Serving the Morris community

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Part of the purpose of STELLAR is to expose international students to all the facets of life in a liberal arts college and at UMM in particular. Throughout the program, we've been meeting with guest lecturers to learn more about the different disciplines that make up a liberal arts education, we've been spending time with the American students in the Gateway program as we learn about each other's cultures, and we've been traveling around the state to see some of the experiences that different U.S. cities have to offer. One component of campus life at Morris that we are just now learning about is the role of service to the community in a UMM education. In fact, we have a whole office on campus--the Office of Community Engagement--dedicated to helping students connect to needs in the community.

Here's a little big about Argie, who helps run the Office of Community Engagement and who is helping us with our work with the community:

argie.pngArgie Manolis is the community engagement coordinator at UMM. She helps students get involved in the regional community through service-learning classes, service events, and volunteer opportunities. She also teaches creative writing, an IC course about community engagement, and a study abroad course focused on aging with a service-learning component in Greece.

During the next couple of weeks, STELLAR students will be working with the Office of Community Engagement on two separate projects: service events in the community on to Wednesday nights (last night and next week) and a service learning project in Duluth, during which we will be playing with underprivileged American children and leading activities to teach them a little about Chinese culture. The way in which our volunteering last night is different from the "service learning" we'll be doing in Duluth is that the work that we are doing now is only to help the community, where as the work we'll be doing with children in Duluth is a part of a Morris class (in this case, a language class) taken for academic credit.

Last night's activities took students across the city of Morris, from homes of elders in the community to the local food co-op to the public library. Some students spent the evening scrubbing kennels at the local Humane Society and were rewarded with the opportunity to cuddle with some of the kittens that were benefitting from the hard work.
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Others designed gift bags with pictures and greetings--often in English and Chinese--for elders in the community, some of whom feel lonely and will no doubt be happy to read the kind words and see the fun drawings dreamed up by students in STELLAR (and eat the fruit that we'll put in the bags). We'll be headed back to the same service sites next week to continue the projects that we started.

Adventures in St. Cloud (and in Morris)

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Although we were all tired after a busy week, some students opted on Friday night to attend a special event called the Relay for Life, which helps raise money for victims of cancer and for cancer research. Not only were we supporting an important cause, we were also supporting some of our new friends in the Gateway program who had spent the last several days preparing crafts, baked goods, and games for the event. At the Relay for Life, many of us got our hair and faces painted fun colors. Some of us also discovered a hidden talent for tossing beanbags and others designed and modeled dresses made of duct tape for a contest. I personally think our outfits were the most fashionable, but a little girl from the community stole the show. It's hard to compete with an eight year old. :-)

We spent our Saturday in St. Cloud where we walked through the beautiful Munsinger and Clemens Flower Gardens, did some shopping, and stayed for supper in the food court of the Crossroads Shopping Mall. Many of us ate Chinese, and I was taught by some experts in the group how to use chopsticks. Before heading back to Morris, we made one more stop to watch the new Batman movie, The Dark Knight Rises. When our bus pulled into the parking lot at Morris after our long day of activities, we were met by Swati, one of the student workers in the program, who had brought over a cake to celebrate a joint late-night birthday party for Frank and Sunny!

Thumbnail image for canoes and turbine.jpgAnother highlight of our action-packed weekend was yesterday when we all got in canoes and, with the help of an organization called CURE ("Clean Up the River Environment"), navigated our way down the local Pomme de Terre River. We were met at the end of our short trip by the American students in the Gateway program, along with members of CURE and GreenCorps, joined us for outdoor games and a picnic. A great way to end the weekend! We didn't get very many pictures--because none of us wanted to lose our cameras in the river!--but if you look closely you can see STELLAR students canoeing under the summer sun and the iconic Morris wind turbine.

Today we wrapped up our environmental studies unit. More to come soon as we spend some time in the town of Morris serving the community through fun projects!

Exploring the Minnesota prairie

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As we approached campus from the Minneapolis Airport, we saw billboards advertising UMM as offering "a renewable, sustainable education." Many of our classes and activities the first week helped the STELLAR students understand what we mean when we talk about sustainability in Morris and opened up more general discussion about our relationship to the land that we live on.

Our lessons in environmental studies began with a short tour led by an organization called GreenCorps. The two GreenCorps members showed us some of the sustainable or "green" projects on campus including the solar panels that heat the community swimming pool and the biomass plant, which uses steam to provide electricity, heating, and air conditioning to campus for different parts of the year. It's hard to believe that we have the biomass plant to thank for having cool places to study in the summer!

The last stop on our tour was one of Morris' two wind turbines, which in addition to giving the campus much of its electricity, provides a favorite place for many students at UMM to spend their free time during the autumn and spring. We could see why it's such a popular spot!

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After learning about the projects on campus to support sustainable living, we took a couple trips off campus to learn more about the changing landscape. Before European immigrants came to occupy this land, West Central Minnesota--the part of the state where Morris is located--was mostly prairie and wetlands; the landscape had few trees and was home to grazing bison and countless other species. Since the prairie has been converted to farmland, the landscape and the ecosystems of West Central Minnesota have changed drastically. We got to see some of these changes for ourselves as we drove past the rows cornfields to visit two small pockets of land that have not been exploited for agriculture: the Morris Wetlands Management District and Glacial Lakes State Park. Styron Bell from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service visited our class and helped us identify the hides of some common Minnesota mammels before leading us on a tour of the wetlands to see the landscape for ourselves. The following day, UMM Professor Margaret Kuchenreuther took us to the prairie, where we saw traces of some of the same animals Styron had introduced us to the day before. In addition, we saw egrets, a vole, and countless interesting species of insects and plants. Joe even kissed a frog!

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Many of us ended our day with some star gazing in the campus observatory with the help of a Morris physics professor. There's nothing like seeing the glow of Mars and the rings of Saturn far in the distance to help us realize how delicate, beautiful, and worth protecting our own planet is.

We've made it!

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After long, long flights impeded by delays and cancellations, all 38 of this year's STELLAR students have finally made it to our home on the prairie. We are so excited they're here!

Although the students just arrived from China a few days ago, we've already been busy exploring UMM and the surrounding community in our four groups, led by the mentors and named after Minnesota sports teams--the Wild, the Timberwolves, the Twins, and the Vikings. The students have already learned where in Morris they can mail a letter, set up a bank account, buy a bicycle, watch a movie, and find good winter clothing. With the weather we've been having, it's hard to believe that in just a few months we'll all be at TrueValue Town and Country on Main Street stocking up on mittens and hats! We finished off the busy first weekend with a fun event: a night of bowling with American first-year students and mentors from the Gateway program. What a fun group! We're excited to do more activities with Gateway as the program progresses.

Now that we've started to get settled in to the town of Morris and to campus life, it's time to get ready for the first day of classes. (Tomorrow morning already! Can you believe it? My the time has flown...). During STELLAR, the weekdays will begin in the morning with small "Language" classes focusing on reading and writing, which will help prepare students for their afternoon class on Intercultural Communication--the first time they will be in an American classroom learning alongside American students. Throughout the program, guest lecturers will also teaches us about environmental studies, theatre, and a program at Morris called "service learning"--just to keep things interesting! The diversity of the program offered at UMM are part of what makes it a liberal arts university. We'll let Nancy Pederson, Kristina Gray, and Brian Parmeter--the three instructors for the Language portion of the class--tell you a little bit about themselves:

nancy.pngHello! My name is Nancy, and I'm a native of Minnesota.  My undergraduate degree is a BS in International Business; my graduate degree is an MA in Teaching English as a Second Language, which I earned in 1997 from the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis. I was a short-term exchange student to Nankai University in Tianjin, PRChina in 1988, and during my life I've been lucky enough to teach in the United States, Korea, and the United Arab Emirates.  I've been teaching ESL at UMM for the past 6 years, and I'm excited to work with STELLAR again this summer!

kristina.pngNi Hao! As a life-long learner, I was awarded my MA degree from U of M, Minneapolis in 1990. I have taught English in four Asian countries totaling over ten years. I am eager to walk, bike, talk, watch movies, sing, play Frisbee AND learn more from you about China!
Cheers! Kristina

brian.pngHello! My name is Brian, and I have an MS in Rhetoric and Technical Communication. My professional life has always revolved around communication. As a professional photographer and musician, and now as an English teacher, the goal is the same: it's all about the exchange of ideas.
I have traveled quite a bit including a couple of trips to Asia. I very much enjoy seeing how people in different cultures go about their lives... how similar we all are and how different we all are. In all of my travels I've been amazed at how kind and helpful people have been, and how much effort they put into communicating with me. Teaching in ESL is a way for me to return some of that helpfulness, and to improve my knowledge and appreciation of other cultures.

Best of luck from all of us on your first day of class!

Tomorrow is the day!

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Only one day until the first STELLAR students arrive to UMM, and we can't wait! Early tomorrow morning, several of the mentors and student workers will pack the van and leave for Minneapolis International Airport to greet the new students. We'll be easy to spot in the airport because we'll all be wearing our bright orange STELLAR t-shirts (and huge smiles)! We are so excited to meet all of you!

Once you arrive in Morris (and maybe have the chance to get a little sleep!), you'll have the chance to meet the rest of the International Student Programs (ISP) staff, who are also looking forward to welcoming you to the United States and to UMM. Here's a little bit about each of them:

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for hilda.pngHilda Ladner is the Assistant to the Chancellor for Equity and Diversity and the Director of Equity, Diversity and Intercultural Programs at UMM. She received her M.Ed. From Northern Arizona University and her B.A. from Northern Arizona University. Hilda is the mother of two, one girl and one boy. She enjoys Zumba (aerobic exercise) and reading. She is excited to welcome bother the STELLAR students and Gateway students (new American students of various minority backgrounds who you will meet during the summer as well).


Thumbnail image for pilar.pngPilar Eble is the coordinator of the international student programs at UMM. She grew up in the southern part of the United States in Louisiana. She has lived in Minnesota since 2003 and has been working at UMM in this position since 2008. Her Bachelor's degree is from University of Louisiana and she earned her Master's degree in higher education administration from the University of Mississippi. Pilar is the proud mother of 4 beautiful boys! In her spare time she likes to spend time with friends and family golfing, jogging, travelling and being outdoors during the beautiful Minnesota summers! Her favorite aspect of working with international students is having friends all over the world! She also loves the cultural learning that she experiences every day!


Thumbnail image for leslie.pngLeslie Gubash is UMM's International Student Success Coordinator. She recieved her M.S in College Counseling and Student Development at St. Cloud State and her B.A. in English at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities. Leslie is the Coordinator of the STELLAR program this year, she is very excited to welcome the new STELLAR students! International education is her primary passion and it is her privilege and deep pleasure to be your International Advisor and assist you with your needs throughout your next four years at UMM! Leslie has traveled to the Middle East as well as parts of Europe and South America. She hopes to someday travel to China and other parts of south east Asia. Her other hobbies include: running, painting, knitting, going to plays at the
theater, dancing and singing.


To all our new STELLAR students (who will be arriving tomorrow and Saturday) from the mentors, student workers, and the rest of the ISP staff: Have a safe and enjoyable flight. We are so excited to welcome you to the country! Remember, keep an eye out for our orange shirts at the airport. ;)

See you all very soon!

Meet our student workers

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Although your mentors are the people you'll be seeing the most of, there are also many others in International Student Programs helping to make sure STELLAR runs smoothly. The three student workers for STELLAR are already hard at work getting everything ready for when you arrive. They are all excited to welcome you in person this weekend!

Thumbnail image for leo.jpgHello, I'm Zeyun Lin; you can call me Leo. I am the ISP student worker during the STELLAR program. I'm a sophomore at UMM. My majors are Mathematics and Statistics. I prefer to play tennis and swimming. I love Morris which is a quiet and beautiful place to study. Like you, last year, I was one of the STELLAR program members. What I learnt from that summer is something which I can't learn from the school. Have fun during the STELLAR program with us!


Thumbnail image for allen.jpgHello, everybody. My name is Allen, and my major is Biochemistry. Two years ago, I came to the University of Minnesota Morris to further my studies just like you, and I had a good time. All the professors and students here are friendly and whenever I have a problem they are willing to help me. That's the reason why I like this university. As your friend, I will try to solve any kinds of problems you have in your studies and life. Of course, when we are free, we could play together as well. My hobbies are watching movies, playing computer games and reading books. Hope we will spend a fascinating summer vacation together.


Thumbnail image for swati.jpgHi, my name is Swati Narayan. I have graduated from UMM in Economics and Management. I grew up in India and moved to the United States for my undergraduate education. I have been working in International Student's Program for a couple years now. I love working with international students. I could tell you how to adapt to this completely different environment easier and faster. I hope you have a great life ahead of you in Morris, MN. Welcome!

Meet your STELLAR mentors!

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Ni Hao, and welcome to the STELLAR Blog! Here, you'll be able to read about what we're doing in the program (and hopefully see some fun pictures!). We are so excited for the students to arrive from China soon! Meanwhile, if you're curious about the kinds of activities we'll be doing, take a look at last year's blog.

Although the students for STELLAR don't arrive until next week, the staff members at the University of Minnesota, Morris Office of Equity, Diversity, and Intercultural Programs have been busy going through training and getting ready for STELLAR. We'll let the people who you'll be getting to know in the program tell you a little about ourselves.

Today, we'd like to tell you a little about the student mentors. Each of you will be assigned a mentor to help introduce you to campus. The mentors will greet you at the airport, live in the dorms with you, and lead you throughout the program. You'll be seeing the student mentors in your classes as well; Sean will be helping as a tutor in the Reading class, Meaghan in the Writing class, and Zak and Saesun in the class on Communications, Media, and Rhetoric. We are here to answer any questions you might have as you transition to your life in Morris.

Here's a little bit about each of us:

Thumbnail image for zak.jpgHello! My name is Zak Forde, and I will be a senior this year with majors in Political Science and Gender, Women, and Sexuality Studies. I am very involved as a student leader on campus, serving with the student government leadership, sitting on committees with professors and staff, and working for the weekly student newspaper. If you are interested in getting involved in student government or other organizations on campus, I would love to talk to you and answer any questions you might have. Studying at UMM will bring very special, different opportunities for everyone, and I love to show new students what that can mean for them. I am excited to be a STELLAR mentor!


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Hello, my name is Saesun Kim. I am an extra optimistic tricky magical student researcher at the University of Minnesota Morris. I love math and other academic subjects, but also I have an enthusiasm for classical music and operas. For this reason, I am attending the Morris campus which is the liberal arts college that makes you a well-rounded student. Although my major is Physics in the university, I am investigating psycho-linguistic research. I am already excited about the time with you this July. Welcome to Morris. Hope we have wonderful time in this summer together.


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Hello, my friends! Welcome to UMM. My name is Guoxiang Weng; you can also call me Sean. My major is Economics. If you are also interested in this major and have some questions, talk to me and I will do my best to help you. Playing basketball and swimming are my hobbies. I have learned saxophone for one year in our university and hope I can perform it for you all at the end of our program. I am involved in skiing club, Chinese club, Geological club, and many other student organizations the last two terms; they enriched my school life. Morris is a peaceful and beautiful town and it gave me  a wonderful and fruitful year. I wish you can also experience a good university life at Morris!


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Hello, friends, and welcome! My name is Meaghan Young-Stephens, and I have spent the last four years as a (very happy) student at the University of Minnesota, Morris. I study English and Political Science, and during my free time I like to read, go to plays, and zoom around on my bicycle. I've been lucky enough to travel to Egypt and Northern Ireland for my studies. However, Morris is one of my favorite places in the world, and I am excited to have the chance to spend the summer on the beautiful Minnesota prairie with STELLAR. Some of my favorite things about Morris are the free ice skating on Sunday nights, the Harry Potter-themed dance, the campus theater group Breakfast for Dinner, the scenic walk to the wind turbine, and the midnight pancakes before final exams. This is my second year as a STELLAR mentor. I learned a lot from the participants in the program last year, and I'm excited to get to know all of you!