Sunday, January 24, 2010

More joys of teaching.....

Very early Friday morning I left my home here and drove to Woburn, MA to meet my friend and former student Jim Howland '88 who was defending his doctoral dissertation at Boston University. I have been a member of his Ed.D. Committee for the past two years and it was very rewarding to be a part of his defense. He passed with revisions which is the normal path and will complete everything and graduate in May. As a full-time husband, father and the Social Worker at the only school in MA for kids in recovery, he has worked really hard to complete his degree - I was rather proud of him as I have been of other former students who have continued on with post-SMC graduate degrees. I have mentioned in my blog that preparing and submitting letters of recommendation take up a good deal of any faculty members time BUT it is also something I enjoy doing. When I got home from Boston I received a call from Jason Fuchs, a current senior psychology major who told me that he has received his first graduate school acceptance. He is the first of this year's seniors whom I have heard has been accepted - the next few weeks will bring many more and I did three recommendations this morning so the process continues.

Classes this past week were excellent and I continue to be impressed with the quality of my students. Tomorrow's Men & Masculinities class will bring Dr. Frank Landry back to talk with my students about men's health issues. Frank is an alum of SMC and this will be his 10th year as a volunteer speaker in my class. Because I don't believe in teaching in isolation he will not only address men's issues but he will also address women's issues - this is always a fascinating class and I advise my students NOT to miss this one - it may save their lives someday. He doesn't pull any punches and answers every question in an honest and direct manner. Students always tell me how much they appreciate his discussion and HE is always amazed at the energy and honesty of my students.

I have heard from a couple of you who read my blog (thanks) and appreciate knowing that someone IS out there "listening" to the blog. I have had people express their appreciation for my asking for thoughts and prayers for the members of our Armed Forces - I will continue to do that simply because it is the right thing to do. This past Tuesday our Student Association had a good discussion during Open Forum about how we could help out in the crisis in Haiti. Since we have colleagues and students who have been very personally impacted by the recent earthquakes it was good to hear how concerned our student leaders are about trying to make a difference. David Hiltz is our SA President this year and he referred to Dr. Jack Neuhauser's letter to the community about how SMC can help in Haiti in the short term AND in the long term - I posted Jack's message in my last blog. David asked everyone to think about both avenues of assistance - now and for their future. SMC students and faculty/staff have traveled to Haiti in the past doing volunteer work and I know that they will continue to do this - doing things simply because they ARE the right thing to do is just one of the many joys of working here.

please take care, be well and, as always please keep the members of our military in your thoughts and prayers as well as those impacted by the tragedy in Haiti.


Sunday, January 17, 2010

Haiti - campus reaction

I returned late last night from Atlanta, Georgia where I had attended the NCAA National Convention. I left Vermont early Wednesday morning when the news from Haiti was first starting to come in. The initial reports were that there had been a 7.0 earthquake but little information at that time. As things unfolded in Haiti I followed as much as possible while also attending the many meetings and workshops which took me to Atlanta in the first place. I serve as the College's Faculty Athletic Representative and am the liaison between academics and athletics. Our Athletic Director, Geri Knortz and I have attended the past few NCAA Conventions together and it is always good to renew friendships with colleagues from across the country who also work so closely with athletic programs and student-athletes. I would try to catch up on what was unfolding in Haiti as Saint Michael's College has had a long and positive history with that country and its people. A number of my colleagues from here are either FROM Haiti or have visited Haiti over the years so it was difficult to be so far away from here while things were being reported from Haiti. The devastation is almost too horrific for us to comprehend but knowing that friends and colleagues have family members there who are unaccounted for makes everything so personal. One workshop I attended was on academic support systems for student-athletes and as I read the bio's of the presenters I saw that one man - Jim Pignataro, was from Michigan State University so I went up to introduce myself to him as an alum of that fine institution. Much to my surprise (and his) when I said that I was from Saint Michael's College he told me that he is the brother-in-law to my friend and colleague Moise St. Louis who is not only our Director of Multicultural Student Affairs/Assistant Dean but also someone FROM Haiti. I was able to find out directly from Jim about some of the latest information about Haiti. My brother-in-law is the Global Managing Partner for Human Resources/Talent Management for Deloitte Touche and someone who has many resources which have helped us here at SMC over the years during times such as this. Jim kept me informed of the latest security briefings and I was able to forward those to my friends here on campus who are connected to friends in Haiti. I will attach our President's comments to the community at the end of this posting on my blog. We can donate money AND provide our prayers as we continue to support those more directly impacted than we are. This also is such a stark reminder of just how fragile life can be and the reality that it is so important that we make sure that those we love KNOW it - NOW..............

Classes began last Monday and I left on Wednesday so I am looking forward to re-connecting with my students tomorrow. We will be talking about Haiti AND, of course, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Some have complained that Saint Michael's College should join so many others and not have classes on this day in memory and tribute to Dr. King. Our philosophy is that it is important for us, as an educational institution, to have classes and all faculty are encouraged to use this as a time to remember and recall the struggles that too many people today take for granted. A recent Burlington Free Press article featured a front page story on the Society of Saint Edmund (the founding fathers of Saint Michael's College) and how the priests had worked so tirelessly in the South to bring peace and justice AND voting rights to those who were disenfranchised. The picture that accompanied the article was of Fr. Maurice Ouellet, SSE, as he was on a playground at an iron jungle gym reaching up to help little black children climbing on that piece of fun equipment - that picture tells so much about Fr. Ouellet (he hired me here and is someone I have such great admiration and respect for) as he was always reaching out to help others. There is always an afternoon convocation on campus with a featured speaker and talks by our students so instead of canceling classes and providing our students with an opportunity to "hit the slopes" we provide an educational opportunity - I think we make the better choice.

Several times during my travels to Atlanta, as I sat in airports in Burlington, Washington and Atlanta, members of our armed services walked by. When there was eye contact, I just gave a nod of thanks and they returned with a smile and a nod back. On one flight our attendant mentioned that several members of the military were with us who were being deployed to Afghanistan and the plane erupted in applause for our soldiers. As always, please remember the military and their families AND the people of Haiti in your thoughts and prayers. Here is the response from President Jack Neuhauser to our community in response to the tragedy in Haiti:

take care and be well


January 15, 2010

TO: The Saint Michael’s College Community

FROM: John J. Neuhauser

RE: Haiti disaster

This week’s disaster in Haiti has affected many members of the Saint Michael’s community in a personal and profound manner, as family members and close friends have been lost. A number of individuals served as host families for a group of Haitian students who were with us in the fall, and many others have personal friendships with Haitian people, including faculty members and students, that go back years.

Indeed, the College’s solidarity with Haitiwas affirmed in 1994 with a weeklong observance in which our community expressed its support for the people of Haiti, who were calling for the return of their democratically elected president. The main event of the week was an address by then-exiled Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, who received an honorary degree. Haiti Solidarity Week became an annual observance, bringing Haitian scholars, activists, writers and artists to campus, especially benefiting students involved in related MOVE service trips to several communities in Haiti and a service-learning course in 2002. One of the invited speakers, Michelle Pierre-Louis, hosted our students during their 2002 trip, and the Student Association asked to invite her to return as commencement speaker in 2004, the year in which Saint Michael's College was celebrating its centennial and Haiti its bicentennial. Michelle Pierre-Louis waslater Prime Minister of Haiti (from 2008 to 2009). Sadly, Visiting Scholars Georges and Mireille Anglade, who became members of our community for the spring semester in 2001, have died in the earthquake.

It is important that each member of our community have a chance to respond in their own manner, including prayer, reflection and/or providing monetary and physical resources and even labor, at a time when this might be possible. The initial need centers on financial support. To expedite this process, I suggest that those who wish to contribute do so directly through Catholic Relief Services ( or the International Red Cross (, as these organizations have the ability to see that resources are quickly and appropriately brought to bear. Campus Ministry has already gathered some funds, and will continue to do so today and through a special collection at the masses on Sunday, January 24.

The College will also be developing a response that will allow members of the community to provide tangible and specific help to an educational organization, such as a school. It will take some time to work with partners in Haiti to learn where our efforts directed at reconstruction might best be applied. I believe it important that we develop an opportunity that involves students, faculty and staff directly, in keeping with the volunteer culture which so distinguishes Saint Michael’s. Plans for this venture are just beginning, but you should expect to hear more in the days ahead.

It is unfortunate that tragedy once again reminds us that in small things, we may differ, but in the large things, we are all much the same. Please continue to pray and offer comfort as you are able.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

A new semester and Smugglers' Notch "rocks"

For the last three days I have gotten up early, had breakfast and headed to Jeffersonville and Smugglers' Notch or as those of us who enjoy the great skiing simply call it - Smuggs........ When we got 33.1 inches of snow last weekend, which set an all time record for Burlington, Smuggs got almost that much. I have been skiing there for 28 years and it just gets better every year. I love the fact that Saint Michael's College is one of the only, if not THE only college/university in the country which includes the opportunity (for a very nominal fee) of a season's pass at a great ski resort. I know that a large number of our students take advantage of this opportunity and while faculty/staff don't get the same benefit of the nominal fee, many of us also ski there. The President, the Chair of the Board, our VP for Human Resources Mike New and his wife Patti and many others of us who live and work here celebrate our weather instead of complaining about it. I have also been out snowshoeing a couple of times and hope to either ski or snowshoe at least a couple of times every week - it is always fun to introduce students to the fun of snowshoeing as many of them have never tried this sport. With the start of our new semester just a couple of days away, it was good to get outdoors and enjoy the mountains.

On Monday the new semester begins. Tomorrow (Friday) there are workshops on campus sponsored by our Information Technology folks who will make sure that all of the faculty are up-to-date on the latest technology available to us in the classroom. Between spending some time on campus this week doing letters of recommendations for many of our seniors and revising syllabi I am ready for the new semester. Men & Masculinities class has 15 men and 15 women - all seniors and I appreciate the opportunity to work with such eager students. I talked with Bryan Brunton and Pat McGuirk at the rink last weekend at their hockey tournament and they are both looking forward to this class - while I have had many of these students in class prior to this semester, there are still several I have never met so it will be fun to get to see how they respond to a class with an equal balance of men and women which specifically deals with men's issues. Sports Psychology is always exciting as we look at the intriguing connections between sports and psychology. My Practicum class went very well first semester and as we get together again for second semester I get to review what their site supervisors had to say about their first semester WITH each of them and I am looking forward to how they view the challenges of working in social services. Since many of the students told me in their semester evaluations that they want to spend some time this semester finalizing their post-graduation plans I have already spoken to Chris Clary, Director of the Office of Career Development who will come into class to work with my students on updating their resumes and help them figure out how to accomplish their career goals - since this semester will go very quickly, especially for our seniors, having folks from Career Development come into the classroom makes good sense.

I hope that everyone had a safe and fun holiday - I sure did. Of course, I WILL again remind all of my students that the H1N1 has NOT gone away yet so they still need to be reminded to take the appropriate precautions. I am getting my shot on Saturday now that they have lifted the restrictions and everyone is eligible for the shot. While classes begin on Monday, I leave on Wednesday for four days in Atlanta for the NCAA National Convention along with Geri Knortz,our Athletic Director. Stay tuned as I will probably blog from Atlanta.

As always, please take good care and keep all of our soldiers, veterans and their families in your thoughts and prayers.