Reflections on College Sport Research Institute Competition

by Dr. Leonard Samborowski

CSRI ProgramFor the last four years, students from the Sports Management Program at Nichols College have participated in the Case Study competition held each year during the annual meeting of the College Sport Research Institute (CSRI). In 2013, we competed at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. For the last three years, and into the foreseeable future, the CSRI conference will be take place at the University of South Carolina, Columbia.

Our involvement with CSRI has been positive. It has been beneficial for faculty and students alike. As the academic advisor for the Case Study team, I have grown as a teacher and learned how to better mentor students competing at the National level. Our students have gained too from the face-to-face competition, understanding, first-hand, the talents and skills of their Sport Management peers. Additionally, participation in this national level competition is great exposure for the Bison brand.

The first year of our CSRI involvement (2013) was a laborious experience. As the faculty advisor, I provided too much input into the creative process and edited far beyond minor format and structural recommendations. We finished the first year competition in the middle of the pack for our oral presentation and toward the bottom of the group for our case study solution paper. Overall, the students enjoyed the experience of visiting UNC and I learned that I needed to start earlier in the preparation process for the team.

In 2014, Tim Liptrap energized the resources of the Sport Management Advisory Board to provide input to the case study team’s solution paper and presentation. The Advisory Board immeasurably added a level of professionalism to the competition. The critique from leaders in the sports industry, while stressful for the team, was the right level of “tough love” needed to improve upon performance. The pregame practice helped the team and, importantly, brought alumni and outside talent into the support structure for our students. The result was a much better performance from our case study team than in 2013, both with the paper and oral presentation.

In 2015 we took two teams to South Carolina, one all men and the other all women. The team members were selected in the fall semester during a case study competition organized and run by our Sport Management program. The competition between the two teams was both productive and detrimental to team cohesiveness. Both teams were comprised of highly competitive students who wanted to excel and sometimes this resulted in team tensions instead of collaboration. However, once again, product improvement was noted. Both teams’ solution papers and presentations were solid works. Our oral presentations were strong. The result was a 3rd place finish by the Gold team (women) and 5th place by the Green team (men). The lesson learned during the 2015 competition was that in order to increase our team’s standings, greater emphasis was needed in preparation of the 1,500-word solution paper.

Team, 2nd picIn 2016, we took one team to South Carolina. The team was all men, comprised of two seniors and two juniors. Three of the four students were veterans of past CSRI case study competitions. Without question this team was most prepared and easiest to work with of any group from the past. The four students (Ethan Godfrey, Anthony Rodi, Austin Weber, and Justin Doyle) were self-motivated achievers that only needed the case study topic and minimal suggestions to get started on their project. After CSRI released the case study topic on 1 March, the team worked independently for three weeks on their solution paper, addressing the issue – “Should College Athletes be Paid?” The team stated that they worked over 40 hours in writing their paper. As one student said – “More than we did for some of our other Nichols’ courses.” (Ouch!)

In late March the team asked for a review of their work. I looked at their paper along with Drs. Frank Hendrick and Andrew Smith. A review of their product revealed the best research paper submitted by any case study team over the last four years. Hendrick, Smith, and I were confident that the team had put their best effort forward in the construct of their argument that – yes, college athletes should be compensated.

Their plan, the National Collegiate Athletic Compensation Plan (NCACP), provided for equitable payment of ALL Division I college athletes based upon a financial equation that included: stipend + revenue proportionality + sponsorship distributions. Their plan was brilliant in its simplicity and feasibility. It could work. An unbiased administrator of the NCAA, one that was not concerned about lost corporate profits, might actually adopt the NCACP as a step toward fair worker compensation. In general I was very pleased with the team’s solution paper. However, I still believe we can do better in the incorporation of scholarly references to support our writing. As the faculty advisor I will work with Andrew Smith to improve the quality of our paper submission. Overall I would grade the solution paper at a 93/100.

Teams AssembledThe verbal presentation by our team was equally professional and compelling. The team worked seamlessly to present their position. Each student spoke clearly, confidently, and without note cards, engaging the judges in a conversation about the fair compensation of college athletes. The slides/visuals they developed supported their argument and added to the flavor of their message. On the negative side, the team was roughly 90 seconds short of their allotted time, time which could have been used to further develop or embellish their discussion. Furthermore, during the Q&A, I do not feel as if we answered the judges’ concerns that ALL athletes would be compensated, not male football and basketball athletes. I blame these shortcomings on me as their faculty advisory. I should have demanded + or – 10 second perfection on the length of their pitch and practiced more thoroughly with our team in regards to Q&A. I need to find the right balance between my tendency to direct the team’s actions (based upon my experience) with the need to allow students freedom to discover and err on their own. Overall, I would grade our team’s presentation at a 92/100.

2016 TeamThe Nichols team came in a “close 2nd” to Marist College in the undergraduate competition. Among the teams they bested were teams from the University of South Carolina and Florida University. Regardless of our finish, the lessons learned and the long-term academic impact of the CSRI case study competition were valuable; well worth the effort and time put into the event. Ethan, Tony, Justin, and Austin were proud of their performance at CSRI. They have every right to be. They attacked a challenging problem, primarily by themselves, working collaboratively as a high-functioning team. These gentlemen showed what determined Nichols students can accomplish when they set their mind to a task. They well-represented the Bison Herd on a national level stage. We can all be proud of their remarkable achievement. Thank you gentlemen. You are the template of our future success.

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Experiential Learning: Nichols College at Thessaloniki, Greece

By Dr. Karol Gil-Vasquez and Dr. Erika Smith

During the Spring Break, a group of eleven students and two professors embarked on an adventure into unknown territory, the country: Greece, the city: Thessaloniki. Second to Athens in terms of population, the city lies close to the Balkan region that borders north with Bulgaria and Macedonia. Thessaloniki is by no means the mecca of Hellenic culture. Instead, it ranks second as the most Byzantine site after Istanbul. The city is best described as a crossroad point that allows visitors to experience the Hellenic heritage, the world of the West, as well as the Far East, combined with the beauty of the Mediterranean atmosphere. Only an hour flight from Istanbul, a two-hour flight from Munich, as well as two-hour flight from Aleppo, Syria, experiencing Thessaloniki means living immersed into four cultures at the same time. Located near the birth place of Alexander the Great, the city reveals a myriad of complexity and wonder, filled with stories of historical defeats and victories, all tales of resilience. Thessaloniki is not your typical Greek destination, it is a cultural clash’s epicenter that has long embraced the melting pot ideal, a place where Jewish, Muslims, and Orthodox Christians seemed to get along very well.
The Nichols crew took off from Logan airport, excited. None has ever visited Greece before. Some have not even ventured outside of Massachusetts, none the less, abroad. There was one student who has never taken a flight before. T.S.A. security screening procedures – what are those? The closest the students and professors have been to what could resemble Greece? A few hours visit to New York City’s Astoria during the fall semester. The closest students have been to Greek culture? High school’s lessons on Greek mythology and the taste of our Mediterranean salad bar from Lombard Dining Hall. At the end of this great faculty-led trip, it was rewarding to see how much the Nichols crew actually learned from a one-week study abroad experience; how seven days impacted our perspectives, how taking a long flight with relatively unknown people ended up bonding relationships, friendships that can have a positive impact on our future lives.
As part of an interdisciplinary course imparted by Prof. Erika Cornelius Smith, from the History Department, and Prof. Karol Gil-Vasquez, from the Department of Economics, Nichols College set foot on Thessaloniki. The visit’s main academic purpose involved reaching a better understanding on the Greek Debt Crisis, by experiencing first-hand how the Greeks live, how the Greeks think, what the Greeks value, and how the Greeks understand and live the European Union crises as a whole. By taking a dive into Greek life, Nichols professors and students found themselves not only developing their own perspectives about the country’s various issues, but also, gaining living experience at a different cultural setting, country, and city. A place where buildings and walls were rebelliously decorated with graffiti, taxi rides were dirt cheap, historical and fancy buildings were abandoned, showers were small and complicated, elevators took forever to arrive (climbing 8 floors by feet anyone? Nice workout!), stray dogs were wondering around the streets, police men were unarmed, people ate French fries and salads for breakfast, good Samaritans returned lost valuable items to their owners (despite having to cross the whole city to do so), and free food was given by someone who reminded us of our own Webster’s Mama Dolce at a small restaurant, named the “Grillo.” Thus, how to understand, or at least, explain this complexity setting right in front of our eyes? How were Greeks able to go by with what is considered from our own perspective, complicated habits, practiced in a country where everything seemed to be falling apart? Greek’s generosity just did not fit our Grexit picture. It was not supposed to portray generous people.

The Nichols’ visit to Thessaloniki included a variety of academic and cultural activities, facilitated by our professional and passionate Greek tour guides, Kostas and Spilios. The trip kicked off with a visit to the Byzantine museum and a City Walking Tour as well as a guided tour to City Hall Administration, next day. At the City Hall, Nichols crew met with Yiannis Boutaris, the City’s Vice-Mayor, who explained briefly the strategy to boost investment and economic growth in the city. For the following day, the crew visited the Meteora Monasteries, a three-hour road trip from Thessaloniki, located in the mountainous and serendipitous Balkan region, stands as the part of the trip that will stick in the minds of many, forever. “The story regarding the cliffs, hermits living in the caves, the rituals they perform of climbing them, and how the monasteries came to be made me feel as if I was listening to a bedtime fairytale,” according to one student. Built on inaccessible sandstone tall peaks around the XI century, Meteora monasteries are considered one of the most valuable world’s cultural patrimonies by the UNESCO. The monasteries locations’ height left us wonder about how were people actually able to get to the beautifully decorated small chambers, portraying orthodox Christian icons from the Byzantine period. Kostas showed us the only way to gain access to one of the monasteries: a little net-sack mechanically pulled up and down. After this visit, there was no doubt that religious fervor built wonders.
Pic4 Pic5 Pic6A total of three of academic guest lecturers informed the Nichols crew on the Greek contemporary issues. Dr. Spyridon Litsas from University of Macedonia presented “Greek Sovereign Debt and the Economic Crisis.” His presentation centered on the origins of Greece’s economic and political crises as well as the potential solutions to ameliorate its future impact through stablishing a North Atlantic economic and political agreement. Dr. Nassis Lambrini, adjunct Professor at the American College of Thessaloniki and New York City based attorney, compared the Greek and the U.S.’s judicial systems, her presentation was complemented with a walking tour to the City’s Central Courthouse, where students sat in a court session and met with the president of Thessaloniki’s bar association to discuss the ongoing attorneys’ strike (organized by private attorneys who resist a rampant increase in income taxes—itself part of one of the many European Central Bank austerity measures prescribed to Greece). Likewise, Iridi Pandiri from the ARSIS (Association for the Social Support of Youth) organization, presented “The Refugee Crisis in Greece: How it affects Relations with its Balkan Neighbors?” Ms. Pandiri talked to us about the refuges crisis’ dimensions and costs as well as the efforts being made by grassroots and non-governmental organizations to assist the refugees and the migrants stranded at the border.
For our last day, the crew enjoyed a fun tour through the Central Market. The food market offered fresh products, including, plenty of fish and lamb (how to forget that “fishy” smell and the terrified eyes of a deskinned lamb head!), fruits, vegetables, olives, oils, cheeses, and what have you. During the food tour at the Central Market, the crew learned more about the culinary traditions of the region, which were also put into practice during a cooking class imparted by Chef Bobby, who taught us how to prepare tasty dolmades. Dolmades are a popular appetizer made out most of the Greek cuisine’s staples: olive oil, fresh dill, mint, lemon, rice, and grape leaves. Our itinerary included a total of two “lunches” and two “dinners” that, to us, looked more like family banquets with plenty of delicious platters and drinks, formally served on large tables decorated with white linen where we all sat and ate together. One of the dinners was accompanied by the rhythmic sound of a bouzouki, having the restaurant’s patrons, to our surprise, unexpectedly standing up for dancing. This was quite an opportunity to immerse ourselves in Greek life’s shenanigans, that is, a chance to practice our dexterous dance moves, Opa!
Pic8 Pic9
As if all these activities were not sufficient to get to know Greeks and the city they inhabit, a sailing tour was the golden broach to close our experience abroad, by all means, the icing on the cake. It is by a far distance from the harbor that professors and couple of students got to see Thessaloniki’s panoramic vision. The graffiti was no longer visible, the buildings appeared to be occupied, some green areas popped out in front of our eyes, even the Eptapyrgio fortress’ tower stood out on top of a hill. From the sea angle, a white city unfolded, a city that extended all the way to the mountains and was harmoniously embraced by the Aegean Sea, a deep blue color that contrasted nicely with the inland’s mosaic.
At the end of our last day, the Nichols crew was relaxed, sharing comments, and wonders, tired but still laughing, getting ready for departure. It is perhaps on our way back to the States, at the Thessaloniki International Airport, early morning, that all the experiences fell into place. The departure was bittersweet. We really did not want to leave, it has been a short trip. We were content, despite being extremely tired. We were somehow satisfied, despite feeling anxious to get back home, to our comfortable beds.

Up to this day, we continue to reflect on what exactly we have learned. The problem is that we have learned a lot within a short period of time, professors and students alike. A student describes it as “a reminder that I did choose the best possible college for myself.” A student majoring in economics considered the trip as the push he needed to gain enough academic and personal confidence to enroll into Graduate School to pursue his Ph.D. “This trip was an amazing experience and I don’t regret anything. I will always recommend travelling to see new places because it’s when you travel that you open your eyes to different perspectives”. As of now, we know by a fact that the trip was real, it was meaningful and awesome, and conclude with certainty, that after all, learning by living is a fun and rewarding experience. Or, as it has stated by John Dewey “education is not preparation for life; education is life itself.” And, why not? Education is also adventuring oneself into an unknown life.

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Elevator Speech Competition 2016

by Dr. Mauri Pelto

Nichols College held its fourth annual Elevator Speech competition on March 31, 2016. In this case, an elevator speech is a one-minute pitch about you and your best qualities and skills that set you apart from the crowd. The name originates from the concept that a speech should be delivered in the time it takes for an elevator ride, which is generally 30 seconds to a minute. Nichols Elevator Speech Competition consists of a panel of judges that comment and rate contestants’ performances after the speech is delivered. Each contestant is rated on a scale of 1 to 10, 1 being the worst and 10 being the best. Also, if one goes over the time limit of one minute, points are deducted, so contestants must practice!

The event was organized by Professor Luanne Westerling and Tori Wolter ’18 and provided an exceptional opportunity for skill development, personal challenge, and leadership. Special thanks to the judges: President Engelkemeyer, Kim McCarthy, Mackenzie Walsh and Patrick Holland. Three of the top speeches were replayed in the Green Screen Studio with some backstory added by each. It is clear that they all took pride in the achievement and that the competition forced them to reach a level of oral communication that was beyond their expectation. The competition this year had over 40 participants which led to a preliminary round to reduce the finalists to 25 students. The faculty who have the students in class were excited to find out that several of their favorites had made the finals; see Diane Bemis and Mary Robbins.











  • The Marsh & McLennan First Place Award – $500 – Ariff McLaren, Class of 2019
  • The Fischer Institute Second Place Award – $400 – Jimmy Phillip, Class of 2018
  • The Unibank Third Place Award – $300 – Zachary Pina, Class of 2019
  • Honorable Mention – $100 – Kaitlyn Baron, Class of 2019
  • Judges Choice – $100 – TJ Roche, Class of 2019

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How You Get NASA to Contact You

By Dr. Mauri Pelto

Recently NASA Earth Observatory posted an article based entirely on some of my research. How did this happen? Twice a week I post an article on specific changes of a glacier somewhere in the world. The changes are identified primarily in Landsat satellite images. Landsat is a NASA satellite. On February 9, I posted an article of changes of an ice cap that has not been the focus of research to date,the Sierra de Sangra Range ice cap which is located along the Chile-Argentina boundary. I examined the changes of four glaciers from 1986 when all four terminated in lakes to 2015 when three had retreated out of the lakes they had formerly ended in.

After posting the article, I sent out an initial tweet that had a hashtag for #Landsat that caught their attention. Kathryn Hansen, a NASA science writer at the Goddard Space Flight Center, expressed an interest in following up on this post with an article of their own using higher resolution images from the same date. This prompted them to ask for more detail on why I focused on these glaciers and why they were important. I responded to that email within 24 hours, as well as the next two follow up emails. This is standard practice for me with media inquiries: rapid response. The organizations know they can count on you and then will feel free to follow up in the future. This is the third time in the last two years NASA has done this with my work, each time leading to some sort of featured article on their website, each time it has been featured in a different portion of their website. Of course when NASA GSFC announces the article in social media, they have a much larger bullhorn for people to hear.

The first step was completing a blog post containing enough information that is visually compelling and has an important narrative on climate change’s impacts on a glacier. The second step was using Twitter to push the message; the article received 122 tweets or retweets spreading the word. Finally, the third step was following up quickly on inquiries from NASA.


Comparison of four outlet glaciers of Sierra de Sangra in Argentina in a 1986 and 2015 Landsat image. Read arrow is the 1986 terminus location when all terminated in a lake. By 2015 only one terminates in a lake, yellow arrows.










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Taking Experiential Learning to Court

By Kim Charbonneau

In the spring 2016 semester, the Criminal Justice Management Department introduced a new experiential course in conjunction with the Worcester County Sheriff’s office: CJM 470: Southern New England Drug Courts and Recidivism.

The class came to fruition based on a referral to meet with Worcester County Regional Resource Director, Byron Titus. After meeting with Mr. Titus, we decided to create a class around this amazing opportunity. Coordinating efforts with Allison McDowell-Smith, we developed the course by tapping into each other’s strengths and the result is a course syllabus that addresses quantitative and qualitative research.

Students are studying a group of drug court participants and through coding, surveys, and statistical analysis using SPSS, will provide results to the Sheriff’s office for further study and grant funding. In addition, the class will be off-campus approximately four evenings to conduct qualitative research with inmates in both the Shirley, MA and Framingham, MA prisons.

We will present our findings in April to Dudley District Court Judge Timothy M. Bibaud, Chief Probation Officer Nilza Sylvestre, Program Director Byron Titus, and Worcester County Sheriff Lewis Evangelidis.

It is exciting to offer our students this type of experiential learning opportunity, which is so vital to the learning process. Students who learn outside of traditional classroom settings are better equipped to carry those experiences into the industry and be informed practitioners. This class also gives the students an opportunity to understand first-hand the many challenges that face not only criminal justice practitioners but those who experience the challenges of incarceration and addiction.

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A Connecticut Yankee on Cuba’s Isle of Youth: Researching – and Participating in – Foreign Relations

By Michael E. Neagle, Ph.D.

Cuba Map isla-juventud As the Russian-made, Soviet-era propeller plane rumbled to life and took off from Havana on the way to the Isle of Youth, I didn’t know what to expect.

I was a graduate student at the University of Connecticut in the Spring of 2010 when I went to Cuba to conduct dissertation research toward my Ph.D. in History. My work was about an American colony living on what was then called the Isle of Pines during the first half of the 20th century. As a student of U.S. foreign relations, I wanted to examine how Americans and local Cubans (known as pineros) got along with one another at the grassroots level before Cuba’s 1959 Revolution.

Merely getting to Cuba was a project in itself. Thanks to longstanding U.S. and Cuban policies that have only recently been relaxed though not altogether eliminated (“Thanks, Obama!”), there are many bureaucratic hoops to jump through for an American to get to Cuba. Fortunately, conducting academic research is one of the exemptions.

With the appropriate licenses and visas in hand, I spent the first few weeks of my Cuba trip in Havana, the capital. There, I worked at the Archivo Nacional de Cuba as well as the Biblioteca Nacional “Jose Martí,” two of the country’s biggest repositories. But the main event of my research would be on the Isle itself.

Isla - Aerial ViewFrom Havana, it’s only a 30-minute flight to the Isle of Youth (Isla de la Juventud), an island off mainland Cuba’s southwest coast. But the flight felt a little longer given my nerves and skepticism as to whether this antiquated puddle-jumper would actually get me to my destination. It did – all while giving me a fantastic bird’s-eye view of the place that I had been studying about for the past few years.

Isla - Archives Exterior Working at the Archivo Histórico Municipal de la Isla de la Juventud was unlike any other research experience I had before. The building is a converted church from the early-20th century. The reading room only had two tables for researchers – not that they were expecting many takers. There were roughly 20 staff with no more than two patrons a day. A 10:1 ratio is pretty good for a college classroom – maybe not so much for an archive of that size.

Archival protocols were a little different than I was used to. Archives are usually stuffy places, literally and figuratively. Given the need to preserve and safeguard the delicate materials, there are often set rules about how to handle documents and what a researcher can bring into the room (e.g., no book bags, no pens, no cameras – essentially, a lot of no’s). That wasn’t the case on the Isle.

Isla - Archives InteriorThe staff were kind and trusting enough to allow me to bring in my book bag and camera, to make as many digital copies of materials as I wanted. (Not wholly unusual, but very much appreciated.)

They would usually offer me a tea or coffee as I researched. (Food and drink are verboten in U.S. archives.)

They enjoyed frequent cigarette breaks (Is smoking allowed indoors anymore?).

And around 3 p.m., when school let out, children of the staff would run around and play in the reading room. (Archivists reading this might want to find some pearls to clutch.)

But, hey, when in Cuba …

None of the staff spoke English. Fortunately, my Spanish had improved significantly since my arrival in the country a month earlier, so communicating wasn’t much of a problem. But I could tell that many of the workers were wary of me. Most of them didn’t really engage me in much conversation, either because they didn’t really understand me, didn’t want to bother me, or just weren’t sure what to make of me. After all, I may have been the first yanqui any of them had ever met; one of the staff told me I was the first American she had seen at the archive. Sometimes, I felt like a zoo oddity.

Eventually, some of them came around and started asking about life in the United States. They seemed to have this perception that American cities were like Robocop’s Detroit. As the Obamacare debate was reaching a crescendo back in the U.S., they couldn’t believe that Americans were seriously questioning government involvement in health care. (Access to state-run health care is a right in Cuba’s socialized society.) They asked me about race relations. Cuba has a substantial mixed-race population, including many of the staff. A lot of them presumed that all whites were racist. They even asked me, point-blank, if I was racist. “Creo que no,” I replied. After a while, I noticed that although not everyone was comfortable talking to me, whenever I would talk about life in the United States they all stopped what they were doing and listened intently. It was like I was E.F. Hutton.

Isla - Colony BeachIsla - MountainsConsidering I only had a finite time on the Isle, I would often work through lunch. But on a couple of occasions, the staff invited me to eat with them at the commissary. The meal was little different than typical institutional food (in contrast, home-cooked meals where I was staying were usually fantastic). Lunches would often consist of bean soup, rice, plantains, and some sort of meat product. I think it was pork, but I figured it would be impolite to ask.

And contrary to my fears before the trip that bureaucrats would stifle my research at every turn, the staff brought me any files I wanted with no limitations. At no point did I ever feel stymied or given the run-around. Everything in their finding aids was fair game for me to peruse.

One of the most interesting collections was from a U.S. citizen. Adolph B. Kelm had lived on the Isle for more than 60 years. He was one of a handful of Americans who remained on the Isle after the Revolution. Kelm left his correspondence – copies of letters he had sent and received over the years – with the archive. Most of his collection was in English, which made my work easier. But the staff couldn’t read English, so they weren’t quite sure what they had. Often, they would ask what I’d found. Kelm detailed the struggles that many Americans faced in the 1930s and 1940s after their businesses failed and they couldn’t afford to return to the United States. The staff were surprised to learn that many American settlers were upset with the U.S. government for not annexing the Isle at the turn of the century. They had presumed that all Americans had conspired to take it. (The Isle was always Cuban territory and U.S. officials after the War of 1898 had little interest in it because the surrounding waters were too shallow to sustain a naval base; they acquired Guantánamo Bay instead.)

In the end, my time at the archive produced what I hope was a mutually beneficial intercambio. On the one hand, the documents and letters I found were invaluable, helping me to flesh out this story of an American colony on the Isle of Pines. At the same time, I hope I was an able ambassador and provided my Cuban hosts a better sense of Americans and the United States. I find it fitting that while I was doing a project about the history of U.S. foreign relations, I ended up engaging in some of it myself.

Michael E. Neagle is an Assistant Professor of History. His book, America’s Forgotten Colony: Cuba’s Isle of Pines, will be published by Cambridge University Press in 2016.

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A New England Collegial Conference

By Kellie Deys, PhD and Jim Deys, PhD

Nichols College prides itself on its dedicated and engaged faculty—faculty whose focus is on teaching and the development of each student. Given that we love being in the classroom, we appreciate conferences centered on teaching pedagogy and praxis. These conferences offer opportunities for professional development as we share our experiences and perspectives and learn from colleagues.

The New England Faculty Development Consortium is an organization which sponsors two such conferences a year. As a “not-for-profit regional organization dedicated to enhancing the professional development of faculty and administrators committed to excellence in teaching and learning,” the NEFDC provides a collaborative and supportive environment. Incorporating workshop style sessions, NEFDC conferences emphasize practical application with tangible outcomes. We have been fortunate to attend and present at the NEFDC fall conferences for the past three years.

nefdcOn Friday, November 13, 2015, The New England Institute of Technology in East Greenwich, Rhode Island hosted the annual fall conference. This year’s theme was “Reclaiming Innovation: Promoting Student Ownership of Learning through Social Media.” As educators, we know that social media is ubiquitous. The looming question is: How do we incorporate social media into our classrooms effectively and purposefully to enhance learning?

The keynote address, delivered by Justin Reich, carefully considered how to “give students control over the means of their intellectual production.” Reich, the executive director of the MIT Teaching Systems Lab, infused humor into his presentation, offering case studies in an accessible manner with clear analysis and takeaways. His talk set a strong tone for the conference—encouraging faculty to be creative and ambitious with social media, while also concentrating on the process of learning, not just on the content intended to be learned.

While there were many excellent sessions with creative applications of social media in the classroom, we found that our presentation was unique in asking both instructors and students to critically analyze the constructs of social media. Our presentation, entitled “(De)Constructing Identity Through Social Media” focused on questioning how and why we use social media. Our abstract neatly sums up our presentation:

Social media offers the potential for creative modes of learning that address the changing needs of students. Too often, though, students do not consciously reflect on the implications of social media. Asking students to analyze the conventions of social media, we aim to understand how/why we engage in this mode of communication and identity building. Ultimately, we hope students become better critical thinkers by analyzing how identity is constructed through different social media, and, as a result, engage more purposefully with social media and their own learning. We will share adaptable assignments aimed at deconstructing the functions of social media.

We could have easily discussed our pedagogy and the resulting exercises and assignments for the whole session. But, the goal of the conference is helping colleagues with practical application. So, we began by explaining our pedagogical orientation towards social media and our reasoning for analyzing the constructs of social media. Because social media is so naturalized in our culture, particularly for millennials, we contend that we must neither dismiss its importance nor simply adapt it into our classrooms to meet student expectations. Rather, we value developing a critical consciousness towards it.

We shared two primary assignments: the first is a paper assignment; the second is an in-class exercise. The paper assignment, which is more specific, asks students to analyze celebrity culture by choosing one form of social media and reflecting on how that social media creates and perpetuates the notion of celebrity.

The in-class exercise is broader in nature and developed for a rhetorical analysis unit. The exercise asks students to look at Instagram and Twitter (amongst other social media) to consider how identity is shaped, performed, and presented in these sites. We asked our attendees to engage in the exercise as do students in our classes, using computers in the classroom lab to analyze different social media sites.

Our group of attendees’ consensus was that such an analysis is valuable for faculty and students. Most participants expressed that they could incorporate our exercise into their classes. One participant noted that “there is so much to breakdown and analyze.” One of the groups barely progressed beyond the main page of their chosen site because they were examining in such great detail.

In presenting to other teachers, we strengthened our exercise and assignment. The attendees shared insights and suggestions, ideas for us and others, and brainstormed possibilities for variations on these exercises. As we have in the past, we left the NEFDC energized; presenting at such a collaborative conference challenges us in all the right ways. We look forward to next fall’s conference.

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To New Orleans & Back: Takeaways from a Teaching and Technology Conference

By Jason Price, PhD

Sitting near a Delta gate at ATL on Friday, October 2nd at around 5pm, I heard the gate agent tell the huddled masses that the flight was full. The man needed one volunteer to postpone their flight to New Orleans to Saturday at 8am. The incentive: $500 in Delta-bucks. No one budged. The offer was increased to $700 and someone (not me) finally approached the podium. I was unable to accept either offer. I needed to check in to the New Orleans Downtown Marriot and get a good night’s sleep. I was representing Nichols College this weekend at the Teaching Professor Technology Conference!

My first impression of New Orleans was that there was a WOW Café in the airport! It must be the case that Nichols College’s cuisine is sweeping the nation. After a long shuttle ride and a night of sleep I found myself sitting among faculty and technologists from other institutions of higher learning. The keynote talk for the first day was delivered by Ollie Dreon from Millersville University. The topic was relevant to the current movement at Nichols College to facilitate active learning. This movement is evidenced in the classrooms in the New Academic Building that allow faculty to create what Ollie referred to as a “migrating focal point” in class.

Team-based Learning Room: Academic Building #204

Team-based Learning Room: Academic Building #204

Ollie referenced a study in which Psychology professors taught two sections of the same introductory course. One class was delivered in a lecture format. The other was taught in an active learning setting. At the end of the semester they assessed both sections’ learning as well as their enjoyment. They found that the students performed better in the active learning section but preferred the lecture format. There was much discussion among the crowd about why this was the case. It seems to me that active learning is hard work. It is hard work for the instructor to prepare innovative exercises for class AND port the lecture so that it may be consumed by students outside of class. It is also hard work for a student to come to each class and engage with the professor and her classmates. Active learning is difficult for all parties involved… but it works.

I attended several other interesting sessions throughout the weekend. My two favorites were:

Fat Points and Game Mechanics: When the Points Don’t Matter, They Really Do – Thomas Heinzen, William Paterson University

This session was facilitated by a Psychology professor that was interested in applying the principles of game design to experiences within higher education. He contends that game play is an inclusive instinct within all humans. He spoke of “learning leaving a residue.” I had the thought at the time that maybe this could soften the edge of the strain caused by active learning.

Thomas defined play as the voluntary expenditure of exuberant energy in aimless activities and overcoming unnecessary obstacles. In higher education, faculty often asks students to overcome obstacles (their necessity would no doubt make for a lively debate). Can we design them in such a way that encourages students to approach them with the same exuberance as a willing player approaches a game? Once again, I think that this is a call to action for us instructors to work to design better games, I mean courses.

Experiential Learning Lessons from Design Education – Lora Kim and Tes Zakrzewski, Wentworth Institute of Technology

I was very excited to attend this talk. Experiential learning is something that we stress at Nichols College. I was curious to see how it was being implemented at one of our neighbor institutions. Lora and Tes focused on Kolb’s Experiential Learning Cycle.

They referred to Svinicki and Dixon’s 1987 article on active student learning. This inspired me to think about how I could create an experience for my students that could trigger this cycle. Weeks later in Statistics, we experimented with a large batch of scratch off lottery tickets and reflected on our experience before reconciling the results with the cold hard truth of mathematical expectation.

Tes relayed an example that a math professor had used at their institution. He had students push wooden boards (long ways) down into kitchen scales until they bowed. They repeated this for different sized boards, recording the weights that the scale showed at the moment the boards bowed. This triggered a reflection on the relation between length and pressure. Then they mathed it up with all of the trimmings: equations, functions and of course, derivatives.

I hated to do it but I had to rush out of Lora and Tes’ session to present my own, Improving Mathematics Course Delivery using iPad, Air Sketch and Explain Everything. The presentation was scheduled to coincide with check out time from the hotel on the final day of the conference. My fears of an empty room were not realized however as I drew a respectable crowd. I discussed how I had come across the iPad application Air Sketch and had begun using it to speed up my lecturing. Over time I have come to use Air Sketch a tool to engage my class in active learning and lecture less. The educators who came to my session had lots of questions about how I used Air Sketch in class. I explained that I ask my students to work on problems together and then after wandering around the room encouraging and helping for a spell I ask them to volunteer their solutions.

Last year I used the iPad to flip lectures for an upper level class by recording screencasts (using the app Explain Everything) and asking my students to watch them as homework before our next meeting. In class I would ask the students to work out the technical details of the major proof from the online lecture and share these details with one another using the iPad. This “pincer” approach was a substitute for me simply presenting the proof once in class. I believe that this approach allows my students to interact with the material more deeply than I was able to when I sat in their seats 15 years ago. My major takeaway from my weekend in New Orleans is that educators are all working to create more innovative learning experiences for their students. Everyone agrees that we should be engaging our students in active and experiential learning on a regular basis. Creating these experiences is difficult work for instructors and students alike. I believe that this work will be rewarded in deep learning that will last a lifetime.

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Launching Nichols’ Green Screen Productions

by Mauri Pelto, PhD

The Green Screen Studio was opened for academic use on October 14th. This post examines what has been produced in the first month using this facility that so many have invested time, effort and resources in.

The team leaders for academics in this room are Mauri Pelto, Robert Russo and Juliana Cecera. Junior team members Olivia Harbert and Taylor Robohm.  The senior team members have collectively spent over 200 hours in the facility.  Recording has usually been client based, in which we do the filming and editing, or for a class help them with the editing. The focus was on learning to use the room , while providing content for the client. The goal was not to maximize the content which would require more out of the room footage. We have learned a number of best practices for working with entire classes on projects and how to best support that. Our editing training prior to Oct. 14th meant that we have not had any learning curve in that respect, just on facility use.

You see a number of faculty members and students listed below who have already used the room for class projects.  The room is best used for small group projects, introduced during class, but filmed and edited outside of class time, since the facility cannot handle a typical full class of students. We are looking to staff the area on a consistent 30 hour per week basis next semester.  To familiarize yourself stop by and attend a training with Miles Henderson, this training is not on software just on room capability and management.

Clients have included:

  • Sport Management Case Study Competition-Len Samborowski
  • Poetry Club-Marquice Jackson and Emily Pepitone
  • Hospitality Management Interns-Maryann Conrad
  • Criminal Justice Management Interns-Kim Charbonneau
  • Sportswriting class-Andrew Smith
  • Lead/CIS class-Samborowski/Casey-Williams
  • Faculty Giving-Melanie Fleming
  • Study Abroad students- Susan Wayman
  • Honors Students-Mauri Pelto
  • Psychology Program-Psychology Department
  • Business Communication Program-Luanne Westerling
  • Ambassadors-Rachel Ferriera
  • Kaboodl Application-Francesco Posillico
  • Many student class projects-many from Jean Beaupre’s class

Below are examples of the videos produced for some of these clients, this represents about 25% of the production.


Sport Management Case Study Competition


Honors Students


Criminal Justice Interns


Alumnus Adam Bailey on being an RA


Spoken Poetry


Psychology Majors


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Revisiting the Thrilla in Manila: Boxing’s Golden Era 40 Years Later

by Andrew Smith, PhD

“The quality of heavyweight fighters, like the length of skirts and price of cabbage, is given to periodic fluctuations.” As the 1970s drew to a close William Nack lamented a depression in boxing’s signature division. At its height the sport thrived on a triumvirate of champions—Muhammad Ali, Joe Frazier, and George Foreman—as well as a supporting cast of challengers like Ken Norton, Ron Lyle, and Jimmy Young. Fans bore witness to a series of exciting title matches, some of which took place in exotic locations that only added to the cultural cachet. Fighter’s purses rose, champions fell, and images of the action beamed all across the world via new and improved technologies in satellite television and closed-circuit feeds. Teddy Brenner, who presided over the boxing operations for Madison Square Garden, anointed this the “Era of Fantastic Millions.”

When we crest into the 2020s, the significant mega-matches that comprised this era will each celebrate their semicentennials. Doubtless the print, video, and digital venerations will disseminate accordingly. Richard Hoffer’s Bouts of Mania already set the tempo for Golden Jubilees about prize fighting’s “last golden age.” His fast-paced prose and first-hand accounts recreate the exhilaration triggered by a coterie of great fighters and their saga of brutal bouts. But the Era of Fantastic Millions’ coup de grâce, Muhammad Ali vs. Joe Frazier at the Araneta Coliseum in Quezon City, occurred forty years ago today. In the sobriety of a Ruby Anniversary there is opportunity to review the multiple legacies bestowed by the finale of Ali and Frazier’s trilogy, and the last blow of a short, hot Chinook for heavyweight boxing.

In retrospect, the level of heavyweight boxing during the 1970s appears higher than cabbage prices, let alone skirt-length, in the same period—but it was probably less consistent. The epic title bouts were a few peaks among many valleys in the sport’s popularity, and the performances of their principles often largely came as a surprise. For instance, expectations of Ali in his first encounter against Frazier remained very low given his long forced exile from the ring; many derided Foreman as a tune-up opponent for Frazier while he and Ali negotiated a rematch; when the second Ali-Frazier fight came off it lacked the gravitas of a title fight; then requiems for Ali’s career—if not his life—were penned from Zaire as the sporting world awaited the “Rumble in the Jungle”; finally, the steady decline of Frazier had been well-documented leading up to his third meeting with Ali and little hope existed for a bout as competitive as their first two. In short, much like the Klondike, the vast majority did not see the nuggets in front of them as this golden era unfolded. In fact the sport might have barely looked gilded to those in the moment as the politics of prize fighting constantly interrupted or eschewed popular interests, if not common sense. No meaningful heavyweight title fights occurred in 1972 as Frazier and Ali’s second “Super Fight” stalled for more than a year on contract terms, state taxes, and a reasonable fear of earthquakes in California. Frazier’s eventual defense against Foreman faced a cavalcade of legal injunctions that eventually sent their title fight out of the country and into 1973. Between October 1974 and October 1975 Ali looked uninspired against aging veterans Chuck Wepner and Ron Lyle—both more aged if not more veteran than Ali. Frazier did not look any better in a rematch against Jimmy Ellis that took twice as long to complete as their contest for Ali’s vacated title five years previous. Foreman did not even pretend to fight competitively that year, an April exhibition against five heavyweight has-beens and never-was’ in one event at Toronto’s Maple Leaf Gardens notwithstanding. For most of the year, 1975 looked like a deep valley—the kind one might never climb out of. To make matters worse, in advance of his summer defense against Joe Bugner at Kuala Lumpur’s Merdeka Stadium, Ali announced he would retire after the barely-anticipated match.

Whether he genuinely considered leaving the ring or the announcement was just a ploy to drum up interest in a sporting event that engendered very little, Ali could not even get through the process of selecting his successor—he narrowed it down to Foreman, Frazier, or Norton—without picking another fight. Rather than a rematch with Foreman, (the youngest and strongest of the cadre), or a rubber-match with Norton, (the last person to defeat Ali and the only one to break his jaw), Ali selected a third meeting with a declining Frazier. While their personal feud escalated through the early 1970s, by the middle of the decade it did not seem likely that another meeting in the ring could keep up with the rhetoric. Then, in the mid-morning of October 1 so as to appear on American closed-circuit television feeds during traditional “prime time” hours, the bell rang. Ali stood flat-footed and threw punches, his long arms tagging Frazier again and again. It took several rounds before “Smokin’ Joe” penetrated the phalanx, but once inside he was nearly impossible to dislodge. Ali tried retreating back into the “rope-a-dope” strategy that, one year earlier, caused Foreman to expend all his energy battering arms and elbows. But Frazier kept boring in with clean, sharp blows to the body that reverberated through the ribs, kidneys, and liver. Finally, with only a few rounds remaining, Ali reenergized and began sticking fast multi-punch combinations that opened up Frazier’s face and shut his eyes. Even that did not prevent him from doling out more punishment to a gasping Ali. After the fourteenth round, Ali asked his cornermen to cut off his gloves—either because he thought he already fought the fifteenth or because he did not want to go out for it. At the same time, Joe Frazier was trying to stop his trainer from throwing in the towel. Frazier’s oratory did not pack the same punch as his fists and he failed to win the argument against Eddie Futch, who could not let a blinded boxer go out for one more round against the heavyweight champion.

image-12-for-muhammad-ali-70-pictures-at-70-gallery-350091900The gory spectacle from Manila became one of the most celebrated prize fights in history; the point of comparison for many other title bouts and a template for fictional representations of the sport—including nearly every “Rocky” film. But it also resuscitated questions about safety in the fight game. Three prominent deaths in the ring during the 1960s, including a student-athlete in an intercollegiate tournament and a widely-televised title fight, threatened the sport and pushed it off of many network television spots. Yet by the first bell in Ali-Frazier III the world already witnessed twelve boxing-related deaths in 1975 alone, and the specter of a thirteenth hung over the Araneta Coliseum as the rounds wore on. After another ring death in a championship fight on live television several years later, boxing’s sanctioning bodies reduced the number of rounds in a title bout to twelve, making the Thrilla in Manila one of the last heavyweight matches to push the limits of fifteen very active rounds. That slight change did not deter those who thought the sport should be prohibited altogether, including the editor of the Journal of the American Medical Association who wrote plainly: “Boxing Should Be Banned in Civilized Countries.”

The international mega-matches of the mid-1970s, however, did not always take place in “civilized countries.” Problematic as that descriptor might be, there could be little doubt that some of the host nations in these transoceanic title fights were governed by autocratic, dictatorial, and flatly oppressive regimes. During the golden era, no one involved in—or profiting from—the events voiced audible opposition. The “Rumble in the Jungle,” a tag-line to which the Zairois government objected almost as vociferously as “Slave ship to Championship,” was imbued with symbols of pan-Africanism and black power. Yet both African American fighters managed to offend the cultural and colonial history of their hosts. Foreman insisted on bringing his dog to Zaire, not recognizing that the German shepherd had been the police dog of choice for more than a century of Belgian colonial control. Ali, icon of the global black freedom struggle, suggested that Zairois people practiced “Voodoo” (the majority self-identified as Christian) as well as cannibalism. Further, both African American superstars sought to improve the lives of black people in the United States yet remained indifferent to the fact that far more black people suffered at the hands of General Mobutu in Zaire than any contemporary American president. The cheering of thousands in Kinshasa’s Stade du 20 Mai allegedly drowned out the screams of political prisoners restrained in cells underneath.

Like Zaire, the Philippines was a decolonized nation caught between Cold War superpowers. The autocratic Marcos family, headed by President Ferdinand and his wife Imelda, relied on tight control of their subjects at home and ostentatious displays of wealth to attract investment from abroad. Hosting a heavyweight prize fight was the sporting equivalent of a rare jewel or ancient carving. Although ostensibly devout Christians ruling over a Christian majority, the Marcos family seemed much less interested in the proud Christian Frazier and instead courted the devoted Muslim, Ali. Television cameras broadcast images of Ali at the Marcos’ impressive Malacanan Palace where religious differences were swept under the very expensive rugs just as easily as the first lady’s faux-pas when she introduced Ali’s girlfriend as his wife.

23687a_lgThe Filipino government fronted a considerable portion of the Thrilla in Manila—at least $3 million of the $4.5 million Ali had been guaranteed came directly from public funds—although later discoveries that President Marcos siphoned aid money from the U.S. to his personal treasury opens up the possibility that the American government subsidized some of this event as well. Yet the Marcos regime relied primarily on debt-driven growth during their twenty-year reign, borrowing funds which they promptly pumped into social welfare programs, infrastructure improvements, agribusiness investment, and a burgeoning tourism industry. The expense typically fell down to the lowest rungs of the socioeconomic ladder. Backlash against some of these policies as well as the growing wage gap caused significant, and sometimes violent, reactions from political dissidents as well as disgruntled students. To maintain control, President Marcos declared martial law in 1972. Theoretically a temporary measure, it was still in effect three years later when Frazier and Ali signed the contracts for a prize fight in Quezon City. The primary targets of Marcos’ Proclamation No. 1081 included the Moro National Liberation Front, an Islamic separatist organization that battled for political and religious independence from the Christian Filipino majority. Ali, one of the staunchest anti-authoritarian athletes in the U.S. and one of the most famous American Muslims, did not speak on the persecution of Filipino Muslims. Instead, he returned to Quezon City one year after the fight to dedicate a shopping mall and hint that the biggest city in the Philippines could host his rematch with Foreman as well. Historians have identified Foreman and Frazier as cultural if not political conservatives at different points in their careers, but fewer have discussed the contradictions between Muhammad Ali’s willingness to challenge inequalities at home while profiting from and for oppressive governments abroad, or the disparity between his status as a liberal icon and member of a fundamentally conservative Nation of Islam. The Realpolitik of prize fighting did not delve into such questions in the Era of Fantastic Millions.

The Thrilla in Manila provided as definite a conclusion to a fistic saga anyone could envision, but it was not so immediately clear that it also marked the end of an era. Over the next two years Foreman sent Frazier into retirement after their rematch—one that required both fighters to dress up in gladiator costumes, Revolutionary era regalia, as well as a little bit of drag, in order to boost sales for a bicentennial bout that still lost its promoters $2 million. Then “Big George” suffered his own hiatus-inducing defeat to Jimmy Young. Ali continued to fight lesser competition in unspectacular fights during the interims between his “retirements.” As the sport’s brightest stars faded in the twilight of the 1970s so, too, did the proclivity for promoters and fighters to stage important heavyweight title fights in questionable political environments. By the 1980s, even top African American contenders refused to fight for the championship in South Africa’s “Sun City” as part of the broader anti-Apartheid movement. At the end of the decade a Seattle-based promoter working with Chinese interests toward an eight-figure offer for Mike Tyson vs. George Foreman in Beijing pulled the plug after images of Tiananmen Square reached American televisions. Even the boxing community recognized that their commercialized violence restricted to about 400 square feet should not support actual violence, oppression or terror hundreds of miles away. The Thrilla in Manila was not just the capstone of a “fantastic” era for the fight game but also a cornerstone for movements toward improving the safety of boxers in the ring and the human rights of those outside the ropes. The fiftieth anniversaries of “Super Fight,” the “Sunshine Showdown,” the “Rumble in the Jungle” and the “Thrilla in Manila” will wax poetic about these worldwide mega-matches and an era that can never be replicated. A forty-year retrospective might be the appropriate place to consider the elements of that era that should never be replicated.

Dr. Andrew R.M. Smith is a Visiting Assistant Professor of Sport Management and History, and the Chair of the Undergraduate Adult Education Program at Nichols College.

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