Friday, March 23, 2012

Students, let your voices be heard

As many of you read this blog post, you may also be drinking Starbucks coffee from Conversations, the campus coffee shop. Or maybe you’re on deck to play the winner of the current ping-pong match in the student center. Or you could be reading it on your iPhone while waiting for your appointment in the health center during their extended hours.

If you are doing any of those things, you are taking advantage of just one of the many assets Union College has gained as a result of Assessment Day.

So what is Assessment Day? For those that don’t know, according to Debbie D’Anna, vice president for Student Development, it’s a day when students will take different assessments dealing with a range of skills and topics. It’s also a day when students will be asked to provide feedback that often leads to facilities updates and policy changes.

“Some will take tests measuring critical thinking, science reasoning, math and English. Others will participate in health assessments and surveys to determine their level of satisfaction at Union,” D’Anna said. “Some students will participate in focus groups on topics of financial aid, first year experience, academic preparedness and student engagement.”

If you need more motivation to participate in Assessment Day (other than the fact that not going will delay your graduation date) just consider the counseling services that started in 2010, or the café which came to Union in 2008.

Other assets gained through Assessment Day include the commuters’ lounge, which was added just last year and extended Health Center hours, which started in 2010. Conversations coffee shop, which offers Starbucks products, also came as a result of feedback from students during these assessments.

Now we know that come April 3, sleeping in might be a very tempting option. Don’t hit that snooze button, though. Remember: Assessment Day is your chance to be heard and suggest changes and additions to Union’s campus.

This year’s event is on April 3 at 8:30 a.m. Depending on classifications, students will report to Centennial Hall, Sharp Academic Center or the Miller Science Center.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Union's 'twister' has been postponed

Local first responders and Union College were scheduled for emergency preparedness testing Friday, March 16. Teams in Laurel County were put to a real test, though, when an actual tornado touched down in East Bernstadt, doing significant damage to the community.

Since that happened, local first responders have been working alongside those in Laurel County., dealing with the aftermath. Because of this, the crisis simulation that was scheduled to take place on Union College’s campus has now been pushed back to a date that is not yet determined.

The simulation would have involved the Knox County Disaster and Emergency Services, Barbourville Police and Fire Departments, Knox County EMS, Knox County Health Department and Knox County Hospital, as well as Union College.

Members of these agencies were set to respond to a simulation on Union’s campus, where a tornado would hit the gym, do damage, and in the process produce many casualties. The responders would then have been evaluated on their level of preparedness.

Mike Gray, coordinator of student conduct and campus safety at Union College, was responsible for bringing this simulation to Union. He said the simulation still hasn’t been rescheduled, but should be in the near future.

“After first responders have their action meeting, then we will work to reschedule this. That meeting should be sometime this week,” Gray said.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Presidential search is winding down

The search is on for Union College’s 19th president, and the rate of progress suggests the new leader will be named as scheduled in late April.

The field is currently narrowed from an initial group of more than 130 prospects to a short list of very impressive candidates who would bring an effective brand of leadership to Union.

“I’m pleased and excited to report that Union College is in an extremely good situation,” said board chairman Paul Isaacs. “This pool of candidates represents a level of strength that makes the board of trustees’ decision on the next president very difficult because all the current candidates are extremely qualified, which will make the final decision particularly challenging. That’s a nice problem to face.”

Prior to beginning the search, a search committee—comprised of Union College faculty, staff, trustees and students—established a list of qualities and qualifications that they expect to see in the next president. This list was used as criteria in selecting the remaining candidates. A substantial number of reference calls were made to help aid the search.

The next step in the process is for the remaining candidates to participate in confidential interviews with the search committee. After these interviews, the list will be narrowed once again to the finalists who will be invited for another round of interviews on campus. The candidates, the college community and local citizens will have an opportunity to learn more about each other in this final round of meetings, which are planned for late March and early April.

Founded in 1879, Union College in Barbourville is a liberal arts institution related to the United Methodist Church.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Drug abuse talks should be eye-opening

Southeastern Kentucky has been noted for its growing drug abuse problem. But how big of a problem is it when you get down to the facts? Dr. Erich Goode, sociology professor emeritus at Stony Brook University, will be at Union to address this question.

Goode will lecture about his experiences researching drug use and what it looked like more than 40 years ago. He will be on Union’s campus Tuesday, March 27 at 7 p.m. in Student Conference Center Rooms A, B and C of the Patridge Campus Center. The title of his lecture is “A Personal Journey: Forty Years of Studying Drug Use.”

Goode said that his lecture will open the eyes of some people, because the impressions they may have on drug use in Kentucky aren’t always aligned with the systematic data on this problem.

“Drug use is a major aspect of our society; it has both causes and important consequences, and members of the society should be aware of them, and the images that are projected in the press, and what the public understands at the grass-roots level, aren’t necessarily the way they are factually,” Goode said.

Citing Goode’s extensive research, Dr. Linda Silber, Union sociology professor, arranged this lecture. Silber said Goode has studied issues related to drug use for more than 40 years. Silber added that she selected Goode to speak not only because he is well versed in the issue and a personal friend of hers; he has also collaborated with her on a textbook focused on substance abuse. The title is “Drugs in American Society,” published in 2011.

Silber said that everyone is invited to attend, because this issue pertains to all ages and demographics—not just college students.

“The talk is pitched at a general audience and should be interesting to the college community as well as the greater community as a whole,” Silber said.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Come on over and 'Discover U'

Even high school students who have grown up on the lawns of Union College will benefit from attending this month’s open house event.

Called “Discover U,” the event will bring more than just a standard campus tour. It will be a close encounter with facets of Union College that reach beyond the park-like setting.

Opportunities will be provided for prospective students to learn detailed information about what Union has to offer. Add to that a baseball game as a bonus, and the result is a fun, informative day.

The event begins at 9 a.m. on Saturday, March 31, when Union will open its doors for high school juniors and seniors.

A welcome session kicks off the day. Following that, students will take departmental tours of Union’s campus. At each stop on the tour, a faculty member will greet students with information about that specific academic department.

Other stops include the financial aid office, the admissions office and other various places located across campus.

Following the tour, students will meet for lunch. The day will officially end at noon; however, students are invited to stay and take in a baseball doubleheader against Point University, which starts at 1 p.m.

To register for the open house, go to the Union College homepage, There is in a “Discovery U” icon on this page that links to the registration form. While there is no deadline for registering, officials strongly recommend that prospective students submit the form in advance. This will help ensure group sizes will be kept small enough to remain personal.

For more information, contact Jamirae Hammons at 606-546-1606.

A simulated crisis will test preparedness

Meet the Tornado Team
Several local agencies will respond to a simulated tornado at Union College on March 16. This crisis drill is designed to improve emergency preparedness in Knox County. Some participants include, left to right, Steve Owens, Pat Clouse, Mike Broughton and Bill Swafford of the Barbourville Police Department; Doug Dozier of the Barbourville Fire Department; President Thomas McFarland, Mike Gray and James Jamerson of Union College; Beth Smith, Brenda Graham and Beth Smith of Knox County Hospital.

The clock strikes 9 on the Union College campus one Friday morning. There is a mass gathering in the gym for some sort of typical college event. Activities pause as the floor rumbles a warning. Then walls begin to collapse, the roof rips off, and people collide with flying debris. What now?

That is exactly what will be tested on March 16 when Union College will host a simulation to test the effectiveness of the college and local agencies as they respond to a crisis. The simulation is scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. and will end within two hours.

The event, called “A Blustery Day in Barbourville,” will be a mock tornado that does structural damage to the gym and other areas of campus, and leaves some students hurt and others killed. Local agencies, including Union College, Knox County Disaster and Emergency Services, Barbourville Police and Fire Departments, Knox County EMS, Knox County Health Department and Knox County Hospital, will respond as they would in the event of a real emergency.

Mike Gray, coordinator of Student Conduct and Campus Safety at Union College, said that this simulation will provide Union College and other local agencies a chance to test and evaluate their response procedures in the event of a real crisis.

“After updating our emergency management plan, we decided the time was right to start testing things out,” Gray said. “Our local first responders need facilities and volunteers to train and test their skills, and that is what we as an institution can provide them, while at the same time ensuring that we are providing the highest level of service to our community members as possible.”

Rita Miracle, disaster preparedness coordinator at the Knox County Health Department, is the organizer of the simulation. She said local agencies are required to do a full-scale simulation every five years. This drill enables local first responders to remain in compliance, while also giving the college an opportunity to test its emergency preparedness.

“We have always had a plan, but events over the last few years have really pushed colleges and universities to be prepared in the event of an emergency, regardless of type, which could occur on their campus,” Gray said.

The simulation is not just being done to test each agency independently. It also provides a chance to see how well the different agencies work together.
Mike Mitchell, emergency management director at the Knox County Health Department, predicts that the agencies will do fine.

“All our services work together well,” Mitchell said. “We’re very capable and have the necessary personnel and resources to respond in the event of a crisis.”

About 30 Union students will participate as victims and will each be given a tag prior to the event. These tags will reveal each student’s simulated condition so responders can address problems appropriately. Five students will receive tags that mark them as fatalities. The others will be categorized into three groups: those that need immediate attention, those that are immobilized with non immediate life-threatening injuries, and those that suffer only minor injuries, also known as “the walking wounded,” according to Miracle.

Following the event, each agency will receive an evaluation as reported by external field experts. Evaluators will list what went well and will identify areas of concern. These reports and the simulation itself will help agencies better themselves, so that in the event of a real crisis, they will be able to perform effectively.