Archive for November, 2009

SHSU Students Learn Service through Peanut Butter Production

By: Julia May, Assistant Director, Communications, Sam Houston State University

In addition to the obvious objective of educating students, one of Sam Houston State University’s (SHSU) official goals is to “promote students’ intellectual, social, ethical, and leadership growth.”

Last week, the university facilitated that goal by providing an opportunity for representatives from several groups, including the SHSU American Democracy Project, to produce 3,000 pounds of peanut butter for distribution to poor residents of Walker County in southeast Texas where the university is located.

“We want to build a better relationship between the university and the community,” said SHSU Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs David Payne. “It’s appropriate for our students to volunteer and serve the community where they are getting their education.”

On Nov. 7, approximately 30 volunteers from several university groups including the American Democracy Project, LULAC, the Political Science Junior Fellows, the Latter-day Saints Student Association, and students taking sociology classes traveled approximately 150 miles round-trip from SHSU to Houston and worked in the Latter-day Saints peanut butter cannery producing 1,600 jars of peanut butter.

After inspection by the U. S. Department of Agriculture, the peanut butter was transported to Walker County and distributed to food banks and various charitable organizations and agencies in the area.

“The university purchased the peanuts. With students doing the production work, they were able to make peanut butter for less than $1 a jar,” Payne said, noting that the local market value is approximately $3 a jar.

“I volunteered to go because I felt that this was definitely a good cause and a great activity to help the Huntsville community,” said Blake Roach, a junior political science major from Big Spring, Tex.

“It was also an educational experience for me because we just assume that food is going to be there for us; we never think about how it gets to the store shelves,” he said. “It made me appreciate the people who produce our food.”

Another student, criminal justice senior Juan Ramos of Houston, said he volunteered out of curiosity, but came away with a good feeling about service.

“I’ve never made peanut butter before, and I thought it would be interesting to see how it was produced,” he said. “After we were done, I had the personal satisfaction of knowing I had done something important to benefit people in need in Walker County.”

 

Teacher-Scholar: The Journal of the State Comprehensive University

[[Taken from the Teacher Scholars website: http://www.fhsu.edu/teacher-scholar/%5D%5D

“Produced at Fort Hays State University, the new journal Teacher-Scholar will explore the history, present circumstances, and possible future of America’s hardest working but least studied institutions of higher learning—Regional State Universities or, to use a more recent and revealing title, State Comprehensive Universities (SCUs). Typically seen as less prestigious, SCUs play a vital role in the American academy, providing relatively low-cost instruction to millions of students and employing a sizable percentage of young PhDs, most of whom leave their doctoral programs without any conception of what it will be like to work at institutions where faculty members are teachers and scholars (in that order). With heavy teaching loads and extensive service obligations for faculty and seemingly endless responsibilities for administrators, SCUs are the invisible workhorses of higher education and, in many ways, America’s “institutions of the future.”

This invisibility is more than a little ironic given SCUs’ long history of serving students now considered nontraditional, the sensitivity of SCUs to regional and community needs (including local business development), the willingness of such institutions to prioritize teaching over research (something that many members of the American public say they want), and the eagerness with which SCUs in general have embraced forms of assessment. Serious study of such institutions is long overdue. How does their story modify the dominant understanding of higher-education history, which is based on more prestigious institutions? What are the benefits of working at an SCU? What kinds of challenges do the faculty and the administration face? How is the education provided by SCUs different from that offered by large research schools or private liberal arts colleges? How do students fare once they graduate from universities that supposedly lack prestige? How can technology best be utilized for teaching and learning at such schools? What is campus culture like at an SCU? What is the real role of research and scholarship at these institutions? What do interdisciplinary scholarship and teaching mean at an SCU? How does internationalization occur on these campuses? These questions and more will be addressed in the pages of Teacher-Scholar.

Published annually (both online and in hard copy) and fully peer-reviewed, Teacher-Scholar will welcome submissions after September 1. The journal will publish reflective essays that explore the satisfactions and frustrations of careers spent at SCUs, studies of specific topics based on quantitative and/or qualitative research, and articles that focus on application. Submissions in the form of electronic attachments (in Microsoft Word) should be sent to Steven Trout at strout@fhsu.edu and conform to the most recent edition of the APA style manual with a limit not to exceed 10,000 words (including notes and works cited).”

eCitizenship: Why We’re Doing This

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By Cecilia M. Orphan, National Coordinator, American Democracy Project

On the morning that President Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize, I took a moment to go through my Facebook account and record all of the related status updates. This proved to be a very interesting exercise. The comments conveyed the type of dialogue that often happens on social networking sites instantaneously. The news about Obama winning the award broke at about 7:30 AM Eastern. By 7:35 AM, my friends were reacting to it. Some of the comments revealed a deep understanding of international politics; some admittedly were just silly. But all told of a great deal of interest in and knowledge of the topic specifically and national and world politics generally.

The first thing I do in the morning (as a typical Millenial) is turn on my computer and login to Facebook. The morning Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize, I deviated from my normal routine and took a shower before checking Facebook.  I always listen to NPR in the morning so I heard the news first on NPR. Had I followed my normal routine, I would have learned of this event on Facebook through the comments of my friends.

This summer I attended a panel presentation that explored the intersection of social media and the news. One of the panelists shared her reaction to Michael Jackson’s death. Her sister called her upon hearing that Michael Jackson had died. Her first reaction was to hang up with her sister and login to Twitter. This is very telling. Instead of going to a major news site to check the veracity of her sister’s claim, she went to an online social network. This is not an isolated event. In fact, this is how many members of the Millenial generation interact with the world.

These two anecdotes raise the following questions: 

1)    Do we want people using Facebook as a news source? Granted, many people post and cite articles while reacting to news events (one of my friends did in response to the Nobel Peace Prize) but many do not opting simply to give their reactions to the news.

2)    What does social media mean for the 24-hour news cycle and for domestic and world politics?

3)    How are these tools increasing public trust, which is an integral component of civil society?

Tonight is the eve of the eCitizenship (#eCit09) Institute. I am both excited and a little anxious about this new initiative. We’ve done our homework. We’ve done the requisite research about how social networking tools are being used. We’ve created an online presence through Facebook, Twitter, and this blog. We’ve convened a group of very smart people from our campuses and from external organizations including Jose Antonio Vargas, David B. Smith, and Chris Haller. What we don’t know is how exactly these tools will translate into ADP campus programming.

Part of my anxiety about this initiative comes from my perspective as a Millenial. Everyone talks about how we’re apathetic, disengaged, and ignorant about national and world affairs. Much has been written about the ills of my generation. This is not what I know or what I have experienced. We care deeply. We know a lot. We’re scared and excited about our future. And we are very, very engaged. The ways in which we are engaged are often invisible to those older than us, though. This is not to say that we have arrived as citizens. We still need guidance and direction from those generations before us. We need our universities to be places in which we can hone our civic skills. Most of all, we need to be treated as co-creators in designing the future in which we will all inhabit. There is still much work to be done. The eCitizenship Initiative holds the promise of both shedding light on much of the rich engagement taking place online as well as helping to explore ways in which undergraduate students can better use these tools for political and civic engagement.

This initiative will be a “let 1,000 flowers bloom” endeavor, similar to much of ADP’s work to date. Indeed in the national office we like to say that there is no singular American Democracy Project, but 230 American Democracy Projects (the number of AASCU institutions involved) with a little national support. The vantage point I have is wonderful because I have the privilege of providing a national stage for the local work of our campuses. I look forward to watching and celebrating the work of the eCitizenship Initiative as it progresses.

Center for the Study for Citizenship Seeks Proposals for its Conference in Citizenship Studies

By Guest Blogger Aaron Retish, Wayne State University

image CSCFrom April 8 to 10, 2010, Wayne State University’s Center for the Study of Citizenship will host its 7th annual conference in citizenship studies. Previous conferences have been remarkably successful, bringing together scholars from across the globe. They have also built the field of citizenship studies by exploring various contours of citizenship including patriotism, representation, and marginality.  

We have tried to do something a little different in this year’s conference theme “Networks.”  Last fall, the Academic Advisory Board of the Center gathered to discuss the next year’s theme to the conference. We met in the wake of the “Obama revolution” that connected new and young voters together through new technologies and social networks and made us all marvel at how the recent election possibly reconstructed the relationship and definitions of citizenship and these social and technological ties.  From there came the theme of Networks, which explores the similarities and tensions between networks and citizenship in the past, present, and future. It also considers how networks have shaped citizenship and how citizenship has influenced the development of networks.

The conference explores the similarities and tensions between networks and citizenship in the past, present and future in three ways. Networks: citizenship asks how our interpersonal relationships affect our sense of belonging within our society and the ways we experience our rights and responsibilities. Citizenship: networks explores what rights and responsibilities we hold within our various networks.  Networks ⇒ Citizenship⇒Networks⇒ explores how the patterns of citizenship and networks have changed and what they will look like in the future.  Noted scholar Yochai Benkler (Harvard University and author of The Wealth of Networks: How Social Production Transforms Markets and Freedom) was a natural choice to give the keynote talk to tie the three themes together.

The conference is also our own exploration of the networks and new technologies.  We are encouraging scholars who cannot attend to present their papers remotely and will have panels streaming live online.  

The Call for Proposals CFP can be found on the Center’s website.  Proposals should be submitted online no later than November 20, 2009.

Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson Visits the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh

By: David Siemers, Department of Political Science, University of Wisconsin Oshkosh

On Monday October 26th, 250 students, faculty, and community members crowded into the Reeve Union Ballroom at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh to listen to Wisconsin Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson.  Abrahamson is one of the longest tenured Chief Justices in American history and she has been a leader in protecting access to justice in this state.

There were three main themes to Abrahamson’s talk.  First, she demystifyied adjudication.  The courts, she pointed out, are the least understood branch of government.  The Chief Justice then explained that she and all other judges are under the obligation to decide cases based on their understanding of the Constitution and the law, rather than upon what they think personally, or what would be popular.   The good judge is to be like a referee or umpire, not an advocate.  These are principles which guarantee justice and the rule of law for all in the long run.

Second, Abrahamson discussed a relatively new development in the courts:  an emphasis on “operational administration.”  The state Supreme Court helps to administer the courts under Wisconsin law.  In the last 20 years this responsibility has grown from formulaic oversight to an incredibly dynamic part of the job.  There are a burgeoning set of structures to administer, including new “problem solving courts,” informal mediations, “alcohol and drug courts,” and mental health courts.  In these times, when the dollars states devote to justice have been static or have fallen, innovative procedures have developed to deal with offenses against the law.  Guidelines and oversight are needed for each of these new structures and Chief Justice Abrahamson is at the forefront of designing them.

Third, Abrahamson encouraged members of the audience to get involved with the courts.  She lamented that in the Spring election which reelected her to a new ten year term only 19% of Wisconsinites voted.  But she went beyond that, to encourage audience members to explore their justice system.  “Visit a court in session,” she said, “like I did when I was in college.”  To Abrahamson this was a life-changing experience.  She also spelled out a myriad of volunteer opportunities for people interested in securing justice.  She encouraged participation as a court appointed advocate for children or adult victims or indigent offenders.  And she encouraged students to write papers on the courts.

In Shirley Abrahamson’s work, she aims to achieve the motto “Justice for All.”  She is constantly searching for “what we can do to make justice possible,” and the Oshkosh community benefited from that perspective Monday night.

What we’re viewing: Press release about eventIMG_0929IMG_0928.


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