Veterans in Higher Education

Stock Photo by Sean Locke www.digitalplanetdesign.com

Stock Photo by Sean Locke

A recent survey poll on veterans reports that although Veterans are the most financially stable, less than 1/3 of the Veteran student population believe their needs are being met in higher education. In contrast, those who attended college while active on duty reported much higher percentages of having their needs accommodated for.

Recent articles, White House Push on Veterans’ Education and Obama Takes Steps to Assure Quality of Education Programs That Recruit Veterans, report on the release of a new designed GI Bills Comparison Tool that will allow Veterans to compare colleges according to student graduation and retention rates. In addition, President Obama is “calling on Congress to pass a trio of bills that would:

  • Require colleges that receive money through the GI Bill to meet state-specific criteria for accreditation, certification, and licensure (HR 2360).
  • Give the administration the authority to reinstate GI benefits for students whose colleges close in the middle of a term (S 2253).
  • Replace the 90/10 rule with an 85/15 rule.” –Kelly Field

The Starbucks Corporation recently announced that the company will provide all Veteran or active duty employees with a free tuition admission (Bachelor’s degree) for the employee’s child or spouse.

October 20th Provisions Session Summary: Teaching First Generation Students

**To access the podcast, click here!!**

Our second Provisions session of the year explored the theme of Teaching First Generation Students. Presenters shared previous experience with teaching first generation students, and effective strategies for improving success for first generation students. An audience of approximately 35 faculty and staff members attended to hear presentations from Lai-Monté Hunter, Director of Intercultural Leadership, Gina Occhiogrosso, Associate Professor of Art and Foundations Coordinator, and Jeff Marlett, Professor of Philosophy/Religious Studies.

Lai-Monté Hunter started off the session by introducing the ALANA is Leadership mentoring program. This mentorship program was developed to help and offer support to first generation and first year college students. Comprised of a cohort of 60, ALANA is Leadership focuses on what these students are coming to college with, and in most cases what disadvantages the students are starting off with.  Most of these students experience a lack of support from home, a lack of financial information, and a general sense of being unprepared. First generation students face numerous challenges, including: a lack of support, pressure to succeed, role reversal (students are now more educated than their parents), and a lack of information about the accessibility of help. Peer mentors offer support and guidance, and students are typically more receptive to information from peers. Lai-Monté mentioned that he receives messages from the First Alert System when students are performing lower than they should be. This system allows for Lai-Monté and other faculty members to intervene early on, in order to prevent failing and drop out. Lai-Monté said that in order to help these first generation students achieve success, ALANA is Leadership provides a variety of sources for information. Some examples of what ALANA is Leadership can provide a student with are:

  • information about managing finances
  • learning to juggle a full-time job with a full-time student schedule
  • learning to become integrated in the school community
  • an outlet for professional development
  • peer mentors leaders
  • prevention of dropping out or leaving without a degree
  • learning to deal with feeling marginalized at both home and on campus
  • learning to deal with cultural difficulties on campus
  • ways to develop self-advocay skills

In addition to ALANA is Leadership, it is important for professors to be available and accessible to students. First generation students are often unaware that professors are there to help them succeed. They typically do not know that it is “okay” to ask for help. Lai-Monté included the following list of what a professor should provide for their students, especially first generation students.

  • accessibility/availability- make yourself available
  • ability to listen- give your full attention
  • support- encourage students to learn and improve
  • practical- remain on task
  • guidance- give direction without pushing
  • insight- share personal experiences to show students that you’re human
  • specificity- what needs to be done, what has been done well, & what needs to be corrected
  • education- how you got to be where you are now
  • ability to foster success- have encouraging conversations beyond academics

Second to present was Gina Occhiogrosso (powerpoint presentation will be available soon).  Gina started off her presentation by explaining the Art 100 Foundation Seminar, which is a 1.0 credit (approximately 15.5 hours) course. She discussed the course requirements and said that the assignment for the course was to create a public art piece to be displayed on campus in the empty space next to Massry. In the beginning of the course, as Lai-Monté suggested in his presentation, Gina and her colleagues discussed their own college experiences. Explaining how they got where they were showed the students that they too faced challenges in the process. This course allowed for students to become acclimated to the campus, as well as to other students and faculty.

Eight groups of five were randomly formed based on students’ talent areas. For example, she picked students talented in photography and placed each one in a separate group. This way each group had someone talented in photography, writing, drawing…and so on. In the groups, students were able to discuss their common interests. There were some restrictions placed on the class assignment, but the students also had plenty of room to be creative with their ideas. At the end of the semester, the groups presented their public art pieces to the class. Each group member was required to speak at least once during their presentation. Last year’s winning public art piece included a swing-set and a musical stage for performing. Gina said that for next year’s class, she should add more restrictions to the assignment. Her students thought that more restrictions would make creating a public art piece easier. Gina mentioned near the end of her presentation, that she also receives messages from the First Alert System, which allows her to intervene before it is too late for a student.

Last to present was Jeff Marlett. Jeff started off his presentation by explaining that, in contrast to Lai-Monté and Gina, he works with students of all majors and he gets to see all students on campus, even though it may only be once. He refers to his department (Ethics, Values, & Religious Studies) as the “Iceberg Department”, because there is a little bit above the surface, but a lot more underneath. Jeff mentioned that in 2008, he was asked to give a presentation for a previous Provision’s session, Teaching First Year Students. He spoke about an academic student and learning outcome assessment program that he and some colleagues started in 2008. Jeff’s main focal point of the presentation was about bridging the gap between instructors and their class material. Through the use of humor, personal narratives, and popular culture,  Jeff believes he can help bridge the gap. He said he shares his own narratives, sometimes with the use of profanity, to show the students that “he is alive.” He believes that use of his own narratives will encourage students to find and tell their own, in order to connect with the material.  Popular culture and social media serve as a framework for first year college students because it shows the similarities between the students. He said that it doesn’t matter where the college students come from because they have the same technology to “level the playing field.” The leveling experience of all student’s being subjected to the same expectations shows them that “we’re all in this together.” Regardless of which generation a student is, Jeff ultimately wants his students to be connected with the material and to be able to discuss the material appropriately.

Following the presentations, the floor was opened up for discussion and questions from the audience. Here are a few points and observations that arose from discussion:

  • It is not uncommon for first year/first generation students to be unaware of the expectations and responsibilities of college.
  • Self-regulation and autonomy skills are essential for college success but often require improvement.
  • Bridging the gap by clearly defining expectations of college, and by being aware of assumptions.
  • There is a need for improved communication among faculty, and among the campus as a whole.
  • Faculty need to communicate their accessibility and availability to students, and also make sure to be flexible in the process.
  • Should professor expectations vary for first generation students?

Please join us for our upcoming Tuesday, November 17th session on “Teaching Non-Traditional Students. Provisions’ sessions are from 12:-00-1:15 in Standish A&B. All are welcome and no reservations are required. Free lunch and refreshments will be available! Hope to see you all there!!

Extra-curriculars, Part-time Jobs, and More

Studies have actually shown that physical
activity not only makes a healthy body but it can also make a healthy mind. So
the question is why are we cutting programs that keep our students active? If
what we want are better test scores then why not increase funding or at least
the amount of time for physical activity? Edweek.org discusses this and more in the article “How Schools Fight Youth Obesity During Tough Budget Times
Test
scores are not the only positive increases that can come from an increase in
activity. The benefits of being on a sports team have been preached for years.
The many benefits of students joining sports teams are hi-lighted in the EdWeek blog post “EdWeek Bloggers Tackle Youth Obesity, Value of Sports.”

Even
College Board has given an opinion on activities for students. A page on
the College Board website gives the pros and cons of teenagers carrying part
time jobs while in school as well as suggestions for student advisement for
school staff.

Although
several years old, ASCD’s article “Part-Time Work and Student Achievement” by
John H. Holloway can still be looked at as a good indicator of how part-time
positions can affect students. However, Holloway definitely focused more on the
negatives compared to the positives. He stated such problems as decreased
GPA’s, increased school absences, and an increase in drug and alcohol abuse in
students with part-time jobs compared with those students who do not hold part
time jobs.

Over two
years ago Doug Lederman wrote an article for ASCD on college students who have jobs.
Two years later this article seems more important than ever. With the
danger of loans being reduced or taken away and colleges increasing tuition
costs every year, students need to be employed not just for extra pocket-money
but in order to pay their way through school. Research results were similar to
those done on high school students with part-time jobs. More hours equal lower
grades. Since not working is not an option for these students many of them may
find it difficult to balance their schedules.

Some students may also find themselves paying
to take part in extra-curricular activities that were once free. Budget cuts
have really impacted the amount of money schools can invest in sports and
school clubs. Alvina Lopez reports on the MSTA Blog that these activities are needed in schools because
studies have shown participation in extra-curriculars can actually help improve
student performance. They can also help foster a connection between the
students and faculty who become involved with them.

Many students may be seeking out extra-curricular activities
or sports because of the mentorship some of these activities offer. Coaches and
advisors often make great mentors for students. School Book recently posted an article in the New York Times on a mentor program
sponsored in the Bronx that brings together public and private schools.

Why might students need mentorship or other programs
similar? Well stress can play a major role in a student’s life. There are so
many stressors in a child’s life from homework to home problems to college
applications.  The New York Times recently posted an article on how one school
helps students deal with the stresses of life.

The Huffington Post recently had an article discussing
the different actions to take for applying to colleges (Early Action and Early
Decision). The article went on to discuss the reasons behind applying early as
well as the pros and cons.

One of the most stressful times for a student and their
family can be college decision time. While some students may be debating
whether to apply early action or early decision some are still deciding on
where they even want to attend college.
Getting ready for college life can be very stressful. Nancy Berk reports
about these stressful times in the
Huffington Post
article College
Anxiety: Modern Families Caught in the Middle
. ”

While high school juniors and seniors are making decisions
on what colleges to attend, college students are making decisions on what
classes to attend or in some cases not attend.
It is often hard for professors to determine why a student is absent
from their class. While some students skip on a regular basis there are still
those out there who dread missing a class and hyperventilate when they do.  Read more on this subject in “The Good Skip.”

So what do all of these articles and posts have in common?
They all discuss student life outside of the classroom. There is so much more
going on in a student’s life then what they are learning inside your classroom.
Some of them may have part-time jobs to
worry about. Others may need to be on a sports team or in a club in order to
round out their life. These activities can often be beneficial to students who
are facing the major stresses of adolescence or the beginning of adulthood. In
other words, a student’s life does not stop outside the classroom; which is why
it is important to educate the whole child. The brain is not the only body part
that needs nourishment.

For-Profit College Boom

April 7, 2010. An article from Inside Higher Ed entitled, “For-Profit College Boom” takes a look inside the world of student enrollment in private nonprofit colleges versus for-profit colleges. As enrollments rise private sector institutes are growing. Other findings in this article include college’s operating margins shrinking, and the number of students receiving aid continues to grow.

Health Care and Higher Ed

March 23. 2010- In an article from Insider Higher Ed entitled, “Health Care and Higher Ed” talks about the ways in which the legislation will benefit students, campus health centers and medical schools more immediately. According to the article, college and university based student health insurance plans are given a special exemption to continue to exist, even though they don’t fit classification as individual plans or employer-based group plans. The article continues by talking to the president of the American College Health Association and director of student health at the University of Virginia, Jim Turner.

Negotiating the Religious Heritage of Saint Rose

March 16, 2010– This months Provisions Happy Hour presented a sensitive topic on campus here at Saint Rose. The topic was negotiating the religious heritage of Saint Rose and the presenters included Scott Brodie from the Art Department, Chris DeGiovine from Spiritual Life, and Mark Ledbetter from the Philosophy and Religion Department.

Scott Brodie began the conversation by sharing with the group his relationship with Father Chris. Coming from two different religious backgrounds, Brodie and Father Chris formed a friendship and bond based on neutral understanding, curiosity, and interest in the difference between them. It was truly inspiring to hear that two individuals, with completely differenet belief systems, can find common ground and form a friendship. As Brodie mentioned, “deeply held, sharply different beliefs keep life interesting.” The overall theme of Brodies presentation was to be who you are, but learn about those who are different and don’t be persuaded by community pressure to hide your practices.

Father Chris spoke next about the important difference between Catholic Intellectual Tradition (CIT) and the Roman Catholic Church (RCC). With the RCC becoming an old dying institute, CIT is all about free inquiry and truth. Father Chris spoke about the importance in distinguishing between the two  because Saint Rose is based on CIT more so then RCC. Below you will find the handout in which Father Chris presented to accompany his presentation.

Finally, Mark Ledbetter from the Philosophy and Religion Department talked about a course he taught called Religion and Culture. In the course eight students were engaged in an intense discussion on all topics surrounding religion. The goal of this course was to interrogate religion, and Ledbetter spoke highly of its success. The overall theme of Ledbetter’s presentation was that students do not distinguish between religion and spirituality and the importance to recognize that the ability to move among religions is part of their religious identity.

At the conclusion of the presentations the open discussion faced many of the challenging topics Saint Rose faces. Topics discussed include the role and inequality of women in the Catholice Church and why there weren’t any women speakers on the panel, the difference between a Catholic College and a Catholic Church, and the need for a post-religious world. The idea of a post-religious world is not the same as a non-religion world, it is the need for no dominant religion and greater understanding of all religions. This idea helped shaped the conversation and brought the session to a close.

To hear all three presenters from last nights session, check out the Provisions Podcast.

Continue reading

Religious Revival

March 11, 2010– Provisions Happy Hour will explore the Religious Heritage of Saint Rose at next weeks session. As part of this months theme, an article from December 2009, Inside Higher Ed, entitled “Religious Revival” talks about religion being the most popular field of study among historians, according to a new study from the members of the American Historical Association. This increase, according to Jon Butler, a professor in religious and American studies from Yale, is due to the realization that the world “is aflame with faith.”