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Friday, December 11, 2009

Serving up the Holidays

Above, some members of the Student Affairs staff served up breakfast on Thursday, December 10 at midnight to hundreds of TU students. This is the seventh annual winter breakfast served to students as a study break during this tense (finals and packing) and fun (break is here!) time of year. Wanda Olson, Associate Director of Residential Life actually took over this program from me several years ago. My version of the program had students paying for their own breakfast and the midnight feast was actually at 10 pm. It was a flop. Mrs. Olson injected life and holiday spirit into the program, making it an important campus tradition. It has become so popular that it is held in the spring now as well. Also serving with the SA staff was director of the library, Diane Graves, Admissions dude Jeremy Johnson, and Tiger Card director and Santa, Jerry Ferguson.

This is the last scheduled post of the semester. The Dean's List blog will resume its regular irregular publication schedule in early to mid-January. Thanks for reading and Happy Holidays!

Counter InTUitive 12.4.2009

I thank my friends at the Trinitonian for a nicely done piece on December 4. In it the editorial staff welcomes the new President, acknowledges the old (quite gracefully) and holds up me and one of my role models and mentors, Dr. Coleen Grissom, for the length of our tenures at Trinity. It was a touching tribute all the way around. We are all lucky, indeed, to be connected by our wonderful Trinity experiences.

5 blog hits

One last tip of the cap...

Good luck to retiring Trinity President Dr. John Brazil and his wife Janice. Thank you for your dedicated service to Trinity University.

Tiger Tales: Student Lessons

The above ad was on display in the DFW airport, so I took it as a sign that I needed to blog about Tiger Woods and his recent issues. So here, in no random order, are thoughts and lessons that students can take from this saga:

1. Just because someone is an athlete, an entertainer, a minister, or a politician it doesn't define their character in one direction or another. Doctors, lawyers, professors, deans, neighbors, and couch potatoes are no different. The one common denominator is being human. (Exception for Manu Ginobili.)
2. The best role models are the ones people know well personally: family members, friends, co-workers. They are real.
3. Sometimes private matters are nobody's business.
4. Sometimes we just can't look away.
5. People love to judge others. We are all regularly on both sides of this.
6. Some jokes are funny even if we don't want them to be.
7. In the electronic age things don't go away: 911 calls, voice messages, texts, videos, and pictures. Expectations of privacy have changed over the last decade.
8. A walk on the Appalachian Trail is not always a walk on the Appalachian Trail.
9. Integrity and ethical behavior matter. This underscores the importance of blending academic learning with experiential learning, and applied decision-making. College is a great place to learn.
10. Nobody's perfect. People make mistakes.
11. An indiscretion and a pattern are two different things. But you also can't kill a dead person.
12. The road to high performance isn't always paved.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Mixed Blessing

Above, Michael and Stephen McCormick, Mike Masse, Rebecca McCormick, and Caitlin and Andrew Masse on June 27, 2008.

When Michael McCormick and Caitlin Masse were on the Cinco Rancho High School cross country team together, they had no idea that their fates would be tragically and joyfully intertwined forever. In 2005 they each lost a parent. Michael's father passed away in July of 2005 after a battle with cancer. Caitlin's mother died five months later after a cardiac event when she was working out at the local YMCA. Both families knew each other. The surviving parents, Mike Masse and Rebecca McCormick turned to one another for support and their relationship eventually blossomed. They were married on June 27, 2008.

During this time, as high school seniors, Michael and Caitlin Masse discovered that they were both Trinity-bound. Michael McCormick came to Trinity for the Music program and Caitlin was drawn to San Antonio for the cross country program. This year, on the same weekend in November when Michael and his step-dad Mike ran the Rock 'n' Roll Half Marathon together in San Antonio (photo inset), Caitlin was there to cheer them on following her second place finish in the SCAC championships the day before. Michael still runs, but has put his competetive energy into cycling.

Following their marriage, Rebecca and Mike decided to move into one of their homes rather than start fresh in a new Houston-area residence. The Masse's moved into the McCormick house, which is now home base for Caitlin and her brother Andrew (a student at Texas A&M). They joined the McCormick's, including Michael's brother Stephen, an Austin College grad. At times, it seems, it would be helpful to have a score-card to keep the family members straight.

While there are always adjustments when families mix, this one has had few major issues. Michael McCormick explains "It was a bit difficult to comprehend that my mother was getting married again when I first heard the news when at home for spring break my freshman year. There were obviously a lot of mixed emotions present at first, but those passed very quickly. This has been one of the greatest things to happen in my life within the past few years and I'm so glad that my mother married Mike." He adds, "Both of our families experienced the painful loss of losing a parent (or spouse) and we all have a deep understanding of what each of us went through as a result. This commonality has united us in so many ways and, despite it being a sad event that created this bond, it has allowed our new family to become close rather quickly."

Rebecca, Michael's mother, notes "We tell stories and share memories of our life during our first marriages with each other and with our children & stepchildren. Our bookshelves are lined with photo albums spanning the last 25 years and those are great conversation-starters. We stay in close touch with the members of Sue’s and Kevin’s family. They have been especially warm and accepting of our new family situation. I joke that I have a mother and 3 mother-in-laws."

Mike Masse adds "We try to show all four of the children that life can go on in ways you didn’t even expect and that you can be happy and have a future. While these losses have been hard on us all, we consider ourselves fortunate to have this new blended family. Neither Rebecca nor I have tried to replace the lost parent. Rather, we have each let the relationships with the kids develop in a natural way. So, step-parent has become more friend-advisor to which all the kids have responded splendidly. In fact, by doing this I think we are sometimes more accessible than the biological parent. Caitlin, for instance, knows that she can tell anything to Rebecca without being criticized. And likewise for Stephen and me."

Rebecca points out that each of the kids grew up with just one sibling, while Mike is amazed at how quickly things have changed for all of them. "Having a larger group of siblings has been really neat. When I explained to Andrew that Rebecca and I were thinking about getting married and that would mean he would have two brothers, his reply was, 'Wow, that would be neat. I never thought about having brothers before.' This was unique to Andrew since of the group he was the only one who had not had a brother. The other thing is the 'good-sized party.' Because all of the kids grew up within a mile of each other and went to the same high school they have many friends in common. During school holidays the house is almost always full with friends. The other thing is the new bonds that have formed among the siblings. They are all good friends but it turns out that Stephen and Caitlin are very similar in personality. And they have become pretty close in just the year and half that we've been together as a family. That's neat. And all of the kids have truly embraced their new step-parents. This has been special and maybe a bit unique for blended families. We are blessed."

This doesn't mean there aren't logistical issues. The family has yet to take a combined vacation because of the difficulties of managing the schedules of six grown-ups. Says student Michael McCormick, "We do have SIX cars at the house though whenever everyone is home for the holidays. We can have three in the garage and three on the driveway, although Andrew usually parks his truck next to the curb. I feel like we need an air-traffic controller to organize our parking logistics though. Mike and I have been heading off to work (an internship in my case) around 6:30 in the morning before only to find that we were barricaded in the garage by other cars. The unamused siblings, who were awoken hours before their desired hours, grumbled a bit while we retrieved their keys."

Michael also seems to sum up the feelings of his mom and Mike, stating "I am so thankful that my mom married Mike because this step family has been (and continues to be) such a blessing. Everyone in my family means so much to me and I can't wait to make more great memories with them."

Note: Caitlin was unavailable for comment. Her dad, Mike Masse noted on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, "And if you need to, send a search party out for Caitlin. She's still on campus....she's got an Animal Behavior class tomorrow."

Monday, November 23, 2009

Trinity Faculty Going Downhill (Part 3)

At Trinity University, some believe that drawing faculty members physically downhill – from the upper campus academic area to the lower campus residential area – can create an enriching and meaningful learning environment for students. It is a sometimes controversial issue because faculty members can only be stretched so far and students often like to separate, rather than integrate, their in-class and out-of-class experiences. This three-part series will take a look at the history, issues, and current standing of the blended educational experience at Trinity University.

Part 1: The set-up
Part 3: What Works
The 2006 Upper-class Task Force explored issues related to residential life for sophomores, juniors and seniors. The final report made several recommendations, including ones related to increasing faculty interactions on campus. Professors, staff members, and students discussed at length the benefits of a blended educational experience and ways to make that happen. Ironically, those with the most to gain from having faculty down the hill are relatively ambivalent about it. In a survey last year only about half the students questioned saw value in such interactions. They agree with about half the faculty. Perhaps this is because neither group can articulate how meaningful these interactions can be until they happen. When programs have been assessed this year, the responses from professors and students alike have been encouraging and exciting.

The formula for success is simple. The interactions need to benefit the students and the professors, they need to be meaningful, and they need to be convenient. If they are initiated by the faculty, they are even better.

There are several classes that have residential components. All of these were suggested by the professors. In addition to the Humanities 1600 class (a six credit combined writing workshop and seminar on classical studies) mentioned in part two, there is a first year sustainability class and learning community, and one associated with the entrepreneurial program. There is also a Chinese language floor where students can speak the language with others trying to learn and can benefit by native speakers as well.

Dr. Stephen Field explains elements of the program: “The first activity of the year for the Chinese Language Floor of McLean Hall was a lecture on Fengshui given by me on Sept. 3. It was well attended, and students appreciated the chance to see if the rooms I assigned to them were “auspicious” or not. Since then the hall has hosted the Mid-Autumn Moon Festival celebration, which was held on the McLean roof. Finally, we held the inaugural class for the Chinese Cooking Demonstration. Melissa Pinchback (Residential Life Coordinator) was instrumental in helping to organize this event.”

Professors Mike Fischer and Diane Graves have been utilizing the electronic classroom on lower campus and provide this input: “We teach a FYS course called: Forever Young: The Life and Times of Bob Dylan. Because the Witt classroom is remote, we can play Dylan’s music (or covers of it; see: Hendrix, Jimi. “All Along the Watchtower”) at the volume we choose, without fear of annoying other classes—or making them jealous! This classroom has everything we need: state of the art technology, plus chairs and tables that can be easily rearranged. We enjoy walking to the lower campus, seeing students and colleagues along the way, and getting to know the Witt Center staff. Students love being close to their rooms, especially when it’s their first class of the day and they can arrive straight from bed (even though the class starts at 11:20 a.m.!). After class at 12:35 p.m., Mabee Hall is one minute away for lunch.”

Residential Life Office staff members invited advisors of new students to come to the residence halls to spend time with their advising groups, which are housed together. The REAL LIFE program series features a section called “Educational Success.” The advisors were invited to help plan, lead, and attend these sessions. Over 31 professors participated in these programs. One Resident Mentor comment was “Many residents remarked on the evaluation surveys that they attended the programs because the advisor was going to be there. Overall, feedback was very positive.”

Feedback from one professor read “I was impressed by the turn out and some of the questions I received. One student asked me about strategies for developing short term memory...! I was thrilled that such a surprise question came up (although I wasn't completely prepared to answer it), and it makes me think that students were truly thinking about real issues related to their academic success in preparation for the discussion.”

Interestingly, several professors felt the success of these programs was directly related to the involvement of the Resident Mentor, while these student staff members linked program success to the involvement of the professors.

In its second full year, the Sophomore College has found success in the Major Meals program, which brings faculty members, seniors, alumni, and sophomores together over meals in the Skyline Room to discuss potential majors for sophomores. Nearly 200 students attended the meals over a couple of evenings and met with faculty members from 15 departments. In follow-up surveys nearly two-thirds of the students in attendance found the program to be beneficial in selecting their majors.

Finally, at a wine and cheese reception for seniors and professors held in the Lightner Tea Room this month, students and their mentors were able to mix socially as the senior year begins to wind down. Some unsolicited faculty feedback offered this: “I thought last night’s gathering for celebrating seniors was one of the most successful I’ve been to at Trinity. The setting (going to their dorm) and the actual space (which was fantastic), the mix of so many faculty without a deluge of undergrads, and the requirement of drinking in an adult manner really gave the whole event a mature, cocktail party-like atmosphere (and not just an academic-like or bar-like or house-party-like atmosphere) which was enjoyable for me and important for the students. Other events don’t quite have this nice balance or feel to them and don’t educate the students so well. I’m all for more of these.”

Faculty members have had a strong presence as members of Team Trinity on move-in day. They serve as judges for Trinity Idol and Spotlight. Two faculty members are serving in the Class Marshal program (Dr. Angela Breidenstein for the Class of 2012 and Dr. Harry Wallace for the Class of 2013).

Our program and our students benefit greatly from these and other interactions with professors. These exchanges, on top of what takes place in the classroom and during office hours help create an enriched experience throughout campus. Not just up the hill.

Katie Storey Gets it Right

Katie Storey leaves Trinity University and Residential Life in January to be a stay-at-home-mom. She will be with her son Cason and build a home she and her husband Chris started to build while living in the Thomas Hall apartment. She leaves behind a place that she and Chris worked to improve once they knew their family would be expanding. With their own money they purchased major appliances, added wood flooring, and made other permanent improvements to their temporary home. Now they get to do it for real in their new house.

Likewise, Katie Storey took a foundation laid be her predecessor, Cara Taylor, and built upon it as well. Where Ms. Taylor developed the REAL LIFE and Resident Mentor program, Katie Storey took the Assistant Director for Residential Education position to further heights. She implemented the Sophomore College program with Cally Chenault. This was a bittersweet project, faced with adversity, resistance, and finally success. She further developed the Community Initiative program as well. She also became the expert on assessment in Residential Life and throughout Student Affairs and developed the departmental web page. The torch will now be passed on to Melissa Pinchback to develop these areas even further.

What Katie brought to our department was honesty, hard work, and enthusiasm. She was stellar at organization, worked creatively, and followed through on everything she started. She has a great sense of humor and I have created a bit of a monster as she has learned to comfortably out-sarcasm her director. Mostly, though, I am proud of Katie for the woman and person she is. She came from difficult, humble beginnings, and has never complained or been bitter. She has been a positive force but she appreciates the struggle of the underdog. She values education dearly, and completed her Master's degree while working full-time and having a baby.

During her nearly six years here Katie helped make our department a home. She was attentive to everyone’s personal needs and offered the kind of warm touches that make a house a home. We will miss that here but know that she will take her skills and blessings to her family. They deserve it.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Counter inTuitive

This is a regular feature to examine the information in the weekly Trinitonian editorial. I love the Trinitonian and the students who run it. Sometimes, however there are more nuances to the issue than they have space for. Besides, electronic media allows for there to be "watchdog" watchdogs. Editorials are rated by "hits," as in blog hits, with one being worst and 5 being best. If they are published on-line I will provide links.

November 13 - Registration
If one counts shooting the bull with other seniors in the newsroom as comprehensive research, then this editorial is fine. There are several issues explored here and I think they are all valid: how students are assigned advisors, whether students advisors have time for them, whether or not we offer sufficient academic support services, the functionality of degree audits, and the University's role for accommodatingh seniors who haven't planned thoughtfully. These are big issues and each is worth some in-depth exploration. Theme: I sometimes sense that the main editorial is a late Thursday night afterthought and think it deserves more time. It should be the voice of well-considered and thoughtful student opinions. "Simba, you are more than you have become."
2 blog hits

November 20 - Supporting Local Education
Right on! The writer was inspired by the speech from the Young Alumnus Award winner Mark Larson, who runs the Kipp Academy. This piece scores highest because it calls students to greater action to serve those in need in our community (and stops just short of blaming the administration, though I am not sure for what). I wish they would have acknowledged that over 100 students are currently mentoring and tutoring students at two schools in the San Antonio Independent School District as part of an initiative by the Residential Life staff. That oversight just cost them one blog hit.
3 blog hits

Tom Tielleman - Seriously?
Tom, you asked for it, though I never intended to critique columnists, just the main editorial. First off, your last name is hard to spell. Second, thanks for acknowledging my blog two columns back. "It's actually pretty cool" flatters and offends me all at once. Third, I am not sure what you are writing about, but I like it. And finally, related to this week's piece about making the Wednesday before Thanksgiving a holiday, you are generally on target, except for the facts. Just kidding. The reason adding a day to NSO is a problem has to do with when faculty come back, how quickly the residence halls can be turned around from summer conferences, and when parents can travel to deliver their first year students. Opening on a Thursday instead of a Friday would mean taking off on Wednesday for those more than a few hours away. That is hard for families. I like the solutions you propose to give graduating seniors a pass/fail. keep up the above average work! None of this has to do with when our calendars are printed, but nice touch.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Heavy Medal!

The Second Annual Dean of Students Half Marathon Challenge was run last Sunday (November 15, 2009) as part of the San Antonio Rock 'n' Roll Marathon. There were over 25,000 runners, including at least 80 who participated in the Trinity training program. That number qualified TU for third place in the Get Fit Challenge in the extra large division (not XL people, but size of company or school). Above, first year students Kevin, Morgan, Lucy, and Savannah proudly display their medals after crossing the finish line (an observer looks on while blowing into a bottle). These four students were regulars on weekend and mid-week training runs. Along with other students, faculty, staff, alumni, and friends, participants trained weekly in escalating runs of longer distances. See the slide show at right for pictures of the pre-race pasta dinner, the runners expo, and race day. Click here to see peoples results and to watch video of specific runners crossing the finish line. (As Ben Newhouse and I have discussed, we thought we were flying at the finish, but the video shows otherwise.) The group also raised $400 and collected over 1,200 food items for the associated food drive. At right, above, more medal winners: Jessica, Amanda, Jessica, and Maddie.

I enjoy this program, not just because I like to run, but because it is so fun to train with people who have set their sights on a milestone and followed through to realize their healthy goals. Getting to know the runners and seeing the camaraderie develop is really awesome. I am inviting the runners to comment on their experience to try to fire people up for next year!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Taking the Low Road (The homeless don't run)






















The homeless don't run. They have other concerns, such as finding a place to sleep, and food to eat. The Trinity group that participated in the Dean of Students Half Marathon Challenge embraced the needs of the homeless - and those who are hungry in our city - by conducting a food drive for the San Antonio Food Bank in conjunction with the San Antonio Rock 'n' Roll Marathon on November 15, 2009. In marathons, vitually all groups training together run for some charity. The food bank is a good one for us. It doesn't over-tax the students or their parents, and participants can learn about hunger by seeing need as they run through San Antonio.

Food matters to runners. Eating right, fueling up, and replenishing for recovery are all important elements of race training. It was against this back-drop that the Trinity runners took the food donation charge to heart (Challenge one: run; Challenge to: feed). We are blessed to see food in this context while others are forced to scrounge for meals. To drive home this of privilege we possess, the weekend training runs were intentionally designed to slowly show the contrast between the haves and have-nots in San Antonio. One of the favorite run of the program is through Olmos Park on Contour drive. Two of the later runs included one through downtown San Antonio near the SAMM Shelter and the bridge pictured above. The contrast is stark. In one running session you can literally run from mansion to sleeping bag and back.

Heading west on Commerce just past the skyline, one can take the high road - a long daunting rise of a hill - by running on the bridge and over the homeless... Or, one can literally run through them, below. On what I refer to as our one hunger run we ran through them. It was easier on the legs, but harder on the soul. Ironically, some of the homeless didn't care for us. We were heckled by the people we were running for. We were even jeered and imitated a bit. Mostly it was difficult to discern what people were saying, but it was clear that we, the privileged, were not really welcome in their space.

This run was not done to make a show of the homeless or to flaunt our luck and fortune. One runner said to me: "This is really eye-opening. It makes me want to help those people with less than me," and "I can't believe I have everything that I do, and then see this. I have to do something." THAT was the pay-off.

We could, and did, run back to campus and shower and sleep and play with our electronics. In our midst, though, we saw directly that there are those who need our help. Personally, as the leader of this program I had really anticipated that this would help the students learn a great lesson outside the classroom and beyond running. In truth, it affected me more than I expected. It made me want to be kinder, and more understanding, and more generous. It made me want to do more next year. It made me hungrier.

Note: The runners raised nearly $300 in food bank donations and collected the food items purchased.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Stand Band Blows

The Trinity University Tiger Stand Band, a brainstorm of junior Matt Galla has burst onto the scene at TU football games this year. I really took notice when I noticed their members wearing TUTS shirts at the most recent game. That was actually my college nickname, for obvious reasons. Matt is working on getting me a shirt - so his group deserves a shout out here.

This volunteer band is the perfect example of how something works when it is homegrown. Students saw a need and they organized themselves and by all appearances are having a blast. (They even enlisted ParentTalkers to put the word out on their listserv to notify students.) As football has wrapped up they are now setting their sights on the TU basketball season.

The previous "official" band that was part of the Music department was good, but numbers dwindled to the point of extinction. Eventually, someone in Athletics creatively brought in the Alamo City Community Marching Band, a local band of grown-ups to play at games. I loved this band, though it was a little embarrassing for our school pep band to be, well, old. But it was campy - and you can't argue with that. Unless you are the opposing team. Then you can make fun of our campy band.

Trinity has some nice traditions, but the ones that stick are the ones that come from students: Calvert ghosts, birthdays in the fountain, the Trinitones and Aca Bellas. Hopefully this new one sticks. If not? We always have the Alamo City Community Band.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Trinity Faculty Going Downhill (Part 2)

At Trinity University, some believe that drawing faculty members physically downhill – from the upper campus academic area to the lower campus residential area – can create an enriching and meaningful learning environment for students. It is a sometimes controversial issue because faculty members can only be stretched so far and students often like to separate, rather than integrate, their in-class and out-of-class experiences. This three-part series will take a look at the history, issues, and current standing of the blended educational experience at Trinity University.

Part 2: Collaboration
Trinity’s mission boasts a residential campus experience. On a very basic level, the three-year residency requirement is in place to shape the student identity as being immersed in the traditional college experience; to house students close to one another; and to offer easy access to lectures, athletic contests, and plays. Beyond that, the requirement affords the University a tremendous opportunity to foster interactions between students and faculty members outside the classroom.

One of the reasons that the campus pub – the Tigers’ Den – was so attractive when proposed and implemented, was that it created a space where professors and students could sit down over a beverage and wax poetic about Kant and Nietzsche in a setting that a classroom doesn’t allow. An experienced professor here wishes the University would buy housing near campus so faculty members can live close by and participate in campus events and have meaningful informal interactions with students. It makes senses, as sometimes the best interactions aren’t planned, and they happen in the most unusual settings and at the most unusual times. Creating opportunities allows for these types of interactions to occur.

One of the most sincere, yet damaging programs created on campus to create this dynamic occurred in the late 1980’s, when the then Residence Halls staff proposed and implemented a program called Faculty Friends. The idea was to connect students on campus with professors who would become informal mentors and leaders. Because the relationships were artificial the program failed miserably. Professors saw little benefit to going downhill for a dinner with students who had been cajoled by Resident Assistants into participating. Moving faculty from that era beyond that experience has proven challenging for years and even decades.

Generally, bringing professors and students together on campus is more of a challenge on larger research campuses. At schools like Trinity, professors will regularly serve extensive office hours and relish the opportunity to assist students outside of class and in small groups. This is what students view as the most significant part of their educational experience here. Most think that is enough, whereas others come from campuses where there were language houses and special living units, and regular night-time and evening interaction that made the experience really meaningful. One professor (not from TU) recently made a strong case for the benefits to students and faculty when professors live among students.

Faculty members do not speak with the same voice related to their outside-the-classroom roles on campus. Indeed, faculty members are judged almost entirely on the quality of their teaching and on research, a measure of one’s engagement, productivity, and ongoing development of expertise within a discipline. Service, such as serving on committees, comes in a distant third. Several years ago a professor helped advance a faculty-generated proposal that Residential Life would pay for faculty meals in the dining hall. The Faculty Senate declined, fearing that the ones who didn’t participate would be judged negatively, or that this would create an expectation for all professors that would interfere with the important business of teaching and research.

Likewise, I have been asked by professors why there is “this push to get faculty into the dorms.” On the flip-side, others have asked why we aren’t creating a better, more interactive environment on lower campus between faculty and students. One such professor challenged me personally years ago to include a residential option with the Humanities 1600 course. The success of that program has been transformational for me, and for the Residential Life program at Trinity.

Coming in Part 3: What works

Friday, November 6, 2009

Counter inTUitive

This is a (new) regular feature to examine the information in the weekly Trinitonian editorial. I love the Trinitonian and the students who run it. Sometimes, however there are more nuances to the issue than they have space for. Besides, electronic media allows for there to be "watchdog" watchdogs. Editorials are rated by "hits," as in blog hits, with one being worst and 5 being best. If they are published on-line I will provide links.

Last week I was disappointed when the Trinitonian called out the University for not reducing carbon emissions. We do have a ways to go there. More troubling, though, was they called out Physical Plant Director John Greene while patting the students on the back for making great strides in recycling and other efforts. While the students have done well, they would be nowhere without Physical Plant and ARAMARK. In particular, John Greene took a poor student-run recycling program into his department and dedicated two full-time staffers, a truck, and recycling bins to this important issue. ARAMARK eliminated Styrofoam, as a response to important input on the topic. My point is, the last person who should be identified as slacking in sustainability initiatives is John Greene. Other cost and institutional issues are at play in measuring and then reducing the University's carbon footprint.
2 hits

This week, the Trinitonian calls on students to be vigilant about the new ASR constitution, which has that student government body directly funding student groups instead of appointing a board to do this for them, or having THAT board delegate to other groups (TIGER/TDC) to distribute. The editiorial calls on students to be vigilant about what ASR may sneak into its bylaws and also to be careful about the power ASR has. Finally, students are called on to regularly challenge ASR's authority. I generally like all of these points. ASR should be accountable and transparent. Hopefully as proposals for funding are submitted they will be put on-line for students to comment on. In addition, the ASR budget should be put on-line so any student can determine at any time that the activity money they pay is being well-spent.

What I would have liked to have seen emphasised more is that students can directly "vote the bums out" if they feel they are not good stewards of student activity fee money. In addition, this new constitution may create more interest in students running for senate positions. (In recent years the first wave of applications for candidacy didn't produce the minimum number of candidates required.) Also, the truth is that ASR has held this power all along, but delegated it to an appointed group to give out the money to the other groups to give out the money. Finally, on the issue of the by-laws, these are simply the procedures used, among other things, to accept proposals and allocate money. They should not be controversial (and never have been) and also will be published on-line.
3 hits

Thursday, November 5, 2009

I'm NOT Gay (not that there's anything wrong with that*)

You don't want to receive an e-mail from your wife that reads "I always knew you were gay!" It seems my appearance in a recent student video project though, featuring Trinity grad Michael Elder, has spurred some questions. I prefer to think of myself as a good sport. This video was part of Bri McGlammory's Tiger TV project for the "Not So Late Show." I was happy to participate. Sometimes my internal filter doesn't work so well, but I did decline Mike's invitation to spoof the Lady and the Tramp spaghetti scene, and I did pass up on an on-screen back-rub. When Mike asked if I could sit "sexily" on the piano I told him that was the only way I knew how. Having seen the video I now realize that's not entirely true. I fear I have single-handedly taken the sex out of sexily.

I have gotten questions about my orientation lately because I also have a touring bag for when I am on my bike. It is NOT a purse. My dad used to have keys and a billfold. That's it. I have a camera, for my blog, an iPhone, reading glasses, earphones, business cards... I think you understand.

The picture above? Now I can explain that. Again, I was just being a good sport. I passed by this photo op on the esplanade and was in a playful mood so I jumped in. I thought it was funny. I am NOT gay. I didn't actually kiss the guy, and I'm glad, because it turns out he is not even a student. The young woman, Alison Kimura is, and this was a photo project for a Beginning Photography course by Kara Lee Shervanick.

But more to the point... Trinity University has an obligation to accept all of our students for who they are -- and that includes those students who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender. The challenge is to move from being just tolerant to actually welcoming and embracing this population (probably about 5% of the student body, not counting those questioning their sexual orientation and gender identity). Fortunately, recent generations have become much more open to lifestyles that are different than their own and the University has some strong allies for them throughout the faculty and staff, most notably Dr. Richard Reams in Counseling Services. According to Dr. Reams about two-thirds (64%) of the 34 LGB students who responded to an anonymous LGB Campus Climate Survey last semester reported the climate to be somewhat or very welcoming, an increase from 47% in 2004.

Some people worry about this welcoming approach to our gay population. I have had e-mail exchanges with older alumni who feel that THEIR Trinity would never have allowed homosexual students to form a student group. In an exchange that I was accidentally copied on, one person openly speculated that I was probably a "faggot." In my own journey away from homophobia, I discovered I wasn't offended by this.

There are other signs I have evolved. My reaction to the photo above was not "oh my, did I really pretend to kiss a guy," but rather "dang, I need a haircut." I no longer ask Dr. Reams to put an asterisk (*not gay) by my name in the annual Trinitonian ad welcoming gay, lesbian, and transgender students to campus. And, I didn't find the request to do the video that big of a deal. (Out of respect for my wife, I would have actually declined if a female student had asked to do this.) But now my wife and I have other issues to resolve.

In many offices on campus, including mine, there are rainbow signs that state "LGBT Ally." These offices are safe places for students to discuss their lives authentically. I like that. This should be a safe place. I suspect in years to come, when this generation is in charge, those proclamations won't even be necessary. I plan to meet them there.

*Seinfeld reference

Friday, October 30, 2009

100th Post Means Free Stuff for Readers!

This is the 100th "Dean's List" post! This blog had its humble beginnings in June 2008. Congratulations to me! Someone recently said that if I have had a thought related to Trinity I have blogged about it. That is not entirely true, as I only verbalize or write about 10% of what pops into my head. This would surprise those who think I have no internal filter. The filter is just a liberal little sucker.

The idea of the blog was to have another way to communicate with students. Turns out that there are probably more parent readers than students, but that's okay. Some students, like Raj Singh, have drawn attention to the blog. He satirized it in the Trinitonian in more than one column. Others, like Ali Deizza and Leslie Stryker, have tried to bribe their way into the blog. These two said they would bookmark it as favorite on their web pages. I am a little offended by that. I am not that easy. One of my new favorite students is Puru Shah, who routinely posts responses as "Digital Subway."

I was going to make a list of what I considered to be the top five posts, but decided that would be arrogant. It also dawned on me that I might not be able to identify five, which would be pretty embarrassing. So in celebration, I am offering FREE Trinity car wind socks and car flags to anyone who wants them (while supplies last). These have real retail value between $7 and $10. I have a huge stash that was I given by the TU bookstore because they were going to throw them away. I love Trinity and love those who read my blog, because I am narcissistic. So we all deserve to do a little flag-waving. Stop by Northrup 118 during normal business hours to pick up a free flag or sock. (Students, you can get ones for your parents.) And thanks for reading. I would probably still write even if I had no audience. But then again, I would be stuck with all these flags...

Trinity Faculty Going Downhill (Part 1)

At Trinity University, some believe that drawing faculty members physically downhill – from the upper campus academic area to the lower campus residential area – can create an enriching and meaningful learning environment for students. It is a sometimes controversial issue because faculty members can only be stretched so far and students often like to separate, rather than integrate, their in-class and out-of-class experiences. This three-part series will take a look at the history, issues, and current standing of the blended educational experience at Trinity University.

Part 1: The set-up
In 1996 ACPA, a student affairs professional organization, released the Student Learning Imperative. This was a bold document signaling that the student affairs profession was about more than room assignments, dances, and campus activities. In truth, there has long been an educational slant to programs outside the academic area. These are done to support students and help them become engaged, which translates to retention, which translates to success. This call to new action, however, has further entrenched the role of student life staff members as educators.

The expectations for student affairs staff to add value to the learning experiences have increased dramatically, as demonstrated by the Student Learning Imperative and its follow-up, Learning Reconsidered. The landscape features outcomes-driven programming and assessment in which the staff must demonstrate not just that students enjoyed a program, but that they learned something, and can articulate that learning. Students and parents expect, and institutions promise, the shaping of global citizens who are prepared to interact and contribute to the greater good in the world. There are many such opportunities outside the classroom, such as through service learning, through how students treat others and are held accountable for their actions, and through campus organizations. Collaboration with faculty members is seen as a “best practice” and expected, if not demanded.

There was a time when faculty members did all campus administrating and coaching in addition to teaching, but the system evolved to a faculty/staff system to allow professors to focus solely on teaching while others could focus on student services and campus life. The paradigm has shifted again, though, to one in which learning is seen as happening everywhere and all the time, and is the responsibility of everyone on campus. Most professors probably wouldn’t want to deal with hazing anymore than I want to tackle differential equations with students. But we can probably all agree on student learning, development, and growth as our primary and shared goals. Strict compartmentalization of upper and lower campus may not best serve our students.

Anyone who has ever sat through a student commencement speech quickly realizes that students see their own learning as comprehensive. Their experiences in the classroom are supplemented by the ones in life: whether this occurs from talks about their goals and ambitions over tacos at 3 a.m. or how they dealt with difficult roommates. Students reflecting on their college experience will discuss their decision-making, relationships, involvement, and exploration and experimentation as critical to their education.

I have long compared the university to a sports franchise. The faculty members are like the players. Without them, there is no product. The quality of the team or the faculty determines the quality of the team or university. The students are like the fans. Without them, we are left with a group of older people playing with a ball and drinking Gatorade or reading a lot of really complicated books. For students, there is not a guarantee that the game will always be good and likewise, there is no guarantee that every class will be a buzzer-beating thriller. Finally, the staff members are like the coaches, management, and cheerleaders. The students and faculty actually could live without this group for a short while. But eventually someone would need to prepare schedule, make the arrangements, provide the food, manage the Web page, deal with the disorderly, and collect the money.

The student affairs profession has tried too hard, sometimes, to legitimize itself to the faculty rather than accept serving in this important support role. This role has evolved beyond one of providing services to students, and has become one of educator. In becoming educators to improve the student experience, staff members have worked to break away from their silos, expand their roles, and collaborate with the faculty. By seeing the student educational experience as a shared responsibility, faculty and staff members can work together to offer the best in student learning.

Coming in Part 2: Collaboration

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Mission Accomplshed

This is a story about coffee mugs. Not ordinary coffee mugs. These are brand new Student Affairs coffee mugs. The mugs feature the Student Affairs mission and the values that the Division members hold dear. This is good stuff and the development of the mission/vision/values was the first step in assembling the Student Affairs strategic plan. That five-year plan contains important elements, including goals and learning outcomes. The goals and outcomes are all systematically being assessed to determine what students learn as the results of our efforts to develop the co-curricular educational experience for our students.

Thanks for getting this far: There will be a payoff. Before the current VP arrived there was a different new mission that was about learning, helping students discover their identities, and helping them discover their places in the world. We brainstormed then about how to brand and communicate our mission, which was before we had our own Web page. One of the ideas was coffee mugs. Sometimes something gets into your head and it won't go away, like the new Miley Cyrus song or the Princess Leia costume in Star Wars. That's the same with me and the coffee mugs.

So, the odyssey began. Students should know that in any work environment employees must justify programs, proposals, purchases, and expenditures That is usually a good thing, to ensure that people are good stewards of their resources. The questions that the mugs and I faced were: How much will the mugs cost? Who will pay for the mugs? What is the point of the mugs? Are they for the staff to learn the values more closely? Are they for others who need to learn our mission? Will they promote the Student Affairs mission and values? Should we have t-shirts instead? Are the costs justified? Where will you get the mugs?

The mugs were approved under the condition they be paid for out of the Dean of Students' humble budget. In order to properly dispense the mugs to the Student Affairs staff I decided to host a Student Affairs "coffee" morning for staff members to come to Northrup 118 for some hot joe and their new mugs. So began odyssey two. I communicated this idea to the Residential Life staff, to which they were supposed to say: "Great idea for the give-away of the great mugs!" In reality their responses were: "I don't drink coffee, do I still have to come?" and, "if you have hot chocolate people might come," and "I only drink tea. Will you have tea?" Josh Brack announced that he would use his mug as a pen holder and not for a drink. The other thing students should know about work environments is that sometimes you just feel like giving up.

So the morning of the unveiling and the Student Affairs "Coffee/Hot Chocolate/Tea Reception" Vice President Felicia Lee responded to my query about her excitement-level by responding "You and those mugs. You are like a pit bull with those mugs." I think this was code for "you, my friend, might just get a bonus this year. The morning was going well. There was great vindication. Staffers were stopping by, enjoying their choices of beverages in the new mugs (which everyone pointed out should be rinsed first...) and then Reverend Nickle gleefully announced that the word "department," in the mission, was supposed to be "development." Though the values on the mugs include things like caring, respect, and integrity, the value of "ha-ha-ha, the stupid mugs aren't even right!" seemed to trump the others. My attempts to blame my senior secretary, the mug company, and Dr. Lee's current and former assistants never gained traction.

All subsequent visitors were asked to read the mission and none of THEM picked up on the mistake. Much like you may have missed the misspelling in the title of this post. If not for the Rev, these mugs would be on the hot ticket list today, rather than being pushed in the face of the Dean of Students by his wonderful colleagues. Amen Reverend.

This all evoked memories of the inaugural Sophomore College t-shirt I designed that read "Sophmore College," and the "Trinty Parent" newsletter. And I consider myself a detail guy. And so goes the story of the Student Affairs mugs... The story of serving, of supporting, and becoming global citizens. And maybe on the next go-around, of double and triple checking.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

The Newlywed Game for Roommates

Residential Life Coordinators Josh Brack and Lily Gonzalez, who oversee the first year housing area and supervise the Resident Mentors strutted their own event planning skills, hosting the Newlywed Game for Roommates on October 13. Many students hoped to be selected, but only a few were chosen to compete for prizes based on how well they know their new roommates. This is the first time Residential life put on this program at this scale, though Res Life student staffers have done smaller versions in the past. Josh Brack, pictured at right, emceed the event and apparently didn't even have to look beyond his closet for an appropriate jacket.

As with the old Newlywed Game, roommates were quizzed about the habits and preferences of their other halves. The event drew a great crowd to the Tigers' Den, which is still available only for programs. Check at right for a slide show (photos by Sophomore College Coordinator Cally Chenault). Don't fret about the co-ed pairings, they are all staff members who either live alone or in the case of the pro staff, definitely not together.

Parents Talk

Parents braved the rain to attend the Parent Talk coffee at the home of the Dean of Students during the 2009 Fall Family Weekend, organized by Ben Newhouse and Student Affairs. This tradition allows list-servers to put names and faces together so they can get a better feel for who they are chatting with on-line. There was some conversation lamenting the fact that the students ridicule their parents for being involved with this list. The students should be thrilled though. No one is trading embarrassing stories, as they might suspect. The parents are, however, venting their own angst about the travails of parenting college students. It is a great outlet for them to be able to turn their angst toward one another instead of their college kids. Besides, when the students need some advice, they often ask the parents to seek it for them on the list. It is pretty much the way they treat parents and money: They need it, but preferably just on their own terms. See the slide show at right, with pictures from the Dean, and Trinity parent -- and four-time PT coffee attendee -- Leanne McClellan. Included in the pics are the coffee, the mixer with the faculty at the library, and a little bit of the football game.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Collegiate Obituary

"It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of..." So begins a half dozen or so e-mails each year from the University Communications Office. It is always very appropriate, but sad. It is the proper way to announce to the University community the deaths of retired professors, administrators, and benefactors, though most of the readers never knew the deceased.

So how do I appropriately announce the loss of my trusty Schwinn Collegiate 5-speed bicycle? Certainly not with the same gravity. But it is gone. It must be known beyond a brief, almost insultungly sparse mention in the campus paper's crime briefs. So here goes: "It kinda sucks, but someone stole the Dean of Students' trusty bicycle out of his campus driveway on September 18, 2009. The green 5-speed Schwinn Collegiate was used to propel the Dean up the hill in the mornings and coast him home at night. It took him to and fro without adding more golf carts to the campus environment. It was old-school, functional, not too flashy, but it was a good ride."

I was not actually as bummed as I thought I would be. I had seen this coming for awhile. It is about the seventh bike of mine (or members of my family) that has been stolen while living on campus. You are never really prepared though. And this one was different. I had the same model as a kid in Milwaukee, receiving it as a Christmas gift circa 1972. Little did I know then, that the "Collegiate" moniker would be foreshadowing my career, and version two of the same model nearly 30 years later.

In truth thought the name to be rather docile. It was no Stingray. But it was my bike. "Collegiate." Though the "Collegiate" went with me to college at UW Madison, it was gone by the following summer. I actually forgot to bring it home. Upon trying to find it on a return trip, I hit nothing but brick walls in the bureaucracy that was the University of Wisconsin's abandoned-bike-removal-and-abyss department. It would never be recovered.

Imagine my glee in seeing a green 5 speed Schwinn Collegiate posted for sale on the in-house TigerTalk list serve on campus. Trinity secretary Linda Hyatt was offering her father's bike for sale. It had my name all over it: History, Collegiate-ism, familiarity, and the intersection of past and present. I believe it was posted for $100 and I negotiated her down to... $100. I didn't care. I was getting a Collegiate again. I got something back that mattered to me. And the name? Now it made sense.

After taking it apart, cleaning it up, and then having the bicycle repair shop help me get it back together (so I'm not mechanical), I was ready to roll out the new ride. It had a new bell, a new horn, and shiny silver fenders. Sure, friends and students would yell at me, half-kidding, asking where the flag was, or why it didn't have the playing card attached to the spokes by a clothes pin to simulate a revving engine. I didn't care. It was my bike.

So last month someone walked up my driveway, cut the lock with a bolt-cutter, and took it all away. My daughter, Joelle and my wife, Donna were there when I saw it was gone. I reported it to Security and Sergeant Morales seemed devastated. My friend Rick... Wanda and the staff in Residential Life.. and my VP, Felicia Lee; They all had the same reaction as my wife, daughter, and Officer Morales. They were hurt. "You loved that bike!"

Maybe that's why I didn't get too down. It is, after all, just a bike. The wheels weren't riding true anymore, to be honest. It was needing some new lights and a new horn. It was time for something new. Having people worry about me because of my stolen bike seemed almost silly, really, but it made me feel better. "It's okay," I would tell them. "It's just a bike." They tried to believe me.

One day, God-willing, I will have long since retired from Trinity, and the University Communications Office will have to roll out yet another obituary. Like my bike's write-up here, I hope the story about me reflects some history (I have been here 20 years and counting...) and something not too mundane. I hope it begins with something different than "It is with great sadness..." Maybe that is self-centered. Just for kicks, though, I hope it starts something like this: "It was a good ride..."

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Speaking Dennis

So with a new President coming on board, it is time to prepare. There's a new sheriff in town. For our students, there isn't too much to be done. For the faculty and staff, however, it's every person for him or herself. I'm not implying that people will start pushing their pet projects and try to get the ear of the new President and buddy up to him. I am saying it outright. Based on what happened when Dr. Brazil arrived, prepare for sucking up, posturing, and selfless promotion like you have never seen before. And that will just be me. Someone's hoping for a new apartment-style dorm!

I have come up with two ways to get in good with the new President. First, he is a fellow blogger. One of ours is all high-brow, intellectual and financial, and the other's is, well... mine. Picture this conversation sometime in the future:
Me: "Dennis, do you mind turning up the power on the jets?"
President Ahlburg: "Why are you in my hot tub, mate? And stop calling me Dennis."

Me: "Remember that post about budget cuts and the American Economic Association you did at CU? Yeah, that was a good one. It was like the one I did about refrigerator magnets."
President Ahlburg: "Now, who are you again?"

Second, amidst the Kafuffle of his arrival, he may feel a little homesick for his native Australia, even though he hasn't lived there since like the early 1970's. Others may be bringing gifts of Foster's Beer to welcome him or talk to him about their favorite member of the Wiggles or that one Men at Work song. But I will be using his native tongue. I hope he is no cot case, as I will be inviting him to join us for noon ball and the half marathon training program. I will just put the billy on until he's all chocker, if you know what I mean. Oh, you probably DON'T know, because I have the "True Blue Guide to Australian Slang" and you don't. (It's not my fault that I am prepared. You probably have $8.20 sitting around somewhere. You could have gotten the same book.)

Well, I need to strike a blow, as they say down under. But let me first officially welcome our new President. He's going to love me. I just know it.

Searching for Truth

Well, it is over. The Trinity Presidential Search -- that was effectively launched last January when President John Brazil announced his retirement -- has concluded, nearly nine months later. As a member of the search committee, these are some of my own observations, in no particular order:

1. The first thing that comes to mind is the dedication of the Trustees on the search committee. They made multiple trips at their own expense to San Antonio and other locations. The amount of time and money they put into the process was proof positive of their commitment to Trinity. I think any Trustee here would have done the same.
2. In addition, the Trustees were pretty cool. They made jokes, got jokes, knew a lot about a lot, were very professional, and were really open to learning more about the day-to-day operations of the University.
3. As candidates learned more about the University they expressed that they previously had no idea what we had to offer and that they thought we had something special going here. Maybe they were blowing smoke, but they really seemed to be excited about us.
4. We met with a lot of quality people. They were professional, candid, showed great class, and were exciting. There were some characters too.
5. At any level, there is never a perfect candidate. If we could have "cut and pasted" together the perfect one, as a Trustee noted to me last week, that would be ideal. But we can't. I went into the search thinking that we would see people that brought it all. It's not like that. Think about electing a President in the U.S. You can't please everyone. But if you could cut and paste: Maybe a little bit of McCain, with a tad bit of Romney, and a big dose of Obama, with a pinch of Palin... Okay, I took it too far, but you get it. No one person is perfect. We settled for a human being.
6. The job of University President is HUGE. So, we were looking for a person with great integrity and character; an exciting public persona; an understanding of the economy and balance sheets; a fund-raiser; someone who would spend more time off campus raising money; someone who would spend more time on campus meeting students; a scholar; an administrator; a leader; a manager; someone who would build our national reputation; someone who would build our local reputation; someone with an international background; someone who understands the importance of globalization and service; and someone who is fun at cocktail parties. Got it Dr. Ahlburg?
7. As with the search for the Academic VP several years ago, there is no way to learn more about the faculty than to serve on a committee like this. I have been fortunate to have that experience both times. It is easy to not fully appreciate what you don't know. Additionally, faculty members on the search committee felt a tremendous responsibility to produce a candidate with intellectual stature that could be respected by their peers. Irespect their pride.
8. I never want to be around when people search for my replacement. Ask John Brazil and Becky Spurlock. To see what people don't like about me I would simply see what they were looking for in the next Dean. Ouch.
9. People talk when they aren't supposed to. Keeping secrets is hard. I am glad this is over.
10. The staff just wants to be loved too. (After the students, and the faculty, and the Trustees, and the Alumni, of course.) The staff contributes a lot to the campus and I am proud of my colleagues.

In all, this was an incredible opportunity to serve the institution. I feel a little selfish to have had the chance that others haven't. I wish everyone could have the same chance, but we'd never get anything done. What we do have is a new President and that always brings exciting opportunities for change and progress.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Girls Run Wild

Women have issues. Or so I thought. That's why I decided to sponsor a presentation for female Trinity students on women's running issues.

The session was to be one of several in connection with the Second Annual Dean of Students Half Marathon Challenge. (A group of male and female students, faculty, and staff members who train together for the Rock 'n' Roll Half Marathon.) The sessions cover topics on running shoes and gear, proper running technique, and nutrition, to name a few. We all train together as well.

I didn't think it was absurd to assume that women would have running issues specific to them. There is even a running magazine for women. I am pretty savvy with women, although last year the female runners complained that the TU running shirts I ordered for race day were only in a men's cut. Picky. With all that in mind I contacted Catherine Austin from Run Wild Sports about talking to the females in our group about their special needs. My suggestions: sports bras; handling creepy male runners; pointers related to... female things unknown to men; nutrition for women, etc. Catherine says that aside from those related to elite runners, the issues specific to women runners are pretty minimal. She said she was willing to talk about sports bras, but said that would take about two minutes. I think I could talk about sports bras for two minutes.

My dilemma was that I had promised the women in the Half Marathon Challenge a session just for them. As a compromise, Catherine has invited them to her store as a group. I like the idea, because I want them to see a young female entrepreneur at work. And because they might have questions neither Catherine nor I had considered. Perhaps the most prominent will be: "Why weren't the guys included?"

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Where's the Beef?

From time-to-time I like to exercise my own freedom of the press by offering counterpoints to the editorials in the campus paper, the Trinitonian. I will invoke that privilege this week to respond to the editorial about the housing situation. Note that I have a great relationship with the paper and respect its usual excellence. The issue -- releasing students from the residency requirement to accommodate all of our students -- was nicely covered by Trinitonian reporter Kristina Meyer.

The accompanying editorial, however, somewhat unfairly characterizes the work of the Residential Life staff, particularly, that of Associate Director Wanda Olson as "obviously flawed." In addition the piece claims that the Residential Life Office failed to "properly plan." The editorial presents the office as one that has to base projections on guesswork. That part is true. Mrs. Olson looks at occupancy figures and wait list information from previous years and projects the number of students who can be released in advance in order to ensure that we have room for all of our students under the University's three-year requirement.

This is not an exact science. The previous year, when nearly everyone was released on the first pass, the Residential Life Office began the year with 50 vacancies. Predicting "student melt" is extremely difficult. This year we opened with a full house and are still moving people out of triples and upper-class students out of the first year area.

The second issue, articulated in the column, was that the staff is doing nothing but hoping for a new facility to resolve the issue. That isn't entirely true either. In fact, just this week, in conjunction with the Business Office, the staff has worked out a plan to refund room deposits based on cancellation dates. One of the issues Residential Life struggles with is learning of cancellations in a timely manner. The new system will provide incentive for students to notify the University quickly of their plans not to return. A full refund will be issued for notifications by June 1 and a partial refund by July 1. Previously deposits were completely non-refundable. This is a win for students who cancel, and for those waiting for the subsequent vacancies that are created. The plan was proposed by Mrs. Olson last spring, based on research she had done with peer institutions.

My greatest issue with the editorial is that it presents the staff as unsophisticated and uncaring buffoons. In fact, Mrs. Olson, specifically, gives incredible individual attention to students and the room assignment process. She really should be applauded rather than belittled. The assignment process is a complex one, condemning it without thought, though, is simple.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Flu season... It's Pure 'ell

As students returned to Trinity this fall they were greeted by an army of Purell soap dispensers strategically placed throughout campus.

The N1H1 flu, formerly known as the Swine flu is serious. Our very own Crisis Management Team spent days and hours on preparations and education last spring. A small group from that team, dubbed by one colleague as the Flu Crew, continues to monitor the epidemic daily and is plugged in to national data, trends, recommendations, etc. Many of our sister schools in the Associated Colleges of the South have been hit hard by the flu already. It will happen here.

All that being said, there is something disturbing about these hand sanitizers. Perhaps it is my revulsion to the foamy substance I have previously referred to as "used soap." Perhaps it is my aversion to wearing wrist bands and ribbons for causes. Maybe it is because I the only time I got the flu shot I had the worst flu ever. I guess I just don't want to go with the masses. Me and my grubby little hands. Don't get me wrong. I actually DO wash my hands. I just don't want to be one of those people wearing 3-D glasses in a movie theater or someone sporting Crocs. I just think there should be more to life.

Nevertheless, so far so good. We will all huddle around our communal soap dispensers with our clean little hands. Gone are the days of the water cooler chat or the cigarette break. This is good too though. The soap MUST be working because we have avoided the flu epidemic so far. Lather up Trinity. We may just make the Princeton Review list for "cleanest hands" AND "healthiest campus" this year.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Forward, Pay it

It shouldn't have surprised me that the Trinity Trustee forwarded my e-mail to him out to the rest of the Presidential Search Committee with his response. In that e-mail I was asking him for more information on the remaining candidates. The search committee's work is complete at this point, and the decision is now in the hands of the Trustees. I think my original e-mail made me seem persistent, impatient, and nosy. I actually am. But that's not the point.

This will likely not be the last time that an e-mail I send is forwarded against my intentions. I do it to others too, I suppose, though I try not to. As lawyers and others do, I could attach the little threat at the end of all my e-mails that say it is against the law -- and the will of the Lord -- to forward my privileged information. But why? Like others, I have become immune to that anyways, and now just delete the warning when I forward said e-mails to whomever I please. The truth is, I try to write funny, pithy e-mails to stave off boredom (mine and other people's)and I actually HOPE that most end up being forwarded. But not all.

A year or so ago I sent an e-mail to Career Services Director Brian Hirsch about an acquaintance looking for some job-search connections in San Antonio. I may have accidentally referred to the person as a "nervous-nelly," which really, I mean how bad is that. It can be a good thing, I think. Anyways, he forwarded my e-mail to her saying he would be happy to help out. I never did hear from her again, save for when she apologized for having bothered me. Sigh.

More recently, I sent an e-mail to some Trinity coaches asking them to ask their teams to stop taping signs up all over campus on game days, in violation of our very reasonable posting policy. My e-mail said: "... I don't mean to be a piss ant about this, but I am what I am." One of the coaches forwarded the e-mail to her entire team. They don't post "illegally" anymore, but they now all have an e-mail in which I am complaining about their activities and am admitting to being a piss ant. I am a very private person, and did not want the volleyball team to have this information.

I did want my staff to see that e-mail so they could see I was the guardian of all things posting policy-related. They thought it was pithy and funny that I admitted to being a piss ant, though a debate ensued about the definition of piss ant. Katie Storey thought a piss ant was a synonym for someone in a bucket brigade. Knucklehead. Josh Brack looked it up on his little electronic gizmo and the definition did pretty much did describe me, though not in a bucket brigade. He also took to the French pronunciation of the word to rhyme with croissant. The Residential Life staff has issues. I am the normal one.

Anyways, now I need to follow-up with new Security Chief Paul Chapa, who forwarded my e-mail about a staffer of his not using common sense, directly to her. Speaking of which...

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Lee-ding Off

Dr. Felicia Lee, VP for Student Affairs delivered a rousing welcome speech to new students on Saturday, August 22 in Laurie Auditorium. The talk, using references to Harry Potter, Twilight, and Mountains Beyond Mountains challenged students to choose love over lust in how they approached their relationships with one another and the University over the next four years.

This was the first time all of the students were gathered together sans family members. Check out the slide shows at right showing pictures of students and family members at the closing breakfast on Saturday morning.

A second slide show gives a sense of the flavor of the Team Trinity move-in crew. Below, the group is iin full attack mode, descending on a vehicle, piranha-style: Picking it clean to welcome a new student by carrying items up to the room in one energized swoop.

Sophomore Hijinx

Sophomore College residents play human foosball, above, upon their return to campus in August. The inflatable game was part of a welcome back barbecue, below left, and block party on the Prassel lawn. Students received SoCol t-shirts and nearly 300 took time to meet up with friends as part of their enthusiastic return to campus.

Below, Sophomore College Residential Life Coordinator Cally Chenault, speaks to the second-year class in front of Prassel Hall on Monday, as part of the Sophomore conference. She was joined by Class Marshal Angela Breidenstein and Alumni Sponsor Dave Mansen as well as Career Services Director Brian Hirsch. The brief talks to about 300 students were focused on educational and career preparation, making connections, and getting the most out of year two on campus.

Sophomore College was designed to instill community spirit into the second year for our students. Residents are housed together in North, Prassel, and Thomas Halls. This is the second full year of the program.

Holy Trinity

I don't know that it is sacrilegious to observe that in the Holy Trinity of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, that the Holy Spirit gets the least ink. The deity is a bit like Ringo of the Beatles, or Kevin of the Jonas Brothers.

On Saturday night, however, I had the experience of seeing the Holy Spirit descend upon University Chaplain Reverend Stephen Nickle. It was during the closing remarks of the "Surviving and Thriving" panel for new students. This is our sex, drugs, and rock 'n roll talk that accompanies hilarious and moving skits by the student residential life staff. As we were invited to speak, I could sense a change happening with Rev. Nickle. While each of us on the panel made our remarks he clearly was in a different place. He was seated to my right, and he sat back, deferring to the panel as an unmistakeable focus came over him and his eyes welled up. This is when the Spirit moved him.

I have often been amazed at how in impromptu settings the Rev. can summon the Lord with an articulation most couldn't invoke at the computer screen, under little pressure. This time I saw it happen, and it was inspiring. As he leaned into the microphone and began to preach the final message of the night, the audience sensed it too, I think. What he said mattered less than how he said it, as he lifted the new students. I think they understood, as did I, that it was more than just words. For that moment, he led us to believe.