Tag Archive: college


Innovation, Adaptation, and Change

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Our students maneuver the world in ways that are astonishing.  Rapid innovation that allows them to access, share, store, and manipulate information with increasing speed has been almost dizzying for digital immigrants who must be intentional about adapting these changes to the learning environment.  Electronic modes of communication have evolved from the time of Samuel Morse and Alexander Graham Bell to now with individual and group texting for students who prefer to text rather than talk; Morse would probably be happier about this than Bell.  Further, increased bandwidth has allowed the evolution of video conversations to multiple people participating from a distance with near-in-person communication; imagine what Bell would have thought about this!

In education, we organize educational material in course management systems with increasing bells and whistles and even adapt the learning environment by engaging students in classes with thoughtful use of the technology they carry to access the world.  Increasing access to information and the cost of higher education have resulted in many of our students coming to SUNY Plattsburgh with a significant number of college credits they earned through dual enrollment programs; some of the courses were taken online.

We are challenged with the need to innovate, adapt, and change as many students come to us with increasing technological skills and with curricular needs that may fit into a three-year model rather than a four-year model.  We must remain intentional about adapting ways students access the world into our pedagogy.  We also must be aware of gaps that result from overuse of technology and help our students develop good interpersonal skills that occur face-to-face, especially when it comes to managing conflict.

All of this provides context for a few questions that can be framed in our shared values:

Excellence in Teaching

  • Given our commitment to academic quality, what ways must we innovate, adapt and change to meet the educational needs of our current students?
  • As more students come to college with greater numbers of general education credits, how do we adapt our traditional curricular models to ensure students leave with what we value in a college education given our commitment to liberal arts?
  • What are the best approaches for supporting students who have not had the privilege of AP courses, especially those who need some remedial support, graduate from college in four years?

Professionalism

  • How do we build stronger bridges between Academic Affairs and Student Affairs to collaborate in a whole-person approach to students’ development?
  • What are the best approaches to strengthening face-to-face communication skills across the curriculum?

Inclusion/Culturally Responsive

  • With increasing numbers of racially diverse students who enrich the academic learning environment, how do we as individuals and members of a complex system need to adapt to improve communication, pedagogy, and an overall supportive campus culture/climate/community?
  • With appreciation for cultural differences in family involvement, what are the best ways to improve communication with families of our students?

Our ability to innovate, adapt, and change will chart a successful course for our future and the future for our students.  Exploring creative approaches together is exciting and focuses our energies in the right places.

Bonus:

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First image (September 27, 2016). Retrieved on April 23, 2017 from: https://m.yourstory.com/2016/09/book-review-innovation-is-a-state-of-mind-innovation-is-good-business-but-it-can-also-be-good-life-new-book-gives-creative-tips/

Second image (March 11, 2009). Retrieved on April 23, 2017 from: https://www.slideshare.net/mobile/hblowers/innovation-quotes

Smooth Seas Do Not Make Skillful Sailors

image                  Pic by Christophe Launay

Storms and rough seas come in many forms and are part of life.  With deep purpose and a clear vision, storms can be weathered together and rough seas will not throw us off course; in fact, they may embolden our resolve and hone our skills because we are resilient.

In the School of Education, Health, and Human Services (EHHS) at SUNY Plattsburgh, we pride ourselves on our deep sense of purpose where students are prepared in dynamic learning environments to work in careers where they will serve the diverse needs of others. This is a grounding purpose that does not waiver.  The most important resources we have to achieve this purpose are the hearts and minds of the faculty who educate our students, hearts that give in a way that help students discover their potential and minds that model critical thinking and inspire development of knowledge and skills.

We achieve our mission, our purpose, in EHHS through excellence in teaching and professionalism, while embracing inclusion and cultural responsiveness. These core shared values are the foundation for HOW we achieve our collective purpose. Additionally, our moral courage promotes progress and builds community though essential shared values including honesty, collaboration, social justice, respect and empathy.  Exploring the full depth and achieving the actionable qualities of these shared values is a pursuit that honors our commitment to lifelong learning and growth.

We know the future is promising as we graduate ethical and culturally competent students who will thrive in their careers and model excellence.  Rough seas will not deter us from our mission or obscure our vision.  Our graduates’ ability to champion the education, health, and personal growth of our global citizens makes the light rising over the horizon of our future brighter.  With each graduating class, we enjoy the warmth that comes with seeing students’ successes and are inspired by all they are doing to make a positive difference in our world.

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Pic by Jason Frye

References

Image (2009). Retrieved March 8, 2017 from: http://www.gettyimages.com/photos/yacht-race excludenudity=true&sort=mostpopular&mediatype=photography&phrase=yacht%20race

Image (2017). Retrieved March 8, 2017 from: https://twitter.com/interior/status/850491714049626112

Decision for Excellence

 

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The vision statement for our School of Education, Health, and Human Services at SUNY Plattsburgh contains a goal of our graduates modeling excellence in their careers. The path to excellence is not about perfection, but about continuous improvement and striving for excellence; walking this path is a decision that conveys a chosen attitude.  Achieving excellence happens during class time, during advisement and mentoring sessions, and during opportunities for leadership training. The path to excellence has many obstacles, including mediocrity, fear/anxiety, and lack of self-discipline. Here are a few topics and quotes you can share with students to help them manage these obstacles.

Mediocrity

  • Help students define clearer short-term and long-term goals.
  • Make sure there are no mental health issues impeding motivation; ask about depression and anxiety and seek appropriate supports is necessary.
  • Ask, “In what ways are you currently accepting mediocrity in your studies?” “What is one thing you could do to overcome this?” Adapted from Randy Gage
  • Share with advisees that each semester they learn new skills to be successful, greater potential is possible for the next semester. The skills build on each other and evolve to make greater success in each new semester a possibility. Ask, “What are you doing now to develop these skills?”

Fear and Anxiety

  • The greater the distance between the “real self” and the “ideal self,” the greater the anxiety. Help students focus on acceptance of the current “self” with well-defined steps for meeting short-term goals.
  • Help students reframe some degree of fear or anxiety as a normal feeling if they are growing; we don’t grow when we are comfortable.  Discuss the difference between non-productive anxiety and productive anxiety.
  • Talk about expanding comfort zones, as described by Susan Jeffers, by “feeling the fear and doing it anyway.” Courage is the key, a great topic for discussion.
  • “You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face.” Eleanor Roosevelt

Self-Discipline

  • “Discipline is the bridge between goals and accomplishment.” Jim Rohn
  • “The most valuable form of discipline is the one that you impose upon yourself. Don’t wait for things to deteriorate so drastically that someone else [or a policy] must impose discipline in your life.” Jim Rohn
  • “Self-discipline is the ability to do what you think you should be doing rather than doing something based on how you feel.” Brendan Baker
  • In our society, things happen at increasingly faster speeds with greater connectivity. A conversation about delayed gratification is important (e.g., shutting off your phone and focusing for 30 minutes, not allowing yourself to check social media or email for 30-45 minute periods when studying, etc).

There are additional obstacles students face when they have made a decision for excellence such as roommate issues, financial concerns, and family problems; however, addressing mediocrity, fear/anxiety, and self-discipline during advisement and office hours provides a clearer path to success. Help students make a decision for excellence and let them know some lessons that have been on your path. As Sheldon Kopp once remarked, we are not gurus, we all are pilgrims on this path together.

Bonus:
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EHHS Shared Values Highlighted

  • Excellence in Teaching
    • Helping Students Achieve Goals
    • Lifelong Learning/Growth

References
Image (n.d.) Retrieved on March 18, 2017 from: http://refe99.com/quotes/excellence/

Gage, R. (n.d.). Fighting mediocrity. Retrieved on March 18, 2017 from:  http://www.randygage.com/fighting-mediocrity/

Jeffers, S. (2007). Feel the fear and do it anyway: Dynamic techniques for turning fear, indecision and anger into power, action and love. Santa Monica, CA: Jeffers Press.

Kopp, S. (1980). If you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him: The pilgrimage of psychotherapy patients. Palo Alto, CA: Science and Behavior Books.

Rohn, J. (n.d.). The Key to Getting All You Want? Discipline. Retrieved on March 18, 2017 from: http://www.success.com/article/rohn-the-key-to-getting-all-you-want-discipline

Second Image (n.d.). Retrieved on March 18, 2017 from: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/r/ralphmarst104215.html

Excellence in Teaching

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Excellence in teaching requires us to ENGAGE students in the learning process.  It also requires a lifelong pursuit of knowledge, a pursuit that deepens the knowledge we can share, as well as deepening our knowledge about approaches for helping students learn.

There was a time when PowerPoints were engaging because they were “bright and shiny” compared to overheads; however, the phrase “death by PowerPoint” is common in our vernacular these days for a reason. I remember when I was an undergraduate student and “dyed in the wool” lecturing professors would bring in their notes that had yellowed over the years. Back then, I used to wish they would at least put some Liquid Paper around the edges to make the notes look new; this was before computers when a fresh set of notes could be printed with the click of a button. PowerPoints don’t yellow, but if sound effects occur when text appears on the screen, that’s a hint of yellowing. If slides are still being read to students in class, that may be a technique that is yellowing if overused.

When I taught a graduate voice disorders class last fall, I experimented with a flipped classroom model. Students read assignments and slides before class. Clinical cases were presented in class and in the voice lab and therapy techniques were practiced. The students helped me find my balance by requesting I review highlights from slides they had access to on a course management system, Moodle in this case. After 25 years of teaching, this felt like one of the best classes I have taught. Students were engaged more deeply with the material and feedback was positive.

Since teaching that class, I’ve been reading a book loaned to me by the Chairperson of Expeditionary Studies entitled, Make It Stick by Brown, Roediger, and McDaniel (2014) that details better ways to help students retain material over longer periods of time. There are approaches to learning I would change the next time I teach based on information in this book. For example, I would place exercises on Moodle that required more retrieval of course content and I would increase quizzes and formative assessments in class. A few key points from the authors include:

“Practice at retrieving new knowledge or skills from memory is a potent tool for learning and durable retention”

“Effortful retrieval makes for stronger learning and retention.”

“After an initial test, delaying subsequent retrieval practice is more potent for reinforcing retention than immediate practice, because delayed retrieval requires more effort.”

“Repeated retrieval not only makes memories more durable but produces knowledge that can be retrieved more readily, in more varied settings, and applied to a wider variety of problems.”

Life-long learning by instructors and a willingness to try new approaches to engage students while teaching are crucial to achieving our highest shared value of Excellence in Teaching. It’s no coincidence that someone from Expeditionary Studies loaned me a book on learning so I could explore new territory for supporting students’ success. I am grateful to be in a community with colleagues who embrace this ongoing work.

Ask a few colleagues to share their most engaging teaching techniques with you this week. I suspect it will be an enlightening conversation.

Bonus: “Trying to come up with an answer rather than having it presented to you, or trying to solve a problem before being shown the solution, leads to better learning and longer retention of the correct answer or solution, even when your attempted response is wrong, so long as corrective feedback is provided” (Brown, Roediger, and McDaniel, p. 101)

EHHS Shared Values Highlighted
• Excellence in Teaching
• Lifelong learning

 

References

Brown, P., Roediger, H., & McDaniel (2014). Make it stick. Cambridge, MA: The Belkbap Press of the Harvard University Press.

Image (n.d.) Retrieved on February 12, 2017 from: http://www.newspakistan.tv/high-fructose-diet-harms-brain-genes-study/

Beyond Groupthink

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The pursuit of innovation and deeper answers requires a mix of approaches that allows groups to access new ways of thinking. I’ve shared information in the past from Tim Hurson about brainstorming in groups, a process he says is usually “brain drizzle.” His approach to deeper thinking was shared in a previous blog entitled, A Penny for Your Thoughts. I encourage you to read that blog again or for the first time if you are new to our community within the past two years.

Our most creative and transformative answers in groups, from Tim Hurson’s perspective, come when we exhaust initial ideas and are encouraged to go deeper in our thinking. This avoids acceptance of an early idea that groupthink may be quick to accept; the innovative answer is deeper and takes more effort, especially when there may be a few people in the room who are not comfortable speaking.

Susan Cain addressed getting to new ways of thinking in her book, Quiet: The power of introverts in a world that can’t stop talking. She said, “introverts prefer to work independently, and solitude can be a catalyst to innovation.” She shared examples where group process was undeniably powerful in the creative process, but there was emphasis on individual process too. One example she gave was how the computer operating system Linux was developed. This was an open-source process where many individuals contributed to its development from the quiet of their homes. She hypothesized that the operating system would not be as complex and innovative had all of the individuals been brought together in one place with a goal of developing the system. I suspect Tim Hurson’s approach to thinking deeper within groups gets to some of the individual, more solitary process because it moves beyond the typical cognitive gyrations of groupthink and into the deeper recesses of individuals’ minds. How can we best honor group and individual processes to discover innovative approaches and answers? There is a flexibility of patience that is needed to allow this to happen.

Discovering innovative answers happens best when there is trust and a willingness to be vulnerable in a group.  What can each of us do to deepen trust?   This necessary ingredient to healthy growth provides a basis to maneuver various levels of conflict.  Patrick Lencioni’s addressed this in his book, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team. In a speech about this book, he emphasized the importance of vulnerability-based trust within groups. He said, “Without vulnerability-based trust, conflict becomes politics. With [vulnerability-based] trust, conflict is nothing but the pursuit of truth or the best possible answer.” A trusting environment that allows for healthy conflict around issues is essential for doing the work that leads to finding better answers.

I am excited about the evolution of our collective efforts and our ability to come together in trusting environments, where all voices are valued, to find the best possible way to serve our students, our EHHS community, and the college.

Bonus: “The hard truth is, bad meetings almost always lead to bad decisions, which is the best recipe for mediocrity.” Patrick Lencioni

References
Cain, S. (2012). Quiet: The power of introverts in a would that can’t stop talking. New York: Crown Publishers.

Hurson, T. (2007). Think Better: An innovator’s guide to productive thinking. New York: McGraw Hill.

Lencioni, P. (2002). The five dysfunctions of a team: A leadership fable. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Image (February 2, 2015). Retrieved January 26, 2017 from: http://www.corpgov.net/2015/02/groupthink-boardroom-context/

Meaningful Micro-Moments: Elevating Excellence

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News consumption, whether through traditional means such as television and newspapers or more recent means such as news apps and social media, has been focused on many areas of conflict and strife within our country. There are multiple issues about which we care deeply. We can start to feel somewhat helpless in the face of circumstances over which we have little control; yet, your voice and contributions are important.  Regardless, you might want to consider a bad news diet.

Now, for the good news. Step back and ask yourself, “What do I have influence over during the next few weeks?” This perspective, one that is good to share with students, brings focus to the present moment where there is some “control.”  I believe this perspective is paramount as we move into the last few weeks of the semester, a stressful period in and of itself. There is a lot that can be done for yourself, your colleagues, and your students.

Yourself
It is critical for you to take care of yourself so you have the energy to care for others. There are the common statements of eating well, exercising and getting enough sleep; that’s a good start. There also are micro-moments during the day that can make a big difference too.

  • Take a short walk with a friend.
  • Get out your headphones and listen to your favorite song.
  • Read some highlights you made on your e-reader in a great book you read (the app is probably on your phone and the highlights are only several clicks away).
  • Pause, close your eyes, and focus on a few deep breaths.

Colleagues
There is a common thread of humanity that is important to remember as we choose to thrive over the next few weeks. This commonality can be the foundation for compassion and allow you to be someone else’s micro-moment.

  • Ask someone how s/he is doing while making eye contact and really meaning it.
  • Let colleagues know why you appreciate them – say it directly, leave a note, or fill out a Cardinal Cares card.
  • Ask newer professors if there is anything you can to do support them in the next few weeks, especially if this is their first semester.
  • Share something inspirational with someone in person rather than posting online.

Students
Our students have more responsibilities than they did even ten years ago. The demographic of our students has shifted significantly with a higher proportion of historically underrepresented students, first-generation students and/or low income students. There are meaningful micro-moments that can make all of the difference for these students and other students too as we approach the end of the semester.

  • Share the importance of getting organized and “setting the stage” for finals. Taking a few minutes each day to organize notes, study schedules, and responsibilities can put some free-floating anxiety to good use.
  • Speak with our students about self-discipline and focus. For example, encourage 30 minutes blocks of study without electronic interruption; neural pathways are better built when uninterrupted. Help them understand that now is the time to push what may feel like a personal limit around self-discipline, something that will result in new understandings of self and greater success in the future.
  • Students can push the boundaries of perceived capabilities, especially if you are there in an intentional way to encourage them. In addition to class, walk through the Flint Commons, the Learning Center, or the library and find a few students to encourage. All of our students must feel, on a deep level, that we believe in them.
  • Emphasize the importance of self care. Explain that the capacity for grit and determination can be increased with self care.

SUNY Plattsburgh has a caring community focused on students in excellent academic programs. This drew me here 25 years ago and continues to draw students and new faculty here too. Let’s take a few moments each day in the coming weeks to amplify our caring community because it will lead to higher levels of excellence.

Bonus:
“How far that little candle throws his beams! So shines a good deed in a weary world.”
William Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice

EHHS Shared Values Highlighted
– Respect and Empathy
– Helping Students Achieve Goals
Image (n.d.) Retrieved December 4, 2016 from:

 

Light on a Darkened Path

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Maya Angelou spoke of the tenacious human spirit in her poem And Still I Rise. Viktor Frankl wrote about a choice of attitude in stories about his experience in a concentration camp. Malala Yousafzai speaks about the importance of our voices when others attempt to silence them. Mother Theresa’s actions spoke louder than her words. There are multiple examples, historical and current, that bring light in times when you perceive a gathering darkness.

imageDouglas Abrams’ book, The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World, contains dialogues between the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu. The wisdom shared in the dialogues from one man who lost his country when exiled from Tibet and the other who was the chairman of South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commissions, is sagacious, healing, and empowering. Here are ten quotes from the book:

“As one of the seven billion human beings, I believe everyone has the responsibility to develop a happier world. We need, ultimately, to have a greater concern for others’ well-being. In other words, kindness or compassion, which is lacking now. We must pay more attention to our inner values. We must look inside.” Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu

“Too much self-centered thinking is the source of suffering. A compassionate concern for others’ well-being is the source of happiness.” Dalai Lama

“Then after 1959, when I left Tibet, I started thinking, These people are just like me, same human being. If we think we are something special or not special enough, then fear, nervousness, stress, and anxiety arise. We are the same.” Dalai Lama

“Too much fear brings frustration. Too much frustration brings anger. So that’s the psychology, the system of mind, of emotion, which creates a chain reaction. With a self-centered attitude, you become distanced from others, then distrust, then feel insecure, then fear, then anxiety, then frustration, then anger, then violence.” Dalai Lama

“If you really feel a sense of concern for the well-being of others, then trust will come. That’s the basis of friendship.” Dali Lama

“…the more we heal our own pain, the more we can turn to the pain of others. But in a surprising way, what the Archbishop and the Dalai Lama were saying is that the way we heal our own pain is actually by turning to the pain of others. It is a virtuous cycle. The more we turn toward others, the more joy we experience, and the more joy we experience, the more we can bring joy to others.” Douglas Abrams

“But this being on earth is a time for us to learn to be good, to learn to be more loving, to learn to be more compassionate. And you learn, not theoretically, you learn when something happens that tests you.” Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu

“If we can have compassion for ourselves, and acknowledge how we feel afraid, hurt, or threatened, we can have compassion for others—possibly even for those who have evoked our anger.” Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu

“The way through the sadness and grief that comes from great loss is to use it as motivation and to generate a deeper sense of purpose.” Dalai Lama

“You show your humanity by how you see yourself not as apart from others but from your connection to others.” Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu

Our collaborative purpose at SUNY Plattsburgh is focused on the success of our students. Doing this well during rancorous times in our country will take a mindful approach to modeling in words and actions. I wish each of you peace, purpose, and joy as we continue to create a caring community and world together.

 

Bonus: Maya Angelou shares the importance of words we speak in this 1 minute 27 second video.

EHHS Shared Values Highlighted
• Respect and Empathy
• Lifelong Learning/Growth
• Inclusion/Culturally Responsive
• Social Justice
• Broad Minded

References:

Abrams, D.C. (2016). The book of joy: Lasting happiness in a changing world. New York: Avery.

Light image (n.d.) Retrieved November 13, 2016 from: http://www.rabbisacks.org/the-road-less-travelled-published-in-the-islamic-monthly/

Book of Joy image(n.d.) Retrieved October 30, 2016 from: https://www.amazon.com/Book-Joy-Lasting-Happiness-Changing/dp/0399185046/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1477839575&sr=8-1&keywords=The+book+of+joy

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There were many moments over the past week that provided individual growth for colleagues, students, and me. While “individual” is emphasized, growth is something we often do together, especially through our relationships.

Curiosity also is a key ingredient for growth. When discussing Piaget, W.C Crain stated, “Children develop not because they are shaped through external reinforcements but because their curiosity is aroused. They become interested in information that does not quite fit into their existing cognitive structures and are thereby motivated to revise their thinking.” As professors, we know increasing curiosity with others opens the door to deeper learning.

Last week, curiosities were heightened before and during a “Teach In” that focused on social justice. We were invited to attend engaging sessions by faculty and a presentation by the keynote speaker, Dr. Jonathan Kozol, entitled, Savage Inequities: The Struggle Goes On. Some of the sessions were standing-room-only events. In a room filled beyond capacity, there were moments you could have heard a pin drop when Dr. Marco Turco was sharing Lessons From Apartheid South Africa, lessons based on his experience of living in South Africa during that time. Butterly Blaise and Dinai Robertson presented on, Intersectionality of Identity on a College Campus.  Group work around intersectionality engaged individuals from many levels of the college in conversations about assumptions and the absolute necessity of getting to know others on a deeper level. Think about this by expanding the metaphor of walking in someone else’s shoes and understanding that she/he has more than one pair of shoes. Many faculty and staff contributed to the success of the Teach In, creating a proud moment for SUNY Plattsburgh that was captured in a group picture by the pond.

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Often, it is not an overpacked room with an expert speaker who helps you see the world in a new way or even a small classroom where individual growth might be easier to achieve, rather, it is one-on-one interactions. As a student walked into my office last week asking to drop a class, my intuition told me to ask, “How are you doing?” More than an hour later, the world looked different to both of us. I had a number of individual meetings with students over the past week where deep discussions lead to new understanding, renewed motivation, and steps to obtainable goals. I came away asking how we can be more intentional about taking time to do this individual work because it is imperative to the success of many students. While advisement provides a platform for these discussions, it is not enough to meet the day-to-day needs of our students.

Growing as a community of life-long learners, where we spend the extra time to do the individual work, for us and our students, ensures a brighter future for everyone. This is a daily approach to our work that can be energizing if done mindfully. This energy can come from a place of joy.

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In The Book of Joy, a recently published book containing conversations between the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, there is a passage about helping others that says, “The more we turn toward others, the more joy we experience, and the more joy we experience, the more we can bring joy to others.” Joy can be a powerful motivator for our collective work. So, here’s to another week where we have more opportunities to embrace and inspire curiosity in an inclusive learning environment and to create moments of joy from growth in ourselves, our students, and our learning community.

Bonus:  Here is the short video about intersectionality that was shown in the session mentioned above.  Please take the time to watch it if this is a new concept for you.

EHHS Shared Values Highlighted
– Lifelong Learning/Growth
– Inclusion/Culturally Responsive
– Social Justice
– Helping Students Achieve Goals
– Collaboration
Book of Joy image(n.d.) Retrieved October 30, 2016 from: https://www.amazon.com/Book-Joy-Lasting-Happiness-Changing/dp/0399185046/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1477839575&sr=8-1&keywords=The+book+of+joy

Curiosity Image (n.d.) Retrieved October 30, 2016 from: http://theconversation.com/curiosity-changes-the-brain-to-boost-memory-and-learning-32296

Group Picture: SUNY Plattsburgh Facebook

W.C. Crain (1985). Theories of development. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice-Hall.

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Growing up on a farm in the Midwest, the sun would rise and set with life-giving energy to seeds in a rich soil that were planted and nurtured with the sweat of my father’s brow and the faith in his heart. Faith that the sun would not bring days that were too hot and faith that passing clouds would release gentle rains. There was an optimal environment for growth that led to a bountiful harvest. There were years when drought or violent storms would destroy crops and bring times of sacrifice and rebuilding.

Over the years, the environment has changed and farmers have had to adapt with different types of seeds that grow disease resistant crops and irrigation systems that combat drought. Generations-old traditions have changed and creative adaptions have been embraced for farms to survive. This “way of the land” is similar in many ways to our academic environment and how we must adapt.

As we work with our students, we plant the seeds of knowledge and provide experiences that will result in optimal growth. The environment we create for growth requires the sweat of our brow and faith in our students as we inspire their best efforts. We nurture inner souls and challenge growth of the mind. Our collective efforts will make a positive difference for our students, their families and for our society if we do our jobs well. The students and our society are not the same as they were years ago and we, too, must adapt in order to survive.

The number of opportunities before us are endless as our adaptation results in revised and new curricula, new programs, and new delivery models. We cherish learning in our students, but also in ourselves as periodic storms in the education system come and go. These storms are represented by changes in enrollment, in budgets, regulation, and some might even say in pedagogy. These present opportunities that strengthen our will for the love of learning.

Over the last week, I attended three events where adaptation and change were focal points in the discussions. One was a gathering of North Country Thrive leaders along with Nancy Zimpher, Chancellor of SUNY and Mary Ellen Elia, Commissioner of Education in New York State. The discussions targeted how our community can come together in better ways to support cradle to college/career development of students.

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Another event was a regional gathering of teachers, principals, superintendents, college faculty, and administrators who were lead by the Chancellor and Commissioner in discussions to address local challenges and opportunities, as well as improvement in our education system at the State level.

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Finally, I attended a How Do We Become More Comfortable panel discussion that was hosted by Black Onyx where deep and meaningful discussions were held about improving relationships between racially diverse students and students and faculty who are white.  Creating the best environments for education for everyone at all levels of the system will require new neuronal pathways to be developed, something that happens best with collaborative models, deep relationships, and persistent effort.

Each of the aforementioned events was powerful and transformative with ongoing work that will lead to positive changes; each event was attended in its entirety by President Ettling.

 Evidence of Success: SUNY Plattsburgh Alumns

There was evidence of great success over alumni weekend when I spoke with recent SUNY Plattsburgh graduates. Annette Romano (’86) National Board Certified Teacher (NBCT), teacher at Niskayuna CSD and Co-Director, National Board Council of New York, was at the regional event with the Chancellor and Comissioner.

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Annette Romano (’86) on the left.  Also pictured is Amanda Zullo, NBCT chemistry teacher at Saranac Senior High School and recent recipient of an atward at the Whitehouse from President Obama for Excellence in Science and Mathematics.

Lateef Wearrien (’16), who is working on his Master’s degree at University at Buffalo in Student Affairs and Higher Education, led the How Do We Become More Comfortable panel discussion.

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Edmund Adjapong (‘12) graduated with a degree in biochemistry and is currently working on his Doctorate at Teacher College, Columbia University; his words of leadership in the How Do We Become More Comfortable panel discussion were powerful.  He also uses Hip Hop in the classroom to engage learning.

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Josh Modeste (’16), graduated with his BA (Biology)/MST in Teacher Education is currently teaching in New York City, was at the How Do We Become More Comfortable panel discussion too. Seeing the success of these former students was rewarding beyond measure and represented a harvest that feeds the masses.  Each is a powerful agent of positive change in our society.

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Speaking with Josh Modeste is Randi Randi Weingarten, President of the 1.6 million-member American Federation of Teachers.  She visited Sarah Hackett’s class last year.

As we work collaboratively to meet the challenges and opportunities before us and to create optimal learning environments for students to become positive agents of change, we do so with sweat on our brows and faith in our hearts for the bountiful harvest that is students’ success. Be the sunshine and the gentle rain.

Bonus: Here is an abstract from an article recently published by Edmund Adjapong:

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chancellor-an-maria                          Maria Veloz, Teacher Education major, with Chancellor Zimpher

 

EHHS Shared Values Highlighted:
–  Lifelong Learnning/Growth
–  Inclusion/Culturally Responsive
–  Helping Students Achieve Goals
–  Collaboration

A Dean’s Road Less Traveled

 

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SUNY Plattsburgh: Delta Sigma Phi fall 2015

Early in the fall of 2015, amid the tsunami of daily emails, I read a subject line from a student that said, “Delta Sigma Phi Advisor Search.” The email was not a widely-cast net, it was to me. The fraternity’s President, Jacob Pasa, wrote about a “new fraternity” and was asking that I consider being their advisor. As Dean of Education, Health, and Human Services, this initially felt like it might be incongruent with my daily role at the college; it also was foreign to me because I had never been in a fraternity and knew little about them. Regardless, I always keep an open mind when venturing into new territory, so I decided to investigate. Complementing this investigation was a statement I made to other administrators within the last year about the need for a stronger connection between Academic Affairs and Student Affairs. I responded to the email with questions and received answers that piqued my curiosity. As a leader, I wondered what I might contribute and responded by saying I would meet with the Executive Board.

The Executive Board meeting revealed a collection of bright, diverse members and someone from the national organization who professed a values-based organization. The unchartered fraternity was in its first semester of formation and felt like a yet-to-be-driven new car with a manual that had been cracked open a few times. I took the “manual,” The Gordian Knot, home and read it from start to finish. I also read all of the information on the National organization’s web site. Based on my experience at the Executive Board meeting, on my reading, and on discovering that the fraternity was founded in 1899 on the principles of diversity and inclusion, I started envisioning the possibility of being an advisor. Maybe this was yet another opportunity to get back on ground level with students, a must for administrators who are making decisions that affect students’ daily lives.

As a Dean, however, I still had many questions that centered on time commitment, expected roles, strategic planning, organizational structure and goals related to becoming chartered. These questions were answered in face-to-face meetings with the fraternity’s president and a representative from the national organization, whereupon, I committed to be an advisor.

I began attending Chapter and Executive Board Meetings once each month. Upon request, members sent me an introductory bio so I could know each of the 31 members. I established advisor goals focused on academics, leadership, and members. I met with the chapter’s president each week to discuss leadership.  I also met with other advisors of sororities and fraternities once each month and gained a deeper understanding of Greek life. Interaction with a new group of students and with more employees on campus provided additional times where collaboration and community felt important.

While I made my decision to be an advisor with 100% commitment, I still had concerns as an administrator due to others’ stereotypical perceptions of Greek organizations. What I learned about Delta Sigma Phi didn’t fit the stereotypes; however, I had lingering “what ifs.” There were several bumps in the road over the academic year that required additional attention, problem solving, support and nurturing, all of which are expected in the daily life of an administrator.

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Following the 15th Annual Fraternal Awards Ceremony on April 17th, 2016

By the end of the academic year, there were many collaborative efforts by this group of dedicated students that led to great successes.  Delta Sigma Phi established their shared values and defined what these looked like inside and outside of the fraternity (provided at the end of this article). They had the highest GPA of all fraternities for both semesters. Members installed hundreds of smoke detectors in local homes as part of their community service for the Red Cross. There was a true sense of brotherhood in this diverse/inclusive organization that was apparent in meetings and in study areas; they serve as a role model for our current, seemingly-fractured society. They received awards at a ceremony for all 22 fraternities and sororities that included: Emerging Leaders, Excellence in Diversity, Excellence in Brotherhood, as well as a Service Initiative Award. I humbly received the Advisor of Excellence Award. imageThat same week, the national organization for Delta Sigma Phi sent a representative to let the members know they met all requirements to receive their charter. This coming Saturday, there will be a formal ceremony and banquet for members and their families at the Valcour Inn and Boathouse celebrating the chartering of SUNY Plattsburgh’s Chapter of Delta Sigma Phi.

Being an advisor for Delta Sigma Phi at SUNY Plattsburgh has been rewarding. I was given the privilege to make a positive difference in the lives of students, one of the top priorities in my daily work. The bridge between Academic Affairs and Student Affairs was strengthened. Most importantly, I now see my advisement for Delta Sigma Phi as congruent with what I do on a daily basis to provide a positive model and a positive learning environment for developing current and future leaders. I am grateful for my fraternal journey on a road less traveled by deans and encourage others, regardless of their position at the college, to consider additional ways to strengthen the bridge between Academic Affairs and Student Affairs; I know a number of you are already doing this work.  Dedicating yourself to the service that strengthens this bridge will support our whole-student approach to education and our commitment to students’ success.

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Delta Sigma Phi’s Executive Board from left to right: N’Faly Kaba, Treasurer;  Jeffrey Perez, VP for Recruitment; Mikiyas Molla, VP for Membership Development; Mike Kayigize, Vice President; Pat Mancino, Sergeant at Arms; Eric Paige, Interfraternity Council; Will Hodge, Secretary; and Jacob Pasa, President 

Bonus: “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.”   Mahatma Gandhi

EHHS Shared Values Highlighted:
*  Helping Students Achieve Goals
*  Inclusion/Culturally Responsive
*  Service

______________________________________________________________

Delta Sigma Phi
SUNY Plattsburgh Chapter
Shared Values

Brotherhood
• Communication
–  Lending an ear to a brother in need
–  Able to speak openly/freely with each other
• “Staying hungry” and never becoming complacent as individuals or as a fraternity
• Consistently challenging one another (course attendance, study habits, grades)
• Treating all members with the same respect
• Genuine friendship
• Helping each other
• Having each other’s back and looking out for each other
• Maintaining confidentiality
• Deepening unity through shared values
• Attending social/academic events
• Meeting outside of formal events
• Being Reliable

Respect
• Inside Delta Sig
–  Understanding each other and treating all members with the same respect
–  Demonstrating openness for different perspectives
• As seen by others outside of Delta Sig
–  Helping and taking advice from members of other organization’s
–  Socializing with members of other organization’s and making friends

Accountability
• Inside Delta Sig
–  Adhering to bylaws and respecting standards board
–  Holding each other to a higher standard using a brotherly approach rather than an
authoritative approach
• As seen by others outside of Delta Sig
–  Responding quickly to situations involving our brothers
–  Seeing the betterment of our brothers as their time progresses as members of
Delta Sig

Diversity
• Inside Delta Sig
–  Valuing diversity and inclusion
–  Life-long learning about diversity
• As seen by others outside of Delta Sig
–  Having events that focus on diversity
–  Being an example to the community

Service
• As seen inside Delta Sig
–  Being committed to community service
–  Showing that we do care
• As seen by others outside of Delta Sig
–  Showing we care and investing our free time
–  Raising awareness and supporting the Red Cross

Open-Mindedness
• As seen inside Delta Sig
–  Always being open to new ideas and growth
–  Learning from each other
• As seen by others outside of Delta Sig
–  Modeling diversity and inclusion as a student-leadership organization
–  Attending events and demonstrating we are not an isolated organization

Growth
• As seen inside Delta Sig
–  Pushing each other and ourselves to be Better Men
–  Deepening our collective sense of purpose
• As seen by others outside of Delta Sig
–  Setting high standards and striving for success
–  Striving for growth in all of our shared values

 

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