Sunday, February 27, 2011

Fundatmentals of Disaster Public Affairs - Red Cross Training

Bruce Newton and Judy Sperling Newton discuss a role playing exercise that was part of the American Red Cross Fundamentals of Disaster Public Affairs: The National Response training held this past weekend in North Charleston, SC.

caption -- A role-playing exercise from the Red Cross Training with a volunteer from Rock Hill and Judy Sperling Newton, trainer.

One of the areas I have been wanting to explore further is public affairs response related to disasters. As part of my sabbatical semester at Coker College my plan was to fit in some training along these lines and the opportunity came this past weekend as I was able to participate in Red Cross training on the "Fundamentals of Disaster Public Affairs - The Local Respose" and the following class "The National Response." As a result of this training I hope I am moving closer to becoming a volunteer with the Red Cross with a specialty in the public affairs area. The training this past weekend was interesting and the people involved as trainers and participants were inspiring.

The trainers were a husband-wife team of Judy Sperling Newton and Bruce Newton, who have been volunteering in public affairs with the Red Cross for the past several years after retiring from their full-time careers. Their dedication to this volunteer calling is a case study in itself. Maybe I will ask for the opportunity to write it up one of these days.

The training was offered by the Low Country Chapter of the American Red Cross that is headquartered in North Charleston. There were 12 participants on Saturday and 16 on Sunday. Some of the participants were Red Cross employees who were expanding their expertise with the organization and others were Red Cross volunteers, learning more about how they might be able to serve this organization that shows up providing assistance in the forms of shelter, food, emotional support, other services when disaster strikes 365 days a year, 24 hours a day with services open to anyone in need. Truly, just a cursory study of this organization can be awe-inspiring.

From my personal, sabbatical perspective, this was a valuable training experience. I learned some techniques that will be useful in the Coker College communication classes that I teach. I also learned about what must be a very strong Masters of Public Administration Program with an emphasis in non-profit management that is run by the College of Charleston to which I will be directing some of my Coker communication students.

At the same time, I continued to be impressed by people who give back to their communities as volunteers, which is one of the areas of I am hoping to continue emphasizing during this sabbatical. For example, Betty was in the training from Summerville. She is a retired educator having spent well over 30 years in the classrooms of the low country. She has been exploring opportunities for volunteering and has found the Red Cross an organization that is helping her do meaningful volunteer work. Bill is in security at one of the major Charleston area resorts. He heard the Newtons doing some training and became interested. He is now a DAT team leader and continues to take on more volunteer responsibility with the low-country Red Cross. Each of the people in that room has a strong story involving giving back to the community.

On several levels it was a weekend of training that impressed. It was weekend of training that again made me realize the privilege of a sabbatical semester from/for Coker College.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Reading, reflecting, re-energizing, researching, (W)riting (I hope)

I have the privilege of being on sabbatical from teaching at Coker College this semester. It has taken me awhile to get used to not teaching. I continue to tell people this teaching job is the best job I have had in my working life and I do miss the day-to-day connection with students. And, maybe reflection is not one of my strong points and that is another reason I miss the structure of an intense teaching and meeting schedule. Truth is, I am getting more comfortable with leisurely coffee-bagel-reading sessions than I might have imagined. The Midnight Rooster is a fun place for that type of focused leisure discussion.

For about the past nine months I had been suggesting to my colleague George Lellis that the list of past advisees that continued to show up in our new advisor system had given me an idea for some research into the "real world" lives of our graduates. We both thought that might be a good idea but did not move forward for all those daily reasons of not enough time. So, one of the things I have accomplished on the Spring 2011 sabbatical is a research survey of the communication majors and minors who have graduated from Coker College since 2000.

Already, this has been an interesting project. One of the major areas of interest is how the distribution process worked. There are just over 90 names in this population study. Clarissa Davis of Coker's Institutional Research Department was able to provide those names and the Christie Happ of the Coker Development and Alumni office was able to provide contact information for many of the names. The major part of interest in this distribution process comes from the fact that most of the surveys were distributed through a communication medium that did not exist when I began teaching mass communication at Coker in 2000 -- FACEBOOK. This new medium has been a major addition to reaching our graduate population.

As of this morning, February 24, 2011, I have responses from 60 people in the survey. That is going to show up as a very strong response rate. So, let me just say here that I appreciate the assistance of Clarissa and Christie and the COOPERATION of all the alumns that have enriched this survey with their responses. I think this project is going to be extremely useful to our Communication Department and to Coker College. Thanks!

Obviously, I will be commenting a great deal more about this project over the next several weeks.

Other sabbatical opportunities so far have included being able to talk with students at Tanglewood Middle School about public speaking (my daughter Inga teaches there) and is doing a project that includes a presentation as one of the metrics for the students. And, this weekend I will be attending some Red Cross training for volunteer public information officers.

Among books read:
How to become a presentation god

Among books read but not understood
The Hidden Reality: Parallel Universes and the Deep Laws of the Cosmos by Brian Green

Among the books in progress
The New Rules of PR by David Merriman Scott

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Transformations at Coker College this weekend

Megan Stone and Kayla Webb rehearse a dance piece for the Coker Transformations Dance Concert during Tech Week.

Transformations is the title of the Dance Concert that will presented on the Coker campus this weekend, February 24 through February 26 at 7:30 in the Elizabeth Boatwright Coker Performing Arts Center. The concert includes faculty and guest choreography and Senior Thesis Choreography from Hannah Beard and Kayla Webb.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Dance Concert at Coker -- TRANSFORMATIONS

The following is a release from Coker's Barb Steadman about this weekend's College Dance Concert at the Watson Theater on the Coker College campus.

Dance Program to Present “Transformations
The Coker College Dance Program will present “Transformations: A Faculty and Guest Artist Dance Concert” Feb. 24, 25 and 26, each evening at 7:30 p.m., in the Watson Theater in the Elizabeth Boatwright Coker Performing Arts Center.
“The dance program was thrilled when the guest company Doug Varone and Dancers from New York City was able to extend its residency at Coker this past fall,” said Associate Professor of Dance and coordinator of Coker’s dance program Angela M. Gallo. “While they were here, Mr. Varone introduced the beautiful work ‘Bench Quartet’ to our students, who are truly looking forward to this opportunity to share it with our community.”
In addition to “Bench Quartet,” the concert will feature six other very different dance works. It will include, for example, “Loneliness Fragment,” a mysterious dance theater work set by Brazilian choreographer Lara Cerqueira.
Another piece, “Particle Influence,” choreographed by Gallo, showcases a contemporary ballet work that incorporates the interactive video software "Isadora." In this piece, video projections accompany the dancers’ exploration of energy as it is distorted though the physics concept of “spacetime.”
Set to a sound collage composed by choreographer Erin Leigh, an assistant professor of dance at Coker, "Just Passing Through" seeks to represent those brief encounters we have with others as we are traveling through a place. The choreography was based on the uniqueness of the cast and is a collaboration of movement invention by the dancers and Leigh.
The concert will also feature the senior thesis projects of Hannah Beard and Kayla Webb. Beard, inspired by the impressionist paintings of Monet, has created a piece that explores change. Webb will present an especially moving piece that deals with forms of child abuse.
Finally, Coker alumna Heather Watkins will perform a set titled “Wild Chile” that offers a glimpse back to the 1960s, the glory days of Rock.
Tickets are $5 for general admission. Admission is free for Coker faculty, staff and students. For more information, please contact Dance Program Coordinator Angela M. Gallo at 843-383-8381 or

Monday, February 21, 2011

Coker College Major Part of PULSE Initiative

Today Sonoco of Hartsville announced a $5 million investment in raising the quality of the Hartsville schools so that within five years Hartsville Schools are recognized in the top quartile of South Carolina.

Several of the institutions that make Hartsville a unique small Southern city are part of this major educational private-public partnership. The Governor's School for Science and Math is taking part, the Darlington County School District is a major factor, Coker College, Sonoco and others in the community. Outside of Hartsville, the Comer Project of Yale University will be very involved in this initiative.

Barbara Steadman -- Media Relations for Coker College -- sent out the following press release:

Public-Private Partnership to Implement Comprehensive Scholastic Excellence Program in Hartsville, S.C., Public Schools

Darlington County School District, S.C. Governor’s School for Science and Mathematics,
Coker College and Sonoco Join Forces to Launch New PULSE Program

Yale University’s Child Study Center to Join Initiative with Pilot School Development Program in Four Hartsville Elementary Schools

Sonoco to Support Programs with $5 Million Grant

Hartsville, S.C. – An unparalleled public-private partnership has been formed to implement a comprehensive scholastic excellence program in Hartsville public schools that will expand curriculum opportunities and further improve student achievement through collaborative academic and social development initiatives.

The PULSE (Partners for Unparalleled Local Scholastic Excellence) Program is a first-of-its-kind public-private partnership involving the Darlington County School District, the South Carolina Governor’s School for Science and Mathematics (GSSM), Coker College and Sonoco. Sonoco will fund the initiative through a $5 million grant that will be paid over five years.
“The P.U.L.S.E. program will set the standard for public school education in South Carolina. Through the opportunities and promise of this new initiative, the Darlington County School District can and will be
counted among the very best school districts our state has to offer,” said Dr. Rainey Knight, superintendent of education, Darlington County School District.

Yale’s Child Study Center to Help Create Pilot Elementary Student Development Program
A key component of the Hartsville PULSE initiative will be the implementation of a pilot School Development Program (SDP) at four Hartsville elementary schools that is focused on improving academic achievement and personal development. The program will be created with the assistance of Yale University’s Child Study Center Comer School Development Program, which was founded in 1968 by Dr. James P. Comer, Maurice Falk Professor of Child Psychiatry and associate dean of the Yale School of Medicine. The nationally recognized Comer SDP model has been successfully implemented in hundreds of schools in more than 20 states, the District of Columbia, Trinidad and Tobago, South Africa, England and Ireland. The pilot program will begin in the 2011-2012 school year in Hartsville’s Thornwell School for the Arts, Washington Street Elementary, West Hartsville Elementary and the Southside Early Childhood Center.

In future years, professional development programs for educators and multiple service-learning activities offered at Coker College via the growing Yale-Coker partnership will play a vital role in the continuing process of improvement in Hartsville.

“Development and learning are inextricably linked, but traditionally development is not intentionally addressed,” said Dr. Comer. “The School Development Program enables educators, parents and families, and community partners to support development, integrate learning, and as a result, improve academic and behavioral outcomes.”

Governor’s School, Coker College to Provide Curriculum Excellence Program
The second PULSE initiative is focused on expanding scholastic learning opportunities for eligible students in Hartsville’s secondary and high schools through collaborative teaching programs from the Hartsville-based GSSM and Coker College.

As an example, GSSM instructors will provide qualified Hartsville public school students with enhanced science, math and language classes, such as organic chemistry, advanced physics and Mandarin Chinese.

Coker College, a leading liberal arts private college also based in Hartsville, will provide college credit courses to eligible high school students in such programs as art, design, music, theater and dance.

“GSSM is a statewide residential high school for academically talented students that just happens to be located in Hartsville. As a result, there is no place we would rather make a positive educational impact than right here in our own backyard,” says Dr. Murray Brockman, GSSM president. “As a national leader in science and math education, we are excited beyond words to help implement a program that will advance the students of Hartsville in a way that exposes them to new opportunities and inspires them to reach their full potential.”

Brockman adds, “PULSE will be available to every student who meets the academic requirements, regardless of financial means, and it complements both local and statewide outreach programs already under way. Hartsville schools and our community’s commitment to education will look dramatically different in the next five years thanks to PULSE.”

“Students who aspire to scholarship at the highest levels can look forward to participating in intellectually enriching experiences in the fine arts under the mentorship of Coker’s distinguished faculty and in our unparalleled facilities, including the Elizabeth Boatwright Coker Performing Arts Center, a jewel of Hartsville named for South Carolina’s ‘First Lady of Letters,’” said Coker College President Robert Wyatt.

“And, as pleased as we are to welcome our community’s young women and men into Coker’s classrooms, we are humbled by the knowledge that working with Hartsville’s brightest young minds and with one of our nation’s strongest corporations will inspire us to strive for greater achievement as well,” he said.

Sonoco’s Targeting Education Improvement in its Hometown
Primary funding for the PULSE programs will come from a $5 million grant made over five years from Sonoco, one of the largest diversified global packaging companies. Founded in Hartsville in 1899, Sonoco employs nearly 1,800 workers and has more than 750 retirees and their families living in the Hartsville area.

“We have always had a strong commitment to improving education in communities where we operate, particularly in our hometown,” said Harris DeLoach, Sonoco chairman and chief executive officer. “We believe we must continue to work with our public schools, as well as other centers for learning, to improve local educational excellence to ensure we have the workers we need to be competitive over the next century.

“In addition, we must do all we can to make Hartsville attractive to the others recruited to build our company and other businesses in the area. South Carolina, Hartsville and area businesses will not be able to grow without continued investment in education and economic development. That is why we are making this commitment to our public schools. Together we will all prosper.”


Saturday, February 19, 2011

Coker's cloudless Saturday a great day for BALL

The Coker baseball team will start at noon and the Cobra softball team will start at 1 p.m. and the February temperatures will be in the high sixties or seventies as the games progress -- seemed these warm days would never get here this winter but they are back.

I came down to the office this Saturday morning and as I was opening the door several frosh baseball players were heading over to the field - a little after 8 a.m. Yesterday I got this great promotional video from a former student and a former Coker baseball player, Tom Oschip. He is helping to manage a brand new sports park in Northeastern Ohio call Victory Park. When I saw the video a fleeting thought was it's a good thing he learned a little about field management when on the Cobra team. While I did get a strange look when I mentioned that field maintenance was a good skill to develop, I do believe the player I said that to will feel it in the future. Often, when you are doing the things you really enjoy doing, you are a bit more committed than you might have ever expected. In fact, bet if I rode my bicycle down to the softball field Coach Hanna is probably dragging the baselines getting ready for today's souble header after yesterday's opening season victories.

Division II coaches often find themselves not only the leader of the team but also the primary maintenance crew, the primary recruiter, the primary general manager, the primary equipment manager. Those things are part of the investment for doing the things you really want to do - instead of opting for a "real" job that might give you time to enjoy part of those things on some weekends.

Friday, February 18, 2011

February 18 - 2011 Opening of Coker Softball

The Cobra Softball Team opened the 2011 season with a couple of bit wins over a team from Brooklyn, NY. The temperatures were in the high sixtys - at least- with a most beautiful blue February sky. Sometimes you just have to love winter in the South.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Governor Haley in Hartsville to discuss emergency response

City, county, state and company officials survey the fire fighting efforts to quell the hot spots still smoking from the fertilizer plant fire. There was significant property damage but no injuries from this major blaze.

From all reports, the coordination among city, county and state emergency responders to the fertilizer plant fire worked really well and was continuing on Wednesday afternoon as the Governor was in the city to get a close view of the situation.

Red Cross was still on the scene of the fertilizer plant fire providing food for emergency response personnel including fire fighters from several departments, law enforcement from several departments and state organizations.

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Governor Haley arrives at the American Legion Hut in Hartsville to begin a short discussion with emergency responders and local officials. Accompanying the Governor are Mayor Mel Pennington and Representative Jay Lucas.

Lacrosse season coming to Coker


The Coker College Lacrosse team is getting closer to reality. Coach Tony Smith has been night and day recruiting and current students have been talking about becoming walk-ons as the college gears up for its first lacrosse team beginning in the Fall of 2011. The mean looking helmet is more tangible evidence of the approaching season.

I was able to play lacrosse for a couple of years while in college -- guess because they needed bodies. I was not that good and had never seen a lacrosse stick before getting to Cortland. I still remember it as one of the most enjoyable sports I have played. I do believe it is called the fastest sport on two feet and, while I could be wrong about this, i think it is the official sport of Canada. I know hockey is more popular up there but I believe lacrosse has that title. No matter, college lacrosse is an amazingly entertaining sport!

I am looking forward to Coker Lax.
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Pay me attention but don't single me out; a lesson from working with Middle School

Inga Puffer is one brave teacher. She teachers Seventh Grade Language Arts at Tanglewood Middle School in Greenville, SC. Yesterday, she let her father become part of her classes for a day. She made like I was doing her a favor to join her classes as they begin working on a speech about their hero. Her reaching out and letting me join her was the favor and it will be one of the memorable sabbatical moments from this Spring of 2011.

The assignment that she and a fellow teacher have given their students is to research a person they have identified as their hero. One major stipulation -- the person had to or has to be real. Superman, Supergirl, batman and robin were not working for this assignment. And, hours later I am still not certain if the guy who asked me if Superman is real was serious or messing around. Now, honestly, it is not that easy to tell with Middle Schoolers. They are not far from the age when they were asked to believe in Santa, the tooth fairy, the total triumph of good over evil. They really are working those things out in their mind. They may believe that a type of superman does exist to balance out some of the super bad they see and read about. This is an age that sort of eludes adult understanding as they are beginning to develop some sense of their own what it might be to think in "adult" terms. Cognitively, they are in a major life transition. I am glad there are people -- Middle School Teachers -- who do take the time to understand, who reach out to share and care and most importantly continue to prepare these students for what comes after this childhood. So, Middle School Teachers -- you are my heroes.

A couple of quick observations from my perspective as a college teacher:
-- It was fun being able to observe future college students in the making. As I talked with these four classes I began to compare these boys and girls with some of those I know at Coker.

-- Public speaking is one class I teach a lot and I believe you can become an excellent public speaker. These four classes showed me also that a couple of people might be born to it. We were talking mostly about how to construct an effective speech introduction. After the writing part of the class one girl volunteered. I think Eartha Kitt was her hero. She stood, then began to sing the opening lines of one of Kitt's songs. That quieted her classmates and GRABBED their attention -- exactly as I had been talking about. She is going to be good.

-- As we went around to the tables where the students were working, many would ask a question or ask me to read what they were doing. They were looking for that attention. Sometimes I would say -- Great, I am going to call on you. Quickly, they would make it known they did not want that MUCH attention -- they will single themselves out with some behaviors but they are not really wanting others to single them out.

-- The teachers are doing a great job of preparing the foundations. Even the guy who was not going to write anything (too cool for that) was able to provide me with a great reason there was nothing on his paper - "I need to do more research," is what he told me.

-- The techniques of effective introductions work. For one class, I improvised an introduction of one of the heroes -- Rosa Parks. I knew just enough to get the intro down and as I ended one boy to my right says -- "Where is the rest, I want to hear more." That could not have been a better reaction for the point that introductions are supposed to make you audience want to hear more.

So, I am not sure how much those Tanglewood Middle School seventh graders are going to remember about the four functions of an effective speech introduction but I am sure this experience is going to be one of the strong, positive memories of my sabbatical semester from Coker College.

So, Inga, and Phillip, thank you for letting your classes share with me.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Coker College takes to the court at the Time Warner Arena in Charlotte

cutline -- Coker takes a shot over the Barton defense at the Charlotte Time Warner Arena

(cutline -- Charlotte Bobcats in some pregame warm ups on Friday, February 11.)

Coker's Athletics operations and Development Office joined forces to draw attention to the proposed new Coker College Wellness Center that is under consideration for the Coker College community. Coker's Women's and Men's basketball teams played against Barton early on Friday (February 11) on the floor of the Time Warner Arena in downtown Charlotte. Then, later that night the Charlotte Bobcats took the floor against the New Jersey Nets in NBA action. Coker had invited board members, friends, supporters and alumni to enjoy these events in Charlotte and get a look at some proposed drawings for new Coker Wellness Center, which will also include new basketball and gym facilities.

The alumni I got to talk with were excited about the higher visibility that Coker is taking for this type of project. They enjoyed meeting with some of the coaches and getting to talk with some of this year's players. It was an exciting, interesting event from both the fund raising and athletic perspectives.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Conducting a survey of Coker Communication Grads

I have the privilege of being on Sabbatical this semester from my job at Coker College. For someone whose life is so wrapped up in the happenings of the college, this has not yet been as comfortable as you might imagine. But, as I hear a tidbit about a meeting or think about not having to lead an 8 a.m. class, it does get a bit more enjoyable.

One of the first projects of this sabbatical has been a survey of those who have majored or minored in Communication since I began teaching full time in 2000. We have a strong major but the number are not overwhelming. I have the survey on surveymonkey for computer response and in the first few days have had 22 grads.

One of the major areas of this survey is jobs. We are hoping that there will be some use for this data as we continue to move toward some outcome assessment of the major. My preliminary assessment is that more students than I hypothesized are in communication-related professions.

For this morning's blog, the question I am highlighting is how they found out about the job they are in. The answer, especially for someone like me who got my real professional beginnings in the newspaper business, is surprising. Not a single one of the first 22 people saw their current job in a newspaper classified ad. The times are not changing; they have changed.

Cobras amped for Charlotte | SCNOW

Big day for Cobra Athletics

Hartsville is a small cosmopolitan city. Charlotte is a a much larger cosmopolitan city. And, Charlotte is about 80 miles north west of Hartsville. But, on February 10 the Charlotte Bobcat Arena will be the home venue for the Coker Cobras playing Barton. Those basketball games, women starting about 12:30 and the men at 2:30 will be a prelude to the Bobcats game that begins at 7:30 Friday evening. Some of Coker's followers and donors will also be at that Bobcat game to enjoy the professional sports atmosphere of the NBA and learn more about plans for a new field house complex for the Coker College campus. This should be an interesting day in Charlotte for the Cobras and their fans. Below is a link to a good story in the Morning News about today's games.

Cobras amped for Charlotte | SCNOW

Thursday, February 3, 2011

The history of Black History at Coker College

Dean Jason Umfress addressed a letter to the Coker College Community that is really interesting and that makes some interesting reading. This is Black History Month and sometimes we hear questions about Why black history -- reason -- because it was so often ignored by those writing the histories. But I think it makes sense to share the thoughts Dr. Umfress shared. Earlier today I finished a Condolezza Rice's memoir, EXTRAORDINARY, ORDINARY PEOPLE, She addresses her experience at Stanford University in a couple of chapters of that book. We should know OUR history.

Here is Jason's letter:

Dear Coker,

I hope this message finds you well and staying warm/cool during this strange weather. South Carolina weather patterns can be so strange - warm one day and cold the next. Like we say around here, “if you don’t like the weather, wait a minute.”

The month of February is set aside every year as a chance for us as a nation to celebrate Black History month. I thought I would use this “Dear Coker” letter to reflect on the integration of our own college and honor those pioneering African Americans who paved the way for the integration process of our College.

Let me take you back to Coker College in the turbulent 1960’s. Our student population was very small (only a few hundred people)…we were very female (all female, to be exact)…and we were very White. Considering what was happening in the county in the way of the Civil Rights movement, the issue of racially integrating the college was complex enough. Coker’s integration challenges were compounded by the decision to integrate the campus along gender lines at the same time. In the History of the College, the author writes:

Issues surrounding diversity at Coker College centered on the two matters of gender diversity and racial diversity. Originally separate issues, they intersected in the 1960s as the College wrestled with the implementation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. In addition, no institution can escape the attitudes of its surrounding, nor could Coker College. Founded as a college for women by a retired officer of the Confederate Army, and located in Darlington County, SC, diversity at Coker occurred slowly as the institution distanced itself from prevalent attitudes about gender and race.

In the fall of 1967, Coker admitted its 1st two African American students – two females. Due to poor record keeping, only one of the two has been positively identified: Evelyn Alsbrooks. The documents don’t seem to indicate there were any protests, outrages or violence as a result of their enrollment, as had been witnessed at other institutions around the country.

Racial diversity and the movement toward integration was influenced most directly by outstanding members of the student body, faculty, and staff. Here is a list of instrumental and influential African Americans who have shaped our College into what it has become today:

1. 1st African American students admitted to Coker: Evelyn Alsbrooks and a “mystery woman” thought to be Evelyn’s sister, Alfrieda.

2. 1st African American SGA President: Johnnie Dawkins (1976)

3. 1st African American May Queen: Vikki Sheryl Coleman (1978)

4. 1st African American on faculty: Dr. Ernest Nichols, Professor of Education (1973)

5. 1st African American to receive the Master Professor Award: John Foster (1995)

6. 1st African American senior staff person: George Hogan, Asst Director of Military Programs (1986).

7. 1st African American Dean of Students (or the equivalent): Shelia Hill (1990).

8. 1st African American Officer of the College: Dr. Ron Carter, Provost (1997).

Although they may not have realized it at the time, these individuals were pioneers. They most certainly faced challenges as they bravely walked into our Coker community. Much like the Rosa Parks, James Merediths, and Fannie Lou Hammers, these people chose to bravely face the status quo in pursuit of equality for all. For this, they should be honored and remembered.

Today, as we look around our campus, we take note of how diverse we are. Minority students make up 40% of our student population - far above the national average at other institutions of higher education. We interact with people from all races, genders, cultures, sexual orientations, and religious backgrounds. It is important for us to pause to remember that these things didn’t happen overnight. Brave men and women who came before us broke those social and cultural norms so that we might enjoy a campus that is more inclusive and welcoming of its community members.

While we as a community have come a long way since the 1960s, the work is far from done. We must continue to strive to be inclusive and respectful of our community members. We must continue to value diversity of background, culture, and thought. We must continue to appreciate the value added to our educational experience from being around people who are different from us. We must continue to educate ourselves on, and be open to, other cultures. We must continue to strive to be the Coker College we all know we can be. Let this be our aim.

Stay Engaged,


Jason W. Umfress, Ph.D.
Dean of Students

Coker College

Noted Activist for Children to Speak At Coker College Graduation

Coker College's 2011 graduates will have Marian Wright Edleman as their graduation speaker. This announcement was in the current issue of THE MORNING NEWS in Florjavascript:void(0)ence.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Coker College Establishes "Last Lecture" Series

For nearly ten years I had the opportunity of teaching the Coker Communication Senior Seminar. This is our Capstone Course. During those years I established a section called 'Tuesdays with Morrie' that was based on a book by that name. I used it as an opportunity for the students to get life lessons from faculty, staff and others with whom they might not normally have regular interaction. The cooperation was amazing as lots of people came in to share with the students.

Just recently, the college has established a "Last Lecture" series that begins this year giving retiring faculty the opportunity for that LAST LECTURE. I think this is a fantastic idea and really hope students take advantage of the wisdom that I know is going to be shared.

Barb Steadman, our new director of media relations, prepared the following news release about this series and I am including it for convenience in the blog. You can find it on the Coker web site:

Coker College Establishes “The Last Lecture Series”

HARTSVILLE, S.C. – Feb. 1, 2011 – Coker College President Robert Wyatt announced today that the college is establishing a new program, The Last Lecture Series, to celebrate academic excellence and individual achievements of Coker faculty.

“It has been several years since computer science professor Randy Pausch gave his now-famous lecture at Carnegie Mellon University. His presentation drew millions to his story and to a greater appreciation for the importance of taking full advantage of individual opportunities—regardless of one’s challenges—in the quest for achievement,” Wyatt said.

“Colleges are not immune from the tendency to take more note of obstacles than opportunities. It is incumbent on an institution as blessed as Coker College is with talented, accomplished faculty to look beyond the obvious boundaries, to redefine what it means to be ready for tomorrow’s challenges. In establishing this forum for retiring faculty presentations, we invite students of all ages to pay tribute to excellence and step into stories that will inspire greater individual and shared successes than we have yet imagined,” he said.

In its inaugural year, The Last Lecture Series will include four presentations:

* Joseph H. Rubinstein, Professor of Education – Feb. 18, 3:30 p.m.

Watson Theater in the Elizabeth Boatwright Coker Performing Arts Center; Reception in the Stein Gallery

* Russell R. Hamby, Professor of Sociology – Mar. 22, 7 p.m.
Charles W. Coker Auditorium in Davidson Hall; Reception in the Drawing Room

* Deborah I. Bloodworth, Associate Professor of Theater – April 1, 3:30 p.m.
Watson Theater in the Elizabeth Boatwright Coker Performing Arts Center; Reception in the Stein Gallery

* Patricia G. Lincoln, Provost and Dean of the Faculty, Professor of Biology – April 18, 7:30 p.m.
Watson Theater in the Elizabeth Boatwright Coker Performing Arts Center; Reception in the Stein Gallery

The Last Lecture Series is free and open to the public.


Coker College readies undergraduates for personal and professional success through a distinctive four-year program that emphasizes a practical application of the liberal arts as well as hands-on and discussion-based learning within and beyond the classroom. Coker is ranked among the “Best Colleges” in the South by U.S. News & World Report as well as The Princeton Review. Located in Hartsville, S.C., Coker is within two hours of the cultural, financial and recreational resources of Charlotte, Columbia, Charleston and Myrtle Beach.

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Barb Steadman
Director of Media Relations
Coker College