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February 27, 2007

Student harassed abroad

accuses the Learning Abroad Center of not responding adequately to her requests for help. From the Daily:

When Rachel Jamison received a full scholarship to study in Tanzania for a year, she said University officials told her to expect intense sexual harassment.

An experienced world traveler, Jamison said she thought she knew what to expect.

But repeated rape attempts, catcalls and assaults were more than she could have anticipated.

What's more, Jamison said, is that the University's Learning Abroad Center did little to help her situation. She said the LAC failed to follow the University's sexual harassment policy and told Jamison she must repay the scholarship before she can graduate.

Jamison said she wants University officials and the LAC to issue a public apology, forgive the scholarship initially awarded to her and let her graduate this spring. She also said she wants the LAC to draft a different policy regarding sexual harassment.

"To my knowledge, they either don't have one, or they don't follow it," Jamison said.

Jamison, who returned to the United States last week for safety reasons, studied in Tanzania with the International Reciprocal Student Exchange Program. The program, which is run through the LAC, awards nine University students with a scholarship for the academic year in select countries. In her initial program application, Jamison asked to go to Tanzania.

The exchange program is run through the University of Dar es Salaam, in the East African country's largest city.

The LAC issued a statement regarding Jamison's case but couldn't comment

further for legal and student confidentiality reasons. For students studying abroad, the LAC follows the same University sexual harassment policy as students studying in the United States.

The student charges further:

"I believe they're unprepared, but I also believe once they realized their actions weren't helping me, they've taken steps more to cover up what they've done, rather than protect my own safety or help me in dealing with this," Jamison said.

February 19, 2007

Free test day!

Will your student be applying to a graduate or professional school?

If so, he or she may be able to get a leg up on the competition by taking a free practice test (MCAT, LSAT, GMAT, GRE, or DAT) this Saturday, February 24.

The practice test is administered by Kaplan Test Prep and Admissions, and participants will receive a detailed score analysis of their practice tests and strategies to help them prepare for the real thing.

Visit Kaplan's website for more info.

January 25, 2007

National Student Exchange: broaden horizons without leaving the country

Most students want to spend a part of their undergraduate career studying in and learning about a different culture. They may be unaware that learning abroad is not their only option.

From today's Daily:

Communications senior Katie Barten spent last semester living on a tropical island and relaxing on the beach between her classes at the University of the Virgin Islands at St. Thomas.

For Barten, a New Prague, Minn. native, the National Student Exchange program was her opportunity to broaden her "horizons" and spend some time away.

The program, which offers students who have completed 20 college credits and have a minimum 2.5 grade point average the opportunity to study at one of 200 participating colleges in the United States and several of its territories, including Canada, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam and Puerto Rico.

I just have to point out here that Canada is not a territory of the U.S.

National Student Exchange coordinator David Holliday said many students may not realize they can experience language and culture immersion without ever leaving the U.S.

"NSE is the domestic equivalent to study abroad," he said. "Many students go to a different climate or bioregion to be exposed to something that's not here in Minnesota."

Family social science junior Sinying Lee studied at the University of Hawaii at Hilo last fall because she was tired of school, bored with the environment and wanted to live away from her home in St. Paul.

"Being able to live there, versus vacation, you really do see a different side of the local people," she said. "You understand the culture and why the Hawaiians are so connected to the earth."

The 5 most popular destinations for NSE students are:
1. Hawaii
2. California
3. New York
4. Florida
5. Arizona

January 23, 2007

Students propose extra study days before exams

The Minnesota Student Association will be considering a proposed resolution supporting two extra study days each semester to allow students to prepare for their final exams.

From the Minnesota Daily:

As the University continues its transformation toward being a top-three public research university, it's important to realize how small steps in the right direction can help affect the entire outcome. Although a prestigious institution should be rigorous, there are small changes that the University of Minnesota administration could make to help students cope with the pressures of attending a competitive university. A primary example of one of these small changes is inserting two weekday study days before finals into the academic calendar.

Over the past five years, University tuition has increased drastically, making it almost essential for students to find part-time jobs to pay for the rising costs. Taking on part-time employment steals away needed study time and causes students more stress. In addition, many students are highly involved in athletics, on-campus clubs or even volunteering - trying to round out a résumé so the competitive job hunt can be a little easier. All of these activities can really eat away a student's time and drive.

And, let's not forget how important time is during finals - when jamming regular work hours, extracurricular activities and final exams, worth sometimes more than 50 percent of the class grade, can really take a toll on already stressed-out students.

As the University strives for excellence and each incoming freshmen class' scores increase, exams are going to become more difficult than ever. This added two-day break would create the needed ingredient to allow students to do their very best. This measure can truly help students cope with the added stress of finals and reach their full potential - to show their true ability and why the University decided to admit them in the first place.

January 18, 2007

U's efforts to speed student graduation rates see success

From today's Star Tribune:

The push to get more University of Minnesota students to finish faster is working. Graduation rates show "consistent, steady improvement," U officials said Tuesday. Yet there's a ways to go to reach the goal. The U has made changes to entice students to move faster, such as giving them free classes after 13 credits per semester.

Here are the University's current undergraduate graduate rates, and the new goals it hopes to achieve by the time the class of 2012 graduates:

Current Undergraduate Graduation Rates
4 years 40.70%
5 years 57.90%
6 years 60.80%

New Graduation Rate Goals
4 years 60%
5 years 75%
6 years 80%

December 14, 2006

U to be named one of top wired US campuses

PC magazine, in its January edition (which will be available online tomorrow), will name the U one of the nation's top wired campuses.


November 28, 2006

A.I. Johnson Scholarship applications available

Any U of M degree-seeking undergrad in any major is eligible to apply for the A.I. Johnson scholarship. Applicants must be interested in public service and commit to completing a public service internship during the 2007-2008 school year. Find more information here.

Applications must be received by February 15, 2007.

November 8, 2006

SASS offers end-of-semester workshops

The Student Academic Success Services office has scheduled a workshop designed to help students end the semester on a successful note:

SASS Workshop 11/28/06 End-of-Semester Support for Students

The close of the term can be stressful for students (and difficult to stay focused on Finals). Student Academic Success Services (SASS) office is offering a workshop to help with last minute finals preparations. Please encourage students to consider this informative and practical 1 hour workshop.

Cram Jam: Rockin' Last Minute Test-Taking Strategies for Finals
Location: Eddy Hall 202
Date: Tuesday, November 28th
Time: 11:00 – 12:00 pm

Forgot forthcoming fertilization final because you were flipping flanks with friend Frank? Sometimes things arrive more quickly than planned – like your final tomorrow. This workshop will look at some effective strategies students can use for last minute test preparation. This workshop will also present key strategies for taking tests – even the ones for which you are well prepared. General test taking strategies and last minute cramming tips will be addressed to help you get your groove on for finals.


call 612-624-3323 or go on-line @

* Seating is limited and students will be enrolled on a first-come-first-served basis.

... coming soon ...for students on Academic Probation ... SASS is taking requests for enrollment in its LASk 1101 course (Academic Success - 1 cr.) for Spring 2007. Have students contact Scott Slattery to arrange a screening (612-625-4568)

October 31, 2006

Changes coming to GRE and LSAT tests

Students planning to apply for graduate or law school may want to review the coming changes to the standardized tests used for admissions.

The Minnesota Daily reports that

According to the Educational Testing Service, the Graduate Record Examination will become hours longer starting September 2007. The Law School Admission Test writing section will be more predictable and thus easier to prepare for as of June 2007, according to the Law School Admission Council.

An administrator quoted in the article recommends that students who will need to take the GRE in order to apply for graduate school (not all graduate programs require the test) do so now, as the scores will be good for five years, rather than taking the newer longer test.

October 14, 2006

A request for advice from other parents

I received the following e-mail from a parent whose freshman daughter is struggling academically. If you have any suggestions for her, please add them in the comments section below.

Our daughter called the other nite & was so discouraged about her midterms. She felt she had studied hard & knew the information. She stated that that is all she has done in the last two weeks is study, by herself & with friends. She was an "A" student in high school & did PSEO her Senior year. So for her to get a "C" & "D" on her midterms was a total shock. I stated that you have to study differently in college. How differently? I'm not sure. She said she was having a hard time concentrating & she thought she was ADD!! She's working on getting a job & my reply was that I thought that would help her in scheduling her time to study, knowing she wouldn't have open ended hours to study, she might be able to concentrate better. What advice can I give her? I would think not being able to focus isn't all that unusal for freshman. Is there any better food or drink that would calm her nerves (She doesn't drink pop). Any advice from seasoned parents would be appreciated! Thanks.

A good starting place would be reading the following article written by Dr. Scott Slattery, who writes a regular column for University Parent. This article appeared in our Fall 2004 newsletter.

Question for U: Academic Blind Spots

My son did well in HS, so why is he struggling now? We didn’t see this coming.

Situations like your son’s are confusing and troubling for students and parents alike. Why would a student with no history of academic difficulty start struggling? These situations are often understandable and easy to address.

One way of understanding is to think about academic “blind spots? (ABS). Just like the blind spot we know from driving, ABS’s are issues that are ‘there’ but can’t be seen without actively looking for them. Students can be cruising along academically – success in the rearview mirror, clear goals ahead, no problems in sight – when they bump into an issue that was sitting in their blind spot.

As an example, let’s look at study/homework time. The traditional guideline is that students should spend three hours of study time a week for every credit taken (i.e., 45 hours of studying per week for a 15-credit semester). In this example, though, we will use a less strict guideline of 1 hour per credit, or 15 hours a week). In a recent survey of incoming freshmen (CIRP, 2001), approximately 77 percent said they expected to devote 15 or more hours to homework. Unfortunately, only 5 percent studied that many hours in their senior year of high school (86 percent studied 10 hours or less per week). In another survey (FYE, 2001), 64 percent of freshmen reported that their courses required more study/homework time than they expected. Two years later, 81 percent of the same group said their courses required more study time than they expected.

These statistics are not made to suggest that students need to study more in high school; rather, they point to a potential ABS – namely, that increasing study/homework time from 10 hours or less to 15 hours a week is a significant adjustment for many students. After all, if 10 hours or less worked well in high school, why change in college?

I use study/homework time as an ABS example because it indicates how small skill issues can snowball into large academic problems and how easy it often is to fix these situations (i.e., develop a more effective study schedule). Other common ABS’s include:

• ineffective time and stress management;
• difficulty shifting from a high structure environment (like home or high school) to a low structure environment (like college or an apartment);
• leaving home for the first time;
• taking an unrealistic academic load;
• too many campus involvements;
• and under-utilization of resources.

Past academic success does not make a student immune from an ABS in college—just like having a good driving record doesn’t make someone immune from hitting another car if the blind spot is not checked. While ABS’s are difficult for students to see, they are often easy to spot by others. Taking steps to assess if your son or daughter is academically prepared for college may prove to be a worthwhile preventive step. If you don’t find any concerns, then nothing is lost; but, if an ABS is found, then a lot of frustration and confusion can be avoided. Some options & suggestions are listed below for assessment and intervention:

1. Identify ABSs – there are several quick, affordable assessments students can take to highlight potential ABSs.

2. Use resources – remember that others are often able to see potential issues and can offer practical recommendations for change.

a. LASC (Learning & Academic Skills Center) (624-3323) offers courses for academic skill development [LASk 1001; & LASk 1101) for students on probation. Individualized skills training (LA – learning assistance) is also offered.

b. UCCS (University Counseling & Consulting Services) (109 Eddy Hall; 612-624-3323) offers individualized academic counseling for issues such as procrastination and low motivation, as well as assessment and test interpretation. UCCS staff are available for consultation with parents.

c. Consult with faculty / advisers. Students gain the benefits of increased efficiency and networking. Faculty offer important insights into potential ABSs based on work with previous students.

3. Value balanced schedules. While it is important for students to maintain a credit load sufficient to graduate in a timely manner, it is equally important for them to balance challenging courses with less demanding classes. Students with too many challenging courses run the risk of deflating their GPA. A balanced courseload is more likely to result in a healthier GPA and a clearer mind for focusing on work (not catching-up).

One update: the LASC is now called Student Academic Success Services (SASS).

Parents who've experienced something similar with your student, what worked for your student? What didn't?

October 13, 2006

Upcoming pre-law events

The following events may be of interest to students considering applying for law school:

SHOULD I GO TO LAW SCHOOL? Friday October 20, 2006 From 10:10AM to 11:40AM 345 Fraser Hall

Is law school a good fit for you? This workshop will help you explore the possibility of going to law school, and some basics about getting in.

Monday October 23, 2006
From 1:25PM to 2:40PM
345 Fraser
Learn how to create effective resumes and cover letters that appeal to employers.

Monday October 16, 2006
From 11:15AM to 12:15PM
345 Fraser

Want to feel confident in your interviews for jobs, internships or graduate school? Learn how to best present yourself to potential employers or schools, and how to find a good match.

Wednesday October 25, 2006
From 2:30PM to 3:30PM
345 Fraser

If you're searching for jobs in the want ads, you're not using the best job-search strategies! Learn techniques to find the right job for you.

Tuesday October 24, 2006
From 2:30PM to 3:20PM
345 Fraser Hall

Many students dread networking, but it's the most successful job-search technique! This workshop will debunk networking myths and break it into easy steps.

Wednesday November 1, 2006
Mondale 25
From 6:00PM to 9:00PM

This Princeton Review workshop contains the following features:
* Admissions Panel Discussion with Q & A
* LSAT Intensive Skills Workshop

Admissions is free. Please call 1-800-2REVIEW to register for the event.

October 11, 2006

"Second Wind" program helps students finish the semester strong

Several weeks into the semester, students (especially first year and transfer students) are sometimes dissatisfied with how they are doing in their classes, and surprised at how much more demanding the coursework is compared to what they've experienced before.

Although it's not possible to rewind the last few weeks and start their classes over, there is still time for students to learn new study skills and strategies that will help them improve their academic standing.

A mid-semester workshop called "Second Wind" will cover such topics as:
**Time Management
**Note taking
**Test Preparation
**Basic reading and study strategies

The workshop will be held on two sequential Mondays, October 30 and November 6, from 3:00 - 4:30 in 125 Coffey Hall. Students who register should attend both sessions--different material will be presented each day.

The workshop is produced by the St. Paul Office of University Counseling and Consulting Services and the SMART Learning Commons, and is open to all University of Minnesota-Twin Cities students.

Participants should register ahead of time online at or over the phone at 612-624-3323.

October 6, 2006

Driven to Discover campaign

Have you seen the University's new "Driven to Discover" campaign, promoting the great research that goes on here at the U? Here's a link to the campaign's site.

Those of you who visited campus for Parents Weekend last weekend probably noticed the questions and answers posted on sidewalks on the East Bank. And if you live in Minnesota, you may have also seen some ads on television during the local new.

The Minnesota Daily ran a story earlier this week about the purpose of the campaign, and how students perceive it (follow the link to read the complete story, including comments from students):

Now that campus streets are plastered with bright yellow question boxes, students are questioning what's behind the University's new marketing campaign. The $2 million, two-year initiative, dubbed "Driven to Discover," aims to explain why the University wants to become one of the top three public research institutions in the world.

Ideally, the campaign will alert more Minnesotans about the importance of University research and how it affects their lives, said Linda Thrane, vice president for University relations.

"We found that there is broad awareness of the University and broad support for the University, but it doesn't go very deep," Thrane said. "In particular, (people) don't understand the research that makes us different from other higher education institutions in the state."

A 2006 survey conducted by Thrane's office shows that more Minnesotans think it is "very important" for the University to provide a high-quality education - more important than to become an international leader in research.

"So the University has a lot of work to do," Thrane said. "We need to get people to understand how beneficial research is and how it makes us different from other schools."

Today's Daily printed a couple of letters to the editor from undergraduates in response to the story about the campaign:

Driven to Discover what?

I have a question for Linda Thrane: How do random questions plastered to a campus sidewalk "help," as she says, "garner resources to support the research mission"? Does Thrane think students will be so inspired by whether or not Goldy is "all gopher" that they will donate their grocery money to research?

Does Thrane imagine that a question like "When will we have a cure for AIDS" somehow distinguishes the University of Minnesota from other universities who are also asking themselves the same question?

The main problem of the Driven to Discover campaign so far is that the marketers don't appear to understand how to ask a research-related question and instead have opted for some very broad questions that fail to highlight the large and unique body of research thriving at the University of Minnesota.

It's great that University students are submitting thoughtful questions to the panel of researchers online, but this success is invisible to the tax-paying public and due more to the quality of students and faculty than the effectiveness of the marketing campaign.

The University has paid $2 million for this campaign in order to help raise the profile of research at the University of Minnesota, but all I see so far is a bunch of expensive stickers that 1) tell me nothing new 2) minimize discussion of actual research projects and 3) are not, in fact, 15 paces apart.

Featuring the current projects and short biographies of University of Minnesota faculty on the sidewalks would have been a more sensible and direct way to highlight research at the University: Give research a compelling human face and tell the students and general public how many different ways research at the University improves the quality of life and economic well-being of both Minnesota and the world at large. I don't think this is too much to ask of a $2 million campaign. Academic scholarship drives this University. A marketing campaign that fails to put faculty research in the front seat and on the sidewalk doesn't make academic or economic sense.

Jennifer Smith
University undergraduate

Academics important

In response to Tuesday's editorial, "What is Driven to Discover?": Despite the almost annual tuition increase at the University of Minnesota and the increased student fees to fund a stadium that will be completed after many of us have graduated, how can the University explain how it is spending $2 million on an ad campaign for a controversial academic reorganization? Is it to try and persuade those of us who are still not convinced that becoming a top-three public research institution is not inherently better for the University, and most importantly, the students?

From the Daily's Tuesday article on the ad campaign: "A 2006 survey conducted by (Linda) Thrane's (vice president for University relations) office shows that more Minnesotans think it is 'very important' for the University to provide a high-quality education - more important than to become an international leader in research. 'So the University has a lot of work to do,' Thrane said. 'We need to get people to understand how beneficial research is and how it makes us different from other schools.' "

There you have it. The general pubic isn't as concerned about research as they are about good, quality education, so the University must spend $2 million in order to make us think, er, "understand," otherwise.

I'm happy I was accepted into the General College, before it was closed to make way for a top-three research Institution and was able to get an education at the University that has taught me to recognize the subtleties in speech and the written word that make you believe things you didn't even know you read.

Mark Davidson
University undergraduate

Your thoughts?

September 13, 2006

Undergraduate writing initiative to debut in 2007-2008

It goes without saying that graduates of top-notch universities should be able to write clearly in a variety of contexts, whether essays, technical reports, film reviews, novels or even e-mails. But that simple goal has proved elusive in today's world, where instant communications often leave clarity--not to mention elegance--in the dust. To give its graduates the best chance at fulfilling their potential, the Twin Cities campus has launched a Baccalaureate Writing Initiative to make good writing an essential element of every student's education. The initiative, a centerpiece of the University's strategic positioning efforts, also aims to turn the University into a national model for the study and practice of writing.

Under the initiative, writing will be woven into all areas of study in a coherent manner that gives students a feel for how to write in a variety of contexts. Besides teaching students the elements of clear writing, a major goal is to help them understand the need to tune in to different audiences and vary their writing styles and content to fit the occasion. Currently, too many students lack the understanding and stylistic flexibility to do this.

"We had a lot of comments from employers who said new graduates, because of the effect of e-mail and other digital technologies like instant messaging, have adopted an informal style that's not always appropriate for workplace communications," says Laura Gurak, head of the rhetoric department and co-chair of the strategic positioning task force on writing that recommended the initiative.

The undergraduate writing task force was one of 34 task forces the University created as part of its effort to crack the ranks of the top three public research universities in the world within a decade. Recommendations from the task force have been given high priority, and Provost Tom Sullivan has appointed an implementation committee to put the plans in operation for the 2007-08 academic year. A report by the committee is due to the provost this fall.

Read the whole story in UMNews.

September 8, 2006

Learning Abroad fair for students

Is your student interested in studying, working, interning, or volunteering abroad?

Encourage him or her to attend the Learning Abroard fair on Wednesday, September 20, 2006, outside on the west end of the Washington Ave. Bridge.

That's it--short and sweet.

September 7, 2006

Writing assistance available on campus, and online

The University offers writing instruction and support for undergraduate students at all stages of the writing process through its Center for Writing in Nicholson Hall. Check the Center's website for hours and information on its satellite offices in University libraries and residence halls.

After hours, students looking for help will also find valuable resources and tips on the Center's website.

Students can complement their major with a leadership minor

Whether your undergraduate student is enrolled in the School of Nursing, CLA, IT, or any of the University's other colleges, he or she will probably find opportunities to act as a leader, either while here at the University or in their future career.

Many students are unaware that they can prepare for these opportunities by enrolling in the Department of Educational Policy and Administration's undergraduate minor in Leadership.

In addition to offering core courses introducing leadership theory, analyzing the characteristics of leaders, examining leadership in the context of social change and citizenship, and offering students a range of opportunities to learn and practice their knowledge, the minor offers students small interactive classes, individual attention from their instructors, and the opportunity to get to know classmates from a wide variety of academic majors and programs.

The minor is open to any student from any college, and is ideally begun in the student's freshman or early sophomore year (when they have at least 4 semesters ahead of them to complete the classes).

Visit the leadership minor's website for more information.

July 17, 2006

Pre-law school event

Thursday, July 20th, at the University of St Thomas School of Law, Kaplan Test Prep will hold a free event about law school admissions trends, test-taking strategies, and careers in law. Law school admissions officers from the University of Minnesota, the University of St. Thomas, and William Mitchell College of Law will also be on hand to offer advice for potential law school applicants.

This event is free--For more information or to register, please call 1-800-KAP-TEST.

July 7, 2006

Pre-law advising available during the summer

The College of Liberal Arts' Career and Community Learning Center is the pre-law advising office for all students at the U of M, Twin Cities. If your student is thinking about law school, he or she can make an appointment with CCLC during the summer by calling 612-624-7577 or stopping in the office in 135 Johnston Hall.

CCLC also has lots of pre-law info at

June 27, 2006

Internet research tutorial

The internet can be a wonderful research tool for college students, but how can students determine whether information they've found is legitimate and credible?

A friend forwarded to me this interesting new website developed in the UK, which guides college students through a tutorial on developing internet skills to help with studying and research:

The tutorial offers practical advice on evaluating the quality of websites and highlights the need for care when selecting online information sources to inform university or college work.

“Students are increasingly turning to the Internet to find information for their coursework or assignments, but they can be naïve in the sources they choose. There is concern among lecturers and librarians that students often degrade their work by referencing inappropriate information sources and by failing to use the key scholarly materials that they should be using.? (Emma Place, University of Bristol, co- author of Internet Detective).

The tutorial adopts a film noir detective metaphor to offer a light-hearted guide to developing Internet skills to help with studying and research. It takes around an hour to complete and is divided into the following five sections:

• What’s the Story? – aims to help students recognise the need to develop advanced Internet skills for university and college work

• The Good, the Bad and the Ugly – explains why information quality is an issue on the web, especially for academic research, and raises awareness of Internet hoaxes and scams

• Detective Work –gives hints and tips that help students evaluate information found on the Internet.

• Get on the Case – enables students to try out their Internet Detective skills with practical exercises

• Keep the Right Side of the Law - warns students about the dangers of plagiarism, copyright and incorrect use of citations and referencing

Internet Detective was originally developed in 1998 with funding from the European Union and was translated into a number of different languages by national libraries and research organisations. The original version was withdrawn in 2005, but there was a high demand for its return, as issues of information quality and overload on the Internet persist.

June 14, 2006

Round up of articles from the MN Daily

Some interesting topics in this week's MN Daily (yes, I said this week's--it's published weekly, not daily, during the summer).

First up, this probably comes as no surprise, but the internet has changed the way students gather information. They turn to the internet before the library, often using the internet to point them towards appropriate library resources:

“Why wouldn’t (college students use search engines)? It’s easy and it’s broad-based,? said Cathy De Rosa, vice president of marketing and library services for the Online Computer Library Center, a nonprofit computer library service and research organization that conducted the report.

Linh Nguyen, a French and English junior, is among the 2 percent of college students who use the University’s library Web site to find information before search engines.

“You can trust the information from the library’s Web site more then the stuff you find on Google,? Nguyen said.

Still, college students use library resources more than the general public. While 90 percent of college students have a library card, only 72 percent of the general public have one, according to the report.

Read the entire story here.

Next, the Daily takes a look at the plight of undocumented immigrants who struggle to pay for higher education, including a profile of University junior Abraham Castro who was able to use a full scholarship only after he obtained legal status:

And for Castro, like many students who arrived in this country illegally, one of the most glaring uncertainties of life in the United States is his future after high school.

“People wonder why Latinos have low graduation rates,? he said. “But when I found out I might not be able to go to college, I felt like dropping out too.?

A 2004 graduate of Highland Park High School, Castro had taken International Baccalaureate classes and earned a full academic scholarship to the University.

Instead of celebrating like most high school graduates would, Castro started looking for a job.

“Getting the scholarship was almost more of a disappointment because I was pretty sure that even though I got it, I couldn’t use it,? he said.

And finally, in reponse to an article about the archictecture firm chosen to design the new football stadium, a Daily columnist makes a plea for potty parity in the new structure:

A new and shiny Gophers football stadium seems inevitable, so now it’s time to consider emerging issues and controversies surrounding its construction and completion. This not-quite-theoretical stadium of the future will be filled with our hopes and dreams, but we also could create new problems unless we think hard, together, about this big cool stadium and build the damn thing right. One of the most important issues surrounding stadium construction will be something called “potty parity.?

You’ve never heard of potty parity? Um, pull up a seat, (so to speak) and you’ll hear all about why it would be a horrible act of gender discrimination to build a stadium with anything less than a ratio of 2-to-1 women’s bathroom facilities to men’s.

No, really. “Separate but equal? is not equal, not when you consider the average rest room wait time for men and women. Potty parity is based on this commonsense biological reality. It is a movement (so to speak) that has spread across the country and even the world, founded on a groundbreaking 1988 graduate thesis by Sandra Rawls of Virginia Polytechnic Institute.

May 31, 2006

"Leapfrog model" proposes changes to undergraduate education

A new proposal aims to change undergraduate education, envisioning undergraduate students as creators and discoverers, rather than merely receivers, of knowledge, the MN Daily reports:

Imagine exams and lectures were replaced by laboratories where students research course material on their own instead of taking notes from a professor.

Imagine Psychology 1001 began by covering the most current issues in the field, and students worked backward to learn the history of the field.

Two members of the University community in the Comparative and International Development Education program are imagining those kinds of classes and are working to make them a reality.

Professor Arthur Harkins and doctoral candidate John Moravec released a fourth version of their memorandum "Building a 'Leapfrog' University: Renovating Undergraduate Education," on May 17.

May 17, 2006

Test preparation resource for students applying to graduate school

If your student will be taking a test like the GRE, LSAT, MCAT, etc. next year in preparation for application to a graduate or professional school, the University Counseling and Consulting Service offers a resource center that helps prepare students for exams.

Summer hours will be limited:

May 22-June 30
Monday 9:00 – 2:00
Tuesday 11:00 – 4:00
Wednesday Closed
Thursday Closed
Friday Closed

July 1- August 31
Monday 9:00-2:00
Tuesday 11:00 – 4:00
Wednesday 11:00 – 4:00
Thursday Closed
Friday Closed

May 12, 2006

Transfer student on the rise

The Star Tribune examines why increasing numbers of undergraduates are transferring:

Nationally, the proportion of new college graduates with bachelor's degrees who have attended more than one four-year college increased from almost 37 percent in 1993 to 48 percent in 2000.

Why so much movement? Some experts say that students expect more of colleges than they once did, and that a generation of young people who are used to getting what they want expect the same in higher education. Others say students are choosing schools for the wrong reasons.

not just once, but often multiple times:

On the U's Twin Cities campus, the number of transfer students who are admitted has not changed significantly over the years, but the number of transfer applications has jumped 46 percent in the past five years. In fall 2005, almost one-third of the nearly 1,900 undergraduates who transferred into the U had attended two other colleges, and 13 percent had gone to three or more schools.

"Students are perhaps not moving in the kind of direction we want toward a degree," said Paula Brugge, associate director for transfer admissions on the Twin Cities campus. Students move for many reasons, she said, including lack of information, financial problems and poor self-discipline.

The New York Times also covered this story a couple of weeks ago.

May 10, 2006

Outstanding undergraduate advisers recognized

UMNews reports:

Combine all the choices at public universities with the ups and downs of student life, and it's no mystery why advising is critical to students'--and universities'--success. That's one of the reasons the University of Minnesota created the John Tate Awards for Excellence in Undergraduate Advising in 1986 to honors its best advisers U-wide.

This year's four winners include two faculty and two professional staff members in fields from art to chemical engineering. Altogether they tote decades of advising experience. Students love them, and they love students.

"Every time I leave an appointment, I feel like I'm heading in the right direction, with both feet on the ground and my head on my shoulders," a student wrote about one of the winners. Another was nominated by more than 100 undergraduates who signed a petition.

Ted Fitch, Kitty Jones, Alon McCormick, and Robert Silberman received their awards at a luncheon and ceremony April 28 at the Twin Cities campus. More than 130 advisers and well-wishers attended the event at the Radisson University Hotel sponsored by the Office of the Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost.

May 5, 2006

Florida legislation would require high schoolers to choose majors

TALLAHASSEE, Florida (AP) -- The Florida Legislature gave final approval to a bill Thursday that requires high school students to declare a major, similar to college students.

The measure now goes to Governor Jeb Bush, who pushed the requirement as part of a sweeping education overhaul approved by the House 90-24. The Senate passed it earlier in the day 39-1.

"It's important because it'll make the high school experience more relevant for a broader range of students," Bush said. "This will give them a chance to pursue education where their interests lie. ... There still will be core curricula credits that they'll need to pass."

The bill also requires that high school students take a fourth year of math and that middle school students receive career planning instruction.

Read the whole AP story on What do you think about this idea?

May 1, 2006

Health Careers Center allows students to explore possibilties

If your student is contemplating a career in the ever-expanding field of healthcare, you may want to encourage them to pay a visit (online or in-person) to the Health Careers Center.

The Center hosts information sessions and workshops, and its online resources allow students to explore career options, learn about volunteer and internship opportunities, and get information about appoying for health programs.

The Center will also be offering a new for-credit online course in health sciences orientation next fall.

April 28, 2006

Transfer students in good company

About 60% of the students graduating from college these days have attended more than one institution, according to the New York Times:

In large part, those numbers reflect the growing population of nontraditional-age students, adults who go to college later in life and often start at a two-year institution. But even traditional students like Ms. Madden — those who head to a four-year college right out of high school — are approaching the experience in a nontraditional way.

They transfer to get a more agreeable major or social life, or take classes at a college back home during the summer to get a leg up on the next year's credits. They take an online class, or earn credits during the year at a nearby community college where they find a required course cheaper, less demanding or at a more convenient hour. Or they do some of each.

College officials call it swirling, mix and match, cut and paste, grab and go. Whatever the term of art, it makes sense for the so-called millennial generation, students famously lacking in brand loyalty, used to having things their way, and can-do about changing anything they don't like. As with other commodities, students are looking for that magic combination of quality, affordability and convenience. They shun CD's to create their own iPod playlists; is it any surprise they shape their own course catalogs?

"Everybody can customize it the way they want it," says Ms. Madden, now 24 and working at a Cape Cod media company that runs radio stations and a Web site. "In the world we live in, with the Internet making things so accessible, we try to find what we like."

Among the challenges faced by transfer students--getting credit for coursework they've completed. Also from the Times:

Colleges traditionally cater to those who arrive as freshmen and leave as seniors. Transfer students challenge the system. But with nearly 60 percent of students switching campuses on their way to a bachelor's degree, institutions are responding to the new educational reality. Some are hammering out agreements to streamline transfer of course credits, a process that is far from perfect. Representative Howard P. McKeon, Republican of California and chairman of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, is sponsoring a bill requiring colleges to disclose their transfer policies. Meanwhile, colleges are putting more detailed course information online to help administrators evaluate what students are bringing to the table.

Not surprisingly, getting credit for past work is the chief concern among transfer students. "Students want to know: Is my credit going to transfer and how will it transfer to the degree program and how long will it take me to get the degree based on what I am bringing in?" says Marcelle Heerschap, associate dean for student academic affairs and advising at George Mason University in Virginia.

The answer to such questions is not straightforward. Colleges typically provide transfer students an initial evaluation, showing which courses have equivalents at the new college, which transfer only as electives, and which cannot be judged until courses are evaluated by the relevant academic department. Hint: Bring course syllabuses and important tests, papers or projects to help explain the depth and breadth of previous course work.

While a calculus-to-calculus credit exchange is clear, says Mary French, Boston College's associate director of undergraduate admissions, a designated faculty member may have to decide if, say, a feminist studies course elsewhere is equivalent to a women's issues class at Boston College. "The onus is on the student to have that face time with a faculty member," Ms. French says.

April 21, 2006

Undergraduates to present research in poster session

Studies shows a strong correlation between undergraduates' involvement in research projects and their graduation rates. The University encourages students to include research in their programs, and next week will host a year-end symposium on undergraduate research to showcase their work.

On Wednesday, April 26, in Coffman Union's Great Hall, students will exhibit posters illustrating research projects from a wide range of disciplines, UMNews reports:

Nearly twenty years ago, Professor Frank Barnwell got a happy shock. When undergraduate students in a College of Biological Sciences seminar presented research to their peers, he was astonished by how good it was.

"I thought it just had to be shared with the rest of the faculty," Barnwell says. So he organized the first poster symposium. And it grew year by year, first expanding to life sciences students in agriculture and forestry, then to more fields. "That cross-disciplinary mix was terrific."

This year for the first time, the Undergraduate Symposium is open to students campuswide and is sponsored by eight colleges and several other offices. Next Wednesday, April 26, students will fill the Great Hall of Coffman Union with more than 80 posters about their research on topics such as phantom pain in amputees, humor's effect on stress, the role of syphilis in 16th century Italian art, and memory and problem-solving in the octopus.

"It lets the whole community, inside and outside the U, know what students are doing, and that research is not just for faculty and graduate students," says Peter Hudleston, associate dean in the Institute of Technology. "Research is one of the fundamental things we do here, and there's every reason why undergraduates should share in that enterprise."

Students thinking about doing their own research projects next year may want to attend the symposium to see what kinds of projects their peers have been working on.

April 20, 2006

End-of-the-semester tips for student success

The University's Office for Student Affairs has recently produced audio podcasts addressing some of the most common concerns students have as they face their final exams.

Among the topics are "Preparing for Final Exams," "Avoiding Procrastination," and "Finishing the Semester Strong." There's even one with suggestions on how to help students negotiate conflicts related to exams or grades.

Students do not need an iPod or mp3 player to listen to the recordings. The podcasts can also be listened to as audio files on the Web, which students would link to through a computer.

There is no charge to download the files, which are available here.

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 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 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

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 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

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.

February 21, 2006

Easy e-mail access to professors makes them more approachable.

Perhaps too approachable. The New York Times examines how e-mail is changing the student-professor dynamic, and why that is frustrating some professors. Some excerpts:

One student skipped class and then sent the professor an e-mail message asking for copies of her teaching notes. Another did not like her grade, and wrote a petulant message to the professor. Another explained that she was late for a Monday class because she was recovering from drinking too much at a wild weekend party.

Jennifer Schultens, an associate professor of mathematics at the University of California, Davis, received this e-mail message last September from a student in her calculus course: "Should I buy a binder or a subject notebook? Since I'm a freshman, I'm not sure how to shop for school supplies. Would you let me know your recommendations? Thank you!"

Some professors interviewed felt that students expect them to be constantly available.

These days, they say, students seem to view them as available around the clock, sending a steady stream of e-mail messages — from 10 a week to 10 after every class — that are too informal or downright inappropriate.

"The tone that they would take in e-mail was pretty astounding," said Michael J. Kessler, an assistant dean and a lecturer in theology at Georgetown University. " 'I need to know this and you need to tell me right now,' with a familiarity that can sometimes border on imperative."

He added: "It's a real fine balance to accommodate what they need and at the same time maintain a level of legitimacy as an instructor and someone who is institutionally authorized to make demands on them, and not the other way round."

While once professors may have expected deference, their expertise seems to have become just another service that students, as consumers, are buying. So students may have no fear of giving offense, imposing on the professor's time or even of asking a question that may reflect badly on their own judgment.

Both professors and students interviewed did appreciate that e-mail can be an important learning tool when a student uses it to ask a question or request a clarification:

Still, every professor interviewed emphasized that instant feedback could be invaluable. A question about a lecture or discussion "is for me an indication of a blind spot, that the student didn't get it," said Austin D. Sarat, a professor of political science at Amherst College.

College students say that e-mail makes it easier to ask questions and helps them to learn. "If the only way I could communicate with my professors was by going to their office or calling them, there would be some sort of ranking or prioritization taking place," said Cory Merrill, 19, a sophomore at Amherst. "Is this question worth going over to the office?"

February 17, 2006

Career and academic program exploration event

Is your student still trying to decide on a major or a career path? A free event offered by the Career and Community Learning Center in the College of Liberal Arts will give your student an opportunity to learn about majors available at the U, talk to advisors, take a career interests quiz, and learn about off-campus programs. The event will be held on Wednesday, March 1, from 10 am - 2 pm in the Great Hall of Coffman Union. No registration is required and the event is open to all U students. Click here for more info.

Long breaks make students less likely to graduate

A recent federal study shows that undergraduates who take more than a semester break from their studies are less likely than their peers to graduate, the Washington Post reports today.

Is blogging part of your student's coursework?

The Minnesota Daily reports on the increasing usage of blogs in University classes. Even as personal blogging at the U is decreasing, instructors are using blogs to stimulate student participation and discussion.

February 7, 2006

Learning abroad workshop is now online

The Parent Program and the Learning Abroad Center teamed up over winter break to hold a workshop for parents of students considering studying abroad. If you were unable to attend it live, watch it now from the comfort of your own home.

Our mental health workshop and off-campus housing workshop are still available for online viewing. Be sure to fill out the evaluation form after viewing any of these presentations--your feedback helps the Parent Program plan and improve future programming.