Call for Assessment Volunteers

Michael Heathfield and the (national award winning) Assessment Committee are looking for help with their efforts to assess student skills in regard to the Gen Ed Objective of “Oral Communication” mastery as measured by the associated General Education learning outcomes. Per Michael:

“Here’s an opportunity to contribute data for something useful, positive, and directly related to improving student learning.”

They need faculty who are already having students do some sort of oral presentation some time between weeks 12 and 16. If you have a class that fits that description, then (unlike in past years where students went and took a test in the lab or something) by volunteering you’d be agreeing to use the committee’s easy to use rubric (in addition to OR instead of your own) to evaluate the student presentations and submit those to the committee. There may be a quick survey for students to take, as well, but I’m not sure about that.

Regardless, you would be volunteering to do an easy (and helpful) bit of bonus data collection that won’t take all that long or be all that difficult to do and will help all of us learn something about where our students are in regard to oral communication skills. That, in turn, will give all of us good information about what we might do in our classes to promote student growth toward this objective.

Imagine that: some data collection that might actually tell us something about student learning and helpfully inform our teaching! Please help if you can.

If you are interested in learning more, contact Michael Heathfield or someone you know on the Assessment Committee (every department has a rep) and find out more. If you are interested in volunteering, go HERE and do it!


Amuse-bouche is a (new!) regular feature designed to add a little amusement to your day and celebrate the arrival of the (early) weekend. Suggestions welcome!

Six weeks in is a good time to ask your students, especially the freshmen, if they are still thinking about their BIG goals–the goals they had back in August. Ask them if they’re still approaching every day, every class, every assignment with the enthusiasm that they had back in August, if they are still focused on their ambitions and possibilities–lest they mistake the short-term for the long-term, the urgent for the important, the easy pleasures for the hard-earned one. And if you don’t want to ask them that, you can always ask them what kind of theme music they would pick for themselves…

Just in Case

I have a student who lost her notebook “somewhere in the college” this week (other than our shared classroom). It doesn’t have her name on it, but it does have a lot of notes about Philosophy of Religion in it.

If you happen to have found a notebook in your classroom or office or department office that fits this description, she’d appreciate it if you sent it up to the Humanities Department (rm 1014) or sent me a message so I could come get it.

Thanks in advance.

New Shimer College Scholarship

If you have any students hoping to attend a Great Books college and/or have expressed their ambitions to change the world, you might direct them to this brand new sparkly opportunity offered by Shimer College–it’s called the Dangerous Optimist’s Scholarship. Here’s the low-down:

A two-year, full-tuition scholarship for transfer students who will change the world.

Buckle up.

The Dangerous Optimist’s Scholarship rewards you for what you are capable of today, not your past grades or your previous accomplishments.

Follow these easy steps:

  1. Apply: Apply to Shimer College for the Spring 2014 Semester by November 15 by visiting our online application portal.
  2. Write a couple essays: Download Adrienne Rich’s essay Split at the Root: An Essay on Jewish Identity here and write one of your two required essays for the application based on the prompt at the end of the essay.
  3. Interview: Interview with one of the Shimer faculty  on The Dangerous Optimist’s Scholarship Committee by November 26. Be prepared to spend at least half of the interview discussing Split at the Root with your interviewer.

Some things to note:

  • Scholarship applicants will be judged solely on the quality of their essay on and discussion of Split at the Root.
  • All participants will be contacted by December 6. Registration for the 2014 Spring semester will take place January 13; classes begin January 15.
  • To be eligible for The Dangerous Optimist’s Scholarship, you must complete a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form before a scholarship can be awarded.  Note: Students who are awarded federal or state grants may have their scholarship adjusted if the combined amount of all aid exceeds the cost of tuition.

Important Dangerous Optimist’s Scholarship Dates:

November 15 Last day to complete your application for Spring 2014 including your essay on Split at the Root.
November 26 Last day to complete your interview with Shimer faculty member
December 6 Scholarship Recipient Announced
Before December 15 Submit completed FAFSA form online
January 6 Deadline for winner to accept scholarship and submit enrollment deposit for Spring 2014
January 13 Register for Spring Semester classes

Contact us with any questions at 312.235.3555 or

Cross Talk: Art Edition

Cross Talk is a regular feature, highlighting three to seven items on some discipline taught at the college. We should all know more about what our colleagues know, teach, and love. Lifelong learning, blah, blah, blah, and all that jazz.

#1) Be happy you don’t teach art. Apparently, it’s way more complicated than I ever gave it credit for being.

Check out this horrifying list of “Seemingly Innocuous Assignments That Will Lead to Improbable Calamities: Cautionary Notes for Teachers, Unfortunately Based on Personal Experiences.”

An example:

Make something ugly

Some twisted genius will stumble upon the ultimate solution to this art school chestnut: when it’s their turn to be critiqued they’ll just stand up and destroy the work of one of their classmates. An administrative shitstorm will ensue.

They get funnier (and more appalling) from there.

#2)  You should know about Kehinde Wiley.

#3) The teaching of art is changing, or so says this author, as the making of art has become radically democratized. From the Chronicle:

Art making has changed radically in recent years. Artists have become increasingly interested in crossing disciplinary boundaries—choreographers use video, sculpture, and text; photographers create “paintings” with repurposed textiles. New technologies enable new kinds of work, like interactive performances with both live and Web-based components. International collaboration has become de rigueur. Art and design pervade the culture—witness popular television programs like Top Design, Ink Master, and—the granddaddy of them all—Project Runway. And policy makers and businesspeople have embraced at least the idea of the so-called creative economy, with cities rushing to establish arts districts, and business schools collaborating with design schools.

Those developments are already affecting how the arts are taught: Curricula are becoming more flexible, with students encouraged to reach outside their departments to master whatever tools they need to make the art they want to make.

But there is another shift occurring that is more subtle and more destabilizing to art colleges: Suddenly, everyone is—or can be—an artist.

#4) No Flowers In the Psych Ward: If you can resist reading this piece after scrolling through the pictures, I’ll give you a dollar.

#5) Dave Hickey is an interesting dude and art critic, as you’ll see in this profile published last January in the Chronicle. A snippet:

Academics don’t understand how a serious intellectual could have spent so many years not doing academic work, instead snorting cocaine and jamming with the Nashville-based singer-songwriter Marshall Chapman. (They were “romantically involved,” Hickey says, and wrote songs together in the 70s; he also was her tour manager and, when needed, played rhythm guitar.) And academics certainly don’t like it that a man who spent so much time on different college faculties would have the gall to bash his academic colleagues and higher education in general.

Educated in what he refers to as “the liberating discourse of French Structuralism,” Hickey dismisses its American disciples as “misshapen offspring.” With his take-no-prisoners attitude, he writes in openly derisive terms about the watered-down, enfeebled American version of French thought: “Somehow, the delicate instrumentalities of continental thought had been transmuted by the American professoriate into a highfalutin, pseudo-progressive billy club with which to beat dissenters about the head and shoulders.”

Five Things to Tell Your Students about Cell Phones


This is how it opens:

Dear Incoming Freshmen:

Welcome to college. This is an exciting and possibly anxious time for you. You want to do well. Fortunately for you I have many years of experience observing people such as yourselves, and I’ve been able to identify the single greatest threat to your academic success and overall happiness, health, and well-being:

Your cell phone.

You may see this device as the opposite, as your lifeblood, your connection to the world around you, but the reality is that it’s trying to destroy you.

Let me count the ways.

I want to have a version of this printed up–poster-sized–to be hung in classes around the school. You know, just above the phone number for security (you know, the signs that Faculty Council requested two years ago). Sigh. I guess I’ll have to print my own.

An Argument for Democratizing Knowledge in America

I just read a book “Back to school: Why everyone deserves a second chance at education” by Mike Rose.

Back to School book cover

The students described in this book could be my own and I find that rather refreshing in a book about higher education!

There was something really powerful about reading the words of students like mine in the pages of this small book. It reminded me that our students all have various reasons for being in our classrooms:

To be a role model for my kids. To get a career to support my daughter. I don’t want to work in a crappy job all my life. I want to learn to read and write. I want to have a better life

I teach in the Child Development program. I’ve always thought of my courses as serving both academic and occupational goals, and I have treated both goals equally. We are a career program, and yet the intellectual life of my students is extremely important to me. I want my students to experience many and varied opportunities for cognitive growth in their time here. I also have a higher responsibility to the young children my students will ultimately serve so I work hard to make sure my students understand developmentally appropriate practices in the profession of early childhood education. This book has reminded me of the importance of developing an academic intellectual life, but it has also reminded me of the intelligence of occupational work.

It’s midterm by the way, in case you haven’t noticed! This is the time in the semester when many of us lament that students are unable or seem unwilling to take advantage of the support resources available to them such as office hours, tutoring, and the like. The book helped me to remember that my personal approach to learning in terms of actively seeking information and forcing myself to take charge of my own educational experience by any means necessary can be really different from how students approach my class.

As Rose states,

Many students with privileged educational backgrounds are socialized from day one to seek out resources and engage members of institutions to help them attain their goals. This seems so much like second nature to most academics that we forget that it is a culturally influenced, learned behavior.

…teaching is more than transmitting a body of knowledge and set of skills but also involves providing entry to the knowledge and skills and tricks of the trade necessary for fuller participation in learning.

It’s a quick read, but it has inspired me to think differently about my students and my teaching. I think it’s worth a look. Let me know if you want to borrow it!

The HWC Transfer Center

I just spent some time with Transfer Center Director Ellen Goldberg.  During this time, Ellen graciously acquiesced to contributing a podcast (about 6 minutes) about the services the HWC Transfer Center provides our students.

If you’re not sure what the Transfer Center offers our students, take a listen, and please consider sharing the podcast with your students via the following url:

The Writing Lab

John Cahill, a tutor from the Writing Lab in 203A, stopped by my office today to record a brief (< 5 minute) podcast about the Writing Lab and the service the excellent tutors in the Writing Lab offer our students.

If you don’t have time to have a tutor visit your class to explain the services (per Elisabeth Greer’s, Writing Lab Coordinator, January 22nd e-mail), then please consider sharing this mp3 podcast with your students.  You can do so by sharing this link with your students:

Things You Could (Have) Do(ne) Over the Break #2: Security Edition

Way back last year, I had a notion of a series of posts on things to do over break that was meant to help clear out my “Instapaper” account (which currently stands at 20+ pages of material) and backlog of stuff I wanted to post and address some other items that I hadn’t managed to get to over the course of last fall. Unfortunately I didn’t get any farther than the first one.

Still, as with most things, I prefer the long view, and so, though belated, you can expect a few more of these.

One of the things I wanted to get to last semester (admittedly, in order to do some moaning and complaining about it) was security. There were a couple of incidents in the fall that had me thinking (again) about the topic (as here along with the numerous incidents around and near Truman and Kennedy King, as well as elsewhere). Remember the Faculty Council survey from 2011 and the findings (more information on the results and the context here)? If not, this is what we found:

1. 90% of the respondents feel HWC is a safe environment, but roughly 3/4ths of those who held this view think it can be improved;

2. Roughly 75% of the respondents did not experience any immediate or potential threat to their safety this semester; that number dropped to 65% when asked to consider other situations that made them feel uncomfortable about their safety;

3. A clear majority of the faculty that responded do not know how to access emergency plans and crime information;

Well, that one, at least, we can do something about. If you missed it, over the break, Armen sent out some links for everyone to review; you might also consider posting a link to one or more of these in your Blackboard site.

Finally, one last thing you should know about (and please help spread the word)–Harold Washington College has something called the Supportive Intervention Team (SIT). Its origins lie in the Clery Law’s mandate that every college have a Threat Assessment group with training and processes for identifying and dealing with threats that strike the necessary balance between intra-institutional transparency and student privacy. In the worst of the college-campus tragedies of recent years–Virginia Tech, Northern Illinois, etc.–subsequent investigations found that earlier interventions might have made a difference. Over the past year and a half or so, George Bickford and Michael Russell have led the development of a set of process/protocols that have led to regular communication among security, administration (especially student services), faculty, human resources, and our Wellness staff. The process has been both educational and painstaking (I was a Faculty Council co-rep, along with Rosie and Matt Usner, last spring and summer) and extremely thoughtful.  You should DEFINITELY take a gander at the SIT page and maybe make a note of the link for reporting a “Person of Concern.” If you scroll down on the SIT page, you’ll find guidelines for reporting, as well as an explanation of the process once the report is made. There is also a link to a page with helpful reminders about engaging with distressed people (students, faculty, staff, strangers–whoever).

Originally I was going to belly ache about the absence of a sign in every room with the phone number for security large enough to be read from the back of the room (maybe we should make our own in the meantime?) and the fact that the last lockdown drill and associated key distribution (that I know of) was conducted almost two years ago and was only partial even then. I would guess that these items will get more attention in light of Newtown.  At least I hope they will. In the meantime, for yourself and your colleagues and your students, make sure you’re not the person who doesn’t know what to do if you need to know what to do.

Visit from the Sister Colleges

From Ellen Goldberg:

Hello all,

I wanted to remind all you rock star women that tomorrow is the Smith College and Mount Holyoke College Reception for Prospective Students!

We will be welcoming Carolyn Dietel from Mount Holyoke and Sidonia Dalby from Smith to our campus!

Smith and Holyoke have a longstanding tradition of welcoming students to their campuses from the City Colleges of Chicago!

The Reception will be held in room 203 D/E  of Harold Washington College from 2:30-4 p.m. on Thursday, November 1, 2012.

We hope to see you all there! If you know of any other amazing female students, please spread the word about this event!

Also, we will have yummy refreshments as well!

See you Thursday!


Both schools have programs that give full rides to non-traditional women students with housing for kids and all the rest. I’ve known and written letters for at least seven students who have attended one or the other and they’ve all been really successful there. So if you have a great woman student, kick her out of class this morning and send her down there…

Website Wednesday

Have you seen what Michael Russell and his cohort of Wellness Center managers and interns are up to at the Wellness Center Website?

You should.

And you should let your students know about it, too.

They’re posting stuff like time management tips, and other fun stuff, serious stuff, interesting stuff, useful stuff, relaxing stuff. It’s good stuff.  And they’re taking suggestions, too.

I’ve put the link in the blogroll so you can get there easily. And if you see Michael, let him know what you think of it. Personally, I can’t really believe how lucky we were (as a college and a system) to get Mike on our team. He does some amazing work.

Hope you check it out.