Friday, November 20, 2015

Innovative learning communities endeavor supports student engagement; is tailored to commuter campus

In an innovative initiative that is designed to further strengthen campus engagement and enrich students’ educational experiences, learning communities have been being introduced on campus this fall. This concept is most often associated with residential campuses and usually involves students with shared interests and/or academic pursuits being housed together.

To tailor this initiative to a commuter campus such as OU-C, students take classes of different academic disciplines, which are focused on a central theme, back-to-back. This interdisciplinary approach allows students to approach a topic from different perspectives. It also encourages more collaboration among both the students and faculty members.

English faculty member Tony Vinci and art faculty member Darren Baker have launched one such endeavor, with Baker teaching “Introduction to Digital Photography” from 9:30 a.m. to 12:20 p.m. and Vinci teaching “Writing and Rhetoric” from 12:30 p.m. to 1:50 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Meanwhile, fellow English faculty member Deb Nickles and sociology faculty member Marguerite Hernandez have introduced another pair of classes in this model during fall term. Hernandez is teaching “Introduction to Sociology” from 11 a.m. to 12:20 p.m. and Nickles is teaching “Writing and Rhetoric” from 12:30 p.m. to 1:50 p.m. the same days.

The interaction between students is also intended to deepen their connections to campus, which should support retention efforts.

Research shows there are several advantages to this type of learning environment, many of which are aligned with the Chillicothe Campus’ strategic emphasis on increasing student satisfaction, retention and success, in terms of course and academic degree completion.

“Students in learning communities tend to feel more connected to the campus and to their classmates. They also usually feel closer to faculty members and more comfortable in the college environment, which leads to a higher degree of satisfaction with their courses,” Vinci said. “Consequently, they have an overall higher GPA than their peers as well as a lower dropout rate.”

This type of approach also encourages collaboration and teamwork, skills that are beneficial to students throughout their academic and professional pursuits.

Beyond practical outcomes, there are intangible benefits for the students.

“A learning community represents a way to work beyond the traditional academic frame work and develop a more personal understanding of yourself and the world,” Vinci explained.

Participating faculty members have experienced the benefits of collaborative approach of the learning communities.

“For my class, I have designed assignments about sociological topics to help students retain what they are learning in ‘Writing and Rhetoric,’ and I know Deb has designed assignments to help students retain what they are learning in ‘Introduction to Sociology,’ so students are getting similar information from two different sources. We think that is beneficial in helping the students retain material,” Hernandez said. “Hopefully, I am helping them improve their writing skills, which will assist their success in English, and Deb is helping them improve their sociological imaginations, which will help them in my class.”

The Learning Community concept is an approach that extends beyond time in class.

“The students in the classes are acting like a community,” Hernandez said. “I see them studying together and spending time together on campus. A goal is that this community extends beyond class and the students build friendships from this experience. Also, I enjoy working with other faculty members and the teamwork that is encouraged by this initiative. I hope I have the opportunity to teach additional learning community classes in the future.”

A video about the learning communities that was produced by student videographer Madison Corbin is available here.

Upcoming OU-C theater production “Almost, Maine” examines many dimensions of love and relationships

Ryan Kight and Haley Gray rehearse a scene from "Almost, Maine"

The Ohio University-Chillicothe theater program will present the play “Almost, Maine,” at 8 p.m. on Dec. 3, Dec. 4 and Dec. 5 in the Bennett Hall auditorium.

Written by John Cariani, the play deals with a small town’s dealings with the many excitations – and complications – of love on a magical midwinter’s night. The comedy is set in the fictional remote town of Almost, Maine, and includes a series of vignettes exploring love and loss, as well as the perils of romance. It is also the first OU-C production for director Lance Mekeel, who joined the campus’ faculty this fall.

Tickets are $5 for the general public, $3 for campus faculty and staff members, and OU-C students are admitted free with university ID. Tickets are available in the box office outside of the auditorium the evenings of performances.

“This production should appeal to a broad public because, if there is something everyone has experience with, it is love,” Mekeel said. “The play shares instances in relationships that are what I would consider threshold moments, when the relationship could break in several directions. With the theme being so universal, I thought this would be a great play for our premiere event this season. It is somewhat simple, yet very powerful, at the same time. The cast has shown a strong connection to the play, and the actors understand the themes and characters even better than I could have anticipated.”

The cast members are reacting well to the upcoming play.

“I like how the play covers all aspects of love: the good, the bad and the crazy moments,” said stage manager Rachael Ridout, a human services technology major from Portsmouth. “It is something that audience members can connect with in some way. The play is more than just a comedy, and there are lots of deep moments.

Ryan Kight, an education major from Florida, is making his acting debut with this production. “I have enjoyed the experience, and it has been a fun and challenging time. Also, as a future teacher, it has been helpful in learning to talk in front of people. Plus, being a teacher is somewhat similar to acting in a play in that you learn to connect with an audience in both situations.”

Haley Gray, a Unioto High School graduate and communication studies major, is a veteran student theater performer with Chillicothe Civic Theater as well as campus productions. “I have done a lot of backstage work the last few years, and it is fun to be back on stage. I think of this as a romantic comedy. It is easy to relate to this play. The actors and audience members can easily put themselves into the play and the relationships they see throughout it.”

For more information on the play or the OU-C theater program visit

OU-C students in education class present posters as part of International Week events

OU-C students in the education course, EDEC 2600 Global Early Childhood: Programs and Practices, recently presented their international early childhood education and care (ECEC) posters as part of International Week. Some students from the summer section joined fall semester students for the event.

Among the countries represented were Afghanistan (Kirsten Bradley presented by Hannah Jury), China (Dominique Watson), Germany (Sarah Leasure & Nate Meddler), Haiti (Rachel Rodriguez and Drew Brown), India (Abby Storts), Mexico (Emily Ross presented by Ashleigh Gray), Nepal (Kathryn Rapp), North Korea & South Korea (Brittany Howard), Poland (Shannon Stroup),  Italy (Caitlynn Whitten), Japan (Leslie Lemo) and Uganda (Emily Richards).

Education students from other classes helped host the event. Kelsey Clay, Lydia Coleman and Sarah Cydrus coordinated international-themed foods for sampling; Lauren Stout designed passports to visitors to the various ECEC posters; Sara Palmer hosted a table that displayed a variety of multicultural books; and Chelsea Irvin and Becca Schutte were greeters and passport checkers. They were among other students who supported the International Week event.

“When OU-C students learned about International Week at OU, they wanted to be a part of it. The idea of a poster presentation actually came from a small group of students, who inspired me to adapt a course assignment from a PowerPoint presentation to an academic poster presentation,” said Mary Barbara Trube, professor of education and the faculty sponsor of the event.

The students gained insights that will help them in their academic and professional pursuits.

“It was interesting to learn of a different culture and the diversity that exists,” said Drew Brown, a middle childhood major. “During my career, I will probably have students from different cultures in the classroom. From this, I will be better able to relate their experiences to our educational system in the United States.”

Shannon Strop, an early childhood education major, said. “This will make me a better teacher by helping to understand international students and their point of view. There are so many different countries, and the way that other systems function can be different than in the United States.”

Ashleigh Gray, an early childhood education major, said, “I am a big fan of diversity, so I think this is great. In fact, I just wrote a research paper on the importance of diversity in education.”

EDEC 2600 is a Tier II Cross-Cultural course that focuses on early childhood education, care, and development from an international perspective, and includes studying the United Nations; Convention on Rights of the Child and elements within the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development impacting the global community.

Annual Heritage Day event commemorates campus’ rich history and community connections

The Chillicothe Campus celebrated its rich history and promising future during the recent Heritage Day event in the Stevenson Center Learning Commons.

Heritage Day is an undertaking that is unique to OU-C and captures the forward-thinking, creative approach that distinguishes the Chillicothe Campus. It is undertaken in the spirit and includes many of the trappings of a traditional college homecoming endeavor but is tailored to a regional, commuter campus and the constituencies it serves. Heritage Day offers an opportunity for former students and community members to visit campus and visit with former classmates and long-time friends as well as for current campus members to join the celebration.

Perhaps most significantly, the event provides an opportunity for the Chillicothe Campus to celebrate its community connections and say “thank you” to residents of this region for their continued support.

To capture that spirit the highlight of the evening was the presentation of the third annual community service awards. These awards were presented to students who are making a special impact on their communities.

Whether working as individuals or as part of a larger group, the recipients undertook a range of projects. Through their efforts was the common thread of community service. Together, these individuals provide a tapestry that exemplifies the spirit of the Chillicothe Campus and its emphasis on community connections.

The current student community service award winners include:
•    Tiffany Graves
•    Casey Oates
•    Shania Logan and Emily Ross
•    OU-C softball team

Honorable mention recognition was presented to:
•    Human Services Technology club
•    OU-C Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing Program

Further, Hilltopper volleyball players and coaches were recognized for the state tournament championship they captured this past fall as were tennis players Alley Collins Newland and Dakota Collins, who won the state doubles title.

Over the years, Heritage Day has grown to become the second-largest annual OU-C annual event, second-only to the Recognition of Graduation ceremony.

Local musicians Kenny Valentine and Ashley Good of the Kenny Valentine Band provided the entertainment.