October 7, 2013

THE WEEKLY BLAB

Volume 8, Issue 8 – October 7, 2013

 

Another Good Weekend

The family had lots of fun this weekend, with essentially all of it ending well.  We did the usual eating out and shopping on Friday evening and Saturday, finding a Paul McCartney CD that I didn’t have (Wings Over America—don’t know how I had missed that one) as well as Season 4 of The Beverly Hillbillies and Season 3 of Petticoat Junction (pretty highbrow, huh?) to add to the collection.

When we got home, at Mark’s insistence, we all watched Journey 2—The Mysterious Island in 3D, starring Dwayne Johnson (The Rock).  I wasn’t expecting much from the movie and truth be told, the plot was pretty hackneyed.  It’s about a boy who’s angry because his mother has remarried and the family has moved to a new city away from all his friends.  The boy is a Jules Verne devotee and he receives a radio message from his grandfather, written in code.  New dad just happens to be a code expert from his Navy days, so they’re able to instantly break the code.  On a makeshift light table, they fit together three maps from the frontispieces of books by three different writers, which combine to form the map of Mysterious Island, proving it’s real.  Hey—something similar happened to me last Tuesday!  So it’s off to Mysterious Island they go.  Inevitably, they find the island, hook up with the grandfather, the boy finds romance, bonds with the new dad, but now they have a new challenge—the island is actually Atlantis, and (talk about bad luck) it just so happens that it’s time for it to sink into the sea again.  Needless to say, it all comes out fine.  At least the 3D was good.

On Saturday night, I watched the Boston Red Sox win game two of the AL Division Series, giving them a 2-0 lead over Tampa Bay.  David Ortiz (Big Papi!), hero of the Sox’ first world series win in 80 years, was also the hero of the game, with two home runs including a 3-run shot that put the Sox ahead for good.  Go Sox!

Sunday morning, time for soccer and Chelsea vs. Norwich was on.  Chelsea led 1-0 at the half from a goal by Oscar in the 4th minute, but Norwich hung tough from that point on.  They tied it up midway in the second half and looked like they might take the lead with a couple of close calls.  Chelsea rallied and scored two goals in rapid succession in the 85th and 86th minutes, wrapping the game up.  The latter goal was scored by Willian, a Brazilian player (formerly with Anzhi Makhachkala, in Russia) playing his first game for Chelsea.  This was Chelsea’s first win on the road this season, putting them in 3rd place, two points behind Arsenal and Liverpool, tied for 1st.

Sunday afternoon, we went out to lunch at the Broadway Diner and then to see Monsters University, a prequel to the Disney Film Monsters Inc.  It was pretty good, as was the 3D, with Mark enjoying it most of all.

My parents returned from Israel on Friday, flying into Philadelphia and then home to Las Vegas.  The next day, they and my uncle and aunt went out for lunch at one of the large casinos and managed to get separated.  My aunt then called my cousin Karyne (who lives in DC), who called me to have me call them on the cellphone and (in turn) get them to call my aunt’s cellphone so they could find each other.  I called them, but they had left their phone at home and besides, the voicemail was full, so no luck.  They found each other a few minutes later anyway, and all was well.  That evening, their next-door neighbors from Syracuse flew in to Vegas for a week’s vacation.  The flight was delayed and didn’t arrive until 2:00 AM, so when my parents picked them up and drove them to their time-share (which apparently sleeps eight), they decided to stay there instead of going home.  Or as my father put it, “we’re extending our vacation”.

 

The Week’s Recap

ACBSP Visit

On Monday through Wednesday, the review team from ACBSP (the accrediting body for our Business Administration and Accounting programs) was on campus.  President Rossbacher had the first meeting at 8:30 AM, and I got them at 9:00.  The visiting team was friendly and asked me a series of questions, mostly related to how we support for the program, both in terms of faculty and operating funds.  We finished about 9:45, when Max North and I walked them to Building Q to meet with Dean Ray.

The exit interview was on Wednesday morning, but I wasn’t able to attend since I was on my way to Washington DC (see below), but I hear that the visit ended well, with ACBSP indicating the department needed more faculty (which we knew, and had already hired four new faculty for this year) and noted that at most of our competitors, Business is a division or school (which we’re also well aware of).  Normally, the visit would have been coordinated by Dept. Chair Ronny Richardson, but unfortunately he was in the hospital, having felt some pains on Sunday night.  They kept him in for tests until Wednesday, letting him out just in time for the closing session.  Another of their comments was that they had never run into a situation like this before, but that the department faculty picked up the slack magnificently.  Great job!

 

Visiting Students

After dropping the ACBSP visitors off in Q’s lobby, I went to room 202 to welcome a group of some 100 students from Mount Paran Christian School who were visiting SPSU.  I had been asked to speak to them about academic expectations from an academic administrator’s perspective; and joined Julie Newell (Chair, SIS), Aaron Wimer, and Amy Coughenour (both Library), who had spoken to them earlier.  I talked about the importance of being actively engage with their education, and not sitting back as empty vessels, waiting for the faculty to fill them.  I also talked about the importance of integrity in the work that they do, mentioning that plagiarism is the negative end of a spectrum whose positive end is called intertextuality (the interdependent ways that texts relate to each other and to the overall culture in producing meaning, thereby requiring the author to note these relationships), and that giving due credit is the academic version of the Golden Rule.  The session ended with the students asking a number of questions of the four of us.  It was a nice group and I hope to see some of them as SPSU students in the future.

 

Planning Meetings

Tuesday brought a pair of planning meetings—the first on Building D and the second on the Rose Street property SPSU recently purchased.  The Building D meeting was very preliminary, talking about who to involve in the more specific planning meetings that will begin in two or three weeks, and about the overall budget for the project.  One issue that will be discussed in the future is whether to tear down and rebuild the office block of Building D, or to convert space on the second floor into offices and let the building revert to its original design (which did not include the office block).  The Rose Street property meeting was focused on looking at two design concepts for renovating the building’s outer face.  The consensus was that we liked Design A’s front, and Design B’s back, which then requires the consultants to try to integrate the two in between.

 

Diversity Summit

In between the two planning meetings above, I was on a conference call regarding the upcoming USG Diversity Summit being held in Macon on October 23.  I’m part of a panel presentation at the Summit dealing with how to build a diversity program at a university, my specific part being how administrators can support such efforts.  It should be a good session—I’m proud of what we’re doing at SPSU and my three co-presenters (from Georgia Tech, Georgia State, and Gordon State) are doing some interesting things on their campuses as well.

 

Trip to DC

On Wednesday morning, I was off to the Academic Affairs Forum of the Education Advisory Board, in Washington DC.  My flight was at 9:00 AM, so I got up at 5:30 and was out the door by 6:15.  I dropped Jill and Mark off at a breakfast place and headed for the airport.  Naturally, since I had given myself plenty of time, there was no traffic and I hit the offsite parking at 6:50.  The shuttle bus got me to the airport just after 7:00 and going through security took less than ten minutes.  I had a leisurely breakfast, and walked to the gate.  One of the things that amazes me about flying is that despite the fact that I’m a Delta frequent flyer and am automatically put into Zone 1 for boarding, it seems that half the plane is STILL ahead of me, either being in 1st class, business class, or having some gold, silver, or neodymium priority boarding.  Flights into Reagan International Airport are always full since it is so convenient, and this flight was no exception.  We took off on time, and got to DC at 11:00.

Debbie had booked me a car for the trip, but I had cancelled it the night before, figuring that a car would only be a headache in downtown DC.  There’s a metro stop at Reagan Airport, and I decided I’d take the blue line into Metro Center and then the red line out to DuPont Circle, which I thought was the nearest stop to the conference.  Fortunately, I found a “what’s the nearest metro stop” thing on the Metro’s website and found out that I didn’t need to change trains at all—the nearest stop was George Washington University/Foggy Bottom, on the blue line.  What a pleasure—it was an easy 15-minute ride followed by a 5-minute walk on a beautiful day, at a total cost of $6 round-trip for the train.  I walked into the Education Advisory Board building on M Street NW just before noon, gave them my suitcase to hold, and sat down for lunch.

I didn’t know anyone at the conference, but there were several VPAA’s there from my old stomping grounds in the northeast, including from Assumption College (in Worcester, MA, Jill’s hometown and where I attended college at WPI) and from Villanova University (my first teaching job was at Merrimack College, which with Villanova are the two Augustinian Catholic colleges in the US).  After some meet and greet, it was off to a series of meetings.

SPSU is a member of the Academic Advisory Board, which does research and produces case studies and books of best practices on various academic issues.  Topics covered during the conference included targeting new student groups to improve enrollments, what the new hot areas are for masters degrees (believe it or not, Engineering Technology and Interdisciplinary Science have two of the highest percentage growth rates), the politics and economics of establishing a sustainable online program, and issues related to student success.  Needless to say, I found these sessions to be both interesting and useful, as they directly relate to various issues we’re dealing with at SPSU.  Enrollment is a real problem for a lot of universities and colleges, with budgetary health relying on growth rates they can’t achieve.  Most were quite envious of our consistent 6% growth rate, and wanted to know what we had done to achieve it.

I had procrastinated (as usual) in booking a hotel and by the time I asked Debbie to do it, the special rate of $295 per night was gone and the price was $490.  I figured that rather than spend that, I’d call my cousin Karyne and stay at her place just outside DC.  Unfortunately for me, she is in the process of moving to Las Vegas, so all of her stuff is boxed up for the move and there was no bed to be slept in.  I went on the Delta website to see what hotels were available and found one called the St. Gregory Luxury Hotel located four short blocks from the conference also on M Street NW, for $169 plus tax.  The place turned out to be great—I had a suite complete with living room, kitchen, and bedroom.  The conference had a dinner included, at the Vidalia Restaurant (South Georgia cooking—can you believe it?), also located on M Street NW, one block from the hotel. Dinner was at 6:00 PM and the food was great—lots of people ordered the shrimp and grits, though I went with a New York strip steak.  I did get the Key Lime Pie for dessert, which was also excellent.  Karyne came down to visit at 8:00, so I had a chance to see her for a few hours.  All in all, things couldn’t have worked out better.

The conference ended at noon Thursday and my flight was at 3:00 PM, so it was an easy walk to GWU/Foggy Bottom, a hop on the metro back to Reagan, and a leisurely lunch at a seafood place at the airport.  A newsflash came at 2:12 PM on the TV monitors at the restaurant that there had been a shooting in the capitol and the police were chasing the perpetrator.  It’s a very strange thing to be in the location where the news is happening.  The plane loaded on time, but after a few minutes waiting, we were told that there was a mechanical problem with a brake light and we’d need to get off the plane and get rescheduled onto another flight.  Since my seat was in the back of the plane, everyone had gotten to the Service Desk ahead of me and the line was mighty long.  I figured I’d take a chance and call Delta on the cellphone, and much to my surprise, got right through and was rebooked on the 6:00 PM flight.  I walked up to one of the other gates and asked the attendant if I was entitled to a meal voucher, since with a 6:00 flight I’d be missing dinner.  She called and checked, and promptly issued me a $25 voucher.  So, at 5:00 I grabbed a quick bite courtesy of Delta, boarded at 5:45 and was in Atlanta by 8:00, and was home by 9:00.  Not too bad.  Just as I landed, I read the sad news on the web that the person involved in the shooting was mentally ill and had been killed, leaving behind a 1-year old baby.  A secret service officer and a capitol police officer had been injured in the melee, and our friends in Congress were at least able to get together on one thing—to pass a resolution commending the police for their fine work.

 

Last Week’s Trivia Contest

Last time’s trivia challenge focused on filling in the missing words in the cliché.  Our winner was Carl Snook (SIS), the only person getting all five right.  Here are the correct answers:

  1. Casper didn’t even enter the race, because he didn’t have a ghost of a chance (4 words).
  2. The baker was the richest woman in town because she was rolling in dough (3 words).  [Carl’s answer was “the bread maker”.  Judges?  Ding! Acceptable.]
  3. The icthyologist never got married.  When asked why not, she said because there are too many fish in the sea (6 words).
  4. The pie-maker was sentenced to 10 years for poisoning his customers.  The newspaper headline read: Pie-maker gets Just Desserts (2 words).
    1. 5.     The crooked lawyer was able to get rich by stealing funds from deceased clients’ estates.  When asked how he did it, he said: where there’s a will, there’s a way  (7 words).

 

 

This Week’s Trivia Challenge

Today’s trivia challenge focuses on Washington, DC, in honor of my recent trip there.  No looking up the answers now!  SEND ALL ENTRIES BY EMAIL TO zszafran@spsu.edu, since if you put them as a response on the BLOG, everyone will be able to see them!

  1. What DC stands for.
  2. Street that the White House is on.
  3. The three major American documents that can be found in the National Archives building.
  4. Fill in the missing words in the “motto” of the old Washington Senators baseball team: First in war, first in peace,                                    (five words).
  5. Who is the only American president buried at the National Cathedral in Washington DC?
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