by Grace Lim and Morgan Counts
Druscilla Scribner found political science on the side of the road between San Salvador and La Libertad in El Salvador. It was spring of 1992 and the small Central American country was nearing the end of its civil war. Barely two months out of college, Scribner and a friend talked their way out of some tight spots as they made their way from the capital to the coast. They had already traveled
|Dr. Druscilla Scribner with sons Jack and August and husband, Dallas, on a family grip to Tanzania in 2012.|
“We had spent two increasingly troubling days in San Salvador explaining to authorities why we were there; and we were finally leaving the city with our visas extended by three days, enough time to make it to the border by bus,” Scribner recalled. through the poorest and most troubled countries of the region.
The rural poverty she saw was eye-opening, unparalleled to anything she has seen before and since. She saw families cultivating the shoulder and ditches along two-lane highways that run alongside the barbed wire-fence of coffee estates. She saw patches of withering corn stalks, the occasional squash or bean vines, makeshift shacks. For Scribner, then all of 22, that was what she called her “coming to political science” moment.
“Poverty, inequality, stark concentration of wealth and land: these issues had political roots – an intertwining of economic, political, and social power and privilege that doomed many economic development efforts to failure.”
It was one of those “a-ha” moments that she would later hope her political science students at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh would one day experience.
To read the entire story, please down the Druscilla Scribner PDF.
by Morgan Counts
Student Multimedia Reporter
a passion for science
When he is teaching Elementary and Secondary Science Methods to future teachers, Eric Brunsell knows he does not have to try to instill in them a love for helping kids. They all have that. “They are in it to make a positive difference in the lives of kids,” said Brunsell, an associate professor in the College of Education and Human Services Department of Curriculum and Instruction at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh.
What is less apparent is the students’ passion for science. His students may enjoy many aspects of the various subjects they will have to teach, but, for them, science can be as hit and miss as subjects like math.
Dr. Eric Brunsell helping second-graders explore properties of air at the Walworth Balbour American International School in Even Yehurda, Israel. (January 2013)
Just like not every future teacher in his class loves science, Brunsell stresses that not every one their future students will become a scientist. His students’ job is not to turn them into scientists, but rather focus on their primary goal as a teacher: to have a positive impact. “What you want to do is to keep the doors open for students to find their own path in life.”
To read the entire story, please down the Eric Brunsell PDF.
Dr. Eric Hiatt, an professor in the Department of Geology at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh, shared his research with colleagues at the Dean's Symposium in December, 2011.
This is a description of his talk “Climate Change From a Geologic Perspective: A Story Written in Stone” :
The Earth has an immense history that is recorded in sediments and rocks. This four billion-year record represents all but the first half billion years of Earth history, and includes changes that the Earth has undergone during the co-evolution of the geosphere and biosphere. Evolution of life has led to many major changes in the atmosphere and oceans—some catastrophic, and others more subtle. The biosphere and geosphere continue to be intimately involved in the global climate system. Both, in combination with changes in insolation, play fundamental roles in controlling the global climate system of Earth. The public has an awareness of global climate through debates in the media and sweeping generalizations that are regularly made, which are centered on the role humans are playing in the global climate system. Recent scientific studies, however, have elucidated the relative roles that natural processes relative to human activity play in current climate change. These findings further dispel the misleading perception that human-influenced climate change is a matter of debate among scientists. This presentation will provide an introduction to the importance of the geosphere and biosphere in the global climate system, and highlight the critical importance of creating climate-literate students.
The following is Dr. Hiatt's presentation. (Shot by Wayne Abler of UW Oshkosh Learning Technologies.)
Photos by student multimedia reporter Brad Beck.
by Grace Lim
COLS Special Reports
Teaching by Doing
Filmmakers make films.
Those three words could sum up Troy Perkins' teaching mission at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh, where he is an associate professor in the radio-TV-film department.
Perkins is aware that most film programs insist on students producing a film of their own as a rite of passage. However, he is also aware of the great difference in quality between student-produced films and professionally produced films.
A director's vision: Filmmaker Troy Perkins discusses a scene with actor Justin Bricco in the film Brothers, which is about a farm family grappling with the decision to sell their home.
His solution to bridge the quality chasm? Put his students on production sets where they learn from and work alongside industry professionals. With real deadlines and tight budgets, he says, students can truly experience the highs and lows of a professional film production.
"Sure, it would be a lot easier working with just professionals," says Perkins, who has written and directed Tractor For Sale (2006), Brothers (2008) and recently finished production on two new short films Birthday Girl (2010) and Billfold (2010). "But I see us having a profound impact on the students when they go off and do their own productions. They are so much better prepared for the professional world just by working on some of these productions."
Perkins' gambit has paid off. The summer faculty/student professional collaborative productions have been showcased at national and regional festivals and won numerous awards including a Gold Remi from Worldfest Houston, a Faculty Juried Screening Finalist Award at the 2008 UFVA National Conference and the Central Wisconsin Film Fest Audience Award. Brothers has also been an Official Selection at the Charlotte Film Festival, Minneapolis/St. Paul Int'l Film Festival and the 2009 Sedona Int’l Film Festival.
In an interview with COLS Special Reports producer Grace Lim, Troy Perkins, filmmaker and associate professor at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh, talks about how collaborating with his students on professional films has affected his teaching and filmmaking and what he has in store for future productions.
The video is also available for download to your iPod through UW Oshkosh iTunesU (requires iTunes).
Working and Learning Together
His advocacy for such collaborations is borne of his own undergraduate experience in the very department where he is now teaching. "What I remember the most was the opportunity that radio-TV-film provided me to get on productions and to work with advanced students immediately," says Perkins, who graduated from UW Oshkosh in 1994 and earned his M.F.A. in Film Production from the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University. He then worked for several years in New York City and Milwaukee on independent features, music videos, television, commercials, corporate videos, and concert tour video and animation design for Tina Turner, Janet Jackson, and the Beastie Boys.
Students at work: Sound recordist Jon Stricklin captures actress Liz Lohuis's footsteps for the short film Brothers (2008).
Now as the coordinator of the RTF department, Perkins aims to keep the tradition of collaborative learning going. "Hey, if you are a student, and you want to see what it's like to be on a film set, be in a studio television production, work in a radio station, you can get involved immediately."
RTF student Brittney Berna appreciates the real-world experience that Perkins brings to class. She says instructors who lack real-world know-how suffer from what she calls the "driver's ed syndrome," or all theory but little application. "You get the classroom portion of driver's ed," she says, "but until you get the hands-on behind-the-wheel thing, that's when you can really pass along that knowledge."
A Love for Stories
Growing up in Medina, Wis., a tiny rural one-stop-sign town 30
minutes north of Oshkosh, Perkins didn't dream of becoming the next
Scorcese or Spielberg. The love for films and filmmaking came later. He
grew up honing the art of good storytelling.
"I grew up in a family of farmers, and they all happen to be really good storytellers," he says. "I just spent a lot of time with them. I was lucky that way."
When he left Wisconsin for graduate school in the Big Apple, Perkins described that move as "an awakening." While he appreciated what the big city had to offer, he longed for the comforts, sights and sounds of home. "When I moved to New York City, I realized almost immediately that I wanted to move back to the Midwest," he says. "It was at that that time there that I truly appreciated being from Wisconsin and what Wisconsin has to offer."
His film professors also helped him see the value of what he had left
behind. "They said, 'You've had an unique experience because most of
our students are coming from the coasts, coming from the East coast or
coming from California, but your experience growing up in rural northern
Wisconsin, that is unique.'"
He took their words to heart. "I wanted to develop real characters that I knew growing up and that people in the Midwest could relate to, instead of the Hollywood version, which is usually a stereotype," he says. "It was really exciting to develop these personal stories and these personal films but yet turn it into collaboration with our students."
Trailer for "Brothers"
three farm brothers face an uncertain future as they confront a landscape that is rapidly changing around them.
22 Minutes - Color
written & directed by Troy Perkins
starring: Justin Bricco, Jon Hanusa, Jeff Straus, John Koker, Liz Lohuis, Fran St. Andre
| Sonja (right) and Eve (left) Funnell with their illustrations for the book series "The Adventures of Henry."
By Noell Dickmann
Student Multimedia reporter
Not many people can say they have published a book by the age of 21. Sonja Funnell, however, can say she has three under her belt. The UW Oshkosh senior works as an illustrator for a series of children’s books called "The Adventures of Henry." She’s already done three of the seven books in the series. Her sister, Eve Funnell, is also working on the series. The UW Oshkosh sophomore has already completed one book and is currently working on a second.
The books are based on bedtime stories created by Henry Anderson, son of UW Oshkosh alumni Darrin Anderson (MBA 2010). Henry passed away in 2009 at age 3 of a disease called Bruton’s X-linked Agammaglobulinemia (XLA). The Andersons created the series to honor their late son. When they needed an illustrator for the books, they went back to their alma mater and discovered the talents of Sonja and Eve.
The situation works out well on both ends. Both Sonja and Eve are in artistic majors, and Darrin Anderson is thrilled to have found them. He says, “Both Eve and Sonja have done a remarkable job at taking my son's stories and creating an illustrated visual adventure series. I have found working with them to be the best thing I have done.”
The Adventures of Henry series can be found at House of Heroes, Paper Tiger, Klassy Kids, and Turn Key Auto (all located in Oshkosh) as well as the series website: www.adventuresofhenry.com
In this audio-only podcast, student multimedia reporter Noell Dickmann sits with Sonja
and Eve Funnell to discuss how their foray into the publishing world. Original music by Noell Dickmann.
|FROM the EDITOR:
As an editor and journalism instructor, I often hear this from well-meaning people: “Hey, you and your students should do a story on fill-in-the-blank.”
More often than not, the idea falls flat as a story because of several things - it lacks focus, it lacks purpose, it lacks heart. That wasn’t the case when Dr. Teri Shors, a biology and microbiology professor at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh, told me about her biology student Sitha Thor. She told me about Sitha’s goal to document the “green medicine” that is used by Hmong people for health, wellbeing and healing and to screen the dried roots/bark and plants for antiviral properties in a virology laboratory.
Read more here.
From the mountains of Laos to the labs at UW Oshkosh
by Emily Romatoski and Dan Hager
He peers intently into the microscope, hoping to see quantifiable evidence in the traditional healing plants, roots and bark used by his parents and their parents and their parents.
|Sitha Thor waters plants in a greenhouse.|
These are steps that could very well help preserve the Hmong culture. Through these methodical steps that University of Wisconsin Oshkosh biology major Sitha Thor discovered a link between his family’s spiritual culture and the science that is the focus of his desired future as a research scientist or physician. This link reaffirmed what he had thought his whole life: Hmong herbs and plants have healing powers.
When Sitha works with the samples, he does not see only a few leaves or roots; he sees the stories of his family’s journey to America.
As Sitha slices apart the herb, his mind drifts to his family’s past. The slicing of the herbs reminds him of how his ancestors’ lives were torn apart by a war that they barely understood.
The Secret War
During the Vietnam War, the U.S. recruited, armed and trained Hmong men to fight what is now known as the Secret War in Laos against the rise of Communism and North Vietnamese. However, when the Vietnam War ended, and the Americans left the region, Laos fell into Communist hands. The Hmong were left to fend for themselves, against a regime set on eradicating the Hmong people. Many, including Sitha’s great--grandparents, perished as they fled from the Viet-Cong. The jungles became a new capricious home of sorts, sometimes welcoming, other times, with the Viet-Cong in pursuit, frightening. However, it was in this new home among the lush greenery that offered healing powers and became a welcomed tradition in the Thor family.
Sitha learned the role the herbs and plants played in his family’s survival through the stories of his parents’ escape from the Communists in the jungles. Sitha’s mother explained that, because of the Viet-Cong pressure, her family had to flee into the jungles with only the clothes on their backs. They had no time to gather any prized possessions, or much of anything. As a result many people fell ill in the unforgiving jungles. Rashes and fevers became a common occurrence in these makeshift jungle villages. It was at this time the refugees turned to herbal remedies to survive.
“One of them knew what kind of plants might help to ease those conditions and they actually used some plants from the wild,” Sitha said. “Those plants saved a lot of lives.”
Sitha grinds samples from the herbs. He destroys the herbs, as the Viet-Cong once tried to do his family.
Survival was the first part of much tougher journey that ground down the Hmongs’ spirits and beliefs. The daily grind of life was given a new meaning. Sitha reflects on all of his parents’ sacrifices. “It makes me have more insight and gives me more motivation of what I’m doing to make sure I made use of myself so it wouldn’t waste my parents’ effort of going through all that,” he said.
These herbs opened the gateway for many Hmongs to survive and to gather the strength to escape.
Sitha sets up his experiment just as his parents set up a new life for the family in America. Sitha’s experiment will open new doors for future Hmong just as his parents’ journey did for him. His efforts in preserving his culture will pose a long journey, but that is nothing new for the Thor family, who live in Appleton, Wis., where Sitha, his wife and children share a large duplex with his parents and other extended family members.
Sitha can’t fathom how different this world of easily attainable food, shelter and comfort is to his parents and older relatives who have moved to the Fox Valley from Southeast Asia. For years, Sitha knew few details of his parents’ hard lives during the Vietnam War. He knows of their escaping to Thailand. Sitha’s mother, then with three young children, was eight months pregnant when the family fled Laos. Tragically, she lost the baby before it came to term. She blames the death on the lack of food and the constant struggle to find drinking water. “It was a boy,” Sitha said.
As Sitha’s mom tells the story, her face remains impassive. She talks of the treacherous rainy season in Thailand, where the Hmongs were placed in refugee camps. Drops from the sky represent the tears shed for what was lost and left behind. Sitha is often reminded of his mother’s tears when he waters the herbs and plants in the University greenhouse on the top floor of Halsey Science Center.
|One of many plants Sitha Thor studies.|
Coming to America
In 1986, more than 11 years after the Vietnam War, Sitha’s family joined a third wave of Hmong refugees to come to America. It was in this wave of refugees, when some of the Thor family herbs crossed into the American Territory, packed in banana leaves. The Thor family first landed in Seattle, Washington and then moved to Wisconsin in 1987. They’ve lived in Appleton since 1999. Sitha’s dad, Cherpheng, and mom, Seng, and their eight children joined other members of the Thor (also known as the Thao) clan which number about 300 in the Fox Valley.
Sitha peers through the microscope at the herb’s effects towards the viruses. He remembers observing his mother using herbs as a treatment in his past, when he was feeling ill (from a fever of many days) at from his pre-teen years to present.
It was at this early time that Sitha’s mother made him truly recognize the healing powers of the plants, bark and herbs. In Hmong, such remedies are called Tshuaj Ntsuab, which is loosely translated in English, “green medicine.”
Sitha’s mother would boil the tea and have Sitha drink the remedy. At the same time she would massage his body with the herbs believing the bad blood would be forced out. She would then poke his finger with a needle releasing one or two drops of this bad blood. “The interesting thing is that every time she does that, I get better,” Sitha said.
Even then, the healing powers of these herbs fascinated Sitha. These herbs were an integral part of Sitha’s life, yet he had very little understanding of their healing powers. His beliefs were based off what he was told and the effects he felt after using the herbs. His mother is known as an herbalist in the Hmong community. Her “green medicine” comes from her garden. Some dried roots and bark come from the mountains of Southeast Asia and are carefully stored in plastic bags. Her knowledge was passed from her parents, who learned from others and from a network of other Hmong herbalists. For Sitha’s mom, there is a remedy for practically any malady. And all it takes is a special herbal tea or specially made chicken soup.
Taking a Closer Look
Sitha never even thought to study the herbs until Dr. Teri Shors, biology and microbiology professor at UW Oshkosh, suggested he do so. Shors introduced Sitha to the McNair Scholarship program, a federally funded program at UW Oshkosh that aims to encourage underrepresented groups such as first generation college students or minorities to continue to graduate level studies. It is through this program that Sitha’s dedication to culture and passion for science crossed paths.
Terri Shors encourages students to take on research projects for reasons more than to bolster resumes.
Read her story here.
As Sitha holds these herbs, he cannot help but be thankful for the sacrifices that were made by his family that led to the opportunity afforded to his studies today. Sitha collected the plants, herbs and roots from his mother and several aunts and uncles. Sitha’s mother fears that these sacrifices have been made for nothing as she feels the tradition of herbal healing will die with her generation. “It makes me sad inside to hear that from her,” Sitha said.
Sitha records the results of his experiment. The recording of these results not only benefits science but also the Hmong history. A history of oral beliefs has the possibility to be written into scientific proof.
Sitha began studying his family’s herbs in Fall 2011 and was excited to form a collaborative project between the traditional healing practices of the Hmong culture and modern advances of Western science. “I feel that I get a chance to have a deeper understanding about the values of the Hmong medicine... and also the Western views of some of these beliefs,” Sitha said.
Put to the Test
In order to build this bridge, Sitha must undergo the tedious task of a repetitious experimental process. He first slices the fruit or plant he wishes to test. After, he grinds the sliced sample to a pulpy mixture that resembles minced garlic. He then sets the pulpy mixture into a sample tray.
Sitha leaves the lab and walks down a long hallway to retrieve the Vaccinia virus, a virus similar to smallpox (other viruses used were Influenza H1N1 virus and Herpes Simplex Virus 1). He then must return to the lab and flash boil the virus to prepare it for the experiment.
He must now measure four precise but different concentrations of the herb to be pitted against the virus in a battle similar to Rocky Balboa vs. Apollo Creed in Rocky; the unknown underdog Hmong herbs versus the powerhouse Vaccinia virus.
Sitha must now watch four rounds of this battle. He watches hoping his herbs stand their ground against a virus with a renowned reputation for destruction. The venue for this battle: the African Green Monkey Cell, a cell that has the potential to relate humans to other mammals. The African Green Monkey Cell acts as a different type of boxing ring. Instead of the fighting being merely in the ring, the fight is for the ring; the virus fighting for the destruction and the herb fighting for its preservation.
The first round, the least level of concentrated herb, is overtaken by the virus. This virus’ domination over the herb is illustrated by the holes it punches through the ring. The next two rounds see a small reverberation of the underdog herb. Despite the herb’s improvements the virus still stands stronger.
In the fourth round, the Hedychium coronarium herb rallies back with a vengeance. The virus does not stand a chance against some of these prepared Hmong herbs that are backed by thousands of years of Hmong tradition and supported by millions of Hmong people.
Sitha observes this victory when the Hedychium coronarium herb he tested knocks out the Vaccinia virus. A victory for Sitha’s herbs meant a victory in the revival of the Hmong culture. As Sitha sees the positive results of the experiment, he cheers in his head. This cheer is not just for Sitha though, it is for the many Hmong people who have used and continue to use these natural healing methods.
Sitha records this victory in the books.
Sitha cleans his station and chooses the next fruit or plant sample to test. He must tediously repeat this experiment. Repetition is nothing new to Sitha. This entire understanding of the Hmong culture is based on the retelling of an oral history. Sitha hopes to preserve this history by transforming the oral beliefs into a scientific written document.
It is imperative to the Hmong culture that Sitha records the Hmong tradition not only to preserve the history but also to further its endeavors in the future. Sitha has two children with his wife, Sandy, a UW Oshkosh student studying social work.
Their son, Kaio, 7, and daughter, Kyla, 2, are two major forces behind Sitha's determination. He feels these plants can foster the continued practice of the Hmong culture by younger generations in the Thor family.
"At some point my children or their grandchildren will be wondering about their grandparents or great-grandparents about their origin" Sitha said. "These plants can tell us a lot about the past."
So until this gap is bridged and until the tradition of these herbs are preserved, Sitha's journey will continue forward.
Update: As of March 2013, Sitha Thor has grown approximately 80 plants from his mom and relatives in the University greenhouse. He has tested over 70 herbs, plants and bark. More than a dozen have shown anti-viral properties. Sitha plans to attend graduate school in Fall 2013 at an institution that will allow him to continue his research on "green medicine." Sitha is also a recipient of the Chancellor's Award for Excellence for Spring 2013.
|Sitha Thor’s mom Seng Vang Thor is an herbalist in the Hmong community. She is the mother of 10 and the grandmother of 17. Her garden, host to many of her “green medicines”, reminds her of the home she left more than 25 years ago. When she brings out the tools of her trade – roots, bark, herbs – she smiles, remembering a happier past in a place that exists now only in her memory. Read her story here.
|Sitha Thor’s aunt Ma Xiong Thao is a shaman, a healer, who lives in Appleton, Wis., with her husband, Chong Ge Thao, and their children and grandchildren. In this interview, Ma Xiong shares the long arduous journey she took to become a spiritual healer in the Hmong community. Read her story here.
|A prominent Hmong clan leader now living in Appleton, Wis., Chong Ge Thao lives life by leading the Hmong community and volunteering time to guide his clan in a positive religious path. However, Chong Ge did not always live in the land of the free. He was born in a small village named Hoi Thah. By the age of 6, he was working on the family farm to help his family make a living. When Laos was targeted by the North Vietnamese during the Vietnam War, Thao became a young soldier, fighting for the Communists. As a child, Chong Ge played a Chinese musical instrument called a qeej, which is made of bamboo pipes and a hardwood blowing tube, and sounds similar to bagpipes. Thao now plays the qeej during Hmong ceremonies throughout the Fox Valley. Read his story here.
|Sitha Thor’s aunt Bee Xiong contributed the most samples to his research. In her home in Appleton, Wis., home are two tables covered in plants. The bigger, older plants are planted in their own containers; the smaller plants and sprouts are individually planted in Styrofoam cups. Bee learned her gardening ways from her parents in Laos, a skill she hopes she can pass to her own children. Read her story here.
|Ya Mee Xiong is the soft-spoken, great-aunt of Sitha Thor. She lives comfortably with her family in Appleton, Wis. In her charming home full of family portraits and lively grandchildren, she reminisced on the longest journey of her life. Ya Mee was born in 1924 in Xab Maj Phwv Tees, a quiet mountainside village in Laos, located in Southeast Asia between Thailand and Vietnam. She was the third youngest of four brothers and four sisters. In this rural area, she did not go to school. Instead, she became accustomed to her family’s traditions and practices—gardening. Her entire family practiced gardening and found it to be essential to sustaining their lives. Read her story here.
A photo of Greg Gibbons, who is featured in the War: Through Their Eyes, Warriors & Nurses student multimedia project
The Heat of War
Rifle in hand, gaze unwavering, Greg Gibbons marches in formation for a Veterans Day ceremony, held at the Winnebago County Courthouse. As he marches, his hands, strong and sure, grip the rifle, much as he did 40 years ago when he was a Navy Hospital Corpsman with the Marines. Left. Left. Left, right, left.
Gibbons knows the routine. He is among the newest members of the United Veteran Honor Guard, a unit made up of area veterans that is called to perform military honors to the passing of fellow U.S. veterans or ceremonies such as the one at the courthouse. Since retiring in 2010 from Mercy Medical Center in Oshkosh as a nurse, Gibbons has performed more than a dozen such ceremonies in Winnebago County.
Each ceremony is different, yet the same. Each soldier that he helps honor had once been a vital patriotic American fighting for the country’s freedoms.
Although it has been more than four decades since Gibbons, now 64, had boots on the ground in Vietnam, he can still recall the distinct odor of swamp, sweat and fear.
To download the entire story, please download this PDF.
|In this video, Greg Gibbons talks about the weather in Vietnam, the amount of care taking in his role as a hospital corpsman and one of the positive experiences he had while deployed.
War: Through Their Eyes, Vol. 2, Warriors & Nurses, a student/faculty multimedia project that focuses on the veterans in the College of Nursing at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh. Warriors & Nurses are the stories of the students and alumni who have seen war in the jungles of Vietnam to the deserts in the Middle East, and yet have found their way into a field of healing.
To read the entire 80-page book, please download this PDF. Warning, it is a large file.
About Dr. Teri Shors
Dr. Teri Shors is an associate professor with the Department of Biology and Microbiology at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh. Prior to her arrival at UW Oshkosh in 1997, she served two years as a postdoctoral fellow at the National Institutes of Health, in Bethesda, Maryland, under the direction of Dr. Bernard Moss, Chief of the Laboratory of Viral Diseases, National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases. Her research training/specialy has been in the field of poxviruses. She is a leading virologist and the author of Understanding Viruses, a comprehensive introduction to human viral diseases.
In an interview with Grace Lim (audio only), Dr. Shors talks about her fascination with viruses and why pigs are getting a bad rap.
The following podcast is also available for download to your iPod through UW Oshkosh iTunesU (requires iTunes).
Top Ten Things Everyone Should Know About the H1N1 swine flu virus
- This is not 1918. We know the influenza virus causes the swine flu.
- We have a better understanding and the technology to identify and prevent influenza infections than we did in 1918.
- This is not doomsday!
- UW-Oshkosh Influenza Study
- The reason being is because this H1N1 pandemic strain did not come from or evolve only within a pig. You can’t get infected by eating pork or contact with pigs. This particular strain of H1N1 didn’t just come from pigs. Wild birds and humans also played a role in its creation. This H1N1 virus is a mutt of a virus which contains genetic material from influenza viruses that have infected pigs, birds and humans.
- The virus is easily transmissible among humans.
- Follow the British commercial: Catch it. Bin it. Kill it.
- Vaccines protect you against the viral infection!
- Vaccines take at least two weeks to boost the immune system.
- Associated Press video on President Obama and the swine flu vaccine
- Teri Shors Faculty Web page
- Understanding Viruses
Teri Shors, PhD, University of Wisconsin - Oshkosh, Wisconsin
- Virus Estudio molecular con orientacion clinica
Teri Shors, PhD, University of Wisconsin - Oshkosh, Wisconsin
- Flu Planning in Oshkosh
Bio 315/515 Class Assignment, directed by Dr. Teri Shors
- Merck·AAAS Undergraduate Science Research Program at UW Oshkosh
- 1918 Influenza: A Winnebago County, Wisconsin
Perspective by Teri Shors, PhD in Clinical Medical & Research Journal
by Ron Basler
Student Multimedia Reporter
setting the online course
In 1996, the dean of the College of Business at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh approached J. Ben Arbaugh, then a junior faculty member, with a challenge: create the first fully online course that would provide the same quality education of a traditional classroom.
This was before Facebook. This was before Google.
Arbaugh’s online education experience at that time was limited to reading journal articles about this type of education delivery. He jumped at the chance. “Everything I had read at the time said this would be the wave of the future,” he says. “I concluded I could not afford not to be a part of this.”
At the Faculty Scholarship Recognition Luncheon: Dr. J. Ben Arbaugh, a John McNaughton Rosebush Professorship recipient, chats with Linda Freed, Director of the Office of Grants & Faculty Development.
The class Strategic Thinking, a 1.5 credit course, with 25 graduate students began summer of 1997. As with any new venture, Arbaugh had to work out the kinks involving the inordinate amount of time spent to prepare for a new way of teaching and learning. Since that first class, the College of Business has expanded its online offerings to eight MBA courses on a rotating basis, as well as almost two dozen electives each semester.
UW Oshkosh business professor Alan Hartman, the then-dean of the College of Business, credits Arbaugh with much of the College’s online education success. “I do not think the faculty would have accepted online delivery if he had not shown its effectiveness,” Hartman says, adding that the College was one of the first AACSB (Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business) accredited schools in the area to offer classes online. “I remember being at a meeting of Midwest business deans in 1997 when someone asked who was offering classes online—two deans raised their hands, Whitewater’s dean and me.”
Since 1994, Arbaugh has been teaching students on- and off-line about project management and international entrepreneurship. He is a five-time Academy of Management Division best paper award winner. He authored Online and Blended Business Education for the 21st Century (2010) and co-edited Student Satisfaction and Learning Outcome in E-Learning: An Introduction to Empirical Research (2011). In the fall of 2011, Arbaugh was awarded the John McNaughton Rosebush Professorship Award, the highest award for faculty at UW Oshkosh.
Using Business Sense
Born to a longtime grocery store owner and a customer service representative in South Charleston, W. Va., Arbaugh had little idea which career path he’d take after college.
He did know this: he did not want to go into the family business of running a grocery store, where he spent much of his mid-to-late teen years working as a bagger. However, he did learn a valuable lesson while working for his dad. “When I was at work I needed to be fully at work,” he says. “That idea was instilled in me by working in my father’s business.”
When Arbaugh attended Marshall University in Huntington, W. Va., he first focused on computer science. He soon switched to management and thought about a career in academia after taking a class from a certain economics professor. “[He] was the first professor I’d observed that made the idea of being a professor seem attractive,” says Arbaugh, who remembers the professor’s relaxed teaching style and ability to convey content in an engaging way. After Arbaugh earned his bachelor’s in business administration in 1984, he briefly worked for the Kmart Corporation and then was accepted into the U.S. Air Force officer training school.
While serving, Arbaugh worked as a project manager in weapons systems acquisitions logistics at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base near Dayton, Ohio. Arbaugh’s job was to manage equipment that supported the Maverick anti-tank missile system by working with
civilian contractors. The Maverick, which is still in service today, is a guided air-to-surface missile used primarily to destroy tanks.
“I was doing project management before project management was cool,” Arbaugh says. After serving four years Arbaugh decided to leave the Air Force as a first lieutenant to pursue an academic career. Arbaugh attended graduate school at Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio, earning his master’s in business administration in 1989 and received his doctorate from Ohio State University in 1994. That same year he came to UW Oshkosh. Three years later, he designed and taught the first fully online class for the College of Business.
Leveling the Learning Field
Through the years, Arbaugh knows there are education skeptics who say that online courses cannot truly replace the traditional classroom experience. Those people, Arbaugh says, “are uninformed.” Research has shown evidence to the contrary, he says.
Online courses offer benefits that are often missing in traditional classroom settings, he says. “Classroom discussion often awards those who are the loudest or who gets their hand up quickest rather than the ones with the most reasoned and thought-through response,” he says.
For students participating in online discussions, everyone gets a shot at being heard.
The online setting allows Arbaugh to use a wider variety of resources that can be found on the web. As with regular classroom discussions, Arbaugh may have to deal with students who go off-topic during class, but that is all right with him. In many ways, he says, those moments initiate further learning.
For example, a student in his Personal and Professional Development graduate course recently mentioned the book Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand. In response, Arbaugh posted an article that presented an alternative view of the book in hopes that students will realize the importance of seeing things from multiple perspectives. As the author or co-author of more than 50 refereed journal articles, Arbaugh often shares his research findings with his students. “If we as instructors aren’t drawing from the learning and education research in our respective fields, then how are we advancing things beyond?” he says.
A Researcher’s Mind
His colleague Barbara Rau, professor of human resources at UW Oshkosh, says the students have benefited greatly from Arbaugh’s scholarly work. “As a teacher, Ben has excelled in online instruction by taking what he has learned from his research and incorporating it into the online classroom,” she says. “He truly cares about improving management education not just for himself, but for all of us who teach in this field—always keeping in mind that it is the students who ultimately have the most to gain from these improvements.”
Alvin Hwang, chair of the International Business Programs and professor of management at Pace University in New York, agrees. “Dr. Arbaugh is an authority on hybrid learning research with many publications in top management and educational journals today,” says Hwang, who has co-authored numerous papers with Arbaugh.
Spending Time with Family: Dr. J. Ben Arbaugh volunteering with his family at his son's football game.
“He is held in high esteem by many academic professionals in the Academy of Management, Decision Sciences Institute and various other educational bodies that have recognized his contributions to hybrid learning research and use of technologies in education.”
In addition to his teaching duties and research, Arbaugh has served as editor of the Academy of Management Learning and Education Journal, a highly esteemed journal whose mission is to advance the knowledge and practice of management learning and education. After December of 2011 Arbaugh will step down as editor, fulfilling his three-year term. He still plans to be part of the journal as a contributor.
Teaching Life Lessons
Arbaugh doesn’t have complex teaching objectives. “I teach students how to think for themselves, think about their lives, and to consider how they might apply and improve project management practice in their organizations,” he says.
For a graduate course, Arbaugh has students write a Professional Needs Assessment and Development Plan, a living document of what they need to do to achieve their goals or dream jobs. For this project Arbaugh is not a teacher, but a life coach for his students. “They’re not course assignments but rather they are goals and objectives for the whole of life, both professionally and personally.”
He cautions his students who take their plans too seriously and feel letdown if they fail to achieve their goals within a certain time frame. “A former pastor that I had made a comment once that people tend to overestimate what they can do in a year, but underestimate what they can do in a decade.”
To the students, who try to cram everything in the first 12–18 months, Arbaugh asks,“ Why are you in such a hurry? Is it going to kill you if it waits a year before it gets done?”
When asked if he had written such a plan years ago, he laughs and shakes his head. “It would not have looked like what I am now.”
He is grateful for the opportunities afforded to him as a professor and management education scholar. He says he could not have achieved as much as he has without the help of his wife, Paula. “I would not have been able to do what I have done [professionally] without her stabilizing hand on the home front,” he says.
When Arbaugh is not teaching or doing research, he enjoys spending as much time with his family as he can. He volunteers as the score/time keeper for 8-year-old son Aidan’s football games, where he sits in the press box with his other sons Alex, 13, and Addison,11.
Arbaugh has no regrets in choosing the path he has taken. As he looks at all his professional accomplishments, he says aside from his family, “the things I am most proud of are things that get translated back to the College of Business.”
Student reporter Isaac Federspiel also contributed to this report.
In this podcast, Dr. J. Ben Arbaugh discusses his book titled "Online and Blended Business Education." Produced by Ron Basler.
by Grace Lim and Jay Vickery
scaling mt. trashmore
On this day, James Feldman and his students will climb atop Winnebago County’s tallest peak. It isn’t too windy; it’s also not too hot. The students may not appreciate those weather details yet, but Feldman knows, they soon will.
On this day, Feldman is teaching his students a lesson that cannot be replicated in the classroom. He has taken his Campus Sustainability class to the Winnebago County Landfill. “There is no more tangible way to understand the problems that we have with waste management, and the problems that we have with over-consumption than by standing at the top of highest point of Winnebago County,” says Feldman, an associate professor of Environmental Studies and History at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh. “This is the tangible place to experience what it means to consume like an American.”
Dr. James Feldman with students at the base of the Winnebago County Landfill.
At the base of the landfill, the students pile into two vans to follow a waste management worker in a pickup truck up and up the mountain of trash, which measures about 135 feet high or as tall as a 12-story building. When they get to the peak, the students, usually a chatty bunch, stand silent, taking in the sight before them—trash and more trash. The lunar-like landscape made up of monochromatic specks of brown stretches across the horizon. Flocks of seagulls search for food among giant bulldozers compressing the ever-growing amount of waste.
Students’ reactions vary from those who turn green, repulsed and unable to stand the stench to those who are excited to how trash is converted into methane gas. But the overall message is clear: The residents of Winnebago County produce a lot of trash.
“Standing on a mountain of trash and seeing all the junk that’s there and smelling the junk, it’s such a powerful experience,” Feldman says. “It’s really an instructive way to spend a class period.”
Since 2004, Feldman has been teaching students to think critically about complex problems that face the world. He is a charter member of the Campus Sustainability Council and co-author of the Campus Sustainability Plan, a comprehensive plan to guide the University’s sustainability initiatives. He is also a 2011 Edward M. Penson Distinguished Teaching Award winner and the author of A Storied Wilderness: The Rewilding the Apostle Islands, which was released in spring of 2011. For the school year 2011-2012, Feldman is on sabbatical, conducting research on his next project—the history and sustainability of radioactive waste management.
History and the Great Outdoors
Born to an attorney and a social worker, Feldman always had an affinity for history and nature. He never lacked ideas for grade school essays because he could always find something to write about relating to either topic. His love for the good earth and all her stories was further cemented when he went to Camp Nebagamon in Northern Wisconsin as a youth. “We would go canoeing and hiking,” he recalls. “I just loved those kinds of trips.”
While majoring in history at Amherst College in Massachusetts, Feldman returned to Camp Nebagamon every summer as a wilderness trip leader. It was that point he realized he could turn his passion for nature and history into a career. Feldman went to graduate school and earned his master’s degree in history at Utah State. After being awarded a Fulbright Scholarship in 1996, he spent 15 months in New Zealand studying environmental history and politics of the island country in the southwestern Pacific Ocean. His work not only dealt with environmental policy but historical questions as to how a treaty from1840 (Treaty of Waitangi) still affects New Zealand’s indigenous people today. It was in New Zealand that Feldman discovered how he could turn his interest in nature and history into social action. “The work that I did there really convinced me that there was a way to make historical research applicable to modern issues,” says Feldman, who earned his doctorate in American history from UW-Madison.
Lessons from the Past
Students, Feldman says, must study what has transpired to understand what is happening now to the environment. “Students come into the classroom assuming that history is history and doesn’t matter today,” he says.
The students soon learn how wrong their perceptions are. “We are today still wrestling with the same kinds of issues that people wrestled with 20, 50, 80 or 100 or 200 years ago,” Feldman says, adding that in his Environmental History class he challenges his students to look at landscape and cities from a historical perspective. “Why are cities set up the way that they are? Why are streets laid out the way they are?”
Critical examination on the students’ part may lead them to think about how to address current environmental issues. Kaci Worth, an environmental studies major with a minor in history, credits Feldman for making her aware about how the way she lives her life could have great consequences. “Jim stresses the importance of being an involved citizen and makes you think about how your actions impact the world in ways more complex and far-reaching than one would originally imagine,” she says.
Student Kyle Sandmire was so taken by Feldman’s History of the American Wilderness class that he plans to attend graduate school to further his environmental studies. “From Dr. Feldman’s class I learned how to critically analyze historical texts as well as finding connections between wilderness conservation efforts in the past as well present,” he says. “Dr. Feldman inspired me to always take a deeper look into any written claim to best develop my own opinion.”
Going Green: Dr. James Feldman has helped UW Oshkosh become a leader in sustainability.
Feldman thrives on that kind of student feedback. “One of the most exciting things about being a teacher is when you can see that your students are having that kind of A-ha! moment where they are getting it, where they are starting to look at things in a new way because of the things they are learning,” he says. “When I think about what I want my students to take out of my classes, it’s less about specific names and dates and places and much more about the big picture. There are huge problems out there that need to be solved—global warming, industrial agriculture, over-consumption and so on.”
Quite simply, Feldman would like his students to think critically, to see relationships among complicated issues. “If we can teach our students to think about how their own behavior and the behavior of their communities, their states, and their countries are fitting into the bigger picture, then we have started down the path toward change, change that will really make a difference,” he says. “We have started down the path toward sustainability.”
More than Being Green
For Feldman, sustainability means a lot more than simply being green or caring about nature. “Being sustainable means recognizing the interconnections between our environmental, social, and economic systems,” he says. “You don’t go to college to learn prescriptive behavior like ‘you should recycle more’ or ‘you should buy organic food.’ Sustainability needs to mean something more. To be sustainable, we need to learn to act in ways that are not just environmental responsible, but also in ways that make our communities socially just and economically secure.”
Trash and More Trashl: Dr. James Feldman near a pile of trash that will soon be put into the landfill.
To that end, Feldman has been a driving force in helping the University be as sustainable as possible. Since 2008, he has co-led three Winnebago Sustainability Projects, which are faculty development workshops to coach colleagues on infusing the concept of sustainability in their courses.
In April 2011, The Princeton Review listed
UW Oshkosh, for the second year in a row, in its “Guide to 311 Green Colleges,” a spotlight of colleges and universities in the United States and Canada “that demonstrate a strong commitment to sustainability in their academic offerings, campus infrastructure, activities, and career preparation.”
“I think there is no question we are the leader in the UW System,” Feldman says of the University’s sustainability initiatives. “I think we are one of the leaders in the country in the sense of the kind of school that we are.”
Though Feldman is passionate about sustainability, he is quick to point out his own shortcomings. “It’s easy to walk around and see examples of unsustainable behavior and bad behavior relative to the environment,” he says, adding, “but I have too many things that I have to change about myself for me to start getting judgmental about anybody else.”
One thing Feldman has to contend with is his commute to Oshkosh from his home in Madison where he lives with his wife Chris Taylor, who is an Assemblywoman for the 48th district, and their two young sons, Sam and Ben. “I have a long drive to work and emit carbon to go teach about global warming,” he says wryly. “Until I become perfect, I’m going to keep my soapbox pretty small.”
Feldman knows he risks leaving his students feeling powerless when confronted with society’s environmental ills. “These are stories about how we have taken this beautiful natural world and just driven it into the ground,” he says. “That’s a bear to teach, and it’s a bear to learn and you can see the students sometimes just getting beaten down.”
Feldman, however, helps his students combat that bleakness with ideas for social action. “I always like to end my classes with at least some discussion about what you can do or what needs to change,” he says.
Feldman, too, is doing his part to make the world a better sustainable place every time he steps into a classroom. “I have a chance to make a difference and the most direct way that I feel like I can do that is through my teaching.”
Student reporters Hannah Becker and Nate Cate also contributed to this report.
In this video, Professor Feldman discusses his work in environmental studies and his students share their experiences in his class. Produced by Hannah Becker and Nate Cate.
Understanding Group Identity and War Attitudes Among Service-Connected Civilians
Dr. James Krueger from the Department of Political Science shares his research at the first Fall 2011 Dean's Symposium at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh. His presentation examines attitudinal differences among civilians with and without a familial connection to the U.S. military. Differential support for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are used as evidence of an evolving group identity for these military families which is distinct from purely civilian families. Dr. Krueger also discusses the implications of this new identity for public opinion on other military as well as explicitly non-military issues.
Here is a copy of his slide presentation in PDF format.
The following is Dr. Krueger's (audio-only) presentation.
Photo credit: Shawn McAfee of the University's Learning Technologies.
By Grace Lim and Morgan Counts
Learn from Losing
It is difficult to think of Jennifer Considine as anything but optimistic. She oozes positivity. Even when a photographer asks her to look serious for a few shots, she tries but fails spectacularly. Her irrepressible grin tugs at the corners of her mouth. The hint of a smile soon gives way to full-blown heaving guffaws. Before long, everyone, including the photographer, laughs along.
Dr. Jennifer Considine with her sons Isiah, 3, and Isaac, 5.
This is why the story Considine, an associate professor of Communication Studies at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh, tells about her first major speech is such a delight.
“When I was in fifth grade I gave a speech to the Optimists Club. I cried through the whole thing because I was so nervous,” she said with smile. “Yes, I gave a speech about optimism while crying.”
As Considine tells the story, her tears weren’t only anxiety driven, they were equal parts outrage. The other competitors, several years older and in high school, weren’t following the rules, which stated that entrants had to memorize their speech. But after watching the older kids read their entries, Considine, who did memorize her speech, took to the stage and promptly burst into tears. “It felt very unfair, and I cried through the whole thing.”
If Considine’s story had been made into an after-school TV special, her tear-ridden speech would have won over the judges who would have rightfully disqualified the other contestants. But it wasn’t feel-good TV, and Considine didn’t win. “I was told afterward that I had a really, really great speech, but…” Considine said, pausing for effect as a polished storyteller would, “I had to work on my delivery.”
To read the entire story, please down the Jennifer Considine PDF.
Janet Jackson and the Law
On Oct. 30, 2012 Dr. Jerry Thomas, Department of Political Science, presented his symposium titled, “Judging Janet Jackson: Deference to Administrative Agencies in the U.S. Court of Appeals.”
An overview of the presentation is as follows:
Using Janet Jackson’s performance at the 2004 Superbowl, this talk shows that judicial review of federal agency decisions in the U.S. Courts of Appeals appears to be based on legally prescribed deference, not courts’ ideological preferences. Judges comment on courts’ struggles to scrutinize meaningfully agency actions without encroaching into the policymaking functions of the two political branches. At times, review have been almost obsequiously deferential. Other times, courts approach reviews using the hard-look doctrine. Results suggest courts are more likely to support agencies in final case decisions when agencies follow procedures or pass muster under two standards of review - substantial evidence and arbitrary and capricious. Agency supports is not associated with a review panel’s ideological agreement with agency positions, even in the D.C. Circuit, where judges often have political backgrounds prior to taking the bench. Reviews of agency decisions appear to be meaningful ones based on law, neither obsequiously deferential nor excessively encroaching into executive administration.
In her introduction of Thomas, Franca Barricelli, COLS Associate Dean, Social Science Division, said the following:
"On February 1, 2004, CBS presented a live broadcast of Super Bowl 38, which included the now notorious halftime show with the 9/16-of-a-second exposure incident that made Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake’s performance among the most talked-about moments of the game. (Does anyone remember who played?!) Nearly 90 million viewers tuned in to watch that roughly 15-minute spectacle, the intended – or unintended? – crux of which led to an immediate crackdown by the FCC, a widespread debate on perceived indecency in video vs audio broadcasting, and a prolonged battle in the US Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court. The final opinion of the high court was filed in Novemeber of 2011 – 7 years after “wardrobe malfunction” passed permanently into the American lexicon.
"The incident – so (dare I say) revealing of American popular and legal culture – provides a compelling point of departure for our speaker today. Dr. Jerry Thomas comes to this topic from his broad training in public administration, political science, and the law, holding advanced degrees in each of these fields. An assistant professor in the Department of Political Science, he came to our campus last year already an experienced teacher, having taught during his doctoral work in Political Science at Eastern Kentucky University, then at Columbia College in South Carolina and also at the Chicago-Kent College of Law.
"He teaches a wide range of courses from American Government, judicial politics and law to Queer Theory and Minority Group Politics, adopting in all of them a highly interactive and participatory case-teaching method. He balances his love of teaching with a keen sense of public responsibility. In past courses, he has arranged educational trips to DC for students to do research at the Library of Congress, to head Supreme Court oral arguments or to attend judiciary committee hearings. In the short time that he’s been at UW Oshkosh, Jerry has invigorated campus conversations about pedagogy and inclusive excellence and has made great strides in moving to expand the Legal Studies emphasis into a university-wide, full-fledged minor."
In this audio-only podcast, Dr. Jerry Thomas presents his symposium, "Judging Janet Jackson: Deference to Administrative Agencies in the U.S. Court of Appeals."
A photo of John Ackerman, who is featured in the War: Through Their Eyes, Warriors & Nurses student multimedia project
I’ll Be There For You
Two mugs filled, froth dangerously close to the rim. He slides the two beers down the bar. “I’ll have another, on the rocks,” a customer says. He prepares another drink, cheerfully chatting with one of the regulars. The Rembrandts’ “I’ll Be There for You,” is playing in the background. It doesn’t matter that John Ackerman used to know all the words. He’s not thinking about singing. The song takes him away from the bar, away from the city of Oshkosh, Wis., and takes him back four years to the Middle East. To a Humvee on a dirt road. Ackerman was deployed in Iraq from February 2007 to April 2008. He is currently a nursing student at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh, but it’s simple reminders like this that take him back to a time of triumph and tragedy.
Hearing this song now makes him miss those times. Miss the rush rolling out the gate into a day full of raids, gunfire and the unexpected. It’s difficult to fathom why Ackerman would miss such things. The date was Feb. 14, 2007 when Ackerman took his first step onto Iraqi soil. As he unloaded his gear on the tarmac of Baghdad International Airport, a rocket slammed into a FOB (forward operating base) nearby. Ackerman watched the trail of smoke, exhaust, or whatever, seep into the sky. Boom. Five minutes later, half a mile away, 50-caliber trace rounds skipped off the ground, into the air. Deep, sustained fire. Clink, clink, clink, clink. Ackerman’s battalion was mortared four, maybe five times that night. Welcome to Iraq. Only 14 months, two days left, not that Ackerman was counting.
To read the entire story, please download this PDF.
In this video, John Ackerman talks about the role 9/11 played in his decision to join the military, seeing war up close and the difficulty of heading back to war after a short leave.
In this audio podcast, John Ackerman discusses how he was able to block out the sounds of mortar attacks.
In this audio podcast, John Ackerman explains the technology used to identify victims of war.
In this audio podcast, John Ackerman talks about his role as an American soldier during a time of war.
Podcasts produced by student reporter Morgan Counts and multimedia news intern Noell Dickmann.
War: Through Their Eyes, Vol. 2, Warriors & Nurses, a student/faculty multimedia project that focuses on the veterans in the College of Nursing at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh. Warriors & Nurses are the stories of the students and alumni who have seen war in the jungles of Vietnam to the deserts in the Middle East, and yet have found their way into a field of healing.
To read the entire 80-page book, please download this PDF. Warning, it is a large file.
(photo illustration by student photographer Amber Patrick)
A Man of Letters and Science
Growing up in Kenosha, Wis., John Koker had no idea what he wanted to do when he grew up, but he did know one thing: he didn't want to teach.
But the son of an auto factory worker and a jail cook soon discovered that life doesn't always turn out as planned. To support his graduate studies, Koker worked as a teaching assistant and was thrust onto the teaching stage.
"I taught my first math class when I was about 22 years old at Purdue University, and I was hooked," said Koker, who earned his bachelor's degree in math from St. Norbert College, his master's degree from Purdue and his doctorate's degree from UW-Milwaukee.
"I thought, 'This is really what I want to do.'"
Koker is entering his 26th year of teaching at the college level. Since 2007, he has been dean of the College of Letters and Science (COLS) at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh. He joined the teaching staff at UW Oshkosh in 1991 and became chair of the Department of Mathematics in 2000, a post he held until he was tapped to be the interim COLS dean in early 2007.
He has won two of the highest awards bestowed on faculty at UW Oshkosh, the 2002 Distinguished Teaching Award and the 2004 John McNaughton Rosebush Professorship for Excellence in Teaching. In 2006, he received the Board of Regents Teaching Excellence Award, the highest recognition for teaching in the UW System.
In addition to teaching and his duties as dean, Koker finds time to sustain a life-long passion for acting. He auditions and often lands roles in student-produced plays and films. Most recently, Koker slipped on a pair of blue suede shoes and sported a pompadour that would make any Elvis impersonator proud. He played the King of Rock 'n' in Picasso at the Lapin Agile, a play written by Steve Martin.
In an interview with COLS Special Reports producer Grace Lim, Koker talks about his love for math, the arts and teaching.
The Love of Math
In this video, Dean John Koker talks about how odd numbers led him down the problem-solving path and how his misbehavior in grade school led to more math problems.
Math and Roofing
In this video, Dean John Koker reveals his secret on how he deals with strangers who routinely tell him how much they hate math.
More than Adding and Subtracting
In this video, Dean John Koker answers the age-old question, "Why do I need to know more math? I already know how to add, subtract, multiply and divide."
All the World's a Stage
In this video, Dean John Koker shares his love of acting and how being the dean holds no sway with picky directors. (Theater photos courtesy of UW Oshkosh Theatre technical director Mick Alderson.)
Teaching and Life
In this video, Dean John Koker recounts his early teaching days and his hopes for his students after they leave UW Oshkosh. (Classroom photos by student photographer Amber Patrick.)
by Brad Beck
Student Multimedia Reporter
teach the children well
Judith Hankes moves around a classroom with confidence. She strides in the aisle asking, “If the child was not able to read and could only listen to the question, how would the child think about what was being asked?”
Hankes’ task at hand is to get her students, all future teachers, to think like a first-grader. She asks Tommy Giljohann, a junior, to come up to the front of the room to work on a math problem. The air shifts as another student reads the math problem out loud. Giljohann, acting as a first-grader, hesitates as he moves the small blocks.
In the classroom: Dr. Judith Hankes leads a lecture to future teachers.
Hankes watches closely, allowing the students to figure out why some math problems, based on the way they are written, pose greater challenges than others. It is hard
to imagine Hankes, a professor of curriculum and instruction at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh, doing anything but what she is doing—teaching future teachers how to teach.
Since 1995, Hankes has been teaching mathematics methods and classroom research courses at UW Oshkosh. She is the author of numerous articles dealing with multicultural education issues and mathematics. She is the co-editor of two books, Changing Faces of Mathematics: Perspectives of Indigenous People of North America (National Council of Teachers of Mathematics) and Using Native American Legends to Teach Mathematics (Honor Press). She is also the co-author of Lost and Found and Found Again (Whales Library), a primary-level mathematics curriculum resource text and game.
Hankes’ teaching career spans 30 years and includes primary-level classroom teaching, counseling of at-risk students, coordinating gifted and talented programs and mathematics in-service education for public and tribal schools nationally.
Poor and Privileged
The daughter of a grade school dropout and a high school dropout, Hankes had no idea that higher education was even a possibility. Her father, Charles LeRoy Towne, an orphan, ran away from his foster home in fourth grade. Although he had no birth certificate, Charles was identified as Native American, but was told
to pretend to be Italian so he’d escape the backlash of
not being of European descent. He survived by panhandling in the streets of Chicago. At 19, Charles Towne married 16-year-old Ruth Florence Ovit, a Swede and also an orphan.
In 1931, the two made a home by clearing and homesteading a 26-acre island on the Fox River in Oswego, Ill. He did odd jobs; she raised chickens and sold eggs and goat milk. Ruth gave birth to seven children on the island. She birthed two of them alone after Charles left the island to get Doc Perkins, the last family doctor in the state of Illinois who made house calls on a horse and buggy. With little money, the Townes paid the doctor with butchered chickens.
Transportation on and off the island was not always easy. The quickest route was using a boat that could take them from the island to the mainland in about five minutes. When the Fox River was frozen, they’d have to trek about a football field’s length on the ice where the water was shallowest.
Although her parents lacked a formal education, Hankes credits them for instilling in her a lifelong love for learning. “Neither Mama or Papa gave any thought to having their children attend college,” she says. “But they were both readers, and they often read aloud.”
And the lessons they taught her were not found in most elementary schools. Her father taught her to trap and skin muskrats. He taught her engineering by building a swing bridge from their home to the high bank on the mainland. As a small child, she walked across the wooden boards and held woven iron cables while the water flowed beneath her. Her mother read and wrote poetry and encouraged her children to explore the world.
When Hankes entered school, she was in for a rude awakening. “I had school children say unkind things. One boy said, ‘Tell me what is your home like.’”
With great joy, Hankes shared the beauty of her island home, the vines and trees that grew all around. The boy sniffed and said, ‘Oh, that’s not what my mom said. She said you live in a dump.’”
Those hurtful words of a child still remain fresh in Hankes’ mind, but she is able to chalk them up to ignorance. Her childhood was idyllic in a sense, one spare of material luxuries but full of love, wonder and learning. “We didn’t have shoes to wear, but we had exotic pets,” says Hankes, who had a pet monkey and parrot. “I felt very privileged; never did I feel poor.”
Sticks and Stones
Still, the idea of going to school was hard on young Hankes. School, to her, was a place where children can be cruel to those who are deemed different. “I would have stomachaches and manage to throw up in the morning to convince my mom that I was too sick to go.”
The winter months on the island made it even more difficult to get to school. During one harsh winter day when she was 8, she and her brother Ted trekked across the ice, with their mother leading the way. The Towne children had already missed too many school days that winter. “We broke through the ice halfway crossing, and Mom had to keep breaking the ice ahead so that my brother and I could wade behind her.”
Museum Living: Dr. Judith Hankes teaching children in the Aurora Historical Museum.
They made it across, soaked and frozen. After warming themselves in a neighbor’s home, Hankes and her brother finally made it to school, two hours late. Rather than being greeted with sympathy, the Towne children were met with contempt. “The teacher, who was also the principal, shamed us,” Hankes recalls. “He said, ‘You Towne children are going to amount to nothing because you can’t get to school on time.”
The teacher pointed to another student. “She lives twice the distance you do, and she is always here early,” he said. That girl was also the wealthiest student in the class.
Hot with anger and embarrassment, Judy shot back, “Mr. H, you are the most stupid teacher I have ever met.”
The class fell into shocked silence. Then the teacher said, “Miss Towne, into the hall!”
Eight-year-old Judy Towne spent much of her time that year in the hall.
Path to Learning
Hankes lived on the island until she was 11 when her family moved to Ladysmith, Wis., where she met her first great teacher. “My sixth-grade teacher, Ruby Taylor, was a masterful teacher. It was a wonderful sixth-grade year, but it was the last good year of school I had,” Hankes says. “A good teacher makes a big difference.”
Hankes’ journey into academia was filled with detours that included dropping out of Andrews University in Michigan after a year, getting married to Jerry Hankes and having three children, Bret and twins Kurt and Karla. She and her husband worked as live-in caretakers for the Aurora Historical Museum, a large Victorian mansion built in 1857 in Aurora, Ill. Every spring and fall Hankes would guide about 4,000 visitors through the museum. “I would hold up an antique object and ask students to tell me how it might have been used,” Hankes says. “I had a great opportunity to teach through inquiry.”
She eventually earned her bachelor’s degree from Aurora College in Illinois, her master’s degree from the University of Washington and her doctorate from UW Madison.
Hankes’ childhood, rich with knowledge and exploration, provided the stepping stones that she used to reach her educational goals. However, her own nuclear family situation pushed her into her field of study. Both her husband and youngest son, severely dyslexic, were dismissed by an educational system that lacked the tools to teach children with special learning needs. “My husband and my son formed who I am as a teacher,” she says.
Since completing her doctorate in 1995, Judith Hankes has been teaching educators about mathematics and giving math workshops across the country. Though Hankes is not one to brag about her many accomplishments, she does take pride in this. The child that was told she’d amount to nothing is now a contributor to progressive education research. With a hint of a smile, Hankes says, “Here’s Judy Towne, this little river rat person, now sitting with some of the greatest scholars in math education.”
The Power in Teaching
Currently, Hankes prepares teachers who work with special education children to use an inquiry-based approach to teach math. The special education teachers in the past were seldom taught this approach. “More often, they were taught to give children crutches, rhymes and tricks to get through,” she says. “Those are not life skills.”
Teachers these days, she says, have to deal with diverse learners—from a dyslexic learner to a child coming from Somalia who can barely speak English. She hopes her students take away much of the same ideas and lessons she learned from her parents. “A healthy mind thrives on learning. Therefore, the opportunity to learn, really learn concepts and big ideas, is critical for all children.”
When she became a teacher, Hankes says her parents were both pleased. When she became a professor, her mother would brag, “Judy teaches teachers to teach.”
While Hankes can’t undo the wrongs inflicted on her by the teachers of her youth, she can help shape the teachers of the future. She wants her students to know that they hold great power as teachers to nurture their wards. “[Teachers] are given the opportunity to empower children, to develop their minds through learning,” she says.
For Hankes, that power must be used for the good of all children—from the most privileged to the most disenfranchised. In recent years, Hankes’ research focuses on a segment of the population that is close to her heart—the Native American children. “Native Americans are among the least likely culture groups to choose careers that require math knowledge,” she says.
Hankes aims to turn that trend around. The life lessons Hankes would like to pass along are simple. “What is important in life isn’t material wealth,” she says. “Rather, it’s liking yourself, believing in yourself, knowing that you can solve problems, take care of yourself and contribute to the care of others. That’s being empowered.”
Student reporter Noell Dickmann also contributed to this report.
|Dr. Judith Hankes often holds teacher workshops to introduce different methods of teaching. Read what some of her workshop participants have to say about what they took away from the workshops. Read on.
by Noell Dickmann
Student Multimedia Reporter
nursing a dream
UW Oshkosh assistant professor Judy Westphal credits a summer spent caring for an elderly woman as the impetus that pushed her into the health care field. “I wanted to be an archaeologist,” says Westphal, who grew up on a small farm in New Franken, Wis., a rural town outside of Green Bay that boasts of a lone stop sign and two bars.
As the oldest of nine children, Westphal dreamed of going places beyond the boundaries of her parents’ 50-cow dairy farm. Thus, the dream of archaeological adventures in faraway places. However, the summer when Westphal was 13, she was offered a job “babysitting” a 90-year-old woman. “I thought it sounded better than staying home, milking cows and baling hay,” she says.
Five days a week, Westphal biked 3 miles to Mrs. Becker’s home by 8:30 a.m. Then she’d make breakfast, bathe and dress the nonageneraian, do light housekeeping and laundry, and make lunch. As part of her care-giving duties, the teen also learned to play Canasta, and learned to play the card game well enough to lose with skill and grace. Before Westphal left at 4:30 p.m., she’d make dinner and then bike back home.
“I did this for one summer and my pay for that wonderful position was $3 a day,” says Westphal with a chuckle. “I thought I was quite wealthy making $15 a week.” Westphal paused, looking away. “I owe that family so much more because it really launched my career into health care and, eventually, nursing.”
Dr. Judith Westphal lecturing to students in class.
Back to School
Westphal has taught in the College of Nursing at UW Oshkosh since 2008, after spending more than 25 years in the health care industry as a nurse, a nurse administrator and a hospital executive. After her initial foray into elderly care, she abandoned her archaeological dreams and dove into nursing because she liked the hands-on aspect of the job. “With nursing you could get closest to the patients, and you could maintain that contact for a longer period of time,” she says.
Nurses, she says, play a crucial role in a patient’s life. “When I talk to my patients, the difference was the nurse,” she says. “That’s who made the difference in their care. That’s who was with them in the middle of the night, in the afternoon, early in the morning.”
Westphal received her nursing license from Mercy Medical Center School of Nursing in Oshkosh, then her bachelor’s of nursing from UW Oshkosh in 1983. After taking a semester off from school, she started the master’s degree program at the University. There, she helped obtain official status for the Eta Pi Chapter of Sigma Theta Tau, the nursing national honor society, for which she served as its first president. She did this while working full time as a nurse on the medical unit at Mercy. As a busy married mother of an infant son, Westphal resolutely took one class per semester until she earned her master’s degree in 1990.
Teaching on the Job
After three years of working at Mercy, she was asked to assist with an orientation of new nurses. Westphal credits this as the start of her role as a teacher. “When I started working with those new hires, that truly was my entrance into teaching. It was one-on-one small little groups but I enjoyed that immensely,” she says. “That brought me the most joy and satisfaction.”
A year later, she became head nurse of the medical unit. While she had enjoyed the one-on-one interaction with the novice nurses she felt a need to do more. She decided to go back to school. As she pursued her doctoral degree at UW Madison she continued to work full time.
However, she found it difficult to navigate between the two worlds of student and hospital administrator. Westphal, at that time, was a vice president for Affinity Health System, where many of her colleagues didn’t understand her desire to return to school. (Her two children, Collin and Darice, were already grown, and she and her husband, Daniel, have settled comfortably in Oshkosh.) “These were really two disparate worlds,” she says of her professional life and her student life. “It became clear to me that I was not going to stay in management and leadership indefinitely, and that I was going to be moving into education.”
She did indeed make the shift into education. Westphal finished her doctoral degree in 2008 and obtained a position teaching at UW Oshkosh that same year.
Teaching to Care
As far as the classroom goes, she wants her students to be able to learn from her as well as she learn from them. “When I work with students in my classroom one of the first things I try to establish is respect, my respect for them and their respect for me. I have knowledge about certain things. I have experience in certain areas, but they have knowledge and experience in areas that I am not familiar with so we can learn from each other.”
Former student Emily Weiss, who earned her master’s degree at UW Oshkosh in 2011, is a big Westphal fan. Weiss, who is a family nurse practitioner in Portage, Wis., took several classes from Westphal including Research in Nursing and Health Care Policies and Procedures. “I use Judy’s knowledge she taught me every day,” Weiss says. “I honestly don’t know if I would be where I am today without Judy Westphal.”
In addition to teaching, Westphal keeps busy with her research. She is currently doing research using a national sample survey of registered nurses, nurse leaders and nurse educators. She is most interested in succession planning and management, which ties back to her early supervisory experiences. “It’s descriptive research,” she explains. “What does this population [of professionals] look like? Are they young, are they middle-aged? What’s changing with this population over time? I think we need to understand what is happening with the group over time so we can understand where they’re going.”
Joys and Heartbreaks
Westphal no longer does the one-on-one patient care, but she plays a big part in growing a new crop of health care givers. “In health care nurses are the linchpin,” she says. “Without nurses I think our health care system would really crumble because they connect things together.”
With a growing, aging population, nurses are needed more than ever, Westphal says. “The health care system is complex, it’s cumbersome, it’s convoluted, and you need someone to help you sort through that,” Westphal says. “Nurses are the only health professionals that function as an advocate for the patient, and patients need advocates at times.”
Research: Dr. Judith Westphal, a Scholarship of Teaching and Learning Scholar, shows her findings on a pilot study at the Provost's Teaching and Learning Summit.
Westphal does not glorify nursing to prospective students. She tells them it’s a tough job, not for the faint-of-heart. “It will require a lot of hard work to successfully navigate through a nursing program, but...” she says with a big smile, “the rewards are endless and stay with you for a lifetime.”
For Westphal, she still remembers certain patients who have left an indelible mark in her life. One patient, a young mother who had contracted HIV through a blood transfusion in the 1980s, was one such person. “Many times, as nurses, you can help an individual successfully navigate the illness or disease,” she says. “They might come in with a broken limb. We set the limb and pretty soon they can walk on crutches and they are able to go home.”
But this case was different. The woman, who was about the same age as the nurses, didn’t have much time to live. “It was in the 1980s, and we didn’t understand what HIV was at the time,” Westphal says, her eyes welling with tears. During her final two months, the woman stayed in isolation at the hospital. But Westphal and the other nurses made sure that she had quality time with her husband and kids. After the woman died, the grief-stricken husband thanked her and the other nurses. “I had not gone to a lot of funerals of patients. That one I did attend,” she says. “We got back more than we gave.”
Despite the tragic outcome in that case, Westphal was reminded of why nurses do what they do. “The pure honesty of that feedback with patients and their families at moments of crisis really is what drives most nurses to keep going and do it day in and day out,” she says. “That’s the positive kind of reward.”
Making a Difference
Westphal may not have seen the world from the eyes of an archaeologist, but her reach as a nurse educator knows no boundaries. She knows what she is doing matters. “In my small sphere of influence, I can make a difference for individuals,” she says. “It may be a difference that I realize, it may be a difference I had no idea I touched or influenced. Perhaps all of us as we journey through life are influencing in ways we do not understand at all.”
She pauses. “I know that it’s my job, my purpose to keep doing what I’m doing right now and I know my work is not done yet.”
Student reporter Amy Wasnidge also contributed to this report.
Music man: UW Oshkosh art instructor Kevin Rau as the lead singer and guitarist of the Kevin Fayte Rock 'n' Roll Trio. Photo courtesy of Kevin Rau.
by Noell Dickmann
student multimedia reporter
The Artist Cuts Loose
To his art students at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh, Kevin Rau may look like the mild-mannered graphic design instructor, but under that academic veneer beats the heart of a rock ‘n’ rolling musician.
Guitar in hand, Rau turns into Kevin Fayte, the lead singer and guitarist of the Kevin Fayte Rock ‘n’ Roll Trio, a rockabilly band that performs regularly in Wisconsin. Their next gig will be at the Paper City Pub in Neenah on Dec. 3. The band’s first self-produced album “Friday Night at Joe’s Garage” was released in spring 2011 and has already gained fans stateside and overseas.
Friday Night at Joe's Garage: the first self-produced album by the Kevin Fayte Rock 'n' Roll Trio. Album cover designed by Kevin Rau
Rau earned his Bachelor of Science in Art and Master of Fine Arts degree from the University of Wisconsin Madison. He has been in the graphic design industry since 1979 and has been an adjunct instructor for the University since 2004. His design work has appeared in the New York Times, and his clients include Sony and Make-A-Wish Foundation. He also served as principal designer for the book Unimark International: The Design of Business and the Business of Design (Lars Müller Publishers, 2009).
As an established graphic designer Rau also expresses himself through another creative outlet - music, especially rockabilly music.
“Rockabilly is a hybrid of country western and rhythm and blues,” says Rau, whose love for music began at age 8 when he first heard Elvis. “I like to describe it as bluegrass music with an attitude,” he says.
Since then, Rau has managed keep music an integral part of his life. “It’s good to let people know that there’s more than one dimension to the personality, and that it’s okay to be a good professional and go out and have some fun too.”
Rockin' the HouseIn the photo to the right, a young Kevin Rau is fronting the band Kevin Fayte & Rocket 8, an earlier band of his that produced an LP in 1986. Photo by Charles Behnke.
To hear a couple tracks from the current CD, please visit the Kevin Fayte MySpace page.
In this audio-only podcast, Rau sits with student reporter Noell Dickmann to discuss his love of design and music and how he was able to balance the two passions.
Kimberly Udlis, Ph.D., FNP-BC
College of Nursing
by Hannah Opacich and Alyssa Volkman
Student Features Reporters
On the wall of Kimberly Udlis’ office is an untitled poem written by a patient on July 22, 1994. On that day, the patient had been told by his physicians that he needed open-heart surgery, after a less invasive procedure had failed. Udlis, then barely one year out of nursing school, held his hand after he was given the news. They talked a bit about the surgery, joked a bit about their favorite hockey teams and then she finished her night shift.
“It wasn’t anything special or out of the ordinary,” says Udlis, now an advanced practice nurse prescriber at Agnesian HealthCare in Fond du Lac, Wis., and an assistant professor of nursing at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh.
But to that patient, Udlis was special and her care of him was extraordinary. In the poem, the patient wrote the following:
|Dr. Udlis with her mother, Patricia Noble.
“...when in my sadness I reached out
and you took my hand and comforted me.
Once upon a time happens frequently in fairy tales and infrequently in life.
And this is one of those times.
You touched my life,
And I’m the better for it.”
Almost two decades have passed since Udlis cared for that patient, but she can recite those lines from memory. For her, that poem serves as a framed reminder of the importance of what she does as a nurse practitioner and teacher.
“It’s what I see when I walk into my office right behind my desk. It reminds me that everything you say matters or what you don’t say, sometimes, matters,” she says. “What was like such an insignificant moment to me had great impact on someone else. ”
The Healing Profession
Udlis grew up in Sault Ste. Marie, a city of 75,000 in the province of Ontario, Canada. Her father worked for the Canadian government and was the local administrator for Ontario’s Ministry of Community and Social Services. Her mother was a branch administrator for a life insurance company.
While both parents wholeheartedly supported Udlis and her brother’s educational journeys, Udlis credits her mother for instilling in her a passion for nursing. Her mother, Patricia Noble, rose from an entry-level job at an insurance company to become a top executive. But, she says, her mother really wanted to be a nurse, but had to defer that dream when her father, Udlis’ grandfather, died unexpectedly when she was a child. With her formal education ending at high school, her mother found another avenue for the nursing dream.
|In this video, University of Wisconsin Oshkosh instructor Kimberly Udlis, Ph.D., FNP-BC, tells what her favorite part is about being a nurse, what qualities she thinks makes a good nurse, and how her teaching is enhanced by her real world experience as a nurse practitioner. Video produced by student features reporter Noell Dickmann.
“I can remember my mother always saying, ‘My daughter’s going to be a nurse, she’s going to be a nurse,’” Udlis says. “I can’t remember a time when I didn’t know the word, ‘nursing.’”
However, when she was about 11, the idea of it being a valued profession came to the forefront. She had encountered two nurses who were caring for her grandmother. One was pleasant and kind; the other was not. “I remember wanting to be in a position someday to make a patient feel as special as the kind nurse did,” she says.
Udlis had always been a strong student and had a clear vision of her future. During orientation in her pre-nursing program at Lake Superior State University, one of her professors asked the future nurses, “Where do you see yourself in 10 years?”
Udlis responded without hesitation. “I’ll be Dr. So-and-So. I’ll be married to somebody so I’m not sure what my last name will be, but I’ll have a Ph.D.”
All this from some fresh-faced freshman.
After graduating with her nursing degree, Udlis worked in a cardiac unit and later, in the intensive care unit.
She later earned her master of science in nursing degree with family nurse practitioner emphasis and her family nurse practitioner degree from UW Oshkosh in 1999. Two years later, she returned as a faculty member when Rosemary Smith, Dean of the College of Nursing, asked if she would be interested in teaching. Udlis was interested and has been teaching at UW Oshkosh since.
Through her unwavering focus, Udlis did fulfill her bold declaration. She earned her Ph.D in Nursing from Marquette University in 2009 and became Dr. Udlis. She married Seth Udlis, a family physician in Fond du Lac in 1996. Udlis has a stock answer ready when people impolitely question her career path and say, “Why don’t you just be a doctor?” With a doctorate in hand, she smiles broadly and tells them, “Well, I am.”
She has been practicing as Nurse Practitioner at Agnesian Health Care since 2007. Udlis equates her unwavering dedication to her education to a marathoner running the 26.2-mile race. “You don’t want to be asked at mile 20 how you feel, but you want to look back and say, ‘I really enjoyed my time in school. I got a lot out of my education,’” Udlis said.
Her sons, Eric, 12 and Ethan, 10, are fully aware of the type of work their parents do. “What happened to me as a child is already kind of happening to my kids whether we recognize it or not,” Udlis says. “We’re always talking about health care related careers. And even if the kids mention something as simple as ‘I want to be a doctor when I grow up,’ we’re already saying, ‘Be a dermatologist.’ Or my oldest son one time said, ‘I want to be an eye doctor,’ and we’re already saying, ‘Be an ophthalmologist!’”
Although Udlis and her husband have a great love and respect for the medical field, she stresses that they will let their children head into whichever careers they’d like. “We’re trying to support what their interests are,” Udlis says.
Healer and Teacher
Udlis receives self-fulfillment from the dual lives she leads. On Wednesdays, she works at Agnesian Healthcare in the Cardiology Department. On the other days, she is an assistant professor who teaches several grad courses—Clinical Management & Pharmacology, Advanced Epidemiology and Biostatistics and others at
UW Oshkosh. She also serves as the college’s assistant director overseeing the Family Nurse Practitioner and Doctor of Nursing Practice Program. “I couldn’t imagine not practicing,” Udlis said. “I couldn’t imagine not teaching. My teaching makes me a better practitioner, and being a practitioner makes me a better teacher.”
When Udlis lectures, she includes real-life examples from her practice. According to the student surveys, her students learn better when she shares her professional experience as part of the lessons.
During a fairly dense endocrinology lecture, Udlis paused between slides and shared a quick anecdote about a patient, who was covered in tattoos. “I say ‘I’m going send you for some blood work’ and the guy says, ‘I hate needles.’” Like a practiced storyteller, Udlis smiled broadly at her students before finishing the story. “And I’m looking at his tattoos and they’re filled with ink and I’m like, ‘Really?’” The class laughed appreciatively.
Udlis has no problem sharing light-hearted moments from her practice in class because she wants her students to see the patients as people. “I think that it’s important that we role model well for our students, and that we show them that, as professors, we’re involved in a profession that we respect,” Udlis said. “[But] at work we tend to have a little bit of levity and a little bit of fun in-between patients as well.”
Nicole Brown, a former student of Udlis, likes the personal touch. “Dr. Udlis has laughed in every class at least once and has always made a conscious effort to make her students laugh,” Brown says. “Her lectures are full of anecdotal experiences and a wealth of knowledge. Dr. Udlis teaches in a way that students can understand, process and apply.”
|In this video, University of Wisconsin Oshkosh instructor Kimberly Udlis, Ph.d., FNP-BC, shares her most challenging and rewarding moments in teaching, and talks about her reputation as a "tough" professor. Video produced by student features reporter Noell Dickmann.
Anna Christian, who graduated in May 2012 with a doctor of nursing practice degree, appreciates Udlis’ high standards.
“I have to honestly say that I don’t think I would have done as well or even finished this plan of study if it wasn’t for Dr. Udlis’ attention to detail and input into submitted work,” Christian says. “I feel very privileged that she was my instructor because of her unbiased input and understanding that all students come from different backgrounds and practice situations.”
Through student evaluations and scuttlebutt in the hallways of the nursing building, Udlis knows how students regard her. “I think I have developed a reputation for being a hard professor here and that’s OK,” she says with a smile. “When students leave my classes, they may be a little tired, but they will know what they will do as nurses is important and what they know is critical to what they will do.”
She wants her students to know that every day they work as nurse practitioners, they will make decisions, some tougher than others. “I tell them, ‘When you tell a patient, ‘I think you’re OK, I am not concerned about that, you are OK to go home,’ or when you tell a mother, ‘I believe your child is fine, the fever will pass, it will take a couple days,’ you have nobody standing behind you saying you made the right decision,” she says. “What you have are your knowledge and skills. People will listen and trust what you say. This is why the education is so important.”
Udlis is gratified when she hears from former students, now working in the field. “Every now and then you get a little thank-you note from a student,” Udlis said. “Somebody said you made a difference and it reminds you that ‘OK, I’m doing a good job.’”
In addition to her practice and her teaching, Udlis is also a researcher, having published and presented her work. Her research focus is two-fold; exploring health outcomes in cardiac patients and also examining outcomes in nursing education. She is currently a member of the Curriculum Leadership Committee for the National Organization of Nurse Practitioner Faculties as well as a member of Doctor Nursing Practice National Task Force for the American Association of Colleges of Nursing. “The [research] that is nearest and dearest to my heart was the study that I did looking at the outcomes of patients with internal cardiac defibrillators because as a nurse practitioner I care for these people,” Udlis said. “It was a lot of fun to do because the results of the study were directly applicable to my career and practice setting. I hope to continue with it and further develop the technology on dependency concept with the patients.”
Fulfilling a Dream
When Udlis takes the rare break to reflect on her career path, she always goes back to the person who put her there—her mother. “I think she would say that I did the things she had hoped to do and always hoped I would do. She never misses a chance to tell me how proud she is, to the point where I often ask her to stop. But I try to remember that sharing the journey is important.”
With the idea of sharing in mind, Udlis established the Patricia M. Noble Scholarship in honor of her mother. The scholarship will be awarded to graduate students in the UW Oshkosh College of Nursing, with a preference given to the doctor of nursing practice students.
“My mother had these goals and aspirations, and then life circumstances presented barriers to having that education,” Udlis says. “Maybe if my mom had [this] opportunity at her time, her dream could have come true.”
On the scholarship endowment certificate are the words:
In honor of a mother’s dream and in gratitude for helping to make her daughter’s dream come true, the Patricia N. Noble Scholarship Fund was created in March 2011 for students requiring financial assistance in order to achieve their dream in nursing, despite adverse circumstance.
So what did the mother think of this scholarship, which was unveiled to her at Christmas 2011? The mother was touched beyond words. However, there was a tinge of regret, Udlis recalls. “True to my mother’s nature, the only thing she was disappointed about was that I did not put my name on the scholarship, but I didn’t want to put my name on it,” Udls says. “This is the way it is supposed to be.”
research mattersby Kimberly Udlis, Ph.D., FNP-BC
Currently, I am involved in several research projects at various phases. I am very pleased to be leading two research teams of College of Nursing graduate students. One team is actively involved in examining the outcomes of care for heart failure patients. Another team will be exploring the evidence surrounding mandatory vaccinations of health employees.
Dr. Udlis lectures to nursing students.
"The Pentagon and Architecture of George Edwin Bergstrom"
By Brad Beck
Multimedia News Intern
University of Wisconsin Oshkosh students Kyle Moerchen and Peter Herr in conjunction with the Neenah Historical Society contributed to a public exhibit about one of the Fox Valley’s most successful figures. The exhibit showcased the career of renowned architect George Edwin Bergstrom of Neenah, who designed the Pentagon, headquarters for the U.S. Department of Defense.
The opportunity came to Herr, an art education and graphic communication major, through UW Oshkosh art instructor Shawn McAfee’s digital art class. McAfee recommended him for this project. “The way it looked was all me,” Herr says. “The type choice, the layout, the concepts, everything was on my shoulders.”
Moerchen, a history major, contributed a large portion of research that focused on the personal and architectural life of Bergstrom. Dr. Stephen Kercher, Associate Professor of History, recommended Moerchen for this project. “It was a really good introduction to public history,” says Moerchen. “Learning how to write a public history piece is pretty important. I felt like a contributed a lot to the project.”
The exhibit “The Pentagon and Architecture of George Edwin Bergstrom” at the Neenah Historical Society ran from Sept. 11 to Oct. 2, 2011.
In these audio-only podcasts Kyle Moerchen (right) and Peter Herr talk about their experience in contributing to the Neenah Historical Society exhibit "The Pentagon and Architecture of George Edwin Bergstrom." Both podcasts were reported and produced by student multimedia reporter Brad Beck.
Kyle Moerchen: On Researching Man Who Designed the Pentagon