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Winter has settled in comfortably on the Hill once again. Snow is sparkling on the bare tree branches, bikes are stored safely in the Ytterboe basement and the tile of Buntrock is perpetually covered in sand and salt tracked in from outside. Winter is certainly ready for us, but not every Ole on the Hill is ready for winter yet. It can be a tough adjustment, especially for those experiencing their first-ever subzero temperatures and 4:30 p.m. sunsets. (I traveled south to come to St. Olaf, and it still isn’t easy.) So here are my suggestions for a smoother, happier, warmer welcome to winter.
Take care of yourself. Wear a coat, a hat and mittens. Your clenched fists stuffed up your sweatshirt sleeves do not count. Wear mittens. You are never too cool for mittens or too warm-blooded for mittens or too anything for mittens during a St. Olaf winter. If you do not have mittens, invest in a pair. They will serve you well, and you will be happier and healthier and so much warmer. It’s pretty shocking to see how many people are still running around without mittens – why? There’s no reason for this madness. (Gloves are good too, if that’s what you’re into.)
In addition to your mittens, invest in sleep. Your health and wellness are more important than finishing every last word of the assigned reading for tomorrow. Part of the college experience is being busy as you explore everything you can in a vibrant learning community, but another part of the experience is learning when to take a break. You are a human being, not a human doing.
Take care of each other. In a campus climate where sexual assault is a daily topic of concern and conversation, and where depression and anxiety are commonplace, it’s easy to feel isolated. But you’re not alone. Oles, reach out to one another. If a friend has been down lately, ask her if she wants to talk about it. If somebody has had too much to drink, don’t leave him alone in a room or behind at a party. If your roommate from California hasn’t invested in mittens yet, lend her your extra pair.
Most importantly, if you witness a situation in which somebody might get hurt, step in. Do not be a bystander. We’re all in this together, and it’s up to us to remind each other of that whenever we forget.
Do not freak out. Just because your friends begin to panic about final exams or 15-page papers does not mean that you have to. That may sound like a no-brainer, but it is truly so easy to get caught up. Freaking out about registration and finals are certainly a normal part of the college experience, but trust me: your time will come. Don’t work yourself into a frenzy because it seems like everyone else is, and that you must be doing something wrong if you are not. Instead, do the opposite. Take a nap. Spend time with a friend. Go to bed when you are tired. Remember that you are in college, and that a B is a good grade. Curl up with a copy of your favorite college newspaper and take a study break. Shop online for a new pair of mittens.
Take time to enjoy this bright, beautiful cozy new season. Spring is only six months away!
Ashley Belisle ’15 (email@example.com) is from Mahtomedi, Minn. She majors in English and Spanish.
“When St. Olaf College started formulating an idea to assuage concerns about the value of a liberal arts education, President Barack Obama hadn’t yet talked about a federal college ratings system, and his College Scorecard wasn’t around.
“It was 2008 or so, the height of the economic recession, and St. Olaf administrators were more concerned about prospective students, pundits and parents than policymakers or the president. But what they came up with — an ‘Outcomes initiative‘ — put the Minnesota liberal arts college ahead of the game,” begins a POLITICO story that looks at what colleges are doing to provide data on student success. [Subscribers can read the full story here.]
“Today, state and federal regulators are pushing or have signed on to at-times controversial policies basing college funding on student outcomes such as loan default rates, job placement rates and salaries,” continues reporter Allie Grasgreen. “And more institutions are, like St. Olaf, publishing data online to make the case that they prepare their graduates for good jobs.”
The college’s Outcomes initiative aims to clearly outline the return on investing in a St. Olaf education by measuring student success and making that information readily available online.
Other schools, ranging from American University to the University of Texas System, have recently launched similar initiatives, notes the POLITICO story.
U.S. Department of Education Undersecretary Ted Mitchell tells POLITICO it’s “perfectly fitting” that colleges would push out their own data ahead of any government accountability plan, and he applauds the effort.
“More transparency about learning outcomes is good for everyone,” Mitchell notes.
Terry Hartle, senior vice president of government and public affairs at the American Council on Education, tells POLITICO that for individual institutions to be identifying and documenting their aspirational outcomes — a trend he expects will only escalate — is “a very welcome development.”
The POLITICO piece ends by noting that “Anderson is well aware of the growing pressure — from the federal ratings system to performance-based funding in states from Hawaii to Maine — on colleges to show they’re worth the investment. But it doesn’t bother him. He’s only concerned about St. Olaf.”
“I’m still skeptical that we have any ability to influence what the federal ratings people are going to devise,” Anderson tells the publication. “I just don’t think they’re going to take into account what a liberal arts college with 3,000 students is going to do.”
The Carleton College men’s soccer team earned the National Soccer Coaches Association of America’s (NSCAA) Team Academic Award after posting a team cumulative GPA of 3.40 for the 2013-14 academic year. This is the 15th consecutive year that the Knights have picked up this award.
For the 14th consecutive year, the Carleton College women’s soccer team earned the National Soccer Coaches Association of America’s (NSCAA) Team Academic Award after posting a team cumulative GPA of 3.58 for the 2013-14 academic year. The Knights have earned this honor every year since 2001.
Carleton College is listed at No. 9 in Division III and No. 16 across all divisions in the annual Athletic Recruiting Collegiate Power Rankings released by the National Collegiate Scouting Association (NCSA).
Between checking email, Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram and Twitter, students at St. Olaf and around the country have added another social media app to their web of connectivity. Most frequently described simply as an “anonymous Twitter,” Yik Yak displays unsigned posts from other users in a close geographical area.
According to its own Web site, yikyakapp.com, the app allows users to “get a live feed of what people are saying around you.” The Apple Store’s description reads, “Yik Yak acts like a local bulletin board for your area by showing the most recent posts from other users around you. It allows anyone to connect and share information with others without having to know them.” You must be at least 17 years old to download this app (or be able to tap your screen saying that you are of age).
Unlike other familiar social media apps, Yik Yak brings an appealing new twist to the constant communication and affirmation millennials so eagerly seek because all the posts are anonymous. The creators, Tyler Droll and Brooks Buffington, describe Yik Yak as a forum for people living in close vicinity to share thoughts, observations or funny quotes. Since there are no followers, friends or even usernames, votes on posts are based solely on content and not judgment of a specific person.
However, this anonymity can also bring out the worst in people, causing cyber-bullying problems in middle and high schools. As this app quickly gained popularity since it was launched in November of 2013, employees have worked diligently to combat negative repercussions of its use. Teaming with the Vermont-based company Maponics, the Yik Yak app team was able to locate school zones and set up geofences to block Yik Yak from middle and high schools, but the system is not perfect yet. There are many news reports of threats, cyber-bullying and other worrisome content posted from middle and high schools all around the country.
The creators acknowledged that just as all social media struggles with its unintended uses, Yik Yak will continue to face and try to combat harmful use. Intending their app to be used for college-age students to connect, Droll and Buffington hadn’t anticipated high school students using and abusing the app, but Droll said that “any technology can be misused.” On the St. Olaf campus, students complain about “the negative things people say,” “unoriginal content” and “people complaining about stuff they don’t even know about” on the app.
In addition to the widespread iPhone and Android app, Yik Yak also has a Web site, Facebook page, Instagram and Twitter profiles that share quotes from popular “Yaks” or pictures of the mascot interacting with students at various college campuses throughout the country.
Some favorite topics of the St. Olaf Yik Yak feed include food (especially Chipotle), the trials of registration, funny moments with strangers/profs/parents/prospies/friends, Netflix, relationships and stories of Friday night adventures.
The entertaining posts, the game of trying to get votes and the appeal of judging content that has no link to a username create the interesting social media experience of Yik Yak. If you haven’t given it a try yet, perhaps it is time for you to “join the herd!”
How to Yak:
1) Write a post (known as a “Yak”) up to 200 characters long about something you think is worth sharing.
2) Vote on posts. Other users (aka “Yakkers”) vote on Yaks they see in their news feeds by clicking an arrow to either “upvote” or “downvote” the post. If a Yak gets a score of -5 (that is, five downvotes), it is deleted from the feed.
From the home screen of Yik Yak, users can choose to sort through posts based on time stamp (under the “New” tab) or popularity (under the “Hot” tab). Yaks with the highest votes appear at the top of the “Hot” tab until they have been posted for 15 hours, at which point they disappear.
3) In addition to writing Yaks and reading those from users in your vicinity, the “Peek” feature of the app allows users to read what students are talking about at colleges all around the country.
In recent times, there has been an uproar in relation to charges filed by a student athlete at the University of North Carolina. The student claims that the institution pushed him into classes that required very little effort and ultimately provided him with a “bunk” education. Staff employed at the school have corroborated the claims that this phenomenon of simplifying college for athletes is an ongoing and fairly pervasive reality.
Arguments regarding this situation are generally centered on two claims: that athletes are favored in the admissions process – as previous academic standing is less heavily weighed than it is for other incoming students – and that, once admitted, athletes are pushed into taking easier classes.
It is not a secret that for many college athletes, academic success does not function as a primary driving force, especially for those that intend to become professional athletes. The image of a meathead jock, partying every night and sleeping through classes until practice starts is a trope so saturated into our popular culture that it no longer requires an explanation in film or television. You see the buff dude with the baseball cap and sleeveless shirt sitting on his frat’s front porch and you know who that character is.
Still, that conception is a sort of mass cultural joke – something that is stretched to the extreme for comedic effect. A college student is a college student, regardless of what brought him or her there, and all college students are entitled to the education they pay for.
Perhaps to broach the issue of educational deprivation for college athletes, it is important to look at the career course of an athlete in the United States. The fact is, if an individual intends to be a professional athlete, it is more or less required to play at the collegiate level before being drafted to a professional team. From this perspective, it is easier to see the justification for a system that requires less of athletes in class. It is possible that some students are only in college as a stepping off point for professional play, and that is the extent of their career plan.
In that case, it seems unfair that those individuals should be forced to receive, and possibly pay for, an education that is outside their fields of interest, and not in line with their future plans. This goal may be shortsighted in a sense, but it is still real. Here, assuming the school is offering a simplified education, the problem is that these easily-achievable degrees will either mean little or work to devalue degrees achieved by students on a more rigorous path.
For those who do not intend to pursue a professional athletic career – those who used their proficiency in a sport to help them get into college to achieve higher education or those who simply play for the experience – this cheapened education is a disservice. Maybe it will provide athletes with more time to exercise or practice, but ultimately it robs them of the education they are presumably at the school to pursue. These students are likely to leave colllege having acquired less knowledge than they should have, considering the time and money they spent on their education.
If a school propagates athletic achievement as its ultimate goal, academics will fall behind, especially for the athletes. This will ultimately cause problems for the school, but more importantly, problems for the students themselves.
Graphic Credit: ERIN KNADLER/MANITOU MESSENGER
At first glance, the class looks like any other taught at Carleton College. The room features desks, a blackboard, and a projector. The students tote backpacks and laptops, take notes, and sip their coffee while listening to a professor in glasses and a blazer lecturing at the front of the room.
But there is one thing about them that makes this course unique: half of the students are from St. Olaf College.
The course — Political Psychology of Presidential Foreign Policy Decision Making — is the first to be offered through Carleton and St. Olaf’s Broadening the Bridge: Leading Carleton and St. Olaf Colleges into a More Collaborative Future.
The program, which received a $1.4 million grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, aims to advance collaboration between the two colleges in library services, information technology, management operations, and academic programs in order to strengthen liberal arts learning and teaching in ways that each college could not accomplish individually.
Making connections between departments
The colleges are using the Mellon grant to support faculty-led exploration and pilot activities with potential for substantive academic collaborations, both in formal classroom curricula and experiential learning. The Political Psychology course is the first collaborative class to come out of this program.
“It began as a conversation about collaboration between our department chair, Al Montero, and St. Olaf’s department chair, Tony Lott,” says Carleton Associate Professor of Political Science Greg Marfleet, who teaches the course.
“There had been some excitement about the collaboration grant, and the two began to think about how we might expand the curriculum on each side of the river by offering some additional courses.”
Excited by the opportunity to build a connection between the two departments, Marfleet volunteered to design and teach the course.
“We discussed the kinds of courses St. Olaf students might like to take given the range of offerings already, and I noticed that political psychology and foreign policy were both areas that might attract Ole enrollment,” he says. “We thought it could help Oles seeking some variety, and it might also be helpful to have additional Ole enrollment for some of the more specialized offerings that occasionally don’t fill up with Carls.”
Providing new academic opportunities
With those goals in mind, Marfleet developed a course that explores the literature on personality, cognition, and decision-making and relates these insights to U.S. presidents.
Through psycho-biographical profiles of the presidents and word-by-word analyses of presidential speeches, Marfleet wanted to show students how a president’s personality affects his (because, Marfleet points out, so far it has always been “his”) foreign policy decision-making.
“Part of the draw, at least for me, for taking this class was Greg’s expertise in political psychology, especially in view of foreign policy,” says Bayley Flint ’15, one of the 12 St. Olaf students taking the course. “That is really unique, and is something that we don’t have in the St. Olaf Political Science Department.”
Though making the course work for both Oles and Carls took some ingenuity — for instance, the course was taught on Carleton’s trimester schedule, while St. Olaf operates on a 4-1-4 academic calendar — Marfleet says getting students from both campuses working together was worth any added headache.
“It has been nice to see the students make friendships over the term, and I really wanted to have the students work on collaborative projects involving students from both campuses in teams,” he says. “That caused some issues of coordination, but it was well worth the effort. And since Carleton and St. Olaf have different mid-term breaks, rather than take both off I met with half the class each time and we watched a movie and ate pizza.”
Carleton student Nicole Nipper ’17 says having St. Olaf students in the course enhanced the diversity of perspectives during discussion.
“I really enjoyed being able to work collaboratively with a group of students who were really interested in political science concepts and issues,” she says. “Most of the individuals in the class were political science majors and most of us had different areas of interest, which really enriched the discussion and collective intelligence in the room; it was really engaging.”
I came to St. Olaf with a preconceived notion of what daily chapel service would be like. My parents, both Ole alumni, always mentioned chapel time while reminiscing about their college years. The entire campus stopped during those precious 45 minutes and everyone convened in one place, my mother would tell me. In that day, perhaps more students identified as Lutheran, but by no means did they all practice their religion to the same degree. Chapel time was a short spiritual pause in the day for fellowship, music and prayer.
Chapel attendance has decreased among Oles since my parents’ time, and I cannot help but wonder at the correlation between decreased interest in chapel and trends described in the National College Health Assessment (NCHA) from 2014: Oles are stressed out. Students, faculty and administration alike are well aware of this fact.
When I came to St. Olaf after graduating from high school in 2011, The Board of Regents Student Committee (BORSC) Report of 2010 had just been released. Its findings?
- Over 92 percent of Oles report feeling overwhelmed in the past 12 months, compared with the national average of 86.4 percent.
- The number of Oles reporting exhaustion also beats national averages, at 87 percent compared to the 81 percent average.
- More St. Olaf students sought treatment for depression (12.8 percent) than the national average (10.1 percent). And this only measures those who sought help – it may not include the many others who suffered from depression and failed to report it.
- Over 68 percent of Oles reported feeling lonely, surpassing the national average of 57 percent.
Current research from the NCHA of 2014 suggests these numbers have increased in the four years I have attended St. Olaf. I can almost feel these changes occurring – those numbers ticking up every time I sit down and talk my friend (or myself) through a breakdown, when I see others rushing to their activities in a frenzy of over-commitment, when I collapse into my bed and realize I haven’t stopped moving since six that morning. Most of us know this feeling.
My plan for part of an intervention? Chapel time.
Notice I didn’t say chapel service. I care about the intention behind the time spent in those 45 minutes, not your specific location during them. It’s always amazing to me that people still feel overbooked in every minute of their days, when there are 45 specific minutes mapped out where (gasp) there are no classes, (gasp) no meetings, and (gasp) no commitments.
And don’t you dare shake your head and tell me that that’s when you meet with your advisor or your organization, or catch up on homework for your 10:45 class. You might as well eat your words: that time is filled because you filled it yourself.
During chapel time, the college blocks out 45 minutes for students to attend chapel if they wish, or simply to take a mental break during the day. Many of the main offices are closed, including the Post Office, the Student Activities Office and the Registrar’s Office, to name a few. Yet Oles continue to fill chapel time to bursting when it should be approached with intention and reverence. Is nothing sacred anymore? Will we do nothing in reaction to the NCHA’s troubling assessment of St. Olaf’s state of affairs? I do not enjoy the fact that 92 percent of us that are stressed, exhausted, depressed and lonely. Consider this time with respect for your own mental well-being and that of this community.
I am also not asking you to add another thing to your plate – this part of the intervention does not entail “adding” chapel time to your daily activities. It involves integrating something that is already present, but hidden: the time to stop. To rest. To be.
To paraphrase the author Wayne Mueller in his book Sabbath: “We do not stop because we have accomplished everything on our to-do list. We stop because it’s time to stop.”
Emily Stets ’15 (firstname.lastname@example.org) is from Northfield, Minn. She is a CIS major in Public Mental Health: Wellness and the Arts.
I am Loki. I am the turkey hangover that plagues you for three straight days after Thanksgiving. I know you inside and out, and will shed some light on your upcoming week.
Scorpio (Oct. 23 – Nov. 21)
Go without caffeine for a week. Ha. Even Loki can joke.
Sagittarius (Nov. 22 – Dec. 21)
You will feel sad about the weather. To combat this, harness the power of the sun Doc Ock style. Just watch out for those friendly, neighborhood, radioactive spiders.
Capricorn (Dec. 22 – Jan. 19)
You will feel sick this week. So do something sick. Maybe even do something sick nasty. Something so sick it makes other people sick. The only way to fight fire is with fire.
Aquarius (Jan. 20 – Feb. 18)
Remember hand turkeys? You will turn these in for every assignment this week and you will be rewarded with a failing grade.
Pisces (Feb. 19 – March 20)
Get ready for Black Friday. Treat the Home line food like a prized electronic device on Black Friday and start a riot for it. You will not succeed in your preparation unless you scald two people with hot gravy.
Aries (March 21 – April 19)
Prepare yourself for cheek pinching at Thanksgiving. Lie face down in the snow for three hours.
Taurus (April 20 – May 20)
You’ll begin to worry about your family silently judging you for being single at Thanksgiving. So pull a That’s So Raven and dress as your own significant other. Then eat an entire apple pie and throw up on the dinner table so that your family will appreciate single you even more.
Gemini (May 21 – June 20)
Your professors will fail to understand the “break” part of Thanksgiving break. Write them an “excused from class” note and forge Loki’s signature. They won’t believe the note but they will question your stress level and will reduce your work load accordingly.
Cancer (June 21 – July 22)
You’ll procrastinate, but do not worry. To compensate, you’ll burn the midnight oil. Meaning, you’ll burn the oil in your unshowered hair in a fit of stress. Remember, though, no matter what happens, you’re strong, beautiful and hot. Like sexy hot and like on-fire hot.
Leo (July 23 – Aug. 22)
Resist the urge to purge. Release your hate and then constipate. Your blocked up bowels will save you time. Now that’s prime.
Virgo (Aug. 23 – Sept. 22)
You’ll start worrying about finals. Take a step back and realize that, in the big picture, your finals are relatively insignifcant. In fact, you’ll remember that we’re all just specks on this giant blue and green ball and once your fleck gets swept away, you have only the unkown to look forward to. Then, once you finish your quarter-life crisis, you’ll cuddle up and watch Netflix until Thanksgiving.
Libra (Sept. 23 – Oct. 22)
Be thankful. Remember what Thanksgiving is all about and tell those close to you that you are thankful for them.