Friday, February 20, 2015

Community service is important part of college experience for numerous students on the Chillicothe Campus

Community service adds to the college experience for many OU-C students.

By student public relations writer Madison Corbin

In Chillicothe, college and community are one in the same.  Well-rooted within its host town, the Chillicothe Campus demonstrates a dedication to cultivating beneficial connections between students and the surrounding area.  Among those connections are the opportunities for students to become involved in their communities, which is an important component of the college experience for many students.

Those pursuing a degree at OU-C are presented with a versatile collection of community service opportunities, and those who take advantage of the offerings reap an array of rewards.  In the video, Community Service Learning, faculty and students discuss the advantages, both practical and personal, of lending a helping hand.

Community service equips students with practical advantages for competitive job markets.  Through volunteering, students build their professional network, enhance their resumes and develop distinct social skills such as communication and leadership capabilities.  Students who partake in community service related to their major are able to practice and master skills that will benefit them in their careers fields. 

Further, students who actively participate in their community perceive society in an alternative light and formulate a well-rounded point of view as a result.  Students earn eclectic knowledge not only about their external environments, but also about themselves.  In Chillicothe, community service spans a wide range of causes and volunteers are urged to discover, shape and pursue their own personal values in the process of helping others.  Community service provides an outlet for self-reflection and individual growth at an ideal time when students strive for self-improvement. 

The everyday practices taking place at OU-C make it clear: community service leaves an immensely positive impact not only on its receiver, but also on its provider.

Campus planning session focuses on crafting practical student success and retention strategies


At the heart of retention efforts is ensuring OU-C students pursue their goals and ambitions.

The focus was on student success during the Chillicothe Campus’ recent planning session. The event was a follow-up to the strategic meeting held in early fall semester and included both faculty and staff members.

The meeting’s theme, “Classrooom and Out-of-Classroom Retention Strategies” captured the mission and intended outcomes of the session, with an emphasis on strategies that are actionable on the Chillicothe Campus.

“Retention is an area of concern on our campus,” Dean Martin Tuck said in laying the groundwork for the meeting. “At OU-C, we have a retention rate of approximately 51 percent of first-year to second-year students. It is a number that is lower than on similar campuses and an area of concern. It is also a challenge I am confident we can meet by working together with a smart plan.”

As the dean noted, retention has several ramifications.

“It impacts several areas of campus operations, such as overall enrollment, state subsidy funding and overall revenue. However, more importantly, it is integral to student success and ensuring that our students have meaningful college careers, earn their degrees and pursue their professional endeavors.”

Director of Student Services John Fisher provided a snapshot to set the tone. He noted that the Chillicothe Campus’ retention rate of 51 percent falls below the university’s Regional Higher Education average of 63 percent. He also shared that the campus’ enrollment numbers remain strong. Preliminary numbers indicate OU-C’s headcount enrollment at 2,410 and FTE of 1,446 for spring semester 2015. Those compare favorably with spring semester 2014, when headcount was 2,305 and FTE 1,453. In fact, headcount has increased from 2,316 during fall 2014.

Fisher pointed out that academic preparedness continues to be the best predictor for students’ college success. In that spirit, student services staff members as well as faculty member Debra Nickles shared several initiatives in place to enroll more highly-qualified students and also identify at-risk students and work to get them back on track, academically.

Following the overview, those in attendance formulated strategies during breakout sessions related to four areas: advising/mentoring, instructional support, student life and retention strategies for the classroom.

Rather than just concepts, the dean challenged the group to develop practical steps to address student success.

“Consider what we are currently doing now and what we can do better,” the dean said. “I am looking for broad-based input, with both faculty and staff members in each discussion group. Further, I want for each group to identify some ‘doable’ strategies or action items that can be implemented.”

The discussion groups then developed, and shared, strategies that are tailored toward the Chillicothe Campus, and steps will be taken to implement the initiatives as the campus moves forward. As part of that next step, a similar planning session will be held in May to take as many ideas as possible from concept to reality.

LEARNING COMMUNITIES

In an initiative that is designed to further strengthen campus engagement and enrich students’ learning experiences, English faculty member Tony Vinci discussed the upcoming introduction of learning communities on campus. This concept is most often associated with residential campus 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 will 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.

Vinci and art faculty member Darren Baker will pilot one such endeavor in fall semester 2015, while fellow English faculty member Nickles and sociology faculty member Marguerite Hernandez will introduce another pair of classes in this model.

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

STATE OF THE CAMPUS

Dean Tuck concluded the annual spring campus-wide meeting with a “State of the Campus” discussion, addressing OU-C’s strengths, threats and opportunities. The dean stressed that the campus is strong and positioned well for further success, with sound finances, a continued emphasis on student-focused teaching, good reputation in the community and a strategic approach to planning, as evidenced by the session.

In terms of positive factors, the dean mentioned:
•    Strong spring semester enrollment, with headcount up by 105 over a year ago
•    Applications and the number of admitted students for fall semester 2015 are ahead of last year’s pace
•    Hiring processes are moving forward
•    The new campus web site is close to being launched
•    The Chillicothe Campus portion of the university’s “Promise Lives” capital campaign has met its scholarship endowment goal and secured its first gifts toward the Academic Success Center

As for challenges, he pointed out:
•    Maintaining enrollment
•    Increasing retention and lowering the 43 percent rate of students on academic probation
•    Addressing the slight dip in  the number of FTE students
•    The impact of possible budget cuts due to enrollment and adjustments in the university’s responsibility-centered budget process, as well as the state’s subsidy model
•    Correcting the 35 percent student loan default rate by OU-C former students

Among upcoming projects and initiatives:
Academic
•    Hire associate director of nursing
•    Build relationships with high schools to implement College Credit Plus
•    Forge new academic partnerships with Pickaway-Ross Career Center and Southern State Community College
•    Develop programs for the Business Development Center, such as an entrepreneuralship certificate
•    Expand use of the Emergency Response Training Facility
Non-Academic
•    Shoemaker pedestrian bridge construction in progress; hope for completion by May 1 graduation event

Dinner event features networking with recent graduates as main course for OU-C students seeking career tips


A dinner event included a course in professional networking for a group of Chillicothe Campus students during the recent “Dining With 12 Strangers” event. Nine current OU-C students were joined by three recent graduates who shared practical career advice.

The event was a collaborative effort between OU-C Career Services and the Ohio University Alumni Association.

“The idea is to give current Chillicothe Campus students an opportunity to network with recent alumni. It helps our students develop their networking skills in a controlled environment,” said Martha Tanedo, the campus’ director of career services.

“The theme of the evening was ‘Life after OU-C.’ The goal is that they arrive as strangers and leave with new friends and connections.”

The evening was designed to help the current OU- C students learn from the experiences of individuals who were recently in their situations.

“We are trying to bring together alumni and current students,” alumni association representative David Bambrey said. “The focus is on involving Ohio University students, past and present, in an informal networking situation and making professional relationships.”

“The reality of finding a job is that much of the career search is about who you know,” Tanedo said. “This is part of the whole career development process, which involves students learning about themselves, what others do who are in similar career fields, what the students want to do in their professions and how they get there.”

Having recent graduates involved made the evening more relevant to the students.

“It is important that OU-C students see the success that their peers have obtained and are able to visualize the value of the Chillicothe Campus educational experience,” Tanedo said. “It is more impactful to meet individuals who were in a similar situation a few short years ago. They are able to then share how they made the transition from being an OU-C student to their current situations and what decisions they had to make.”

The recent alumni brought a range of experiences, with one recent grad pursuing her career locally, another finding his footing in Columbus and the third attending graduate school.

Kimberly Bowers is a supervisory medical administration specialist with the Chillicothe VA Medical Center. She earned an associate degree in applied business technology (OTEC) and was one of the first students to earn a bachelor’s degree in health services administration.

Jared Farmer earned an associate degree in business management and a bachelor’s degree in health services administration. He also played baseball during his OU-C career. He is currently employed in a managerial position for a business that promotes the cleaning wax product FW1 and also works part-time at a hospital.

Liberty Bell earned her bachelor’s degree in health services administration and was heavily involved as a tutor in the Student Success Center.  She recently earned her master’s degree in business (MBA) from Ohio University.

“I find it intriguing to be part of this event,” Farmer said. “As an OU-C graduate, it offers an opportunity to talk with future graduates. Basically, I want to help make their career process go smoothly and assist those who have been in my situation.”

Current students taking part in the get-together enjoyed the experience.

“It sounded like a fun thing to do,” said Sharles Thompson, an early childhood education major from Vinton County High School. “I am always looking for ways to meet more people and gain career skills.”

Networking is more than rubbing elbows and exchanging business cards, Tanedo explained.

“Successful networking involves meeting people who work in, or are somehow related to a field in which you are interested,” she said. “These individuals can become future colleagues and people with whom you will have a professional relationship as a mentor, future employer or in collaboration of some kind,” Tanedo said.

Hilltopper basketball teams bow out of state tournament


Following the conclusion of successful regular season schedules, Ohio University-Chillicothe’s men’s and women’s basketball teams played in matchups last weekend during the 49th Ohio Regional Campus State Basketball Tournament.

The Lady Hilltoppers beat Ohio University-Zanesville in their first game of the tournament by the score of 76-66. On Sunday the team proceeded to the next round where they faced No. 3 seed Miami Middletown. The ThunderHawks came out on top, beating the Hilltoppers by a narrow margin of 74-68.

OU-C’s men’s basketball team faced Miami Hamilton on Saturday in their first and only round of tournament play. The Hilltoppers lost to the Harriers in a close game with a final score of 87-86.

Students invited to participate in Chillicothe development focus group


Chillicothe Campus students are invited to participate in a focus group involving downtown Chillicothe development efforts at 2 p.m. on Feb. 25 in Bennett Hall room 105. Chillicothe Mayor Jack Everson and OU-C Dean Martin Tuck will lead the discussion to gain insights from campus students regarding the future of the city. Pizza will be available. If you plan to attend, please notify Jack Jeffery at jefferyj@ohio.edu