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The Weekly Blab

Volume 6, Issue 24—March 21, 2012


’Tis the Season

Spring is here, and pollen is in the air.  I became allergic to pine pollen when I was in graduate school—my research group took a trip to Carowinds (an amusement park like Six Flags—in fact, I think it is a Six Flags now), and the park was surrounded by pines that were in full pollen bloom.  I was sneezing and tearing up so badly I had to go to the park’s infirmary.  Fortunately, a simple antihistamine takes care of me, so this time of year, Sudafed and Actifed are my best friends.

Last week was crazy week.  It’s always like this the week after Spring Break, because everyone who was away tries to schedule things now so that we can get them in before the end of the term.  There were lots of new faculty candidate interviews, and while they take a lot of time, it’s important and interesting for me to see the various people we’re considering—they often have new ideas, and always have an interesting perspective on the University and the department they are interviewing for.  A somewhat new phenomenon is that about half of them now send a thank you note or a thank you email after the interview (and the percentage doing this has been rising over the years).  I have no idea when this trend started—I don’t remember it ever happening at my first college, and it only happened once or twice at my second.


More Good Stuff

Good results keep on a coming for SPSU and our students.  In a previous BLAB, I reported that the Construction Management Department’s Mechanical Contractors Association of America student team made the national final four, with the finals being held in Orlando.   The final results are now in, and our MCAA team is #1 in the nation, beating out the Milwaukee School of Engineering, Illinois State University, and California State University—Sacramento.  The team consisted of CM students Trent Anderson (captain), Sean Barden, Daniel Epps, Billy Hancock, Larnell Jewell, Brian Nelson, Eric Pagan, Tyrone Sheffield and Charles Wall, and was ably advised by faculty member Maureen Weidner.   The prize was $5000 and national bragging rights.  Congratulations to all for a job exceptionally well done.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, the Business Administration Department hosted Frank Blake, the CEO of Home Depot, this evening.  The talk drew an appreciative crowd of about 350.  Mr. Blake spoke for about 25 minutes about Home Depot’s overall business model, focused on putting customers first.  He entertained questions for the rest of the session, and our students had a lot of them—so many that he eventually ran out of time.  He was an interesting guy, and surprisingly candid about things that had gone well and things that hadn’t at Home Depot.  One fact that surprised me was the gender split among their customers—a nearly even 51% male, 49% female.  Tim Allen must be standing there thinking HUH?  Anyway, interesting guy, and a fine job by our own Joyce McGriff (Business Administration) for arranging for him as a speaker.


Governor’s Teaching Fellows

Congratulations to our two SPSU faculty who were named Governor’s Teaching Fellows this year.  The selectees were Don Ariail (Business Admnistration) and Beth Stutzmann (ETCMA).  Don teaches in our accounting program, and Beth teaches music.  Faculty are chosen for this program because of their teaching aptitude and demonstrated focus on their students, and attend a series of symposia designed to help them implement projects that will improve instruction at their home campuses.  An SPSU faculty member or two has been chosen for this honor every year for the past several years.


And Speaking about the Governor…

There’s a big push across the nation about improving graduation rates.  At the national level, the push is being led by President Obama and an organization called Complete College America.  The various states (including Georgia) are also joining in with this effort, which is spearheaded here by Governor Deal and fully backed by the Chancellor and the USG.  The Georgia version is called, naturally enough, Complete College Georgia.  Five of us (Sam Conn (the new CIO), Becky Rutherfoord, Dave Cline, Bob Homer, and me) attended the Complete College Georgia conference on Monday and Tuesday.  The goal of the conference was to give the USG and TCSG universities and colleges background information about the effort, and to start the ball rolling on each campus creating its own plan to improve graduation rates.  The overall goal is to increase the number of graduates in the state by 250,000 by 2020, and it looks like each university’s funding formula will be affected by how well that university does. 

There were a number of speakers—some national, some from within the USG—who were invited to speak at the conference.  The recurring theme was that universities need to change the way they offer courses and the way they interact with their students in order to promote greater access to higher education and to engender greater student success.  A few current “best practices” were highlighted, and I was very happy that SPSU’s articulation program with the technical colleges was chosen as one of them, and that I was asked to deliver a talk on the subject, which drew a lot of interest.

Over the next several weeks, SPSU is required to develop a plan (with various metrics at each point) that will track how our students progress toward graduation, that will implement steps to help optimize their success, with an overall goal of increasing SPSU’s six-year graduation rate and increasing our overall number of graduates.  The plan is due to the BoR by June 1.  With the end of the term rapidly approaching, it’ll be a big challenge to get it done.  A number of initiatives that are already underway (our QEP, the addition of new school advisors, the TCSG articulation, our membership in the Adult Learning Consortium, and several others) are appropriate elements within the plan.  Expect to hear more about this in the next few weeks.


Last Week’s Trivia Contest

Last week’s questions all looked for the word spring (or a derivative) in their answers, and many of you sprang (sorry!) to the occasion with the answers.  The winner was Mark Vickrey (from SIS) with a fabulous five correct.  Here are the answers:

  1. Common ailment for teen-age boys this time of year:  Spring Fever
  2. Singer from Asbury Park, NJ:  Bruce Springsteen
  3. Broadway Show within a Mel Brooks movie, written to lose lots of money but causes problems when it becomes a major hit: Springtime for Hitler
  4. Rodgers and Hammerstein’s ho-hum solute to the season: It Might As Well Be Spring
  5. Mary Isabel Catherine Bernadette O'Brien’s better-known name:  Dusty Springfield. 


This Week’s Trivia Challenge

I’m enjoying writing themed trivia quizzes, so in honor of St. Patrick’s Day, this week’s quiz deals with various Irish topics.  As usual, no looking up the answers please!

  1. According to legend, St. Patrick drove them out of Ireland
  2. The first in the world was held in 1762 in New York City, not in Ireland.
  3. You kiss it to get the gift of gab.
  4. Complete the following Irish blessing:  “May you be an hour in Heaven…”
  5. An example is: “Three candles that illumine every darkness: truth, nature, knowledge.”