Tag Archives: Stetson Today

Stetson Cardiac Cell Scientist Receives Funding – Stetson Today

[This story was reprinted in its entirety from Stetson Today

Heather Evans-Anderson, Ph.D., assistant professor of health sciences at Stetson University, is the recipient of a PALM Network fellowship and the 2019 Willa Dean Lowery grant. She will use the funds, totaling $13,000, to create a student-centered, technology-rich and active-learning classroom for her anatomy and physiology classes and further her research on communication between cardiac cells during the early stages of heart development using CRISPR technology. The funding also provides an opportunity to present her research at national conferences.

“Applying for funding requires persistence,” said Evans-Anderson. “These funds also will provide a great opportunity to conduct cutting-edge research that I would not otherwise be able to do. I apply for as many opportunities as I can in order to expand possibilities for my students.”

The research process includes traveling to conferences and meetings to present and share research findings with field colleagues and experts. Travel and research expenses can add up, but funding from fellowships and grants can provide a researcher with financial support.

“Attending scientific meetings provides invaluable networking opportunities,” said Evans-Anderson. “In addition, the reagents that I need for conducting CRISPR studies, particularly the genomic sequencing, are very expensive. I wouldn’t be able to do these things or provide such exciting opportunities for my students without these funds.”

Heather Evans-Anderson, Ph.D.

The PALM Network is a national group of dedicated teachers who are committed to active teaching and learning in life science education and STEM classrooms. The fellowship, which is funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) Research Coordination Networks, provides funding to support training in order to promote use of evidence-based, active-learning strategies in teaching.

The organization also provides a chance for fellows and mentors to collaborate on specific goals as well as participate in journal clubs to discuss teaching strategies that promote learning.

“The PALM Network program will provide me with an opportunity to grow as an educator by promoting my ability to conduct active-learning strategies in my classroom to enhance student engagement,” said Evans-Anderson. “Strategies, such as, peer collaboration and encouraging in-class participation will help students connect with and gain more from the course content. I also will be assessing my students’ learning success by comparing test results before and after implementing active-learning assignments and obtaining feedback from students.”

Evans-Anderson will be working with an expert on the science of learning. Her mentor, Mari K. Hopper, Ph.D., is the associate dean of biomedical sciences at Sam Houston State University’s College of Osteopathic Medicine in Huntsville, Texas, has published several papers on active learning. Evans-Anderson will be presenting preliminary data from the pedagogical research that has been conducted as a result of The PALM Network program during the Human Anatomy & Physiology Society conference in Portland, Oregon in May.

“Being a part of The PALM Network fellowship program allows me to be a part of an elite group of dedicated teachers whose mission is to improve student learning,” said Evans-Anderson. “I am very proud to be part of this organization and look forward to the exciting opportunities it will bring.”

The Willa Dean Lowery grant will provide Evans-Anderson with an opportunity to further her research using CRISPR technology, which allows a user to cut and replace DNA sections to edit genes in a living organism. Evans-Anderson and her students will use CRISPR to study endothelial and cardiomyocyte cell interactions by genetically modifying an invertebrate organism to investigate the regulatory mechanisms of heart development. CRISPR stands for Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats.

“Once my students and I successfully edit genes using CRISPR, we will then use next-generation sequencing to examine the entire genome of our mutants in order to determine the overall impact of target-gene editing,” explained Evans-Anderson. “This information will provide significant insight into how the selected target genes impact heart development as well as provide potential new targets to examine.”

Evans-Anderson collaborated with Lynn Kee, Ph.D., assistant professor of biology at Stetson, and her advanced genetics class students for preliminary work required for the Willa Dean Lowery grant. The students will be presenting their work during the Stetson Showcase on Tuesday, April 16.

Evans-Anderson sees great potential with using CRISPR technology as an educational tool and will present her classroom work with CRISPR during the annual American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology and Experimental Biology meeting in Orlando on Sunday, April 7.

Students also will have an opportunity to present preliminary research findings during the annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students and American Society for Cell Biology conference next fall as well as the National Conference on Undergraduate Research, the Stetson Showcase and Florida Statewide Undergraduate Research Conference in spring 2020.

The project’s preliminary data will be used for additional grant applications. Evans-Anderson — who says she wants to take students to conferences and meetings to “show them the exciting world of research by interacting with renowned scientists in the field” — expects that she and her students will publish scientific research papers in academic journals.

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women and an estimated 610,000 people die in the United States each year. The research findings may provide important clues that could support new treatments for preventing and treating cardiovascular conditions.

“Understanding how different genes work together to build the heart can help create new therapies for addressing cardiac defects and disease,” said Evans-Anderson.

-Sandra Carr

Source: Stetson Cardiac Cell Scientist Receives Funding – Stetson Today

Political Science faculty give students voice in their curriculum | Stetson Today

As an incoming first-year student, Giansy Paul never imagined she would be asking Political Science majors at Stetson about the changes they’d like to see in their curriculum.Giansy PaulPaul signed up for a First Year Seminar (FSEM) last fall called “The Voice of the People,” examining the role of citizens in a democracy and whether they are informed enough to participate effectively in political decision-making.Along the way, she became part of an innovative project to gather opinions from political science majors at Stetson about potential changes in their department’s curriculum. These suggestions are now under review and could lead to revisions to better educate the students for the 21st century.

“I think what my class did was something that I don’t think most colleges do, which sets us apart from other colleges,” said Paul, a student from Miami who plans to double major in Political Science and Public Management.

“By participating in the Deliberative Poll and watching the political science majors discuss their curriculum was another reason why I was like, ‘Yes, this is where I’m supposed to be,’” she said about attending Stetson

The project was the idea of her FSEM professor, David Hill, Ph.D., chair of the Political Science Department. Hill wanted to use a cutting-edge method of gathering opinions to hear from political science majors about possible revisions in their curriculum.

[read full article at Stetson Today]

Brown Fellow, Dr. Terence Farrell, featured in Stetson Today

No Squandered Sabbatical

[This story was reprinted in its entirety from Stetson Today

For Terence Farrell, Ph.D., a recent sabbatical provided an opportunity to finish some research projects and begin other new ones. The common theme: snakes. More specifically: rattlesnake predation on giant centipedes, the evolution of rattlesnake venom and the hormonal control of snake reproductive behaviors.

Dr. Terence Farrell holding a snake in the field.
A year of sabbatical research put Terence Farrell, Ph.D., on the front lines in search of all things serpentine.

Another theme for the professor of biology and Brown Faculty Fellow: collaboration with Stetson students and faculty.

“I keep an active research program, so I needed to get a lot of stuff done,” Farrell said of his sabbatical, which began in August 2017. “I mostly stayed on campus because a lot of the research was lab-based, but I also spent time at Lake Woodruff National Wildlife Refuge [DeLeon Springs, Florida] in the field.

“I worked with students to observe snake behaviors, so I needed to learn how to analyze and edit videos. I also started a YouTube channel and put videos on Facebook to gain a broader audience for the research.”

The National Geographic Society, for example, picked up some of the YouTube uploads.

Sabbaticals are offered to Stetson faculty once every seven years. The request for a sabbatical is reviewed by a committee, and professors have the option of either taking one semester or a full year working on their research projects. Farrell took the full year, and he also used the time to learn new skills that will help him in his research moving forward.

“Stetson stands out when it comes to encouraging faculty members and their research projects,” Farrell commented. “Research, including the amount and quality of research that occurs during sabbaticals, keeps faculty current in their fields and students engaged in the type of research that will serve them well moving forward in their careers.”

Since 1994, Farrell has published 23 journal peer-reviewed journal articles, five book chapters, two book reviews and five articles in the popular press. Many of Farrell’s papers have had multiple co-authors, and in 13 of them the lead author was an undergraduate or graduate student with little or no experience in scientific publishing.

Dr. Terence Farrell in the field with students
Students are frequently partners with their biology professor. “Collaboration with students is what Stetson is all about,” said Farrell.

Farrell seeks to always work closely with his students to guide them through every step of the complex task of getting a manuscript written, revised and published.

“Collaboration with students is what Stetson is all about,” he said. “Work both in the lab and in the field is critical to their development, and especially for seniors working on their research projects; it gives them something really cool to work on.”

Among the students this summer was Sam McPherson ’19, who majors in aquatic and marine biology.

“The research was multifaceted, so we were working on several questions at once, all using pygmy rattlesnakes as a model system for ecophysiology and behavioral ecology,” McPherson said. “Part of the work included my senior research project, in which I am determining the metabolic cost of pregnancy in pygmy rattlesnakes. This involved extensive time out in the field, and our main study site was Lake Woodruff National Wildlife Refuge. Field work included setting up enclosures for housing snakes — we call our site Pygmyopolis — spotting and capturing 27 pregnant female snakes as well as several nonreproductive females, comparing their metabolic rates in the lab using flow-through respirometry, and monitoring the field enclosures every day until the snakes gave birth. So, we could measure the mass of the neonates and the postpartum mass of the moms.”

Farrell has mentored approximately 100 students during their senior research projects. Fifteen of them were co-authors on published papers, and dozens of others have made poster or oral presentations at scientific meetings.

Notably, in other papers, co-authors are experts with special skills or equipment who exchange their services for authorship. Farrell is often the last listed co-author on papers, keeping with a tradition in the natural sciences of having the leader of a research lab appear at the end in the list of authors.

This deep engagement in research provided the students with a thorough understanding of the scientific process. In addition, dozens of other students not doing their senior research on snakes have made multiple trips to Lake Woodruff and other local natural areas to assist in the effort. More notable numbers: Eight of the students who completed their senior research project with Farrell continued to be deeply engaged in research after leaving Stetson and obtained doctorate degrees.

Not that all has been easy or without incident.

[Read the remainder of the article in the Fall 2018 issue of Stetson University Magazine.]

Best-selling Author to Speak at Values Day about the Search for Happiness | Stetson Today

[This story was reprinted in its entirety from Stetson Today

September 8, 2018

Eric Weiner traveled to Iceland – one of the happiest places on Earth – for his best-selling book, “The Geography of Bliss,” and learned something he likes to share with college students.

Eric Weiner

Weiner talks to students around the country and is “always amazed” at how worried they are about their job prospects and what they’ll do with their lives, even in their first year of college.

“I would really hope that more students are able to remain noncommittal in a way to what their future is,” said Weiner, the keynote speaker for Values Day on Sept. 25. “You need to have a phase of your life where you’re exploring, and where you’re not pegged down to one channel, one slot in life.

“As you’ll discover when you get to the Iceland chapter in my book, there are places in the world where you don’t need to be pegged down to one career. You can have five different careers in your lifetime and nobody will find that odd. And I think that’s very liberating,” he said by phone from his home in the Washington, D.C., area.

“The Geography of Bliss: One Grump’s Search for the Happiest Places in the World” was selected for this year’s Stetson R.E.A.D. on Values Day. Hundreds of copies of the book already have been distributed to students, faculty and staff on campus.

Weiner, a former reporter for The New York Times and foreign correspondent for NPR, will speak in Lee Chapel inside Elizabeth Hall at 10:30 a.m. Sept. 25. The university cancels classes and closes offices for Values Day, allowing the Stetson community to reflect and take action on its core values of personal growth, intellectual development and global citizenship.

After the talk, participants can discuss the book and ask Weiner questions at 12:30 p.m. during the Stetson R.E.A.D., a program founded and developed by Rajni Shankar-Brown, Ph.D., associate professor and Jessie Ball duPont Chair of Social Justice Education. Space is limited, so please RSVP. Weiner also will be available at a Book Signing from 1:30 p.m. to 2 p.m. in the Lynn Presentation Room of the Rinker Welcome Center.

From noon to 2 p.m., in front of the Carlton Union Building, a Global Citizenship Fair will take place while, inside the Commons, Stetson Dining will provide a complimentary Community Lunch.

Then, beginning at 2 p.m., 26 workshops are scheduled across campus, exploring themes of Building Community, Tools and Techniques for Dialogue, Contemplative Practices and Storytelling.

Later that night, Values Day will conclude with a showing of the Marvel Studios’ “Black Panther” movie at 8:30 p.m. in the Stetson Room in the CUB.

Cultural Credit is available for students who attend many of these events. Check the schedule of events for details.

Savannah-Jane Griffin
Savannah-Jane Griffin

This year’s event focuses on a theme of “Building Community; Reflecting on our Values,” which grew out of a campus survey, a workshop and other meetings with students, faculty and staff last spring, said Values Day Coordinator Savannah-Jane Griffin ’07.

“The overwhelming response was: What can we do that unifies our campus?” said Griffin, executive director of Community Engagement and Inclusive Excellence. “Unity was a word that was used a lot, so ‘Building Community; Reflecting on our Values’ is what came out of that.”

Organizers sought recommendations for a featured book and selected “The Geography of Bliss” because it embodies global citizenship, said Lindsey Carelli, chair of the Values Day Speaker and Stetson R.E.A.D. Committee.

Lindsey Carelli
Lindsey Carelli

“This is a person who is traveling the world — he has a specific purpose to explore the concept of happiness and find some of the happiest places in the world and what they entail. But it’s really about drawing knowledge and drawing on the experiences of people all around the world,” said Carelli, assistant director of Interfaith Initiatives. “We think that aligns with our value of global citizenship.”

In the end, after traveling from the Netherlands to India and back home to America, Weiner realizes he may have been searching for the wrong thing.

“A Spoiler Alert,” he warned on the phone, “is that I conclude my search for happiness with a suggestion that perhaps I was looking for not exactly the right thing, not happiness, per se, not a happy life, per se, but a meaningful life. There’s a lot of overlap between a happy life and a meaningful one.”

Weiner said he plans to delve more into that topic during his speech and noted that he has visited Stetson once or twice through the years.

Eric Weiner sits with a cap on and glasses in an outdoor cafe.
Aside from his keynote address and other activities at Stetson University, Eric Weiner says of his visit: “I’ll be catching up with my father and I’ll be walking around beautiful downtown DeLand.”

His father, Dr. Sy Weiner, lives in DeLand and established the Bernard Weiner Holocaust Memorial Lecture Series at Stetson. The series honored the life and work of Sy Weiner’s late brother, Bernard Weiner, who was a leader in the development of Holocaust curricula for New York state schools and a founder of the Rockland Center for Holocaust Studies, now the Holocaust Museum and Study Center, in Spring Valley, N.Y.

“When I saw the invitation to speak, I was like, wow, Stetson, DeLand. I know that place,” Eric Weiner said. “This is a happy coincidence, or maybe it’s not a coincidence, maybe it’s fate bringing us together.”

-Cory Lancaster

[This story was reprinted in its entirety from Stetson Today

New Faculty include Brown Fellows in Health Sciences, Sustainable Food Systems | Stetson Today

[This story was reprinted in its entirety from Stetson Today

Brown Teacher-Scholar Kirk Roberson knows a way for Stetson students majoring in Health Sciences to easily get hands-on, practical experience right on campus.

portrait outside with coastline behind him

Kirk Roberson

Roberson, Ph.D., will join the faculty for Fall Semester 2018 as a Brown Visiting Teacher-Scholar Fellow in a new interdisciplinary program between the Department of Health Sciences and Stetson’s Wellness and Recreation department.

Pairing the two departments is “a perfect match” for students in Health Sciences, who, in addition to seeking careers as physicians, physical and occupational therapists, and other medical professionals, could expand their career options to such things as exercise physiology and sports management, he said.

“As far as the Health Sciences Department being paired with the Wellness and Recreation Center, this is the first time that they’ve had this position in this capacity,” said Roberson, who earned his doctorate in exercise physiology from the University of Miami in May and was named its “Outstanding Doctoral Student of the Year” for 2018.

“The Wellness and Recreation Center has many opportunities for students to start working with either community citizens or in some cases even patients who are referred to start an exercise program. … It gives them an opportunity to start getting real-world experience that they otherwise wouldn’t get without a good interdisciplinary relationship between the two departments,” he said.

Roberson will be working with the Wellness and Recreation Center to develop a new community-based fitness assessment program. This program will provide students with the opportunity to interact directly with members of the community, and have a positive impact on the overall health and wellness of local citizens.

Roberson is among the 17 new faculty members who will start work at Stetson University for the 2018-19 academic year. He will join Brown Teacher-Scholar, Sarah Cramer, who will help launch a new interdisciplinary program offering a Minor in Sustainable Food Systems in the Department of Environmental Science and Studies.

Three rows of new faculty members stand on the steps of Sampson Hall.

New Stetson faculty for the 2018-19 academic year joined Julia Metzker, executive director for the Brown Center for Faculty Innovation and Excellence, lower left, for a photo outside Sampson Hall this week.

Sarah Cramer talks to a student next to the school garden
Sarah Cramer, left, spent time teaching in a school garden in Missouri, above, before earning a Ph.D.

Cramer, who earned a Ph.D. in Agricultural Education from the University of Missouri in May, will teach Introduction to Food Studies and a Junior Seminar called Seeds of Equity that examines the inequities in America’s food system — from food insecurity to migrant labor — based on race, class and gender.

Julia Metzker, Ph.D., executive director for the Brown Center for Faculty Innovation and Excellence, said the Brown Center “invests in the intellectual capital of the institution” by funding four endowed fellows who work as visiting assistant professors for up to two academic years. One of these fellowships is dedicated to STEM fields (science, technology, engineering and mathematics).

The fellowships are funded through a generous endowment from longtime Stetson Trustees Cici and Hyatt Brown and support a “niche area of expertise” that brings a cross-disciplinary approach to the university, according to the Brown Center website.

Julia Metzker

“This is the first time we’ve had a program between an academic department and a nonacademic program,” Metzker said, referring to Roberson’s position within the Department of Health Sciences and the Wellness and Recreation Center. “We’d like to encourage more of that.” 

Every year, academic departments submit proposals between November and March, and these go to a committee for competitive review. Awards are announced in May, followed by a yearlong search process that culminates with the fellows starting the next academic year.

Last spring, the Brown Center awarded a 2019-2021 Brown Teacher-Scholar Fellowship in Public History, through a request spearheaded by the chair of the History Department, Emily Mieras, Ph.D., in collaboration with her colleagues, Mayhill Fowler, Ph.D., and Kimberly Reiter, Ph.D.  

Fellows teach three or four classes a year, and reduce the teaching load for their colleagues in the academic department. They also get to experience teaching at a liberal arts college and can participate in the Brown Innovation Fellows Program, the center’s signature development opportunity for Stetson faculty that immerses them in a yearlong journey of hands-on experiences and meaningful discussions about teaching and learning.

The job description for the Brown Teacher-Scholar position was very appealing, said Roberson, the new visiting assistant professor in Health Sciences.

“They had an approach, or a philosophy, of maintaining not only the research end of your profession but also the teaching aspect and the aspect of working with the community, via the Wellness Center,” said Roberson, adding that his father-in-law and brother-in-law are alumni of Stetson College of Law. 

“It was really the only position and the only university that I saw that had a position as a postdoctoral fellow that encompassed all of those things. Definitely, it was my number one choice and the number one reason that I wanted to come here,” he said.

[This story was reprinted in its entirety from Stetson Today

Stetson to Launch New Minor in Sustainable Food Systems | Stetson Today

The way Sarah Cramer sees it, everybody eats three times a day and makes choices that impact the globe.

“You get to make a decision about what kind of world you want to live in through the food that you grow and the food that you buy, so I feel like that is a place where people actually can make a change,” she said.

Sarah Cramer talks to a student next to the school garden

Sarah Cramer, left, will become a Brown Teacher-Scholar this fall at Stetson and teach two courses in Sustainable Food Systems. She taught in a school garden in Missouri, above.

Cramer will earn her Ph.D. this spring in Agricultural Education from the University of Missouri and then join Stetson’s Department of Environmental Science and Studies as a Brown Teacher-Scholar. She and the department are supporting the launch of a new interdisciplinary program that will offer a Minor in Sustainable Food Systems.

For the fall 2018 semester, Cramer will teach Introduction to Food Studies and a proposed Junior Seminar called Seeds of Equity, which will examine food production, access and distribution through a lens of race, class and gender, showing the inequities that permeate America’s food system — from food insecurity to migrant labor. She currently teaches the Seeds of Equity class at the University of Missouri as a graduate assistant.

Wendy Anderson, Ph.D.

Stetson’s new Sustainable Food Systems minor eventually may be expanded into a major, said Wendy Anderson, Ph.D., professor and chair of the Department of Environmental Science and Studies.

“We wanted to launch with a minor to see the level of interest among students,” Anderson said. “If it seems that there’s a really strong interest, then we can easily justify expanding out to a major within a year or two.”

The new minor was approved this month by Provost Noel Painter, Ph.D., and awaits approval from the accrediting body, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, Anderson said. That approval is expected, so the new program will be added to the course catalog for the fall. The new minor can be paired with any undergraduate degree, and requires five courses and 20 credit hours.

Sustainable Food Systems is an emerging field of study and popular with college students today, with a growing number of universities from Temple to the University of Michigan adding programs. Stetson’s program will be interdisciplinary, with courses taught by professors of public health, chemistry and other environmental sciences, as well as media and communication.

Sarah Cramer is an avid beekeeper.

“I think the combination of the food systems minor with just about any major is a recipe for success for people who are interested in food,” Anderson said. “Food is the second largest sector in the global economy after energy. … Food is everything. There are so many jobs in food, whether that’s production and all the innovation going into production, or food delivery, food service, everything about food.”

Cramer will serve as a Brown Teacher-Scholar for two years and will bring experience as an educator with a non-profit school garden, including one year as an AmeriCorps member. Research has shown that school gardens help students learn about everything from math and science to healthy eating.

“Many subjects that students are supposed to be learning under state core curriculum standards, they can learn in the garden,” explained Anderson. “We know gardens have a positive effect on kids. Sarah has refined assessment tools to actually document that and also to document the impact on teachers who use gardens for their classes.

“When teachers see that they have better learning and teachers see behavioral changes are improved when students get time out in the garden, it really changes their attitude about garden education as a pedagogical strategy,” Anderson said.

Cramer’s teaching will tie in with Stetson’s Department of Education and help train education majors in the benefits of school gardens. And she will work with Stetson’s Hatter Harvest, which maintains an organic vegetable garden on campus, and promotes healthy eating and sustainable practices in agriculture, such as composting and water conservation.

“School gardens are becoming increasingly popular in schools around Florida and are a great tool to teach various academic subjects, as well as a love for the environment,” added Education Professor Mercedes Tichenor, Ed.D. “I’m excited about working with Sarah and using her expertise to increase our students’ garden-based learning opportunities.”

An avid beekeeper, Cramer said she loved the Stetson campus when she interviewed in January and looks forward to moving from her home state of Missouri to the sunny South. She has a master’s degree in Public Health from the University of Missouri and a bachelor’s degree in Biology from Truman State University in Missouri.

“I got to see the hives on campus when I visited Stetson, and I’m really excited about that,” she said. “I’m excited to keep bees in a place where winter is not so harsh because our problem here in Missouri is that it gets so cold that bees starve over the winter, but in Florida it seems like there’s always something blooming, so that will be a fun learning curve for me.”

-Cory Lancaster

[This story was reprinted in its entirety from Stetson Today

Stetson hosts Small Liberal Arts Colleges Writing Program Administrators | Stetson Today

[This story was reprinted in its entirety from Stetson Today]

By Leigh Ann Dunning

The Stetson University Writing Program & Writing Center hosted the 11th annual Small Liberal Arts Colleges Writing Program Administrators (SLAC-WPA) conference Jan. 12-13, which brought 40+ writing administrators to Stetson from Dennison University, Pomona College, Davidson College and Bucknell University, among others.

Discussion at the conference centered around this year’s conference theme, “Reading and Writing with Agency in the Liberal Arts.” The theme ignited meaningful conversation on how writing-intensive curriculums and courses, as well as writing centers and writing fellows programs, can empower student writers.

“At Stetson, student agency—autonomy, individuality and self-efficacy—is probably at the top of the list of reasons we exist as a college. Like most SLAC schools, we intend to graduate students who can create and lead meaningful lives, who take our education out into the world to make it better,” explained Megan O’Neill, associate professor of English and director of the Writing Program. “The synchronicity of the conference theme and Stetson’s own interests created a very productive and thoughtful space for us. I’m going to be processing what I heard about for a while.”

During the conference, tutors Vanessa Petion, from left to right, and Jeanette Jakupca gave tours of the Stetson University Writing Center. They are pictured with Megan O’Neill, associate professor of English and director of Stetson’s Writing Program, and Leigh Ann Dunning, director of the Writing Center and assistant director of the Writing Program.

“At Stetson, student agency—autonomy, individuality and self-efficacy—is probably at the top of the list of reasons we exist as a college. Like most SLAC schools, we intend to graduate students who can create and lead meaningful lives, who take our education out into the world to make it better,” explained Megan O’Neill, associate professor of English and director of the Writing Program. “The synchronicity of the conference theme and Stetson’s own interests created a very productive and thoughtful space for us. I’m going to be processing what I heard about for a while.”

As Director of the Writing Center and Assistant Director of the Writing Program, I was thrilled when O’Neill suggested that we host the conference at Stetson. I was particularly interested in networking with writing center administrators from campuses across the United States who share similar institutional values, missions and curricula history as Stetson. I knew that much of what was being discussed about student agency could be integrated into our SU tutor education program.

The conference’s small size and collaborative activities, such as speed-shares of ongoing research projects and roundtable discussions, forged a close-knit group. Jill Gladstein, associate professor of English and director of the Writing Associates Program at Swarthmore College, described the impetus for this group’s creation a little over 11 years ago.

“There were three of us who met at a larger writing administrator conference in Tempe, Arizona, and we felt like it wasn’t talking to our specific context of small liberal arts colleges.” She said, “We thought—What if we got a group of administrators from SLACs together in the same room? What would happen?”

Stetson University hosted the 11th annual Small Liberal Arts Colleges Writing Program Administrators (SLAC-WPA) on Jan. 12-13.

From its conception, SLAC-WPA was a success. Gladstein hosted the first SLAC-WPA conference at Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania in 2008. Since then, the group has written by-laws, established a rotating Executive Committee, and held yearly conferences. O’Neill, who has attended several of the previous 10 conferences, said, “I wanted to learn about what others have done in situations I face at Stetson. By listening to colleagues at peer schools who work in the same SLAC world as I do, I’ve been able to capitalize on existing strengths, hear about innovations that would probably not even get piloted at a larger school, and create a network of resources that benefit writing instruction at Stetson.”

In fact, a number of initiatives in the Stetson Writing Program came to fruition as a result of hearing from administrators at other SLACs: Writing Fellows, for example, is one such initiative. Fellows are embedded within writing-intensive courses across the disciplines, which is one more way the Writing Center benefits our students. After learning about the successful implementation of Writing Fellows Programs at other SLACS,  Stetson piloted a small program in 2016. The program has continued to grow since.

The conference kicked off on Friday night, Jan. 12, at the Daytona Plaza Resort and Spa with presentations, a reception and dinner. Attendees of the conference spent all day Saturday on Stetson’s campus. As Megan and I reflect on the conference, we are very thankful for the administrators, faculty, staff and writing center tutors who supported us in hosting the conference.

[This story was reprinted in its entirety from Stetson Today]

Stetson Students Tour DeLand Utility, Learn about Safe Drinking Water | Stetson Today

Stetson students listen as city Lab Tech II, Larissa McCoy, explains the testing requirements for the municipal water supply on Thursday, April 13.

Stetson University students toured the city of DeLand’s water facilities on Thursday, April 13, and learned about the extensive testing and monitoring to ensure safe drinking water for the campus and rest of the city.

The students from a Foundation of Environmental Health Sciences class visited the Utilities Department and learned how the city uses deep wells to pump water from the Floridan Aquifer, treats and filters it, and then monitors it continuously as it’s piped throughout the city.

“Five million gallons of water a day — every day,” said John Stanberry, DeLand Water Production superintendent. “We take a lot of pride in keeping our community in water. … Nobody ever realizes what goes into it, day in and day out. We basically run 24/7.”

The tour came after a class project on water quality testing by Nicole Porther, Ph.D., a visiting assistant professor of public health. Porther said her students used test strips for their project, and not sophisticated instruments like what they saw in the city’s testing lab on Thursday.

Follow-up tests by the city of DeLand and an independent laboratory found the water is safe for drinking at Stetson, and meets all state and federal requirements.

“We really are subject to a lot of environmental regulation,” explained Keith Riger, director of DeLand’s Public Services.

Larissa McCoy, city Lab Tech II, went through the lengthy list of required tests and showed students a large binder filled with some of the regulations on tests, duplicate tests and the proper calibration of the city’s lab equipment.

Nicole Porther, Ph.D., talks to students in her class, including Catie Hessler (in green shirt), during a tour of the DeLand Utilities Department. Keith Riger, director of DeLand’s Public Services, listens in the back.

“It gets complicated,” she added.

The students and professor Porther said the tour was informative. “It was nice to see how much they value quality control, which I knew, and that is very important,” Porther said.

Stetson senior Anna Miner said, as a public health major, she was very interested in a discussion about adding fluoride to municipal water supplies, which has been shown to reduce tooth decay in children.

“They did it specifically to help children’s teeth and I think that’s a really nice touch,” said Miner, who will attend graduate school at Tulane University in the fall. “It shows it’s not just science. It’s actually caring about the community.”

Posted on April 14, 2017 at Stetson Today

Third Annual Colloquium: A Focus on Project-Based Learning | Stetson Today

[This story was reprinted in its entirety from Stetson Today]

Stetson University’s third annual Colloquium on Teaching and Learning was filled with inspiring, innovative and thought-provoking discussions and engagement.

Hosted on April 7 and 8 by Stetson University’s Brown Center for Faculty Innovation and Excellence, the event delineated innovative approaches to address real-world and complex challenges in the higher education classroom.

Noel Painter

“The Colloquium allows each of us to expand the breadth and depth of learning and scholarship, and examine how we make connections at this institution for a broad scope of learning,” explained Stetson University’s Executive Vice President and Provost Noel Painter, Ph.D., in his opening remarks.

Day one of the event included interactive workshops, sharing sessions, a Brown Innovation Symposium and an experimental art reception.

This year’s keynote speaker was Richard Vaz, Ph.D., inaugural director of Worcester Polytechnic Institute’s Center for Project-Based Learning (PBL). He and his team travel the country to help other colleges and universities implement or improve Project-Based Learning on their campuses.

Richard Vaz

“We’re talking about taking our courses and pushing the framework of theoretical education, moving students past the knowledge-based economy and preparing them for a more innovation-based environment,” Vaz stated in his keynote address. “You’re not just evaluating the results but the process of that project as well. Because projects are real-world based, it brings about very effective and interesting collaboration among faculty members as well.”


New this year was the expansion of the Colloquium from its traditional one-day event to add an embedded workshop specific to Project-Based Learning on the second day.

Twenty-two participants from four higher educational institutions, including Daytona State College, Capital University and Florida Polytechnic University, in addition to Stetson University, spent their Saturday learning how to implement or better utilize Project-Based Learning for their students.

Leading a discussion on “Minding the Gap: Engaging Conversations and Difficult Dialogues” include (L to R) Sharmaine Jackson, Ph.D., assistant professor of sociology and current Brown Innovation Fellow; Rajni Shankar-Brown, Ph.D., associate professor of education, Jessie Ball DuPont chair and current Brown Innovation Fellow; Shawnrece Campbell, Ph.D., associate professor of English; Susan Pepper-Bates, Ph.D., associate professor of philosophy. They shared struggles and methods for navigating difficult classroom discussions with non-judgement yet creating teachable, meaningful moments from which students may grow and expand their existing world views.

Leading a discussion on “Minding the Gap: Engaging Conversations and Difficult Dialogues” include (L to R) Sharmaine Jackson, Ph.D., assistant professor of sociology and current Brown Innovation Fellow; Rajni Shankar-Brown, Ph.D., associate professor of education, Jessie Ball DuPont chair and current Brown Innovation Fellow; Shawnrece Campbell, Ph.D., associate professor of English; and Susan Pepper-Bates, Ph.D., associate professor of philosophy. They shared struggles and methods for navigating difficult classroom discussions with non-judgement yet creating teachable, meaningful moments from which students may grow and expand their existing world views.

Those attending from Stetson University included: Shawnrece Campbell, Daniel Vaughen, David DiQuattro, Michael Eskenazi, Rajni Shankar-Brown, Madison Creech, Shun Kiang, Sharmaine Jackson,  Heather Edwards, Nichole Porther and Savannah-Jane Griffin.

Michael Eskenazi

Michael Eskenazi, assistant professor of psychology and current Brown Innovation Fellow, said the embedded workshop was invaluable.

“This event has given me the opportunity to redesign a class that I have been teaching for six semesters. It’s a good class, but now it’s even better as it is more project-based. I plan to spend the first half of the semester on instruction, content and engagement, then the second half on the students doing a project,” he said.


Executive director of the Brown Center for Faculty Innovation and Excellence, Julia Metzker, Ph.D., and longtime Stetson University Trustee, Cici (Cynthia) Brown, Hon. ’07, talk after the Colloquium keynote address on April 7. Brown along with her husband, J. Hyatt Brown, Hon. ’92, who also serves on the SU Board of Trustees, established the Brown Center for Faculty Innovation and Excellence in 2014.

Executive director of the Brown Center for Faculty Innovation and Excellence, Julia Metzker, Ph.D., and longtime Stetson University Trustee, Cici (Cynthia) Brown, Hon. ’07, talk after the Colloquium keynote address on April 7. Brown along with her husband, J. Hyatt Brown, Hon. ’92, who also serves on the SU Board of Trustees, established the Brown Center for Faculty Innovation and Excellence in 2014.

The Colloquium is a signature program of the Brown Center for Faculty Innovation and Excellence, which was established by a generous endowment from longstanding Stetson University Trustees J. Hyatt Brown, Hon. ’92, and his wife, Cici Brown, Hon. ’07. The purpose of the center is to ensure active and continuous support of Stetson Faculty as life-long leaders and innovators, and to assert Stetson as a national higher education leader by modeling the University’s distinct character of learning and teacher-scholar role for future faculty.

“The Brown Center is unbelievable. It is so important for faculty development,” Professor Eskenazi noted. “I have other faculty friends across the country who don’t have the support like I do through the Brown Center, and they are just in awe. This Center and the Colloquium provide concrete ways of offering better engagement with students.”

-Trish Wieland


Tony Abbott

“The colloquium provided good examples of how project-based learning fosters skills important in nearly all disciplines. The potential for interdisciplinary collaboration is rich work through such pedagogy.”

J. Anthony “Tony” Abbott, Ph.D., professor of environmental science and studies; inaugural Provost Faculty Fellow for international learning.


Savannah-Jane Griffin

“Attending this Colloquium has provided me time to network with colleagues across the state and grapple with ways to provide better support through the Center for Community Engagement to faculty that are interested in implementing project-based learning into their courses, as well as enhance the First Year Seminar that I teach.”

Savannah-Jane Griffin, director of community engagement & inclusive excellence; 2017 Colloquium presenter; Embedded PBL workshop participant.

Sharmaine Jackson

“I found the colloquium a great place to exchange ideas and find a community of teacher-scholars-practitioners interested in facilitating direct links of what is learned in the classroom with what is happening in the world around them. I have benefitted significantly as a Brown Innovation Fellow as I have amassed a number of tools to be used in improving my teaching, engaging students both in and outside of the classroom, and in writing about pedagogy.”

Sharmaine Jackson, Ph.D., assistant professor of sociology – 2016-2017 Brown Innovation Fellow, 2017 Colloquium presenter, Embedded workshop participant.

Michele Randall

“I was encouraged by the number of faculty from our university and other institutions nearby who came together to learn more about high impact practices and how we can best serve our students. One of the best events was the workshop at the end of the day on Friday. We wrote out a few goals and were given an accountability buddy. I’ve been to countless conferences where I’ve left with tons of new ideas, but without plans and actual deadlines, those ideas too easily got lost in the day to day work. Everyone in that session had more than one great idea with clear goals and deadlines before they left for the day.”

Michele Randall, M.F.A., Sullivan Visiting Lecturer in English – 2015-16 Brown Innovation Fellow, 2017 Colloquium presenter and Brown Innovation Fellow mentor.

[This story was reprinted in its entirety from Stetson Today]

Website Helps International Students Find Jobs

Lou Paris stood before 24 students in his International Business class at Stetson University, sprinkling real-life experiences with textbook theories.

Stetson Visiting Lecturer Lou Paris talks to students in his class in the Stetson School of Business Administration.

“It’s hard these days to distinguish between business and international business,” he said, drawing on his many years of living abroad, first as a child in his native Venezuela and later in Canada, the United States and Europe.

But while large businesses and corporations are becoming more inclusionary, he pointed out that distinct cultural differences still exist between countries that are reflected in the dress, food, music, attitudes and lifestyles of the people.

“Every country is ethnocentric to some degree. You hold your culture to be superior, no matter how large or small the country is,” he told a class that included students from China, Sweden and Germany, although most were Americans. “I challenge you to go outside your comfort zone.”

Paris, now a U.S. citizen, has practiced what he preaches as an entrepreneur and visiting lecturer in Stetson’s School of Business Administration, where he graduated in 2001 and received an M.B.A. in 2007.

In recent years, he developed a website, called Konkeros.com, that places international students in jobs with U.S. companies (Stetson University was the first implementer of this technology). He also heads an International Students Club at Stetson that usually meets once or twice a month to discuss all aspects of living and working in America. Business leaders often are invited to speak to the group.

Now, Stetson has developed a plan to build on his efforts and provide more help for international students to start careers in a competitive global market.

Rosalie Richards, Ph.D., associate provost for Faculty Development at Stetson.

“Lou identified a demand by our international students and unselfishly volunteered his time and talent to this important work,” said Rosalie Richards, Ph.D., associate provost for Faculty Development. “As a result, he has inspired the University to formalize his efforts. We have developed a comprehensive plan to boost international student engagement, talent development, and career success and thus, provide an excellent return on investment for these students and their families.”

When Stetson’s plan is fully funded, she said, it will provide a full-time advocate who will continue to develop relationships with potential employers.

“The program will include internship support and the continued use of Konkeros.com will be a strong component. We also anticipate sharing what we learn because at Stetson, what’s good for international students is good for all students,” Richards added.

Last year, 185 undergraduate students at Stetson came from outside the United States, making up 6 percent of the student body. They were from 55 countries, according to Stetson’s Office of Institutional Research.

Paris said many of them major in International Business.

“They all know I was an international student,” he said. “Their questions can range from, ‘What do I do with a speeding ticket to I need a job to stay in the U.S.?’ ”

And that one question led to the idea of developing the website listing “tens of thousands” of employers, so foreign students could connect with companies that hire graduates with diverse cultural backgrounds.

“I asked the students what they needed to (find) a job. Their most common wish was to know what companies were hiring international students. So I didn’t waste time. I built a database,” he said. “I created something that no one else does by ranking companies by the best to least likely to hire students in the fields they majored in.”

Traditional job fairs were intimidating for some students, he said. One Venezuelan student broke down crying in Paris’ office, after she was unable to make even the most basic connection.

“I was very upset. She was so bright, but got no chance. I thought there was a need to help navigate the madness,” Paris said. “That was the catalyst for the site.”

Lucas Diniz, 24, graduated from Stetson last May with a degree in finance. Thanks to the Konkeros website and Paris, he quickly found a job at Product Quest Manufacturing in Daytona Beach. He’s a market research analyst working mainly on over-the-counter generic brands for stores like CVS.

“It saved time by narrowing down the companies that actually hire international students. When you just look for a job on your own, there can be a lot of wasted energy, where you go out on interviews only to hear they don’t hire international students,” Diniz said. “Lou (Paris) and Konkeros helped me select jobs where there was the most probability of getting hired.”

Paris said international students often feel like underdogs with no family or friends in the area to lean on for support. But on the flip side, that often builds character.

“They are tested more at a younger age in the ways of the world. They are more mature. They want to stay for the opportunities, or because their country is in shambles like in Venezuela, or they simply like the American way of life,” said Paris, whose father had owned a construction company in Venezuela when he was growing up.

Paris said he expects other colleges throughout the state and country in the near future to offer Konkeros as word spreads of its success.

“My goal is to get this in the hands of all international students in the United States. That would be incredible,” he said. “It’s the foundation for colleges to build upon. It can help them with admissions, attracting more international students by showing them that they can achieve their goals, and stay and work in the U.S.”

March 30, 2017 in Stetson Today