Have a Holly Jolly Winter Break, WIU!

The fall semester will be over; finals week will be over. WIU students will say goodbye to tests, papers, and lectures for a few weeks. The holiday spirit can be embraced, and the WIU community couldn’t be happier.

A particular student who is very happy for Winter Break to arrive is Beth Clothier, a first year graduate student majoring in English. She said that she is very excited about this break. “I can’t wait to go home,” she said. “I’m heading home to see my family once I done. Maybe I’ll play some Superintendo with my mom. And then of course sleep.”

When I asked Clothier if she is doing anything special, she responded as many other WIU students would with sleep. “I am so excited to sleep. I want to sleep a lot,” she said dreamily. “I’m excited to not think about school for a month. I am going to go on a crazy Netflix binge,” Clothier laughed.

One of WIU’s students who is currently studying abroad in Korea is returning to the United States. Crystal Cho, who has been gone for several months for studying abroad, explained she is more than ready for winter break. “I’m looking forward to it so much, I’m counting down the days. I’m so burnt out with studying. I need it now because I want to graduate by December 2013, so I need to be in school in the summer too,” Cho said.

The first thing Cho plans on doing once she gets home after her fourteen hour flight is simple. “I want to have a nice shower, put on fresh clothes, and relax…being cooped up in an airplane for 14 hours is exhausting!” she said. “I’m so excited to give my family and boyfriend the Christmas gifts that I got them in Korea. I can’t wait to see their expressions on their faces…I really look forward to that!”

Once Cho returns to WIU in the spring semester, she has some big plans for herself. “I have some ideas on how to run the Anime Club on campus since I joined an Anime Club at SungKyunKwan University where I attended in Korea. I want to share my cultural experiences and educate them about Korean culture. No one seems to really know about Korea and mistake it for Chinese or Japanese cultures…I want to change this by getting involved with the Study Abroad Office and get students involved!” she said.

As for me, this Winter Break will be relaxing. I’m sending out applications for graduate school and taking a load off. Knowing I won’t have schoolwork to do by February feels really nice… I’m definitely looking forward to this break!

It’s the Final Countdown: WIU Finals Week

The last stretch of the semester is finally on our doorsteps and over halfway over now! Many WIU students are heading to the library to dish out any last minute presentations, papers, or projects. Some may be drinking loads of coffee or energy drinks to keep them awake as they study into the night, and some students may simply cherish the fact that the semester really is almost over.

Jake Nelson, a graduate student studying school psychology, said that he enjoys finals week, but that’s mainly due to the fact that, for him, it is one of the easiest weeks of the year. He explained that in his program, most of the work is done the rest of the semester. “As an undergrad, everything culminates by the end of the semester. Now that I’m a graduate student, everything I do is important. I’ve written more than 40 papers this semester. I’d rather write papers than take exams. With exams, I’m regurgitating what the professors think I should know, but not necessarily need,” he said.

Nelson explained that most of the work he does is applied regularly, and it is a necessity to write about his experiences in his field. “I have two case studies and tests to give to elementary and junior high students who are in special education… The testing is determine their eligibility, and those are all done before finals week. Writing papers allow me to reflect what I’ve done. Therefore, finals week is my easiest week of the semester. As for the two exams I have, I’ve got them in the bag,” he said confidently.

Thomas Boyd, an English student, isn’t breaking too much of a sweat for finals week. He explained he has two literature exams and a badminton exam. When I asked him if he’s ready for the week to be over, he said, “You better believe it. I usually am not too concerned about finals because-being an English major- what I usually have to do is done 1-2 weeks before finals week. It’s not stressful for me; it’s more of a removal from stressful times,” Boyd explained.

As a senior at WIU, Boyd has his studying method down pat. “I don’t let myself get stressed. I take the time I need for myself that keeps me on a tranquil, steady pace instead of being on a roller-coaster. I try to casually work on things,” he began. “I remember professors saying that the amount of time you come to class, you need to spend 3-4 times more that amount in studying. I used to believe that you had to study all the time. I try to sign up for classes where I’m genuinely interested because I remember the material better. It works for me,” Boyd said.

I remember the first finals I had here at WIU as a freshman; people were telling me, “You’re going to be staying up all night. You’re going to want to drink lots of coffee.” I was nervous about doing well and getting to class on time. I was living at Wetzel Hall at the time and the elevator got stuck! I made it to class with only a few minutes to spare! Finals week always offers up some sort of surprise that tests your ability to perform. I’m still around, so I guess I’ve been doing the right thing! And for the last time! Good luck on finals, WIU!

A Look at WIU’s Emergency Alert System

WIU’s Emergency Alert System (WEAS) has been around for almost five years; and it alerts thousands of students within a matter of minutes. Risk Manager William Oster, from the Office of the Vice President for Administrative Services (VPAS), explained how the system works.

The Emergency Alert System is designed so that all current students, faculty, and staff are alerted promptly about any emergency situation. An emergency is defined as “an immediate, imminent or ongoing threat,” such as a fire in a residence hall, a tornado, or a bomb threat. Oster explained the service that WIU uses is a web-based platform. WIU students must subscribe to the system through the Student/Alumni Records System (STARS). At the beginning of each semester, when accessing STARS, the WEAS screen appears and individuals then must review their contact information and confirm it before they can proceed into the selected screen.

Sending an alert is a simple process. Oster explained that a member of the VPAS staff accesses the password-protected WEAS system and tailors the message to the situation. The alert is then sent to the population affected by the situation at hand. For example, if there is a fire in Macomb, the alert would be sent to the entire Macomb campus, or if there was a closure of the WIU-Quad Cities campus due to a gas leak, the message may only be initiated for the QC campus community.

The first test of the Emergency Alert System was in January 2008. Oster explained prior to WIU purchasing the alert system, WIU relied on the WIU website, email, telephone calling trees, and regional media outlets, particularly radio and television, to alert the community of an emergency situation. “Regional media outlets were the means to get the information you needed. The University still relies on those methods in conjunction with WEAS, as well as social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter,” said Oster.

The most recent WEAS test was initiated November 1 (tests are held each semester). Whether it is an alert or a test, a report is generated. Oster and the VPAS staff can then determine the number of individuals reached through the alert or test.

“Roughly 70 out of 30,000 contacts were an invalid telephone number,” Oster explained. “If there’s an invalid email or telephone number, we follow up with those individuals. We want to ensure that the messages are reaching our intended populations, and I believe we are successful in achieving this goal by the various methods we use — from phone calls to text messages to emails to the University’s social media platforms,” Oster said.

If you want to learn more about the WIU Emergency Alert System page, visit http://www.wiu.edu/vpas/risk_management_and_emergency_preparedness/wiu_emergency_alert_system/ or contact Oster at WD-Oster@wiu.edu.

Think Purple. Think Pride. Think Western.

All over the WIU campus, “Think Purple” is everywhere. “Think Purple” signs, “Think Purple” bumper stickers, and “Think Purple” shirts…purple is everywhere! Starting about three years ago, the “Think Purple” campaign began to spread WIU spirit into the community. Since then, it has sky-rocketed into success.

Brad Bainter, Vice President for Advancement and Public Services, explained “Think Purple” grew out of an attempt to get Macomb’s community more involved with the university. More than 30 local businesses were given free purple t-shirts to wear on certain days to build school pride, such as commencement weekends or Homecoming. From there, “Think Purple” became a slogan for WIU. “Now we have ‘Think Purple, Think Success, Think Western’. People really grabbed onto it and like the idea. Fortunately, purple is a color that sticks out. Now people see purple and think Western. We’ve gotten a lot of compliments,” Bainter said.

Because “Think Purple” has expanded across the state, people connect the color purple with WIU more frequently than ever before. “We’ve had some ‘Think Purple’ posters up around Chicago. We’ve had them on Michigan Avenue, and we’ve gotten a lot of feedback from people who are happy to see it,” he said. “We have a billboard around O’Hare Airport also. The most comments we get is about the billboard on I-294 which says ‘Purple Reign’.”

Not only are there posters and billboards found across the state, three videos have now been created to stir up more purple attention. Bainter said two of the videos will play during trailers at movie theaters over the holiday season. “There’s a 30-second advertisement that will be played at movie theaters up around Chicago…then you can see it downstate in Peoria, Quad Cities, Springfield,” Bainter began. “We’ve also picked up Missouri, Iowa, Wisconsin, and Indiana to show the advertisement. We want to show the prospective students that we are here,” he said.

As for the students, faculty, and staff who are here at WIU, more purple has been popping up all over campus. Bainter said the entire campus is encouraged to start wearing purple, especially on Fridays. “It’s something that has drawn a lot of attention to the university and it also instills a lot of pride. This is us…this is our identity,” he said. “From an alumnus standpoint, we get a lot of calls about how they see all the purple, and they’re proud.”

More than thirty businesses in Macomb are involved with the Think Purple campaign, and Bainter said he and his staff are always looking for new ideas to create more buzz about WIU. If you have any suggestions or advice, you can contact Bainter at BL-Bainter@wiu.edu. Let’s show our purple spirit, WIU!

Time of the Season…for WIU Women’s Basketball

Another women’s basketball season has begun, and busy they have been! The women’s team won Tuesday against Valparaiso University, and their next game will be in Macomb at Western Hall Saturday at 4:30 p.m. The head coach of the women’s basketball team, J.D. Gravina, told me what his second season as head coach has been like thus far.

Gravina explained that there are half new players and half returning players on the team this season. Since this is his second season as head coach, he explained that it’s been a big adjustment. “It’s kind of like we’re starting back over,” he began. “But overall, having those returners who know what to expect and what’s expected of them is helpful. Last year everyone was new,” Gravina said.

This season is larger than most with sixteen players. There are half returning players and half new players. With such a large number of new players this season, communication, camaraderie, and focus are critical aspects towards making the team successful. “Communication has been a huge thing.” Gravina began. “The fact that we get along really well [is our strongest asset]. You spend so much time together. You have sixteen girls that probably were the best players in their high school; now you throw them all into one group and they compete. Our group does a good job. When you truly care for your teammate, then it’s easy to be enthusiastic for the game,” he said.

Gravina continued explaining that the camaraderie between the players is crucial because having good interpersonal skills is not only important on the court, it’s also very important off the court. “Every job you have, relationship, and every group you’re a part of, there’s going to be people you like and don’t like. So you need to try to focus on the things you enjoy about your team…classes…your families, your social life…and not focus on things that will always be negative. That’s an important lesson for them,” he said. “Learning to realize that everything is relative and dealing with adversities is important.”

Not only has the women’s basketball team been working together on the court, but they also get involved in the community. Gravina said that the team has increased their community service efforts. “Our girls have already gone to the nursing home and played bingo, they’ve painted nails for some of the older ladies at the nursing home, they’ve worked with the Humane Society… we’re going to do a Big Pink Night for breast cancer. We’ve done beautification projects around campus too,” he said. “It helps the community and it really helps our players. The best part is the players really enjoy it.”

On the court, Gravina tries to create a very competitive atmosphere. He explained that having intense practice is very important. “We really focus on intensity,” he said. “And obviously we really focus on getting in shape and spend time running our offense. We’re playing three freshman during the games, and the competitiveness really helps.”

As for the seniors who will graduate in May, Gravina asked them what part they want to play towards the future of the team. “I ask the seniors if they want to go out and be a small step in the process, or do they want to go out and really take this program to the next level. It doesn’t mean they go to a Championship, but do they want to continue to grow? I think that has sunk in with them,” he said.

With seven games under their belt, the WIU women’s basketball team is 2-4 with a great season ahead of them. can catch the women play here in Macomb at Western Hall this Saturday night. At 4:30 p.m., the team will battle William Woods University. If you want to visit the women’s basketball athletics page, visit http://www.goleathernecks.com/SportSelect.dbml?&DB_OEM_ID=12000&SPID=4948&SPSID=49951. Come support our Fighting Leathernecks! Let’s go, ‘Necks!

Prepare for the future: WIU Students Register for Spring Classes

As of this week, WIU students can now sign up for their spring 2013 classes. Registering for a class taught by a favorite professor or a popular class may be first priority for some students. Other students just want to move on with their studies and feel class registration time is more of a chore. And other students legitimately enjoy registering for classes.

Daniel Honeyman, a graphic communication major, is one of those students who authentically enjoys registering for classes. He explained that the past few years, he’s really been fortunate when it comes to registration because he’s in the Honors College. “Since I’m in the Honors College, I get to register early. I haven’t had classes on Fridays in three semesters, so it’s worked out for me,” Honeyman said.

Not only does he try to avoid taking Friday classes, he also tries schedule mostly morning classes. Honeyman explained he liked “registering for morning classes because I have the whole afternoon to do whatever I please… it just so happens that I had to register for all afternoon classes this past semester…but I’m okay with sleeping in from time to time during the week!”

This spring semester will be the last time Honeyman signs up for classes. He explained that knowing that he will be graduating in May and that he won’t have to register for classes anymore, this registration time is bittersweet. “It got me thinking about graduation, which I am excited for. However, I’m going to miss going to school here. It’s been an incredible four years,” Honeyman said.

Rebekah Byrnes, a double-major in English and French, said she is all set for next semester. She explained that she has to meet with her advisor every semester, so she’s always on the ball when it comes to deciding on her classes. “I feel like I have to go there with a schedule in mind, so I usually make a schedule ahead of time. I knew what I wanted to take, and my advisor was like ‘Hey, that’s my responsibility!’” she laughed. “I like to stay on track.”

Despite Byrnes’ preparation, she doesn’t have much flexibility when it comes to choosing what classes she takes. With her double-major alone, she is already very busy. “I have one French class and one Japanese class because I want to study abroad in Japan…I have two English classes, and one [general studies requirement]–oceanography,” she began. Additionally she’s involved with her church and has other leadership responsibilities on campus. “I’ve just accepted my life is busy,” she laughed. “My coursework isn’t particularly heavy, but it becomes very busy. I’d rather graduate later and do well rather than hurry up to graduate and not do a good job. It’s just not worth doing it if I’m not doing well,” Byrnes said.

Now that Honeyman and Byrnes are signed up for classes next semester, they can continue forward in finishing up this semester as other WIU students have to do. As for me, it is a little bittersweet since I don’t have to register for classes. Although I’m excited to graduate next month, I think I enjoyed organizing my course schedule a little too much!

WIU’s Study Abroad Program: I’m Leaving on a Jet Plane

Every year, I’d get asked, “How did you ring in the New Year?” It seems almost unreal, but this past New Year’s Eve, I was on a flight to Frankfurt, Germany…only halfway to my destination of New Delhi, India. I signed up as part of a study abroad group to stay at Navdanya Vidyapeeth, an organic farm, on the outskirts of Dehradun, India. I was scared, and I was nervous; but nonetheless, I was excited to see India. I was expanding my horizons…in every sense.

Office of Study Abroad Assistant Director Emily Gorlewski said only 2% of Western students travel abroad to study. Those who decided to study abroad, do so for many different reasons, but Gorlewski stressed that getting a fresh perspective is a big reason. “You gain a different perspective when you’re a student. To develop intercultural skills…to travel while you’re in school… It’s great exposure to another culture,” Gorlewski said. She further explained that currently, there are study abroad programs available in over fifty different countries. “A lot of students go to Western Europe and the United Kingdom…Italy, Spain…we are getting more students going to non-traditional places, like India,” she said.

The entrance towards Bija Vidyapeeth, the organic farm where we stayed

I signed on for a faculty-led study abroad anthropology and sociology course called “Stories of India;” I traveled with a group  of ten students and two professors. The traveling was arduous, and it took us all a few days to recover. After all, we had to adjust to an eleven-and-a-half hour time difference from Central Standard Time which created an incredible amount of jet lag. Once we landed in India, we had been on a plane for nearly eighteen hours total…and it was not even close to being over. When we landed, we stayed in New Delhi’s YMCA for breakfast (tea and bread), and then off we were again to ride the train to Dehradun. After a six hour train ride, we finally we arrived at our destination: Navdanya Vidyapeeth.

Culture shock was a topic that was covered in our pre-departure meeting. Gorlewski said that people experience culture shock in different ways. “I see students experience it all the time,” she began. “We have many students who get to their destination and feel shocked. It can be overwhelming, but it passes. When you go over, it’s new and different and romantic…exciting…then you come back [to America] and you’ve changed… How do you deal with that?” Gorlewski said.

At the beginning of the trip, I admit I was nervous. Here I was, a twenty-two year old American, riding a shaky bus to Navdanya Vidyapeeth without my family, friends, or the Internet. Hundreds upon hundreds of people were scattered in the markets and children were playing in the streets or playing cricket behind fences. I was in awe; this place…India, it held so many people. I was seeing a place that is completely different from the life I know in America. I thought, by the time I would return home, I knew I’d be different…and I was. All I could do was take it all in at that moment.

Over the next few days, the group and I adjusted to eating all-organic vegetarian meals. The organic part was easy. We all were afraid of eating a lot of curry-based food because we thought we’d get sick, but eating all organic food made us feel healthier than the food we eat in America. Rice, potatoes, and chapati (Indian flatbread) were the dominant foods in every meal. On top of eating the healthiest foods in my life, we participated in yoga sessions from a yogi every morning. A yogi is a spiritual practitioner of yoga and meditation. It was spiritual and enlightening. Drinking organic chai tea from real leaves, (which is actually hard to come by in the States because it’s powdered here) and doing yoga every morning was a real treat.

My group and I in front of the Lotus Temple in New Delhi, India

As the next few days passed, we visited Rishikesh (a town the Beatles visited in the 1960’s), Haridwar, Paonta Sahib, Dehradun, New Delhi, and the Ganges River. We saw so many temple and shrines all over India. We met many people who were elated to educate us. I learned so many things from my study abroad experience… and I could not have had this experience anywhere else.

My trip from India changed my perspective towards many things in America. I appreciate the hot water, the quick transportation, the internet, phones, heat, and clean water. These things can be hard to come by in India, and I have all these things within my grasp. My perspective towards businesses, politics, and school all seemed to morph. I am more enlightened because of my trip and I would only hope I get to travel again someday soon.

Gorlewski said WIU alumni who have studied abroad are always welcome to drop by the Office of Study Abroad. If you’d like to share your past study abroad experience with WIU, contact Gorlewski at EJ-Gorlewski@wiu.edu.

Do you have any Study Abroad stories that you’d like to share? If so, please post a comment below.