Saturday, July 30, 2011

In Two Weeks Coker will have a large first-year class

Photo captions -- these photos are some of the shots of the 2010 move in to the Coker dorms. Families get a welcome respite from having to carry all of the clothes, computers, refrigerators, ironing boards, televisions, etc. into the dorms. This only happens for first-time students and it is a good bet that when students move out in the Spring or move back as sophomores they wonder where all the help disappeared to.

One of the small traditions that sets Coker College apart is the Commissioner Family. The first-year classes are divided into "families" headed by a sophomore student who is part of this long-standing campus tradition. The family names are traditional and sometimes nonsensical but in the spirit of college. They are also an amazing tool for helping students adapt quickly to the new environment of the college.

This coming year the Commissioners are going to be working with quite likely the largest first-year class ever and 2011/2012 could be the largest student enrollment in recent history. The campus is abuzz with the projected numbers and plans are in place for accommodating a larger than expected residence life component. These greater numbers are a signal that the growth initiatives are working. That is exciting!

The new first-year students are due on Saturday, August 13 and they and their families will be greeted not only by Commissioners but also by a group of "honorary" commissioners who will make quick work of unloading the vehicles that bring all the comforts for the new life. It will be a hot, sweaty, exercise-filled day with some of the "honorary" commissioners (movers) making upwards of a hundred trips up and down stairs. It is a great workout that may rival both P-90X and Insanity.

Looking forward to August 13 and the beginning of the new academic year.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Dean Umfress gets students thinking about Coker

With nine things they might see. this is a copy of his memo to students:

Dear Coker,

Hello from Hartsville! I hope this message finds you all well and enjoying the last few weeks of summer. While you guys have been on summer vacation, we have been working hard to get things ready for your return in a few weeks. Below is a list of 9 changes you can look forward to when you get back to campus.

1. The DTL is open! – Coker is proud to announce the opening of the Downtown Lofts (DTL) residential facility. 20 lucky students will be the first people to live in the new property, located above the downtown businesses on the corner of 4th & Carolina Ave. The DTL features two bedroom, one bath, full kitchen apartments. This property will, no doubt, be one of the most sought after addresses in town, and we have scored it exclusively for our upper classmen residential students.

2. New faces in the faculty – See a bunch of names of faculty on the class schedule you don’t recognize? There’s a good reason for that. Coker will welcome it’s largest cohort of new faculty members in college history to campus this fall. Fourteen new faces will be sitting at our roundtables of learning come August. They are: Dr. Andrea Cabus (English); Dr. Margaret Godbey (English Education); Dr. Fei Wang (Chinese); Dr. Karen Carpenter (English Language Arts); Dr. Daniel Ciamarra (Science/Math); Dr. James McLaughlin (Physical Education); Dr. Rachel Manspeaker (Mathematics); Dr. Maria Valeria Avanzato (Biology); Dr. Mohamed El-Bermawy (Chemistry); Ms. Kindra Steenerson (Theater); Dr. Serena Hill (Music); Ms. Meghan Myers (Criminology & Sociology); Dr. Jim La Valle (Criminology); Ms. Megan Johnson (Library). We also welcome a new Provost to campus, Dr. Tracy Parkinson. Dr. Parkinson, who took Dr. Lincoln’s place upon her retirement, will lead the faculty this year. When you see these new faces on campus, be sure to say hi and welcome them to our circle of learning.

3. Doing laundry just got easier – You told us how hard it was to find an available washing machine last year, and we listened. In a partnership with our laundry equipment provider, we are excited to launch Laundry View, an on-line program that allows you to monitor the status of washers and dryers in campus laundry rooms. The program will show you, in real time, when machines are being used, how much time is remaining on the cycle, and which ones are out of order. Additionally, you can opt to have the machine e-mail or text you when your laundry is finished. We are still in the process of ironing out the details, but the program is scheduled to be ready for you when you return to campus.

4. Stryker Cinema hosted by Res Life – Another exciting improvement to campus is the addition of Stryker Cinema hosted by Res Life. On campus residents will have access to a cable TV channel where special programming will be broadcast for the campus. The channel will show movies, announcements, Cobra sporting events, and other programming. Stryker Cinema will be hosted and managed by Res Life. We are working with the cable company on some finishing touches, but we are told we will be up and running in August!

5. Cobra’s Welcome Here! Program Launches – Do you know what restaurants in Hartsville give discounts to Coker students? You don’t? Well now you will! Introducing the Cobras Welcome Here! program. Local businesses who offer special discounts to Coker students will be proudly displaying Cobras Welcome Here! logo stickers in their stores. When you see a sticker, be ready to show your validated ID and ask for your discount. This is another way for local businesses to show their appreciation for your patronage. Return the favor by shopping local!

6. New deck & dock at the boathouse – The boathouse is one of the most popular hangouts around, and we are happy to announce two major improvements to the area. If you didn’t get a chance to see if before you left in the spring, we completed a renovation to the deck. The new structure is ADA accessible with a shelter and a sundeck. Additionally, we will begin renovation to the boat dock next week. The plans are to redesign the dock to extend further out into the lake and accommodate more people. There will still be a place to launch the kayaks and canoes, but the main purpose of the dock will be for socializing. The project is being funded by student activity dollars allocated by the SGA.

7. Bookstore – We agree! After the student center renovation was complete, it was silly to continue to make everyone enter the Bookstore from the exterior. So, we got together, made a few adjustments, and *poof* the interior entrance to the Bookstore is usable! Stop by and try it out. While you are there, check out the new Coker Cobra Nike logo apparel. Also, don’t forget to pre-order your books for the fall. Visit for more info.

8. Cobra Café facelift – As part of phase 2 of the Student Center renovation, the Cobra Café has gotten a facelift over the summer. Be expecting a new look for the café, new menu, and more options.

9. CobraFIT Expands – You had to be living under a rock last year to not have known about the CobraFIT program. In an effort to expand the program even more, we have brought Brandon Fain on full-time as the Director of Intramurals & Wellness. Be on the lookout for more opportunities to “GET FIT!” throughout the semester.

This isn’t an exhaustive list by any means, rather a few highlights we in Campus Life thought you would be most excited about. With all these positive improvements to campus life, Coker is building momentum. We have always been a pretty neat place to live, learn, and work. With these changes (and more to come) it will be an even greater privilege to be a member of the Coker community. With this privilege, however, comes responsibility to your community. Continued focus on the Coker College Student Covenant in the fall will remind us that we are to be “active and honorable scholars both inside and outside of the classroom.” Be expecting to find even more ways you can do this through volunteering and community service opportunities.

I hope you are stretching as much as you can out of the last few weeks of summer. Take some time to visit family, touch base with old friends, and get some rest. Be prepared to make fall 2011 the best semester yet!

Come back to us safe in August. See you soon!

Stay Engaged,


PS – Don’t forget, returning residential student check-in / move-in will be Monday, August 15 from 9-3 in the Library. Returning commuters and residential students who need to meet with an advisor and register for classes may do so on Tuesday, August 16 from 9-4. Classes begin on Wednesday, August 17.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Seussical Junior Actors getting in character(s)

Here are some photos of actors getting ready for some serious rehearsals of Seussical The Musical that will be staged at Coker on Thursday and Friday evening.

As I sit in my office there is a constant buzz coming from the Performing Arts classroom as the youngsters in the musical camp sing of the songs that are featured in Seussical The Musical, which will be presented at the end of this week as the culmination of the Coker College Theater camp for young students.

Phyllis Fields, who is directing the camp, just came by the office asking if this was not a cute bunch of actors.(there are some photos, so you can judge) The camp employed a number of Coker students and graduates who seemed to enjoy sharing their love of the theater with the youngsters.
First Paragraphs of News Release on this performance
HARTSVILLE, S.C. – July 18, 2011 – Students enrolled in Coker College’s Summer Performing Arts Camp will present “Seussical Jr.” in the Elizabeth Boatwright Coker Performing Arts Center at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, July 21, and Friday, July 22. Tickets are $3.

The day camp, “Singing & Dancing & Acting,” which served 23 area students aged 10-16 and ran from July 11-22, focused on singing, dancing, acting and a bit of technical theater.

I just glimpsed some rehearsal and the kids are not only having fun -- they are good!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Pearl Fryar making headlines in Massachusetts

Pearl Fryar, a topiary artist, who works with students on the Coker College campus and who also lives nearby in Bishopville, SC, was recently part of a Lift Every Voice festival in Pittsfield, MA. That festival and Mr. Fryar's demonstration of topiary artistry were covered by a reporter for the Berkshire Eagle.

Pearl is great friends with Jean Grosser, chair of the Coker College Art Department, and he has been working with Coker students for several years and his art can be seen on the Coker campus.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

What Questions might prospective students have for a professor?

Students are the lifeblood of an educational community. A more direct meaning to that statement might be, Students are the lifeblood of Coker College. The admissions process is what gets students into Coker and talking with prospective students is interesting and even a bit exciting.

Yesterday, for example, there was a family that made an appointment to stop by Coker on their way back home (to Staten Island, NY) from their Myrtle Beach vacation. One of the girls will be graduating in May and she is looking around at colleges in places she thinks would be fun to live - like South Carolina. The other daughter, will be a junior, and she was unhappily along for the ride.

One of the exciting parts of getting to talk with prospective students is seeing the effect of a campus visit. The daughter who was really anxious to get on the road and head home appeared to be really enjoying seeing the Coker campus as she ended her tour. She had sort of changed her mind about the visit.

Most of the admissions counselors and most of the coaches like to add some type of faculty connection into a visit, in case there are "academic" questions. Truth is that most prospective students, when they are thinking about college, are not thinking classroom -- they are usually focused on dorm room. Parents will often have some questions but, in truth, while they may be paying, they are not the ones who will be on campus.

So, without pressure of a faculty member across the table, what are some of the questions that you might be wanting answers to in the area of academics on a college campus? ________________________________________________________ Would love to see some answers to that question.

There are couple of areas on which I focus. For Coker, one of the major differences is the relationship that students can develop with faculty just because of the nature of the college. Classes are small. If a student misses a class it is noticed. When a student is particularly brilliant in a class it is remembered! A major part of the "community" of Coker is the ability to build real attachments that will become more important as the years go by. Coach Dave, for example, reminds his seniors that 'someday we are all 27...' A second area on which I focus is personal interest. I remind the student that college is going to be THEIR education and that they should develop the experience by being open to the new possibilities that the privilege of a college education brings to them. The reason for the question at the top of this blog post is that I am looking for information that will help me know this particular audience even better.

Waking up to news about Coker people

Because of my background in both public relations and news, I like to keep some google alerts to see what it happening on the "news" front with things in which I have an interest. This morning three Coker alums were part of that news aggregation.

Jean Peterson Design welcomes new employee Montgomery County Sports
A native of Lugoff, SC, Susie is a graduate of Coker College with a Bachelor of Arts degree in graphic design. Like many of the other staff JPD, ...

Blue Bell Golfer Heading to PGA Cup
Rather than stay close to home or look for a school with a Division I program, Sheftic headed to Coker College in South Carolina. ...

Veteran players work with kids to improve their basketball skills
Also in attendance was 2007 Cresskill grad Megan Thomas, who starred in soccer and basketball at CHS and played collegiately at Division II Coker College in ...

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The email came today,,,,

The email arrived today. The email. It is the one from the boss -- also called Provost or Dean of the Faculty. The email explains that in not to many we it is time to report back to Coker College and be ready for classes.

Mixed feelings about that email. I was fortunate to have been on sabbatical the past semester. It provided time for things that are generally not part of a normal semester. It also provided time out of the classroom. So, the mixed feelings come with a strong desire to be back in the middle of learning while wondering if I will still remember how to lead the class after time away.

"Are you ready to go back?" has been a common question from both friends and colleagues. I think I am READY. I am not sure I am prepared.

Alum becomes new PIO for Hartsville

Donald Quist, a novelist, journalist, restauranteur and Coker College communication alumn, has recently been hired by the city of Hartsville as the new public information officer.

The role is new for Hartsville and is one that I think will continue to help the city better communicate with community stakeholders. Donnie remained in Hartsville after graduation and became active in the city as he and his wife opened the Bow Thai restaurant in downtown Hartsville. He is also currently pursuing an MFA degree in creative writing.

As mentioned previously in this blog, it is part of the enjoyment of being a college professor to watch student move forward in their professional lives!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Discussion about SIFE program ongoing

Photo caption -- This was a barazza(sp) or community gathering called by the local government in Muhuru Bay, Kenya to help people being affected by a severe drought in Eastern Africa.

One of the many facets of the Students Involved in Free Enterprise is an international component. Neil Sickendick is the director of Coker's SIFE program and we had a discussion over lunch today about the potential for a SIFE-type program in a place I visited in Kenya during my sabbatical. We had an interesting discussion.

The SIFE students will be the ones implementing a program. The village of Muhuru Bay, Kenya, is a place that could use a variety of programs to help the residents. The question we are discussing is if there is a fit for SIFE into the needs of Muhuru Bay. One of the SIFE members stopped by my office right after I got back from Kenya and initiated the question of a SIFE program in this part of Kenya. He thought there was strong potential interest from SIFE members. Neil, who was very active in SIFE during his undergrad days at Drury University thinks there is a good possibility of interest. So, our next step is to check with some of the contacts I made during the trip to see if there is a way to bring interests together. I hope so because that would be a major benefit resulting from this part of the sabbatical.

Getting an idea of how to help a community that is poor to begin with and suffering from a natural disaster through the lens of the lens of the principles of free enterprise could be a major educational experience. Hope we will be able to find a way to make something work.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Florida paper highlights student's Coker Connection
The following is from TC PALM, a local news outlet in Florida and I thought it was sort of cool to read about Coker Connection from another view:

Mazzola attends Coker Connection

Michael Mazzola of Jupiter recently attended Coker Connection, an intense two-day adventure/experiential learning program that provides students the opportunity to connect with fellow freshmen, stay in the residence halls and explore campus before orientation. The program concentrates on goal setting and relationship building in an effort to position students for a successful start to their Coker College career.

Activities included a trip to the U.S. National White Water Center in Charlotte, N.C., where students were challenged mentally and physically to work on team-building and problem-solving skills with classmates.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Coker College still a few openings for this fall's class

Earlier today I stopped by the Wiggins House, which is the location of the College Admissions Department, to meet the new Director of Admissions, Adam Connolly. This is his second week on the job. While in Admissions,I found out Coker still has a few openings for this Fall's class. The college is growing and we expanded the proposed size of the first-year class.

Coker does keep its admissions process open until the new school year begins and this has often proved helpful for students who made late decisions to attend college or who changed plans. Other schools do the same thing, so it really is not too late to apply to college. There is still time to apply to Coker but you should move pretty quickly because it does take some time to get all the questions answered. The online application can give prospective students a bit of head-start. Any students or parents who are looking for more information on the late admissions can talk to someone by calling 843-383-8050.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Colleagues make Coker College a great learning community

This is a holiday weekend around the country but the Hartsville YMCA did stay open for those wanting to work out on a Sunday. As I began lifting I noticed Mal Hyman in another section putting up some weights. It was good to see him back in the Ville. A few minutes later we began to talk -- instead of lift.
Mal had recently returned from an eight to ten-day trip (if this was a new story I would check those dates) to Mexico as part of the Witness for Peace program. This is a program in which Mal, a sociologist, has had a long-time interest. This summer he went with the group to learn more about the immigration situation and drug war from the Mexican perspective. In between sets he was telling me about the people involved in the trip and some of the presentations and reports they were hearing from the people involved in these issues on a day-to-day basis. Many times I have commented that being part of a college learning community is probably the best job I have had. My colleagues are really smart people who are on a life-long learning quest.

Professor Hyman is a great example of the kind of colleague I mean. He is one of the most active teachers on campus and when he gets just a little time he looks for ways to broaden his knowledge, experience and perspective with direct activity so that when he teaches SOCIAL PROBLEMS the examples he shares with students are from some of the most up-to-date material possible.

We are going to spend some time in the next week or two at lunch and I am hoping to get some more descriptions of some of the things he learned on this most recent excursion. His major conclusion is that the linkage between what happens within Mexico and what happens in the United States in sometimes disparate areas must not be ignored. But, we interrupted ourselves quite a bit during today's discussion, so details have to come later.

Mal and I talk frequently and he is a good example but what I stress when I get the opportunity to talk with prospective Coker College students is that the effort and intelligence that Mal puts into his teaching and research is replicated over and over by some of the smartest, most caring people I have known and at Coker, they are the people leading the classes day by day.

Advice for Current Students from Graduates

Last semester I had the opportunity to be on a sabbatical. The sabbatical gave me some time conduct a resear project that we have discussed for a couple of years in the Coker Communication Department -- a survey of our graduates. I was able to survey a large percentage of the Coker grads from 2000-2010 and we have developed some interesting information. I think one of the most useful questions was the last one, asking grads what advice they might give current students. In past blogs I have shared some of these words of experience and will do that occasionally because I think these thoughts are so vital to understanding the Coker experience -- and, often, if listened to, will help some students get even more from this experience.

THE MOST RECENT COMMENT -- from a student who has a Masters in Public Administration, a new baby and a job that she is finding very rewarding:

Be fiscally responsible, but take advantage of every learning opportunity available to you while working towards your undergraduate education. This includes lunch & learns and networking and attending college campus events. The more you learn and the more contacts you make the easier it will be for you to land a successful job in a challenging job market. Take advantage of study abroad opportunities if it makes financial sense to you because once you enter the real world those opportunities are far from grasping. Also, don't give up on yourself. Searching for a job is HARD WORK!!! Trust in yourself and your abilities and keep a positive outlook.

Never under-value a job opportunity or anyone you meet upon graduation or while studying in college. If you feel strongly about a job or field of interest, keep networking and working towards building a career for yourself. Most importantly, be direct, positive and patient in your career search. (And soak up your time at Coker-- It was one of the best experiences of my life. I met some of the most influencial people in Harstville, South Carolina. I wouldn't change any of it, and I strongly think that I will feel that way my entire life)