Sunday, November 21, 2010

Almost break time - LOTS of sports

This is the final weekend before Thanksgiving break begins - students (and faculty) are really looking forward to this time with their families, home cooked meals and a rest before the final push to the end of the semester. First year students and their families are astounded that it has gone by so quickly, while seniors are bemoaning the reality that this means that Commencement is only a semester away. I have been grading papers all weekend and hope to get all of them done before students head out on Wednesday. They seem to appreciate that I get papers back fairly quickly and I continue to appreciate that my utilization of a "tablet laptop" means that I now can have a "paperless" classroom. Students simply upload their papers to eCollege, I grade them and return them in emails - I get to make my comments (and there are ALWAYS a lot of those) with a stylus and also get to save them to a file on my computer for future reference. Sports Psychology has a presentation on the psychological implications of spirituality/religiosity and sports on Tuesday and then we are almost done with the student presentations. It has been a good semester with a very high level of interaction and a LOT of energy in class - THAT I love......

Last Wednesday evening the women's volleyball team hosted a fund raiser over in the Ross Sports Center. Samantha Clairemont is a member of the team and a friend from her hometown was involved in a horrific accident which left her in a wheelchair. Samantha approached her coach Chris Kilmer (a VERY good guy) and asked if there was something that could be done to help her friend and family. Chris worked with the women on his team and they created "bumpin for Brenna" which was open to the whole campus and which was a huge success. They were able to raise over $1,500. The gym was packed with students as teams made up of members of our men's/women's soccer teams and the women's volleyball team competed against each other AND a team of faculty/staff. YES, I did play volleyball, alongside many of my friends/colleagues from campus in front of a LOT of our students. There were too many of us to list all but Karen Talentino, VP for Academic Affairs did an admirable job given that she has a "bad" shoulder and I even managed a couple of nice hits. It was a great time and many thanks to everyone who participated and especially to Coach Kilmer for not only organizing this with/for Samantha but also for his very eloquent words when he spoke about the meaning of COMMUNITY at SMC.

This weekend was full of athletic competitions and fun. Friday afternoon I went to our women's ice hockey game which was followed by our men's ice hockey game. I left the men's game after two periods and headed back to campus for the annual Jibfest which is skiing and snowboarding on the 300's field on a structure that was constructed and "snowed" by our students from the Ski/Snowboard Club. Matt Stillman is President of the Club and is one of my students and a very enthusiastic supporter of all things skiing/snowboarding. When I got back to campus from the rink I found approx. 250 of our students having a fantastic time - there were burgers and hot dogs - cans of Red Bull (????) and lots of bananas (????) and it was great to watch so many of our students having such a great time on a Friday night - the hard work of these students, along with Grace Kelly (Director of Student Activities) and her crew from the SA and Residence Life paid off - AND, at least as far as I know, there were no broken bones :)

Yesterday, after grading more papers, I headed back to the rink for the women's ice hockey game and another men's game - while our women lost both games over the weekend, they played well and were never "out" of the competition. Our men started their season off well with two impressive wins. At the same time that I was spending more hours (it amazes me that I spent 5 hours there on Friday and another 5 on Saturday and I don't even know how to skate) at the rink, our men's basketball program kicked off their home season under new head coach Michael Harding and gained a win - so a very busy weekend of activities.

This past Tuesday, President Obama awarded the Medal of Honor to Staff Sgt. Salvatore Giunta for his heroic actions in Afghanistan. Last Sunday evening on 60 Minutes there was an interview with this young man (he is now 25 but was only 22 when the incident took place) - if you didn't see it, I would suggest that you Google it and watch it - a very powerful and emotional coverage of someone who self-identifies as a "mediocre" soldier. We talked about this in Theories class on Tuesday and in Practicum on Monday as students who are working in the field of counseling and social services MUST learn as much as they can about the very complicated issues which are facing not only our returning soldiers, but also their families. The presentation by President Obama was very moving and Sgt. Giunta's story is very powerful. He is the first living recipient of this honor since the Vietnam War - others have been awarded this since then but those have all gone to soldiers who gave their lives for all of us. While this is a tremendous honor for Sgt. Giunta, it is also a burden and he very modestly and very honestly spoke of how THIS medal is for EVERYONE who is fighting for our freedom - he is only the person who gets to wear it.....

As we all give thanks this coming Thursday, please remember to keep all of the members of our military - our veterans too, and their families in your thoughts and prayers.

As always, please take good care, be well and have a Happy and Safe Thanksgiving

Sunday, November 14, 2010

More rewards from teaching.....

I just returned back to campus from a three day conference in Baltimore - the national Faculty Athletics Representatives Association held its annual meeting at the Hyatt and FARs from across the country and across the three NCAA Divisions gathered for some professional development and sharing of new ideas. We received updates from the NCAA on all aspects of college sports and it was a very worthwhile time - I did "skip" one 45 minute session so I could "explore" the waterfront in Baltimore but other than that one quick trip, I really didn't get to see much of the city. We did have the best crab cakes I have ever had for dinner the first night so I did learn something about Baltimore - they DO know how to make crab cakes..... It was good to spend time with the other FARs from the NE-10 (SMC's athletic conference) and with the FARs I had recently met in Indianapolis at the leadership institute. Sharing ideas with colleagues is something that definitely is a plus these days as academics and athletics sometimes can compete against each other rather than working/collaborating WITH each other. Many of us will be getting together again in January at the NCAA National Convention in San Antonio, Texas. This is where the legislation that we discussed this past weekend will be voted on by all of the members of the NCAA. D-II is the only Division that has recently cut back on the number of competitions and the only one that has worked to ensure that there IS a BALANCE between academics and athletics - this is one of the priorities of D-II and we take that very seriously....

While I was gone, I only missed one day of classes. Fortunately, Chris Clary who is the Director of Career Services for the College agreed to come to my Theories of Counseling class to assist my students in developing an accurate, appropriate and "reviewed" resume. Chris had been with this class earlier this semester when she interpreted the MBTI (personality inventory) for my students - I was pleasantly surprised at how eager my students were to have Chris back in the class - they ARE learning that they will all soon have to have that great resume ready as they graduate. My Sports Psychology class had their third paper due on Thursday and since I utilize eCollege - an online classroom management tool - I was able to see when papers were turned in. I was on campus this morning grading some of those 3rd papers and again, a pleasant surprise that the level of writing has clearly improved over the course of the semester. It is rewarding to see that my students actually DO learn that spelling, grammar and punctuation ARE important and what pleased me more was the very high level of critical thought and analysis that I have seen in the papers I have just graded. They ARE challenging themselves to "think out of the box" more and they ARE taking risks in expressing their own critical thinking as they combine that with their knowledge of psychology. Nothing pleases me more than to have someone tell me that they "have never thought about that before." - I will work on the rest of the papers this week but so far I am very pleased with their progress.

We had another panel on campus last Tuesday evening as two of the officers of Common Ground, their advisor, an Ally who is also a RA and I spoke to almost 200 students for about an hour. We were invited to participate in this panel by the Student Association and Shiobhan Lavery did a great job of being the MC for the panel - we discussed ways to help ensure that Saint Michael's College IS a safe place for all of our students and that THIS community values everyone and that we celebrate our differences rather than to shun those who are different, for whatever reason. Yes, another reward that we all get from teaching at, working at or attending classes as part of this community - thank you to the other panelists and to all of the students who were willing to challenge themselves and some of their ideas..... Well done.

I did manage to go kayaking again this past Wednesday - it WAS cold (34 degrees outside) but it was probably the last day of kayaking for me this year - I find kayaking to be so relaxing and peaceful and have been able to convince a number of my students about this so they too have begun to follow a new interest in kayaking. The snow on the mountains in the afternoon sun looks like gold on Mt.Mansfield as I look across from behind the chapel - always a beautiful sight. I also got my snow tires on the day before the rain, ice, sleet and snow hit here for a few hours - it is ALL in the timing.

While in a couple of airports the past couple of days I saw a number of soldiers in uniform - since it was Veteran's Day last week, it is always good to thank them for their service - they sometimes seem a bit embarrassed but it just feels good to let them know that we DO appreciate their service to all of us. So, please take care, be well and keep all of the members of our military and our veterans and their families in your thoughts and prayers.


Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Sometimes being "clueless" isn't a bad thing.

This past Friday morning I flew from Burlington to Philadelphia on my way to Indianapolis, Indiana and an NCAA Leadership Fellows Institute for 18 FAR's from across the country. Faculty Athletic Representatives are referred to by the NCAA as being the "conscience of athletics" on college campuses and the 18 of us all serve in that capacity at our respective institutions. This picture was taken of the group in the lobby of the Hall of Champions at NCAA Headquarters where we worked for the three days we were there. In Philadelphia, as we were about to board the plane three TSA screeners came up to our gate area and one of them signaled me to place my briefcase on their cart and then asked me for my ID - while I had already had everything checked once before I complied and then they asked a woman and then another man to do the same thing. I have never seen this happen before but it really didn't bother me to work with TSA as they have a job to do. As we taxied across the runway I noticed that the UPS hanger we passed had a LOT of flashing lights, emergency vehicles and police cars surrounding it - I wondered if there was a fire or something. As we took off I had a better view and sure enough, it WAS surrounded by all types of emergency vehicles. I didn't think anything more about it and when we landed in Indianapolis and I checked into my hotel, I turned on the television set in my room. I WAS surprised to see that there was a worldwide terrorism alert and that a "suspicious" package had, in fact, been discovered at the Philadelphia Airport at the UPS hanger - sometimes being "clueless" isn't a bad thing.........

The workshops were excellent and it was good to listen to what others are doing on their campuses to comply with the NCAA D-II Platform of LIFE IN BALANCE for our athletes. I was proud to share the many efforts that our Athletic Department and our Faculty are doing to make every student-athlete's experience here a balance between academics and athletics. The NCAA released its latest data this past week and we are very happy that Saint Michael's College has one of the HIGHEST ASR's in the country - ASR is the academic success rate and we had 18 of our 21 varsity teams that had a 100% graduation rate - the data refers to the cohort that graduated in 2009 and Seth Cole, our Sports Information Director provided local media with the data and the report from the NCAA. I made sure that our faculty were thanked because without the successful collaboration between academics and athletics, there is no balance. My colleagues at the conference were full of questions about how WE were able to be so successful and this is just an observation, but I sometimes find that at some other institutions there is a competition between academics and athletics and here we have COLLABORATION. When I get asked "how do you get your faculty to work so well with student-athletes?" I simply reply, to quote Prof. Mary Beth Doyle from our Education Department when I asked her the same question on an evaluation form a couple of years ago - "because we are asked to." - well put.....

In two weeks I travel to Baltimore to the Faculty Athletic Representative Association national convention - this will be my first visit to this conference and I look forward to learning more about how we can all work together with faculty, staff AND, especially our student-athletes to continue making this balance a successful one.

Classes are continuing to go well. My Theories of Counseling class was exceptional last week as we utilized our Development Laboratory with the one-way mirror and my students were able to do some amazing role playing (counselor/counselee) and learn how they are perceived by others and how fast they ARE learning the skills necessary to become successful counselors. This experience continues to provide them with a rich experience that has proven in the past to be most helpful as they interview for and get accepted to graduate schools. This afternoon Heather Strassel, who graduated last year and who is now working in MA with people with borderline personality disorders, will be coming to class to talk about the use of DBT (a specific therapy for BPD) and how she was able to use the skills she learned in all of her classes here to successfully transition to an excellent job.

Take care, be well, VOTE and please remember to keep all of the members of our active and retired military AND their families in your thoughts and prayers.