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Schroeder Center Preps Wabash Men for Success

Jim Amidon — Drum roll for the biggest understatement on this website: It’s a tough job market out there.

Tens of thousands of workers have been cut from our nation’s workforce in the last few months and it’s likely that more layoffs and company closures are forthcoming.

Imagine, then, what it’s like to be one of the tens of thousands of college seniors who have taken all the right classes, interned in all the right places, and polished up their resumes over the last four years. I suspect the picture is pretty bleak.

Graduates from liberal arts colleges like Wabash tend to struggle making the case for employment after graduation. Statistics show that Fortune 500 CEOs prefer hiring liberal arts grads because of their versatility and broad-based education. Yet the disconnect from the CEO’s office to the human resource office exists in a mighty big way.

Liberal arts graduates often don’t have specific “skills” that jump off the resume. Wabash students don’t take a series of courses designed to help them program computers or write tight marketing statements. They are prepared to learn how to do those things after graduation, and develop their skill sets on a broader base of knowledge.

In a tough economy, it’s harder than ever to make the case for the liberal arts, and at the same time perhaps never before has there been a greater need for liberal arts graduates in leadership positions in this country.

The Schroeder Center for Career Development at Wabash has been retooling for several years under director Scott Crawford and his team. The results were immediate and sweeping. The Schroeder Center is now ranked third nationally in all of higher education in last fall’s Princeton Review college rankings.

And a good bit of that is because Crawford, Betsy Knott, Toni McKinney, Mike Kerr, and Kyle Dunaway have taken career counseling to the students. Instead of sitting back in their offices on West Wabash Avenue waiting for students to walk in the door, the Schroeder Center staff gets out and about on campus. And they’ve ignited a passion in Wabash’s alumni, too.

In fact, the Schroeder Center’s activities may be as visible as anything happening on campus right now. There are posters in buildings and newsletters in bathrooms; the Center’s website is full of information and opportunities; and there are events related to career preparation virtually every day of the week.

Let’s take this week as an example:

At noon Monday, Schroeder Center staff put on a resume-writing workshop over lunch.

Monday night, the College welcomed back several alumni who are in healthcare positions — from doctors to hospital administrators to pharmaceutical salesmen. Current students had the opportunity to network with these experienced alumni and gained insight into how they reached the positions they hold today.

At lunch Tuesday, the staff led a session helping students identify internships that are right for them — and matched with their personal, academic, and career interests. Internships are huge today, and it’s particularly helpful for liberal arts graduates to have received some hands-on experience in fields related to their career paths.

At noon on Thursday, Amina McIntyre will conduct a mock interview of a student looking for a professional position. Other students can witness the types of questions that will be asked and learn from the good and bad answers to the questions.

The best opportunities of the week come on Thursday and Friday evenings. On Thursday, nearly a dozen alumni and representatives from the Indiana Secretary of State’s office will host a “Financial Fitness” workshop and dinner event. Students and their guests can come to dinner and learn the basics of financial planning and investments, as well has how to stay out of debt at the start of their professional careers.

On Friday night, members of the junior and senior class will have dinner and network with the College’s most esteemed alumni — members of the Board of Trustees and the Board of Directors of the alumni association.

From experience, I can tell you that there are virtually no other colleges in the country that offer students the opportunity to have dinner and converse with such powerful and influential alumni. Those conversations will be lively, honest, and will surely help our students gain a better understanding of how to plan their careers.

The job market is a tough one, made even worse by the unprecedented downturn of the nation’s economy. That’s why I’m so heartened by the work and visibility of the Schroeder Center for Career Development at Wabash. The staff is committed to working with students to maximize their experiences at the College and prepare them for life after Wabash.

Salatin Packs Salter Hall for Talk on Local Food

Howard W. Hewitt - Joel Salatin gave a fast-paced, no-nonsense, and humorous presentation Friday night in a packed Salter Hall that made a passionate case for a return to farm and family basics.

His Polyface farm in Virginia uses a non-industrial, renewable approach to farming providing meat and produce 1,500 families, 10 retail outlets, and 25 restaurants. Or as he put it Friday night, "we let the pigs be pigs."

The oversimplied description represents how Salatin rotates cattle, hogs and chickens on the farm property daily. He allows the animals to eat and follow their instincts which provides a non-industrialized farming operation very unqiue in agriculture. For example, the chickens follow the cattle from pasture to pasture. The chickens will eat the bugs from the cow waste and leave the pasture ready to grow again and continue the cycle.

"Chickens are part of our sanitation crew and not only do we not have to pay them, but they pay us," he said, drawing hearty guffaws from the crowd. "All it is really is a big dance and I’m the choreographer."

He noted that terms like e-coli and salmonella and a long list of others are words that were not in our vocabulary 20 years ago. "And that is nature begging us – enough," he shouted. "Nature is begging for relief and the question is who will listen."

He railed against corporate farms and confined livestock operations and the seeming desire to drive farmers from the farm.  "We’ve been so good at elminating people on farms that we have twice as many people in prisons as we do on farms in this country."

His operation is labor intensive but profitable by the sustained cycle illustrated by the chickens. Those chickens that help clean the field lay eggs – providing another source of income.

And when he says sustainable, he means it. They follow a strict management of the land by nature’s succession. "We’re not planting any seed and we’re not tilling anything," he said.

Salatin spoke to a near-capacity crowd in Salter noticably packed with community members and area farmers.

A self-described "Christian-libertarian-environmentalist-lunatic-farmer," Salatin earned his B.A. in English before returning to the family farm and is the author of six books, including Family Friendly Farming, Holy Cows and Hog Heaven, and Everything I Do is Illegal: War Stories from the Local Food Front.

His presentation was sponsored by the College’s Students for Sustainability. Learn more about Salatin and Polyface Farm at www.polyfacefarms.com

President Talks About Tough Fall, Looks Ahead

President Patrick White kicked off the second semester of Chapel Talks Thursday by reviewing the previous semester and talking about the College’s future.

He reflected on the difficulties of the fall semester, including the death of a student, and the subsequent conversations he had across campus in the weeks that followed. It was the discourse with Wabash students that fueled his excitement and enthusiasm for the future of the College, he said.
 
“I heard accusations and arguments,” the President recalled. “I heard students ask what is proper Presidential power.” He recited a list of topics.
 
“It was through those discussions I heard the echos of your experience in the liberal arts,” he told the students, faculty, and staff gathered for the weekly talk. “I heard you take Wabash seriously and passionately. I cheered you even when you were furious with me. I felt your anger and confusion but I’m proud of your passion and proud of your ownership of this College.”
 
The President, along with deans and faculty members, met with 13 different groups of fraternity and Independent men over meals throughout the fall. He said the conversations, though at times contentious, strengthen Wabash.
 
“Wabash Always Fights is one way of engaging in verbal disagreement. We do not fail Wabash when we fight. We let each other down when we stop trying to understand and be understood.”
 
He urged students to think critically about the College mission statement they frequently hear.
 
"Remember our mission goals to think critically, act responsibly lead effectively, and live humanely. This mission is not an abstraction. It is lived out every day in who you are as citizens and Gentlemen.
 
"Critical thinking counts for nothing if the only things we think critically about are things that we do not care about. Act responsibly is just a hollow slogan, if when we are faced with the need to act we turn away.
 
"Leadership is nothing but demagoguery, if those we lead constantly agree with us. And living humanely is not much of a challenge, if everyone thinks alike.
 
The full podcast of President White’s remarks should be online before the weekend.

A Program Worthy of Note

Jim Amidon — Wabash College is home to two internationally recognized centers of excellence — the Wabash Center for Teaching and Learning in Theology and Religion and the Center of Inquiry in the Liberal Arts at Wabash.

The Wabash Center has gained an important reputation for its focus on helping religion faculty in graduate schools and seminaries become excellent teachers. Its expanding work includes conferences, seminars, and retreats for theologians and religious scholars throughout the course of their careers. It was founded to insure quality teaching at undergraduate, graduate, and seminary schools.

The Center of Inquiry in the Liberal Arts has a growing reputation as the place higher education leaders work to assess the effectiveness of their curricula and student outcomes. The Center’s signature project, the Wabash National Study of Liberal Arts Education, is quickly producing tangible results that will help colleges and universities all over the country improve the quality of the student learning experience.

Both centers are largely funded by grants from Lilly Endowment Inc.

About a year ago, Emeritus Professor Raymond Williams, who founded the Wabash Center in 1996, took another creative idea to Lilly Endowment. His idea was to establish a program that will help young pastors in Indiana learn to become community leaders.

The program, wholly funded by Lilly Endowment Inc., is now underway with Professor Williams as the director of the Wabash Pastoral Leadership Program.

Beginning Monday, 18 pastors from across the state will come to Crawfordsville for two days of study. Over the course of the next two years, the clergy will return to the Wabash campus a total of 10 times.

The goal of the Pastoral Leadership Program is to prepare pastors with between five and 10 years of experience to deal with critical economic, educational, and political challenges facing Indiana communities.

“Pastors play important roles in sustaining the vitality of local Indiana communities,” said Craig Dykstra, senior vice president for religion at the Endowment at the time of the program’s founding. “We are delighted that Wabash will create a leadership program that… prepares them to become increasingly effective leaders in congregations and communities.”

While on the Wabash campus, the pastors will meet with civic, government, business, and religious leaders to talk about the important issues that face our communities. In addition, they will take part in a study tour in North America during this first year and an international study tour a year from now.

The $1.5 million gift from the Lilly Endowment that established the program allows for two full classes — 36 pastors — to take part in the program. The next class will begin its work in 2011.

The 18 pastors on campus now include a good mix of men and women and represent congregations both large and small.

Professor Williams told me that this first class has a very high potential for leadership and boasts rich academic backgrounds and life experiences. I’m anxious to follow their progress.

And for Professor Williams, well, he never stops teaching. After more than 30 years in the Wabash classroom, he established the Wabash Center that for more than a decade has strengthened the work of college, university, and seminary faculty.

Now, at a time when he could be walking a beach and enjoying retirement, he is back at it again — this time working directly with pastors from towns like Evansville, St. John, Indianapolis, and Milroy. His goal is to help those pastors become — and see themselves — as important community leaders.

How good is this program? In their first experience on campus, the pastors will engage in deep and meaningful discussions with Harvard Professor Ronald Heifetz, who is one of the nation’s leading authorities on leadership. He’s written a number of books about effective leadership, and teaches public leadership at the Kennedy School of Government.

See why I think the Wabash Pastoral Leadership Program has such great potential?

In these tough, uncertain times, it’s heartening to know that our church leaders have a program like this that will equip them with the skills they will need to become community leaders who really and truly understand the challenges of their congregations.

Dean’s List

Kim Johnson – I recently read an article on msnbc.com about the college entrance exam scores of student athletes. It discusses the significantly lower scores of the athletes – especially football and basketball players – as compared to the non-athletes. My favorite quote was from an admissions officer at a Division I school saying there is some “flexibility in admissions of student athletes.”

It really cracks me up because at Wabash, that is not what it’s about. Granted, not all Division I student athletes need “flexibility in admissions.” There are a lot of very intelligent men and women that excel in the classroom as well as on the court, field, track, mats, in the water, etc. but I’ve also met my share of “dumb jocks.”

At Wabash, though, they are all great students – otherwise, they wouldn’t be at Wabash. No “flexibility in admissions” here.

Just yesterday in our staff meeting we were discussing the first semester Dean’s List and the number of student athletes on it. To make the Dean’s List, students must post a semester GPA of at least 3.50.

Take for example wide receiver Kody LeMond. He was awarded All-Conference First Team, D3football.com All-North Region Second Team, and ESPN The Magazine Academic All-District V Second Team honors. He broke multiple Wabash and NCAC records as a receiver last season — catching 73 passes for over 1,200 yards and 14 touchdowns. Most importantly, the sophomore mathematics major made the Dean’s List last fall – during football season.

Let’s step inside where junior Chase Haltom drained a three-point basket with one-second left on the clock to beat Allegheny by two — every kid’s dream. While he’s definitely a role model on the court, every mother hopes her son takes after Chase in the classroom too.

Need more convincing… what about Seth Einterz — the first Wabash runner to compete at the NCAA Division III National Cross Country Championship Meet in seven years. He was named First Team All-North Coast Athletic Conference Runner this fall and placed fifth at the NCAC Championships. He’s made the Dean’s List in all three semesters on campus.

There’s Kenny Coggins, the transfer from Princeton, Matt Hudson, Derrick Yoder, Jake German, Craig Morrison, Skip Tokar, Denver Wade, Sean Clerget, Blaine Cooper-Surma and countless other men who have stepped up to the academic challenges of Wabash and balanced athletics at the same time.

The list goes on and on with Jake Thomas, Nick Rockefeller, Andrew Gilman, and wrestler Graham Youngs. There are are three freshman members of the Little Giant basketball team on the Dean’s List: Derek Bailey, Seth Bawel, and Nick Curosh.

What’s the idle time chatter on the field at practice? It’s yesterday’s chemistry assignment and problem solving for next week’s lab. The conversation on the bus? Quizzing for comps. Where do the athletes go for a break during an away-game trip? The bookstore.

And it’s not just the students. The coaches talk books as much as baskets and batting.

Coach Petty begins the season helping the players learn to manage their time in order to get assignments done, plenty of studying, and getting a healthy night’s sleep.

When coaches recruit, students understand it’s tough to make it at Wabash. It takes hard work, dedication, and a desire to succeed. The coaches may not groom athletes for the NBA or NFL but they groom men who go on to be doctors, lawyers, CEOs, and entrepreneurs, and they get to compete in a great conference for a great college in the process.

At Wabash it’s about the student and not just the student-athlete.

Let’s celebrate that in Sports Illustrated and on ESPN Sports Center!

Click here to see the complete Wabash College Dean’s List.

Photos above: Kody LeMond vs. Oberlin (left) and Chase Haltom vs. Marian (right)

A Father’s Stories

Steve Charles—It’s my favorite scene from last year’s Big Bash Reunion: Carl Kelley ’43 is seated in Lilly Library, grinning like a kid as he tells a story about his days as student at Wabash. His son, Mike Kelley ’70, who made sure his dad made it back to Wabash for this moment, is beaming alongside him. At their left is student intern Brandon Hirsch ’10, laughing so hard tears are coming to his eyes as Carl quotes his Wabash professor’s views on sex and the human anatomy.

(See a photo album from that interview here.)

It was a perfect beginning for the Scarlet Yarns, our attempt to capture on tape the stories of our alumni. Relaxed and lighthearted one moment, serious the next, Carl talked about what he wanted to talk about. Not worried about what someone else might want him to say. It was just what we were hoping for—his Wabash experience in his own words.

Halfway into Carl’s “interview,” we knew project coordinator Marilyn Smith’s idea to try out this video twist on NPR’s Story Corps project was a great one. And those waiting their turn to tell their stories couldn’t help but notice how much Carl had enjoyed himself, not to mention how much we enjoyed him.

Carl Kelley died this past Christmas Eve. Mike was kind enough to let us know, and passed along a few more stories from his Wabash days. Here’s one:

“Dad rode an Indian motorcycle when he attended Wabash, on which he apparently got around to many other campuses for dates. He always laughed about having dates with three Butler women in one day: one for a picnic in the afternoon; a second for a dance at a sorority house; and the third one picked him up at midnight in her car. None of them was my mother, who went to Valparaiso. Not bad for a kid born on the Kelley family farm in Woodland, Indiana.”

I can see Carl telling that story even now.

Carl played basketball and football at Wabash, was president of Sigma Chi, and a member of the Sphinx Club. After Wabash he became an engineer at U.S. Steel, married his wife, Katherine, and they had eight children. All those kids gathered together for the funeral, along with 13 of Carl’s 14 grandkids. We’ll have a remembrance in the Spring 2009 Wabash Magazine.

But Mike also wrote to tell us how much that Big Bash visit last year had meant to his dad.

“It was certainly a highlight of his last year. So many people at the College made special efforts to make the day memorable. He never quit talking about it.”

“He treasured the day and I was lucky to spend it with him,” Mike writes.

But we were the lucky ones. Carl’s visit was the greatest affirmation we can get for the work we do here in alumni and public affairs. And with Mike prompting and encouraging his dad during our recording session, that segment of the video captures both Carl’s affection for Wabash and a son’s love for his father.

I look at this picture of Mike and Carl and think of my own dad and our project to record his stories during his final years. I’m glad I have those stories. I listen to them and I write them down for his grandkids and great grandkids to read. I want them to know him.

But I have to admit that my project was as much an excuse to for me to spend time with him, to let the power of story draw us closer.

Maybe that’s why this picture of Carl and Mike is my favorite from last year. It may end up being my favorite for a long time. It’s like we’ve been invited to sit at the table and listen in and laugh with family, watching a father and son savoring life and a love they share.

How lucky can you get?