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.