- Hide menu


Come on and Zoom

Academic calendar may be torn-up as a result of Covid-19. Chronicle photo by Julia Schmalz

During the first few months of working from home we’ve all learned the good, the bad and the ugly about zoom calls. I’m a Western Massachusetts kid who grew-up with the PBS children’s show Zoom, so of course the theme song has been going through my head.

But seriously, Zoom has allowed to me get voices from across the country with an ease that my traditional filming did not allow. We’ve traded high definition images for authenticity of voices and that’s not a bad thing. Some of the projects I have done or been involved with include:

‘Do No Harm’: The Coronavirus Crisis Calls for Compassion, Say Faculty Members Sharing Advice

As the Coronavirus Forces Faculty Online, It’s ‘Like Drinking Out of a Firehose’

Covid-19 Sent LGBTQ Students Back to Unsupportive Homes. That Raises the Risk They Won’t Return.

I hope everyone stays safe out there and hopefully we’ll get to see each other on campus in a not so distant future.

Pandemic Presents Special Challenge to 2-Year College Built on a Cohort Model

This was the last story I filmed as the coronavirus forced campuses to close. It seems almost vintage now – although I believe that we will get back to campus life again. It just may take a bit.

In 2017 the University of St. Thomas started Dougherty Family College, a two-year institution on its downtown Minneapolis campus for youth from around the Twin Cities facing barriers to higher education.

The college admits about 150 mostly first-generation students a year, with the $15,000 tuition largely covered by financial aid, leaving the average student responsible for about $1,000. Tuition covers two meals a day, a laptop, the cost of textbooks and transportation, and a slew of counselors and advisers, including a “persistence coach.” The pedagogy is designed so students see and hear voices from their own rich cultures. But perhaps the most powerful tool for success are the 25 other students — the cohort — they take every class with until they graduate and transfer to a four-year program.

Here’s the link to the original story.

Students Often Glorify Stress. Here is How One College is Helping Them Ease it.

“There are few issues that are more pressing for colleges and universities today than attending to the mental-health needs of their students,” says Virginia M. Ambler, vice president for student affairs at the College of William & Mary. At the heart of a new focus there on the multiple dimensions of well-being is the McLeod Tyler Wellness Center, which is home to counseling and student-health offices as well as meditation spaces. Early assessments have found that students may come in with a specific purpose, like attending a yoga class, but when they leave, they are more aware of the range of resources available.

The hope is that the center will encourage more students to seek help in various forms.

“We can be active partners in our own health and wellness as well,” says Patrick Abboud, a student-wellness ambassador. “We don’t want,” he says, “to slide to a point of really, really deep pain, and then we reach out then when it’s just unbearable.”

This video originally appeared here.

Telecounseling Photo Illustration

Chronicle photo illustration by Julia Schmalz

Every once and a while I get asked to jump in on photo illustrations – usually close to deadline and usually it is because there is some sort of challenge. Photo editor Rose Engelland explained we needed to shoot two laptops on a couch. Hhhmmm, I thought. I was concerned about how this a dynamic image. So of course the best couch was in our CEO’s office and once he headed to a meeting we moved in. Together we kept adding items and tweaking the scene. I knew it would have more of a focal point and pop when I added the faces. If you have a subscription to The Chronicle you can read the story here.

‘Each Year Is a Full New Crop’: An Iowa College Prepares for Enrollment Change

We traveled to Iowa, a state with lots of small colleges and a declining high-school population, to see how Central College, in Pella, is facing enrollment challenges. For the video, we tagged along with the admissions staff; talked to Carol Williamson, vice president for enrollment and student development; and sat down with President Mark Putnam to get a better sense of their concerns and see their efforts firsthand.

You can go here a transcript of my interview with President Putnam.

A Computer-Science Program Takes a Dramatic Approach to Getting Students to Open Up

Students at Northeastern University, in Boston, all participate in its signature experience — a semester “co-op” in which they work full time for a semester. Presenting is often key to a successful work experience, but traditional workshops and classes did not seem to be helping computer-science majors blossom. “We always had a course on how to present. But I didn’t feel like it was doing what it needed to,” says Carla Brodley, dean of the Khoury College of Computer Sciences. “It was about standing up and giving a PowerPoint presentation.”

Brodley turned to a friend, Antonio Ocampo-Guzman, interim chair of the theater department, and together they designed a required improv course for computer-science majors. This video takes a look inside a class to see what’s working at Northeastern.

A College Gives Back to the Town That Once Saved It

Closed mills from a bygone era stand over Waterville, Me., like sullen sentries. They remind some townspeople and visitors of more-prosperous times. But when David A. Greene, president of Colby College, arrived on the campus, in 2013, he saw a dilapidated town with huge potential. With Greene’s leadership, the liberal-arts college has pulled together the community and investors, raised millions, and embarked on a major downtown revitalization. In 2018, Colby opened the Bill & Joan Alfond Main Street Commons, bringing 200 students to a new dormitory that contributed to the downtown’s revival. This summer the college broke ground on a boutique hotel. We visited Waterville to learn more about the many initiatives underway.

See the original story here.

How One State’s Colleges Are Helping African Asylum Seekers

Portland, Me., recently received hundreds of African asylum seekers who had found their way to the U.S. border. They were identified by an advocacy group and bused to the city, which is known for welcoming refugees. The University of Southern Maine, Southern Maine Community College, and Portland Adult Education are on the front lines of an effort to help these “New Mainers” navigate the education system. As a result of growing awareness of immigrant issues, the state has made admissions ACT/SAT optional, and it grants in-state tuition to new immigrants with residency.

See the original story here.

Foster Youth Face Extreme Barriers to College. Here’s One Program That’s Helping.

Young people leaving foster care and trying to break out of poverty have the odds stacked against them. They’ve witnessed or experienced traumatic events, and often moved among multiple homes and schools. Every year, some 20,000 of the nation’s nearly 450,000 foster kids age out of the system, encountering an abrupt end to support at a time when many of their peers are enrolled in college. Great Expectations, an 11-year-old effort at Virginia’s community colleges, has developed a program focused on building trust and support to get foster youth to college and help them succeed.

A Culture of Caring

Amarillo College’s ‘No Excuses’ program for low-income students has made it a national model. Here is the story that reporter Katie Mangan and I did on the Texas Pan Handle school.

When the President Needs a Break

Toward the end of her seventh year as president of Montgomery College, in 2017, DeRionne P. Pollard was asked by a board member how she was doing. “I’m getting a little burned out,” said the leader of the three-campus community college in suburban Maryland. A dynamic speaker, a first-generation college graduate, a community leader, a wife, a mother — Pollard juggled it all. For her work, she’d recently been one of seven college presidents awarded the Carnegie Corporation of New York’s Academic Leadership Award, but the workload was taking a toll. When a previous Montgomery College president mentioned he had taken a sabbatical, she was eager to learn more. After a year of planning, Pollard took six months off to get healthy and rejuvenate.

Taking the streets once more

On January 19th, 2019 thousands marched down Pennsylvania Ave for the third annual Women’s March. Scenes around Trump International Hotel have become familiar icons of our times.

A Reason For Hope

Nicole Lynn Lewis knows what it’s like to feel as if you don’t belong on a campus. As a teenage mom at the College of William & Mary she balanced the challenges of academe with rearing an infant daughter. Lewis finished her degree, but she concedes, “My story is rare.” As the nonprofit organization she founded, Generation Hope, begins its ninth year, Lewis shares details about the program, which has grown to 100 students attending colleges in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area. To help them succeed, she says, “We have to pay more attention to what is happening in the lives of our students.”

Hungry to Learn

They barely make enough money to pay for college. Sometimes they have to choose between buying a textbook or buying food. Making rent, finding food, paying bills, raising a child, and dealing with abusive partners— these are some of the roadblocks many students face as they work toward earning their degrees. For this project five students shared their stories.

‘They’re Very, Very Long Days’

It’s clear how a Microsoft regional director based in Singapore would be seen as a great catch for a university in a booming high-tech corridor, but that may not be the most important strength Astrid S. Tuminez brought to Utah Valley University when she became its president this past fall.

Based in Orem, Utah, near the locally dubbed “Silicon Slopes,” the university serves nearly 40,000 students, of whom some 80 percent work and almost 40 percent are the first in their families to go to college. With degrees from Brigham Young University, Harvard, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Tuminez thinks her story of making it out of a Philippine slum will resonate with her working students. She also sees technology as key to disrupting higher education and eroding the differences between “the haves and the have-nots.”

“Being gritty,” she says, counts for a lot more than being privileged. We spent a day on Utah Valley’s campus to get to know this new president.

Peru From Above

Taking a break from my usual work related posts to add a few vacation pics. As an undergrad I majored in geography and have always wanted to see the Andes so Janice and I signed-up for a Field Guides trip that included Machu Picchu and birding up and over the Abra Malaga Pass. The mountains and Inca ruins did not disappoint. Here are a few photographs that capture the feel of the mountains.

A Day With a Recruiter

Courtney Connolly knows what it’s like to be on both sides of the recruiting table. Now a talent scout for a cloud-computing company, Connolly previously spent time in a campus career office after earning her master’s degree, in 2011. The different roles have given her perspective on how colleges and students should approach a career fair, and what she needs to do to survive the hectic job-hunting season.

‘My Professional World Has Gotten Smaller’

The shadows cast by sexual assault and harassment loom long after the behavior itself stops. That message has echoed across the #MeToo movement, and it has resounded with particular clarity in academe. Women who have experienced harassment have described its often-invisible professional repercussions — skipped conferences, spurned research opportunities, fractured personal networks.

The Chronicle spoke with three women about how harassment and assault have altered their professional paths. They outlined the practical steps they have taken to navigate fraught situations, and explained the personal toll of coming to terms with what they have experienced.

How a 21st-Century Learning Environment Helps Students Master Tough Subject

How do you turn a shopping mall into a 21st-century classroom? For Austin Community College, in Texas, the answer includes lots of open space, a large computer lab, and a commitment to individual attention. In the college’s ACCelerator, which opened in 2014, instructors work with small groups of students, at their own pace, to help them master challenging subjects like mathematics. The effort has proved enormously popular.

Running Out of Time In The Land of Opportunity

Over the past few years I have gotten to know several amazing “Dreamers,” young immigrants brought to the U.S. as children illegally by their parents. Sadhana Singh is one whose dignity and charisma makes an impression with all those she meets. I have known Sadhana for a couple years through interviewing students with Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA)  and when she told me about the young man she is dating, a Haitian with Temporary Protected Status (TPS) I thought that they would be good subjects to show the real side of the immigration stalemate. As you can read they are getting ready to move on and make the most of their lives.