - "most children's stories are really for adults" Ron and Naomi's son Ari is our assistant men's basketball coach and someone I admire and respect greatly. I have also known him for most of his life and to see what a wonderful young man he has become is also one of those "perks" of working at SMC.

This IS exam week and while students all stress over our exams they often don't realize that we want them to do as well as they want to do themselves. Grading is perhaps the one thing that most of us don't like - while it is a necessary evil it is always difficult to gradestudents on what they have learned over the course of a semester. Perhaps I am jaded as I no longer have underclass students in any of my classes since I teach all upper-level courses but having watched my students grow and mature over a semester it is hard to place a letter grade on their accomplishments. With 16 students out in the community for my Practicum course, I am getting their site supervisors' evaluations and am pleased to see that my evaluations or these young people is reinforced by the comments and observations of their site supervisors. I asked my Theories class to provide me with a final paper in which they spell out the five most important things that they have learned over this semester about the field of counseling. Those papers are amazing as their insights into their own growth is very rewarding after a difficult and intense semester together. The final papers for Sports Psychology have also been submitted and now I am going to be reading their journal entries - I was NOT aware until three of them approached me that my assignment to "submit journal responses to all of the articles I post in eCollege" meant that they had to complete 32 responses - hummmm somehow I had simply lost track of the reality that I had, over the course of this semester, posted 32 different articles which pertained to the connection between sports and psychology. I quickly apologized and told them that they only needed to do 10. They were very grateful and those (few) who had already done many more were even more grateful when I told them that THEY would all get extra credit if they had already completed more than the NOW required 10. Being flexible in this age of technology is essential. :)

On Friday as I was driving from my home to campus I drove past the back of the Burlington Airport and watched as the soldiers of our Vermont National Guard filed out of the hanger into a waiting 747 which was to take them to Indiana for some final training prior to their deployment to Afghanistan. 1,500 Vermont men and women will NOT be home for the holidays with their families - they will either already be in Afghanistan or on their way - so once again, I ask that we all please keep all of our soldiers and their families and all of our veterans and their families in our thoughts and prayers at this time of year.

Take good care - enjoy Christmas or Hanukkah and be well - my posts to this blog will most likely resume in January


Wednesday, December 2, 2009

The joy of teaching......

While there are many "joys" of teaching, re-connecting with former students AND hearing good things about current students constitute one of the great joys of my teaching. On Thanksgiving morning I went kayaking at Indianbrook Reservoir in nearby Essex and as I was putting my kayak in I heard "I know you" and there was Katie Spinner and her husband, Mom and Dad and brother PLUS two dogs. I haven't seen her in a couple of years and remember writing her a letter of recommendation for graduate school. She and her husband are now living in New Hampshire where she is a school counselor - it was so good to see her again and her family. On Monday I received an email from Vinnie D'Angelo who graduated in 1985 - he was going to be in Burlington on business and wondered if we could get together for dinner. It was a spur of the moment thing but Vinnie is a wonderful person and he and his wife Mary and their kids live in New Jersey so I don't get to see him very often. I ended up going to the Burlington Airport and picking Vinnie and a business colleague up and we all went to Winooski for dinner at Papa Frank's - a favorite dining place when Vinnie was here 25 years ago. It was good to catch up with him and he mentioned that his sister Ann who is also an SMC alum had been in NJ for their Thanksgiving. Vinnie was the President of our Student Association and then Ann was Vice-President (Pat Gallivan was President when Ann was VP) and since I am still the faculty advisor for our current Student Association it was fun to make some comparisons. Last night I missed a call from Brian Ritchie who was also in the area on business and we usually get together for dinner when he comes to town but last night I wasn't able to due to prior commitments. Three other members of the Class of '85 were recently on campus making a YouTube video to promote their 25th Reunion which is this coming summer - Dennis, Deidre and Pam created quite a stir and made an amazing video as they made their way around campus re-connecting with many of us - I suspect that the video alone will encourage many of their classmates to return here for their reunion this summer.

My classes are going well as we wind down the semester. Practicum students have to provide their supervisors (I have 16 senior psychology majors out in the local community for 8 - 10 hours a week) with an evaluation form which I will use to help me in determining their grade for this semester. This is a two semester course and these students are in class with me for 2.5 hours once a week. I received the following email yesterday from one of the supervisors of two of my students:

"My name is Kristen Flanders and I am a special educator at the JFK elementary alternative program. I have two of your students, Tatyana Maklina and Crystal Bissett. While completing their evaluations, I wanted to send you a note just expressing how wonderful they have been. I have been very impressed with both interns, they go above and beyond tasks that are asked of them. I will submit their evaluations to the interns this week but I just wanted to let you know that it has been a great experience and beneficial to my students having them!" - now, neither Tanya nor Crystal know about this email (yet) but it is this type of unsolicited praise for our students that makes it all worthwhile. All of my students are working hard at establishing themselves in their intern sites which range from this elementary school to an in-patient drug/alcohol treatment program - it truly IS a joy to work with these students.

I also reminded all of my students to remember that while they were home having a Thanksgiving celebration with their families they were also most likely going to bring some "germs" back with them and so advised them to continue to take the precautions we have been talking about all semester - we still have some students coming down with H1N1 and I am glad that we have all been asked by our Vice President for Acacemic Affairs Karen Talentino to keep this in mind when we calculate grades when attendance is a factor. I spoke with a young woman who attends another college in NH and she has had the flu twice this semester and has received NO support nor assistance from her college about this issue - in addition to being sick for an extended length of time she also has had to "justify" her classroom absences - I told her what we do at SMC and she was saddened that her college doesn't do the same.

As the President spoke last night about the upcoming increase in our military presence in Afghanistan I was struck by the number of comments I have received from readers of this blog about my endings of each blog where I ask for YOUR thoughts and prayers for our soldiers - I WILL continue asking for that - please keep them ALL in your thoughts and prayers...................

take care and be well

Monday, November 23, 2009

Much to be thankful for....

Our students are heading home tomorrow (Tuesday) although some have already left :) but at this time of year as they are all stressed with papers, exams AND the end of the semester looming right ahead (seniors are already lamenting that this is their LAST Thanksgiving vacation from SMC) I have tried to remind them to take care of themselves, to enjoy home, family AND to get some much needed sleep. I can't remember if my sleep patterns were the same as theirs when I was in college but I am amazed at what they can accomplish on so little sleep.I also remind them that we all have so much to be thankful for, even if that is simply because we have new friends, have learned new information about ourselves and our world or because we have more than many others do. Classes have been wonderful with both Theories and Practicum students continuing to learn more and more about themselves and the counseling profession every day. The experiences they have either on their Practicum sites or in the Developmental Lab assure me that they ARE going to be good clinicians and that they will be more culturally sensitive, more compassionate and more experienced than I ever learned from my undergraduate education. The Developmental Lab continues to be a great learning tool. Sports Psychology class amazes students as they have never considered some of the issues we discuss in this "applied" psychology class. They are gaining a greater insight into the working of the mind as we look at the behaviors of not only high school and college athletes, but the professionals as well. They are also learning a great deal about parents and the impact that parents can/do have on young people who participate in athletics - I am grateful that so many of my former students from this class have stayed in touch with me and they send me information that they think the class can benefit from on a regular basis - I love those long-standing connections.

Yesterday afternoon my friend/colleague Kuntz and I drove to Lincoln, VT to visit OUR colleagues/friends Ari and Molly - their second son was born a couple of weeks ago and we wanted a chance to visit with them and their three year old son Noah. I have posted pictures on Facebook and have already received many comments from friends on the pictures. Ari and Molly are both in the Psychology Department and while she was at home awaiting Quinn's arrival and avoiding getting the H1N1 from our students I had the pleasure of taking over Molly's Practicum class and thoroughly enjoyed not only helping out, but also getting the perspective of 18 students on their Practicum experience. Several of Molly's students are either in my Theories course or have been in other courses I teach so it was good to see them again in a different academic setting. Practical experience is such an excellent learning tool for our students as it cements some goals and alters others - not a bad thing.

I have been working with the College and with Senator Leahy's office in securing veteran's benefits for one of our graduate students who served four years in the military and then was stop-lossed for an addtional year and a half - those of you who have been followers of my blog know I am talking about Alan. I am amazed, infuriated, saddened and confused that we have asked so much from our young men/women who serve this country but the bureaucracy gets so bogged down that it takes months and months, too many telephone calls and faxes, senatorial intervention and he still doesn't have his benefits - this just simply isn't right!!! There has to be a better way to make sure that these veterans who are returning to college or who choose to enter college for the first time are NOT forced to pay everything "out of pocket' at they wait for their benefits to kick in. They have enough to deal with on a daily basis to have to also be worried about when they will be reimbursed............ Many thanks to SMC President Jack Neuhauser, Marilyn Cormier, our Registrar's Office and Katherine Long from Senator Leahy's Office for their assistance in this matter - even after the VA is FINALLY notified (with the "correct" paperwork that Alan IS a full-time student here it will take 8 to 12 weeks for him to receive reimbursement from OUR government - as I said, it simply isn't right!!!!! The latest is when the VA informed him that they didn't have records of his being stop-lossed ???????? I told Alan that perhaps he had really just been vacationing somewhere on a Caribbean Island those 18 months and that he really wasn't back in Afghanistan during that time - fortunately he knows that we ARE working with him to resolve these things AND he hasn't lost his sense of humor although he sure has reason to.

Take care, have a wonderful Thanksgiving with your families and please keep all of the members of our military - current and veteran alike, in your thoughts and prayers as WE get to celebrate so much.


Saturday, November 14, 2009

JibFest a success!!!!!!!

Last night on the 300's field there were over 200 of our students who either participated directly as competitors or who were there to cheer their friends on as the SMC Ski and Snowboard Club once again presented their JibFest. It was a huge success as the members of the Club and their friends trucked "snow" in from local ice rinks (the Zamboni scrapes the ice surface clean before every game and between every period of every game and our students were able to truck all that "snow" to the 300's field on Thursday and Friday), constructed scaffolding and the rails and a few "obstacles" for the competition. They had three ramps and the competitors, carrying their skis or snowboards, climbed to the top, strapped on their skis/snowboards and hurtled down the ramps to the cheers of the crowd. Grace Kelly (Director of Student Activities), Mark Litchfield (Assistant Director of Special Events), Marilyn Cormier (Director of Corporate and Community Relations) and "grill master extrordinaire" Dave Vorozilchak (senior Engineering major, three year RA, captain of the men's ice hockey team and all around good guy cooked up over 200 hamburgers and all of us, myself included, served our students ALL of those burgers. At one point, around 8:00 I looked over and saw Jack Neuhauser, our President standing there enjoying the competition and talking with students and some parents who also were visiting the festivities. So here we all were on a Friday night with over 200 students having an absolute blast. Anyone who wonders about the behavior of college students today should have been there to watch everyone having such a good time. A couple of students came up to Grace as she was slapping more burgers on the two grills and asked her what she was doing still on campus at 8:30 in the evening on a Friday night? She said that she was doing what the rest of us (Jack, Marilyn, Mark, moi) were doing - having a great time helping our students have a successful event on campus.......... That says it all - THAT is what makes this place such an amazing place to live and to work....

I am in the office grading papers and writing letters of recommendation for some of my seniors. I am going to head over to the Ross Sport Center for our swim meet at 1, then to the ice rink for our women's hockey game at 3 and then the men's ice hockey scrimmage at 5 and then back here for the 6th Annual International Festival sponsored by the Office of Multicultural Student Affairs - this event is great with music and dancing from all over the world AND spectacular food from all over the world. Kemi Brewster and Joy-Anne Headley are from Barbados and they have both promised me some amazing Barbadian food. All in all, another great day at SMC.

I want to leave you all with the following prayer which appeared in last Sunday's Burlington Free Press - since this past Wednesday was Veteran's Day, I feel it is appropriate:

"Dear God, I pray to give all of our soldiers the courage and strength to do the duty that is required of them. May they always remember our appreciation for the sacrifice they are making for us. We are thankful for the men and women who are willing to risk their lives to protect our freedom. I ask you to go with each one of them and protect them wherever they go. Amen."

take care and be well.


Saturday, November 7, 2009

Collaboration at its best.

On Tuesday of this week Tim Ford ’83 came to campus to speak with a group of five of our psychology majors (all seniors) who are working with Carolyn Whitney and me on independent research into the organizational behaviors and the psychological implications for four different groups within the work environments of today’s corporate world. These four groups are the traditionalists, baby boomers, Generation X, Generation Y. Four students are researching each of these four groups and the fifth student is looking at the gender implications of all of this. It has been a fascinating experiment with these students who have already submitted two papers to us and who will complete a major collaborative paper before the end of the semester. We may even present their findings at a “brown bag” luncheon on campus. Jim Wall'74 also came and spoke with the group during the Career Symposium which was held a couple of weeks ago. I had contacted Jim and he provided the students with several excellent articles on how the corporate world is dealing with the various personalities of these four groups and what the implications are for integration of the various personalities of each group into the corporation. He provided us with some in-house research that Deloitte has been doing and he spent over an hour and a half with us on the Thursday night prior to his keynote address to the Symposium. On Saturday morning of that weekend I was on campus for the Admission’s Office Academic Preview and ran into Ryan Devane, one of our students – he was in a workshop that Tim Ford was presenting and as they talked, Tim commented that he had all four of these groups in his work site locally AND Tim offered to have our students come to that workplace (Hackett, Valine, McDonald ) to interview these folks (he has a 70+ year old partner in the firm who doesn’t even have a computer in his office and he has a number of 20-somethings who work for him). Tim came in Tuesday and spent over an hour with us and has offered to be a resource for our students as they progress in their individual and collective research. Each student is working on his/her own research area and sharing it with the others in the group. There will be a final “product” which will combine the efforts of all five of them.

This is an excellent example of the positive effects of ALUMNI, FACULTY, STUDENTS, CAREER SERVICES collaboration. The Symposium brought our alums back to campus – they listened to Jim Wall and connected with our current students and are following up with some of those contacts such at Tim Ford. CAREER SERVICES staff are connected to the students and the alumni. This is not only a great example of collaboration at its best, but it also is an example of what Carolyn and I have been able to craft with five of our senior psychology majors who had a specific interest and how that is all coming together in a great educational experience.

I have been "subbing" for Molly Millwood's Practicum class for the past few weeks as she just gave birth to their second child this week. Ari and Molly are both members of our psychology department faculty and very popular with the students who have been quite excited as we have all awaited the arrival of Quinn Alexander Kirshenbaum. It has been great to get to know another class and to see how their internship sites are going as they, like my 16 Practicum students are having a very challenging and very educational experience out in the local community providing services in agencies across the county. It is very reinforcing when we get to see how our students are able to take classroom learning and apply it in real-life situations. I am very proud of our students.

Please take care, be well and please keep the members of our military and their families in your thoughts and prayers. One of my students saw some of our Vermont National Guard soldiers and their families as the soldiers were preparing to deploy and she too, much like I experienced last week, was struck with the reality of this WAR. I spoke with Prof. Bill Grover the other morning as we both walked to our offices. He has maintained a wall covered with pictures of all those killed in the Iraq War and he asked me if I felt that he should begin a wall for those soldiers who have been killed in Afghanistan - I told him YES and when I mentioned this to my classes, they agreed. It is a sad reality that too many of us can easily forget that there are WARS going on and that we all need to remember not only those who HAVE served, but those who ARE serving and their families.


Friday, October 30, 2009

More reasons to love Vermont

'It is Friday afternoon and I just got home from kayaking out on IndianBrook Reservoir in Essex Junction. It was very peaceful when I first started but then the wind picked up quite quickly and the exercise part of exercise/solitude which I so enjoy with kayaking soon became more exercise and less solitude. It WAS a great time and the whitecaps were unusual for IndianBrook. As I left there heading home I remembered that I needed to go to the Alpine Shop and pick up my skis - I took them there last Friday for a tune-up. So here I was, at the Alpine Shop with my kayak on the roof of my car going in to pick up my skis. I talked with Pat Sheld '06 and Andy Driscoll '09 both of whom work there and who always take good care of me and we had a good laugh about how much we all love Vermont so much because of the cross-seasonal activities we all get to engage in. It was 38 degrees out last Friday when I went kayaking and took my skis in for the tune-up and today it is 62 degrees outside - I will also call for an appointment this afternoon to get my snow tires put on because this IS Vermont and things can change quickly. :)

Classes are going very well and we have now finished pre-registration and our seniors registered this week for their second and final semester classes. I enjoy academic advising as it gives me a great opportunity to help students match their classes with their future career plans. I have 20 advisees and they are required to see their adviser before they can register for classes but our jobs are made so much easier these days because the students take responsibility for their course selection through using KnightVision which provides them with access 24/7 to their academic program and they get to not only see where they are as they progress towards commencement, but it also allows them to "try out" other possibilities in their curriculum choices. It is especially rewarding to talk with my psychology majors as we get to make plans for their courses AND graduate school. I will be in the office for several hours this weekend (it is supposed to rain so no kayaking) completing letters/forms which are recommendations for graduate school. Jason Fuchs, Bryan Brunton and Joy-Anne Headley are all applying for graduate school and have requested a letter of recommendation from me and I have promised them that I will get all of them done this weekend.

Take care, be well and this morning as I was heading to the campus for a meeting I was surprised to see a large troop carrier and a bus heading towards the Burlington Airport the "back way" but then I remembered that more of our local Vermont National Guard members are heading south for additional training before being deployed to Afghanistan in December for a year. The total number of Vermonters heading to Afghanistan is 1,500 - the largest deployment of our soldiers since World War II. The bus was carrying our soldiers as they head out - a truly sobering sight. Please keep all of them and all of our military members and their families in your thoughts and prayers.


Sunday, October 18, 2009

Another busy weekend on campus

On Thursday afternoon Jim Wall, Global Managing Partner for Human Resources and Talent Management for Deloitte, Touche, Tohmatsu - one of the largest accounting firms in the world and a '74 alum of SMC came to campus for the Career Symposium sponsored by the Alumni Board of Directors, Institutional Advancement, the Business Department and the Office of Career Development. This was a two day event which featured Jim's keynote address on Friday and several workshops, a dinner and an excellent chance for our students to learn HOW to network and to actually network with over 30 SMC alums who generously gave of their time to return to campus for this event. Jim also agreed to meet on Thursday afternoon with five students who are working with Dr. Carolyn Whitney and me on researching the impact of the "New Millenials" (Generation Y) on the corporate and business world. It is fascinating to watch these five students as they research the "traditionalists" - "baby boomers" - "Generation X" and now Generation Y or the New Millenials. Our discussions and their initial research has been challenging, collaborative and exciting. Jim shared HIS perspective on how the corporate world has adapted to the New Millenials - his visit was much appreciated by the students and by Carolyn and me.

His talk on Friday began with his showing the YouTube video DID YOU KNOW - you can find this on if you just search for Did You Know 4.0. This was developed initially by a high school teacher several years ago and now it is updated every year. The video shows in a very stark fashion how our world is not only changing VERY rapidly, but how the issue of GLOBALIZATION cannot be ignored. Jim then provided his own insight into the current job market and stressed that there were two specific things that Saint Michael's College is preparing our students for - since so much information is now available at our fingertips due to the astronomical increase of technology, what is ESSENTIAL in today's world is for students to LEARN HOW TO LEARN - Jim explained why this is so important in today's global economy. He then went on to explain that the second thing that SMC prepares our students for is LEARNING HOW TO INTERACT WITH OTHERS on a personal level. Jim is always a well-prepared and well-received speaker and he continues to live up to his reputation. He challenges people, engages them and provides timely and very helpful advice and his love for this institution is always very clear and present.

On Saturday afternoon, after grading papers and constructing the first exam for my Theories of Counseling class, I presented information to two groups of prospective students and their families during our Office of Admission Fall Academic Preview Day. My workshops focused on those students who are EXPLORATORY and who have not yet decided on a college major - this is NOT a bad thing. Since I had been so impressed by Jim Wall's presentation I decided to show the same YouTube video to my two workshops. I had very packed sessions of students and their families and after showing the video and processing their reaction to it I then read part of an email I had just received from Chris Rovero who graduated from SMC four years ago and who just graduated from law school and also just passed the CT Bar Examination on his first try :0. It is always nice to be able to share with PROSPECTIVE students what FORMER students have to say about their education both in and out of the classroom at SMC. The students/families seemed to appreciate both the reality of the video and the challenges that presented AND the messages from both Jim Wall and Chris Rovero. Several folks stopped to ask specific questions and to comment on this sometimes frustrating and draining process of college selection. I know that this is NOT an easy task and I hope that I was able to provide some helpful insight and information to these folks. Here is what Chris wrote to me:

. "On a more serious note, I have to give some well-deserved credit to the faculty/staff at St. Mike's for preparing me for the rigor of a legal education. And I'm not talking merely about academics here, though my ability to think critically, write effectively, and communicate confidently are well-rooted in the liberal arts curriculum at SMC. I'm speaking, too, of "bigger" values: empathy, charity, humility, self-awareness. What I learned outside of the classroom at SMC was equally, if not more valuable than specific texts or theorems highlighted in the classroom. What I guess I'm saying is: a) THANK YOU; and, b) I approve of the new catchphrase promoted on the college's website ("Learn What Matters") :)"

Back to grading papers - our foliage is still spectacular as we missed the snow that hit south of here - take care, be well and yes, as always, please keep all of the members of our military and their families in your thoughts and prayers.


Sunday, October 11, 2009

SPECTACULAR foliage and another wedding.

Saturday morning I headed out very early for a drive to Portland, ME for a wedding - not just A wedding, but another amazing wedding. Much like Mark and Alicia Cernosia's wedding a couple of weeks ago, I have known this couple for a very long time. Jose Peralta and Alicia 'LEE' Smilowicz have been best friends for almost 17 years, ever since they met back in 1992 at Saint Mike's. She is currently a doctor in the Portland area and Jose teaches Spanish and religion at Chevris High School in Portland. They had asked me to do a reading at their wedding and I was happy to do Paul's Letter to the Corinthians which is a very popular reading at weddings. A couple of days ago Jose called and asked me if he had remembered to also ask me to do the "toast" at the reception since I have known then as long as they have known each other - he hadn't........ Jose came to SMC after attending a summer camp over in New York that was run by the Reiss family. Paul Reiss is the former President of Saint Michael's College and even though Paul and his wife Rosemary were NOT able to attend the wedding, three of their "kids" were and it was good to see each of them. Jose, as Fr. Durkin, S.J. and Celebrant of the wedding said, has an "aura" about him - he just engulfs everyone around him with a sense of goodness and love. Not bad words from a priest who has known Jose for a long time. Jose was meant to be a teacher - he just has an amazing effect on everyone who comes to know him. Lee was always going to be a doctor and as an independent, strong woman, nothing, was going to get in her way -there were many turns and challenges to their relationship but their friendship was never in question - Paul's Letter to the Corinthians mentions "love is patient" in their case it sure was and perhaps that may be why it took 17 years of a wonderful friendship for the two of them to get married. There were several SMC friends of both the bride and the groom who were also at the wedding and it was good to see Nicole Cremo (a psychology major who now is a 3rd grade teacher), Coleen Condon, Heidi St. Peter (Director of our MOVE program) and Dawn Bazin PLUS both Kurt and Kainne Hansbury. All of these folks have maintained friendships with each other AND with Lee/Jose ever since they were all together at Saint Michael's College so many years ago. Others at the reception were amazed at the friendships and the relationships these SMC alums have all maintained. One woman commented to me how amazing it must be for me to be able to have followed these two young people for over 17 years as they have traveled on their own journeys which led them to their wedding - she is right - I am lucky and it truly is amazing.

The drive TO Portland yesterday morning and the drive BACK early this morning also provided me with the opportunity to see the foliage as the sun was coming up. I am a huge foliage fan and enjoy driving out into the mountains armed with my camera every fall - this year the color is some of the best I have ever seen in my 28 years around here. SPECTACULAR is the word that came to me as the morning sun soaked the trees - with a frost predicted tonight they are forecasting that this will make the colors even more vibrant so tomorrow I will head back to the mountains with my camera and then probably go kayaking!

We have no classes Monday or Tuesday as this is the "long weekend" that our students (and many of us too) have been looking forward to. The semester is rolling along and with both mid-term exams AND pre-registration right around the corner, everyone needed a break. We also have two students diagnosed with the H1N1 which was inevitable - hopefully students will have a chance to get some sleep at home, some good home-cooked meals and a chance to re-energize as they get ready for the challenges of the rest of the semester. Health Services has been wonderful about making sure that we are ALL educated about the flu and in providing the seasonal flu shots for our students. I spoke with Mary Mason who is the Director of Health Services and she said that as many as 200 students a day were showing up at Health Services to get their shots. I have spoken to each of my classes about the flu and all members of the faculty have been urged to discuss this with our classes and to make sure that the students know NOT to come to class IF they are sick - attendance policies can sometimes get in the way of students making wise decisions when they ARE sick. As the H1N1vaccine becomes available, I am sure that they will make these available to our students too. Classes continue to go very well and I am looking forward to grading their second set of papers over the next couple of days while they are away.

Take care, be well, and as always please keep all of our veterans and the current members of our military in your thoughts and prayers. I happened to run into one of our alums (Ted Brady) who works for Senator Patrick Leahy at my favorite bagel shop near my home in Williston. I brought to his attention that the woman who works for Sen. Leahy and who is in charge of veterans' issues had been very, very helpful to a couple of veterans (including one of our alums who is now enrolled in graduate school here at SMC) - there has been a delay in the VA providing some veterans with "out of pocket" expenses as they have enrolled in college. She was helpful in directing them to the appropriate place to get a "loan" from the VA to cover these expenses - Ted told me that he would make sure that she heard this compliment and that he would also let the Senator know. Our veterans already have enough to deal with and don't need to worry about some of these issues and getting help from Senator Leahy's office was a very good thing.


Saturday, October 3, 2009

It doesn't get much better than this..........

This past week has been one filled with a lot of activity, excellent classes, re-connections with former students and a re-affirmation that this thing we call education IS worthwhile. Logan Thurnauer just stopped by my office on this rainy Saturday morning to say hello. He graduated this past May and is in a Master of Science program in Education with an emphasis on Higher Education at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. This is a one year program which will lead to a Ph.D. program in Higher Education. Logan was actively involved with our Residence Life Program here and he just finished telling me about this new program and how much he is enjoying it. I asked him if he felt that Saint Michael's College had prepared him well for his graduate work and his response made me laugh. He said "I was not expecting this Dave but I am ahead of many others in my program BECAUSE of my experiences and my education at SMC." - now THOSE are nice words to hear. He said that he has a great deal of reading to do every week and the classes are challenging but he has done well so far and he attributes this to the Liberal Arts background that he obtained here. Some of his peers are from much larger educational institutions and they seem amazed when he tells them of his close relationship with many of his former professors here. This is foreign to many of them. Another former student stopped by yesterday just to say hello - John lives in Montana and is living HIS dream of skiing as often as he can - he is back East for his sister's wedding next week and he took a train from Montana to Boston. He had a chance to see several of his other professors during this brief visit but he simply HAD to return to campus just to re-connect. Brendan Rynne called me from California last night as we have been playing "telephone tag" for a week now. He and his wife and now TWO children are doing very well and he just wanted to re-connect and to fill me in on how they are all doing - connections - re-connections - this is one of the things I love about working here.

On Monday afternoon one of my former students came to my Practicum class to talk with us about her experiences as a therapist, a writer, a consultant and a wife/mother. Kim Quinn-Smith graduated from Saint Michael's College in 1989 with a double major of biology and psychology. She then went on to Boston College and received a Master's Degree in Counseling Psychology. She and the love of her life Tom Smith ('89)were married and they now have five children. She has been a therapist working with teens, families and youth as well as the chronically mentally ill. She has written three books and is now a consultant presenting workshops around the Northeast on such topics as teens, young adults and gender. I wanted Kim to speak to my class because I happen to have sixteen WOMEN in this class and I thought it would be important for my students to hear what it was like to be a wife, a mother, a therapist, a writer AND a consultant - sometimes all at the same time. My students seem to have appreciated Kim's honesty and since her presentation skills are so open and engaging, it was a wonderful class. Three of those students are also in my Theories class and so the next day, they couldn't wait to tell me that they had all called their Mom's and had talked about Kim's presentation and in fact, a couple of them are going to get one of Kim's books Striving for the Purple Heart: Mothers in the Universal Pursuit of Honor for their mothers.

On Thursday (I have two classes back to back on Tuesday and Thursday) my Sports Psychology class finished up their presentation from Tuesday on the impact that advertising and marketing have with regards to sports and athletes/athletics. We look at the psychological impact of all of these factors and I was impressed with the students' presentation AND their ability to think critically about an interesting topic. We then had a "come to Jesus" moment as I confronted them on their writing skills or lack thereof. Much like the rest of their generation which has become addicted to Facebook, Instant Message, Twitter and cell phone communication my students made several careless errors in their first papers. I hold students accountable for their errors - I warn them the first day of class that they are either blessed or cursed to have a former English teacher as their psychology professor. I show them typical errors and they all assure me that THEY won't make the same mistakes and, of course, I know that they will - I do suspect that they won't be making near as many in the future. BUT, it was a good class. My second class of the day is my Theories of Counseling class. We study material from our textbook on Tuesdays and then on Thursdays we use the Developmental Lab (a large room divided into two sections separated by a one-way mirror) for the application of what they have learned in the text and classroom discussion on Tuesday. I create counseling scenarios and have one student serve as the "counselee" and provide that student with the issues I want them to present to the student "counselor." I then select another student to serve as that counselor and the "games" begin. With fifteen students on one side of the one-way mirror and the other two sitting and counseling on the other side, this laboratory is an incredible teaching tool. It IS intimidating. It IS stressful. It IS education at work. Several of my former students who are now in graduate school have emailed me about how grateful they are that we have this laboratory at SMC. These students, now in programs of study all over the country, are most often the ONLY ones in their graduate programs who have had this experience as an undergraduate. Thursday's class was exceptional as all of the student "counselors" were right on target - they were good listeners, showed the appropriate level of concern and understanding to the "counselee" and provided the right amount of empathy, encouragement and structure to assist the "counselee" to continue exploring the issues that I had created for the scenarios. This is one of those classes where all of the sudden it is 4:10 and class is over - we were able to have four students practice their counseling skills and then as we process the experience all together they showed how well they have been able to apply not only what they are learning in this class, but also what they have learned in their other psychology classes - as I titled this blog - it doesn't get much better than this.

take care, be well and please keep all of our veterans and the current members of the military (and their families) in your thoughts and prayers.