For those of you whose students graduated this past Saturday, I imagine this is a thought that has crossed your mind several times since then.
Being a part of commencement—even peripherally—has always been one of my favorite things about working at a university: a crowd of excited soon-to-be graduates; happy (and sometimes relieved) families and friends; witty mortarboards; loads of smiles and a few tears. What’s not to love?
You’ll get to meet some of the members of the Class of 2019 in the July issue of Longwood magazine. (If you would like to be added to the magazine mailing list, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
I guarantee you’ll be impressed with how Longwood has prepared them for life after graduation. Here’s a bit of a sneak preview:
—Two young women are heading off to teach in a remote village in Alaska. —One student was inducted into the U.S. Army and will be working on a Ph.D. in emerging infectious diseases at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences. —Another is already working as a storyboard artist for SpongeBob SquarePants on Nickelodeon.
I must admit I see commencement a bit differently now that my own daughter has walked across the stage at her university. It’s one of those occasions that marks an end and beginning, so I’m wondering if we’ll be together next Thanksgiving and Christmas. I’m wishing I’d spent more time talking to her about things that matter. I’m wanting to know a little bit more about the person she became during her college experience. And, of course, I’m very excited about what lies ahead for her.
So, for those of you whose students have a year or three or four still to go here at Longwood, this is my advice. Resist the temptation to wish for your student’s remaining college years to pass quickly. Instead, savor every experience—the amazing, the not-so-good and the unexceptional. All of these experiences will help your student grow. Spend time with your student when they’re home for a break or on the weekend. Do a little talking and a lot of listening.
Parent Pipeline is wrapping up for the school year with this post. I will have an additional post coinciding with Orientation, and then resume regular Thursday posts in August.
I hope you have found some useful information here as well as content that makes you feel more connected to your students.
Finally, I would be extremely grateful if you’d share any ideas you have for posts in next year’s Parent Pipeline. This blog is for you, so please let me know what you would find most helpful and/or meaningful. Or you could let me know what your favorite posts were this year.
—Is the Longwood campus safe? —How does Longwood communicate with students and others during an emergency situation? —We live in an age of understandable worry about active shooter scenarios in public places like college campuses. What does Longwood do to prepare for such situations? Answers
College Costs Justin Pope, vice president and chief of staff to President W. Taylor Reveley IV
—Why does college, and Longwood in particular, cost so much? —What about all those new buildings I see on campus? Are my tuition and fee dollars paying to build them?
—What is Longwood doing to keep tuition increases down? Answers
—If you were to list the three biggest obstacles students face in transitioning to college, what would they be?
—What are some things parents should do—and should avoid doing—to help a student transition to college?
—What happens if a student struggles to make friends, or with the college workload, or with academics in general? What support systems do we have? Answers
I will be on vacation next week, so Lancer Parent Pipeline will return May 23.
Here a dachshund. There a pair of Westies. Several Labradors and retrievers. Some with pedigrees and some without. But all of them intent on giving students a break from the stress of final exams. A total of 37 dogs belonging to faculty and staff were registered to participate in the twice-yearly event, which is known as Study Paws and is organized by the student Therapeutic Recreation Organization (TRO).
Sophomores Kaitlyn and Molly were among the students who came out for a little canine-induced relaxation.
Molly said she needed a break from preparing for her first exam, which was at 8 a.m. today. Cash (a small poodle mix), Sunny (a Chihuahua mix) and Gizmo (a Pomeranian) gave up lots of hugs and sloppy kisses—just what the doctor ordered.
Kaitlyn, who was particularly fond of Gizmo, sent her father a text saying she wanted one of the small, fluffy dogs. He wrote back saying he wanted one, too.
Other students giggled and laughed as they took photos with their new furry friends.
“Studying for finals is stressful, and this is a great opportunity for students to take a break and decompress while surrounded by puppy love,” said Dr. Ann Bailey, assistant professor in the Therapeutic Recreation Program and faculty sponsor for TRO. “It’s also another unique opportunity for faculty and staff members to have some fun and interact with students outside the classroom.”
This event, like many others on campus, shows off the close-knit family atmosphere at Longwood. Some dogs and their owners are Study Paws regulars, including yellow lab Maggie and her human, Dr. Jake Milne ’99, a sociology professor and organizer of the first event several years ago. Milne was there with his wife, Heather Milne ’99, a staff member in communication studies.
Other staff members who participated included Lauren Whittington and JoDee Stringham from University Marketing and Communications, Paula Ellison from psychology, and Wendy McMillian and Suzanne Stetson from the registar’s office. Among the other faculty members who participated were Dr. Sarai Blincoe, assistant dean for curriculum and assessment, and her husband, Dr. Adam Blincoe, an Honors College faculty member.
Temperatures yesterday approached 90 degrees, but neither the students nor the dogs seemed to mind—not even the Great Pyrenees or the Maremma-Abruzzese sheepdog, huge white dogs that easily weighed 150 pounds. That may have been due to the proximity of the Brock Commons fountain, which provided a great spot to cool off for humans and dogs.
—Lauren Whittington, senior writer in University Marketing and Communications, and Sabrina Brown contributed to this post
Earth Day was on Monday, but Longwood celebrated a little early with its annual BioBlitz, a full-on day of nature exploration held this year on Saturday, April 20.
That morning, about 60 Longwood students joined biology and environmental sciences faculty at Lancer Park, where Longwood’s Environmental Education Center—BioBlitz headquarters—is located. Suited up in BioBlitz T-shirts and hip waders, with binoculars, nets and clipboards at the ready, the students had no complaints about getting up early.
As it got closer to the 9 a.m. starting time, community members began to gather, excited to get going on a guided, down-and-dirty tour of local flora and fauna.
“If you aren’t afraid to get your hands dirty—and even if you are—BioBlitz is always fun for the whole family,” says Dr. Sujan Henkanaththegedara, a Longwood biology professor and one of the leaders of the event.
Before the day was over, the Longwood students and faculty had helped BioBlitz participants to identify and catalog about 240 plant and animal species. Turtles, crayfish, salamanders, insects, flowers and fungi are among “usual suspects” cataloged each year.
Back at the Environmental Education Center, “touch tables” gave the 100 adults and children in attendance the opportunity to get an up-close look at both live and preserved specimens of local wildlife. A scavenger hunt rounded out the day’s agenda.
BioBlitz is one of the many ways that Longwood students give of their time to enrich the Farmville community—and that’s what citizen leadership is all about.
College students officially became adults when they turned 18. But is there still a lot of kid in there?
Today’s campus egg hunt, masterminded by Longwood’s police department, left no doubt about the answer to that question.
Students crowded onto Brock Commons just before noon, soaking up the sun and waiting impatiently for the starting signal. More than 500 eggs were “hidden” in the grass, shrubs and flower beds, most of them filled with candy and a few with slips of paper noting a prize.
When it was “go” time, squeals and cheers rose up from the crowd as students scooped up eggs and cracked them open. One lucky student found the golden egg, which entitled her to a crisp $100 bill.
Another 500 or so eggs were given out to students by officers.
“I haven’t gone to an egg hunt since I was a kid,” said one student, her face lit up with anticipation and a smile.
“Yeah, it’s pretty cool,” agreed another.
LUPD Chief Bob Beach said the goal for the event was to build community between students and the police department.
“We heard the voice of the students that they want a closer relationship with LUPD. We have worked hard on that in the past, but we need to do more,” he said.
Previous similar events have included officers “feeding the meters” on High Street—where students often park—during exam week; and a take-a-selfie-with-a-cop contest with prizes.
When weather and staffing permit, officers head to Brock Commons in the afternoon to meet and talk to students, Beach added. Beach also regularly gathers with students for coffee and conversation.
For the egg hunt, candy-filled eggs were donated by Wal-Mart. Athletics, the Barnes & Noble Longwood Bookstore and others donated prizes. Seniors at the event could also register to win a full set of regalia for commencement and a diploma frame.
If you’ve ever visited the Longwood campus, you’ve likely strolled down Brock Commons, a central mall that replaced a busy city street that once bisected campus.
Hopefully your student has had or will have the opportunity to participate in one of Longwood’s Brock Experiences courses, which take students throughout the U.S. to grapple with issues of the day, such as water rights and immigration.
These transformative changes—and many others—are the work of philanthropists Joan Brock, a 1964 graduate of Longwood, and her late husband, Macon Brock.
But Joan Brock isn’t finished with transforming Longwood yet.
Yesterday the university announced she had made another gift—at $15 million, the largest in the university’s history—to help fund the construction of a campus events center. The facility, which will seat 2,500 to 3,000 people, will provide not only a place for Convocation, the Honor and Integrity Ceremony, concerts, speakers and other large events but also a new home for Longwood’s Division I men’s and women’s basketball teams.
In making the gift, Mrs. Brock said she wanted to continue repaying a debt to Longwood for its formative impact on her own life, and for introducing her to those who remain her closest friends.
The Joan Perry Brock Center could be complete as early as spring 2022, in time to cap off senior year for our current freshmen.
One of the best things about working at Longwood is having the opportunity to see the transformational power of the university at work.
My position in University Marketing and Communications doesn’t involve day-to-day—or even weekly—contact with students. So my view of that impact is usually from afar. This year, however, I was lucky enough to be able to see it up close through my work with a group of freshmen who agreed to blog about their first year at Longwood in a project we called My Life As A Freshman, or MLAF.
Not all of the students have stuck with the project, but a few have. It has been so much fun getting to know them, watching them grapple with the challenges of college and seeing them emerge—now almost at the end of their first year—on the other side. It’s been easier for some than others; and it’s been more transformational for some than others. But they all have learned and grown through the process.
One of the freshmen who has truly amazed and surprised me is Brooklynn Weissenfluh.
When the nine freshmen who’d signed up for MLAF got together at the beginning of fall 2018, Brooklynn seemed a little overpowered by some of the others in the group. They were laughing and talking, giving the appearance of being full of confidence. Brooklynn, a petite young woman with a shy smile, hung back a little, perhaps not quite ready to claim her space in the group.
As the fall semester went on, she seemed to hit her stride a bit. Her posts became more lively and assured as she talked about working with tutors in the Writing Center, making friends and going to activities on campus.
But this spring is when she really seemed to blossom.
She got the job as a resident assistant (RA) that she’d applied for in the fall, saying she wanted to “be a part of something bigger than myself and make a positive impact on the lives of Longwood students” and that she was looking forward to being a role model for the residents in her hall.
Then I heard that she’d been selected to serve on the Honor and Conduct Board next year and that she’d been elected an officer in an organization related to her major. She also had started going to activities hosted by the Catholic Campus Ministry, a joint group with nearby Hampden-Sydney College.
And she’s been volunteering all over, from Relay for Life to a Lions Club casino night at a local retirement community to a food pantry to a fundraiser hosted by a sorority that’s she’s not even a member of.
Was this really the same shy girl I’d met just a few months earlier?
Brooklynn is a perfect example of how students who embrace the Longwood community can find their place socially, academically and as leaders. And she’s not unique—there are so many other students on campus just like her. Longwood truly is a place where young people can find out what they’re capable of and who they are.
I sincerely hope your student is involved at Longwood. A little effort can have great rewards.
At Longwood, learning is much broader than academics, and it can happen anywhere—not just in a classroom or a lab. We’re continually creating activities and experiences that help our students develop into well-informed citizens who care about the future of their communities and beyond. (The photo above is of students who participated in last year’s Big Event.)
A few opportunities that are coming up soon are mentioned below. Spread the word if you see something your student might be interested in!
The Big Event: A Morning of Service Saturday, March 30, 9 a.m. to noon
Service is at the heart of citizen leadership at Longwood, and our annual Big Event service project makes it easy for students to show they are part of the Farmville community. Each year hundreds of students volunteer for a variety of projects, including yard work, painting and clearing debris. Students can sign up to participate here: The Big Event Sign Up.
Eco-April Tree Planting Saturday, March 30, 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Studies have shown that in one year a 10-year-old tree absorbs 48 pounds of carbon dioxide. In that same time, an acre of trees absorbs about the same amount of carbon dioxide produced by driving a car 26,000 miles. There are about 650 trees on the Longwood campus, and we’re always working to add more. Each spring, students can learn about the value of trees and contribute to the environmental health of the Longwood and Farmville community by helping plant trees on campus. Students can sign up to participate here: Annual Tree Planting.
Sponsored by the Office for Sustainability
Designing A Career: One Artist’s Story Monday, April 1, 5 p.m. Bedford Auditorium
If your student is interested in graphic design as a career, this talk should be inspiring. Antonio Alcalá, owner of Studio A in Alexandria and an art director for the U.S. Postal Service Stamp Division, is Longwood’s Rosemary Sprague Visiting Designer. His clients include the National Gallery of Art, National Portrait Gallery and the Smithsonian American Art Museum. Alcalá also is an adjunct faculty member at the Maryland Institute College of Art.
Sponsored by the Graphic and Animation Design Program
Follow the Money: A Personal Finance Simulation Tuesday, April 9, 9 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Blackwell Ballroom
This personal finance simulation is designed to give students an accurate look at their current financial situation or their financial outlook after graduation. It’s a way for students to explore the serious business of how to manage their own finances in a fun atmosphere.
Organized by the Center for Financial Responsibility in the College of Business and Economics in partnership with Virginia Credit Union
Road Trip: The Virginia Holocaust Museum Thursday, April 18, 8:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m.
The core exhibits at the Virginia Holocaust Museum in Richmond narrate the complex and sobering history of the Holocaust. Visitors are presented with a glimpse into the genocide of 6 million European Jews in the 1930s and ’40s and, more broadly, into the dangers of intolerance.
Three hundred artifacts and the testimonies of local Holocaust survivors expand on this history, representing the tangible and personal realities of this tragic event. Transportation (via bus) and admission to the museum are free. Faculty may give students an excused absence if it’s for an educational activity. If your student has class this day and they’re interested in participating, they should check with their professor(s).
My daughter is now in the spring semester of her senior year, and, for the first time, she sent me her midterm grades—without my asking. I’m sure the reason is that she had all A’s for the first time.
Looking back, her explanations for previous less-than-stellar midterm grades probably contained at least a grain of truth: not much work graded yet, not all grades factored into the midterm average, forgot her calculator for her first accounting test, etc.
Some of those explanations (with the notable exception of the forgotten calculator) are echoed in this Q&A with Dr. Emily Heady, senior director of student success and retention. Dr. Heady provides insight into midterm grades, which are due out this week, including *What you shouldn’t worry about *Red flags *How to deal with low midterm grades
I hope you find the information below helpful.
What is the purpose of midterm grades?
They’re sort of like split times in a long race—they let you know what your progress is at the halfway mark. They can be encouraging, or they might be an indication that you need to pick up the pace.
Do all faculty report midterm grades for every class?
No. They’re required for all freshmen, as well as for some other populations (ROTC and students in academic difficulty, for example). Otherwise, midterm grades are optional.
Why should parents ask to see midterm grades?
Every semester, I get calls from parents who weren’t aware their students were in trouble in particular courses. My first move is to check the midterm grades, and, most of the time, the student had plenty of warning.
Here’s what I tell students about midterm grades, and I’d love for parents to overhear it:
If you’ve got all A’s and B’s, that simply means that what you’re doing is working—so keep it up! If the grades aren’t what you hoped for, it’s still good to have the information. If you want to stay in the class, know that there’s still time to regroup.
In most college classes, the majority of the points are awarded at the end of the term. A grade of C or lower at midterm would be an indication that you need to use your resources: Visit the professor during office hours, use the Writing Center or Center for Academic Success, and/or make changes to your study habits.
If you’re simply lost in a class, you may want to think about withdrawing and trying it again at a later point. If you want to withdraw, be sure to speak to your academic adviser, as lowering the number of credit hours you’re taking below 12 might have implications for your financial aid.
What should students keep in mind if they’re considering withdrawing from a course?
Withdrawing may be a good option if the student can afford to hit the “pause” button and take the course again at a later time. But there may be consequences. First, if the student’s credit hours for the semester dip below 12 hours, their financial aid may be affected. Also, if they withdraw from a course that they need to stay on track for their major, they may not be able to graduate at the time they originally planned.
Is Longwood able to provide parents with access to their student’s grades?
Students’ records are protected by FERPA (Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act), and we follow those policies. That means we can’t give out grades unless the student has signed a release. If students have signed a release for their academic records, we are able to discuss their academic progress with parents, but we have to do so in a way that’s in the student’s academic interests.
Typically, if a parent calls wanting grades, we’ll respond by asking the student to share them, or we’ll offer to serve as moderators in a conversation in which the student and parent discuss the grades together. We won’t simply tattle, as it’s not in the student’s best interests.
We honor the students as the legal adults that they are and help them learn to have the grownup conversations that will continue to be part of their lives.
At what point are midterm grades a red flag?
A grade of D or F is definitely something to worry about. A C might be something to worry about, but isn’t necessarily, depending on the types of assignments that the grade includes. If the grade mostly reflects one big exam and the student is a better writer than test-taker, a C might turn into a B—but it’s still worth watching!
Especially in “make-or-break” classes—those typically challenging courses that students need to complete as requirements of their major—we want to see strong performance. Grades in these classes usually indicate whether a student will succeed in a particular major.
What can parents do to help students whose midterm grades are of concern?
*First, ask your student if they’re going to see their professor during office hours (which are designated times when faculty are in their offices and available to talk to students). The faculty member is the first and best resource.
*Ask your student if they’ve used tutoring resources, and encourage them to reach out.
*Ask your student how they’re spending their time, especially if they’re doing their work BEFORE they socialize.
*Ask what their plan is to get back on track.
Personnel in the Center for Academic Success are always ready to meet with students who need to make a game plan.
What questions should a student ask themselves to determine whether or not they’re able to recover from a low midterm grade?
*How may points are left? *Can I get the grades I need on the remaining assignments? *Can I commit to increase my study time? *Can I make some life decisions that enable to me set a new course?
What steps can students take before midterm to be sure they’re on solid ground academically?
Students who do well typically go to class, turn in all their work in a timely fashion, use office hours and other resources as needed, and make healthy life choices.
The fastest way to get off track is to skip class. There are attendance policies, and students will often miss important instruction and even opportunities to earn points if they skip. The second-fastest way is not to ask for help when you need it. Longwood is a very success-minded place. We want students to do well, and we have all kinds of resources to help this happen. But if students don’t use the resources, we can’t help. Encourage your student to ask.
Why is it better to drop a course earlier in the semester than to withdraw after midterm grades?
Dropping has fewer consequences than withdrawing. If a student drops during the add/drop period, they have a chance to add another class in place of the one they dropped. Dropping has no financial implications, and the student will receive a full refund for the class—though they still need to be careful to maintain the required number of credit hours and to be mindful of their progress toward degree.
What’s the most important thing for parents to remember about midterm grades?
They’re not the final word. They’re a helpful indication of progress thus far, and that’s how they should be taken—as something that’s meant to help. Ultimately, the burden is on the student to take action. Longwood stands ready to help, but the student needs to ask.
Most colleges and universities have a dean of students, a person whose responsibilities vary by institution but generally involve serving as a point of information for students and responding to students’ needs.
At Longwood, Larry Robertson fills this role. Basically that means students are the center of his work universe. A 1990 Longwood grad himself, Robertson has worked at the university nearly 20 years, and was named dean of students in 2012.
Thinking you might be interested in knowing more about Robertson and the Office of the Dean of Students, I posed some questions for him. I hope you find his answers helpful and informative. Contact information for the office is at the end of the post.
What offices report to the Dean of Students Office?
Residential and Commuter Life and the Office of Disability Resources.
What do you like best about your job?
There are so many things to love about my job. I never know what to anticipate, and I am never bored. More importantly, I work with an incredibly caring and professional staff who are dedicated to meeting the needs of our students. But I have to admit that watching students grow throughout their careers at Longwood and then hearing about their successes after they leave is by far the best part.
How does it feel to be helping students at the same school where you were also a student? Do you think that gives you an advantage in your job? If so, how?
I have always said that coming to Longwood as a student was the best decision that I ever made. It became a second home to me. Although the campus has changed a great deal, it still feels like home to me. In many ways, my remaining at Longwood gives me a chance to re-pay the faculty and staff who inspired me to grow as a student and a leader.
Being an alum is an advantage. Students enjoy hearing about what they call “old” Longwood. I can talk to them about life at Longwood before cell phones and Google. I can also help them learn about and enjoy our many traditions. Most importantly, the students keep me young!
What are the main services that your office provides to students?
The Office of the Dean of Students provides programs, services and referrals that support student success and foster the development of citizen leaders. Our staff is available to answer questions, point students and families in the right direction to get the information they need and serve as a single point of contact in time of crisis. We collaborate with partners across campus to foster involvement, promote responsible decision making and enhance student learning.
We strive to be available for all students and their families and to be a liaison between the students and the rest of the university. We may not know the answer to every question, but we will make sure that we refer you to the right person.
One of our biggest initiatives is the management of the Care Team. The team comprises representatives from across campus who meet regularly to discuss and develop interventions for individual students before their behavior escalates and becomes detrimental. We make every attempt to ensure that the students do not even know that we are intervening and that they are learning to solve problems for themselves.
Are you working on any new initiatives?
We have worked with the Longwood Foundation to set up Longwood Cares—A Student Emergency Fund that will provide money to students in need of items not provided by other offices or funding resources.
We are also working to develop a series of programs on civility and diversity issues.
What is the best way for students and parents to contact you?
Parents and students can contact us by phone at 434-395-2485. They will probably speak with Tracey Jarrett, who is the true expert in our office. They can also send an email to CareTeam@longwood.edu.