Today I had a meeting with fellow colleagues who are involved in or interested in implementing a service component into their courses.  At Morningside we have a graduation requirement where students must take a course that is flagged as service learning.  These courses include a certain amount of volunteer hours and papers/presentations on these experiences and how they relate to the course content.

I became interested in being a part of this group after I decided to try to implement a service component into one of my often taught courses (developmental psychology).  I decided to try this because I was getting a sense that the students were not really seeing the true value of the content and how different developmental experiences can influence individuals.

The big question for the service learning group (and for those who want to try to implement service into courses or organizations) is who to contact to do this.  At my Alma Matre (St. Thomas) there was a whole office dedicated to helping people coordinate these service opportunities (see: and  These offices are often student staffed, but have a faculty member or staff member as well allowing for a more consistent point person.  At Morningside it has been a bit of an issue.  We have had Vistas (yearly employees) that have been extremely helpful for people, but we have not had someone with a consistent relationship with the faculty, organization advisors, and the external organizations. The St. Thomas model may not work for Morningside, but perhaps it can provide just one example for how to better serve those on our campus who have service learning needs.

We know that having students engage in service is a good thing and the more that we can have students experience how the content of a course can be applied and seen in real life the better that students can retain this information.  However, we need to have a more constant connection between faculty and these organizations for this to happen well.

I often find myself excited by the possibilities for my courses and for UPA (psychology club) after these service learning group meetings.  But I often feel stymied by the amount of work needed to really organize a quality experience. And in all honesty, I often do not have the time to do a good job of this.   I hope that Morningside would consider having a more permanent individual who can work to help faculty and others interested in having students engage in service in the community.  Morningside emphasizes civic responsibility, now we need to invest in the man-power to help Morningside effectively execute this part of our mission statement.

Technology = Frustrations

September 18, 2009

Today I write on behalf of both myself and my students when I say that the technology these past couple of weeks has been a huge frustration.  Morningside just this year allowed students the choice between a mac and a pc (we are a laptop campus and issue all students a computer).  Many people knew of the change, but few of us were really prepared for the trickle down effect of the change.

Personally it has affected me in two classes that I teach.  In one class the program will work fine with a splitter on a mac, but does have times when it becomes buggy, but at least much of the time it works.  In the other class the pc software will not work at all on the mac os.  So now my mac students are having to borrow a friend’s pc with the software on it to compelte much of the course work.

At least this has opened up new discussion at least in our department of how to best deal with these macs (which in and of themselves are not evil, but many students are cursing their macs).  There are many coulda, woulda, shoulda’s in how we could have better prepared ourselves as a campus for this.  But we just got so used to most students having pc’s and having our software work on them that it just wasn’t an issue.

So, with new choice comes new frustrations but also new opportunities.  We must learn to work around them as most other campuses do.  We have just honestly been a bit protected from the platform compatability issues for several years.

This was more or less a rant, not against macs (my grad school advisor would likely dis-own me if that were the case!), but just that we needed as a department and as a campus to have been more prepared for these issues.

A long first couple of weeks

September 4, 2009

Here at Morningside we are often spoiled in that we start with a short week of classes, have a long Labor Day weekend, and then one more short week of classes before we get into the M-F drill.  Because Labor Day is late this year, we had our first full week right away, and BOY were people feeling it.  Both Faculty and Students alike were complaining.  But I have managed to get most of my important work complete so that I have little grading to do over the long weekend.

The other issue this week that has irked me is that some school districts are caving into what I believe to be conservative paranoia about Obama’s scheduled web cast to US school children next week.  I have recently heard that the Grand Forks, ND system will not be showing it….I will not be surprised if districts here also cave.  Much too bad because the message will be an important one….challenge yourself, get an education, and become a productive member of society.  How is this a bad thing.  Our country has become too polarized and perhaps we need to get parents who DO want their children to hear this message call into the schools!