Yay Daddy!

This past week we held commencement ceremonies for our campuses in Jackson, Chattanooga, Atlanta, and Orlando.  This time of year it is primarily graduate and adult students completing their degrees.

The graduation ceremonies for our campuses in Houston and Memphis are held during the spring.

If you want to know why Belhaven University is so committed to adult and graduate students read this blog post below.

It was written by Ed Pickel, the director of admissions for Belhaven University’s Chattanooga campus.  I deeply respect Ed’s effectiveness in recruiting, but more importantly, I’m in awe of his passion for helping adult and graduate students change their lives.

Ed gets it!

Here is his wonderfully written account of commencement in Chattanooga on Friday night last week:

Last Friday evening, our Chattanooga-Dalton campus held its 2013 graduation ceremony. I had the privilege of sitting with our faculty – second row from the front. From that vantage point, I could see everything that was happening on the platform.

However, it wasn’t so much what was happening on the platform that captured my attention; it was what I was hearing behind me…babies crying, a graduate sitting directly behind me “amening” the commencement speaker; occasional laughter; someone softly echoing the benediction as the service drew to a close – “the Lord bless you and keep you, the Lord make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you, the Lord lift his countenance upon you and give you peace.”

So much energy, so much excitement! It was a wonderful moment.

The most thought provoking voice, however, didn’t originate from a graduate or a baby, but was from what seemed to be a young child – maybe five or six years old. As one of our graduates walked across the platform to receive his diploma, I heard a forceful “Yay Daddy!” A subdued laughter slowly began to make its way across our warm, cozy, venue.

An adult college graduate who had worked hard for months balancing work, family, and school heard the words “Yay Daddy” from his child. In the world of adult education, no words could be more profound. Here’s why…

  •  The words “Yay Daddy” coming from an adult student’s child confirm that the hard work and sacrifice that goes into earning a college degree has been worth it. Someone who loves and looks up to the graduate has uttered the ultimate confirmation.
  • The words “Yay Daddy” indicate that the child recognizes graduation as a major accomplishment in his parent’s life. He sees that his dad’s hard work is recognized and makes the connection between diligence, perseverance, and reward. These are vital connections for the child’s future success in school and in the workplace.
  • Finally, the words “Yay Daddy” mean that the child, more than likely, will be a college graduate himself. Research indicates that children of college graduates are more likely to be college graduates themselves. Our kids are watching. They see Mom or Dad writing a paper, reading a book, or preparing a presentation. Children see the value in education only to the extent that their parents model its value.

As the bagpiper led us out of the auditorium at the end of the service, I imagined the “Yay Daddy” child being held snuggly by his mother – maybe even asleep by now. What a fortunate little guy to have such a daddy.

Probably the most gratifying aspect of working in adult education is knowing that we work year round to create “Yay Daddy” moments at graduation. We look forward to next December! But this morning, we still find ourselves reliving Friday evening. To all of the class of 2013, the staff and faculty of Belhaven University offer a heartfelt “Yay Daddy” (and “Yay Mommy” as well).

Wynn Kenyon Think Center Featured in National Magazine

ADVANCE, the national magazine of the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities featured the Wynn Kenyon Think Center in the issue just released.

I love this quote in the story from one of our students:

Rachel , a junior majoring in psychology, says she has been hooked on the Think Center since she took a tour shortly after it opened last year. She recalls thinking the center was awesome. Kniseley credits the Think Center with getting her study habits on track, leading to markedly different outcomes between her freshman and sophomore years. “My freshman year I’d be like, ‘Oh, let me call Mom, because she’s the only one who can help me with this,’” she says.

When the Think Center opened the following year, Kniseley discovered a place where she could study with some privacy when necessary but also connect with tutors. This provided Kniseley with a much needed sense of accountability, because each she time she returned she would share her scores with tutors.

“They encourage you and they motivate you to continue with your work,” Kniseley says, noting that the laid-back and collaborative nature of the facility allows students to tackle homework assignments from all angles, which is especially helpful when working on a group project or presentation.  “It really does help you think out loud, especially if you like to process things with other people,” she says.

Below is the full story, or you can read the PDF version or view the article on the CCCU web site.

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LIKE MANY CCCU CAMPUSES, Belhaven University, in Jackson, Miss., offers a freshman seminar course designed to equip incoming students with essential skills for college life, such as time management, effective study techniques, and maximizing on-campus resources.

But Erin Price, Belhaven’s assistant vice president for student success, has also launched a more innovative initiative to help Belhaven students. In addition to giving them the tools to succeed, she and her colleagues strive to offer students the ideal space in which to use them.

Price started at Belhaven in the admissions department and eventually became an adjunct instructor before leaving the school in 2008 to work at The University of Southern Mississippi. While at USM, she completed her doctorate in higher education leadership from Union University in Jackson, Tenn.

For two years she worked as a student development specialist at USM’s Student Think Center, which included working with a team on a research grant studying how space affects learning. They were implementing a design-thinking model into instructional design, learning space, and student development.

The concept was new for Price at the time. In fact, she says she had a difficult time at first visualizing what was being discussed. Because her colleagues had visited the d.school, the Institute of Design at Stanford, which has since published a 2012 book on manipulating space to ignite creativity, they had a better picture of the type of space being discussed. At the time of the USM team’s grant proposal, their research was cutting edge, though Price notes there is evidence that more institutions are now embracing the importance of active learning spaces.

When Belhaven hired Price back as part of its student development team, she was asked if she had any thoughts about using space to augment student success. “l said, ‘Absolutely l’ve got some thoughts about it,’” Price recalls.

The result was the Wynn Kenyon Think Center, a designated study and teaching facility located inside the school’s Hood Library. The center opened in September 2012.

What makes the Think Center unique, according to Price, is its adaptability: nearly every piece of furniture in the center rotates, slides, or modifies to accommodate group sessions, backpacks, and laptops. Likewise, the technology in the center is wired for networking: students using the center’s computers can share screens between units to collaborate with classmates, or they can connect laptops to one of several TV monitors for multiple viewers. Additionally, writing surfaces are virtually everywhere, from moveable Whiteboards to “paper tables” that allow students to map out their thought processes.

Unlike the traditional library setting, students appreciate the Think Center because each student has the option to create his or her ideal setting, Price says. The mobility of the center’s equipment allows for varied learning preferences—from processing with others to writing material out to concentrating individually—to be accommodated. “We encourage them to do what they need to with the space,” says Price. And in contrast to a traditional computer lab, she explains, the Think Center is colorful, inviting, and flexible.

While the environment serves primarily as a study space, the abundant technology also lends itself to teaching. Price says professors are increasingly taking advantage of the Think Center for class sessions requiring intensive or collaborative use of technology that traditional classrooms do not accommodate.

While the Think Center provides students with freedom, it is also designed to offer ample support. Price, along with the rest of the student development staff, has her office inside the center. No one is ever more than a knock away from students in need, whether they have questions about using the computers or are seeking in-depth conversations about choosing majors and careers. Peer academic tutors are also stationed in the Think Center, so if a student or group hits a roadblock while studying, they can quickly find assistance.

Price says it is too early to determine the Think Center’s impact on student outcomes, but she’s excited for the potential research it may yield. “This kind of space in higher education is kind of new, so there’s a good deal to be learned about it,” she says. According to Price, Belhaven is only the second school in Mississippi exploring space and student outcomes.

In the short term, the metric that Price says she is paying the most attention to is foot traffic. Part of the goal with the high-tech, customizable feel of the Think Center, Price explains, is to pique the curiosity of passing students. “We feel like we’ve done that,” Price says. “ln my mind it’s just been a huge success.”

Price’s assessment is backed by many students, including Rachel Kniseley. Kniseley, a junior majoring in psychology, says she has been hooked on the Think Center since she took a tour shortly after it opened last year. She recalls thinking the center was awesome.

Kniseley credits the Think Center with getting her study habits on track, leading to markedly different outcomes between her freshman and sophomore years. “My freshman year I’d be like, ‘Oh, let me call Mom, because she’s the only one who can help me with this,”’ she says.

When the Think Center opened the following year, Kniseley discovered a place where she could study with some privacy when necessary but also connect with tutors. This provided Kniseley with a much-needed sense of accountability, because each she time she returned she would share her scores with tutors.

“They encourage you and they motivate you to continue with your work,” Kniseley says, noting that the laid-back and collaborative nature of the facility allows students to tackle homework assignments from all angles, which is especially helpful when working on a group project or presentation. “It really does help you think out loud, especially if you like to process things with other people,” she says.

In fact, Kniseley was so impressed by the center she took a student employment position there working as a desk assistant. For many entering the Think Center for the first time, Kniseley is the first face they see—and that is just fine with her.

“I love the Think Center,” she says. “I want every student at Belhaven to use the Think Center.”

RESPONDING TO OBSERVED NEEDS

While the Think Center at Belhaven reflects a new concept in higher education student success programs, the CCCU’s other campuses also work hard to provide just what students need to be successful, seeking to keep in step with changes in student needs over time.

For example, taking the lead to address an area of student need is exactly what Houghton College in Houghton, N.Y., had in mind when in 1989 it launched the Academic Support Center, now called the Center for Academic Success and Advising. The center was a response to a graduate intern’s observation of the need for a staff person dedicated to helping students with physical and learning disabilities. Since then, CASA has continued to evolve as the needs of students have warranted.

In the 1990s it began assisting students for whom English was a second language and eventually offered tutoring to the entire campus for integrative studies (general education) courses and to any student on academic guidance or probation or earning a D or an F.

In 2004 tutoring was offered regardless of grade standing, and in 2013 an Intensive Academic English Program was developed to assist students who are non-native English speakers. IAEP aims to improve reading and writing abilities to the level expected at Houghton. Participating students take classes in reading, writing, speaking, and listening instruction as well as biblical literature. A College Study Methods course is also available to all Houghton students through CASA.

“We desire that every Houghton student become academically successful and achieve their goals,” says Mark Hunter, CASA’s director. “Houghton College has high academic standards, and some students try to use their high school study methods in their Houghton classes and struggle with the academic demands.”

In one capacity or another, during 2012-13, CASA supported the needs of nearly a quarter of Houghton’s student population—22 percent—through tutoring, counseling, guidance, or psychoeducational testing.

In addition to Hunter and two other full-time staff, CASA employs a half-time digital text coordinator, who prepares textbooks in a digital format for learning and physically disabled students. The initiative is part of CASA’ s larger goal to improve technology for visually impaired students.

“I believe the greatest difference between what we do at CASA as opposed to a similar program on a secular campus is an emphasis on relying on God’s grace to guide and assist students through college,” Hunter says. “Many of our conversations with students address how students are coping spiritually with the stress of college, and most meetings with students end in prayer for the student.”

ONE STUDENT AT A TIME

Service is at the heart of Dordt College’s Academic Skills Center, which is called ASK. Originally called The Writing Center, the center at the Sioux Center, Iowa, college opened during the 1979-80 academic year and was promoted as a service available for all students, not only those needing remediation. Services expanded in 1982 to address the growing realization that students were increasingly underprepared in other areas, such as reading, math, and study skills, as they transitioned from high school. Peer tutoring has been part of ASK ever since.

“My tutors choose to work in this capacity for a variety of reasons,” says Pam De Jong, director and department chair of ASK. “Most of them have a strong desire to serve. They regard their jobs as a way of serving their fellow students and building a stronger learning community.”

De Jong says there have been hundreds of peer tutors throughout ASK’s history. She says they are an important reason why the center has successfully helped ASK realize its vision to enable students to maximize learning while equipping them with the necessary skills to function both within an academic community and as lifelong, independent learners.

In each of the past few years alone, more than 600 students—approximately 40 percent of Dordt’s student body—have made more than 6,000 tutoring visits. Generally, half of the students accessing tutoring are freshmen, another quarter sophomores, and the remaining quarter juniors, seniors, or special enrollment students.

But De Jong says the impact is best seen on the individual level, beyond the numbers. She remembers one undecided student who eventually settled on majoring in elementary education. However, she had difficulty adjusting to the demands of college courses and professors. At the end of her first semester, she was still on academic probation but was allowed to continue under certain requirements. The student eventually improved but needed a recommendation to be considered for acceptance into the teacher education program.

“I provided that needed recommendation because l saw in her the makings of a wonderfully creative and caring teacher,” De Jong says. “Thankfully, she persevered. By the time she graduated, she had a contract to teach, and I don’t know who was most proud at commencement, the soon-to-be teacher, her parents, or me.”

___________

Luke Reiter, a graduate of Bethel University (MN) and an alumnus of the CCCU’s BestSemester Washington Journalism Center, is an editor at a community newspaper covering the suburbs of St. Paul, Minn.

___________

Chris Turner is founder of D. Chris Turner Communications. a public relations firm specializing in social media strategies, writing, and crisis communications. A former overseas correspondent with the international Mission Board, Chris has lived in England and Panama and covered stories in 28 countries.

Big Win Today – Bigger Game Tomorrow for Men’s Soccer

The men’s soccer team and coach Brian McMahon continue their successful run to defend our national championship of last year.

Today they beat Mid-America Nazarene 2-1, and advanced the quarter finals tomorrow.

Tomorrow at 1:30, we play Martin Methodist, who beat us twice during the regular season, and in the second round of this tournament, Martin Methodist beat the #1 ranked team by a score of 5-0.

The game tomorrow begins at 1:30 in Montgomery, Alabama.

Below is the full story on today’s game.

Go Blazers!

The Belhaven men’s soccer team advanced to the quarterfinals of the 2013 NAIA National Championship thanks to a 2-1 decision against ninth seeded MidAmerica Nazarene University Tuesday afternoon at the Emory Folmar Soccer Complex. The eighth seeded Blazers scored two early first half goals against one of the toughest defenses in the country and with some outstanding defense of their own held back the Pioneers offense for the victory.

“I give all the credit to our defense and how we played today,” said Belhaven Head Coach Brian McMahon. “We have great respect for MidAmerica Nazarene; they made it to the semifinals last year and played us very tough today. I was very proud of the guys and thought we defended well as a group. We had a game plan and stuck to it and it certainly helped scoring a couple early goals. We were then able to survive the rest of the match.”

The first of Belhaven’s (16-6-1) two goals came off the foot of sophomore Tom Gavin who executed a perfect free kick in the ninth minute. Lippi Souza committed a foul 28 yards from his own goal putting Gavin within striking distance of the net. Gavin struck the shot from the right side of the field, bouncing it off the inside portion of the right post into the back of the net for his third goal of 2013.

The Blazers extended their lead to 2-0 in the 19th minute on a play that was initiated by a Pioneer offside infraction. Belhaven goalie Carl Blundell played the free ball outside the box up the left side of the field finding the foot of senior Will Monsour. Monsour maneuvered into position for a shot and made it count, placing the ball past goalie Chris Eriksson. It was Monsour’s eighth goal of the season and the first assist for Blundell.

MidAmerica Nazarene (14-4-3) did not go quietly and began to ratchet up the pressure on offense. The Pioneers finally broke through for what would be their only goal of the match in the 39th minute. Taylor Esparza did the honors to bring MidAmerica back within one at 2-1. However, Belhaven’s defense would hold strong the rest of the match sending the team back to the quarterfinals for the second year in a row.

Blundell, who had a hand in one of the two Blazer goals, prevented three other potential scores by the Pioneers thanks to three saves in the contest. Blundell earned the victory in net and now has 15 wins to his credit this season. Gavin and Monsour led the Belhaven offense with two shots and one goal apiece. As a team, Belhaven outshot MidAmerica Nazarene 9-5 and owned the advantage in corner kicks 6-2.

Eriksson made four saves in 90 minutes for the Pioneers with Esparza notching their only goal. Eddie Morales ended up being the leading shot taker for MidAmerica Nazarene with two.

Belhaven will now face Martin Methodist College Wednesday afternoon in the quarterfinals. This will be the third match of the season between the two teams with the Redhawks topping the Blazers each time by finals of 1-0 in double overtime.

“Martin Methodist defeated the number one team in the country Monday 5-0 and defeated us twice this year so this is going to be a tough challenge for us,” added McMahon. “We are going to go out and play our best and see what happens tomorrow.”

Wednesday’s kickoff is slated for 1:30 PM.