|Several New Campus Initiatives Greet Class of 2015
August 24, 2011
Contact: Bill Giduz
The start of the school year heralds new beginnings from one end of campus to another. Here's a wrap-up about some of the initiatives, programs and interesting things that mark the evolution of the college as the 2011-12 academic year unfurls.
|First year Odyssey participants (l-r) Becca Surratt and Matt Long negotiate some rapids.
Odyssey Gives First-Years a Head Start
It wasn't all new faces for 117 Davidson students arriving on campus. Those students got to know others in the Class of 2015 over the summer through Davidson's Odyssey Program. Organized annually by Davidson Outdoors, the Odyssey helps new students bond through a week of activities like whitewater rafting, camping out and cooking fresh meals. All first-year students are invited to sign up for Odyssey through adventure trips in the N.C. mountains or in a service project in Davidson. Each group includes eight new students and two trained upperclass trip leaders.
Here is what two participants had to say about this year's adventures:
"My favorite parts of the trip were the scenery and the opportunity to hang out other students-first to meet them and then having time to grow closer. To be honest, there wasn't anything I didn't like. There were points where I got a little sweaty and I'd think, ‘Wow, I wish I really wasn't this sweaty,' but that's it. After seeing how nice everybody was the first week I spent here I'm even more confident I made the right choice in deciding to come to Davidson." - Ben Hardie '15
"My Odyssey experience attests to the Davidson spirit that you hear people talk about. Troop leaders (upperclassmen) who didn't know us helped us in the wilderness-making food, not getting lost, setting up shelter....We took hikes. We took on rapids. We had a really awesome time. I looked around and I think our group might have had the most fun of all the groups. With trip leaders Kate and Kevin we were always laughing and often dancing. One evening our group shared seven to eight minutes of straight laughter. Knowing I will be on campus with these people next year is a great way to start the Davidson experience." - Greg Sargent '15
You can learn more about each through the Odyssey Webpage or the Facebook page. Davidson Outdoors also offers students opportunities to go on trips throughout the school year when they need a break from the academic atmosphere. For more info visit the Davidson Outdoors webpage or call Mike Goode at 704-894-2623.
New Program In India Focuses on Environment
Seven Davidson students-and another student from Clark University are embarking with Associate Professor of Biology Chris Paradise on the college's inaugural theme-based study in India program, which will focus on environmental issues in that country. The traditional Semester in India program is offered every other year, and focuses on Indian history, culture and religion. This expansion of the program increases opportunities for study abroad, particularly for science students who might not otherwise consider an off-campus semester because of academic major course requirements.
Like the traditional semester in India program, the environmental issues program will begin with a five-week residency at Madras Christian College (MCC) near Chennai, with two more weeks at MCC later in the semester. The curriculum integrates material from the South Asian Studies program, biology, and environmental studies. Students will take four courses-"Conservation of India's Biodiversity," "Ecology of Indian Ecosystems," "Environment and Culture in India," and "Issues in Contemporary India."
But Paradise said classroom studies will blend material so that there is not always a clear distinction between one course and another. He will conduct the classes with a considerable number of guest lectures by professors from MCC, Women's Christian College, and various research institutes and government agencies.
The program will also include study trips to the Andaman Islands, Delhi, Agra, and Varanasi, and a fall break vacation trip to the seaside state of Goa.
Paradise said studying environmental issues in another culture should create a richer experience for students than doing so locally. Moreover, India in particular presents students with a highly complex mixture of environmental issues for examination. "India's got it all," he said. "The country is rich in biodiversity, but suffers significant habitat destruction because of the pressure from its large population. The rapid pace of industrialization creates a vibrant economy, but also causes damaging environmental effects such as air and water pollution. There are a lot of grassroots groups working to minimize environmental problems, and some strong laws, but corruption often hinders enforcement efforts."
Paradise, whose specialty is entomology, visited India for almost a month with a faculty/staff group from the college in 2005, and traveled there again last December to prepare for this trip. He's eager to lead a student group on his third trip. "I'm looking forward to working with students on projects in a variety of fields," he said. "It's a tremendous learning opportunity for me as well as them."
First Year Class Includes Large Contingent from China
|Keyuan Zhou and all other members of the entering class completed their four days of Orientation by signing a reaffirmation to the Honor Code.
The largest contingent among 36 international students enrolling at Davidson are seven from China. These students represent a growing trend in their country to provide students with liberal arts-style education, as well as a trend among American colleges like Davidson to recruit them.
Chris Gruber, vice president for admission and financial aid, returned to campus just before school began from a 12-day trip to four Chinese cities in the company of other top admission officials from 10 other American colleges. This was the second year he has participated in the group excursion. Chinese philanthropists interested in affecting the Chinese education system paid almost all expenses for members of the group. Gruber and others had the opportunity to present their schools, and interview small groups of prospective students. Gruber said, "China can't accommodate the growing population of its students." He noted that one university the group visited had 10,000 applications for 400 spots in the first-year class.
First-year student Keyuan Zhou '15, from Shanghai, conducted his search of American colleges over the Web, and gave Davidson a close look because it was recommended by his mother's business partner. Zhou liked what he read about Davidson's offerings in environmental studies, and chose to enroll here. He said a total of 30,000 students from the Shanghai region had enrolled in American colleges this year.
Gruber also said Chinese administrators recognize the value of liberal arts education as a valuable alternative to China's rote system of learning. A recent story in the Chronicle of Higher Education reported, "Leaders in Beijing have long bemoaned the country's lack of patents, modern inventions, and Nobel Prizes. After years of soul-searching about what's missing, they have lately begun advocating changes designed to produce more-creative graduates."
Gruber added, "They're hoping these students who attend schools like Davidson will return to China and apply what they've learned."
Service Office Broadens Mission to Encompass All Forms of Civic Engagement
|Orientation activities included a guided 3 mile walk around town to show entering students community service agencies and historical sites around Davidson.
Davidson will focus community service efforts this year on the theme of "Civic Engagement," and the office responsible for coordinating those efforts has adopted that title as its new name.
Director Stacey Riemer said the name shift from the Office of Community Service to The Center for Civic Engagement acknowledges that "service" is only one aspect of student involvement in the community. The center supports students active in many other arenas-policy work, community-based research, philanthropy and social change at local and global levels.
Faculty teaching about 15 classes are working with the center to incorporate the theme into student scholarship, lectures, and programs. For instance, students taking Writing with the Community will create publications for various community organizations. Students working last semester with Professor of mathematics Tim Chartier used their skills to help local community organizations in project such as efficient parking lot design.
Civic engagement is leading some in the academic community off campus. Chartier recently led a discussion on integrating global issues into the curriculum to 1,200 teachers for grades K-12 at the "Worldview" educational conference.
The focus on civic engagement this year will also include a 20th anniversary celebration of the Bonner Scholars program, which provides grants to 20 students per year for their community involvement in lieu of campus jobs. The campus will also celebrate the fifth consecutive year that Davidson has been named to the President's Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll.
Riemer and her staff hope that this year's theme will broaden understanding on campus of the range of ways that individuals can benefit their communities.
New Center for Teaching and Learning Consolidates Support Services
|Reconstruction of the library main floor has opened up a large amount of space for technology and collaborative learning.
Summer reconstruction has transformed part of the first floor of the E.H. Little Library into the Center for Teaching and Learning, a facility that offers a variety of academic support services. Students who previously made multiple trips for assistance to scattered centers or offices can now meet with information literacy librarians, instructional technologists, and tutors from the Math and Science Center, Speaking Center, and Writing Center all in one location. The Office of Academic Support, which helps students identify study methods that best suit their needs, is also housed in the CTL. The assemblage of multiple services is designed to allow students to take a comprehensive approach in seeking support for their academic work.
The CTL's statement of purpose is to "support Davidson College's commitment to academic excellence by fostering a vibrant and engaged community in which faculty can explore and create innovative pedagogy and students can expand their learning strategies."
That means the center's efforts to maximize the educational experience aren't limited to students. Faculty will utilize the CTL to experiment with new instructional technologies, and to discuss new or different approaches for teaching.
"The new CTL is an interdivisional effort that will foster a better understanding of the learning process and how that process can be enhanced for everyone," said Verna Case, associate eean for teaching, learning and research,.
A team of representatives from the CTL's various divisions will meet regularly to set policies and evaluate the center's effectiveness through surveys and other forms of student feedback.
First-year students were introduced to the center during orientation, and department heads were asked to inform the faculty in their departments about the CTL services.
Construction of the CTL has completely altered the appearance of the north end of the first floor of the E.H. Little Library, and the south end was renovated at the same time. Stacks of books and magazines were moved to other floors, opening up a large, inviting area furnished with chairs, tables and computer stations that should become a popular facility for collaborative student work and socializing.
Hot and Heavy Summer's Work Gives Belk a New Roof
|As many as 20 workers at a time replaced slate tiles and repaired metal work on the roof of Belk residence hall.
From the Monday after graduation, May 16, until Friday, August 12, as many as 20 workers labored four stories high in oppressive heat to replace the entire slate roof and copper roof trim on Belk Residence Hall.
Built in 1955, Belk is the largest residence hall on campus, housing 295 students. The original slate roof was installed when the building was constructed, and metal components, including flashing and copper gutters, had begun corroding.
Project coordinator John Christian said the $450,000 project involved several steps-installation of scaffolding almost all the way around the building so laborers could work safely on the roof, removal of existing slate and copper, inspection and repair of structural issues, installation of new copper flashing, installation of all new slate and installation of new copper gutters.
The original slate tiles were removed and sorted, and those in good condition have been saved for future repairs on other campus buildings. Though slate and copper are expensive relative to other roofing material, project coordinator John Christian said the new roof should hold up as long as the original one. Slate also enhances the historic brick and limestone building materials used throughout the college.