Best Commencement with a View
In 2002 and 2003, the graduation ceremony was held at St. Petersburg’s Tropicana Field. But, organizers quickly grew bored of the same old pomp and circumstance. So, they decided in 2004 to move the ceremony outside to the school’s own South Beach Field, which has a panoramic view of Boca Ciega Bay.
“Students and parents love the festive atmosphere and beautiful view, while faculty and staff enjoy having graduation take place on the campus again,” says Rebecca Jacobson, assistant dean of students.
However, organizers aren’t about to let their audience sweat it out under the sweltering May sun. Instead, they erect a 100-by-300-foot white tent with rows of teal flags fluttering in the breeze. Also, the tent is topped off with five large teal flags. Planners keep the decorations simple inside, using little more than some foliage and college banners.
“The breathtaking view of Boca Ciega Bay, which is visible behind the stage, is our primary decoration,” Jacobson says.
Besides the great scenery, the graduation is known for its excellent keynote speakers, which have included Congressman Bill Young, Coretta Scott King, and Dr. Blenda J. Wilson, president of the Nellie Mae Educational Foundation. This year’s speaker will be Dennis Lehane, a 1998 Eckerd alumnus and author of the best-selling book Mystic River.
But, any Florida resident may be asking at this point, “What happens if it rains?” Well, the people at Eckerd even have a back-up plan for wet weather. “The tent is equipped with drop curtains, so if it does begin to rain, the curtains drop down and we keep on going as planned,” Jacobson says. –CG
Contact Jacobson at firstname.lastname@example.org
Best Freshman Portal
“First we wanted to introduce a way for the various offices and folks on campus to be able to communicate with the incoming class before they got here, something that they didn’t have much of a chance to do previously,” says Casey Paquet, Eckerd Web manager. “The second goal was to assist the students themselves in connecting with their peers.”
Launched on June 4, the portal gave new students about three months to connect with their peers before even setting foot on the Eckerd campus. Features of the site include message-board forums, blogging tools, and picture-posting software—all of which allow students to share questions, concerns, fun-facts, and personal information. “The forums were by far the most popular, with 7,750 individual posts being made in less than three months,” Paquet says. “The feedback was extremely positive, and many students sent e-mails and instant messages to us to say ‘thank you’ for giving them such a helpful resource.”
In fact, Paquet even has the numbers to back up the site’s success: 321 students were active on the site prior to fall term, which is about 55 percent of the incoming class. “For a first year, this was an incredible number,” Paquet says. “We expected incoming students to spend their last few months at home out with friends, but instead we saw a very active community blossom.”
Furthermore, faculty and staff were pleased to see that triton.CONNECT helped slow the “summer melt” period, when students who have applied to the college decide to attend another school instead. By helping them create strong relationships with other students, students built a loyalty to Eckerd that kept them there, Paquet says.
“Our hope is that the foundation we built with these students will also assist in increasing retention,” he says. “For me, it was exciting to provide a means to ease some of the stress of choosing and ultimately beginning at a new college.” –CG
Contact Paquet at email@example.com.
Best Pre-Space Program
Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and NASA have recently joined forces to create TeachSpace. Through this program, high school teachers will learn how to make math and science more appealing by using human space flight and exploration materials in their classrooms.
“We want the teachers to use this information to excite young people about studying math, science, and engineering technology,” says Dr. Rodney Piercey, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at ERAU—Daytona Beach. “A lot of the content of those courses has become pretty boring, and in some cases, frightening to our students.”
Last July, 20 teachers from around Florida were trained in each of the first two TeachSpace workshops. During each three-day workshop, authors and former professors from aerospace schools lead seminars and demonstrations showing teachers how to incorporate space exploration into their lesson plans. For example, when teaching Newton’s Law of Gravitation in a physics class, the teacher could use modules on lunar gravitation to supplement that lesson with space exploration content. All workshop participants receive the textbook series, “Exploration of Aerospace Science,” as well as exercise modules, a student exercise manual, and a teacher’s manual to help them generate more interest in math and science.
Teachers must be nominated by their school principals to be considered for the program. Then, they’re chosen based on the respect they have in their communities, whether they’re in “mid-career,” and whether they teach in math, science, or technology. Each nominee also commits long-term to the program, agreeing to teach other teachers in their school.
“I’ve done teacher workshops on and off for nearly 20 years, and these are the best assessments I’ve ever seen,” Piercey says. “It’s going to be very valuable to learn not only a lot about space science and exploration, but how to provide that in a high school classroom.” —RG
Best Radio Station
The station’s recent popularity has been due largely in part to some internal renovations, including new equipment and a new location. Prior to these improvements, the disc jockeys at Eagles FM had to worry about things breaking during their show, and no one ever knew if the broadcast was going to fail in the middle of the night. “The equipment we had before was very old, and yearly maintenance was starting to build up,” says Jessie Lesperance, Eagles FM division chairman. “So with the support of the Student Government Association, we moved forward and purchased all new equipment to last us many years to come.”
Furthermore, Eagles FM finally acquired its long-awaited Low Power FM license. This FCC license allows the station to transmit on a 100-watt transmitter, which means that Eagles FM can reach people all over Daytona Beach. Lesperance says that while this may not sound like a big deal to most people, to Eagles FM and ERAU it is. “We have been trying for this for six years now, and it has finally become a reality,” Lesperance says. “Besides broadcasting LPFM, now we also broadcast all around campus in different buildings and on the Internet at www.eaglesfm.com.”
The station also has a mobile sounds-unit that does events for the community, campus clubs, organizations, and departments. Each week, on average, the mobile sound unit does two to four events, with even more demand during homecoming. The radio station provides its DJ’s with more than 700 CDs, 2,000 songs, and hundreds of records to use. “Eagles FM is like a family,” Lesperance says. “We’re a group of individuals who love what we do and do it because of that love.” –RG
Contact Lesperance at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Best Administrative Alliance
Paula Miller, dean of academic affairs, sits down with students each semester and asks each which flavor of hot tea they prefer. The tea is served on her grandfather’s china while Miller chats with students and offers them advice. According to Miller, “Tea with the Dean” is just one of the perks that comes with attending a smaller school. “We’re a small college, and one of the attributes is that students have easy access to their faculty members and to other members of the administration,” Miller says.
The idea for “Tea with the Dean” came about when student Jeff Garrison stopped by to speak with Miller while working for the audio-visual department. When she offered him a cup of tea, he accepted, and they sat down and talked for a bit. A few weeks later, Garrison was back with a group of friends. Miller served them all tea, and a tradition began. “After the students have had tea with the dean, obviously I know them by name,” Miller says. “If they need mentorship, I provide it. If they need anything I have that could help them, I share it with them then.”
Miller isn’t the only member of the administration who caters to the students. Six times each semester, the school’s president, Dr. William Abare, sits down to hear student concerns. At “The President’s Lunch,” held three times each semester, Abare hosts an informal sit down with students where lunch is served—on the administration, of course. During the “President’s Hour,” also held three times each semester, specific complaints are voiced. Abare tries to field all of their questions, but if he doesn’t know the answer, he finds it and contacts the student personally.
Flagler’s Student Government Association helps organize all of the events. SGA President Heather Fick says that these activities help develop bonds between the faculty and students. “These events allow for students to know their opinion and have their voices heard by the administration,” she says. “The administration can have a better understanding of what the students need and want, firsthand.” —MM
Contact Fick at email@example.com
Copyright © 2006 Oxendine Publishing, Inc. All rights reserved