Saturday, November 23, 2019

IS400 Capstone Presentations: Putting It All Together

We are nearing the end of the semester, and four interdisciplinarians have completed their senior capstone work and presented their learning experiences to their internship committees. See below for quick introductions of the graduating seniors, the ways they are combining their disciplines, and a description of their final projects! We had three internships and a project this time.

(Just wait until May, when we will have triple that number! 🙌🏁🏆🎉 - Yeah, I don't think I will sleep between March and May. I will be fretting.)

Casey Demko, who is combining Sports Studies and Business to prepare for a career in coaching (but grad school first), spent the last three months working alongside Parks and Recreation in Hartsville, planning and supervising afternoon and weekend sports activities, teams, and games. He got an especially good sense of customer relations when he interacted with young athletes' parents.

"Coaching really involves wearing so many different hats, and the IS program clarified for me how all my interests connect!"

Chloe Johnson gained significant additional experience in the area of human resources (this was her third internship in the field of HR) working for a mid-sized plywood company, tracking driver certifications, publishing a monthly newsletter, and developing an employee morale survey. She will be looking for related positions, putting to work her studies in business and psychology. She has applied to 15 related positions already and is continually working five different job search sites and keeping her profiles current.

"Time management was a big thing for me - I had two internships and coursework to keep track of this semester, but it was worth it. In Human Resources you deal with so many different people - I really built on to my skills!"

Laparis' Rogers added to her previous experience in the pharmacy of the Hartsville's CareSouth office with a more in-depth internship with CareSouth in Bishopville - this time, she focused more on the business side of the pharmacy (such as hiring, ordering supplies, and most-commonly prescribed drugs).
Combining work in the disciplines of biology and business, she is preparing for further certification and, after years of employment as a pharmacy technician, is looking into lab and research work, as well as health care office work, to enter into the job market.

"The internship was very helpful because my supervisor, Mr. Jeffery Hancock, always reminded me that my field of pharmacy work should be something that I love. You can't do it for the money!"

Jenna Collins is not actually graduating quite yet! She still wants to spend a semester abroad in Valencia, Spain. But for her capstone project, she interviewed several professionals in the medical and pharma industry to reflect her interests in biology, chemistry, business, and communication, and she has created a film about the life of a pharma sales representative. And yes, it it both informative and funny!

"I found out interviewing professionals is a lot harder than I thought - the science was the easy part, which was new for me!"

These four students took control of their studies by deciding on the skills they wished to gain in their capstone experiences, securing internships or planning a project, and completing the work they (and their faculty advisors from the individual disciplines) laid out in their project plans.

A big "Thank You!" goes out to supporting faculty: Professor J. Wacker and Dr. S. Parker (Casey), Drs. E. Litton and L. Bowers (Chloe), Profs. J. Wacker and N. Long (Laparis'), and Drs. J. Flaherty, S. Varjosaari, J. Wacker, and P. Gloviczki (Jenna). The program only works because of the support and expertise of faculty in the disciplines who generously share their time and knowledge.

Also, we are thankful to the Student Success Center who helps securing internship placements, advises on career research, and provides support with resumes and cover letters. Thanks to them, these IS grads are already squared away in their job searches.

See you are the December graduation, Casey, Chloe, and Laparis! (and Jenna in May?)

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

IS200 Internships: Everyone's Getting Out There!

Internships in the IS200 course can be a little crazy! Seniors, juniors, sophomores, and this semester even a first-year student venture out into the professional world for 45 hours to get an experience in their field - it takes weeks for everyone to even just get set up with a placement, and then I wait forever for paperwork to get filled out, and there is definitely some fretting (mostly by me).

But then they take off!

This semester, seven of the students found placements on campus (in MarCom, IT, and Student Success), and three students ventured off-campus (to work in a children's therapy office, non-profit family services, and an art store). Today, they talked about their experiences - which were, clearly, the highlight of their course work for IS200.

Here are some of their faces and responses:

Gordon, intern at an art store:
I developed a better understanding of how much business skill was required to run even a really small art store - I inventoried, and I worked out a classification system for products. 
I was offered a job to run the store for a few weeks this summer, while the owners are travelling.

Abby, intern at Coker's MarCom office, with an emphasis on photography:
I had no idea how many hours were truly put into editing photos. The funny thing is, I think that was my favorite part.

Abby's first assignment with MarCom was to cover Coker's homecoming event - she loved it, but it was exhausting! She also learned about a lot of technical aspects of working with a camera.

Bryan, intern at Coker's Student Success Center:

What I learned: receiving knowledge and making sure it gets to the right people gives me satisfaction.

Bryan expanded his knowledge of business by venturing into the world of communications! He presented on CobraStop many times, and the CC101 classes are better informed because of him.

Angelique, intern at Coker's MarCom office, with an emphasis on writing:

Although the internship is not directly aligned anymore with my career goals from the beginning of the semester, it has still been meaningful: I learned how to make my writing and scripts more concise and catchy.

Angelique is taking Business courses in China next semester to help prepare for graduate school in international business.

Kate, intern at Coker's MarCom office, with an emphasis on graphic design:

I learned more about being a designer and what it is like to work professionally in the field. I was surprised how much I learned during this short time!

Much of Kate's experience was about acquiring new experience in software tools used by professional graphic designers. She worked on invitations and posters for Coker events.

Sophia, intern at Therapeutic Designs and Services, with an emphasis on speech pathology:

The most rewarding part of this experience was being able to watch each child progress, and how excited the children were to produce a certain sound after weeks of hard work. 

Sophia assisted speech therapists and occupational therapists. She is a first-semester student at Coker.

Ann, intern at Coker's MarCom office, with an emphasis on communications and writing:

This internship gave me more confidence in my writing and made me realize that my opinion and input matter.

Among other pieces, Annie did an interview and profile of a Coker graduate, Charity Snelling (IS, December 2018), and a report on the Cobras in the Capitol trip to DC.

Austin, intern at Coker's IT office:

There was a lot of work fixing tickets, which involved going all over campus in person to solve the problem.

Austin mostly worked with Justin Lyde to address common IT issues - he was surprised how many tasks fall to IT that are about cables and connectivity in general.

Justin, intern at Coker's MarCom office, with an emphasis on communication and writing:

Getting to use my knowledge of the Coker ESports team and writing about that was fun.

Justin also wrote posts with tips for commuter and transfer students (he has experience with both) and profiles of two Coker grads: Cameron Flotow (IS, May 2017) and Scott Sewell (IS, December 2018).

Sierra, intern at Darlington County First Steps, assistant to the Communication Manager:

Each day is scary - I am never quite sure with whom I am going to meet and whether they are going to like my work, but it's worth it when both I and my client reach a point of satisfaction.
Sierra designed, among other things, the poster for the Men's Health Symposium you see above in the photo Abby took in class. She has been asked to return to First Steps for the Spring semester.

Internships are scary! (For me, too!)

But they are also a wonderful opportunity to carry theoretical knowledge into a work environment where productivity and learning come together for everyone - and then, of course, there is the benefit of having a closer look at a potential professional career.

Or, you know, just the pride of having ventured out there and somehow lasted through meetings and assignments and feedback, and logged in your 45 hours and lived to tell the tale.

Thursday, October 3, 2019

What We Do In Class - the Thursday fun day

So, what exactly is it I do in class with these poor students, anyway? And why does it get so loud sometimes?

I meet with the IS200, Introduction to Interdisciplinary Studies, class twice a week. On Tuesdays, we spend 75 minutes going over concepts in the chapters of our text books, thinking through examples for complex problems, defining "intellectual dexterity" and "metacognition," and discussing the consequences of accepting "epistemological pluralism" - pretty much what you would expect from a group of 10 freshmen, sophomores, juniors, and seniors bringing 12 different majors of origin, in 7 different combinations, to the round table.

On Thursdays, we actually have some fun, though. We work out some of the theoretical concepts by putting them into action. I have a handy little book I picked up at the AIS conference in Ottawa a couple of years ago - it describes about 25 group exercises (some with props) put together by graduate students in Interdisciplinarity at the University of Amsterdam. We have put Walt Disney's creative strategies to the test, compared biases against pet owners (fish, cat, dog), and responded to Breaking News about corn in Iowa (is it a good thing? is it a bad thing? Turns out it very much depends on the news you are getting, and who puts them out...).
Today we pretended to be Agents of Development and Creation, Agents of Marketing, and Agents of Labor and Business as we approached the challenges of introducing the alternative energy sources of wind and solar power to South Carolina. One team decided what kinds of analyses developers of new technologies would need to complete (turned out we need some data on sun and weather patterns, noise, resources, and education) while a second team considered what it would take to develop a labor pool to build and maintain wind and solar equipment. The last team looked at the marketing: what data would agents of marketing need? what would it take to approach the existing market and create interest in alternative energy sources?
All their ideas went onto large sheets of paper, and then all agents stepped up to consider every team's results and trace connections, parallels, and overlap between the three approaches.

"It's a complex system!"


And then, just like that: process done. Class dismissed. And it's quiet again in DH207. Thanks, everyone, for your great work! (Next: Recycling?)

Stay posted for some internship reports - because it's not all book learning and blackboards in IS200, of course. Sometimes we actually do something.

Monday, September 23, 2019

Book Report Projects - YES, WE ARE READERS!

The Introduction to Interdisciplinary Studies class is on course, and one of our current projects is the Book Report:

Every student chooses a book that reflects an interdisciplinary approach (librarian Jonathan Garren has been functioning as Recommender Extraordinaire), reads a good bit of it (or all), and reports back on the disciplines the author(s) invoke, the different types of discipline-specific research or reporting methods reflected, and the challenges or successes of melding the two to create a new perspective on a process or issue.

We do have a curated set of books to work with, located in the library on the top shelf of New Releases - the books are selected based on past and current student interests in the IS200 course, and the shelf is replenished as needed. Any student is welcome to check out these books, of course!

This is what some of the current IS200 students are saying about their book choices:

"I am choosing The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. I read a sample of the prologue and was intrigued by the kind of mystery it involves. It involves situations of race, science, and moral ethics." (Sophia, 1st year IS major, PSY&EDU)

"I found two books, by the same author, Edward Tufte. They both go over the different forms of visual communication (charts, signs, Powerpoints, and so on) and explain how they can be interpreted by their intended audiences. They combine the fields of art and communication, but they also include some psychology and design." (Sierra, 4th year IS major, ART&COM)

"I am choosing Becoming Hewlett Packard by Robert Burgelman. The main discipline discussed in the book is business, but after I read the summary, I realized it was also about technology. And, since it is a biography, English!" (Angelique, 3rd year IS major, BA&ENG)

"The book that I am considering is titled Digital Humanities. [...] The disciplines explored are digital humanities and media and communication. I am interested in this book because it explores the effects of computer technology on modern society." (Kate, 4th year IS major, ART&COM)

"The book I have picked is Moneyball by Michael Lewis, and it was recommended to me by Jonathan Garren. What makes this book interdisciplinary is that it deals with business from a financial standpoint and it also deals with math and stats. And - it is about sports!" (Justin, 3rd year IS major, BA&COM)

If you want to make a recommendation for the shelf, please contact Jonathan Garren or me - we are excited about the variety on offer now, but there must be yards and yards of books about subjects we have not even thought about (yet!) that would make good additions!

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

"Bear Island" at Congaree: Part 2: Student Work and Presentations

So - it rained! it rained quite a bit, and it was muggy, and it was wet, and  - yet! Important Work Was Being Done!

Our intrepid campers drew, wrote, considered, learned to play the guitar (kind of), painted, interviewed each other, and in general had a look and saw what was there - and in the weeks after the trip, took their work into the post-production stage to get ready to present.

Now, remember: this is a single credit hour 199 course, either in Art or in Interdisciplinary Studies - we asked students to imagine and plan a project, work on it while we were at Congaree, and finish and present on it last week. Alyssa, I, and all students of the class were the audience of the presentations.

So, what was there?

Ashley Hogg (Computer Science) interviewed fellow campers about stress reduction in nature; her insight was that even among students who had never camped before (half the group), being in nature lowered stress levels.

Attiyah Shakir (Exercise Science) planned out a work-out routine with picnic benches, larger logs, and small logs, relying entirely on materials available at Congaree and around the campsite. Because everything was terribly soggy, the work remained somewhat theoretical.

Asante Rice (Interdisciplinary Studies, PSY/EDU) researched the possibilities for young children to enjoy the park on a field trip, drew connections between preschool development and learning, documented the existing park offerings for young children, and considered how one would go about planning such a trip for young children.

Clayton Chewning (Criminology) conducted guitar lessons and found out that even beginner students learn in many different ways - although the commonality he found was that every student wanted to master pretty much the same song.

Chelsea Larymore (English) revised her proposal quite a bit - rather than working with clay and drawing, she ended up doing a lot of journal writing, partly because the rain was so discouraging. Also, she realized she was not particularly interested in drawing very large trees - sometimes we find our calling through process of elimination.

Bailey Vereen (Interdisciplinary Studies: BIO/PSY) conducted a study about sleep - her main question was, did students, even inexperienced campers, get any sleep at all in a tent? It is possible that the results were skewed by the general use of Benadryl (which was more copiously available the first night), but there were charts! And, yes, students slept.

The Art projects were no less intriguing - although perhaps in some cases limited by students' concern that their sketch books might get wet.

We were shown some beautiful botanical drawings by Sydnee Nieves, who looked at some plant details - and kicked off an interesting discussion about how drawings, or art in general, is bound to depend on the experience of the artist - not only on the details of the plant that is the object.

Bryce Lail relied mostly on his camera, exploring the ways it could filter light differently to convey specific ways he saw the wooded landscape - his presentation focused on a clearer understanding of how he could manage settings on his camera.

Darius Lynard documented his first camping experience with drawings, photos, and journal notes, providing an overview of both the pleasures and the challenges of our three days in the woods: tents, guitar lessons, tarps, and all.

Abby Gillam worked in charcoal, water colors, and photo to take a closer look at the flora of Congaree - gnarly pine trees, seed pods, various leaves, and some branch structures all made into sketches and paintings.

Damion Dorch, finally, created a zine about his camping experience - it's a nifty little book, held together by two staples, chronicling the day-to-day experience of being out in the woods, with tents and tarps and fellow students, for the first time ever - and it depicts in utter clarity the confusion, resignation to fate, creativity, and some fun that defined the three days.

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

"Bear Island" at Congaree, Part I: Going There

The Bear Island trip took a detour this spring: when Hurricane Florence took out all the beach campsites on Bear Island, Alyssa and I cast about for some alternative sites that could, within reasonable driving distance from Coker, provide beauty, inspiration, and primitive camping at a reasonable fee.

We found all that, and more (torrential rain, huge old growth cypress, lob lolly pine, and gum trees, snakes, a terrific visitor's center with an informative movie), at Congaree National Park, just south of Columbia, less than two hours away. 

A large clearing, surrounded by six campsites, Bluff Campground: our home for three days and two nights.
Long-needle pines, blue skies, bird calls - and a 0.8 mile walk over wooded trails and board walks from the Visitors Center (with flush toilet bathrooms, water bottle filling station, and a spigot for dishes and feet) - presented a camping opportunity gentler and more protected than the windy ocean beach of Bear Island. Paradise indeed!

Students applied for twelve spots to complete their various projects: six of them signed up for Art, and six of them signed up for Interdisciplinary Studies. We scheduled the obligatory "tent pitching clinic" on a windy day outside Davidson Hall - thanks to a generous donation, we were able to loan out weatherproof light-weight tents, sturdy backpacks, stoves, and warm sleeping bags to students.

 An evening of questions and answers outside Davidson Hall - about half the group were novice campers (one student actually chose the phrase "I saw people tenting in a movie once and it looked hard" to describe his camping expertise), and we wanted to make sure everyone knew how to bear-bag food, limit weight to carry, and feel comfortable with the whole adventure.

Another lesson learned last year: we packed "emergency rations" for each tent group - obviously keeping the traveler demographic around 18-22 years old and limiting the time frame to three days, we didn't seriously anticipate any losses, but nobody wants to share a tent with a hungry fellow camper.

We set out at 9:00 in the morning on Friday, April 12th - the weather forecast was a bit mixed, but we were promised some sun in between the rain (showers, thunderstorms) - and, which was a relief after last year's adventure on Bear Island, temperatures above 60 degrees throughout.

We pitched camps in a torrential downpour (how to loop a rope around a pine to fasten a tarp became an important lesson right off the bat) - which let up, to an afternoon of muggy intermittent gray skies, just as soon as all tents were set up.

Down by the Congaree River, all hiking trails were flooded - even the boardwalk, usually stroller-territory, was a few inches under water in sections. There were some beautiful snakes (a common Brown Watersnake, a Black Snake, according to the ranger we consulted later - and the largest, fattest leeches ever! leeches the size of small trout!) - had we been able to actually get into the swamp trails, we might have seen more - but - never mind trail conditions and the weather. We had put an excellent crew together, and they proved pretty impervious to the rain.

Work was done - drawing and writing, completing of questionnaires, exploring, guitar lessons.

Some students looked at big things

 - and some students looked at small things.

There was quite a bit of "Seeing What's There," reflecting the original title of the course (and echoing a 1989 Evergreen State College class).

Not everyone wanted to hear about "negative space" - and yes, in nature "the light keeps changing," which obviously can be a challenge for photographers and those making drawings. But yet. We saw things.

Some of us talked a lot - sometimes about art.

Of course, a good bit of time went into just being there - spending time and getting to know students from other disciplines (we had representatives from Criminology, Physical Education, Computer Science, English, and of course Interdisciplinary Studies, aside from the solid Art contingent) - participating in fellow students projects, and just running a camp surrounded by very large trees.


Some of us cooked a lot - ramen noodles figured prominently on the menu, as did apples. Someone brought stew - and shared with those who did not bring stew. (Most of us did not bring stew.)

That big Coleman tent? It weighed a ton, and it took on a little bit of water - but eleven students fit into it during one of those thunderstorm-rains and played "Bullshit" - a game of cards, I am told - and laughed very hard. Also an important part of the Study Away experience.

Some of us were just really proud to be in the woods at all - setting up a tent, keeping everything dry, exploring the trails and hanging out.

We saw rain. Sometimes we did not see the rain coming, but eventually we all saw it come down. Only those who had squirreled away firewood under their tarp got a camp fire the second night - Alyssa and I did not.

But then the sun came out again - for a lovely couple of hours - and weather, muggy and wet and persistent, can only do so much to a camping adventure.

A dinner started late then ran into the dark - and the column of dish washers and teeth brushers snaked into the dark woods with some hilarity - lights and pots clattering and ambling in the night, like miners returning from a shift.

We left late on Sunday morning - sometime between a quick shower and a more pronounced downpour. Students started packing early - we knew we had a window.

All of our fabulous new tents had kept us dry, everyone was in fairly good spirits, and our Bear Island Study Away trip, this time to Congaree National Park, closed on a note of general satisfaction. Many skills were acquired (how to pack a backpack! how to pitch a tent! how to light a tiny stove! how to read trail signage!), and other qualities just came to light: kindness and helpfulness and curiosity. And coping with rain.

Stay tuned for the next post: a report on student projects completed during our Congaree adventure!
(All pictures thanks to Alyssa's and my iPhones - no professional photographers with us this year!)