Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Back from Spring Break and the race to the end begins....

Last week our students were on Spring Break. While many of them headed to Florida for the traditional college "spring break" experience many others took this time to re-group, volunteer or rest and relax at home while our spring sports teams headed south for athletic competition. I had the opportunity to address almost 500 parents at a VSAC (Vermont Student Assistance Corporation) College Pathways annual series of workshops designed for high school juniors and their parents. I spoke to the parents about the transition from high school to college and while a good deal of what I presented made many of them "uncomfortable" and provoked a good deal of anxiety, it was important that parents more fully understand some of the issues I talked about. I have received a number of emails from parents who attended my session and I appreciate their comments and inquiries.

I met with my Practicum students yesterday and they began presenting their final yearlong projects which consist of a case study of a "client" at their internship sites. Kate Amey was the first and she did an exceptional job in clearly and concisely presenting her case study. My students interview someone at their site and then research whatever the presenting issues are and along with a site supervisor (and, of course respecting confidentiality and with the "client's" permission) prepare information for the class. This project allows my students to pull together much of what we have learned over the past academic year (Practicum is a two semester course) and it is always gratifying to see how my students can incorporate so much of what we discuss/research in class. I am looking forward to the rest of these case study presentations. We also discussed the REALITY that we only have 4 more classes before the semester comes to an end. While it was great that two of my students have now heard from graduate schools (congratulations to Rachael and Erika on getting their acceptances) it is also a somewhat frightening reality that the "race to the end" is upon us. The good thing is that this class has really come together as a highly functioning group so they are able to talk openly with each other and with me about their plans (or lack thereof) after graduation. Interesting and challenging times.

Men & Masculinities met last night and students did a presentation on Men & Masculinities and Film - this is an extremely thought-provoking topic and we ended with small group discussions on what THEY think the impact has been on them from all forms of media when it comes to the way in which they have been socially constructed to view men. Each small group consists of 3 women and 3 men so the interaction/discussion is fascinating to watch. This class also only has 4 more classes in the semester so they too are feeling the pressures of their time here coming to an end. I have been hosting "dinner at Dave's" for the past several Mondays and last night had 5 of these students over for dinner after class. I chased them out around 11:00 after a wonderful evening of food, discussion and their just having a chance to get off campus for a meal. They are always so appreciative of this opportunity and it certainly is a pleasure for me. My Practicum class now insists that I have THEM over for dinner too - we will work something out but they also insist on all being together so there won't be a splitting up as there has been with M&M - hummm perhaps pizza from Domino's????????

It is raining outside, dark and gloomy - much different from last week when they were all gone and I was able to get to the mountain and ski at Smuggler's Notch - temperatures last week were in the 50's and now they are hovering around 40 - but as I have often said, when the temperatures rise in the springtime their grades seem to fall - let's hope for some combination of studying and good weather.

Take care, be well and please keep the members of our military and their families in your thoughts and prayers.


Sunday, March 7, 2010

Skype - and our global connections - The Lonely Soldier by Helen Benedict

I have mentioned that I am just learning how to Skype in a previous blog. Well, I am now putting it to good use in connecting with current/former students who are scattered around the globe. On Wednesday evening I was checking my email from home when Tom Robinson who graduated from SMC in the mid-90's popped up on my computer screen - Tom left here and studied at UVM in their Higher Education Student Affairs Master's program - he has had a number of positions within Higher Education over the years and we have remained good friends. When we connected through our computers, I asked him where he was and he responded Beijing. He is currently working for Northeastern University in Boston and is in China for two weeks working on a program where Chinese students study English in China and then come to the United States for three years for their undergraduate education. It was great to talk with him and to realize that I was in my home in Williston, VT talking with a friend/former student in China. Yesterday I Skyped one of my current students who is studying in Spain. Meghan Cormier is a second semester junior and one of my advisees. We are getting ready to begin pre-registration for the fall semester and she and I discussed what courses she wanted/needed to take her senior year. She was able to connect to the College's website, check her degree audit and tell me what courses she was interested in taking next year. Normally, with our Study Abroad students, it is a matter of either hoping to be able to talk by phone or many emails before academic advising is accomplished - this Skype thing is so much better. She is having an amazing time over there and was even able to get to Ireland for four days a week ago. Her Mom and sister are going over to visit her in a couple of weeks and she is so excited about that. I received an email from my friend/former student Matt Dunn who is an emergency room doctor - he is in Chile about to begin a grueling extreme racing event which, in spite of the recent tragedy of earthquakes IN Chile is still being held. I am going to see if Matt can Skype from where he is as the race progresses - he is in email contact with many of us here and we get to follow the progress of the race. I am amazed that the Chilean government is allowing this race to go on given the devastation but they want this to take place as it brings a great deal of money into the country and they need that desperately now. China - Spain - Chile all connected with SMC through technology - not bad!!!!!!!

Campus has been really busy with winter sports ending and spring sports just beginning. Many of our spring sports are heading to Florida for our Spring Break so that they can get a jump start on their seasons. I have some baseball players in my classes and they are looking forward to a lot of games while in Florida. With only a week before Spring Break, students are scrambling to get papers submitted and projects completed. Once they return we then have Easter break and then classes end on the last day of April - while they don't always appreciate my reminders that the semester is going by VERY quickly, they are working hard. I will, of course, remind all of them to use sunblock if they are heading to warmer climates :) Our weather has been amazing lately - I went skiing at Smuggs on Wednesday morning. While we haven't had a lot of snow lately, the slopes were well-groomed and the sun was shining brightly with temperatures in the mid-30's. I hope to ski every day of our Spring Break.

Thanks to an invitation from Kim Swartz, the Director of the Center for Women and Gender, last Tuesday I was fortunate to attend a luncheon with Helen Benedict who was speaking on campus that night. She is the author of a new book - The Lonely Soldier - she has interviewed a number of women who serve or who have served in the United States military. Specifically, she was interested in the experiences of women in combat. We met briefly and I told her about my Men & Masculinities class and that we were using Love My Rifle More Than You by Kayla Williams - Helen had just recently met Kayla and was impressed that there was a class here which WAS addressing this as an issue. Her luncheon talk was riveting and I look forward to hearing how my students responded to her evening presentation. This is an issue that has received very little coverage in the media. I asked her if anyone was listening as SHE has given a voice to those women who have no "voice" - she has appeared before Congress and knows that "some" in the military are at least aware of her book but she isn't sure that the message is really being heard. After writing The Lonely Soldier, she then wrote a play which has been on Broadway and is now writing a novel - all based on the interviews she has had with women in OUR military.......

Well, back to grading papers - please take good care and please keep all of the members of our military and their families in your thoughts and prayers.