Monthly Archives: March 2014

Reflections on Communicating Science

While the Communicating Science class was actually very painful for me (I really hate public speaking), I do feel like it helped me to think about my personal connection to my research. Throughout the class, we told our story a total of 3 times. Each time, the purpose was to get us more attuned to sharing it with a wide audience. However, I noticed something as I reflected back on the stories that I told… It was the same story, but with a different flavor.

The first time I explained my research, I gave a very technical explanation (though I tried to keep it as basic as possible) of my research. The person that I told was also in engineering and I feel like he had a good grasp of what I was explaining, but I don’t think it was appropriate for all audiences. The second time  told it, we were supposed to tell our personal connection to our research. This time, I feel like people felt connected to my story because they learned more about me. The third time, I tried to connect my research to others – to explain it to them in a way that would make them care.

While my expectation was to get “better” at telling my story every time, what I realized at the end of class was that I had simply approached the same story from three angles. Each angle has a purpose and a place, and I think it’s important to understand when each of the angles is appropriate!

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My Take on Early College High Schools

Thanks to Noel for posting this blog about early college high schools. I hadn’t really ever heard of that specific concept, especially with such a strong collaboration between high schools and colleges in which the last two years of high school are actually college courses on a college campus.


Even though that concept is new to me, I had a similar experience. My last two years of high school were spent at the Mississippi School for Math and Science, located in Columbus, MS on the campus of Mississippi University for Women. I won’t get too deep into the politics of the school, but it is one of those places that constantly struggles to gain funding from legislature and it seems like every year is a real threat that they will shut it down. MSMS is a public, residential high school for academically gifted students in the state of Mississippi. We lived on campus, ate meals at MUW’s cafeteria, and basically were only able to see our parents on the weekends. While my parents lived in Columbus as well, many students were 4-5 hours away from their parents.

As far as the academics go, I think it’s a great idea to have options for gifted students that give them a head start in the college process. I took several AP courses and scored high enough on the test to get credit for several classes. There were also several classes in my curriculum at MSMS that were considered dual enrollment classes which gave me university credit as well as my high school credits. Basically, I technically started college as a sophomore and was able to skip out on most of the freshman level classes.

Here’s the biggest thing that I saw at MSMS – while the classes were indeed challenging, most of the students who left the school chose to go home because they were homesick. Many who failed out of the school were not failing at their home school because they had their support system easily accessible. It’s easy to forget that while academically gifted students are bright, they’re still kids. It isn’t easy to leave home at the age of 16. Even students who can easily take the academic load might find it challenging to uproot like that. MSMS had a very strong support system – the students were extremely close and the faculty/staff really cared about us. Simply having a “strong” support system is not necessarily enough for students.

I think that while early college high schools are a great idea for some students, it’s not a one size fits all problem. It doesn’t replace community colleges either, because community colleges tend to allow students to stay closer to home longer than immediately going to a 4-year university. Overall, while I see the value that such a system can present to us, I think the most important variable in all education is the student. Everyone has different learning styles, support systems, and coping mechanisms. Because of this, it’s vital to have a variety of educational options that meet the needs of each individual.

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College Success for Low Income Students?

Thanks to Ken for posting this link about the changes that are being made to the SATs. After going through changes to the GRE, SAT, ACT, and other such tests, I’ve just come to expect that they’re not going to be the same forever. It’s no surprising news to hear that after still seeing very little correlation between test scores and performance in college/grad school, test administrators are back at making changes to better reflect what they’re trying to test.

When I read it, there was one thing that stuck out to me more than any other. In the middle of the article, amidst all of the ramblings about the differences in tests, there’s this surprising and very sad fact:

Recent statistics from the U.S. Department of Education show that from 1972 to 2009, the percentage of low-income high school graduates immediately enrolling in college jumped from 23% to 55%. But their overall rate of attaining bachelor’s degrees by age 24 remained essentially unchanged, from 7% to 8%.

It’s exciting to see a substantial increase in lower income students having the ability to go to college. However, I’m concerned when I see that the number of bachelor’s degrees has hardly increased. As many of you are researchers, I’m sure there are a lot of questions that could be unaccounted for by this information (What about the ones that graduated at age 25 or older? etc…). But overall, I think it shows that while educators are improving at getting students to college, they aren’t necessarily succeeding at appropriately preparing lower income students to succeed in college. I wonder where the disconnect is?

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What’s a global education?

As I prepare to do research in England this summer, I’ve been thinking a lot about what it means to have a “global education”. There is a lot of emphasis in the educational system on globalization. I’m even the TA for a class titled “Global Issues in Industrial Management” and its only focus is on global issues that the students may face in the workplace. But is a class or two enough to constitute a “global education”? What about just working with and making friends from other countries? Do students actually need to go somewhere outside of their home country?

It seems like “globalization” is a hot topic these days but it’s kind of nebulous. It’s not necessarily well-defined, and it’s definitely not something that can be easily measured in an individual. How should this impact us as we plan to be professors in an increasingly globalized world?

I guess it’s obvious that I have more questions than answers on this topic, but it is one that is interesting to me because I know my mindset is so skewed. In my first study abroad in undergrad, after about 3 weeks I finally had the realization that I was just like any foreign exchange student to the US. I was in Spain with little knowledge of Spanish just trying to get by the best I could. I needed practice, but doing that required me to interact with locals, many of whom were busy and had other things to worry about than a girl with poor Spanish skills. The patience that many people showed me made it possible for my Spanish to improve drastically in a very short amount of time. When I returned, I looked at students from other countries with new eyes. Not only were they much better at English that I was at Spanish, but they were so brave, as many of them were in America for a year or more. They didn’t have the choice to go home for the holidays that I love so much. It seems like a small change in perspective, but it was huge for me. I’m not sure that I would have had that paradigm shift without going to Spain. But how do we prepare students who don’t necessarily have the financial support to travel?

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Silver and Gold

**While I would have posted this title regardless, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention my dear friend Laura ( who posted a similar blog on January 17th.**

Many people are familiar with the old Girl Scout song that goes like this:

Make new friends,
But keep the old,
One is silver and the other gold.

There’s more to the song, but that’s the most popular part and it pretty much sums up everything of importance. Last weekend, I got to visit a “gold” friend of mine, Rachel. We went to high school together in MS and were ashamed when we realized we had let 4 years go by without seeing each other. I sent her a text one day the week prior to my visit and basically invited myself to her place for the weekend. It’s amazing to have friendships where you can do that sort of thing. Even though she’s one of my best friends, I was a little nervous on the drive over because it had been so incredibly long. What if we didn’t click the way we did in high school? What if it was awkward?

Luckily, as soon as I saw her it was like no time had passed at all. We spent the weekend making beignets, catching up, and exploring Columbus, OH. It was my first visit to both the city and the state.

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That was our first experience making beignets with expired mix…but in the end, I mean it was fried dough with sugar so it’s not like it can ever be bad. Then we drove all around Columbus, even to the Park of Roses. Not surprisingly, the Park of Roses did not actually have any roses, because it’s cold there. We did find this amazing tree with all kinds of engravings in it. Of course I love the creative proposal. I hope Nancy said yes.

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Besides that, we just hung out and reminisced about the good ole’ days. I have missed my Rae’s cheery disposition so it was wonderful to get a little bit of her brightness in my life again! Hopefully we won’t wait another 4 years before catching up again!

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Social Media and Education

I’m intrigued by the debate over social media in education at all levels. While social media does present some unique challenges, such as privacy issues and ensuring that the content is appropriate, it is a great way to gather minds together in ways that have not necessarily been explored before. One paper I read mentioned Wikipedia as a great example of social media in collaboration in a way that cannot be mimicked in the standard paper technology. Wikipedia takes the collaboration of thousands, maybe millions of people to share their individual knowledge to build a free database with a wealth of information on virtually every topic. How amazing is that?

Social media offers a variety of options and mediums for creative expression and discussion. Even this blog (as all of my PFP classmates know) is a method of allowing freedom of expression within an academic setting. Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and other websites are just beginning to be tapped into as a classroom resource rather than simply a way of wasting idle time.

What are some novel ways that you think that technology could be incorporated into a classroom? What limitations, if any, do you think we should place on social media in education?

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