Friday, August 28, 2009

Become an advisor to President Floyd

WSU's President’s Student Advisory Board is looking for students to share their ideas with President Floyd. All WSU students are eligible to apply.

The board consists of 20 student members, the Graduate and Professional Student Association president, ASWSU-DDP president, each ASWSU president from all WSU campuses, and Floyd. The board meets three to four times a semester at WSU Pullman. DDP students who live near a branch campus or WSU-West can attend meetings over the Internet.

The deadline to apply is Sept. 7. For more information and an application go to the Web site.

In Russia, DDP student empowers self

Distance Degree Programs students need a computer, Internet access and motivation. In Russia, a broom can also come in handy.
In 2004, student Susan Hale went to Moscow when her husband, Wayne, took an aluminum company job there. “Our apartment was wonderful on the inside,” she said, “but the wiring was Soviet-era and failed all the time.” She was frustrated – until she found the fuse box, high above the floor in a stairwell: “I realized I could go into the hallway with a broom and flip the circuit switch back on.”
Hale, 52, also learned the hard way that Russian Internet providers charge by the megabyte.
More... “Once our daughter downloaded some music and used up a month’s worth of Internet time,” Hale said. Whenever her time ran out, Hale had to find a language translator, walk to the Internet office, and pay in cash. “It usually took a day for them to turn the Internet back on,” she said. “This put a serious dent in my ability to stay connected to the DDP.”
Mailing academic materials back to the U.S. was also a problem. “The Russians were very suspicious of anything leaving the country,” she said. “A simple envelope required your visa information, your registration information, your passport information and a Russian contact to verify and confirm the transaction.”
When the frustrations grew too much, she put her college education on hold. She returned to DDP when she moved to her current home in Monterey, California.
Hale lived in Utah when she first joined DDP in 2002. “I really wanted to finish my degree but I didn't want our transient lifestyle to get in the way,” she said. “I was born in Seattle, so I looked into some of my home state offerings. WSU had the perfect program: Distance-based classes to finish your degree in a reasonable but structured environment.”
Hale will graduate this December with a social sciences degree, becoming the final family member to earn a university degree.
“I took the longest to reach my destination,” she said, “but I’ll be the only Cougar in the family.”

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Now online: Native Americans in Film

Professor Richard King is teaching his Native Americans in Film course online this fall.

Boy Scouts battle Indians over a hidden treasure in the 1939 film Scouts to the Rescue. The Indians speak perfect English – if you play the film backward. The director reversed the footage of Native American dialogue, creating a new language that lip-syncs with the actors.
Such blatant cultural indifference hasn’t receded into the past, said Professor Richard King, chair of WSU’s Comparative Ethnic Studies Department. It’s just become more subtle.
More...Dances with Wolves ends with the Sioux being crushed and fading into history. Pocohontas ends with her sacrificing herself for English society. Last of the Mohicans is about the noble savage that can’t survive in civilization,” said King, who this fall is teaching a new online course, CES 379: Native Americans in Film. “If it seems inevitable that they’re doomed to pass underneath the treads of civilization, then we don’t feel quite so bad about what actually happened.”
This sense of manifest destiny pervades many films, King said. Students in the three-credit course will analyze those movies, and examine the role Native Americans played as writers, directors, and actors. The course includes threaded discussions and group projects. “I have used student blogging before,” King said, “and I found the new media to be an excellent space for more open expression and deeper exploration.”
Going online created some copyright issues, said Distance Degree Programs instructional designer Rebecca Van de Vord. “There are many movies we can’t put online without paying copyright fees, which get passed onto the students,” she said.
The solution was two-fold, she said. Students will rent some movies – Dance with Wolves, Smoke Signals, for example. Other movies are in the public domain, and can be viewed online for free – White Fawn’s Devotion, for example, and Battle of Elderbush Gulch.
“It was a pretty seamless transition” to move the course online, King said. “Rebecca was very good at keeping me on task.”
King brings extensive expertise to the course, as evidenced by his 35-page curriculum vitae. His research into the racial politics of culture has appeared a variety of journals, and he is the author or editor of several books, including Team Spirits: The Native American Mascot Controversy and Postcolonial America. He recently completed Native American Athletes in Sport and Society and The Encyclopedia of Native Americans and Sport.
“As a child, I was a YMCA Indian Guide and Boy Scout,” King said. “I played cowboys and Indians, and rooted for the Kansas City Chiefs.” He became interested Native American issues in high school, when he learned about Leonard Peltier and the American Indian Movement. King went on to earn bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Kansas.
“It was not until graduate school at the University of Illinois, home of the Fighting Illini and Chief Illiniwek, that I began to come to terms with the ways in which Euro-Americans misinterpreted indigenous peoples,” he said.
“It became a passion that has expanded past the controversy over Native American mascots to include such issues as the debate over squaw place names, indigenous rap music, and the distinct ways that whiteness, blackness, and Indianness are given expression in sports.”

--Richard H. Miller/CDPE

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Magazine features DDP students

Sylvia Guzman, left, and Kirsten Johnston.

Two DDP students are featured in the annual magazine published by WSU's Division of Student Affairs, Equity and Diversity. On page 20 (page 12 in the .pdf viewer) is the story of Sylvia Guzman, a formerly homeless migrant worker who works for Early Head Start in Mount Vernon, Washington.
On page 31 (17 in the viewer) is an article about Kirsten Johnston, a DDP student who converted to Islam and moved to Saudi Arabia, where she lives with her husband and five children.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Go underground with Dr. Dirt

They call her Dr. Dirt. It should be Dr. Soil. The distinction is important, says Professor Joan Davenport, a soils scientist at Washington State University. “You must know the difference between soils and dirt before you earn the right to malign soils by calling them dirt.”

Certainly no one wishes to denigrate soils. To help people avoid such a gaffe, Davenport explains the difference. Dirt is dead, she says, while soil is full of microscopic life. Soil provides our food, supports our forest and enriches our lives. Dirt gets under your nails and into the carpet. Soil is “the upper skin of the Earth.”

Yet, despite all of soil’s benefits, it’s often treated like dirt: “We walk all over it!” Davenport says. More...
Davenport brings her love of soil to a new online course this fall. Soils 201 is designed for those seeking a degree in agriculture or earning WSU’s Organic Agriculture Certificate. The three-credit course includes a lot of multimedia, such as animations and videos, but a shovel is also handy. In one assignment, students dig up soil, and put in a plastic bag with a piece of white paper. A week later, they report on what happened to the paper, and if they found any worms or insects.

When the assignment ends, she tells students “feel free to put the soil back into the ground where you dug it.” Davenport often takes a protective approach to soil. “I get very upset when I see land left to erode,” she says, “or people dumping waste on the soil that the soil cannot deal with.”

Davenport lives in Prosser, Washington. She’s an avid vegetable gardener, and she and her husband also grow wine grapes. She nourishes their patch of soil by composting kitchen wastes “to give them back to the land.”

Davenport taught a graduate level online soils class last fall, and has taught the soils module of WSU’s Viticulture Certificate Program online since 2006. “The viticulture program convinced me that online teaching could be as effective as live teaching,” she said. “In all my online teaching experiences, I have really appreciated the diversity of students and how we interact.”

Her interest in soils began in high school, when she worked on an organic farm. She earned a bachelor’s degree in plant science from Rutgers in 1978, a master’s in soil management from Iowa State University in 1981, and doctorate in soil chemistry from the University of Guelph in 1985.

“I am always interested in getting down and dirty about soils,” Davenport says.

--Richard H. Miller/CDPE

Friday, August 14, 2009

Free Webinars on Dreamweaver

If you're interested in Web design, you know that Dreamweaver is a key tool. DDP students and friends are being offered a free Webinar series on Dreamweaver.
The series lasts 10 weeks. Each Webinar is an hour long, with a 30-minute Q&A session afterward.
The classes start the week of Sept. 22. Times will be posted on the Web site in the near future.
To enroll, just fill out this form.

Publisher offers textbook rentals

Cengage Learning has become first higher education publisher to let students rent print textbooks directly from the source. Renters get the first chapter online in an e-book format, then have the book shipped to them. Other companies are also taking steps in this direction.
If they can put the first chapter online, the next logical step seems like providing online access to the entire book, avoiding shipping costs and hassles.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

DDP has squirmy pals in basement

DDP academic advisor Chrisi Kincaid gets her hands dirty Wednesday in the basement of Van Doren Hall.

The latest arrivals at WSU’s Van Doren Hall are being kept in the dark and fed organic material.

The worms live in a small blue plastic bin, chomping on food waste to create compost. Their new assignments came after state budget cuts forced WSU-Pullman custodians to stop emptying trash cans in offices. “When we heard about the reductions in trash service, we thought we’d try not to throw out so much,” said Chrisi Kincaid, an academic advisor for Distance Degree Programs, which shares Van Doren with WSU’s conference management unit.
More... Kincaid and DDP research analyst Korolyn Pogue started the project Tuesday. “Since we’re taking our garbage into the hall, we can use this as an opportunity to recycle,” Pogue said. “And maybe next year when people go fishing, they’ll be able to get their worms here.”

Kincaid and Pogue are starting small, with a few banana peels and about 15 worms. “They are regular old garden worms,” Kincaid said. “They came from my compost pile.” Next up is getting some red wigglers, known for being both voracious and lusty.
“If you get half a cup of red wigglers,” Kincaid said, “they’ll double in numbers in a few weeks. They work much faster. They reproduce a lot faster.”

WSU soils scientist Joan Davenport said she hadn’t heard of other offices using mini-compost bins. “But I think it is a perfect idea,” said Davenport, who has a compost pile at home. “Why shouldn’t WSU, a land-grant university, be a forerunner in this?”

The benefits are personal as well as environmental. “I can take a break and do a little organic farming right here in Van Doren,” said Kincaid, who promised the bin would be odorless.

“I think it will be fun,” Pogue said. “We’ll have a little entertainment down here in the basement.”

That kind of entertainment can stay in the basement, said conference organizer Joy Thompson, who works on the second floor. “I’m not a big fan of worms,” she said. “They’re slimy and gross. I’ll pretend they’re not there.”

Story and photos by Richard H. Miller/CDPE

Friday, August 7, 2009

DDP student forges ahead

Kristopher Skelton is two kinds of smith: blacksmith and wordsmith.
His interest in the first type of smithing began when he was given a pocketknife as a child. “I remember being amazed that the tool I held in my hand had once been rocks in the ground,” the Distance Degree Programs student writes on his Web site, “It was several years before I realized that people still made things from steel with fire and hammer.”
He wanted to build a forge, but his mother was afraid he’d burn down the house. It wasn’t until 2002 that he mixed fire and metal, creating a hook with a handle. “My wife still uses it for lifting our Dutch oven off the campfire,” he said.
More...Skelton, 31, is a member of the Northwest Blacksmith Association, and his work was a jury selection at the Lynnwood Arts Council’s 2004 “Seeing Red” exhibit. Two years later, his Web site says, he was named Time Magazine’s Person of the Year, which proves he definitely has fabrication talents. Those creative skills come in handy on his five blogs, including one dedicated to tough guys with facial hair. (Skelton’s own moustache seems designed for twirling.)
Skelton’s creative side finds little outlet in his regular job, which involves calling insurance companies to appeal medical claim denials. “It’s just as intellectually stimulating as it sounds,” he said. His DDP studies offer more of a challenge. The Lynnwood, Washington, resident is majoring in humanities, has a minor in history and is earning a professional writing certificate.
Skelton completed his associate’s degree at Shoreline Community College in 1998. “It nagged at me that I didn’t finish, especially when I looked for a new job and all the listings required at least a B.A.” He joined DDP in January 2008 because the online program fit both his schedule and his biorhythms: “I find my brain is most active in the evenings.”
That synaptic activity impresses DDP academic advisor Chrisi Kincaid. “Kris is an amazing student,” she said. “With his love of writing and history, and his engaging manner, he’d be an excellent teacher.”
Will the wordsmith and blacksmith become a mindsmith too? For the moment, Skelton is sticking to one of his two current smithing interests.
“I’ll pursue a master’s in public history so I can be a blacksmith at a living history museum,” he said. “Or I’ll become a writer/editor for a videogame or role-playing game company.”

- Richard H. Miller/Center for Distance and Professional Education

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Score some discount football tickets

DDP students, families and friends can get discounted tickets to watch the Cougs battle Hawaii at 4 p.m. Sept. 12 at Qwest Field in Seattle.
Go to the student government Web site to learn more and to sign up for the free pregame luncheon at the Silver Cloud Hotel.
The Cougar Gridiron Classic football game is part of the WSU in Seattle festivities, which run from Sept. 10-12.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

New financial aid form this fall

If your 2009-10 financial aid package includes grants and you are enrolled less than full-time for fall semester, you will find a new item on your to-do list: A Fall Enrollment Verification form.
Completing this form notifies staff at the financial aid office that your grants are ready to be pro-rated based on your actual enrollment, so don’t submit the form until your registration is final. You will receive a portal notice once your aid has been revised. Grants cannot be disbursed until this form has been processed.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Profile: HD instructor Mary Garcia

     Africanized killer bees didn’t slow down Mary Garcia.
     It was 1987. Garcia, now a Distance Degree Programs instructor, had just finished a degree in child and family development, but lacked the certificate needed to join the Peace Corps as a teacher. Instead, she signed up for beekeeper training. She was sent to a Paraguay village, where she braved the stings as she helped increase honey production.
     “I was so used to it that it was like swatting away flies,” she said. (Garcia still loves bees, and will enumerate their virtues with little prompting.)
     While in the village, Garcia wanted to teach preschoolers, but they “held class in a broom closet.” That did slow her down, but not for long. She got a $2,000 grant, bought bricks, mortar, windows, tiles, and a door. Using oxen, she helped bring the bricks to the village. When the school was built, she taught courses there.
More...     Last year, Garcia’s husband, Doug, took at job as art director at Colorado State University, and the Garcia family – including 11-year-old Gabrielle, 10-year-old Jojo, and Casey, a soft-coated wheaten terrier – moved from Pullman to Fort Collins. That slowed her down not one bit. “All I need is a reliable computer with a high-speed Internet connection,” she said.
     Her human development students certainly haven’t seen any slacking off. She’s a constant presence in the discussion boards and says “every post deserves to be read.” Along with fast feedback, her students also get her e-mail and phone number for immediate help.
     Garcia believes DDP students deserve that kind of dedication. “I have single moms, older students, moms with six kids, dads who have been laid off, grandmas, military wives, and young co-eds,” she said. “Most have full-time jobs and families. Yet after they put their kids to bed, they jump online and get their homework turned in. It’s truly amazing to see their drive.”
     After the Peace Corps, Garcia returned to her hometown of Alhambra, California, where she taught preschool, and volunteered for Habitat for Humanity, helping build a two-story duplex for low income families. In 1992, she moved to Pullman, working at Washington State University while earning a 1994 master’s degree in human development. In her free time, she played guitar and led the choir at St. Thomas More Catholic Newman Center.
     She taught her first online course in 1999, and has taught Human Development 204, 301, 403, 406, and 410.
     In spring 2008, she added a new twist to her HD 403 course, Families in Poverty, by requiring her 80 students to perform 20 hours of community service. They volunteered at a variety of organizations, exemplifying WSU’s mission of community engagement.
     This semester, Garcia is teaching three online courses. Part of the reason she likes online education, she said, is stage fright.
     “I taught on campus for two semesters and it turned my stomach into butterflies,” she said. “I much prefer sitting behind my computer and teaching online than face to face any day of the week.”
     One thing Garcia misses about living in Pullman is the opportunity to meet DDP students at on-campus events. One thing she enjoys about being 800 miles away? “I’m not obligated to attend meetings anymore.”
By Richard H. Miller/Center for Distance and Professional Education