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University of South Carolina

February 14, 2013

A publication for faculty, staff and friends of the university

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Changing outcomes: SI leaders help peers succeed

By Megan Sexton

M

ike Dukes knows chemistry is a difficult subject. He also knows many of the students in his Chemistry 112 class are too shy or intimidated to ask a professor for help. But Dukes, the undergraduate director for the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry in the College of Arts and Sciences, knows other students can often be the key to helping their peers succeed in the university’s historically difficult subjects. That’s why he’s a believer in Supplemental Instruction (SI). SI doesn’t identify high-risk students; it focuses on high-risk classes, those that have the highest rates of D or F grades and withdrawls. SI leaders — undergraduate students who have earned an A in one of those tough courses — agree to retake the course and lead study sessions. “Most students feel more comfortable talking to another student,” Dukes said. “The SI leaders were in those seats the year before, so they know the fears and the apprehensions. I’ve found the SI staff does a great job recruiting people. I’ve never heard anyone complain about an SI student, and in chemistry, we’re a big user.”

Heather Meraw, a senior in the South Carolina Honors College, excelled in Dukes’ Chemistry 111 and 112 classes during her freshman year. The marine science and chemistry double major has been his SI leader ever since. She holds three hour-long SI sessions a week. “I try to make sure students feel comfortable, so they know that it’s not a bad thing to ask me questions,” Meraw said. “In a 250-person lecture, they don’t want to ask. But they can come here and say, ‘He did this in class, and I don’t understand why.’” SI leaders go through a two-day collaborative learning training session each semester. They are taught ways to tutor students rather than simply repeat the lecture, said Dana Jablonski, the assistant director of peer learning in

USC’s Student Success Center. USC started its SI program in 2006 with 40 SI leaders. This semester, 100 SI leaders are helping in the classes that historically have a 30 percent or higher rate of students receiving a D or F grade or withdrawing from the class. Students who attend SI study sessions have a 10 percent lower DFW rate than other students, Jablonski said. Victoria Jacks, a freshman Capstone Scholar from Aiken, was sitting in the front row for a recent SI session led by Meraw. “The SI leader helps us know what’s important and what we need to really know,” Jacks said. “She helps us know what to focus on. She’s able to answer all my questions and help me feel more prepared for tests.”

Chemistry professor Chuanbing Tang knows the value of good mentor. In high school in his native China, Tang’s chemistry teacher encouraged him, pushing him to participate in Chemistry Olympiad events. As an adviser and coach, “he was phenomenal,” Tang said. He was able to place in some national competitions because of his coach’s guidance. “I didn’t win at the national level — I wasn’t quite good enough for that,” Tang said with a laugh. “But I came in second. And I remember how he really motivated me.” By Steven Powell It’s a lesson Tang has taken to heart in working with students at many levels. “I try to motivate our students — whether in my research group, or in the classroom — to always try to do more, not just in chemistry but generally in science.” Helping students get the most from their potential, though, sometimes means recognizing non-academic barriers and working to help remove them. When he arrived at USC in 2009, Tang saw some of the obstacles that students in South Carolina faced, and he used his contacts in a national scientific society to offer them some help. Working through the American Chemical Society, he established the first and only Project SEED program in the state.

Project SEED targets high school students from economically disadvantaged families, giving them the opportunity to work alongside researchers in the lab over the summer. “In families with lower incomes, high school students might have to work in the supermarket, at Walmart, or in fast food over the summer,” Tang said. “They lose an opportunity to compete with students with more advantages.” The program offers students a reasonable salary while also teaching them science, he said. “We hope to stimulate their interest in going to college and also in majoring in the sciences,” he said. Starting with two high school students in the summer of 2010, the annual program has grown to include seven students and six other chemistry faculty mentors. “It was a great experience,” said Laurentz Florit, who spent the summers after 11th and 12th grade in Tang’s laboratory on an organic chemistry project. “By the time I got to organic chemistry lab, I’d already seen all this equipment and knew how to use it.” Adam Wirth, who worked the summers of 2010 and 2011 in Tang’s lab, echoed the sentiment. “Especially working with NMR (nuclear magnetic resonance) was helpful,” he said. “It’s a really important thing to know in organic chemistry, and when we learned about it in my organic class, I was already familiar with it and it came easily.” Wirth and Florit, the first two students to go through the program, are both sophomores majoring in chemistry at Wofford and USC respectively. “That’s what we’re hoping for,” Tang said.

Opening doors


University of South Carolina

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Playing with history By

Liz McCarthy

There are plenty of books on the Renaissance. Students can read all about Niccolò Machiavelli and the history of Florence, Italy. But there aren’t many ways to really experience 16th century Florence and interact with its historical figures. That’s where video games come in. Students in history professor Joseph November’s Computer Games and History course can walk around the Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore, investigate social conflicts, learn about Florentine politics and meet notables in the city during that time by playing Assassin’s Creed II.

“You can read about it. You can visit Florence today, but through the game you can be immersed in the Florence of the Renaissance,” November says. November, a longtime fan of video games himself, realized that many students who play games ­— like Civilization, Assassin’s Creed and Railroad Tycoon — were coming to his classes with an understanding of advanced historical ideas. While having fun these students had also been learning some important historical concepts, November says. “They hadn’t done any professional reading on these topics, on the one hand. On the other hand, they knew about the advanced ideas of history,” he says. “I’m hoping a course like this could harness that.”

In academia, video games haven’t gained much ground as a way to study history, but November believes these games — which are now mainstream and played by millions — can be a gateway to getting more students into the study of history. “Young people have been thinking about the ideas that the games speak to, and now they are looking for an outlet,” he says. These games, to November, should be treated like film and literature. Their history may not be 100 percent accurate but they can be taken seriously in a scholarly environment. “It goes beyond just reading about or watching history. You’re interacting with the past actively,” he says. These games aren’t like Pac Man. They aren’t even Oregon Trail, an early trailblazer of educational, historical gaming. Take an entertainment series like Fallout, for example. These games reimagine what Americans in the 1950s thought about the future by setting the game in a ’50s-era vision of future centuries. In Civilization V, gamers play with what ifs and develop entire civilizations ­— cities, armies, technologies — to learn how and why certain historical events may have happened. “What can Fallout tell us about postwar decision making? Why didn’t we achieve that 1950s vision of the future?” he says. “These games have serious historical content.” So far, it’s paying off. The class, which reached capacity, often talks about the games and the history before November arrives, he says. It’s the only class he’s ever had to ask students not to get ahead in the homework. “The class is teaching us how to do history as opposed to just learning facts,” says Travis Byrd, a junior history major in the class. “Video games are just another way of preserving how we think about events or how we process the past or the future.” For November, it’s more telling that the students know more about the material than he does. “It is great to see them doing the teaching and sharing information,” he says. “I’m just the facilitator.”

Day in the life Warren Palmer, USC letter carrier

Meet Warren Palmer, a retired postmaster from the Jersey Shore. Palmer carries letters for the USC Post Office on route one or the “executive route” as everyone at Postal Services calls it. Palmer delivers mail to the president and the administration among his 43 stops to various other offices around the historic Horseshoe.


USC Times

FEBRUARY 14, 2013

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“I’m passionate about what we’re doing to improve the lives of visually impaired individuals.”

Visualizing Changed Lives

By Meg Hunt

USC Upstate professor proves braille literacy provides endless opportunities

I

n a world filled with assumptions, it is a common belief that all people who are blind or visually impaired know how to read braille. The reality, however, is just the opposite. Not only do all people who are visually impaired not know how to read braille, many have never had the opportunity to learn. Driven by an innate passion to change that reality, Tina Herzberg, director of graduate programs and special initiatives for the School of Education at USC Upstate, credits her first year in graduate school as the turning point in guiding her to what she clearly feels is her life’s calling. “Though I had been a math major and teacher, I knew it was not what I wanted to do all my life,” she said. “So I went back to graduate school.” Open to exploring other areas of interest beyond her secondary education and math degree for this next step in her life, Herzberg enrolled in a visual impairment class. “I didn’t even know what ‘VI’ stood for when I applied for that initial class,” she said. “But once I worked with my first visually impaired child, I knew I’d found what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.” Herzberg has become a braille and braille literacy specialist and certified in literary braille by the National Library of Congress. “It’s not work to me,” she said. “I’m passionate about what we’re doing to improve the lives of visually impaired individuals.”

Palmer joined USC’s post office about five years ago when his wife began teaching at the South Carolina College of Pharmacy. Palmer had a hefty resume in the U.S. Post Office to his name, having worked more than 30 years in various management and finance positions. Here he delivers the mail, weaving through crowds of students and braving the elements – rain or shine, hot or cold – twice a day. He has quickly learned all the ins and outs of USC’s campus. He knows the shortest and quickest ways to and from his different stops. Palmer would easily choose his mail carrying position to his old desk job any day. “I like delivering the route. I enjoy myself more.

For Herzberg and other advocates, braille literacy equals independence, confidence and success for individuals who are visually impaired. Herzberg’s most recent project, a grant funded by the U.S. Department of Education, is trying to significantly increase awareness of braille and knowledge of how best to teach it. BrailleSC.org, a part of the S.C. Vision Education Partnership, emphasizes the importance of braille literacy and offers multiple strategies for infusing braille in everyday life. “More than 300 individuals have been trained through programs made available as a result of this grant,” said Herzberg. “This effort is about quality of life, about being independent. It’s working with parents, as well as with the child to learn even the most basic things like labeling their belongings or making a shopping list in braille.” After years of committing herself to finding a way to turn assumption into fact and three years into implementing the five-year grant, Herzberg hopes to prove that braille literacy and its possibilities are endless for the thousands of visually impaired individuals across South Carolina. “The overriding question has always been ‘How do we build capacity for individuals who are visually impaired?’” she said. “So when I hear from visually impaired individuals across the state who now feel empowered to experience and live a life they’ve dreamed of, then I know we’ve made a difference and are truly promoting a quality life, a productive life, a meaningful life.”

This is relaxing, no stress,” he says, with a laugh. “You deliver the mail; you’re walking around and talking to everybody.” When he steps into an office to drop off new packages and take away the outgoing ones, he has a big smile on his face. He gives a hearty “hello” to anyone he meets. “I enjoy walking and talking with everybody on the route,” he says. “With my route, I’m very fortunate; everybody is so nice.” That’s easily is favorite part, he says. On his route, Palmer sees some of the more historic – and scenic – parts of campus, from the plush carpets of the Osborne Administration building to the bowels of the Longstreet Theatre.

He treks up more than 1,100 steps a day in Rutledge and Legare. He walks through exhibits in South Caroliniana Library and McKissick Museum and steers through the kitchen in McCutchen House. He doesn’t have a favorite stop. “To me, it’s all about the interactions with the people. It keeps me young,” he says. Have someone we should follow around for a day? Let us know: lizmccarthy@sc.edu -Liz McCarthy


USC Times

february 14, 2013

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book CORNER “Lin Shu, Inc.: Translation and the making of Modern Chinese Culture”

“Psycho-Sexual: Hitchcock and the New Hollywood”

“Building a Public Judaism: Synagogues and Jewish Identity in Nineteenth-Century Europe”

by Michael Gibbs Hill, an assistant professor of Chinese and comparative literature

Bridging landmark territory in film studies David Greven’s, “Psycho-Sexual” is the first book to apply Alfred Hitchcock’s legacy to three key directors of 1970s Hollywood—Brian De Palma, Martin Scorsese and William Friedkin—whose work suggests the pornographic male gaze that emerged in Hitchcock’s depiction of the voyeuristic, homoerotically inclined American man.

by David Greven, associate professor of English

“Lin Shu, Inc.” crosses the fields of literary studies, intellectual history, and print culture, offering new ways to understand the stakes of translation in China and beyond. With rich detail and lively prose, Michael Gibbs Hill shows how Lin Shu (1852-1924) rose from obscurity to become China’s leading translator of Western fiction at the beginning of the 20th century. 

by Saskia Coen Snyder, assistant professor of history Nineteenth-century Europe saw an unprecedented rise in the number of synagogues. Saskia Coen Snyder’s “Building a Public Judaism” considers what their architecture and the circumstances surrounding their construction reveal about the social progress of modern European Jews.

Do you have a book hitting bookshelves soon? Share yours with us for the next Book Corner: lizmccarthy@sc.edu

FROM THE VAULT Fear the ‘stache

It hardly seems possible, but this week marks the return of college baseball. To get you in the spirit, here’s the earliest known photo of a Carolina club, circa 1896 (courtesy of the South Caroliniana Library). Unfortunately, we don’t know the names of the players, much less their positions, but it’s easy to imagine the one with the whiskers as a flame-throwing reliever with an eye on Omaha.

Q&A

with Chad holbrook

Known as one of the top recruiters and coaches in the college ranks, Chad Holbrook was an assistant coach for 15 years before joining Ray Tanner’s staff four years ago. Tanner then handed him the reigns to the team when he became USC’s athletic director in 2012. We caught up with Holbrook during preparations for the season opener versus Liberty University.

How has your first preseason as head coach gone? It’s gone fine. The team worked very hard on field and in the weight room, so we’ve got a good group, and I’ve been pleased with how they’ve worked and how diligent they’ve been in their preparation.

What are some of the keys to getting this team back to the postseason again? You just try to be the best that you can be each and every day. We’ve got to play defense and pitch. It starts there. But we want to continue to improve throughout the season and have a group of unselfish players who only care about the team’s success and will put the team’s success in front of their individual success.

You’ve got former USC assistant Jim Toman’s Liberty squad coming down for opening weekend. What do you expect to see out of Liberty? Well, one thing about Coach Toman’s teams is he always recruits good players. So Liberty’s going to present a great challenge for us. We’re going to have our hands full. It’s not one of those opening weekends where you feel good about yourself winning. We’re going to be challenged, and we’re going to have to compete, and we’re going to have to play well to win.

Do you ever go back and talk to Ray Tanner about stuff? Oh yeah, I talked to him a long time last night. And I’m going to talk to him and lean on him every step of the way. His influence is going to be all over this baseball program and this year’s team, no doubt in my mind. I’m a lucky coach to have him to be able to lean on and ask for advice. And I’m going to continue to do that as long as I’m coach here.

Is there anything else you want to say to the fans as the season opens? I think we’re going to be a team that they’re going to love to watch play. Because we play such a difficult schedule, there are going to be bumps in the road. I told somebody the other day that this school has been in existence for 212 years, and we’ve won 2 national championships. So we’ve got to keep our expectations in check. But we’ve got a really good team. If they come together and play well, we’ll be able to compete with anybody in the country.

The 2013 season begins at 3 p.m., Friday, Feb. 15, against Liberty University, at Carolina Stadium.

USC TIMES Vol. 24, No. 3 | february 14, 2013 USC Times is published 20 times a year for the faculty and staff of the University of South Carolina by the Division of Communications. Managing editor: Liz McCarthy Designer: Linda Dodge Contributors: Peggy Binette, Craig Brandhorst, Frenché Brewer, Glenn Hare, Thom Harman, Chris Horn, Page Ivey, Steven Powell, Megan Sexton, Jeff Stensland and Marshall Swanson Photographers: Kim Truett To reach us: 803-777-2848 or lizmccarthy@sc.edu Campus correspondents: Patti McGrath, Aiken Candace Brasseur, Beaufort Shana Dry, Lancaster Jane Brewer, Salkehatchie Misty Hatfield, Sumter Tammy Whaley, Upstate Annie Houston, Union The University of South Carolina does not discriminate in educational or employment opportunities or decisions for qualified persons on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability, genetics, sexual orientation or veteran status.

USC Times 2/14/13  

A publication for the University of South Carolina's faculty, staff and friends

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