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Friday, August 30, 2013

Sending the Right Messages

Members of the Student Affairs staff presented two extremely well-done programs as part of New Student Orientation this past week. The first program was on day two. It is a program on Bystander Intervention and is intentionally heavy for so early on. But the idea is to be proactive right from the start.

With a focus on sexual assault, Kristin Eisenhauer, Senior Staff Psychologist, led a team in preparing and presenting this important program. The emphasis of the program is on looking out for one another. It takes the onus from victims of assault and charges everyone with community-based responsibility for watching out for students who may be in trouble, students who may get themselves in trouble, and students who are, well, just standing by. It is a powerful program that extends to other areas (homophobic slurs, for example) and teaches students ways to stand up for what is right.

At a time when many institutions are under fire for under-responding to sexual assault, institutions are searching for ways to address complex issues involved in sexual assaults on campus. Trinity has updated its Web page and policy recently in an effort to be in even more transparent compliance with Title IX. That legislation requires schools to offer education. The Bystander Intervention program hits all the right notes in doing so. Trinity has long been ahead of the curve in having transparent policies and public information via the Web to address these serious issues in order to do the right thing - not just be in compliance.

Alison and Jasmeen
Doing the right thing includes addressing the important social issues that can arise on diverse campuses such as Trinity's. The national award winning program "The Story of Our Community Begins With You," was updated and presented on Sunday night of New Student Orientation. The program is not the same old thing regarding diversity. It is intended to be inclusive of everyone and broaden the definition beyond race. Many of us, here, tired of programs that started with "we all bring diversity" and then focused only on race. Still a major element of diversity, this program also offers information on non-traditional students, students with disabilities, body image, age, and more. The program was masterfully coordinated by Soisouda Inthavong Smith with many faculty, staff, and student presenters. Unfortunately a technical glitch interrupted this short, homegrown, and excellent video on religion, but it has been sent to the new students in their class newsletter.

The program ends with a clip from a John Quinones/Oprah show that involves bystander intervention - of all things. Following the clip, the students got to meet the two real-life heroes in the clip, Trinity grads Alison Talbert and Jasmeen Waliany. They stepped up against discrimination of a Muslim woman.

While I know I am boasting on my deserving staff, I do so unapologetically. They delivered some knock-out programs. It isn't just my perception that these programs hit their marks. While the assessment of orientation, overall, will be conducted in a few days, our assessment-oriented team did some on-site surveys after these two programs. Initial findings on the intervention program show that 67% feel very prepared and 33% feel somewhat prepared to help someone in our community as bystanders. In the diversity program a sample of the assessment data shows that 87% of the students strongly agree or agree that they want to explore more about their identity as a result of the program. And, 83% were able to reflect on one new aspect of their identity.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

From my perspective...

New Student Orientation and Welcome Week drew to a close on Tuesday, August 27 as students prepared for the 2013-14 academic year before classes started the next morning. Above is a photo I took as part of the platform party at Laurie Auditorium at the new student convocation. Student Nupur Agrawal gave an excellent talk before students approached tables - in a very orderly fashion - to sign the honor code. (I like the way Nupur says A-CAD--a-mick.)

Following the convocation, students exited Laurie Auditorium passing through a gauntlet of faculty and staff members and returning students offering congratulations and welcome. For the first time ever we had a huge crowd on hand, including many students from fraternities, sororities and athletic teams. I believe this has become the event former VP Gage Paine envisioned many years ago. I suspect CCI Coordinator Briana McGlamory and the leadership of our fraternities and sororities made this happen, and I hope it is seen as a great tradition henceforth. Check out the video, below, that I think gives a pretty good sense of the fun and energy as new students wound through the newly designed academic space in the heart of campus. They followed this walk with an ARAMARK sponsored all-campus picnic around the Miller Fountain and the traditional Tower climb, where new students shook the hand of President Dennis Ahlburg, who awaited them at the top.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Caper Diem

Sunday night's Coates Caper program, an annual social event for all students as part of Welcome Week, was perhaps the best iteration in years. Students Were able to go to different areas of the building, which featured karaoke, dancing, food, more food, large tricycle racing, t-shirt tie-dyeing, and picture-taking with the Tiger mascot. Additionally, students waited in long lines to make wax hands and have caricatures of themselves drawn. Finally, some drummers from the TU Stand Band made an appearance on the Esplanade and both the Acabellas and Trinitones performed inside the main lobby, to the delight of the other students.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Wanted: A new fleet... at K-TU

An unorthodox, yet successful admissions campaign was launched in 2010 by Trinity University when the staff stumbled upon young Katie Ogawa from Albuquerque, New Mexico. Like the AT&T ad campaign, our own "We want more" Katie Ogawa project was conceived. Most universities go for diversity. In our case, we found a good thing, and set out to find a whole fleet of Katie Ogawas.

One Katie Ogawa is a neat-freak (for the greater good, of course). We have a Katie Ogawa who went to Africa and another who spends spring break in Dominica. Hope Hall is a huge project, so we have several Katies on the job there. But we have Katie volunteers everywhere. Another has been recognized for her leadership skills.Finally, we have a pretty spiritual Katie, who goes on something called the Plunge.

The truth is, we have so many Katie's, we have lost track. We show a rare shy one on the Support Trinity page, She wouldn't even look at the camera.. On one post card (upper left), sent to prospective Katies, we show two of them - one cooking and one jumping. On a fundraising brochure (upper right), one is pictured with HOPE Hall while a running Katie is shown with the Trinity half marathon group, again, on the same piece. In a recent Admissions mailing one is pictured, while a more articulate one is quoted (center, above). And finally, two Katie's were featured in the same alumni magazine last January: One Katie is selling shirts (lower right), the other is back in Africa with some girl (lower left). I am as guilty as anyone, as I have featured one on my 2012 (yellow visor) half marathon page and again on my 2011 page.

Our Katie Ogawas are fantastic. Bright, personable, athletic, conscientious, out-going, quotable, and of course, photogenic. But the Katie Ogawa project is winding down. No one looked ahead to what might happen when the 2010 Katies would graduate in 2014. They will be missed, to be sure. We have a year for Admissions to get cracking, though. Surely there are more out there! So I will start the ball rolling by calling all Katie Ogawas: please check out our tour app, featuring one of our Katies. If you come here LOTS of opportunities await. And if you are one of a kind? We'll take you too.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Strategies Related to Drinking Unveiled

This fall the Dean of Students and Residential Life Offices are partnering to implement a new program to help educate students about binge drinking. Indeed, students will be offered an incentive to not drink too much. Additionally, an alcohol-optional Saturday night program series is being initiated to give students a weekend option other than off-campus parties. Finally, the members of Chi Delta Tau, the Dean of Students Office, and Yellow Cab are partnering to put a Tiger Taxi ride in place to reduce drinking and driving.

The most radical of these strategies is the B-Low Optimal breathalyzer program. All first year students are supposed to attend the Trinity-grown Optimal Buzz program started by Dr. Richard Reams in Counseling Services. This unique program teaches students who drink to respect their sweet-spot, or the point when diminishing returns set in (black-outs, alcohol poisoning, drunk dialing your roommate's cute sister). As a pilot program, the staff will allow Calvert Hall residents who are identified for alcohol violations, to voluntarily submit to breathalyzer readings. If students are within or below the Optimal Buzz range they will get a consequence-free warning (up to three). There are many more details, but the idea should be evident: Not binge-drinking? You may be eligible for a break on the penalty.

This, and the other initiatives listed below, mesh with the campus alcohol philosophy: we acknowledge that students will drink, we promote student health and safety, and we enforce policies that the law obliges. If the program is assessed and received favorably, it will be expanded. If not, we will be selling an Alcomate Premium Alcoscan AL 7000 on Craig's List.The

There is no shortage of events on campus, including on weekends. The University offers a spate of athletic events, musical and theatrical performances, and other cultural or social activities on most weekends.  San Antonio offers a wide array of events and places to go as well. Rarely do students report having nothing to do. However, some students report that off-campus parties seem to be the primary social outlets for those wanting to be with groups of other students.

Interestingly, according to a fall 2012 National Collegiate Health Assessment from the American College Health Association and an internal Health and Wellness survey, about one quarter to one third of students, including our own are doing the heavy drinking. This means 65-75% of our students don't drink heavily. Many don't drink at all. This is pretty typical of traditional college students. (As an aside, most non-drinkers perceive that there are more heavy drinkers than there are, mostly because they are loud. Most drinkers think everyone drinks because among their peers, they do.)

Off campus private parties are generally where unencumbered binge-drinking happens most. (Fall 2013 statistics show over 75% of drinking is happening off campus.) As a result, the Association of Student Representatives is funding a one semester pilot program to offer coffeehouse style programming in the Skyline Room every Saturday this fall to provide a social alternative.

The Student Programming Board is already scheduling musical acts, comedians, date nights and more. What's more, the events are scheduled as late night events - starting at 9 or 10pm - to go head-to-head with late night off campus parties. The usual heavier drinkers will still have their social outlets, but the ones looking for on campus avenues for fun socializing will at least have such opportunities. The program isn't exclusively for non-drinkers and non-partiers. Because the Skyline Room has a liquor license, of-age students will be able to purchase beer and wine. Coffee drinks will be available for those underage. When there are major events on campus on Saturdays (football games, for example), Skyline events will commence following those events.

Given the number of students who drink off campus, it is critical to do whatever it takes to assist those who have been drinking to not get behind the wheel. As we have learned, the least drunk driver doesn't make for a sober driver. In the ACHA survey, administered by Dr. Reams, over half of our students who drink off campus always have a designated driver. Another third usually do. Stunningly, 10% only sometimes or rarely use a designated driver. Students are sometimes fearless about consequences. (Of the 60% of students having sex, nearly 20% aren't using condoms.)

Designated drivers are free, accessible, and effective. But since they are not always used, an alternative is calling a cab. In fact, Trinity had a voucher program with Yellow Cab, but it was clunky to administer. The Yellow Cab representatives approached the University last year with a debit card program idea that looks like it can be effective. The men of Chi Delta Tau have agreed to promote and administer this program to other student groups and individual students this fall. That fraternity will yield far more influence with students than administrators might. The advantage for students is that they don't have to choose between What-a-Burger money and a cab ride.

In an a climate where binge drinking on college campuses runs rampant, the B-Low Optimal program, Skyline Saturdays, and Tiger Taxi program are all new and exciting approaches toward encouraging a safer and more enjoyable experience for Trinity students.

Editors Note: Thanks to Dr. Richard Reams, Associate Director of Counseling Services, for his research and his efforts to promote safer alcohol-use. Review of survey summaries are available upon request.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Remembering Ernest

Editor's Note: For the first time, I asked someone else to write a post for me. As you will read, Dr. Nanette LeCoat graciously agreed to write this tribute following her trip to Ghana.

We are known to others by the people who have loved us.  I can think of no better tribute to the memory of Ernest Ofusu Amoh (Koby as he was known to his family) than the many wonderful, open-hearted people who loved him.

I did not have the pleasure of knowing Ernest. (I would have had that opportunity come this fall: his name is the first to appear on the list of students enrolled in my Intermediate French class.) Instead, I have begun to know Ernest’s family who live in Takoradi, Ghana.  I share deeply with them the regret that we could not have been brought together during Ernest’s lifetime, nonetheless, the pain of his loss brings with it an unexpected and touching intimacy.   

At a time of great personal pain, Ernest’s father and mother, siblings, aunts, uncles and cousins welcomed me into their family with unforgettable kindness and warmth. Ernest passed away on June 6th in a drowning accident in New Hampshire, where his brother, Justice, was graduating from Dartmouth College.  His memorial service was held on July 5 at the Bethel Methodist Church. As Director of International Programs I had the great privilege of representing Trinity University.  

It was a profoundly moving occasion.

Bethel Methodist Church is a very large but simple edifice situated on the busy road leading to the Takoradi airport.  The Amoh family filled the first pews.  Presiding at the service were no less than nine officiating ministers including  the Diocesan Bishop, Rt. Rev. Edward Ofori Donkor. Children from Ernest’s elementary school and his friends from his prestigious preparatory school were there.  Music from the Church Choir, and a Singing Band filled the church to the rafters.  So numerous were the admirers of Ernest’s family, that many attendees were obliged to stand for the service in the courtyards surrounding the church.

What struck me was the depth of religious feeling of the congregation and the admiration and gratitude members of the community so obviously felt for Ernest’s family.  Justice Amoh Senior’s  construction company is vital to the growth of Takoradi’s infrastructure and his family’s personal generosity is felt all over the community.  Like his father, Ernest, had the ambition of being an engineer.  Like his mother, Francisca, he took education seriously and profited from her unwavering encouragement of his success. But beyond his ambition and accomplishments, Ernest had personal qualities that endeared him to all who knew him and testified to the deeply spiritual values of his family.  His optimism, gentleness and faith—all so visible in the radiant smile--are vividly remembered by his friends in Takoradi and in San Antonio.

In September, Ernest’s mother accompanied by her father-in-law, Bishop Botwey, will be coming to visit San Antonio. A memorial service is planned in the Parker Chapel at 1 pm on Sunday, September 8.