Monday, December 3, 2012

Surviving death

Lindsey Treffry | blot

Everybody dies.

“Death sucks no matter what,” University of Idaho student Britnee Packwood said. “Death is the worst thing that is on this planet.”

Amrah Canul | Blot

Packwood knows death up close. She has since May 16, 2011.

“My dad was 61 when he passed away,” she said. “We knew we were gonna lose him earlier than a lot of other kids.”

Packwood was in eighth grade the first time her dad went to the hospital for a heart attack. Doctors estimated he had two years to live. The attack was followed by years of heart complications, more heart attacks and congestive heart failure. Her dad even had an attack in the left anterior descending artery, known as the Widow Maker.

Sharon Fritz, a licensed psychologist and professor, works at the UI Counseling Center and helps students deal with grief.

“At my age, you’re expecting to see friends sick and grandparents dying,” Fritz said. “You don’t expect it in the 18 to 25 group range, but I see it a lot. In my caseload, at least half a dozen a semester.”

Nationally, personal experience facing death is not uncommon among young people. According to National College Health Assessment surveys gathered in Fall 2011, 15.5 percent of students had experienced the death of a family member or friend. At UI, 15.8 percent of students have experienced the same.

In spring 2011, Packwood’s parents took a trip to Houston. One day, her dad wasn’t feeling well and called her from the hotel.

“I had probably had the weirdest conversation I had ever had with my father,” Packwood said.

Out of nowhere, he asked what she was going to do if they weren’t on the same “time zone clock” anymore.

“Who are we going to call all the time? … No matter who you are, where you are or what you’re doing, I’m always going to be with you,” he told her.

She didn’t think much of it.

“I thought he was doing his whole Dad thing,” Packwood said. “When they got back from Lewiston the next day, I called my mom to ask if their flight went OK. I heard him in the background. He said, ‘No I talked to her yesterday. Just make sure she knows I love her.’”

It was only a couple of hours later that her parents were in an ambulance to the hospital — for the last time. Packwood and her sister later followed.

“We said goodbye, kissed our dad and left,” she said.

Soon after, he passed.

The sisters had last heard that their dad was feeling better. Packwood’s mom returned home to bring them the news.

“We all come in the living room. And all she can say is ‘He’s gone,’” Packwood said. “She is blubbering. My sister starts screaming and bawling her eyes out. And I’m standing there holding a grown woman and a junior in high school in my arms and having them cry on my shoulder. I’m emotionless. I don’t know what to do. I’m more concerned with them instead of myself at the time.”

Fritz said the grieving process is complicated when a person knows they are dying and the end comes suddenly.

“People deal with it different ways when it comes,” Fritz said. “When it is sudden, they either didn’t have a chance to prepare for it or understand it. (It’s a sense of) lack of preparedness.”

In cases like Packwood’s, Fritz said the stages of grief are dragged out more.

“There is a sense of shock.” Fritz said. “It may take a longer time (to grieve). The peaks and valleys are more intense … more ebbs and flows.”

Packwood said knowing he would die soon was worse.

“To lose someone suddenly is awful. It’s terrible,” Packwood said. “But to have to see somebody in a prolonged state of deterioration and just losing it, I think it’s worse. A little piece of your soul gets eaten away, knowing there is nothing you can do.”

She helped her mom make phone calls to family members, and the next morning departed for a UI Conservation Social Sciences field studies trip.

In the Mammoth area of Yellowstone National Park, Packwood spotted a moose.

“I just sat on a rock next to it,” she said. “... I looked up and I was like, ‘OK, I’m gonna be OK. Things are gonna be fine.’ Maybe that was my moment of acceptance.”

The trip ended, she returned home and helped her mom with funeral home planning, transferring the body and figuring out funeral expenses.

“The weirdest thing for me was he was near his chair,” she said. “But he was in a really tiny box next to his chair. I thought, ‘So this is what’s left — a tiny little box of ashes.’”

Those ashes, later sealed in a vault, were surrounded by heirlooms that Packwood and her sister placed inside.

“There was a little wooden box in a bag and the bag wasn’t closed all the way,” she said. “I’m like putting stuff in there. I move the bag, and it’s closed but it wasn’t closed (all the way). I was like, ‘I have my father on my hands.’ I laughed. It was the first time I had truly laughed in such a long time … My sister and I were gut rolling.”

Packwood said returning to UI solidified her belief that her dad wanted the family to keep living.

“That was really when I accepted what it was for what it was,” she said. 

They buried him in a family plot in Montana, where Packwood was raised and where her parents met.

“And if there is a cool part to this, I’m pretty certain about this — at the exact time (of my dad’s death), the chime went off that a baby was born,” Packwood said. “My mom said ‘I didn’t have the heart to go down there, but if it’s a boy — oofh, those parents are going to need some help.’”

Packwood said the death of her father has opened her eyes and pushed her to live more.

“Don’t forget that there is always someone who has a shoulder,” she said. “Don’t forget that you need to do what you need to do for yourself and don’t forget to live. If you have to take a month to just let it all out, go for it. But go back to work. Go back to school. Go back to having girls’ night. Whatever it is. Normalcy, at first, (will) feel weird but it’ll get better.”

Fritz agreed.

“We tell our students to solicit support,” she said. “Death makes you depressed and you want to pull away. But you have to tell your friends, ‘I need you to call me, I need you to take me out.’”
Packwood said there isn’t an easy way to deal with death.

“It’s death. It happens,” she said. “You can’t revel in it and you can’t live in it … you can’t stay there forever. You gotta move on.” 


As seen in December 2012 issue of blot magazine.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Christian author goes undercover to understand homosexuality


Lindsey Treffry | SpokaneFAVS

Timothy Kurek used to think being gay was the ultimate sin. Raised in Tennessee, he attended a Southern Baptist church, was home schooled most of his childhood and went to a private Christian school where his fellow church members were teachers or administrators. He was taught that gay was like the scarlet “S” — the sin of all sins.

“After all, God destroyed two cities over it,” he said.

Kurek was a self-proclaimed bully. The same kind of bully, he said, you read about in the news when a kid commits suicide for being gay.

Then, a friend came out to him one night during karaoke.

To view the complete story, visit SpokaneFAVS.com.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Touring St. John’s Cathedral

Lindsey Treffry | SpokaneFAVS

A British voice echoes through a cathedral nave made of stone and mortar, topped with solid California redwood. The source of the voice is a lean, white haired man, pointing to a south window. He slides his glasses towards the bridge of his nose, describing every detail and color the stained glass creates. This window, he says, depicts the Book of Revelation.

Lindsey Treffry | SpokaneFAVS
Michel Campbell is one of a dozen volunteer tour guides for The Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist which overlooks Spokane’s South Hill.

St. John’s was designed by architect Harold Whitehouse and built by Fred Phair in 1925. Additions to the church were made by Henry George and Sons in 1948 and Sceva Construction of Spokane in 1960. Whitehouse followed the suggestions of Bishop Edward Makin Cross and created a cathedral in early English Gothic style.

“This cathedral compares very favorably with all the Gothic churches of the period that I’ve been in,” Campbell says.

To read the complete story, visit SpokaneFAVS.com.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Diet and religion come together at vegetarian outlet

Lindsey Treffry | SpokaneFAVS.com

Lindsey Treffry | SpokaneFAVS
The shelves of Bibles next to aisles of activated charcoal powder, cashew cream, agar agar sea vegetable flakes, Minit-meat and vegan gelatin may seem unrelated. But at the Adventist Book Center and Vegetarian Food Outlet, the diet lifestyles of Seventh-day Adventists closely relate to the religion — and have since the church’s inception in the mid-1800s.

Seventh-day Adventist John Harvey Kellogg, famous for his development of breakfast cereals at the turn of the century, was a health pioneer in manufacturing vegetarian products like Worthington, Loma Linda and Morningstar Farms, which still remain today.

To view the full story visit SpokaneFAVS.com.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

UCC couple retire after 2 decades of service

Lindsey Treffry | SpokaneFAVS.com

For six years, Randy and The Rev. Linda Crowe traveled south to the ninth — and largest — ward of New Orleans, combating mold breakouts and renovating houses that had been destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. This year, though, the couple’s trips to Katrina end, as their retirements begin in a Volkswagen across the country.

As pastor of Veradale United Church of Christ for nearly 18 years, Linda worked through the church’s recent transition to become “open and affirming” to the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) community, including the lead in a booth and banner at Spokane’s Pride Parade.

To view the full story, visit SpokaneFAVS.com.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Half-ass clone not half-assed

Lindsey Treffry | blot

This equine may be stubborn, but he’s not your average mule.

Utah Pioneer is a clone — an echo of his brother Idaho Gem and predecessor of his brother Idaho Star — born in 2003 as a product of University of Idaho and Utah State University research. He is the only clone still living on UI’s campus.

The mules were created to mirror Taz, an award-winning racing mule owned by Idaho businessman Don Jacklin, who partially funded the clone research.

“Jacklin wanted a clone as close to Taz as you could get,” said Bill Loftus, UI journalism professor and science writer.

Loftus said Utah began as a mare’s unfertilized egg.

Genetic material was removed from the egg, and mule fetus skin cells produced by Taz’s parents were inserted into the egg, placed in a dish and electrically shocked. Once the cells divided, the mule embryo was inserted into Idaho Rose, Utah’s surrogate mother. Nearly 360 days later, Utah was born.

But Utah and his brothers took more than five years to get right. Loftus said embryo transfers are difficult, especially when mares only produce one foal a year.

“(The embryo clones) didn’t have enough horsepower to follow through like a normal embryo would,” Loftus said.

After three years of trying, there had been no success.

So in order to “rev” up the embryos, UI researchers used a broth-like calcium substance. By 2002, Loftus said there had been three pregnancies within 90 days, although most pregnancies were lost at 60 days. Finally, researchers got just the right amount of calcium concentration and a mule was born the next year.

It was off to the races and training to be the next Taz began. Idaho Gem and Idaho Star won their first races in June 2006, while Utah was left in the dust after a training injury.

“The training method didn’t agree with his personality,” Loftus said.

Since the genetically-identical brothers were not equal athletes, the question of nature or nurture arose. Loftus said it is unclear whether Utah’s cloned DNA prevented his racing success or if the parenting of surrogate mother, Idaho Rose, made him a racing adversary.

“Utah Pioneer is ornery,” said Stacey Doumit, Horse Science and Management instructor. “Not all mules are like that.”

Doumit said Utah and Rose would have been together for three to six months during his infancy. Although she has not seen “learned meanness” in foals, she said foals mimic their mothers.
But just like humans, Doumit said each foal has its own personality.

Utah remains at pasture with four other horses and will remain a university attraction throughout his retirement.

Although racing didn’t turn out to be Utah’s gift, he is still a one-of-a … wait … three-of-a-kind mule.


Clone for the cure
Calcium research didn’t just jump-start embryo production, but was a main theme of the cloning process.

During the cloning, researcher Gordon Woods focused on the lack of cancer in horses. Loftus said prostate cancer is non-existent in stallions and skin cancer in white horses doesn’t metastasize. Woods found horses have one-third the calcium of humans, which is the fuel for cancer cells. Horses bodies have elevated amounts of cadmium, a calcium suppressor, and low quantities of calcium overall. Humans — especially those practicing the Western diet — are quite the opposite with high concentrations of calcium from diets full of dairy and red meat.

Humans may be far from being cloned, but cloning equines may be the right step toward human development.

As seen in April 2012 issue of blot.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Evaluating evaluations: Low student response affects teacher evaluation statistics

Lindsey Treffry | Argonaut

It’s nearing midnight on Sunday before your final exam. Coffee in hand, you decide to go through your Spanish flashcards one more time. A three-week-old email from your Spanish instructor sits in your inbox, reminding you to fill out her instructor evaluation before the clock strikes 12 a.m. Your caffeine-surged hand shakes as you close your laptop, ignoring her request, and head to the kitchen to cook some Top Ramen. It’s going to be a long night.

“(The online student evaluations of teaching systems) are used a lot more than students realize,” said Archie George, director of University of Idaho Institutional Research and Assessment. “If students knew that, they’d be more inclined to fill it out.”

The IRA carries out policy and development of the online SET system, which replaced paper evaluations in the early 2000s. The digital format improved the reach of instructor surveys to off-campus students and cut a five-week process of sorting, scanning, compiling and distributing more than 32,000 forms. Issues with the current system include abnormal course dates, student log-ins and technology issues.

George said the biggest issue is not with the online system, but with student response rates.

“The logistics are great,” said Karen Humes, UI’s geography department chair. “Just the collection needs to be improved so we can have a genuine majority,”

In Humes’ department, she said there’s not a single class that has more than a 60 percent return rate of evaluations from students.

For Pamela Bathurst, associate professor of voice, the return rate of teaching evaluations has been meek as well. She said the lack of evaluations do not provide the feedback necessary for instructors.

“(Instructors) absolutely need to have something to look at in order to see progress and also … to be able to see where maybe they can tweak things so that they have a class that is the best class,” Bathurst said.

She said evaluations are even taken into consideration when reviewing faculty positions.

Instructors undergo an annual evaluation process that analyzes the extent and quality of their teaching. This process can lead to merit-based raises, promotions, tenured positions or firings.

“Students don’t realize how much these matter in people’s careers — especially the untenured,” Humes said.

When instructors are up for tenure, a report with a summary of student evaluations provides a summary score and is placed in every professor’s review packet. According to Institutional Research Analyst Chris Lighty, these are compared to department, college and university scores.

“If you’re denied tenure, you get one more year and then you’re out,” Humes said.

Humes said low student response rates also create a bias. For example, Humes said a small class of 20 students could receive a 50 percent response rate. With a few low scoring evaluations, she said this could really impact an instructor’s job.

“(The students who fill out the surveys are) people who really loved a professor or really hated a professor,” Humes said. “It is not in the middle.”

Kenneth Sprenke, professor of geophysics, environmental and planetary sciences, said evaluations either flatter you or they’re unfair.

“They either say something outrageous or that really annoys you,” Sprenke said. “You can lose sleep over that. Who wants to be told you’re doing a great job, when you’re not necessarily doing a great job?”

Bathurst said there are various reasons students in the middle sector don’t fill out evaluations.

“I think (students) get busy,” Bathurst said. “There are papers that are due, tests to study for. Things they feel are at the top of the list. (The evaluations) get shuffled to the bottom of the list. They can go online and do it and it doesn’t take very long, but it’s just one more thing.”

Although the majority of the university follows the same online evaluation process, there are exceptions. All law courses, for example, use paper evaluations of a narrative form. Elizabeth Barker Brandt, professor and associate dean of Faculty Affairs at the College of Law, said the evaluations are passed out in class. She said each professor is responsible for distributing evaluations during the last quarter of the semester and before a final exam.

“I’ll pass out the evaluations in my class and I go wait in my office,” Brandt said. “I designate a student to delegate. They take 15 or 20 minutes, collect them and bring them to the office and we return to class.”

Brandt said the whole university used to use a system similar to the College of Law.

“Then the university went to numerical and then online evaluations,” Brandt said. “Our faculty had really big concerns about that. We figured if we went to numerical, students would not write comments. We thought if we did not get the comments, it would not be as resourceful.”

Brandt reads all faculty evaluations and writes a summary, which is then submitted to the dean.

“We’re sacrificing the administrative efficiency because our faculty has really wanted to have the detail that a narrative provides,” Brandt said.

She said there is an 85 to 95 percent return rate per class for evaluations.

“Students don’t have a reason to forget to do it,” Brandt said. “They sit in class and do it. Students really feel like the narrative matters. They all know that I read them all, every semester.”

While it is unlikely that the entire university would return to a paper system, Bathurst said the system seemed to work well.

“The rate was much higher because students were already in the class, but I believe I understand the reason for the change — it makes it easier for the people going through all of them,” Bathurst said. “But I also saw (during the online switch) there was a drop in the amount of evaluations actually turned in. It became less mandatory and there was not time made for it. Going back to paper evaluations is not an option that would be looked at positively, but I think that’s it.”

Other than an unlikely return to a paper system, George offered other solutions to the response rates.

“The No. 1 recommendation I hear is for students to not be able to see grades for a period of time after grades have been posted, if they haven’t submitted evaluations,” George said.

Humes said some instructors give class incentives. While instructors cannot see who submitted a class evaluation, they can see the number of students who have. She said some instructors reward students with extra credit if they reach a certain percent of evaluation responses.

Bathurst suggested instructors require students to bring their laptops to class to fill out instructor evaluations.

“(Students) think their vote doesn’t count,” Bathurst said. “It’s the same thing with evaluations. It’s the idea of not feeling like they really count but that is not the case — they definitely count.”

The evaluation period for courses begins three weeks before a course end date. The period to evaluate full-semester courses ends the Sunday before final exam week — at 11:59 p.m. May 6.

“If (students) look at it as part of contributing to the overall excellence of the classes offered in the UI — if they see themselves being part of that — maybe they might take the time to give input,” Bathurst said. “It is not ignored. We all want everything to be the best we can. We are consciously looking to better, better, better our classes and our offerings and (student) contribution is viable.”

As seen in April 9 issue of The Argonaut.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Sunset on daylight saving time?

Lindsey Treffry | Argonaut 

If approved, a recent bill introduced to the Idaho legislature would exempt Idaho from participating in daylight saving time.

Sponsored by Democratic House Rep. Wendy Jaquet and other Republican representatives, the bill would encompass the entire state of Idaho — both Pacific and Mountain time zones.

“Idaho seems inclined to go its own way as regards (to) other federal practices, so this interest in HB 692 to exempt itself from what other states are doing seems fitting,” Moscow Mayor Nancy Chaney said. “I am skeptical that it will go very far this legislative session.”

For six months out of the year, areas like Coeur d’Alene and Spokane, as well as Moscow and Pullman, would be an hour apart.

“Locals would eventually adjust, although the many visitors to our universities might be baffled,” Chaney said.

The only states that disregard daylight saving time in the U.S. are Arizona and Hawaii.

Time zone confusions would include daycares and workplaces in the neighboring states, as well as Washington State University and University of Idaho students with cross-border farming jobs who would be required to wake at “obscenely early hours,” Chaney said.

UI Food Science major Jenny Lim said the last two years of her degree require classes at both WSU and UI, despite the school in which a student is registered. Travel between the two schools is constant.

“(Some Food Science majors) joked about that,” Lim said. “Because I think Idaho is (one of a few) split states where we have two different time zones. We were saying that would suck completely if we were under the Mountain Time zone, where it’s an hour ahead.”

Lim said the Food Science program recently switched registration processes and prospective majors have to register under both UI and WSU to enroll in desired classes.

Problems in border communities like ours would not be insurmountable and cross-listed class schedules at WSU and UI could be worked out Chaney said.

“(The time zone switch) would depend on the faculty and departments, for just figuring out scheduling and making sure that classes can’t overlap,” Lim said. “I can’t even imagine if one place is one hour ahead of the other.”

As seen in March 31 issue of the Argonaut.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Stress, tests and tutors

Alyssa Creason sits in the back of the library knitting and waiting for the next student to arrive. On average, three students show up. On a bad day — none. Once, she had 22 students come to her table.

“It was the day before a final,” she said.

Creason is a University of Idaho psychology tutor, and has been for three semesters. She helps psychology students from all class levels during individual and drop-in tutoring sessions as part of the Tutoring and Academic Assistance Programs.

Philip Vukelich | Argonaut
TAAP is comprised of Student Support Services, Tutoring and College Success and Disability Support Services. SSS offers 250 financially limited, disabled or first-generation students individual tutoring services as part of a federal grant, while DSS offers accommodations, like note-taking and captioning, to students with documented disabilities.

TCS is where drop-in and small group tutoring comes in — free for any UI student.

“We’re here,” Creason said of tutors in the library. “We’re waiting.”

According to Sara Stout, TCS programs manager, any student can stop by the library on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday or Sunday for tutoring sessions.

Drop-in session topics range from Chinese to chemistry, from biology to economics and more. A pilot program called thinkTANK offers tutoring for engineering-specific classes Tuesday through Thursday in the Janssen Engineering Building.

Students can request any class topic for focus in small group tutoring and are not limited to the subjects offered by drop-ins.

“(Small group tutoring) is like a structured study group,” Stout said.

All individual, small group and drop-in tutors take part in a College Reading and Learning Association training certification program. Headed by TCS, Stout said, the certification ensures tutors are following FERPA guidelines, acting professionally and are empathetic and encouraging to students. While services are free, individual tutors are paid a minimum of $8 per hour, while small group and drop-in tutors are paid $12 per hour.

Creason tutors for five hours each week.

“It’s not a big money maker,” Creason said. “But I would do it for free.”

Creason said since tutoring at UI, she decided that it would make a good career choice.

“You make such a connection with your students,” she said.

TCS also offers College Success Classes, taught by Stout and Programs Specialist June Clevy, for students on academic probation or those who want to hone strategic studying and classroom skills. Time management, classroom and study skill workshops are available by request.

Stout said students often think they don’t need tutoring.

“It’s hard to admit they need help,” Stout said. “It’s hard to ask questions … especially for first-year students.”

Stout said she hopes to make other department-specific tutoring sessions available, and by fall 2012, “master tutors” will be available to mentor tutors in student assistance. For now, Clevy observes tutors twice a week.

“College exists to provide people with an education,” Creason said. “If you need a little help, there’s no shame in that.”

As seen in March 22 issue of the Argonaut.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Please, touch the art

Lindsey Treffry | blot

Jon Harty can’t keep his hands off art.

“Working with my hands was the main reason why I got into doing sculpture,” Harty said.

The 40-year-old University of Idaho graduate likes to play with clay, wood and metal.

Working with these materials has left Harty’s hands cracked and covered in calluses. Manual labor, splinters and sanding wood have reduced his fingernails to stubs.

“You want that dexterity and to be able to grab things and work with things,” Harty said. “My nails seem to be something I use a lot — scratching at things, pulling things, twisting a bolt or nut.”

Of his fingernails, his index and thumb are damaged the most. He said it is instinctual for him to use those fingers, which wears on the skin.

“My hands get tired and stiff,” he said. “The pain connects me to my work even more.”

The motion of turning a clay pot, Harty said, allows him to focus through discomfort.

“I get in there and do anything with it,” Harty said. “You can put your hands in it, squeeze it, hit it, throw it.”

As for sculpting with metal, Harty said there is still a connection between his hands and his work, despite the tool between them. He once produced a 5-foot-5-inch metal sculpture for people to walk through that ended in a 24-inch crawling hole. When he welds, he can see the form taking place — from the bead, to the color, to how it cools. 

But his most organic work grows from the relationship between art and people. 

“My interest is in the body,” Harty said. “How we interact within the environment — where we live, where we spend our work, our school or play or whatever — (and) how our bodies are connected to the environment.”

Harty’s installation, “Body Space,” stemmed from this idea. He said the sculptures focused on how personal space is not universally compatible.

Harty built three wooden boxes based on the physical dimensions of people he knew, including himself. The first box was based off a female friend with a small physical frame.

“I can’t fit in that box,” Harty said. “A lot (of people) can’t. Her space maybe isn’t always accessible to other people — and other people’s (spaces) are more accessible.”

The second box was inspired by a male friend with a larger frame, and the third was designed specifically for Harty, perfectly measured to accommodate only him in a sitting position.

Even though his sculptures are designed to portray personal space, Harty wants to ensure his art allows others to connect with it.

Harty showcased “Body Space” as part of the 2011 Moscow Artwalk.

“(Touch is) something that is taboo when you go into an art gallery,” Harty said. “‘Don’t touch the artwork.’”

But Harty said he wants to draw the viewer in more than a regular gallery does. He doesn’t want people to feel limited to looking, thinking and comprehending artwork.

“That’s more of a mental interaction,” he said. “I want something more physical.”

When he saw people touching his art and parents shutting kids’ fingers in the doors of his wooden work, Harty deemed his showcase a success. People were interacting.

“Open your mind a little bit and think about what you’re looking at a little bit more,” Harty said. “(Think) about what the artist is trying to get across to you.”

As seen in March issue of blot.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Learning to adjust

Lindsey Treffry | Argonaut
The spring 2012 semester offers a clean slate and a challenge to 73 new University of Idaho freshmen with a 90 percent retention rate from fall.
“Most first-year students do not truly understand how much more rigorous the University of Idaho curriculum is than the high school curriculum,” said Andrew Brewick, director of academic advising.
By most, he means the 336 first-year, non-transfer, straight-from-high-school students who earned below a 2.0 GPA in fall — some who even received a 0.0 GPA and never attended classes — and were then put on academic probation.
 
Alex Rodriquez, freshman general studies major, decided to return for the semester.
 
Rodriquez, who suffers from an adjustment disorder and anxiety and depression, said the amount of freshmen on academic probation does not surprise him.
“Homework is harder than it should be and there’s too much,” Rodriquez said.

Rodriquez was enrolled in the Virtual Technology and Design program before he realized it was too complicated and technical. He expected to learn the skills hands-on. So with his expectations unmet, he said he mismanaged homework and time.
“Very often (freshmen) just have no idea how high the stakes are for certain assignments, (and) they are unable to get up for class,” Brewick said. “They have just not yet developed the behaviors that it takes to be a successful college student.”
 
When Rodriquez returned for the spring semester, he met with an academic adviser, changed his major and changed his schedule to allow two hours for homework each day. He said he is just trying to come back next year.
 
“Now I know when to do homework and when not to do it,” Rodriquez said.

Brewick said the Student Options Advising Retreat is offered to students like Rodriquez who are on academic probation.
SOAR allows students to meet with a UI faculty member or staff advisers, complete an academic plan, take tours of student support units and participate in study skill workshops.

Brewick said students on academic probation are generally freshmen.
 
“Primarily it is because first-year students are coming into a brand new environment,” he said. “We are expecting them to transition into being away from the home and to be responsible for all of their own basic needs, as well as academics.”
Of the 336 on probation from fall, the advising program removed all students who weren’t registered for spring semester and invited 254 students to SOAR Jan. 10.
Brewick said 136 attended. He said those students who follow up on meetings and try to change their academic behaviors, but still fall short, will have more leniency from the associate dean if they attend SOAR.

“At SOAR we focus very specifically on helping students to develop a plan to get the behaviors and habits that they need to be successful,” Brewick said.

Freshman architecture major, Andrea Bachman, said she had a smooth transition between semesters.

“(This spring) I had set higher expectations,” Bachman said.
Bachman is one of 107 first-year students entering into the UI Honors Program. Application criteria for the program is based on ACT or SAT scores and a requirement of a 3.77 unweighted, accredited high school GPA.
According to the Director of the University Honors Program Stephan Flores, freshmen in the UI Honors Program have an average high school unweighted GPA of 3.91 this year. In comparison, the average GPA of all degree-seeking, first-time, first-year students who submitted a GPA in fall was 3.33 according to UI Fast Facts.

“Relatively few students leave UI who are first-year students, after their first semester who are in honors,” Flores said. “ … On the other hand, we may have students who participate who come out of high school and take at least three honors credits, to maintain membership. If those students are not enrolled in an additional three honors credits in spring semester, they are no longer (enrolled).” 

Flores said from his experience, Honors Program students have few difficulties with GPA and tend to have more substantial financial aid standings than some students do.
 
“... I get to know the honors professors more than (I would in a) larger lecture hall,” Bachman said. “I learn better in smaller classes.”
 
Flores said despite a 10.8 percent decrease in Honors Program freshmen, 32 percent of freshmen were from out of state, which ranks higher than the university.
Overall, UI experienced a drop in freshmen too. There were 1,631 new freshmen last fall — 7 percent less than that of 2010 as well as a 10 percent decrease in out-of-state freshmen.
Washington native and freshman Craig Woodruff said this is probably due to the removal of the Western Undergraduate Exchange.
The ecohydrological engineering major said the WUE waived a lot of out-of-state tuition and without it, people were probably discouraged from applying.
Woodruff was awarded $2,000 per semester, due to the Discover Idaho scholarship program.
 
“I didn’t even know about Discover Idaho until I got it,” Woodruff said. “It was a nice surprise.”
Flores related the drop of non-residents in the Honors Program to the drop of the WUE as well.
“In general the Honors Program tends to do better than the general student population in terms of enrollment,” Flores said. “ … In the past instead of 32 percent non-residents, that number would have been higher.”
Even without the WUE, there was a slight increase in the number of financial aid packages awarded as well as the amount awarded. But tuition increased by 8.1 percent for out-of-state students and 8.4 percent for in-state students according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
 
According to Common Data Sets provided by UI Institutional Research and Assessment, the average financial aid package for 1,123 freshmen was $12,148 during the 2010 to 2011 academic year. This year, 1,165 freshmen were awarded $12,225.
 
On average the 2011-2012 CDS said 79.2 percent of freshman financial need was met.
Woodruff said even without the Discover Idaho scholarship, he probably would have attended UI.
 
“Now I’m in the groove of things,” Woodruff said. “It was a nice break in between (semesters) and I was able to re-focus before coming back.”
As seen in Feb. 17 issue of the Argonaut.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Teachers wanted

Lindsey Treffry | Argonaut

Senior Emily Brookhart was raised by a teacher of a Title One, low-income school. She has a 4.0 GPA and holds a liaison position as part of the University of Idaho Honors Program. She plans to graduate with majors in English and international studies.

Brookhart said she is at a crossroads. While she has traveled abroad in L√ľneburg, Germany, is a teacher’s assistant in the English department and has spent time as a Writing Center tutor, Brookhart is not sure if she wants to apply to graduate school for English or law school.

So instead, she decided to apply for Teach For America, an organization that works to ensure children raised in 43 poverty-ridden regions across the U.S. are able to get an education.    

Teach For America places college graduates in these areas to teach for a two-year period in order to improve education levels and raise graduation rates.  

“Teach For America will help me hone my interests,” Brookhart said.    
 
Brookhart endured a two-month process of applications, interviews, plans and discussions.   

“The application process was super intense,” Brookhart said. “There were so many steps.”  

Finally, Brookhart was accepted to be a teacher for Clark County School District in Las Vegas, her second-choice location. Brookhart said with 300,000 enrolled students, the high school graduation rate is a mere 44 percent. The district represents 75 percent of the state’s school-age population, according to the Teach For America website. 

Brookhart is one of very few that Teach For America has chosen from UI, partially due to low application rates, but application rates at UI have grown according to Director of Recruitment in the Northwest Justin Yan.  

Yan hired UI Volunteer Center Intern Samantha Storms to be a Teach For America Campus Campaign Coordinator, in order to promote the program and provide resources to UI applicants.  

“Teach For America recognizes leaders, and recognized Vandals would be good in the classroom,” Storms said. 
  
This was the first year Teach For America exerted campaign efforts at UI.  

“I was raised by a teacher and had a fortunate educational experience,” Storms said. “Everyone knows someone … that couldn’t afford to go to college.”  

Once accepted, applicants will be put in summer training programs relative to the region in which they are placed. Once hired, salaries range from $30,000 to $51,000 including health and retirement benefits, grants, loans, discounts and awards. 

“People think it’s volunteer work,” Yan said. “You don’t have to have a major in education and you don’t have to teach forever.” 
  
Although Brookhart said the application process was lengthy, she said the initial application takes less than a week.  

“People should just apply,” Brookhart said. “It’s not a binding application. Even the application process — movies and interviews gave me a much better understanding of the education system in our country.” 

Brookhart said she knows it will be the hardest two years of her life. She said that teaching in a low-income area will sometimes make her feel like a failure.  

“I’m going to feel really inadequate,” she said.  

But Brookhart said she has a goal of closing the achievement gap.  

“It’s gonna suck,” she said. “But Teach For America helps so that (workers can) pull through it.”  

The final application deadline that is part one of subsequent rounds of the admissions process is Friday, Feb. 10. 
  
“In our country there’s vast inequality,” Yan said. “I don’t understand how we don’t want to do things about this. There is nothing more noble that we can do right out of college than ensure that kids have the same education we do.”   

As seen in Feb. 7 issue of the Argonaut.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Love146 works to end sex trafficking

Lindsey Treffry | rawr

Love146 sounds like a relationship class — how to thrive in a marriage — or a club on hugs and kisses. But Love146 is a University of Idaho club that combats the spread of child sex trafficking.
 
Led by president Lauren Layton, the club attempts to raise awareness of the annual $32 billion that sex trafficking generates. According to the Love146 international organization, this makes trafficking in persons the second most lucrative crime in the world — behind drugs.
 
“Love146 is an internationally based organization that promotes human rights, more specifically,” said Love146 officer Andy Read, an international studies and political science major. “They’re advocating against child sex slavery.”
 
According to Love146.org, two children are sold every minute for sex.
 
While Read said the international organization’s on-ground work has most recently been in southeast Asia, Layton said Seattle is the biggest importer for sex trafficking in the U.S. due to the sea port location.
 
100,000 people are imported into the U.S. for sex trafficking purposes, according to Love146.org.
“People pay attention to other humanitarian causes, because people in the U.S. assume it’s not happening in the U.S.,” Layton said. “It’s not only pertinent to our nation, but our region.”
 
As a Love146 Task Force, the UI club educates themselves on human trafficking statistics while raising awareness and annual funds for the international organization.
 
In October, Love146, in partnership with the International Textiles & Apparel Association club, held a “flash” fashion show, where models wore human trafficking statistics on their clothing. Secretary Isla Brazil said every third model was styled in red, while the rest were styled in black. She said the red represented the one-third of girls who are sold for sex trafficking within the first 48 hours they are homeless.
 
Love146 has also set up tables around campus, handing out fliers and free hot chocolate. They accepted donations at the tables through their “Loose change, loosen chains” campaign and sold handmade rings for $10. Brazil said revenue from the rings has only reached about $50 and other fundraising opportunities have not been so successful.
 
“We want to gain the revenue,” Brazil said. “Things haven’t gone our way so far, but we’ve gained a ton of awareness on campus.”
 
Love146 also holds bi-weekly movie showings on Sundays and members have had Skype sessions with international Love146 presidents. 
 
Read said the most successful film showing was “Call and Response,” a documentary on human trafficking.
 
“Human trafficking is such a hot topic,” Layton said. “It’s something that is so hard for people to wrap their heads around.” 
 
Love146 meetings are held every other Tuesday.
 
“Since I’ve joined, it’s great to be around people who just have good energy to them,” Brazil said. “Even if you can’t come every week or every meeting, it’s great to be a part of and sex trafficking is brought to your attention.” 
 
Brazil said members include a mix of athletes, international studies students, marine biologists and various other majors. Prospective members can visit the club Facebook page or UI’s club page for contact information.
 
“The fact that I’m born with a chance and am able to come to this school and educate others on this, is a blessing,” Brazil said. “I feel for these girls and these boys who have gone through this and … are still out there and haven’t been helped.”
 
Why the name Love146?
Love 146.org said the international president and co-founder of Love146, Rob Morris, traveled to Southeast Asia in 2002 to see how he could fight child sex trafficking. Morris went undercover with a few of the co-founders and investigators to a brothel where they witnessed children being sold for sex. Morris stood with predators in a small room, looking at girls through glass panes who all wore red dresses with an identification number. He knew all these children were raped every night, “seven, 10, 15 times.” He said they all looked vacant, with no life left in their eyes, except for one girl, with the number 146.
 
“She was looking beyond the glass,” Morris said. “She was staring out at us with a piercing gaze. There was still fight left in her eyes. There was still life left in this girl.”
 
Because he was part of an undercover investigation of teh brothel, the members were unable to immediately help. When the brothel was raided, some time later, children were rescued, but the girl numbered 146 was no longer there.
 
“We do not know what happened to her,” Morris said. “She changed the course of our lives.”

As seen in Jan. 13 issue of rawr.