Thursday, December 29, 2011

Cobra Women playing Coastal Georgia

The Cobra Women's basketball team is back from the Christmas vacation and getting ready for a 7 p.m. game against Coastal Georgia this evening. The Cobra women are playing good basketball but they have not yet been able to jump into the win column. The game tonight could be a great way for them to end that win drought and also ignite some momentum for the conference season, which opens next week with a game against Mount Olive, always a tough conference opponent.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Coker SIFE Working on project for/in Muhuru Bay, Kenya

Children like to get in the picture nearly everywhere and these two arein what is called the CUSTOMS area of Muhuru Bay, what we might call downtown. The village is on the border of Kenya and Tanzania.

Coker College is sending a trio of students and two advisors to Muhuru Bay, Kenya, for some on-the-ground work to help establish a library in this Kenyan village on the shore of Lake Victoria. Neil Sickendick, who directs the Coker SIFE program has been working with a community activist in Muhuru Bay, Dickens Ochiel, and they have the project moving forward with tremendous momentum. Neil used the SIFE contacts to team up with a SIFE program at Maseno University in Nairobi, Kenya, to develop a partnership that is going to make a difference. During the last academic year I was able to use part of my sabbatical to visit Muhuru Bay to observe a research project that was being conducted by Eve Puffer (daughter) as part of the Duke Global Health Initiative and their WISER School for Girls and Research in Muhuru Bay. It is exciting to see more connections being made from Coker.

The Coker contingent (Students are Kaitlynn Jessup, Lindsey Allen and Cody Ellison and advisor is Neil Sickendick and videographer/photographer is Harrison Waters) will travel the first week of January and meet up with the Maseno contingent and head to Muhuru Bay. Here is a short summary of what is happening that was provided by Neil in a recent email:

Coker SIFE

We are working with SIFE Maseno from Maseno University in Nairobi. They have 4 students working on the project with us. They have already traveled to Muhuru Bay last week to begin work on transforming the facility. They have also played a crucial role in finalizing many of our in-country details including hotel and transportation. Additionally, our work with them has allowed secure funding transfers and the ability to acquire books and computers for the facility, which we are calling a Learning Resource Center (LRC).

The LRC will be part library and part classroom space to be used for vocational training initiatives. The project started as a desire to construct a facility to be used for these purposes however, upon Dickens's further research, we located a facility that could be purchased and rehabilitated to fit our purposes: a more reliable and accommodating arrangement.

This preexisting facility will be renovated to better fit our intended use. While in-country, SIFE students will work to accomplish the remaining tasks for the building to become functional. Bookshelves will be constructed, the facility cleaned where needed, and other general maintenance issues will be resolved. With any luck, there will be a grand opening of the facility at the end of Coker's trip.

In addition to working on the facility, Coker SIFE plans on meeting with community members to gain a sense of life in Muhuru Bay. They will also spend time working with local teachers and establishing ways to improve educational programming. Perhaps most importantly, Coker SIFE will explore ways in which they can continue to work with Muhuru Bay in the future.

This project is truly a great first step for Coker and Coker SIFE. By partnering with the local SIFE team in Nairobi, we can ensure that the project continues to be sustainable and successful. Our partnership with Dickens ensures this as well, and lends to our credibility with the people of Muhuru Bay. The SIFE network is massive, and though teams compete against one another, our central mission is to benefit communities in the most direct and needed ways. By partnering with other SIFE teams like the one at Maseno University, we have a much higher chance of satisfying our core mission.

This is a project that will pay dividends in many ways for the student of both colleges, for the people of Muhuru Bay, for Dickens Ochiel and his efforts of building community in Muhuru Bay and for SIFE, which will have a great example of the difference the organization is making.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Coker December Graduation Becomes Tradition

Graduates getting into line to join the procession into graduation.

Graduates on stage awaiting the start of Winter Commencement 2011

Coker College held its second Winter commencement on December 16 at the college's Watson Theater. Approximately 78 students received their degrees at the ceremony. Dr. Robert Wyatt, president of the college, told those gathered that since this was the second Winter graduation it could now be considered a new Coker tradition.

Charles Sullivan a member of the Coker College Board of Trustees since 2002 was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters as part of this ceremony. He spoke to the graduates about four concepts to take into their post graduate life -- concepts that have been important to his more than 40 years in industry. Tenacity, Personal Integrity,Passion and Vision are concepts that he noted they had exhibited to achieve their degrees. He said they were concepts that would help them achieve even more in their lives.

Friday, December 9, 2011

How do you know? How do you measure?

People often have to listen to me say that teaching at Coker College is the best job I have had in a career that has been filled with job satisfaction, job challenge and job growth. But, a question I often ask myself is how do you know and how do you measure this amorphous quality of "best."

We are ending final exams for the semester on the Coker campus and that may be one thing giving rise to the questions of 'knowing' and 'measuring.' Another reason the questions are there is a quick text message I received from a colleague.

The colleague is one of my senior colleagues -- a person who has been building community at Coker College over a significant career. As I was grading some "news" stories for the WRITING FOR THE MEDIA class I came across a quote that I thought was especially telling. The 'reporter' had written a personality profile about a person looking forward to graduation and reflecting on her college career. The quote that struck me was something like "He is the hardest professor that I have had at Coker, and he is also the best."

A short time after grading that story I saw that professor and shared the quote with him. He thanked me and a few hours later sent me a text-email thanking me again for sharing the story.

But, that short email did much more. It affirmed again the message we share with our students and with our prospective students and their parents -- that no matter how long we have been on this campus, we measure our worth by our interactions with our students. This is a teaching college and a learning community. A part of his message was "...Confirmation for us is compensation. We know none of us is in it for the money. I'm convinced that we get in return what we expect..."

So, one way I know this is the best job I have had in my career is the way I feel when I get such a genuine response from a veteran colleague who continues to "expect" great things from his students and whose students continue to get great teaching from him - class, after class, after class.

And we will continue to study how we know and how we measure what we know because assessment continues to be a crucial way of telling how we are doing.

Friday, December 2, 2011

It;s READING DAY at Coker College

Today is the day before exams begin.

For professors it is sort of deep breath type of day as we understand the teaching part of the semester is over and now we get to do what they pay us for - Grade. Back in my other job the company pilots would often comment that they flew the planes for free, they were paid for the waiting. On campus, the teaching and learning is the fun part -- grading is the chore.

My celebration of the end of the semester meant that when 5 a.m. came this morning I rolled over and fought to stay in bed and asleep until 6:15 -- so the morning walk was in the daylight for the first time in months. And, I did not get to work until about 8:10 -- no 8 a.m. speech class this morning.

Coker's reading day has been introduced by a tradition called the Late Night Breakfast. Photos with today's blog show some of the "breakfast" scenes. Faculty and Staff do the cooking and serving and students do the eating and talking. (if it were not for the great ARAMARK staff help we would not be able to do this.) The breakfast feeds a lot of students, who are trying to get their minds around the papers still due the exams that begin Saturday morning and their hundred-other last minute things to do before semester ends and grades are posted. Not sure this is a perfect analogy but from a student perspective it is a lot like the final meters of the 10K -- a lot of energy still to be expended.