Monday, March 28, 2011

Want to know what's happening? Go to the barber shop

One of the areas I am hoping to build some insight on through this sabbatical trip from Coker College to Muhuru Bay, Kenya is community thinking and community building.

So, if you want to know what is going on in a community, where do you start. My first inquiries were to the motor bike drivers (Muhuru Bay's main form of transportation) who have been helping me get around Muhuru Bay. Not always easy to hear or concentrate as we negotiate down the dirt-packed highway that gives you the feeling of a bumper car ride but it has provided some good background.

As I wandered around the center of the village retail area, called Customs, I glanced into a shop where a barber was cutting hair on two little children and there were some others sitting in chairs around his shop. And, that was at least a double and maybe a triple in beginning to learn even more about the problems and opportunities of this lake-side community. I also learned that after age 60 you find it very difficult to work in Kenya. The 60-year-old telling me that said the computer rejects him when he goes for a job so, "I am self employed."

As I was walking down the road a man yelled from his shop, "Welcome..." That is a common call to an obvious visitor - I do stick out in this community. I think I may be the only gray-haired person in the town. I answered his welcome and went up to offer or accept a greeting. This was a small retail tailor shop with three tailors hoping more business would come in because times are tough in Muhuru retail. That was another great discussion and helped me get additional community thinking perspectives.

One major observation, the community could be Hartsville, SC or Muhuru Bay, Kenya, or 'name the place' but people are quickly able to list some of the major things needing improvement in their community -- and for Hartsville and Muhuru Bay -- MORE JOBS would be at or near the top of both lists. (lots more thinking on this but the post is getting a bit long.) These are a couple of ways of beginning to gather community information in Muhuru Bay.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Kennedy wants to be a journalist

Kennedy Adera of Muhuru Bay, Kenya is a hard working student who really hopes some day to become a journalist. He knows he has his work cut out for him because he has what seem like insurmountable challenges.

He is a good student with top grades from his primary school but in Kenya, you have to pay to attending secondary school -- even the government schools. The costs are not cheap and his family was not able to afford one of the good schools. He is now staying with a family friend who is helping him attend a secondary school called Nyaykondo School that is new, not yet accredited and is using other secondary students as teachers. So, he knows getting into a college program will be difficult.

But, "I really want to be a journalist," says this budding Anderson Cooper. "I want to be a journalist because there are a lot of stories that we need to tell people. I have a lot of stories on my chest and I want to let the people know them," said Kennedy as we talked while conducting a quick lesson in writing a Summary Lead for a news story.

Kennedy 18, says he is struggling to make it and should have two years left for secondary school if he can continue to find the funding. Then he would love to go to university or college but he knows there is another challenge -- because right now he has no idea where those funds would come from.

But, he continues this dream because he would love to be a role model for others in Muhuru Bay and be recognized as the well-respected international journalist who was born in Muhuru Bay, Kenya.

Kennedy is sitting next to me as I tell his story and we have discussed his next step. He is going to control that which he can control and become the recognized school journalist from Nyakondo, attempting to get the story of his school to others in the school and the rest of Kenya. I did get to visit Kennedy at his one-room school house that is divided into classes with some screening material. It is obviously not one of the better secondary schools in Kenya -- according to the Principal, barely even adequate. School fees for the Secondary School are between 20,000 and 40,000 Kenya Shillings at about 80 shillings to the dollar. Most people in Muhuru Bay do not have that much extra around. And, even when they do there are the extra expenses like clothes, medical care, travel to and from the school if it is away. We take a lot for granted here in the States with our relatively free public school system.

I got to meet Kennedy because he met my daughter Eve when she began her research and intervention program at the WISER Girl's School for Education and Research back in 2008. She has kept up with his progress and thinks he has great potential. So, we just had a conversation about journalism for about an hour on a Saturday afternoon (March 26, 2011. In that conversation I was able to introduce him to the internet and he is amazed as I am that you can find 2,240,000 Google hits on Kenya Newspapers in less than one second. He does not have regular access to a computer and had never seen that before. He then wanted to see to the DAILY NATION, Kenya's leading independent news paper and the the Kenya Broadcasting System and when we were both interested in the story about the 1953 destruction of a village by colonial authorities that was in the Nation or the Standard or was on All

I know I was totally taken with Kennedy and his passion for becoming a journalist. Hope he has as much fun talking with me as I did talking with him. What an unexpected pleasure for this sabbatical trip -- and he sat still for my first lecture in Writing for the Media, how to write a summary lead.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Getting ready to leave Nairobi for Muhuru

It is a little after 8 a.m. -- means about 1:20 east coast US time -- and we are getting ready to leave the Upperhill Country Lodge on Bishops Road in Nairobi for a seven-hour drive to Muhuru Bay. I did spend time thinking about enjoying the shower this morning as Eve reminded me this could be the last of those for the next several days. There is pouring water in Muhuru Bay but no running water, she says.

It has been interesting being in the motel and being connected by email and even able to write a blog post from so many thousands of miles away. Interesting because I did learn that the paperwork I thought I turned in for a course to be offered in the Fall didn't make it -- but we are going to offer Principles of Public Relations -- and it will be on the schedule -- so communication majors save me three hours. But, the fact that I could know and that I could make some attempts to get that paperwork circulating is interesting.

Last night I met Joseph, who owns a car service. He has been helping Eve and lots of other people get between Muhuru Bay and other places in Kenya since her second visit here in 2008. It is her research on the implementation of an HIV/AIDS preventive program that gets her here and that I am looking forward to seeing first hand.

Hoping my Kindle recharges so that I can read some of those books I downloaded. I have had it since Christmas and never had to charge it and then it ran out of a full charge while flying yesterday. Lots of other little things and they are the types of things that are going to make this sabbatical trip both interesting and educational.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Sabbatical trip is going to be interesting

Heading to Muhuru Bay in Kenya to get an idea of what a smaller community in that country might be like. Going to be observing how it is different and how it might be the same as some of the smaller communities in the US. Eve, Dr. Eve Puffer, my daughter is letting me join her as she goes back to evaluate an HIV prevention project that she has been working on through the Duke Global Health Institute. Looking forward to this visit -- have not been out of the US for several years and this trip is going to be interesting. Hoping to meet with some university people to talk about potential for setting up a Coker College study away program.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Why is this PI Day?

(caption) Today is March 14, 2011 and for the more math inclined, it is 3/14 and for the imaginatively math inclined there is a symbol in this date, which makes today PI day. Dr. Paul Dostert and Trent, James and Brandon are getting ready for an on-campus PI day party at Coker College.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Dance Senior's Piece Performed at College Dance Festival

Barbara Steadman of Coker College's Marketing Communication office shared the following story -- wish I also had the photos that accompany it but I hope the link gets you to the story with photos. I think I told the dance instructors that this feels like a sports conference championship -- in an arts context.

Coker Senior’s Dance about Change is Performed in South East Conference Dance Festival

HARTSVILLE, S.C. – March 8, 2011 – Coker College dance student Hannah Beard’s senior thesis project “Series: The 21st Multiple” was one of 10 dances (chosen out of 45) to be performed at the gala concert of the American College Dance Festival Association’s South East Conference at Florida State University this week.

Beard’s selection represents the first time that a Coker College student’s work has been selected for the gala.

“Series: The 21st Multiple,” which Beard says is about the constancy of change, was performed during the spring dance concert at Coker College in February.

“We’ve all heard that change is constant,” said Beard. “For humans, our bodies’ cells regenerate roughly every seven years. We become brand new people every seven years, whether change is visible or not. Change is constant. How we embrace change is up to us.”

Beard, a senior dance major with a business administration minor, started dancing when she was three. As a senior at York High School in York, S.C., she traveled to Coker to audition for a talent-based dance scholarship, which she received.

With a concentration in performance and choreography, she has performed in various faculty and student pieces, choreographed dances for shows and completed dance residencies with guest artists from all over the world.

“During the past few years, it has been wonderful to watch Hannah find and hone her artistic voice,” said Angela Gallo, an Assistant Professor of Dance at Coker. “She has become an extremely versatile dancer and a strong choreographer. She has also become a leader and an ambassador for Coker’s dance program.”

In May, Hannah traveled to France to study abroad for two weeks. With her European Contemporary Dance class, she performed site-specific dance in Paris on the Viaduc des Arts, a former railroad viaduct that has been transformed into a garden walkway. Site-specific dance is created to exist in a certain place and can be influenced by the surrounding environment.

Beard’s Honors Project, titled “On Site: Every Rehearsal is a Performance, and Every Performance has an Audience,” involves extensive research on the art as well as creating, staging and showcasing her own site-specific dance around the Coker campus at locations such as the dining hall and the library, in part to promote Performing Arts at Coker.

The American College Dance Festival Association sponsors regional conferences and a national dance festival to provide a venue for students and faculty to engage in three days of performances, workshops, panels and master classes taught by instructors from around the region and country. The conferences also provide an opportunity for students and faculty to have their dance works adjudicated by a panel of nationally recognized dance professionals in an open and constructive forum.

Culminating with the presentation of pieces selected for their exemplary artistic quality, the conferences offer a unique chance for college and university dance programs to perform outside their own academic setting and be exposed to the diversity of the national college dance environment.

Adjudicators at this year’s festival in Florida are Mary Cochran, chair and artistic director of the dance department of Barnard College of Columbia University; Zvi Gotheiner, ZviDance founder and artistic director and company teacher for the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in New York City; and Bebe Mille, professor of dance at Ohio State University.


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.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Coker Tennis Teams split with Barton

Saturday afternoon the Coker Cobra tennis teams hosted Barton of Wilson, NC and each school went home a winner --- and a loser. The Coker women squeezed out a 5-4 win but the Barton men remained undefeated in Conference Carolinas play as they took a 5-4 victory back home. This story is from the American Chronicle paper:

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Coker on to tourney chapmpionship

The Coker Cobras will be heading to the finals of the Carolinas Conference Basketball Championship on Saturday night in Gaffney as they take on Limestone College for the Championship Crown. The Cobras came from behind to in the second half to ice the Crusaders as the game went into the final seconds.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Seth Godin demands that you "poke the box"

Seth Godin has a new book that is entitled POKE THE BOX. Godin calls this book a manifesto to get people out of their own personal boxes and in a mental position to "start something." He wants people to understand they have much more potential than they will allow themselves to believe.

He hates the idea that so many of us wait around to "get picked." He says that in today's world there is no reason to wait around to get picked. He makes it clear that we can choose ourselves and make things happen. One of his aphorisms is the idea that "he who fails the most generally wins." That makes me think of a friend, former Coker College student and published author -- Donnie Quist. He had a book and he wanted it published. He did not wait to get picked. He used the innovation of Kickstarter and LET ME MAKE YOU A SANDWICH is in the public realm. Had Donnie waited around to be picked he would probably still be unpublished. Seth Godin would like Donnie Quist's story.

Do not pick up this manifesto if you want to continue believing that other people limit you ability to make things happen in this world. Don't pick up this manifesto if you believe that doing what you are told well is all you need to achieve success. Do not look for this extended lecture if you believe the status quo is the way to go. Because, if you believe those things, Godin is going to make you uncomfortable.

Godin is a vision thinker and his books are like a half-time talk for those who feel it is their job to make a difference in this world. I recommend that if you are one who wants to make a difference Godin's book will help ignite that passion to making a start.

Okay, quit reading and start something, NOW.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Some buzz at Coker College


The Coker College Cobra Men's basketball team won the quarter finals of the Carolina's Conference tournament last night resulting in jubilation among the fans. This Thursday night they will be hosting the semi finals in the quest for the Tournament championship.

Jake Murphy, a Coker College golfer, is going into the final round of a tournament as the leader. Here is the lead paragraph of the news release about the tourney:

Coker sophomore Jake Murphy (Hamilton, N.J.) holds a one stroke lead on Abilene Christian's Alex Carpenter and Barton's Dermont McElhennon after two round s of play at the Golfweek Division II Invitational in Orlando, Fla.


On Tuesday evening the college is hosting a piano recital in the Elizabeth Coker Watson Theater. Here is what Dr. Jun Sato said as she announced this concert:

Piano Recital

Dr. Charles Fugo, Professor of Piano at the University of South Carolina, will be performing a solo piano recital tonight at 7:30pm in Watson Theater. Admission is free to the public.

Dr. Fugo is one of the most imaginative performers I’ve heard and his recital program for tonight highlights this quality in his playing. The recital includes works by the following composers: Chopin, Liszt, Schumann, Mozart and Scarlatti. Dr. Fugo has an extensive tonal palette and is also one of the few pianists I know who is willing to take risks to achieve the most effective way of communicating music. I promise it will be a treat for everyone who loves to hear live performance.

Art Exhibition

Heather Freeman's mixed media art exhibit opened on Monday night and is on display at the Gallery in the Art Department on campus. Here is a some of what was said in announcing this exhibit:

Ms. Freeman’s exhibition of mixed media prints (ink, graphite and watercolor over digital print on watercolor paper) opens with a reception in the Cecelia Coker Bell Gallery tonight at 7:00. The reception is free, refreshments will be served, and the public is invited. Ms. Freeman’s show remains on view through March 25, 2011.

For Ms. Freeman’s complete press release go to:

These are just a few of the things creating a bit of buzz on the Coker College campus and they give a glimpse of the richness of activities offered to students and the public.