Blog posts tagged in Presidents Blog

When thinking about what is referred to as “the college experience,” do you consider this concept only in relationship to what is gained from inside a classroom or playing on a sports team? Does the idea of school spirit ever cross your mind when you think about your college experience and, if so, what do you think of when you hear the phrase “school spirit?”

My definition of school spirit is when students, faculty and staff gather to show pride in their school and support for each other. Having school spirit means being able to show how much you love your school by creating, coordinating and participating in student events or, going a step further, by actually hosting events that show how much love you have for your school.

A great example of an event that occurred recently that showed the Anna Maria College Community in action was the Midnight Madness event, which took place on Wednesday, November 13, 2013 in the Fuller Activities Center around 11:45 pm. This event was conducted to celebrate the upcoming season of basketball for both women and men at Anna Maria College. It was a way for the College, as well as guests, to see what new skills, players, and determination each team has to offer for this upcoming season.

At Midnight Madness, students not only had the opportunity to be introduced to the upcoming season but they also had a chance to participate in activities centered around basketball even if they had no prior experience in playing the sport. This event had a huge turnout and was hosted by Lynette Colome, a junior at Anna Maia College and James Lambert III. They also had a helping hand from Lisa Saverese, the Director of Student Activities who helped to put the event together. In addition, I can’t forget to mention the hard work of the players from both teams, as well as their coaches.

Prior to the event, I sat down with a few students to gain their perspective on the Midnight Madness event and the upcoming season. The first student I spoke with was Nina Anastacio who is a sophomore, resident assistant and former basketball player at Anna Maria College. When asked if she was excited about the upcoming event and season she replied that she was ecstatic. She went on to explain to me that “Midnight Madness allowed the student athletes to be introduced as part of the school team and it was a way to display a preview of the hard work the coaches have put in preparing them for the upcoming season.” Nina also stated that she is anticipating improvement amongst the players on the team and “what we are about to see from these women is going to be brand new in that Anna Maria College has never seen these women the way we will see them this season.” She continued to show her optimism in the team’s success when she stated that, “there is a high possibility of them making it to the playoffs.”

I also sat down with a member from the men’s basketball team, Caleib Fournier, to get his take on the upcoming season for men’s basketball. When asked what Midnight Madness meant to him, as well as the impact it has on him and the other players, he stated that the event “brings the school together, as well as motivates the players for success during the upcoming season.” Like Nina, he described this season as “brand new.” He stated that the players will have a whole new style of playing and that this season will be different but successful at the same time.” Even though the men’s basketball team has drastically changed since losing their three power players: Javier Bristo, Anthony Click and Brad Peterson, all graduates of the class of 2013, Calieb still maintains his strong faith in his team’s success, as well as Coach Conrad’s ability to continue leading them on a successful path. He shared that Coach Conrad has done a great job in keeping the team on track, helping them to reach their goals in the sport, gaining the trust of his players and establishing a bond.

These interviews that were conducted, as well as having the privilege to attend the very well organized event known as Midnight Madness, definitely have me excited and anxious to attend as many games as possible to support both the women’s and men’s basketball teams. Ordinarily I am not much of a sports person but hearing how optimistic, dedicated and determined these student athletes are to succeed, as well as after seeing a preview of what’s to come, I am definitely ready to show my school spirit in any way including supporting my hardworking peers while they are on the court.

A topic of frequent discussion and debate in higher education is the impact of part-time instructors (also known as adjunct faculty) on the quality of education. As the percentage of part-time faculty increases at all types of colleges and universities, more and more studies raise concerns about correlations with academic success, student retention and graduation rates. Articles appear regularly advocating the need for better employment conditions for adjuncts (e.g., higher pay, benefits, better integration into the life of the institution).

My own experience is that adjunct instruction is typically high quality. Despite their part-time status, most adjunct faculty I have known and worked with take their teaching very seriously and do everything possible to help and support students. Especially in pre-professional programs, adjunct faculty bring real world experience, currency and applicability to the classroom in ways full-time faculty cannot. Part-time faculty may be less versed in research methodologies, but often are more connected to the work our graduates will do after graduation.

A recent study presented at the Association for the Study of Higher Education annual conference is entitled, “The Effect of Part-time Faculty on Students’ Degree and/or Certificate Completion at Two-Year Community Colleges.” While the data analyzed and the study findings relate more directly to two-year institutions, I found the study helpful and applicable to all types of colleges and universities.

One of the key findings of these researchers was that part-time faculty had “no negative impact on student degree or certificate attainment.” It didn’t necessarily have a positive impact either. Rather, lower completion rates were more closely related to the size of the institution, the location of the institution and the student’s high school GPA.

Unfortunately, the summary of the research I read provided few details related to these findings. The importance of the size of the institution and the student’s high school GPA correlate with other research on multiple perspectives of student learning.

Students typically learn better and achieve greater success in environments with smaller class size, more personal attention and direct interaction with the faculty (whether full-time or part-time). Regardless of the type of institution, more able students entering college (higher high school GPA’s, college prep courses in high school, etc.) tend to do better academically and are both retained and graduate at higher levels. The impact of geographic location is less explicable. Perhaps it relates to resources of the campus, access to the campus by adjunct faculty, access to the faculty by students, etc.

This study is not a license to increase the percentage of instruction provided by part-time faculty. Nor is it a defense against improving the employment conditions for part-time faculty. But what it affirms for me is the professionalism and commitment of all faculty. Regardless of status, terms of contract, etc., faculty members, full-time and part-time, care deeply about their students, work hard to help them succeed, and are diligent in their efforts to provide the highest quality instruction possible.

I often ask students to tell me about their courses. From time to time, I hear about a “bad” professor. Typically this means boring or a hard grader. But I always hear accounts of great professors who make student success their highest priority. Think about your own college experience. I am sure you remember the best faculty members who impacted your success. And I doubt you even know if s/he was full-time or part-time!

ON BEHALF OF THE ENTIRE AMC COMMUNITY,

WE HOPE YOU AND YOUR FAMILY

HAVE A WONDERFUL

AND RESTFUL THANKSGIVING!

(As always, your comments and questions are welcome.)

I have been teaching for over forty years. In some ways, my approach to the teaching-learning process has not changed. I still try to engage every student, present information in ways that challenge their thinking, and encourage active learning.

But in other ways, things are different. I have finally given up my piece of chalk (although I have some in my desk just in case a blackboard suddenly reappears). I use PowerPoints, videos and assign electronic databases. I post assignments, grades and receive assignments online.

I made a decision a few years ago that I would not allow cell phones or computers in my class. I put this on the top of my syllabus and go over it on the first day. Unless students have an emergency where they might need to be contacted, phones and computers are off and out of sight.

A recent study conducted by the University of Nebraska was published in The Journal of Media Education. The study provided the results of a survey with 777 students (mostly undergraduate) at six colleges and universities regarding their use of digital devices in class for non-class purposes. The results should come as no surprise in a world where so many people have their cell phones out 24 hours a day emailing, texting, and even waking up during the middle of the night just to answer a message.

Ninety-two percent of the respondents indicated that they used their devices for non-class purposes in class. On average, undergraduates said they used these devices at least 11 times per day in class. Here is the breakdown:

Frequency of Student Device Use in Class for Non-Class Purposes, Per Day

Never

8%

1-3 times

35%

4-10 times

27%

11-30 times

16%

More than 30 times

15%

Types of Uses

Texting

86%

Checking the Time

79%

Email

68%

Social Networking

66%

Web Surfing

38%

Games

8%

When asked why they used their devices in class, even though they admitted that it was a distraction to them and classmates, they identified these “advantages:”

-staying connected (70%)

-avoiding boredom (55%)

-doing related classwork (49%)

Needless to say, most professors expressed frustration about this phenomenon. But what I found particularly interesting were some of the comments from professors who were less concerned about the use of devices.

Some are trying to integrate the use of electronic devices into classroom instruction … encouraging students to find relevant research or commentary at the same time that the professor is leading a discussion. Others put the burden on the faculty. While it may be a more realistic comment at institutions where class size is small, one professor said if students are bored or more interested in connecting with friends, maybe that’s an assessment of teaching style.

I plan to teach again in the Spring semester. I am rethinking my policy on electronic devices.

(As always, your comments and questions are welcome.)

A brief introduction
 
It's a normal afternoon for college students. They sit down at a lunch table with their friends after class to get something to eat and catch up with each other. Given that it is 2013, their conversation could go anywhere. However, chances are that at some point or another, some aspect of social media will be brought up. Whether it's "Oh, did you see who Tweeted this?" or "Hey, did you see what she wrote on Facebook?". The truth is, this is the new norm.
 
In this day and age social media has become a part of our culture, so much so, that it's considered a social norm, used by anyone for any reason. With the growth of technology, even over the past few years, social media has found countless platforms to allow its users to immerse themselves in a vast network of online news, blogs, social interactions, and countless other venues. Since the dawn of social media, it has evolved into a primary method of communicating, getting our news, and promoting a culture dominated by technology and the Internet. When considering these facts, one can't help but stop and think how this might be affecting higher education and what impact it has had on students and the institution itself?
 
From my perspective, social media has taken over higher education in many ways, none of which I would say is negative, as social media is now being used by faculty and staff just as frequently as students. All across college campuses throughout the country, social media is becoming an integral part of day-today life for the entire campus community. . Just in the past three years that I have been in college, I have seen social media everywhere I go. Nearly every club and organization at Anna Maria College uses some form of social media to market their club, communicate between club members, and reach out to other students, as well as advertise for their events. Social media is even evident on the professional level just as much as it is on the student level. The admissionteam relies on the benefits of social media to help them connect with prospective students, as well as share the wealth of information about the School. Just on the admission page alone incoming freshmen can find links to pages on the Anna Maria website that directly brings them to their point of interest, whetherr one is looking for residence life, student activities, how to deposit, or even how to find email addresses to talk to admission councilors or faculty members. Students can also find Anna Maria on social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Google +, and Instagram, as well as Linkedin.
 
This is just a small example of how social media has found itself at the center of higher education. I hope to discuss more about this in my next blog...

Posted by on in President's Blog

A couple of weeks ago, my blog included an op ed piece I wrote for the local newspaper. The focus of the editorial was a critique of the proposed federal government scorecard for colleges. My main argument was that not all colleges are the same and not all college students are the same. Therefore, a unitary system is neither fair nor accurate when determining an institution’s success.

Most readers agreed with my perspective. But many readers objected to one of my contentions that all students deserve a college education. Some argued that not every child in America deserves or is qualified to attend college. I had been thinking about this issue when I came across a recent study conducted by researchers at the University of Michigan.

Whether or not every high school graduate should attend college, no one I know believes that disadvantaged students of ability should be denied access and opportunity. And this research study affirmed strategies that seem to be extraordinarily effective with this population.

For the past 22 years, a non-profit organization called College for Every Student (CFES) has focused on “raising the academic aspirations and performance of underserved youth so that they can prepare for, gain access to, and succeed in college.”  CFES currently works with 20,000 students in 200 rural and urban schools and districts in 24 states.

A team of researchers from the University of Michigan conducted a study to assess the effectiveness of CFES and its programs. Using a sample of 1,100 middle school students from 21 schools in 10 states, they found that 75% of the participants in the CFES program planned on attending a four-year college compared to only 5% of the students in their control group.

What are the strategies used by CFES? The three key elements of the program are early exposure to college, mentoring, and community service leadership. Participants in the program are selected by the individual school and are named CFES scholars. At the young age of middle school (or even elementary school), CFES scholars learn about the possibility of attending college and are encouraged to begin planning for this important step in their educational lives.

Over the course of several years, CFES scholars interact with mentors both in their schools and on college campus visits to receive guidance and to become familiar with the world and life of a college student. CFES scholars are also provided with the opportunity to exercise leadership in the community in order to develop both skills and confidence.

What is clear from studying the programs and services of CFES and the corroborating data from this research study is that the result is a student who gains confidence in his or her ability to succeed in college, and an inherent expectation that this is the logical and necessary next step after high school. In addition to the ultimate benefit of significantly more CFES scholars attending college, there is also ample evidence that while in the program, these students improve their academic performance, improve their behavior and improve their attendance.

For many disadvantaged young people in this country, a college degree is only a dream. While there will always remain challenges to earning a college degree, programs like CFES are helping us to better understand how to make some dreams become a reality.

(As always, your comments and questions are welcome.)