Monday, August 30, 2010

A final tribute to a fallen soldier.

Every time I blog, at the end, I ask for your thoughts and prayers for the members of our military and their families. Just this week alone we have lost 14 American soldiers in the War in Afghanistan. This past Sunday, as we were concluding four days of Orientation with our new students, we were all gathered in the Ross Sports Center for what has become known as CONNECTIONS perhaps the most important part of new student orientation. As it happened, we were set to begin at 9:30 Sunday morning - at 9:00 that morning a plane carrying the remains of Vermont National Guardsman Tristan Southworth, 21 years of age, from Walden, VT - one of two Vermont National Guardsmen killed in Afghanistan last week was being flown into the Burlington Airport. Local citizens had been asked to line the route that his procession would take from the airport out to I-89 and the 60 mile trip to Walden, VT. As we gathered, we had spread the word to our wonderful Orientation Leaders that IF they wanted to, they could quietly leave the gym and go out to stand along the road as his procession wound its way from the airport. Megan Powers, Director of New Student Programs opened the CONNECTIONS program by telling our new students that we had lost two VT soldiers this past week and asking for a moment of silence. It was amazing to watch over 500 people just get silent - each one, I am certain thinking about their own connection to the war. After the moment of silence the program began and soon all of our Orientation Leaders silently left the gym and headed out to Route 15 to pay tribute to a fallen soldier. We found out that his procession had already passed by but that does NOT take away from what our students did - they remembered, they stood in silence and they paid tribute to this young man they never even knew - it was an amazing moment.

So, please keep all of our military and their families in your thoughts and prayers - they truly need all of the support and prayers that they can get.


Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Good advice for parents of new students.

I am on campus continuing to prepare for the new semester to begin in less than a week. I was just over in Alliot and ran into our Residence Assistants (RA's) who are just returning from an overnight training workshop off campus. Then I headed upstairs to Eddie's where the 72 Orientation Leaders are finalizing their plans for Orientation with Grace Kelly, our wonderful Director of Student Activities. These Orientation Leaders have been preparing for our new students since their selection in February - with a great group on the O-Board, they have worked hard to make this transition as smooth a process as possible. I will be working with them this afternoon on just one part of what they will present on Sunday morning as we wrap up this Orientation. We go out on Lake Champlain this evening for the Sunset Cruise which they always enjoy - the weather is predicted to be excellent and so the sunset should be clear and colorful. I was in MA over the weekend and noticed that some of the trees at the higher elevations on 89 are beginning to turn and the tree just outside my office window, which is always the first to turn has already started........ I was reading the New York Times article this morning entitled "Students, Welcome to College; Parents , Go Home" - by Trip Gabriel. As I read it I had to laugh as I remember Fr. Mike holding up a sign at the end of the Opening Mass which was a replica of the I-89 South sign and his telling students and parents that this would be a great time, right after mass ends, for parents to say goodbye and then head home. Good advice as the article points out. The article is in the New York Times for 8/22/10 and you can find it under the author's name = Trip Gabriel or you may be able to just click on the URL I have posted at the bottom. Parents sometimes fail to realize that their son/daughter cannot begin to establish their own identity here until/unless they actually separate from their parents and that "moving in day" is important and a great time for parents to simply say "I love you and I know you will do well" and then to literally, hit the road.

You have done a great job so far in getting a son or daughter to college and now is the time to trust that you HAVE done a good job and let us do what we do best - provide a supportive learning environment where they will be challenged, where they will learn more about themselves than they ever suspected and where they will grow and learn in a college which values each and every one of our students as unique individuals. You made a good decision in having them attend Saint Michael's College - this is my 28th starting class and I continue to be amazed at the lifelong impact that this place has on people.

take care, be well and please keep our military and their families in your thoughts and prayers.


Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Sometimes our students actually DO listen to what we say....

I just returned from kayaking on Mallett's Bay in Colchester, about 5 miles from campus. Kayaking for me, is always a great time for either relaxation and contemplation OR vigorous exercise, depending on the wind and the waves. Today was a combination of both. As I was kayaking and realizing that classes begin in just a couple of weeks I was thinking about how excited I get at the start of every new semester. We have all worked over the summer on our courses, our syllabi and as I talk with my faculty colleagues, I find that they are as excited as I am for new beginnings. Over the past couple of weeks I have had the chance to talk with several of my former students and while one can always HOPE that they actually do listen and learn in class, these conversations have been very reinforcing for what we do. Alex Higgins ('11) and Ryan Nest ('10) are both working at a camp for adolescents with behavioral and/or developmental difficulties. This has been an intense 8 week camp and I spoke with Ryan over the weekend - as he described some of the activities that both he and Alex have been involved with I asked him how his SMC psychology major has helped him - I was somewhat surprised because he said that there were times when he wanted to literally "jump off a three story building" but then he said that he remembered one of my classes when I had told them "there isn't anything that you can't learn to deal with" and he kept that in mind and was able not only to have an amazingly educational experience but he has received great feedback from his supervisors. Last Friday I had lunch with Corinne O'Connor who graduated in 2004 - she was up for Zack Cook and Molly Lydon's wedding and wanted to get together with Fr. Mike and Jennie and me - she is working for AT&T out of Buffalo and loves her job - Mark Cernosia ('04) joined us too and we all caught up on what was going on in her life and what was happening on campus. Colleen was a student leader here, actively involved with the Student Association and now she is putting those leadership skills to work in her position in management with a major corporation. On Sunday night I received a call from Craig Farnum ('99) - Craig is the lead counselor at Damonte Ranch High School in Reno, Nevada and is taking his comprehensive examinations yesterday, today and tomorrow for his doctorate at the University of Nevada, Reno. As he discussed some of the possible questions he was going to be asked over the three day examination, he commented that whenever he gets a question asking him to "compare and contrast" things he thinks back to my class in Abnormal Psychology because I was always asking my students to do the same thing - he said that this has helped him study and prepare for these exams. Once again, the rewards of teaching............

I head to Otis, MA for some time with my family before the Orientation Leaders, Resident Assistants and finally new students arrive the week of the 22nd - I will be doing some workshops with the Orientation Leaders and then after the "formal" orientation of our new students ends on Sunday the 29th I will be working with members of the Athletic Department and several of our upper-class student-athletes on the New Student-Athlete Orientation. There are approx. 170 new student athletes in our entering class and the Athletic Department has been working hard to create a balanced orientation that will provide great role models for our new athletes - there will be student led panels on Academic Expectations (this will be where I will speak), Social Expectations and Athletic Expectations. I congratulate the members of our Athletic Department for their foresight in designing this series of workshop and appreciate our upper-level student-athletes willingness to work along with us to make the whole experience of our new students a healthy and collaborative one.

Take care, be well and please keep all of the members of our military and their families in your thoughts and prayers. We have lost way too many men and women in the War In Iraq and now as our combat forces leave there and we begin more tough work in Afghanistan, they need our thoughts and prayers more than ever.


Tuesday, August 10, 2010

New York City - family and the value of an SMC education.

Last week I traveled to visit with my family and my sister and I took a train from CT into New York City where we met up with my niece Maggie (far left) and her friend (and my former student) Anne Maher (third from the left) - I blogged about Anne and her Dad's death in my last posting. Anne had never been to New York City so this was her first attempt at "life outside of the Boston area." While Sue and I were waiting for Maggie and Anne to come downstairs to meet us for dinner this nice looking, well-dressed young man came over to where we were sitting and sat down opposite me. It took me a couple of seconds (he said the look on my face was priceless and he wished that he had a camera) to realize that it was Dan Ehrhardt from Anne's class of 2009. Dan has just recently moved to New York from Boston and he, my sister, Maggie and Anne decided to surprise "Uncle Dave" with Dan's joining us for dinner. Dan has done well since his graduation in that he received a promotion at work in Boston and then they asked him to move to New York City - he works for a financial service company and had three internships during his time at SMC. While Maggie and Anne took one cab, Sue, Dan and I took another one and we had a chance to catch up. He spoke of how much he loves his job and how much he credits SMC for having prepared him for this type of work. He said that his three internships AND Prof. Roger Putzel's business class of XP (a unconventional class where students set up a "dummy" corporation and the students actually RUN the company) provided him with the experiential learning which put the textbooks' concepts/policies/skill-building into practice. Dan has one of those "infectious" personalities and he has certainly put both that personality and his education at SMC to good work. He also admitted that he LOVED the Men & Masculinities class he took with me and that he tells his co-workers that he learned so much from A class and they ask if it was an economics class or perhaps a business ethics class or an accounting class and then he tells them that NO, it was a psychology/gender studies class and he said that their reactions are really funny. After dinner we walked around a bit and it was just nice to catch up with Dan and his family - I had his older brother Rich as a student here several years ago - it was certainly a pleasant surprise and I appreciated his feedback as to how much HE values the education he received here at SMC. Anne and Maggie met at SMC and their friendship continues even though they haven't been living near each other for years.

It was also quite interesting because Sue, Maggie, Anne and I went to a Broadway play on Wednesday afternoon - we saw South Pacific which has always been one of my favorite plays. It was first produced in 1949 and deals, as many of you may remember, with the military during World War II in the Polynesian Islands. It was quite eye-opening for Sue and me to be watching the play with two 22 year olds who have no "frame of reference" for this play. The themes of discrimination, class and culture are so strong and fortunately both Maggie and Anne have a solid understanding of issues of peace and justice from their education here that our discussion afterwards was quite amazing. I have often used the music from South Pacific in workshops, especially YOU HAVE TO BE CAREFULLY TAUGHT which makes the point that no one is "born" with prejudices but that you "have to be carefully taught" to hate those who are different.

All in all, a wonderful time in the CITY. I do have to admit that it was equally nice to travel back home to Vermont where life is so different from a large city. I am in the office this morning doing more preparation for my classes which will begin on the 30th. My Practicum students are interviewing for their placements off campus for the year and site supervisors are getting in touch with me with last minute questions about these placements. I also continue to get emails from students asking about their textbooks for the classes and a student just "discovered" that there was ONE opening in my Theories of Counseling class and so as she put it "I jumped at the opening and signed up - yeah...." - these are exciting times as I LOVE the opening of each new school year. A couple of students from last semester are in town this week and have emailed about getting together so I expect a knock at my office door at any minute. It is gratifying to know that so many of our students RETURN just to say hello - just one more reason why I love this place so much.

Take care, be well and please keep all of the members of our military and their families in your thoughts and prayers as we leave Iraq and the war in Afghanistan continues to take its toll on our men and women in the military and their loved ones.