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March 31, 2006

This weekend at Gophers After Dark

...The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe will be showing both tonight and tomorrow night.

Tonight's activities in Coffman include karaoke and board games, but the real action is over in St. Paul, where the St. Paul Student Center will host Casino Night: Monte Carlo from 8 pm - 1 am. Students can take shuttles from Coffman to the St. Paul Student Center between 8 and 2 am.

Tomorrow night in Coffman, students can learn a new craft, listen to a bluegrass band , or bowl with glow-in-the-dark pins in Goldy's Game room. Free, freshly-baked cookies will be served at 10 pm. Starbucks will also stay open until 12:30 am tomorrow night.

Click here to read more about Gophers After Dark.

March 30, 2006

Employers finding creative ways to access Facebook

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I post again about Facebook.

Today's Star Tribune reports that employers are accessing students' Facebook profiles in ways that seem a bit, well, sneaky.

You see, part of the reason that students feel so comfortable posting on Facebook is that they believe their profiles are visibile only to other students from the same school; to view U of M profiles, for instance, a viewer would need an e-mail address ending in But employers are finding a couple of ways to get around that requirement:

One tactic is for employers to take advantage of a growing trend among colleges and universities to offer campus e-mail addresses to alumni.

Now that they can get the same ".edu" e-mail address that students have, these alums can search their alma maters' Facebook. Another tactic is to ask students who already work for an employer to look up fellow students who apply for jobs.

and another tactic is for employers to ask employees or interns who are recent grads or current students to look up profiles for them:

And as the parent of college-age children, Macalester College assistant dean for student services Denise Ward said she knows of one intern who was approached to eavesdrop -- not a Macalester student.

"It was proposed casually enough that the student felt OK saying, 'I'm not comfortable doing that,' " she said.

"Students have told me that recent graduates who are working in different places have 'Facebooked' potential interview candidates," said Heather Fredrickson, interim director of the University of Minnesota campus career center in St. Paul.

So now campus counselors are adding Facebook to the same advice they have given about personal websites, blogs and even phone answering-machine recordings: Assume anyone can see and hear them. Take a warning from a 2005 survey of executive recruiters, they say: 26 percent told ExecuNet that they have eliminated job candidates based on Internet searches of them.

Fraternity suspended for hazing

The University of Minnesota has a zero tolerance policy on hazing, and on Wednesday suspended a fraternity for activities it believes falls into this category, the Minnesota Daily reports:

University officials suspended St. Paul’s FarmHouse fraternity Wednesday until spring 2007 for what they say was hazing.

According to a University report, FarmHouse members were involved in “degrading behavior? that could have resulted in physical harm. Vice Provost for Student Affairs Jerry Rinehart said two students, who are former FarmHouse members, brought forward a complaint against the fraternity in late February.

Because of privacy issues, specifics of the charges were not discussed publicly.

The suspension means the University will not recognize the chapter as a registered student organization until at earliest spring 2007, when its case will be reviewed. The greek community’s Interfraternity Council also suspended the chapter, which means FarmHouse isn’t allowed to take part in any academic, social or recruitment events.

The University prohibits hazing not only on campus property, but also in conjunction with any campus-affiliated group or activity. Students who feel they are being subjected to hazing are urged to speak up immediately or to notify the Student Activities Office at (612) 624-6919 or the University Police at 612-626-2677. If you suspect your student has been or is being hazed, you are also urged to call the Student Activities Office or the University Police.

March 29, 2006

Strategic Positioning Update

I know that many of you have been following the strategic repositioning process the University is currently undergoing, with a goal of transforming the U of MN into one of the top research universities in the world.

The University's provost, E. Thomas Sullivan, provides students, staff and faculty with regular e-mailed updates on the academic initiatives and task force recommendations that are integral parts of the this process, and I thought you might be interested in reading an excerpt from the update we received this week. The recommendations include planned enhancements to undergraduate education, and there is a link to more info.

Please note that the provost's office is soliciting public feedback and commentary on the the strategic positioning reports between March 31 and April 30.

Provost’s Academic Update

March 27 , 2006

E. Thomas Sullivan
Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost
Julius E. Davis Chair in Law

Dear Faculty, Staff and Students,

Spring semester this year holds special promise. The University of Minnesota has taken the first important steps to transforming itself into one of the world's great public research universities. As Provost, I am delighted to report progress on major academic initiatives and to highlight the recent achievements of a few of your colleagues as exemplars of academic excellence on the Twin Cities campus.

Transforming the U Through Strategic Positioning: Update on Academic Recommendations

At its March meeting, the Board of Regents approved the names of the three new colleges that will officially open their doors on July 1, 2006:

College of Design, created from the College of Architecture and Landscape Architecture and the Department of Design, Housing and Apparel from the College of Human Ecology;

College of Education and Human Development, created by bringing together the current College of Education and Human Development, General College, and the Department of Family Social Science and School of Social Work from the College of Human Ecology;

and College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences, created from the College of Agricultural, Food and Environmental Science, the College of Natural Resources, and the Department of Food Science and Nutrition from the College of Human Ecology.

I also reported to the Board some of the initial strategic research investments the university will make, taking into account current qualitative strengths, distinctiveness, and comparative advantages, the following areas have been identified as important for research investments:

Biofuels research
Neuroscience breakthroughs
Biomedical technology
Sustaining the environment, through the establishment of a new Institute on the Environment
Food science solutions
Addressing societal and cultural issues through interdisciplinary structures such as the Institute for Advanced Studies and the new Consortium for Post-Secondary Academic Success

Finally, as a result of recommendations contained in the first round of strategic positioning task force reports, I reported on strategic priorities designed to enhance undergraduate education, including a new campus-wide honors program and campus-wide writing initiatives. A more complete overview of the preliminary academic recommendations is available for review on the Provost's website and via this link: .

With over half of the task forces remaining to submit their final recommendations, further decisions and detail will result from a cumulative process that unfolds throughout the spring and summer months. Preliminary recommendations from another 10 strategic positioning task forces will be posted for public review and comment March 31 through April 30 at . I encourage you to remain engaged in this process and share your feedback.

March 28, 2006

Have you talked to your student about personal safety?

Yesterday, MSA and GAPSA--the first organization represents University of Minnesota undergraduates, and the second represents the U's graduate and professional students--and the Office for Student Affairs held a housing summit which brought together students, U officials including the University police, and residents of adjacent neighborhoods to discuss issues facing the community. You can read more about that meeting here.

During a discussion of crime prevention, a police official stated that U students unused to living in an urban environment can present an easy target to criminals:

One of the likely reasons students are targets, said Steve Johnson, deputy police chief for the University, is that incoming students don’t know how to behave in an urban environment.

“We see 9,000 new students every year — they are like lambs to the slaughter,? Johnson told summit attendees.

He said many students need to become informed of how to be safe and appropriately behave in an urban environment.

The University Police website offers some simple tips on personal safety that you may want to go over with your student, especially if your student is living in a residence hall now but moving to an off campus dwelling for next year:

Do not use your full name on your answering machine or mailbox.

Do not leave a schedule of your times away on your answering machine.

Know your neighbors and which ones you can trust in an emergency.

Do not open your door without checking to see who is there first. Be wary of unexpected visitors.

Ask for ID from repair persons; preferably a photo ID. Call the employer to verify if you are still not satisfied.

Never give personal info to telephone solicitors.

Always keep an extra phone in your bedroom and in other rooms of your apartment.

Do not let strangers into your room or house to make a phone call. Make the call for them.

Use caution when using ATMs.

Always be prepared to let go of your purse, especially those with a shoulder strap, to avoid injury.

Avoid being alone if you are upset or intoxicated.

Always stand near the controls in an elevator and know where the emergency button is. If you are assaulted, hit the emergency button and as many floor buttons as possible.

There are more safety tips, to cover a variety of different situations, at the UMPD's website.

Yesterday's was actually the first of two housing summits--the second, to focus on student rental issues, will be held on April 10 and will be open to the public.

March 27, 2006

2006 grads finding themselves in demand in job market

BusinessWeek online finds this to be the best employment market for graduating seniors since the bust.

University of Wisconsin Business School senior Joe Jennings is kicking back, enjoying his last few months of college life. And why shouldn't he? Jennings received four job offers by the end of the fall semester and accepted a position at PriceWaterhouseCoopers in Chicago in late November.

Jennings says he was surprised by how easy it was to land a job. "It was awesome," he says. "I got offers from companies I'd never even heard of -- extremely painless." The 23-year-old, who will earn a starting salary of $53,500 with a $2,000 bonus, is not alone. This year's job market for undergraduates is the strongest since 2000. These job-market improvements are the most dramatic -- and in some cases extreme -- in years.

"There were a few employers that reported some pretty large increases, and I even called a few to see if there were mistakes," says Andrea Koncz, employment information manager for the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), a group of recruiters and university career services officials that researches workforce trends. Recruiters, some of whom had been missing on campus in recent years, have returned -- and they're seriously competing for top talent.

ATTRACTIVE SALARIES. The numbers paint a pretty picture. Undergraduate hiring is expected to increase by 14.5% this year over last, according to a September, 2005, survey of 256 companies by NACE. The services sector, at 21.6% expected growth, posted the most dramatic increase in the study. Within that sector, computer-software development, financial services, retail, accounting, and engineering are showing marked hiring increases, consistent with the sector overall.

Read the whole story.

March 24, 2006

Alcohol and risky behavior: different concerns for men and women

A recent federally-funded study on the drinking behaviors of college-age men and women reveals that you may want to take your student's gender into consideration when you talk to him or her about alcohol. Both male and female students may engage in risky behavior when they drink alcohol, but the type of risky behavior differs by gender.

The study indicates that women may get much more intoxicated than men, and it's not necessarily because they are smaller:

To quote the title of the presentation, “men drink beer, women drink liquor.? Participants agreed that this was true and had many implications, some of them negative for women. For example, a male student who knows he has a self-imposed limit of some number of beers can keep track (if he wants). There is much more variation in the potency of mixed drinks and a woman may not really have a good sense of whether she’s exceeded what she can safely consume. In addition, audience members reported that women on their campuses, when attending a party where only beer will be served, may drink by themselves or with other women before the party, so they can have non-beer booze, and as a result are drunk even before the men at the party.

Males and females also behave differently when they have had too much to drink, the study found. Men are less likely to get help for their intoxication, and more likely to go off by themselves and pass out, which can have dangerous consequences:

When women drink excessively, to the point where they are likely to throw up or pass out, they manage to get themselves inside, to a dorm room or bathroom. Many male students think nothing of collapsing outdoors. Someone inside is more likely to get help. And generally, audience members said, a woman’s female friends will intervene and help a woman or take her to the hospital. Male friends of male students are more likely to assume everything will be fine or that their friend would be embarrassed by getting help.

College women may be more inclined to engage in risky sexual behaviors when they have been drinking:

Some of the things being drunk allows men to do don’t pose much of a danger. For instance, audience members reported that many of their male students say that they will only dance with their girlfriends after a buzz and will only share deeply emotional feelings that way. In contrast, many female students report that being drunk allows them to feel comfortable having sex with people they don’t know well — something they might not do sober and that may involve risks or unsafe behavior.

March 23, 2006

MN Daily editorial: Privatization of public higher education

Today's Minnesota Daily editorial criticizes the long term trend towards placing a greater responsibility for financing public higher education on the shoulders of students, thus transforming learners into customers:

Haven’t you heard? Public higher education is going private! The intersection of the public and private sector, in terms of education, is all the rage today, and students are evolving with the trend. Today, universities and students are more concerned with their bottom lines. And who can blame them? In an ownership society, we’ve got to look out for No. 1.

In theory this trend makes a lot of sense. By viewing students as commodities, universities are more apt to respond quickly to issues of accountability, efficiency and practicality — lest students “decide with their feet? to go somewhere else.

This move toward privatization, however, comes with a heavy price. Under the model, a majority of the cost falls on the shoulders of students. Because of massive federal budget cuts and declining state funding, institutions of higher education increasingly are relying solely on tuition and fees to keep their engines running. Progressively more each year, students are taking out loans to cover the cost of their education, and these are middle-class students. Low-income students — whose access to private loans is severely limited — simply are being priced out of the game.

Should the nation buy into this student-as-consumer paradigm, and is it improving academia? Because students who are able to afford a higher education are borrowing more to pay for college, they are demanding that courses and teaching style be tailored specifically to their desires. Universities are responding by attempting to establish themselves as premier institutions to receive a diploma. (Did someone say strategic positioning?)

How do you feel about this transformation of higher education? Post your comments below.

In a related news story, Minnesotans were polled on their views of the realignment process the U is currently undergoing:

Survey says …

The University might not be on the right track.

According to a recent poll conducted by KRC Research, an independent market research firm, 46 percent of Minnesotans said the University is heading in the right direction, 18 percent said it was on the wrong track and the remaining 36 percent reported being unsure or did not respond to the question.

The University hired KRC Research to conduct the survey — which asked questions regarding perceptions and attitudes toward the University — between Dec. 8 and Dec. 14. The study was released Tuesday.

Read the whole story here.

Thinking about graduate school?

On Monday, March 27, U of M grad students will present a research poster exhibit illustrating their graduate research. The poster session will be held in Coffman Union's Great Hall from 1 til 5 p.m. This is a terrific opportunity for potential grad students to stop by and talk to current grad students about their research.

March 22, 2006

Goldpass is live

Goldpass is an online database that lets student search for jobs, internships and volunteer opportunities posted in any of the University's career offices. They can also post their resume and create profiles for employers to view. Students and alumni with University e-mail accounts can register here.

A couple more career items of interest:

Students interested in service learning, internships, volunteering or community-based research will find a wealth of information at Community-University Partnerships open house on Wednesday, April 5, from 4-6 p.m. in Coffman Union's Great Hall. No registration required.

And, finally, students who would like to make service learning a formal part of their education can attend a Community Engagement Scholars Program information session. The program allows students to simultaneously pursue their academic interests and make a difference in their community through integrating community engagement into their program. Participants not only receive special recognition from the University when they complete their degree:

Official Recognition:

-A certificate of recognition from the University of Minnesota
-Community Engagement Scholar notation on official academic transcript
-Acknowledgement of accomplishment listed in the commencement program
-A cord of distinction to be worn at commencement
-A special recognition reception honoring Scholars Program participants

...but also learn how to develop a structured approach to making a difference in a community; enjoy many opportunities to connect with other students, community organizations, faculty, and staff with similar interests; develop skills that will serve them throughout their career; and engage in career exploration and development.

Learn more about the Community Engagement Scholars Program here.

March 21, 2006

"Mission Improvable" returns to Gophers After Dark

"Mission Improvable," a free improvisational comedy show that was a great hit last year, returns to Coffman Union's Great Hall this Saturday night.

If you're not familiar with Gophers After Dark, it's a program offering free and low cost late night programming for U students every Friday and Saturday night in Coffman Union. Free movies are screened in Coffman's theater (this weekend's film is King Kong), and students can participate in organized activities like speed dating, poker tournaments, trivia contests or craftmaking, or attend comedy or live music concerts.

Other activities this weekend include karaoke, bowling and billiards, jewelry making, and an ice cream sundae bar.

Check out the complete Gophers After Dark schedule here.

March 20, 2006

Was your student unfairly booted in an off-campus parking lot?

They may be getting their money back, according to the Minnesota Daily.

Anyone with a vehicle that has been booted behind Stub & Herb’s since Oct. 1 has a refund coming to them.

A boot, used to immobilize vehicles, is a mechanical clamp that locks the front left wheel of a motor vehicle. Boots are used when someone illegally parks in a private lot.

Throughout January meetings were held regarding Clampdown Parking Enforcement, the company hired to boot in the parking lots shared by Milio’s Sandwiches, Stub & Herb’s, MacNicol, Bona Vietnamese Restaurant, Papa John’s and Enrica Fish Medical Books.

Richard Tuffs, a license inspector for the city of Minneapolis, said anyone who was booted and paid a fine in these lots since Oct. 1 will receive a refund because Clampdown Parking Enforcement violated seven ordinances regarding booting.

March 16, 2006

"Pay It Forward" tour makes impression in Boston

From The Boston Globe:

It had been two days since the college students had taken a shower, and they were filthy.

Covered in dirt and grime from cleaning up a Pennsylvania state park, they eagerly anticipated hot showers at a Cambridge homeless shelter, which they cleaned top to bottom yesterday before boarding a bus to help poor families in New York City.

A whirlwind cross-country volunteering tour is not a typical way to spend spring break, but it is how these 38 University of Minnesota students choose to illustrate the ''Pay It Forward" concept popularized by the 2000 movie in which one good deed led to another.

For one week, instead of tanning on an Acapulco beach in Mexico, the students are picking up trash, scrubbing graffiti, and trying to spread hope -- one act of kindness at a time.

March 15, 2006

U of M Libraries adapts to expectations of millenial students

Here's an interesting article from M, a campus publication, about how our libraries have retooled their mission to fit the needs of today's college student. An excerpt:

A number of students have a well-documented issue called "library anxiety." Some universities try to solve this problem with special undergraduate libraries that ease students into full-scale research libraries. Since the U doesn't have such a place, it built the one-of-a-kind Undergraduate Virtual Library (UGVL).

This elegantly simple site features a way to do quick, focused searches; find and print entire journal articles; log into the UThinks blog; and use "My Library" to track searches, results, overdue items, and preferences. Perhaps the site's most ingenious feature is the assignment calculator, where a student puts in the date a project is assigned and when it's due. The calculator then maps out the steps he or she needs to take, when they must be completed, and then e-mails reminders to the student.

The UGVL also allows students to contact a librarian by e-mail or during live chat time. But what about that sense of community students want so much? When you walk in the front door of Wilson Library on the West Bank of the Twin Cities campus, straight ahead you see the Information Commons, opened in late 2004. Students are bent over notebooks or peering at computer screens, their coats flung over the backs of their chairs. Librarians and writing coaches are milling around ready to help anyone who needs it. This is a one-stop shop run by the Libraries in collaboration with the College of Liberal Arts Center for Writing. Students can craft a term paper, research project, video, or any number of assignments from start to finish with all the help they need in one place.

The success of the Information Commons has spurred the creation of SMART Commons on the St. Paul campus, and a similar effort is under way in the Academic Health Center.

In fall 2005, Walter Library on the East Bank opened the Wise Owl Café. Students meet their friends, do homework, and have discussions with their teachers in the cozy space. Future plans for the Wise Owl include a stage for readings, music, and other events.

March 14, 2006

National study finds hazing still prevalent

At Freshman Orientation, parents of students thinking about joining fraternities or sororities often ask about hazing. A national study finds that these are not the only parents who should be concerned.

The study, which was conducted at four unidentifed New England institutions of higher education, found that hazing is common not only in Greek communities, but across a wide range of organizations, including athletic teams, bands and performing arts groups, and more informal student groups engaged in behaviors often considered to be hazing.

What do varsity athletes and band aficionados have in common? Both groups often haze new members of their groups through raucous drinking games, sometimes to the point where a new member gets sick or passes out.
That’s according to preliminary findings of a national hazing study, presented Monday at the NASPA conference for student affairs administrators, in Washington. The study, led by two University of Maine researchers, Elizabeth J. Allan, an assistant professor of higher education leadership, and Mary Madden, an assistant research professor, was conducted with students and staff at four New England institutions of higher education, which were not identified. While the study thus far presents some interesting findings, administrators looking for answers to combat hazing will have to wait several more months — or even years.

To date, the researchers have analyzed answers from 1,789 students who completed 70-question Web-based surveys, which included questions about both college and high school experiences related to hazing. Hazing was defined as a dangerous behavior — unrelated to qualifications for a group — that one was compelled to engage in to be part of a group. One in 20 students said they had been hazed at their current institution, but a much larger number of students reported experiencing behaviors that the researchers considered to be hazing.

“Our goal was to examine the extent to which hazing occurs across a range of student groups and within diverse types of colleges and universities,? said Madden. For phase two of the study, the survey will be refined and used to explore institutions nationwide. Finally, in phase three, the researchers hope to present intervention models that administrators will be able to utilize.

You should know that the University of Minnesota has a zero tolerance policy with regard to hazing. Hazing is also against the state law of Minnesota. Additional information, including the state law against hazing, can be found here. Students who feel they are being subjected to hazing are urged to speak up immediately or to notify the Student Activities Office at (612) 624-6919 or the University Police at 612-626-2677. If you suspect your student has been or is being hazed, you are also urged to call the Student Activities Office or the University Police.

Revealing too much online can come back to haunt you later

I know, I've posted on this topic before. But a recent St. Paul Pioneer Press article reveals the real impact that posting too much personal information on an online social networking site like Friendster, Facebook, Xanga or MySpace can have on your student's future:

Three-quarters of 102 executive recruiters surveyed last fall by ExecuNet, of Norwalk, Conn. said they use search engines as part of the process to uncover information about job candidates. More than one in four said they have eliminated candidates because of what they found about the person on the Internet.

There's an explosion in the amount of personal material being launched into cyberspace by people who seemingly have no qualms about revealing details of their sexual escapades or not-so-hidden desires.

They'll carry digital cameras to bars and parties and post photos of drunken friends to their Web pages and to those of their friends. On one MySpace posting, a 19-year-old Wisconsin woman writes about her pastimes: "I def. like to party … I don't smoke but I drink a lot … like a lot."

In a few years, Internet searches on job candidates will become even more commonplace, predicts Minneapolis employment attorney Tamara Olsen. She advises those who bare their souls and, um, other things online should consider the consequences.

"The Internet is like a billboard or painting on the side of a building," said Olsen, who advises companies on electronic communication issues. "But because people are doing the communicating from a computer in their bedroom, they think of the Internet as private. Right now we are in a funny place where people are posting private things and they have no idea how public it really is."

In Minnesota, it is generally not unlawful for an employer to take into account personal information found on the Internet in making hiring decisions. Of course, it's illegal to make hiring decisions based on sex, race, color, religion, or national origin. In most cases, job candidates will never know the reason why they were turned down or that the employer was looking at their postings in the first place.

Students may need parental guidance to help them understand the possible consequences of exposing their behaviors to the entire world. I leave you with this quote from later in the article, from an 18 year-old college student:

"Whether or not they are going to or not, that's fine but I don't think it's any of their business...You get to the point where, then you have to start watching what you are doing in your private life. It just seems ridiculous."

Bill calls for instructors to demonstrate "clear English pronunciation"

A Minnesota state representative has introduced a bill requiring all Minnesota State Colleges and Universities (MnSCU) instructors to speak with "clear English pronunciation" before they are allowed in the classroom., the Star Tribune reports:

It's a scenario familiar to university students: One or more of your instructors is foreign-born and speaks English with a thick accent. Usually, you can understand, but sometimes it takes an effort. Occasionally, you don't have a clue what's being said.

State Rep. Bud Heidgerken, R-Freeport, figures this is a problem and has proposed a solution: He's introduced a bill intended to ensure that all teachers use "clear English pronunciation" before being allowed to teach undergraduate students.

Heidgerken, a former teacher and cafe owner, said he's gotten an earful about incomprehensible instructors from his own kids, former students and employees.

"I've had many students say they dropped a course or delayed graduation for a semester because they couldn't get around this one professor they couldn't understand," he said. "All I'm trying to accomplish is getting the best education we have for postsecondary students."

Although the University of Minnesota does not fall under MnSCU and is an autonomous body, the bill, if passed, would also ask the U to comply with the law.

The University believes it is already complying with the spirit of the law:

International students already must pass a spoken language test before they're allowed in the classroom. According to the U's Office of Human Resources website, the Legislature asked them in 1985 to improve instructors' English skills.

International students have been denied teaching assignments if they do poorly on the tests, said Jane O'Brien, associate director of the University's Center for Teaching and Learning Services.

March 10, 2006

AMA surveys college women on spring break drinking and sex

...and find that large numbers of college women are engaging in unhealthy behaviors, the Baltimore Sun reports:

More than half of those who went on spring break regretted having gotten sick from drinking; 83 percent had friends who drank most nights while on spring break. And about six in 10 women knew friends who were sexually active with more than one partner.

Some of the young women surveyed believed that the way spring break trips are marketed is partially responsible for encouraging college women to engage in risky behaviors:

Typically, the event is portrayed as an alcohol-fueled orgy of sex and sun. Eighty-four percent of respondents said that such images contribute to an increase in reckless behavior by women.

and here, a couple of college students comment on behaviors they've witnessed:

At spring break in Jamaica last year, young women got into a lot of trouble, said Ryan Moreland, 21, a Johns Hopkins University student who was there with fraternity brothers.

"It seems like they let loose and just don't care about anything," he said. "The women become targets and victims because at the end of the night, you've got to go home with someone."

"People consume excessive amounts of alcohol, go to sketchy clubs in strange cities," said Stephanie Leaman, 21, a Hopkins student who's seen women make out with men for money at spring break in Daytona and Cocoa Beach, Fla. "It's no wonder things happen."

and on a completely different note, University of Minnesota students from student groups Campus Outreach, Hillel, and the Rock, will be traveling to points along the Gulf coast to help "mud out" houses damaged by Hurricane Katrina. Read more about their efforts in the MN Daily. Campus Outreach will be blogging about their trip here.

March 9, 2006

Round-up of Minnesota Daily articles

For those U of M students lucky enough to be spending next week in warm, sunny climes, today's Minnesota Daily offers advice from University health experts on dealing with three risky behaviors associated with spring break:


High-risk drinking during spring break can lead to negative consequences.

One of the biggest concerns about partying is that students underestimate how intoxicated they are, said Dana Farley, director of health promotion at Boynton Health Service.

“As their (blood alcohol) level increases to over .12 … about 90 percent underestimate their level of intoxication,? he said.

At this level of impairment, students tend to make bad decisions and are more vulnerable to crime, he said.

having sex:

Spring break parties can lead to unintended promiscuity. Students risk contracting sexually transmitted infections for the thrill of a one-night stand.

Dave Golden, director of public health and marketing for Boynton Health Service, said students often count on the odds that they won’t catch an infection.

“But eventually their luck is going to run out,? he said. “That we clearly, clearly see.?

Golden said Boynton gets more students coming in with sexually transmitted infections, such as chlamydia, after spring break.

and tanning:

One of the fastest growing groups of skin cancer patients are women 35 and younger. This might be why dermatologists don’t support tanning.

“We’re anti-tanning,? said Matthew McClelland, a resident of dermatology. “Tanning is a sign of sun damage.?

He warns that long sun exposure can lead to skin cancer.

“People who are young don’t think about skin cancer down the road, but melanoma can be fatal,? McClelland said.

Daily columnist John Hoff weighs in on making productive use of spring break:

If your spring break plans include earning a paycheck, catching up on homework or other admirable plans to be productive instead of drinking and sunbathing on South Padre Island, Texas, you aren’t alone. In fact, despite a persistent stereotype of boozy collegiate debauchery in sunny climates, more students at the University will spend mid-March visiting family, completing their taxes and filling out forms to apply for financial aid than drinking a margarita the size of a goldfish bowl while sunbathing in Cancún, Mexico.

A U of M CA mourns his 16 year-old cousin, who recently died of a drug overdose, and urges University community members to intervene if they see a friend or neighbor becoming dependent on alcohol or other substances:

As a community adviser, I witness a lot of the same attitude with respect to other things like alcohol and pot. At the beginning of the year, I see people start off well, build a social circle and enjoy themselves. As the year wears on, however, I often see the same people regress into a shell of who they were. More than seeing their grades suffer (which they often do), I witness a destruction of what made them who they were. I gradually see less and less of them in their sober state, as they forget about the dreams they had but have now given up on. Gradually, I lose the ability to connect with them as I am left with little to talk about — the relationship becoming nothing more than a hello and goodbye.

I really do not want to appear prudish or naïve with regards to alcohol on campus. Drinking can be fun, and I like going to the bars as much as the next person, but then again, drinking is not the default activity for me when I’m bored. I also think I appreciate how alcohol can change a person’s life even before it becomes an addiction. In any case, I wish people might be conscious of how addiction — to anything — can originate in the most innocuous of circumstances, but then consume what was once a life full of potential.

I cling to the belief that no matter the background of a person, they possess the ability to rise above the gloom that dependency casts on them. If you have a friend who seems to hit the bottle a bit too frequently, talk to them. If it is a matter of the social pressure to partake, hey, I didn’t drink until I was 21, simply because people expected the opposite.

With Christopher’s death, I suppose I have thought about alcohol and its effects on people because examples of its risks abound all over the place. I could talk of addiction and how it makes people I know — and knew — hollow remnants of the past. I could talk about the abuse that has happened as a result of alcohol in the homes of friends of mine. I could talk about the slow, almost imperceptible erosion of goals due to the increasing importance of alcohol in the lives of people I know. I could talk about the real reason CAs write people up for alcohol — and it is not from a desire to do more paperwork or to be a “policeman.?

And finally, students criticize Housing and Residential Life's policy for moving students between residence halls without the students' consent. Housing and Res Life explains that students can be reassigned for any reason, but usually it is for behavior, health or safety reasons:

Coordinator of Residential Life Wachen Anderson said the University has the right to move students when necessary.

The University Housing and Residential Life signs a contract with students guaranteeing them a bed, Anderson said. That contract also indicates that students can be reassigned for any reason, she said.

Anderson did not comment on any specific issues, but said students could be reassigned because of something as drastic as flooding, but is more commonly done for behavior, health or safety issues.

Anderson said student reassignment is common and said about 50 students dealt with reassignments last academic year.

“There is typically something precipitating it,? she said. “It’s not just, I don’t like my roommate anymore.?

Anderson said having students moved takes a lot of consideration but typically is done for a good reason.

“We have a pretty good cause to move someone,? she said.

March 8, 2006

Adding your comments to the blog

I recently received an e-mail asking how to add a comment to an entry on the blog.

Underneath each entry, you'll see "comments" in red. Click on that, and it will pull up a form, where you can fill in your name and your email address (if you want--it's optional), and enter your comment in a window.

March 7, 2006

Kirby Puckett's lasting legacy felt at the U, too

The University News Service notes that the Minnesota baseball legend, who died yesterday after suffering a stroke on Sunday, in 1994 created an endowment that makes it financially possible for promising Minnesota high school students to attend the University:

“People will forever remember Kirby Puckett as a legendary Minnesota Twin,? said university President Robert Bruininks. “But here at the U, he'll forever be a 'Minnesota Gopher' for his long-term commitment to enabling young people to achieve their dreams.?

Gerald Fischer, president and CEO of the University of Minnesota Foundation said, “The Puckett Scholars program has made a profound difference in the lives of young people. To date, these scholarships have changed the lives of 45 students, and over time, the program will help hundreds more. Because the Puckett Scholars program was set up as an endowment, it will forever be helping young people achieve a college education. What a legacy.?

Ibanga Umanah, a senior in the university's Carlson School of Management and a Puckett Scholar, said, “Kirby was a great man, it was an honor to have met him, and it means a lot that he would give back to students like me so generously.?

New online grocer caters to students

Living off campus without a car just became much easier, thanks to the debut of an online grocery store, Gopher Grocery, created specifically to serve the needs of University of Minnesota students, at least those who live in the 55414 and 55455 zip codes. The store carries about 500 products--a mixture of college student favorites such as cereal, frozen pizzas and ramen noodles, and fresh produce, meats, and dairy products.

Gopher Grocery requires a minimum purchase of $25 and charges $2 for delivery, which it claims takes about one hour during its limited hours of operation, listed clearly on its website.

Read more about Gopher Grocery, and students' reaction to online grocers, in today's Minnesota Daily.

Minnesota precinct caucuses tonight

U of M students interested in participating in the political process have the opportunity to attend their political party's precinct caucuses tonight. Each of the 4 major parties (listed alphabetically below) in Minnesota has a disctrict finder at its website, which will allow your student to find the correct location to attend, based on the student's address.

Democratic-Farmer Labor Party

Green Party of Minnesota

Independence Party of Minnesota

Republican Party of Minnesota

March 6, 2006

Ohio State website raises dates and funds for service projects

Enterprising medical students find a way to use the internet to fund their international volunteer work:

Established by the International Health Interest Group at the College of Medicine as a project to help raise funds for international service projects, allows students to describe themselves and specifically what they are looking for in a friend or lover. A list of students who match these descriptions will be sent via e-mail.

If the students are interested in contacting one another, the cost is one dollar. This dollar goes directly to IHIG, which advocates and supports the efforts of medical students to go abroad to foreign countries like Bolivia, India, Mauritania and Zambia, to provide health-related services like physical exams, medicine deliveries, help in surgeries and assistance at AIDS orphanages.

"All funds raised through will be directly used to help defray the costs of performing volunteer service projects in foreign countries, which can be prohibitively expensive," said Neil Jenkins, spokesman for IHIG.

Dustin Key, a recently accepted OSU student, said he thinks this program is going to make his college career even more fun.

"It's one of those reoccurring nightmares that you go off to college and never really make any friends … but this will help ensure that students who are interested in and looking for the same things will be able to find each other on this huge campus," Key said.

On the horizon:spring break

How is your student spending spring break?

Students will encounter lots of spring break deals for heading south, but if the package deals sound too good to be true, they probably are. If your student is thinking about booking a package deal, encourage him or her to find out the names of the airline and hotel the deal includes and verify the information with those vendors. They should also find out the trip's total cost and any restrictions or cancellation penalties that may apply before making payment.

If your student hasn't made plans yet, service learning options may still be open to them, some even in warmer climes. The University YMCA offers immersion trips to undergraduates interested in examining social justice issues in destinations as varied as the Caribbean, New Orleans, New York City, San Diego, and San Francisco. Immersion trips will also be available during May term.

Another option is participating in the 2006 Pay It Forward Tour. A group of University undergraduates designed this spring break community service opportunity which will take ten busloads of undergraduates to the nation's capital, each bus stopping to serve in five communities along the way. This is the third annual Pay it Forward Tour, inspired by the book and the film of the same name.

March 3, 2006

Are scholarship search offers legit?

Recently, the Parent Program has received emails from parents who have received solicitations from a group offering scholarship searches for a fee--the group promises results "or your money back."

The University's One Stop resource quotes the Federal Trade Commissions's list of characteristics of possible scholarship scams. Please review this info before making any kind of financial commitment.

One Stop also lists some trusted scholarship sources.

Question from a parent: getting academic help for a student

A University parent asked me to post the following question:

I know there are 2 sides to every story and I am only getting one side but.... My daughter is having a lot of trouble getting help from teachers. She has classes where there are no TAs available, no office hours, no responses on emails and teachers that don't keep appointments. I am getting the impression that she is putting forth effort to get help but is constantly running into road blocks. Currently she is paying out-of-pocket for a math tutor. We are paying a hefty price to educate our children. Doesn't that price include being available to help our children succeed?

Are other parents finding the same situation with their children and also, who can be addressed at the University in regards to this problem?
Barb Nelson

March 2, 2006

Minneapolis Star Tribune covers Parent Alcohol Course discussion

jointly hosted by the Parent Program and the Department of Family Social Science and attended by officials from about 20 other colleges and universities:

Although readers older than 30 may roll their eyes at the thought -- what kind of college student listens to parents? -- the tight ties between this generation of college kids and their parents make the connection worth exploiting, said Marjorie Savage, director of the U Twin Cities campus' Parent Program.

While older generations remember college as a time when they separated from their parents, Twin Cities campus surveys show that one in five students talk to their parents at least once a day, while 90 percent talk to them at least once a week, Savage said. If something goes wrong, students call their parents first.

"Parents do make a difference," Savage said. "Students listen to what they say."

The online course, free to all parents of University of Minnesota-Twin Cities students, gives parents a close look at the culture of drinking and risk-taking, and statistics surrounding alcohol use on this campus.

Risk-taking is normal for college-age students, officials said, but many parents are naive about what their kids do when they leave home for college. While college-bound high school students are less likely to drink than their peers who are not going to college, when students head to college, the trends reverse: Drinking among the "good students" who enter college soars, while it sinks in the other group.

Potential drinkers include all the former high school athletes who behaved to keep their eligibility as well as the academic stars. Parents need to understand that everything is different in college, officials said. Classes and studying are harder, and students aren't coming home every night to their parents.

The new environment is reflected in the reasons U students give for drinking. Topping the list is "something to do," followed by "breaks the ice" and "enhances social activity."

Drinking also differs from what many parents remember from their college years, said Dana Farley, director of health promotion at the U's Boynton Health Service. Risky drinking is up, alcoholic beverages are stronger and marketed more to young people, and more bars use specials to draw young people in and to keep them there, he said.

Read the whole story here. A sidebar to the story offers the following tips for talking to your student about drinking:

• Don't just e-mail, talk regularly.

• Use news stories about student alcohol use as a point to start a conversation about alcohol.

• Don't grill your child; use indirect questions such as "What do students do at parties?" that can lead to a genuine discussion.

• Keep talking even if you disapprove of what you're hearing, and stay calm. It's a chance to talk about safety and possible financial, legal and academic concerns that students may not consider.

• Know your campus' "drinking calendar." Events such as homecoming spur partying; drinking often spikes in February, during spring break and at the end of the school year.

• Ask what there is to do on campus that doesn't involve drinking, encouraging students to think of alternatives to alcohol.

Have you tried any of these approaches with your student? Have you tried another approach that has been successful?

President Bruininks gives annual "State of the U" speech

from the Morris campus this afternoon. Afterwards, the speech will be available to read on the President's Office website.

Effective study habits help students make the grade

According to University of Minnesota statistics, between 1997 and 2003, the percentage of University students who reported spending 15 hours or more a week studying dropped.

On the Twin Cities campus, the number went from 58.7 to 50.1 percent, according to a recent article in M, a University publication. But sometimes a student's academic woes don't stem from the amount of time he is or isn't studying. The University offers a number of resources to help students evaluate and improve their own study techniques.

These include study skills workshops; individualized assistance in time management, reading and writing, note-taking, and test preparation; learning skills self-help material; and counseling on issues like procrastination and test-taking anxiety that may hamper a student's academic success.
"We're looking at academic success from a holistic perspective--social, emotional, personal, and psychological," says Scott Slattery, program director of the Student Academic Success Services on the Twin Cities campus. "Students may be very bright intellectually, but if they can't effectively manage stress or balance their social life with study time, then they're not going to do well."

A few years ago, Gonier Klopfleisch and Jeff Ratliff-Craim interviewed students in Ratliff-Craim's psychology class at Morris to see if there was a correlation between a student's grade and the number of hours he or she studied.

"Every group of A, B, C, D, and F students all studied for an average of six hours for the weekly test, but they had different study techniques," says Gonier Klopfleisch. "The A students, without exception, sat down right away when they got a new reading assignment and worked out how many pages they had to read every day in order to be finished with plenty of time to study for the test." She also found that the A students don't just memorize material, but try to get a larger picture by seeing how things relate to each other. The D students, on the other hand, tended to read the day before the test and memorize terms, believing that if they knew the terms and definitions, they'd understand the information.

Read the entire story.

And here's an interesting article from the BBC about memory.

Scientists say it may be possible to predict how well we will remember something before the event has even taken place. By analysing scans, they discovered the brain must get into the 'right frame of mind' to store new information.

For top performance, the brain must mobilise its resources, not only at the moment we get new information, but also in the seconds before. sees hot job market for '06 grads

With a strong recruitment push, higher salaries and in some cases, multiple job offers, all signs are pointing up for the class of 2006.

Read the article.

Like most years, engineers have been in high demand, while finance and accounting degrees are also getting their fair share of offers.

While those students tend to be in specialized fields such as information system management or civil engineering, there is hope for English majors too.

Nowadays, career counselors say companies are taking a good look at the liberal arts field for candidates who have the ability to communicate, lead, think critically or simply adjust to the job demands.

March 1, 2006

Roundup of career stories from today's MN Daily

Job- , internship-, and service opportunity seeking students will find several items of interest in today's Minnesota Daily. First up is a story addressing the impact that a student's criminal record can have on his or her employment prospects. The gist of the article is summed up in its headline, "Employers say felonies, usually not misdemeanors, will prevent getting jobs," but it also lists some commonsense exceptions to the rule:

For example, drug charges would impact a job in nursing or the medical field and theft, swindle or fraud would affect the law field.

Many programs now require students to complete an internship before graduation. Read about students completing internships in the neighborhoods around the U.

And, finally, a student laments the defunding of the Americorps NCCC program in an opinion piece titled "What happened to Bush's call for service?":

NCCC is a unique program that provides benefits to America, providing for trained, rapid-responding and organized emergency service manpower during natural disasters. NCCC is the only national service organization that was directly mobilized by AmeriCorps to provide relief. Other AmeriCorps workers are on hand.

Researching potential spring break volunteer opportunities in the Gulf Coast region, I came across dozens of organizations of young people looking to help rebuild New Orleans in whatever way they can. Like the young people following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, they, too, are motivated by the horrific media images to help out in whatever way that they can. Why is the president denying them the opportunity? Where is that strong call for national service that followed Sept. 11? Our young people are ready; you just need to tell them where to go.

Students and profs rate each other online

First students publicly gave their teachers grades at sites such as Pick-a-Prof and RateMyProfessors, offering anonymous (and often quite mean-spirited) critiques of their teachers' teaching styles, expectations and personal qualities. Then the professoriate retaliated with a blog of its own, Rate Your Students, which describes itself as "a public forum where faculty and students can work out the tricky dynamic of the modern classroom. Students can tell us why they won't take the iPod out during a lecture, and professors can tell us why their clothes are so frumpy." Individual students are not named at this site, where professors lament the general attitudes and abilities of today's undergraduates.

The LA Times, earlier this week, ran an email debate between a student and a professor addressing these developments. I'll quote more of the article here than I normally would, because the link to the article no longer seems to be working:

[Professor]: But the questions are: What gave rise to anonymous online reviews, and what do so many of the thoughtless postings reflect? What gave rise to them is the unexamined assumption that students are in any position to judge how well they are taught. And what such reviews reflect is the complacent belief that students are to be made happy, that education centers not on the subject matter but on whether they enjoyed the experience. If a student didn't like a course — for whatever reason — it couldn't possibly be his fault. It must be the professor's.

[Student]: What gave rise to these anonymous online reviews goes well beyond any predetermined notion held against today's students. The postings may be, at times, tactless and cheap, some even bordering on niggling and downright hurtful, but who said they reflect a lesser breed of students than previous generations have spawned? They reflect a time in which students have been coddled by teachers their entire lives, a time in which, perhaps — if change is so desperately desired — values and ideals should be reinforced instead of such tasteless forms of expression. Take note.

[Professor]: But that is precisely the difficulty — affirming and reinforcing values that have been, if not lost, tossed into some musty corner of the basement. Anything that happened before a student was born — let's say before 1986 — is of no consequence, no relevance, no interest. What's more, many a student will express an irritated surprise that they should be expected to have even a nodding acquaintance with it. (The Weimar Republic? Forget it.) This gets back to the point we can all lament but hardly deny: that the assumptions and expectations of today's college students are not those of earlier generations. Higher education, to repeat, is solely about them and what they might find entertaining.

[Student]: What students "might find entertaining" is a lively professor who brings these pre-1986 occurrences to life. Instead, students find themselves lazing in classrooms where often the professor is not only detached from the subject matter but detached from the generation in front of him. If professors feel they are unable to connect with students, then students, guaranteed, aren't going to go out of their way to remedy that. The vicious cycle will continue until someone is brave enough to start turning the wheels the other way. When professors are passionate, it's evident. Higher education is about humoring students only if one makes it so; it doesn't have to be doomed.

[Professor]: No doubt the street runs both ways. By bending over backward to entertain students, we reinforce the expectation. One of the cruelties of nature, though, is that not all are born with the same gifts. Some are naturally witty and animated. Others of us are a bit dull. This leads to the more important point. Students often rate teachers by two criteria: the grade they expect to receive and how much they "enjoyed" the class. Never do they say they were intellectually stimulated. They want it to be fun, fun, fun. One wants to remind them of Noel Coward's remark — "Work is much more fun than fun." But they wouldn't get it — and they wouldn't know who Noel Coward was.


Thanks to the Chronicle of Higher Education for the links (paid subscription required).