Tag Archives: St. Cloud State University

A little inspiration

One of my students shared a tip and I thought it was inspired!

This particular student takes advantage of university resources, like the writing center.  If you have an in-person appointment at our writing center the consultants will ask you to read your paper aloud and the consultant will make suggestions.  I’m familiar with this method because this was the same pedagogy employed by my writing center at SCSU.  Well, the student was working on their rough draft for a paper and wanted someone else to read it but didn’t have someone to just sit with him as he typed.  So, how to solve this problem? The student cut and pasted sections of his paper into Google Translate and let the program read his writing back to him!  I thought this was such a clever trick and is something that ELL and non-ELL students could implement.  Its simple, easy to use, and easy to replicate.

I love it when students share their brilliant ideas!

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7 Reasons Why You Should Travel Alone At Least Once In Your Life

I loved my weekend alone in Johannesburg. Its funny to say that I traveled alone because I never felt alone, not the whole time! I met an amazing South African artist on the plane, connected with a great group of people at my hostel, and toured the city and had lunch with a group of women from The Netherlands. I had lost my voice in the dry winter air and everyone was so kind to me. Traveling “alone” can be amazing!!!

Thought Catalog

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1. You will meet amazing people.

While traveling with friends or a significant other can be a lot of fun, traveling solo for a certain amount of time can prove to be one of the most rewarding things you’ll ever do because of the great people you’ll meet.

When we travel with friends or a partner, we tend to stick to that little group of familiar faces and even though you’ll meet new people, the dynamics and interactions won’t be as deep and fulfilling. While you’re on your own on the road, you’re much more eager to meet travel buddies, team up with other travelers and generally reach out more in order to socialize.

2. The overwhelming sense of absolute freedom.

When you travel on your own and you start meeting people and making awesome friends, you’ll probably team up with travel buddies and…

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Our Journey Back to MN

Here’s a video compilation of our long trip back to Minnesota from Port Elizabeth.  We flew from PE to Johannesburg. From Johannesburg we flew into Dulles (Washington, DC).  Then we got a shuttle from Dulles to National Airport to avoid a 12-hour layover.  Then from National we flew into Minneapolis.


African Unity Foundation

As an intern here at NMMU I did not take any classes and so I could not volunteer through the school like all of my cohort from SCSU. The benefit of volunteering through the school is they have the relationship with the local organization and the university provides transport! Lack of transportation is one of the biggest frustrations studying here. The students from the US are all used to having their own cars and the European students are used to being able to walk, bike, or take safe and secure public transport in their home countries. I wanted to volunteer while I was here but couldn’t find an opportunity, until I spoke with Dr. Jennifer Winstead. She is from the US (Mississippi to be exact), came here for post-doc work and stayed. She worked in the International Office for a while and switched over to Student Affairs. Dr. Winstead refereed me to AUF as a volunteer resource.

THE VISION of the Foundation is to be the preferred conduit between business and the social sector, playing the vital role of implementing and managing of SED and ED programs. This is supported by comprehensive monitoring and evaluation of each project.
OUR MISSION is to source funding from the business sector and invest in projects driven by our partnerships within the community.
AUF’s SED agenda has its objectives aligned as per the BEE codes of good practice, identifying EDUCATION as one of the key areas of investment. 

Company Overview
African Unity Foundation (AUF) established in 2003 is registered as a Public Benefits Organisation (PBO), AUF focuses on sustainable Socio-Economic and Enterprise Development programmes.
AUF is registered under the Section 18A of the Income Tax Act. This enables AUF to issue tax certificates for any contributions received.

Description
AUF fills a niche gap in assisting companies who do not have the Human Resources, time and/or expertise to implement, manage and maintain SED projects.
With our extensive experience in designing, planning, implementing and managing of our various projects, investors will have peace of mind that the following will be attended to:

Monitoring and Evaluation of programmes
Well governed and transparent financial reporting on contributions received
Issuing of Section 18A certificates for tax benefits
BEE contribution certificate
Impact investing (Impact vs Input

Like volunteering through the community service learning course that the SCSU students register for, AUF also provides the relationship and transportation to volunteers. The added benefit of volunteering through AUF is the ability to mix with South African students. It can be difficult to meet locals, especially as an intern, because I am in an office environment. I work with locals but do not interact with students in the same way as if I was in class with them. I just did my first volunteer activity with AUF this past weekend and really enjoyed myself. Hopefully, future interns from SCSU will make the time to volunteer with AUF and get a chance to not only impact the community but have some fun while doing it!

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Cubata, where even Germans eat with their hands

Cubata Portuguese Grill was definitely an experience for the senses!  A big group of us went there last night and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. `One of the girls who got there first and was familiar with the restaurant ordered for the whole group. The owner asks only how many people are in your group and what meat you want and then he takes it from there.
This is a picture of me with the owner.

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Here is a few pictures of our food. The consensus at my end of the table was that these were the best chips (fries) we’d had since landing in South Africa.

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It was quite a feast!

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Yes, photographic evidence of two of the Germans eating with their hands! We’ve been a good influence on them 😉

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Very happy and full group of people!

Oh, but we did have a little room left for ice-cream.

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Feedback is a gift

feedbagIs it?

I can still see the poster neatly hung on the wall of my manager’s cubicle at American Express.  It was in full color and showed a single daisy in a terracotta pot.  However, my understanding of feedback has stayed rooted in corporate America’s space.  In my mind thinking of feedback as a gift always felt as genuine as those uber motivational posters every business major had in their dorm rooms in the 1990s. Feedback in work never felt like a gift but rather it always felt judgmental and punitive.  Feedback was given with performance reviews where you were told if you were going to get a raise or explained why you were not receiving one.  Feedback in school is generally tied to a grade and also feels punitive.  The feedback is an explanation of what you did wrong.  I’ll also say that receiving feedback in school had its own problematic roots that I’ve already delved into a bit. So, neither experience (work or school) had positive roots for me when it came to receiving feedback as a gift.  Until recently.  Over the past five semesters I have worked in a writing center, four semesters at SCSU’s The Write Place and one semester here at NMMU’s Writing Centre.  Through my immersion in the writing center culture, pedagogy, and practices I realized that feedback can be a gift.  I asked two of the people I’m working with this semester at NMMU to read through my thesis chapters and give me feedback on what I had written.  When they returned them to me with detailed comments I felt like I had been given a gift.  I read through the comments carefully taking in what they had to say.  They were deliberative and inquisitive and I processed each one individually.  I have now been both a manager and a consultant in the writing center where I gave feedback to employees and students.  I hope that as I move into the classroom I can help my students understand how to receive feedback but more importantly, I hope I can model a healthy manor to give feedback as an instructor.

 


Good Morning, PE

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Students: Teaching in context, part 2

Everything we discussed in the workshop kept coming back to the NMMU students. Since the context a lecturer can have an immediate impact is the classroom. If the classrooms are empty, who would you teach? Once o the presenters did mention that she’d had a professor who would give the lecture even if no one attended class that day but most people would not do that. The student body and individual students need to be considered when thinking about teaching at NMMU.
When asked about their students the lecturers were able to create a long list of attributes which make NMMU students unique in their diversity. First, multiracial/multicultural, the person who listed this attribute only said multiracial but here you always have to follow with multicultural. There are black South Africans who are Xhosa, Zulu, or one of the other distinct cultures still thriving within the boarders of this country.  There was some discussion around the language policy, which states that students have the right to receive instruction in their dominate language.  The provided the facilitator to provide resources to the lectures for how they can get support fulfilling this requirement.

Next, they talked about the life experiences students bring to the classroom.  Students come to NMMU from rural communities and urban areas.  This was one of the aspects of diversity that was talked about during our orientation.  We were cautioned against thinking that as international students we were the only ones going through culture shock.  Rather to be kind to our South African classmates because they could be going through culture shock as well.  I couldn’t help but think of SCSU when we were told about the urban/rural divide because we have students who go through culture shock coming from tiny towns but I’m not sure how the SCSU addresses it.

Another aspect to NMMU students follows the larger context of the South African university system as a whole.  When South Africa became a democracy in 1994 and the Apartheid government was officially over, suddenly the majority of students had access to the higher educational system.  The transition was overnight, not in the least bit gradual.  Universities are still coping or trying to cope with this paradigm shift.  According to the Department of Education 70% of South African university students are the first in their families to enroll in higher education.  Of the students who enroll in higher education programs 50% of them do not complete their program.  Dropout rate for first-year students is 30%, while 20% dropout within year 2 or 3 (it takes 3 years to get your bachelors and a 4th year is called honors). Only 15% of South African university students complete their program of study on-time.

The lecturers said that students come to their first-year classes unprepared to learn, not knowing how to take notes or summarize.  The facilitator encouraged the lecturers to take a few minutes and teach the students how to take notes for their class.  Alternatively, they could bring in a representative from Academic Resources to hold a workshop.  However, I did pipe up at this point and said that a lot of students don’t know how to take notes their freshman year in the States either because taking notes for high school and university is a different skill set.  The conversation took a slightly different turn because the facilitator then talked about how jarring it is for students to come from primary school into university where everything is so different.  Textbooks transition from only having facts to having theories and arguments.  She urged the lecturers to understand the difficulty of just this much of the transition for their students along with everything else their students are dealing with.

In the United States we talk about university students struggling because of their multiple commitments.  Many students are juggling work, school, and family commitments.  However, in South Africa 1/5 of all children live in orphan headed households.  This means that an older sibling is taking care of the younger siblings because their parents have died.  So, these students are not struggling to support their own children but rather their brothers and sisters.  These children lack a support network from extended family, even if they have a family member who may intermittently check on them.  They did not get support from a family structure to develop natural coping skills because they had to take on the responsibility of raising their siblings.

Listing these circumstances off and calling the classroom diverse seems to be a dramatic understatement.  The lecturers still have the pressure to research and publish like professors back in the states in order to get promotions and tenure.  In the workshop she encouraged the lecturers to set expectations for each term on the first day of class.  Structure what they expected from students and what the consequences would be if those expectations were not met.  She encouraged the lecturers to be explicit about this procedure and treat the students like adults who were entering into a contract.  She also suggested that they could help students learn by sharing their vulnerabilities.  If they admit, for example, that they are unsure on how to use a piece of technology then ask for help from the students.  She used the example of a calculator and the students were excited to show her how to use it and she was getting that all important buy-in at the same time.

Honestly, I still find it overwhelming. But they are making progress one lecturer at a time.


What am I doing here? (Updated)

This was a question I asked myself many times over during my master’s program. I became an English major after discovering the field of rhetoric. Through rhetoric I was finally given the tools I needed to discuss and interpret the world around me. Some of the language came to me through my background in political science and public policy analysis, which is what I majored in for my bachelors. In many regards though I had always been searching for rhetorical analysis and the vocabulary held within the disapline. Beyond finding myself in the field of rhetoric, it has been more of a journey allowing myself to recognize that I have a desire to teach.

Nontraditional student? Yes, I’m coming to my master’s program after a career as a manager with for-profit and non-profit organizations. I thoroughly enjoyed being in management, especially turning around a failing store or organization and getting it on track to fulfill its goals. The toughest and most rewarding part of the job was working with employees. Developing talent, encouraging people to meet their potential, and sometimes, even seeing amazing employees leave because they were able to move onto bigger and better opportunities. However, American companies have moved away from truly letting employees be developed through on the job training and have moved to hiring people for positions below their skill level and then promoting “from within.”

As a manager, I really enjoyed going through the hiring process. Its just down right fun to call someone up and offer them a job! However, my heart would break for some people as I read their resumes and job applications because I knew that their lack of skill with resumes and cover letters was holding them back. I fought back the urge to call them and suggest changes to their resume content, style, and format. So, when I encountered rhetoric and composition studies, I found a way to be able to empower people by helping them gain a necessary knowledge base. I’m passionate when I help give the writing center tours about writing as a skill students will need no matter their chosen career or field of study. I think writing well is even more important now because individuals produce more writing now than in previous eras. For example, businessmen used to dictate letters but now write their own emails to communicate with clients.

That’s only the first portion of my answer…what am I doing here? I wasn’t supposed to be here, this far along in higher education. My first class in the SCSU English Department we were asked to give our literacy narrative orally, to the class. Honestly, I think I made something up because I don’t remember learning to read. I know I learned how before I went to school and it just seemed like a given. But this assignment made me think about my formative educational years for the first time in years. Actually, part of my personal discovery during my master’s program was revisiting these old ghosts. From 1st through 7th grade I went to a very small private school that had multiple grades in the same rooms. Grades 1-4 were taught in the same room and another teacher was across the hall with grades 5-8. I was precocious and loved learning but my foundational years did not endear me to any teachers. Early in first grade my teacher put my desk in the bathroom with the door closed. This was not a large bathroom but rather a small bathroom off the classroom with just a toilet and a sink. It was dark because I was so small and the light was only on the ceiling. By 3rd and 4th grade we had a new teacher and instead of my desk being in the bathroom she created a patrician blocking me off from the rest of the class. Essentially, she just gave me my assignments and I was supposed to just do them. I was cut off from class discussion or interaction with my peers.

However, nothing compared to 5th grade, it was a special kind of hell. Our firth grade teacher was both physically and verbally abusive. I was getting older by this point and tried to not only stand-up for myself but my classmates as well. The teacher would lash out, I would say something, and he would respond by locking me in a closet where the sports equipment was kept. Or he would send me out in the hall and leave me there, for hours. There was more than once when he laid hands on me, once pushing me down and I hit my head on the metal chalktray. There was one occasion when I asked him to explain some instructions over again because I didn’t understand what he wanted us to do on the assignment. Instead of repeating himself, he made me write a confession stating that I had not paid attention in class complete with my signature and date. As I stood next to his desk, which was in front of the classroom. he told me that I would never be anything.

I did not expect to confront these demons as I read rhetorical theory, but they came up. Haunting me as normal graduate school doubt was over taken by my former elementary school teacher again whispering into my psyche. So, what’s the answer…why am I here? Its never that simple, is it? It is not simple because or in-spite of any one person or event. Rather these are all parts of me and so it should not be a surprise that I latch onto Ferreira and embrace his pedagogical philosophy. I do reflect on my actions because I do not want to devalue a student or make them in any way feel marginalized. I am here because after much struggle this is where I fought to be.


You’re going to miss something

South Africa, I loved you before I knew you…I think most students obsess over a country they’re going to study abroad in for the semester or year.  I’d been interested in South Africa since I was young, even did a middle school report on the country.  Then last year before I came to South Africa, I read everything I could get my hands on, watched all the documentaries and movies based in South Africa on Netflix.  I bought a used copy of Eyewitness South Africa from my favorite used bookstore, that I’ve never been to, Powell’s. Over winter break I read it page by page, fastidiously ma20140324-205034.jpgking a list of places I wanted to visit, things I wanted to see, and restaurants to try.

Then I had my trip last year, 10 days of seeing bits of South Africa very fast.  I didn’t get to tour Johannesburg in 2013, but I did spend 5 days in Port Elizabeth and 2.5 days in Cape Town.  I am still amazed how much I was able to see and do in such a short period of time.  Not least of which was making the decision to come back for a semester. Then I spent my time over the summer and into the fall just getting everything lined up to come back.

When we got here at the end of January and we hit the ground running.  Spent a day in Joburg, then we headed off to orientation and we were kept busy, busy, busy!  We were able to see a lot in the first month, I’m really impressed with how much we squeezed in, honestly.  A natural slow down occurred in March because of school (you know that whole study bit of study abroad!).

Over the weekend, I had a mid-semester panic about missing something. I was asking a student who was here last semester what should I see before I leave. Then she just said, “You are going to miss something.” I had to let that settle for a minute and accept it. While I may have a list of things that I want to see and do here, I would rather have quality over quantity. I would rather spend my time with people I want to see after this semester is over rather than just checking items off of my To-Do List. Honestly, I think that might be the best piece of advice I’ve gotten so far about spending time abroad. Just realize you will not have enough time, but you can still fit a lot into the time that you have. So yes, you are going to miss something but that is OK.

How are you dealing with not checking everything off of your list?


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