Sunday, August 28, 2011

Admissions meets with profs

Last week the Admissions Department had a few hours set aside to talk to professors from various departments around campus to hear stories of students and graduates of Coker College. The Admissions recruiters were looking for stories they could use when trying to interest prospective students and their families in attending Coker. A bit of news from the college this week was that we have our largest student body ever with a first-year class up 25 from the previous high.

Back to stories. While on sabbatical this past semester I was able to read a number of books on public speaking and one common suggestion was 'story telling.' As a race, we humans have learned from stories for thousands of years. In fact, on my door is a quote who origin is said to be an Indian proverb: "Tell me a fact and I'll learn. Tell me a truth and I will believe. But tell me a story and it will live in my heart forever." That is a quote I happen to share with my public speaking students about every semester in class. In fact, we start the speech making process with something called an Icebreaker, which is stories about things that have altered a student's life. Tomorrow we start those in the day classes and we had the Icebreakers in the night class last Wednesday.

Back to admissions. The recruiters were interested in the stories and spent a lot of time listening as instructors discussed things about their students. I got to overhear Dr. Joe Flaherty of Biology talk about how his recent research grant has allowed him to purchase IPads for his student researchers and how those IPads are making a difference in their research approach. Looking around the room as instructors talked, you could see the faces light up as they told stories of how students have grown through Coker and beyond. It will be fun to hear from the admissions folks if they find the stories making a difference out on the road.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Coker Cross Country Runner Heading to China


Not a typical freshman, Coker's Bates competes in international triathlon

by Amy Farnum,

Read this article on the web at

Like thousands of freshmen student-athletes across the nation this week, Dylan Bates is learning the ropes of college life.

But while Bates is busy finding his classes at Coker College in Hartsville, S.C., and bonding with his new cross country teammates, the native of Scarborough, Ontario, is also dedicated to training for his first international triathlon.

Before Bates runs his first cross country meet for the Cobras, he will travel to Beijing, China, to race in the Dextro Energy Triathlon ITU World Championship Series Grand Final on Sept. 11 as a member of Team Canada. Bates will challenge for the title in the U-20 Age Group category.

While Bates turns just 18 years old on Sept. 4, he has been preparing for the opportunity to compete in an international triathlon for most of his life. He raced in his first triathlon at seven, and his passion was ignited for the endurance event that consists of three disciplines -- swimming, cycling and running.

"It was a local one and very short, but I had an absolute blast doing it," Bates said. "I did that one for a few years, until I decided that I wanted to do more than just the one race. I went and did another that was nearby, and that was when I realized I wanted to get more into the sport."

In 2008, Bates qualified to compete in the Ontario Summer Games as a triathlete, and finished 18th overall in the provincial championship event. It was then that Bates decided to commit himself to triathlons and give up his other pursuits like playing hockey and practicing Tae Kwon Do.

"My life basically started to revolve around doing triathlons," Bates said. "I started training harder and harder for them. In 2010, I ended up winning the U-20 Olympic Distance Provincial Championship, which qualified me for this year's World Championships in Beijing."

The Olympic Distance race is made up of three legs -- a 1500 meter swim, 40 kilom eter bike and 10 kilometer run. The event in Beijing will actually take place at the 2008 Olympic course.

"It will be a great experience to compete on the course where Canadian Olympian Simon Whitfield almost got the gold medal," Bates said. "It was definitely a huge reason why I wanted to do it. Of all the people who qualify, only a small percentage of people actually go to compete. Because it is going to be in China, I thought it would be a great experience and the chance to compete there would be amazing."

While the duration of a triathlon would scare off most potential participants, it may be the training that is even more difficult. Bates' cross-training consumes about 20 hours a week, and sometimes up to six hours a day.

Bates credits learning Tae Kwon Do for the dedication and discipline he exhibits today. At 12 years old, he earned his second degree black belt. The training for that challenge also helped him discover his ru nning talents.

"When I was getting my black belt when I was 10, we had to go on long runs every morning," Bates said. "That really started me running. Two years later, I realized I was a decent runner and that got me into the sport. I joined cross country at school."

While running is definitely his strong suit, Bates is continually elevating all three parts of his training.

"My swimming is definitely the most improved as of late," Bates said. "Ever since I joined the high school swim team a couple years ago, I've seen great jumps in my improvement. It's almost to the caliber of my running now.
I've always been a pretty strong cyclist, but running is definitely my strength."

It was not solely running that attracted Coker head coach Kevin Kelley to Bates' profile on a recruiting web site.

"His academics are really strong, too. He was amazingly strong in both, and that's a big reason why I originally talked to hi m," Kelley said. "Everything that he has done, he's always excelled. That's something we really wanted we wanted to have as a part of our team."

Bates had always dreamt of going to school in the United States, and the warmer temperatures of South Carolina were as attractive as the fact he could double major in mathematics and computer science.

"It was a beautiful campus with great weather for running and training because there aren't those cold winters that force you inside," Bates said. "It seemed like a great opportunity to integrate athletics and academics because it had everything I was looking for."

There was just one issue. Bates would have to miss two weeks of school and Coker's first cross country meet in order to travel and compete in Beijing.

"I was concerned how it would affect training, racing and school," Bates said. "Because Coker started so early, I've been able to tell my teachers in advance and it is not going t o be a huge problem catching up."

In addition, Coker does not sponsor an official spring track season, so that frees up Bates' time to train for triathlons.

"I thought it was a great thing because he is still getting the running in and the other two sports also help with running," Kelley said. "His background has got a really solid cardio base."

The extra training will undoubtedly benefit his budding triathlon career. On Aug. 7, Bates won the U-20 Age Group title, and placed ninth overall (2:11:49.7) at the MultiSport Canada Triathlon Series in Bracebridge, Ontario, already qualifying for a spot in the 2012 World Championships to be held in New Zealand. While he is not sure he will be heading to New Zealand because of academic conflicts, Bates is certainly on the road to becoming a force in the sport.

"After college, if I start training more, I could get an Elite card and become a professional triathlete," Bates said. "If there 's money in it, and I can do it enough to sustain myself, then I would absolutely want the opportunity to try becoming an elite triathlete.

"It's not just a sport, it's a lifestyle."

Bates will miss the Cobras' first meet on Sept. 9, but will return from China in time to compete in the Bridgestone Pacer Invitational in Aiken, S.C., on Sept. 17.

Article originally posted on by Amy Farnum, August 26, 2011

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Thursday, August 25, 2011

Lacrosse debuts at Coker College

Lacrosse, billed as the "fastest sport on two feet" made its debut at Coker College on Thursday, August 25, 2011 as Coach Tony Smith put his new Cobra team through their first workout as a team. It was an exciting day for the players, who smiled through the pouring sweat enjoying the feeling of finally getting onto the field.

The first day of lacrosse even drew Dr. Wyatt, Coker's president and Dr. Parkinson, Coker's new provost. Dr. Parkinson said, "we were told we could get a view of what lacrosse is all about if we came out to practice. All I've seen is the guys running." It has been a long time since I played this game but I had to tell him, running is one thing lacrosse is all about.

There is little doubt that lacrosse at Coker is going to draw some attention this first year. Turns out the guys are going to do a little scrimmaging on Saturday afternoon, so if you want to see a little more than running, Saturday may be the day.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Semester started Monday night

A round-table configuration so that we can enhance small group discussions.

Students work on their interview skills while developing information for an introductory speech.

The program where I became introduced to real college teaching was Coker's night program and that was back in the late 1980s when I was an adjunct teaching public speaking when the need arose in the evening programs. From the start I have enjoyed being part of what we call the non-traditional degree program.

Nowadays, we call this the Coker ALPHA program and we have sites for non-traditional learners in Marion/Mullins, Lake City and Hartsville. This term I am at the Marion site teaching public speaking and we had some really good opening-class discussions on Monday. There were 13 students in class and I think there will be two to three more who will be joining us at the second class.

ALPHA learning is a challenge because more than 90% and probably close to 100% of the students have jobs and then they attend Coker two nights a week, most of them in two classes. The classes are 5:30 to 8:00 and then 8:05 to 10:30. This makes for a long day but these students are investing their time and money because they know they will find a payoff. And, most of them do comment that they find the payoff almost weekly as they expand their worlds in these college classes.

It is a challenge and it is a great deal of work. For example, I have the same number and same type of assignments for the night classes that I have for the day classes. The night classes do in eight weeks what we take a full semester to do in the day. The difference for the students that instead of five classes they are focusing on two at a time.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

A couple of Sunday photos from Coker 8-14

We got a bright rainbow that was even a double rainbow from some perspectives

Volleyball practice was pretty intense on Sunday afternoon as the Cobras work to lay the foundation for a strong season.

This was a busy day for first-year students as most had academic overviews in the morning and many still had placement tests to take. There was also an ice cream drop in at President Wyatt's home and later in the evening was the candle lighting ceremony of the Commissioner families. The camera was not around enough to get all those events but you can find a lot of really good weekend shots on the Coker web page.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Morning Practice for Women's Soccer

On my way into work shortly after 7 this morning I noticed some movement around the Coker soccer fields. The first practice for the Cobra Women's Soccer team of 2011 was underway. Coach Dan Muns said he has 16 women making up the team this season. The fall athletes reported back to campus a few days ahead, though NCAA regulations for Division II did not allow practice to begin until Friday. Rumor had it that the cross country team ran a time trial at Midnight to begin what could also be a strong season for the runners.

Women's soccer is on the field twice a day from 7-9 in these early days of practice and are readying for their first scrimmage in Columbus, GA in seven days. The dew was still on the field and despite one of the coolest mornings of the summer, the team all looked as though they had been hard running since they hit the pitch.

Like almost all the other opening week activities, there was an exciting feel to this opening practice. The men's team was starting at 8 a.m.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

What makes for good teaching?

As the faculty week Coker College workshops got underway this year one of the fascinating topics was, "What makes for good teaching?" It turns out that faculty members seldom get many opportunities to discuss this crucial question in their daily activities. The general feedback was that this was a popular topic and lots of people were happy to talk with colleagues about this most crucial question.

From an audience perspective, I am wondering "What do you think makes a college teacher a good teacher? In sort of a shameless ploy to get comments to this blog, I am seeking some response. So, PLEASE join in this conversation:

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Ribbon Cut for Coker's downtown student apartments

Shared values of community are part of the uniting theme between the city of Hartsville, S. C. and Coker College as the two organizations work toward building a strong town/gown relationship. A very tangible example of this effort was unveiled on Tuesday, August 9 as the ribbon was cut on new apartments in downtown that will be home to 20 Coker students in apartment-like residential living. Dr. Robert Wyatt, president of Coker College, told the crowd that he looks forward to the many ways Hartsville and Coker can become an even stronger partnership because he sees the best of community in both the city and the college.

More than 200 people were on hand for what was an exciting event for downtown Hartsville as Lenora Lefew, director of the Hartsville Downtown Development Association told the crowd that if you were taking "Downtown 101" you would quickly find that downtown residential living would be one of the major requirements. She said the community is excited to welcome the students into the Hartsville downtown.

Jason Umfress, Dean of Students, said that as the relationship between Coker College and Hartsville continues to strengthen, his goal would be see Hartsville recognized as one of the nation's top college towns.

Steve Avant, who owns the buildings in which the new apartments have been created, said this present is a sort of visit to the past. Much of the space that is now the Coker apartments was decades ago the Marguerite Hotel, used for business people on trips to markets in Hartsville. There are many stories about how quickly this project became a reality but Steve Avant summed it up by saying "while I have some visions for the growth of downtown I am only able to implement the vision by responding to the dreams and desires of people in the community."

The students who have seen their new living arrangements are even more excited now than when they found they had won the room draw for the new apartments.

As the quick ribbon cutting broke up and the tours began the prevailing buzz from Mayor Mel Pennington and Lenora Lefew and President Wyatt and many community members and students was how can we keep this partnership building and this excitement growing.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Lots of action in the sauna

that we call Hartsville, South Carolina in August. The Coker College campus is quite abuzz but it is close. The Resident Assistants are back on campus getting ready for a record enrollment in the living areas. The Commissioners are back, training for the largest first-year class in a long time. The new faculty, 14 of them, have been involved in learning about Coker and occasionally I have run into a colleague or two arranging their offices. Tonight is the first official event for faculty as we meet to greet at a dinner that will open the 2011/2012 academic year. It is exciting! I don't think we had anything in the corporate world to compare with the start of a new year on the college campus.

The reason for the sauna reference is humidity nearly off the charts with temperatures hovering between 95 and 103, depending on where you might be standing.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Good news in the morning

Waking up to the computer this morning there was a note in FACEBOOK and a former Coker student is reporting "I got the role." As I checked email there was another short note from a former student, "I got the job, they sent the offer after the luncheon interview." Education is not all about the jobs but they do play a large part in the assessment of effectiveness. Both of these students have been working for awhile and both these pieces of news show them advancing along their career/life paths. Hearing that kind of news is one reason I really enjoy the professor job in this Coker College learning community!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Coker recognized for strong program

I am including the recent news release that points to the recognition of Coker as a "best' school. This was released by Coker College on August 2.:


Coker College Named a Best in College the Southeast by The Princeton Review

HARTSVILLE, S.C. – Aug. 2, 2011 – Coker College is one of the best colleges in the southeast according to the nationally known education services company, The Princeton Review.

Coker is one of 135 institutions The Princeton Review recommends in its “Best in the Southeast” section of its website feature, “2012 Best Colleges: Region by Region,” released this week on

“We're pleased to recommend Coker College to users of our site as one of the best schools to earn their undergrad degree. We chose it and the other terrific institutions we name as 'regional best' colleges mainly for their excellent academic programs,” said Robert Franek, Princeton Review's senior vice president and publisher.

“While community members on campus and off understand well the traditions and pride that have shaped Coker College, we know too, that national recognition plays an important role in our future,” said Coker College President Robert Wyatt.

“When national editors at Princeton Review, U.S. News & World Report and, earlier this year, at Colleges of Distinction, take note of excellence – in our case, the extraordinary achievements of Coker College’s students, faculty and staff – they lift not only Coker College, but they call much needed attention to the role of education in the nation’s prosperity. I applaud, in particular, Princeton Review’s commitment to speaking to our students, the individuals whom we serve and by whose promise we are driven,” Wyatt said.

Collectively, the 629 colleges named "regional best(s)" constitute about 25 percent of the nation's 2,500 four-year colleges. From several hundred schools in each region, the company winnows its list based on institutional data collected directly from the schools, visits to schools over the years, invited input from college counselors and advisors, and the opinions of Princeton Review’s staff.

In addition, the firm considers and publishes information provided directly from current students via an 80-question student survey. The survey asks students to rate their own schools on several issues—from the accessibility of their professors to quality of the campus food—and answer questions about themselves, their fellow students, and their campus life.

“Only schools that permit us to independently survey their students are eligible to be considered for our regional 'best' lists,’” Franek said.

Representative responses selected from the student survey featured distinctions of Coker’s vibrant student life including the following:

“There are a wide variety of extracurricular activities at Coker College, but the majority of students here are either involved in theater or play a sport. When they aren’t on stage or on the playing field, students may be hanging out at the on-campus coffeehouse or in each other’s dorm rooms, studying, and socializing. During the warmer months, students enjoy taking advantage of Coker’s beautiful campus. The school owns a boathouse at a nearby lake—it’s a nice place to hang out when it’s hot.”

Other Coker students appreciated advantages of attending a residential college that might sometimes go unnoticed:

“‘In the surrounding community of Hartsville, Coker students take advantage of ‘free Fridays that allow us to bowl, skate, and eat for free,’ and many say they like to ‘go to the local coffee shop or catch a movie for $1.50.’”

For more information about Coker’s listing with the Princeton Review, visit For information about admission to Coker College, visit
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.


Good questions from potential new student

A great thing about our Coker College learning community being situated in the middle of the small cityht o Hartsville, SC are the serendipitous happenings. Coach Muns of the women's soccer team was leaving Bizzels with a potential recruit recently when he stopped to introduce her. She'd had a relatively long drive in that day and they had just finished supper. I was heading to the Midnight Rooster for an iced Americano.

She is interested in marketing and at this time business marketing. So we had a quick talk about Coker academics there in downtown Hartsville. How is the marketing curriculum was one question. Melinda Norris, who teaches a lot of the Business marketing, would, I think have been happy with the answer. And, for some communication department promotion, I also mentioned the way things like Public Relations, Organizational Communication, Public Relations Writing and some of other courses could also supplement what she picked up in the business courses. That led to another question. What about double majoring, can I do that too?

A double major leads to a discussion she will want to have with an advisor at a later time. There is a simple answer. Yes, you can double major and many students do, even athletes. But the question of should a student double major involves lots of other questions and is one of those issues best answered with an advisor who can have access to a bigger picture. Double majors, while a great academic development strategy, can often lead to some frustration as both majors offer "Must have" courses at the same time during a day -- making it hard for students to schedule. These are often bumps that can be smoothed but are among the considerations when looking into that strategy.

Anyway, we got to the easy answers in the serendipitous meeting in the middle of downtown and I think that gave her a sense that when she NEEDS the more complex guidance she could find it at Coker. That was an assurance that Coach had already made and getting it reinforced seemed good for the prospect.

A real interesting part of the Coker College learning community is being able to have these important serendipitous conversations, sometimes right in the middle of downtown Hartsville.

Exciting to meet new colleagues

And, it is especially exciting to meet new Coker College colleagues when one of them happens to be a former student. Walking into the Student Affairs building on Monday two people were coming down the stairs. "Speaking of the devil" one of them says as I light up with a greeting of my own. Lindsay Crighton, a former Coker student and communication major, was in the building -- her first day on the job as a new grant writer for Coker College. With Lindsay was Katherine (Katie) Dewey, a new athletic fund raiser with Coker. Katie is coming to Coker from Indiana and Lindsay is coming back to Coker from Virginia Tech, where she recently received her Masters in communication. Lindsay was my advisee while she was at Coker and it is really exciting to watch a former student as she embarks on her new career.

These two new colleagues are among a lot of new faces that will be part of the Coker College community as we officially begin the new semester this month. Their enthusiasm and excitement at coming to work in our Development Office portends great things for the ambitious growth plans of the college.