Academics

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Professor Wong Publishes on Disability-Related Discussions

Sarah Jin Wong, assistant professor of education and director of field placement, has recently published an article in Teacher Education and Special Education (TESE) available on Sage Journals titled “Breaking the Cycle: Preparing Pre-Service Teachers for Disability-Related Discussions.”

Sarah started collaborating with her co-authors (Christa Bialka from Villanova University and Nicole Hansen from Fairleigh Dickinson University) in February 2017. She initially connected with Christa and Nicole within the realm of a Facebook group called CEC-TED Early Career Faculty Special Interest Group. CEC stands for Council for Exceptional Children (the nation’s largest special education organization) and TED refers to its Teacher Education Division. Sarah says, “When I found out about TED last year, I knew I had found my professional extended family outside of BAC. This group of colleagues who work in teacher-preparation programs all around the country are some of the warmest, most welcoming, generous, brilliant, and gracious people I have gotten to know!”

The idea of preparing pre-service teachers to have authentic conversations centered around disability is very important to Sarah. Especially now as the diverse needs of children in classrooms are increasing rapidly and as we prepare our pre-service teachers to become educators who are capable of supporting students with various learning needs in what is hopefully an inclusive classroom, this skill set becomes highly relevant. The theory is that if the pre-service teachers are able to have open and productive dialogue around these topics themselves, they are much more likely to be able to facilitate such important dialogue with their own students, thus creating a more authentic, inclusive climate classroom.  Therefore, this became an important objective for Sarah as she implemented the special education curriculum of the new dual-certification program at Bryn Athyn College. Sarah says, “Though we discuss disability-related topics in class, there are often ‘barriers’ that get in the way of our pre-service teachers having open and authentic dialogue around them.” Examples of barriers include novelty of the vocabulary and of the topics, uncertainty in word choice, often due to fear of offending, and even simply lack of experience.  Therefore, intentionally embedding practice of these kinds of dialogue through various assignments like the ones described in the article, helps build this critical skill set.  Sarah states, “Powerful human experience stories in the particular assignment that is described in the article have become such an effective tool that I use in the classroom to increase understanding and create connection.” So when she found that Christa and Nicole were addressing this need in similar ways in their respective programs, she was excited to establish connections with them, eventually leading to this publication.

Sarah says that she and her colleagues hope to turn this work into a more formalized research study, perhaps in the next year or two. They plan to gather both quantitative and qualitative data that will allow them to see the measurable ways in which the strategies discussed in the article are actually making a difference in the skill set of the teachers that they are preparing.

The abstract of the article is below. Click here to access Sage Journals and explore full article download options.

Teacher preparation programs play a seminal role in the development of prospective teachers, as they provide future educators with information regarding the rights of students with disabilities and the pedagogical means to support them in the classroom. Yet, few programs focus on how to discuss disability with students (Abernathy & Taylor, 2009; Cosier & Pearson, 2016). Once they enter into practice, many teachers hesitate to engage students in conversations about disabilities because they are unsure of what to say or fear offending students with disabilities (Crowson & Brandes, 2014; Gay & Howard, 2000). Because there is scant literature on how to best prepare pre-service teachers to hold disability-related discussions in their future classrooms, in this article, the authors aim to fill a void in current practice by providing examples of activities, assessments, and related materials that enable pre-service teachers to talk about disabilities.

 

 

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Fall LNAP Draws Big Numbers

This Monday, the Long Night Against Procrastination continued its support of scholarly study and encouragement for a culture of community learning. At its busiest hour of the night, 30% of the student body was in the Swedenborg Library at one time, tucked into study nooks, utilizing the new conference pod, taking a snack break at the cafe, or congregating around tables in the main area and upstairs. Two therapy dogs were introduced into the mix for the first hour of the event, and a masseuse was there in the main room with a comfy massage table and essential oils to promote focus and provide stress relief. Students checked items off their to-do lists, goals were reached, progress was made, and another “celebration of the slog” was successfully entered into the books!

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Professor Bryntesson’s Adventures in the Florida Wilds

While on sabbatical this spring, Professor Fredrik (Figge) Bryntesson, Ph.D., took two trips to Florida to study the Ivory-billed Woodpecker–the largest woodpecker to have lived in the United States.  Due to habitat destruction and hunting, the number of Ivory-bills dwindled in the early 1900s and the last definitely known population disappeared in the 1940s. Some now fear that the species could be extinct. However, there have been a number of reports of Ivory-bills throughout its historic range in the Southeastern US since the 1940s to the present.

Bryntesson and Chuck Hunter, Southeast Regional Refuge Biologist for the National Wildlife Refuge System, US Fish and Wildlife Service in Atlanta, are working on developing a comprehensive understanding of the historical status of this bird (Photo, left: Ivory-bill specimens at the Florida Museum of Natural History). To do so, they are gathering information from the published literature, and, importantly, from the unpublished archival documents such as field notes, correspondence, memos, and reports on the subject. It is clear from archival documents that there are many more reports of Ivory-bills than have been published, and archival information also provides us with very important insights such as the views and thoughts about Ivory-bills held by many ornithologists and Ivory-bill searchers. Therefore, the archival sources significantly add to our understanding of the historical status of Ivory-bills (Photo, right: researching in the archives).

In May, Hunter and Bryntesson journeyed to northwestern Florida and visited multiple areas where sightings of Ivory-billed Woodpeckers have been reported. The Dead Lakes, and the Chipola, Apalachicola, Aucilla, Wacissa, and Wakulla Rivers provide the type of swampy surroundings where Ivory-bills have historically been seen (Photos below, left to right: Dead Lakes, Wacissa, and Wakulla rivers).


While investigating these habitats, they were able to spot a range of interesting wildlife, and though they were mostly on the lookout for birds, they also saw a couple of alligators (Photo, right: American Alligator. Photos below, left to right: Great Egret, Pileated Woodpecker, Purple Gallinule, Red-shouldered Hawk).

Bryntesson’s interest in the Ivory-billed Woodpecker dates back to 2005 when it was announced that the bird had been reported in Arkansas. This announcement was big news because many people thought that the bird was extinct. Hunter’s interest goes back much further. He said, “For me personally it all goes back to childhood, when at age ten I thought I had seen an Ivory-bill near my house and I found out how to contact the local Audubon Society chapter.” Professionally, he started focusing on the Ivory-billed Woodpecker as part of his job with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 1989. He has been the general go-to for evaluating reports and other odds and ends for this species ever since.  Hunter said, “This became nearly a full-time effort with the 2004-2005 Arkansas reports and I, among other things, assisted in planning and implementing searches across the Southeast with various state and federal agencies, and other private parties.  Alas, by 2010, nothing better than the original reports emerged, but there were many reasonably credible reports from a variety of folks with noted levels of expertise.  That however, has led to no resolution of whether or not the species continues to persist.”

Bryntesson and Hunter at the County Record in Blountstown, Florida. Photo by Robert Turner.

During the trip, Bryntesson and Hunter worked to gather and analyze more information about Ivory-bill reports.  The two spent much time in several archives reviewing notes, records, and publications on historic Ivory-billed Woodpecker sightings. They found a wealth of useful information, mostly about Ivory-bill reports between the 1930s and 1960s, including material about the Chipola River Wildlife Sanctuary, which was a refuge for ivory-bills managed by the National Audubon Society between 1950 and 1952.  Figge says, “The published literature contains relatively brief descriptions of, or references to, the reports of Ivory-bills in the area in the early 1950s, and the subsequent establishment and closure of the Chipola River Wildlife Sanctuary, but there is no comprehensive account published. The purpose of our research is to produce a detailed account of these historic events.”

So the mystery continues, and Bryntesson and Hunter work to tell the story. Bryntesson said, “Working out this type of history is like solving a giant jig-saw puzzle. Every now and then we find new pieces to add. Recently, we have found many important documents in archives. These items provide us with a better understanding of the history of the searches themselves, and the evidence that has been amassed.”

This spring, Bryntesson and Hunter presented a poster on their Chipola River Wildlife Sanctuary research at a scientific conference at Stockton University. Bryntesson gave a talk at the Tall Timbers Research Station in Florida, and an article was published about their research in The County Record of Blountstown, Florida.  Bryntesson related one of his favorite parts of this work: “One thing that I really like about researching the historic status of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker is that it is not just about the bird, it is about people too. The searchers have been, and are, incredibly dedicated and it is fascinating to learn about their findings and thoughts, as well as their passion and enthusiasm for finding the bird.”

The gallery below includes pictures from the research trips in Florida. Click on each picture to enlarge. Photo credits: All photos taken by Fredrik Bryntesson unless otherwise noted.

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BAC Goes to the MA-ESA Annual Conference

On Saturday, April 22, a group of Bryn Athyn College professors and students traveled to Stockton University for the annual conference of the mid-Atlantic chapter of the Ecological Society of America (MA-ESA). Five posters from Bryn Athyn College were presented, setting a BAC record for most posters presented at a single conference. Professors Fredrik Bryntesson, Ph.D., Eugene Potapov, Ph.D., and Ed Higgins, M.D., led the group at the conference, and were joined by alumnus Michael Rodgers (BS ’13), and current students Justin Ball, Derek Buss, Elizabeth Snyder, and Eric Rossi.

This was the tenth consecutive year that the deer study has presented posters at the MA-ESA conference, providing many BAC students with the opportunity to experience academic presentation in a recognized public forum. In addition to the professors and students in attendance this year, there were six more authors on the papers that were presented: current students Laura Clymer and Ryan Landels, alumnus Joe Kadelock (BS ’16), alumnus and lab instructor Grace McMackin (BS ’12), and two Pennypack Ecological Restoration Trust employees, Brad Nyholm and Kevin Roth, who is also an alumnus (BS ’15).

 

Professor Bryntesson says the deer study has enabled investigators to learn many new features of suburban white-tailed deer movement and behavior, and this knowledge is useful for deer management. He adds, “Presenting work at scientific conferences, or being co-authors on publications, is unusual for undergraduate students, and is excellent for their education, experience, and resumes.”

Learn more about the Bryn Athyn College Deer Study.

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President’s Corner

Each month President Blair will be posting on the blog to recap what’s been going on and talk about what’s on the horizon. Here’s his first post, covering the month of April and looking ahead to May!


April has been a busy month at Bryn Athyn College. The academic year is steaming ahead toward completion, and excitement is building toward graduation. A number of events have punctuated the calendar recently, including the Long Night Against Procrastination (LNAP), the first annual Parents and Family Day, NCAA Division III week, the Academic Achievement Awards, and Diversity Day.

I am proud of the hard work our students put in throughout the year, but it’s especially fun to see the community of learning that is formed in the library during LNAP. Over the three LNAPs this year, 922 scholarly hours were logged by our students, and many personal academic goals were reached.

Parents and Family Day was held on April 8, and saw about 65 guests enjoying the event which included a welcome brunch, tours of campus, Cairnwood Estate, and Glencairn, an opportunity to cheer on the men’s and women’s lacrosse teams, and a BBQ on the terrace where the local band Hillbillies of Cohesion played a delightful set.

NCAA Division III Week gave our athletic teams the opportunity to volunteer in different ways throughout the community. The soccer, lacrosse, and basketball teams all offered clinics or helped out at the Bryn Athyn Church Elementary School practices. The Student Athlete Advisory Committee also got the student body to participate in making a mural for suicide awareness. Colorful handprints symbolized the willingness to lend a hand to those in need.

The Academic Achievement Awards are always an important moment to recognize the often-quiet work of scholars. Those on the dean’s list were honored, as were recipients of scholarships and grants connected to particular majors or initiatives. One new award was given this year to the winners of the Career Olympics. Team Djibouti was honored with gold medals and a cash prize for their excellent work creating resumes, LinkedIn profiles, attending a networking/interviewing event, and making a video for prospective employers.

Diversity Day was held indoors due to inclement weather, but that didn’t dampen anybody’s spirits! “Simple Gifts,” a talented string duo, played a variety of instruments from a range of cultural traditions while students, faculty, and staff roamed the Great Hall and sampled delicious cuisines from around the world.

It’s been a great month, and I look forward to seeing you all at upcoming events like the BAC Carnival on Saturday, April 29th; the Senior Capstone Project Presentations on May 10; the FeelGood Run and the Spring Dance Concert on Saturday, May 13; and graduation on the weekend of May 26.

Best,

President Blair

 

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Long Night Against Procrastination

There is a student-centric, scholarly event at Bryn Athyn College that was introduced last year and has been getting learners into the library and keeping them on top of their workload. Named “The Long Night Against Procrastination,” (LNAP), this event is an idea that seems to have originated somewhere in Germany and made its way stateside. Various colleges and universities have adopted the practice, but Wendy Closterman, dean of faculty, learned about it through an article in The Chronicle of Higher Education written by Coe College assistant professor Allison D. Carr.

During LNAP at Bryn Athyn College, the Swedenborg Library stays open until 2:00am and hosts the studiers as they share a common space to tackle their individual assignments. There are prizes for various accomplishments, the café stays open and supplies coffee and snacks to hardworking students, the alumni association provides extra goodies, and at past events there have even been special guests: a masseuse and a therapy dog have made appearances, bringing some balancing calm and relaxation to the atmosphere.

Ann Buss, head of student support at Bryn Athyn College, gives us her own take on the event: “I love combining work and play, and that’s the idea behind these events. We aim to celebrate the slog of learning and study, not just the end result of a finished project.” Another objective is to help students see the library as the hub it is, and to develop positive associations with it.

Buss continues, “Many students avoid libraries because they are perceived as all work and no fun, but we think we can help students feel at home there and make a positive connection with both the library and with the community of studiers that is their college. Students enjoy being where other students are and the hum of useful activity going on around them is stimulating. By having the Cafe open and attracting lots of bodies there, we create an inviting atmosphere in which students can get going and spurn procrastination!”

LNAP happens once each term, and can sometimes make a huge difference in a student’s relationship to their studies. Bryn Athyn Senior, Cat Kirk, says, “I really like that the teachers come to study with us. I was almost failing calculus, and then at LNAP my teacher helped me understand something I’d been really stuck on. I passed my exam, and I ended up getting a B in the class!”

Initiatives like this may seem like fun little blips in a long year, but as such programming takes hold, these activities can most certainly contribute and lead to higher satisfaction rates in the student body. Junior Dan Uber says, “Mostly I go to lend support, but I always end up getting some kind of help in return in a way I didn’t expect.”

Spring Term LNAP:

Tuesday, April 11 from 7:30pm until 2am

 

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Career Olympics Crowns a Winner

At the recent Bryn Athyn College academic awards ceremony, the champions of the career olympics were crowned. The competition began in October, when the office of career education and development organized a college-wide job preparation workshop.

Part of this event included forming teams, each taking on a country’s name, and working to fulfill a checklist of tasks together– things like creating or updating resumes, making LinkedIn profiles, and participating in a mock interview session with area professionals. In the last round of competition, the top five teams were invited to create a video that could be used to show prospective employers why that team should be hired.

The gold medal winners, representing team Djibouti, were: Luke David, Calvin Heinrichs, Zachary Odhner, Janina Smith, Derek Buss, Phoenix Fritch, and Justin Ball. Check out their award-winning video here!

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