Friday, March 27, 2009

Academic Karaoke Discusses Dance Research

One of the really interesting aspects of being on the Coker College campus is the opportunity to hear what kinds of work and research other faculty are doing. In truth, there are not many forums available for that kind of interchange in the regular course of a day, week, month or semester on many campuses. A little more than a year ago the former Dean came up with a concept that came to be called Academic karaoke. It is an opportunity for faculty who have been on sabbatical, or who have developed some recent research or written a recent paper to share their work. One of the bright spots of this type of presentation that it is also open to students. It is an opportunity and some people take advantage.

This recent Friday afternoon Wanda Ebright, Coker associate professor of dance, had her sabbatical last year and that got her tuning into the variety of research possibilities. She shared some of those avenues and some of her thinking about why. Her primary avenue of interest is ballet and she is hoping to pioneer some research into classical ballet companies composed of African American or black dancers. While she has her MFA from Florida State and in her field this is the terminal degree, she is also pursuing a doctorate in dance studies from Texas Woman's Universitye.

She was able to share a lot of her thinking with several faculty, staff and a good number of dance students. In Hartsville, we like to talk about our town as The Art of Good Living and we urge visitors here with the line, "expect pleasant surprises." Each of the academic karaoke events I have been too have revealed enjoyable pleasant surprises -- this was an interesting afternoon.

Little Shop of Horrors opens on Coker Campus

One of the great bits of enjoyment of being part of a college campus is the wide variety of things to do, things to see and things to learn. This weekend the Musical Theater Department and the Theater Department are staging LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS. In fact, last night Dr. Dawson, current Coker President, and Dr. Wyatt, the incoming president, dropped by to see part of the dress rehearsal. Dr. Wyatt said "theater is one of my passions." The news release and photos prepared by James Jolly, head of Coker's Marketing and Communications, follow:

Coker Musical Theater Presents Little Shop of Horrors

For more information, contact James Jolly, director of marketing and communications, 843.383.8018
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Little Shop of Horrors 2009
Little Shop of Horrors, Watson Theater:
-Friday, March 27 at 7:30 p.m.
-Saturday, March 28 at 7:30 p.m.
-Sunday, March 29 at 2:30 p.m.
-Friday, April 3 at 12:30 p.m.
-Saturday, April 4 at 7:30 p.m.
-Sunday, April 5 at 2:30 p.m.
-Admission at the door: $15 for adults; $5 students& children under 18; free with Coker ID.

Hartsville, S.C. — Coker College Musical Theater presents the popular sci-fi spoof “Little Shop of Horrors” the last weekend in March and the first weekend in April in the Watson Theater of the Elizabeth Boatwright Coker Performing Arts Center. Performance dates and times are Friday, March 27 and Saturday, March 28 at 7:30 p.m., Sunday, March 29 at 2:30 p.m., Friday, April 3 at 12:30 p.m., Saturday, April 4 at 7:30 p.m., and Sunday, April 5 at 2:30 p.m. Admission at the door is $15 for adults, $5 students and children under 18, and free with Coker ID.

“Little Shop of Horrors” is the story of Seymour Krelbourn, a down and out flower shop clerk, who discovers and raises a bloodthirsty alien plant. He names the plant Audrey Two after his dim-witted love interest and as Audrey II grows and becomes a major attraction at the flower shop, Seymour’s fortunes start changing for the better. Yet while Seymour is going from loser to hero, Audrey Two’s appetite increases and the plant’s wicked plot is revealed.

With music by Alan Menken and book and lyrics by the late Howard Ashman, the duo behind “Aladdin” and “Beauty and the Beast,” among others, “Little Shop of Horrors” has entertained audiences around the world. The quirky combination of dark, tongue-in-cheek humor and tuneful songs has earned the play numerous awards since it first opened off-Broadway in 1982.

The Coker College production of “Little Shop of Horrors” is directed by Ken Stuart, assistant professor of theater, with musical direction by Graham Wood, associate professor of music. Set and lighting design is by Dave McManus, assistant professor of theater, and choreography is by Angela Gallo, assistant professor of dance.

The cast includes freshman Dustin Moree as Seymour, junior Paige ManWaring as Audrey, and sophomore Timothy Dupre as Mr. Mushnik. The Do-Wop Girls, who serve as narrators, are junior Amesha Johnson as Crystal, sophomore Tara Haynes at Chiffon, and sophomore Taylor Adams as Ronnette. Coker College alumni Justin Johnson and Wesley Atkinson are the voice and puppeteer for Audrey Two. Other cast members are Adam Johnson, Julio Ruiz and Colleen Kelly.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Speaker quiets auditorium full of students

Thursday nights are often the let's-go-somewhere and party night for a lot of Coker students. I am not sure that there was as much fun tonight. Before anyone had thought of a beer or cooler or shot, these students were blasted with a sobering dose of reality that could not be ignored.

Tonight they saw a video of friends having a Spring Break blast. They saw a video of these friends getting blasted and busting some really drunken dance-floor moves. The audience nodded along with the "Bully,Bully" lyrics even began to get into the music. And then Mark Sterner reappeared on stage dressed in an orange prison uniform. Behind him a photo of a demolished Lincoln town car. Then, another photo of a pile of metal, that had once been that automobile that had once been a party-car holding five best friends. From the mike came the words, "I wasn't the first person in my family to graduate from college. I was the first person in my family to to to prison." Mark Sterner, about a month from graduation had become a felon, convicted of killing his three best friends while driving with a blood-alcohol content level of 1.7 -- twice the legal limit in Florida. Mark was the least intoxicated of the five-person group. He got to drive. He also gets to live the rest of his life knowing he was responsible for the death of his three best friends. He doesn't mix words when he talks to audiences of students around the country. He outright says, I killed my three best friends.

Sterner's presentation is low key but highly polished. His story is personal and his story is riveting. His story is a nightmare. He tells the story hoping that his words keep another 21-year-old from creating the same nightmare.

At the beginning of the talk the students were talking, laughing, jostling, wondering why the speaker thought they might actually put their cell phones away while he was talking. Following the talk it was about 30 seconds before anyone moved from their seats. There did not appear any laughing, shouting to friends or the other normal end of talk action release. Most people just sort of walked out the doors, many appearing to be deep in their own thinking.

Coker College used some money from an NCAA grant and some other funds to bring this speaker to campus. The college works to help athletes and other students understand the need for right choices. There is no question -- this speaker was worth the investment. Somewhere, some night, some student is going to be moving toward his/her car and catch a memory glimpse of Mark in his orange prison jump suit and is going to find another way home.

Sterner told the audience he has now spoken to more than two million people with this message. He relives this nightmare in hopes that someone else will avoid a nightmare. It would be hard to believe he has not saved countless lives.

Honor Societies Hold Induction Dinner

At Coker College, the home of Communication is in the Literature, Language and Communication Department. On March 25, 2009, that gave the three different concentrations an opportunity to join in recognizing those students and faculty who were being inducted into the various Honor Societies. Dr. Lellis, professor of communication, has been the long-time adviser of the Lambda Pi Eta Communication Honor Society on the Coker campus. This year seven new members were inducted into the Society. Lindsay Crighton, who was inducted previously, joined in the induction ceremony. The seven new members included: Kat Friedmann, James Fields, Tom Oschip,Sheila Braddock, Crystal James, Rachel Croyle and Jessica Barnes.

The English Department has probably the longest existing honor society on the Coker Campus, 77 years. Dr. Lois Gibson, adviser for Sigma Tau Delta, was honored by the group for her years of service as adviser as she will be retiring at the end of the academic year.

For the Foreign Language area, Dr. Cathy Cuppett inducted the new members for that group. While most of the groups sat at their own tables, this was an opportunity for "table cloth" meal and some real honor to those whose academic performance allowed them to apply for membership. All of the Honor Societies have high academic requirements.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Former student talks about his job

Charles Ellison graduated from Coker a few years back with a degree in communication. Charles was already an experienced journalist when he began Coker, having worked as weekly reporter pretty consistently from the time he was 17. He is a good writer and has developed a strong background with a myriad of issues. He attended graduate school at Penn State and is working on his masters degree in marketing communication at the University of South Carolina.

A couple of Saturdays ago he was in town for a talk to a group of early childhood care givers as part of his job with the South Carolina Department of Consumer Affairs. We had a great lunch after that talk, getting reacquainted and catching up. Since the camera was handy I asked Charles if he would share a little about what is job with Consumer Affairs entails, an opportunity for current students to understand the breadth of activities and skills needed for many communication positions.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Students on campus

Groups of high school students are often visiting the campus to get a look at what college is so they can have something tangible to envision when being told they should study so they can get to college. Coker has a group of students called the Student Ambassadors who do a really good job of giving these students a stock of information about the Coker experience. This video show Meik Dekind and some high school students in the middle of a tour of the Performing Arts building.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Veterans Affairs questions on tap today...

There was a meeting this morning with some of the people at Coker who are veterans and others to see if there is support for a student veterans club/group on campus. At the same time, that sparks questions about Coker's role in educating veterans. Just by coincidence the headline on today's USA TODAY is that veterans unemployment is at 11.2%

It is pretty obvious with unemployment numbers like that, going back for more education might be a real veteran option. And how is this a Coker experience topic? I guess because it takes me back. When I left the Marine Corps in 1970 there were not a lot of jobs for veterans. When I returned back to Rome, NY, (home) after about six months of traveling parts of the world there were no jobs. (1971). It was more than a little embarrassing to be in the unemployment line with a college education and with experience as a Marine Corps officer. Through a strange set of circumstances a school principal from South Carolina was in upstate NY visiting husband's relatives and she put an ad in the paper for teachers for her school. I applied (with absolutely no training as a teacher) for the job and because I had read a great deal about Open Education, she offered me the job. That started my life in South Carolina, which is now being spent many hours a day on the Coker campus.

I am not sure Coker is large enough to sustain a large population of veterans but, at the same time, we might be just the right size to incorporate some key programs to fit the differing educational needs of those who have spent some years serving our country. I think the campus will get a veteran and military student organization. A few of our students are National Guard and they may be motivated enough to start the group.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Journalist Visits Coker Media Writing Class

Students seem to enjoy hearing from people in the field and that appeared to be the case this morning as Shireese Bell, Morning News of Florence, S. C., came over to Coker from from Florence to talk a bit about Beat Reporting.

Shireese has been the Education Reporter for the Morning News since the September after her graduation from the University of South Carolina. As I told the class this morning, it is not every starting reporter who is able to pick up an important beat like education. Shireese is probably one of the most in-the-know people when it comes to education in the Pee Dee of South Carolina.

She shared many ideas with the Writing for the Media class this morning and her off- hand discussion about the need for fostering sources, getting to know sources, discovering who has the information and who needs the information were examples that relate to nearly every page of the text book's description of beat reporting.

She also talked a bit about Convergence because the Morning News is a member of the Media General media group and they are heavily converged. She told the class that being in front of a camera is not something she enjoys but she urged class members to understand the more conversant they are with broadcast, online and print the more competitive they will be in the working world.

So, for an example of convergence, you will notice here we have an online news writing, a digital photo and video from the visit. As an instructor I really appreciate those who will come in and share they work lives with the class.

Thinking about jobs...

We are getting into Spring, which I think arrives officially in a few more days. Spring for college seniors means thinking about jobs. I spend more than a couple of minutes in a variety of classes talking with students about the work world and how they should prepare early for finding a job. One of the not-so-happy observations I share with them is my idea that 'finding a job is likely the hardest job you will ever have.' That was true for me as I worked to find my current jobs and I know it is true for friends of mine who have recently been downsized out of their jobs.In fact, one of those friends wrote me the other day that she had over the last few weeks sent out more than 20 applications for jobs and had no word back from any organization. She is good. She has made significant differences for the organizations for which she has worked. Finding this next job is a real JOB.

So, what about Coker students. They are the reason I have been thinking about the topic. Yesterday a Recruiting Supervisor from Enterprise was on campus. They are one of the organizations I recommend our students look at closely. Enterprise has hired some Coker students, and some communication majors, so I have had feedback on them.
They provide good training once a person is hired. The require an extremely strong work ethic once a person is hired. From what former students tell me, the company offers challenge and rewards performance. I also know, because of some who did not get the offer, that their interview process is worth the application. They have a series of increasingly difficult interviews and students can learn a lot in that process. So, yesterday, one of our juniors talked with the Recruiting Supervisor about internship possibilities for this summer. That student is a strong student and if she gets the internship she will contribute to the success of Enterprise and Enterprise will contribute to her continued growth.

Part of the reason for thinking about jobs this week has to do with internships. We require an internship for the Coker communication major. We think real-world experience is important and the continuing feedback from students is that the internships make a difference in their lives. Students have to work to find their internships and have to work to get their internships. Part of our job is to help that process. Last night,for example, I was helping a student think about an effective cover letter to the prospective employer to enhance her chances for the internship.

As I walked home the other evening another student, who was in the National Guard while at Coker, stopped me to say hello as she greeted students coming to the dance studio where she teaches once a week. That student was telling me about hitting a crossroads. She had not heard from her grad school applications (Social Work) and so she signed on for Active Duty in the Army. The next day she was accepted to her first-choice grad school -- a day late. But she didn't question her decision. A few days later she was accepted to the University of South Carolina School of Social Work and she is pursuing the Masters Degree, getting ready for a promotion and hoping to move toward Officer Candidate School, so she can eventually be an Army Social Worker.

I was also thinking about jobs because some of the students are now getting word on their graduate school applications. Just heard through Facebook about a student who graduated last year and who has been doing Sports Information in a year-long internship that he was accepted to the University of West Virginia in a program he was eager to attend. Another student got into Boston University and a third has an assistantship from Virginia Tech. Another has been accepted to several of the law schools to which she has applied.

Spring is just about here and graduation is only about seven weeks away. So, there will be a great deal of thinking about jobs and after-school plans over the next few weeks.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Wednesday evening - International Dinner

The Coker College Union (the student activities group) teams up with the ARAMARK staff annually for what is called an International Dinner, complete with nice silver-type flatware, glass glasses and table cloths. Trevor Robinson, the incoming CCU President was the student in charge of this event. The video has him explaining the International Dinner:

Other events making for an exciting Wednesday on campus as Spring creeps closer
** the cloud cover lifted, temps rose to the high 60s for baseball and tennis
** The cast and crew of LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS was in rehearsal
** Library is filled with students getting into papers and research projects
** With the coming of the sun, which had disappeared the last five days, there were lots more smiles and laughter.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Interesting discussion on teaching

The event is called Academic Karaoke. It is often an opportunity for Coker professor to discuss what they did on the sabbatical, or present some ideas they have for a paper, or discuss their ideas on Existentialism. This past Friday afternoon about 15 professor and two students discussed some of the Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP)Committee's research on writing assignments provided for students. The Coker Quality Enhancement Plan for the Southern Association Accreditation is that we will increase the quality of student writing over the years prior to the next visit.

The QEP Committee did some research to discover if professor were using more or fewer short, medium and long writing assignments in classes. The results of the survey were shared with the group and there was extensive discussion about how long it takes to grade papers, how extensive the grading or marking up of the papers might be, etc. Quite candidly, I was not expecting much of interest from the discussion. It was nice to be wrong. First, it was quite interesting and exciting to be discussion classroom pedagogy. It is something I discuss with my daughters but I only have similar discussions with about four other faculty. Teaching is what we do but not something we talk about often. This was a good discussion. Second, we have a proprietary piece of software we call ICEBOX. It is a tool students can use to turn in papers. I have found it cumbersome and had not been an avid user. This discussion opened my eyes to some features, primarily a feedback button I had been ignoring, and I may find Icebox more friendly than in the past. This weekend I used the feedback feature and it will be interesting to hear if there is any response from the students.

There is another opportunity coming this week to learn more about writing in the classroom. A professor from Georgia State is going to lead a "learn-at-lunch discussion. Dean Pat Lincoln distributed an article that he wrote and his ideas are pretty much in line with mine. He talks in his article about the different reasons for writing and points out that teaching basic composition and expecting students to become great scientific paper writers makes little sense. I see this all the time in Writing for the Media. When we start working on news stories and forms like the inverted pyramid the students have to unlearn techniques that have made them successful in other classes. The early weeks when we approach this different structure of writing is somewhat frustrating for the students. I purposely do not grade for the first several weeks because I don't want them getting so frustrated they stop trying. About a week ago there was one of those quick rewards when a student said, "Hey, I am getting better at this news writing stuff." She was right, the continued effort has gotten her to the point where she puts together a pretty decent news story.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Amazing talent

Serena Hill, who serves as a voice professor on the Coker campus when she is not in class pursuing her DMA provided a voice recital on Thursday afternoon. Serena is a soprano and in the recital she was accompanied by Sharon Rattray on the piano and Jessica Dixon on the piccolo. No one will ever mistake me for a music critic but as an audience person I was blown away by the immense talent that Serena has. One of her goals in the concert was singing in several languages and she developed a program that was masterfully entertaining and intriguing. It is sort of amazing to be in a community where one second you are watching a doubles tennis match and the next listening to a world-class soprano. There really is something very special about working on a college campus in a vibrant learning community.

I am including a short piece of video that is not of fantastic quality but it does provide a sort of feeling about the performance that Serena presented. I doubt you would much better, anywhere.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Springing observations

** A lot of good feeling and optimism about the incoming Coker College president, Dr. Robert Wyatt, who has just been hired and who be on campus in his new role of president elect during the board meeting in two weeks.

** The Cobra baseball team is on a five-game winning streak.

** The Communication Senior Seminar is going well with two good presentations on ethics in media on Wednesday and looking forward to two more on Friday. These are team presentations and they are doing a good job in getting some key concepts out very quickly along with generating some discussion among classmates.

** Pressure is building within the Communication Senior Seminar and several other classes around campus as major research projects are underway. One of my students, who is working on social media and the Obama campaign, did a survey in the media writing class this morning.

** Speaking of pressure, the Coker College graduation is less that two months away and I have been working on getting some students (some of mine and some who are friends) to pick up the pace in job applications. This is certainly going to be a year that will require a great many lines in the water to reel in a job. Francis, who is a Criminology major and a full-time Coker employee, and a 20-year Army veteran, will be graduating in May and we spoke for a few minutes about her options come graduation. She has worked hard for the degree and wants the opportunity to move back to some work with people -- perhaps as a probation officer and perhaps as a children's counselor. Someone is going to be lucky to get her.

** Speaking of after graduation, there are some exciting things happening for a few communication majors in the graduate school area. One student told me today she has an offer of an assistantship that covers tuition and a fair stipend. Looking forward to being able to talk about those with names and schools.

** The Coker golf tournament won their tournament last weekend and Chris Marsh came up with tournament honors (he won it). Today (Thursday) there seems to be a great deal of action over the near the athletic fields so maybe some softball (they split on Wednesday, maybe some tennis, maybe some baseball and certainly soccer is doing their spring practice.

Jim Dawson, president of Coker, did the invocation at the SC Governor's School for Math and Science Foundation Townes Award dinner in Columbia last night and his prayer really set a great tone for the evening of celebrating 20 years of GSSM, which started on the Coker campus. Harris DeLoach, president of Sonoco, is the Townes Award winner for 2009.

Monday, March 9, 2009

From the newspaper in Kansas ...

There was not question that Dr. Robert Wyatt, who has just been named Coker's 16th president, made a good impression during his campus visit. The academic vice president from his current college also has good things to say about Dr. Wyatt in an article found on the web this evening. Here is the relevant portion:

Charles Taylor, Drury vice president for academic affairs and dean of the college, said an interim director for the Breech School would be named soon. A national search for a permanent director will begin during the 2009-10 school year, with a director in place for the 2010-11 year.

"Drury University offers its heartfelt congratulations to Dr. Robert Wyatt on being named the president of Coker College," Taylor said in a statement. "I am confident Robert will lead Coker effectively into the newest period in its storied history. Robert's new position reflects well on his talents and of the excellence of the Breech School of Business Administration."

Announcement of new Coker College president

James Jolly -- who is in charge of the communication and marketing at Coker sent an email announcement about the identity of the new Coker president earlier this afternoon (3-9-09). Here is a short clip from the announcement. Dr. Wyatt was well received by all facets of the Coker community when he visited the campus several days ago.

Coker College Names New President

Hartsville, S.C. — The Board of Trustees of Coker College has named Robert L. Wyatt, Ph.D., the 16th president of the college. Wyatt is currently Dean of the Breech School of Business Administration at Drury University in Springfield, Mo. He succeeds B. James Dawson, Ed.D., who is retiring in June after serving seven years as president.
“Dr. Wyatt is exceptionally qualified to be the next president of Coker College,” said Charles Sullivan, chair of the college’s board of trustees. “His background and career achievements make him the ideal choice to lead Coker to even greater success as the college begins its second century of excellence in higher education.”
Wyatt began directing the daily operations of the business school at Drury, a mid-sized university of 5,500 students, including 1,600 undergraduates, in 2001. Among his accomplishments Wyatt launched the Edward Jones Center for Entrepreneurship, reaffirmed accreditation by the Association of Collegiate Business Schools and Programs, and successfully revised the curriculum with a focus on international study and internships. Wyatt also secured approval for Drury’s plan to earn accreditation next year from the Association to Advance College Schools of Business. Business administration is the largest undergraduate major at Drury.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

A funny-weather Spring Break

** Winter weather postponed conference basketball games though they have now all been played and Coker's two teams have had good seasons come to an end.

** Earlier in the week snow at Erskine postponed the baseball game and the team is playing at home today but the temperature at noon is still hovering around 40degrees.

** The softball team was to be at Limestone but they still have snow on their field, so that trip is postponed.

** Saw some facebook photos of the choir trip to D. C. and noticed that in what is often a land of Spring blossoms there was snow on the ground.

** Professor Mac Williams writes from Savannah, GA that the International Student Organization has encountered nasty weather, though they did do a service project at an elementary school and enjoyed a meal at Paula Dean's restaurant.

** Getting very close on the announcement of a new president for Coker College.

** And, while it has nothing to do with weather, we have a major phone system changeover taking place this week as Coker goes digital with phones -- enhancing service and saving money.

** Now, if I can just catch up as I planned to do when this Spring Break week began.

Adding some video footage of the Conference Tourney game between the Coker girls and Pieffer University on Tuesday night. (twice postponed)