Student Affairs Musings: You Need to Believe in the Power of Reflection

A while back my (then) supervisor attended a student affairs conference. She brought back a list of quotes that we discussed in the Residential Life department meeting. Many of these really piqued my interest and I decided that I would write about these when I returned to the blogosphere. This is the first in a series of rants based on these quotes.

You need to believe in the power of reflection.

Reflection. A word that I befriended in my graduate work at Bucknell University. Initially I was somewhat skeptical of my reflective writings. My exercises in reflections seemed to focus not on what I thought about often but on what I thought would be interesting to an outsider. As I worked on autobiographical pieces to document my identity development I often revisited collections of memories that I had left unattended for years. Why these memories became the highlights of my reflection papers, I cannot say. They were memorable for some reason.

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Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

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He questioned the injustices that were structurally incorporated into the system. He picked his battles carefully, but fought them with unparallelled commitment. However, there is plenty that Dr. King was unable to question within the context that he worked in.

Today he is one of only three men in the US who have been honored with a national holiday. The other two, Christopher Columbus and George Washington, were both slave owners who, in their context, served this country just as well.

It is our duty as responsible citizens to question the injustices in our system as we become aware of them. We must remember that we are part of an ever-changing world. After all, each of these men worked within a common church, to please the same god.

Common Ground: Introduction to an amazing diversity retreat

Common Ground Quotes

As I sifted through my belongings that still sat packed in old boxes that I had moved from Bucknell University I came across a paper bag and a few folders. I have a habit of collecting random things that have some sort of memory attached to them. This particular collection of items was a special collection… these were my schedules, notes, and others’ impressions of me from the two years that I participated in a fall break student-led diversity retreat called Common Ground (CG).

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Motivation Through A Mini Sabbatical

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Earlier this week the Residential Life department at UNH offered its Residence Hall Directors a different professional development opportunity – a mini sabbatical. The inspiration for the day-long exercise came from Daniel Pink’s book A Whole New Mind.

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Master’s Thesis: Perceptions of Social Mobility in Community College Transfer Students

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Abstract:

While national leaders have joined the discussion more recently, scholars in the fields of education, psychology, and sociology, have been exploring the ways in which students’ socioeconomic background affects the outcomes they experience as a result of their education (Lareau, Unequal Childhoods: Class, Race, and Family Life, 2003). Furthermore, the role played by the education system in creating or diminishing socioeconomic disparity has also been studied in depth (Bourdieu, 1977; Boudon, 1977). However, the journeys of students from low-income families that begin their education at community colleges and continue it, through careful planning or chance, at elite four-year institutions, has not been the subject of much attention. This thesis explores these students’ perceptions of social mobility as they have been shaped by their experiences so far in life. This includes the exploration of changes in their perceptions as the contexts for their lives have been changed. Quantitative analysis of survey results and qualitative analysis of participant interviews serve as the data set for this study. The implications of the findings for student affairs practitioners are also explored.

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Fight Ignorance, Exercising Caution!

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I rarely eat at the campus cafeteria, it is a crowded place with many people that I would love to talk to for hours, hours that I cannot afford to spend in the cafeteria. However, on occasion, I do venture into this quicksand trap. Today was one such day. I was there with a purpose. Along with a few other volunteers, I was distributing free cake that boasted the International Education Week 2010 logo and telling students about the various events that would be taking place on campus as part of this week. When I was done with the promotional gig, I pulled up a chair next to some good friends. Half of them international students, and the other half transfer students from community colleges.

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Making the Most of International Education Week

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The State Department has been designating one week in November as International Education Week (IEW) for the past few years. This year the dates for International Education Week are from the 15th to the 19th of November. Institutions (educational and otherwise) across the United States are observing IEW by organizing various events. A list of these events can be found on the State Department’s website (linked above).

Bucknell University is celebrating International Education Week 2010 with renewed vigor this year as well. The Office of International Education and International Student Services are collaborating with other departments to present the most complete picture possible of the importance of international education.

For me, the planning of this year’s IEW events at Bucknell has been an interesting journey to say the least. While there are many programs being presented to the relatively small campus community, it remains to be seen to what degree the students, faculty, and staff will participate in these. One strategy that the two offices have employed this year is to rely heavily on existing energies within student organizations and academic departments to drive the programming efforts. For example, the four International Movie Nights are each sponsored by a different student organization, and the International Education Week Photo Contest is being run in collaboration with the Peer International Educators group. Having these partnerships has allowed the organizing offices to use their limited resources more efficiently.

I am looking forward to being a part of this year’s IEW at Bucknell and cannot wait to report on the level of student engagement throughout the week. I hope that on November 20th, I will be able to say that the efforts to internationalize Bucknell, and US higher education institutions in general, are clearly justified.

Check out Bucknell University’s International Education Week page on facebook!

Helicopter Parenting: A First Class Thing…

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The term ‘helicopter parenting‘ is not new. In fact, for those in the field of student affairs, this term is part of daily life. However, the term is often used in conjunction with the closely affiliated term ‘millennial generation‘. While the terms represent popular phenomenon, they are by no means universal. The qualities associated with parents that hover, and their children – the millennial generation – are also closely associated with the socioeconomic class of the families that these parents and children are part of.

In her new book, Parenting Out of Control: Anxious Parents in Uncertain Times  (New York University Press), Margaret K. Nelson explores the roots of helicopter parenting, or “parenting out of control,” finding a strong correlation between parental involvement and social class.

An interesting interview with the author can be found on the Inside Higher Ed blog. I am also very curious to find out what advantages, if any, do first-generation students have in terms of learning and development because of the absence of helicopter parents. This is something I will try to explore to some extent in my study of the Community College Transfer Initiative at Bucknell University.

Community College Transfers Succeed at Elite Institutions

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While walking down the street yesterday I ran into an ecstatic student who had just received his first test back in class. He achieved the best score in a class full of students admitted to Bucknell University as first-years and even some graduate students! Sean Fortney is a transfer student from the Harrisburg Area Community College – yet another highly qualified candidate recruited by the selective University through the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation’s (JKCF) community college transfer program. The Bucknell Community College Scholars Program, or BCCSP, is one of eight programs being run under the JKCF’s Community College Transfer Initiative.

Students recruited by elite four-year institutions through this initiative are demonstrating their ability to succeed in the most competitive environments. They have awed their professors and colleagues with their dedication and hard work. And above all is the fact that the degree of success for these students seems to be proportional to the selectivity of the college that they attend!

Please read research reports released by the Foundation regarding the achievement gap and its connection to the socioeconomic status of students and their families. Jennifer Gonzales does a good job of summarizing the success of this initiative in her article in The Chronicle.

Community College Transfers and the Diversion Effect

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In a recently concluded study, Tatiana Melguizo and Alicia C. Dowd of the University of Southern California, have found that the significance of the ‘diversion effect’ had been previously overstated.

The findings further support the idea that community colleges are helping democratize education by expanding access to it for student from lower socioeconomic status and enabling them to achieve bachelor’s degrees at four-year institutions.

The study’s basic focus is to investigate the diversion effect, and it does not focus on the performance of community college transfer students at various institutions compared to students from a higher SES. The study analyzes data obtained from the National Education Longitudinal Study to support the claim that community colleges do not reduce the ability of students from comparable (lower) SES background to obtain a bachelor’s degree. There is not a significant difference between the performance of lower SES students who are transferring to four-year colleges from community colleges and those who are continuing their education at a four-year college.

Please tune back in as I will be posting information about other studies that build a strong case for creating bridge programs through which community college students can transfer to four-year colleges.

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