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March 2013 Edition

Jayne Marie (Jamie) Comstock Named Winthrop's Tenth President

Dr. Jayne Marie (Jamie) Comstock was chosen Friday by the Winthrop University Board of Trustees to become the 10th president of the 127-year-old Rock Hill institution.

Comstock, currently director of the Executive Leadership Group for the American Council on Education in Washington, D.C., is on sabbatical from Butler University in Indianapolis, where she was provost and vice president for academic affairs. Prior to her work at Butler, Comstock was the chief academic officer and professor of communication at Millikin University and Baker University. She also held administrative and faculty posts at Saint Louis University and the University of West Florida.

Winthrop Board Chair Dalton Floyd offered Comstock the new position via a mid-day call to her Washington, D.C., office. Floyd reported the just-concluded unanimous vote of the trustees, then added, “so I am now authorized to officially offer you the opportunity to become the next president of Winthrop University. Do you accept?”

The answer he received was “Yes. I am so very pleased to have been selected as the next president of Winthrop. I am also honored by the confidence the Board of Trustees has given me and the trust they have placed in me for the care and advancement of this wonderful university. I am absolutely convinced that building upon the great progress of President DiGiorgio, that the university can move to even greater accomplishments in the future. I look forward to working closely with the faculty, the students, the staff, the alumni, and the board as we move forward together. I have said it several times during the search and interview process, but I firmly believe it: The best is yet to come," said Comstock.
Comstock, 55, is expected to schedule a return trip to Rock Hill in the near future to formalize the agreement, once the S.C. Agency Head Salary Commission approves a salary for her. The board has recommended a state salary of $169,970.

Comstock will succeed Dr. Anthony DiGiorgio when he retires from the presidency this summer after leading Winthrop for 24 years. DiGiorgio did not attend the meeting, indicating he felt it was a time for the focus to be solely on Winthrop’s future.

“I am, of course, very pleased for Winthrop and congratulate the new president on being selected,” DiGiorgio said in statement released after the board meeting.

“For [wife] Gale and me, there is a decided sense of relief now that this milestone has been reached,” he added, noting that, “for the past 24 years, Winthrop has been our vocation as well as our avocation. It is the right time for us to chart new paths on both fronts. Winthrop’s vision of distinction and national recognition have been realized. Now, we look forward to the transition ahead and giving Winthrop the best possible launch on its next challenge: to achieve national prominence."

For Comstock, the selection means preparing for a family move to the on-campus President’s House at the corner of Oakland and Stewart Avenues in Rock Hill.

In residence there with Comstock will be her husband, Larry A. Williamson, a retired U.S. Navy captain with extensive experience in higher education administration and faculty positions, and Cocoa, their 9-year-old Chesapeake retriever. The couple stayed in the President’s House earlier this month during a three-day visit, making the rounds and talking with members of both the campus and Rock Hill communities.

Trustees said Comstock impressed them during that visit, as well as during additional private interviews, and through comments they received from a variety of people as they checked the candidate’s references and reputation over the past several weeks.

“Dr. Comstock over time simply emerged from the process as the best all-around candidate,” Floyd said. “We were told from the outset by our search consultant that Winthrop would be viewed as a tremendous opportunity for someone with presidential aspirations, and that is exactly how we arrived at this day. This is a good match for Winthrop and a good match for her.”

Kathy Bigham, board vice chair, who led the Search and Selection committee that narrowed the field to four finalists, extended thanks all the candidates, faculty, staff, and students, as well as Rock Hill leaders who participated in a rapid series of finalists’ visits.

“The deep caring for Winthrop was evident across the board,” Bigham said. “As both an alumna and a trustee, that says a great deal to me about the value placed on both the leadership we’ve had, and the leadership expected in the future.”

The Employable Graduate—and Our Role in Making Them So

By Dr. John Bird, as published in The Weekly Reader

Last week, Dr. Amanda Hiner, my colleague in the English Department, gave an excellent TLC session, “The Employable Graduate.” If you missed her session, you can see her PowerPoint and a handout on the TLC Resources page, on the right side under “TLC Sessions

I want to highlight some of the Amanda’s research and suggestions, because what she is presenting is vitally important for us and for our students. Amanda has been conducting research for the past few years on critical thinking and student preparation, an outgrowth of her teaching of CRTW 201 (a great example of how our best research often begins with our teaching). In this presentation, she begins with a recent Rutgers study, which found that only 51 percent of recent college graduates were employed full time, that 43 percent of graduates were in jobs that did not require a college degree, and that their median student loan debt was $20,000. These figures are no doubt closely tied to the economic downturn, but I suspect that the situation will not improve in the near future. These are indeed sobering statistics; I know I feel happiness for our students as I watch them walk across the stage at commencement, but I also feel sympathy for the tough future they are walking into.

Amanda’s presentation then focuses on what employers say they want from the graduates they hire, as well as what they find in recent graduates. Her research shows that employers find a skills gap in these students: even though job vacancies rose 35 percent in the past few years, unemployment remains high, with one third of employers saying they think recent graduates lack the skills needed to succeed on the job. A 2012 survey of employers in North Carolina cites a gap in “soft skills”: communication, analytical problem solving, critical thinking, writing, leadership, interpersonal relations, personal ethics, teamwork, and following directions. Specifically, these are the top skills they see recent graduates lacking: communication/interpersonal skills, 59.8 percent; critical and analytical thinking, 46.8 percent; problem solving, 45.4 percent; and leadership, 34.4 percent.

A 2010 survey had similar findings, with 89 percent of employers saying students need to communicate effectively both orally and in writing; 81 percent saying critical thinking and analytical reasoning are key skills for success; and 75 percent saying the ability to analyze and solve complex problems is necessary for success.

Amanda has much more in her presentation, and I urge you to read it and think about it, especially as it relates to the students you encounter in your teaching and in other settings. Amanda offers some excellent teaching strategies, including emphasizing academic rigor, engaged learning, critical thinking, writing, and collaborative learning, among other strategies. Her research and presentation certainly give all of us at Winthrop a great deal to think about.

My reaction, after my initial dismay at some of the findings, is actually quite positive, at least as it relates to what we have done with our curriculum, especially general education. The Touchstone Program and the Touchstone Core are not perfect, but they are a good start at addressing what Amanda calls “soft skills.” The Touchstone Core by itself theoretically addresses many of the problems cited above: WRIT 101 emphasizes academic writing and argument; HMXP 102 emphasizes collaborative learning, engaged learning, critical reading and writing, and personal ethics; CRTW 201 emphasizes critical thinking and analytical problem solving, as well as rigorous academic reading and writing. Winthrop is the only college or university in South Carolina that has such a required core for all of its students; thus, we can be more assured than many of our peers that we are providing our students the key skills they need as they move into today’s workplace. We have a solid program in place—although we must continue to work on its implementation, work that those who teach these three courses are constantly engaged in.

But the preparation of our students cannot be confined just to the Touchstone Core. To make sure our students are fully prepared in these vital skills, we must infuse such deeper learning in all of our courses, from the general education Touchstone Program to upper division courses in majors. In all of our courses, we must move beyond presentation of facts and content to deeper, more engaged learning. If all I do in my classes is present students information from the textbook and from the field on endless PowerPoints, if all I do is test them on facts and figures that they temporarily memorize, then discard, if all I do is spout knowledge and expect my students to lap it up, then I am failing my students, and failing them grossly. They will still graduate, but will they be employable?

Many thanks to Amanda Hiner for her eye-opening research. I hope her work can reinvigorate a campus conversation about teaching and learning for this new century.

Fall Registration

April will be here before you know it, and that means time to register for fall classes. If your student is a new freshman or transfer this semester, this will be a new experience: no sitting in a computer lab with 50 other new students, surrounded by orientation personnel to help. So, what do they do?

The first step to a successful registration is to be advised. All degree-seeking students must meet with their academic advisor in order to be cleared to register. Advising begins March 20 and lasts for two weeks. (Summer registration starts on this day but does not require advisement.) Students should look through the course offerings (found in Wingspan and on the Records and Registration page beginning February 25) to plan their fall schedule. The student should also be prepared to discuss their academic plan with their advisor. DegreeWorks, the online degree progress system, clearly lays out the student’s degree requirements with what they have completed and what they have yet to complete.

Second, the student should make sure they have no “holds” on their account. Are there any outstanding financial balances? Have they provided Health and Counseling with appropriate immunization information? Students can view all holds via their Wingspan account. The student will be unable to register until all registration holds are removed.

Third, the student should make note of their time assignment. Because Winthrop cannot register 6000 students at the same time, times are staggered throughout a six-day period. Graduate students and seniors register first. Freshmen are on the last day.

Finally, what does your student do if they cannot register for several of their classes because they are already full? Students should always have alternate classes picked out, but if that doesn’t work, they can contact the department chairperson to request an override. Students should keep in mind that other students change their schedules all the time and seats may become available later in the summer.

The Registrar will send an email to all students and place an announcement on Wingspan before registration begins that will outline all the items above. We understand that the registration process can sometimes be a frustrating time for students, and the Office of Records and Registration is available to assist your student with this. Please make sure they understand they can call, e-mail, or come by the office for any issues they may be having.

Dining Services

Although lately it’s been a bit white and cold here on campus, spring is just around the corner!

We hope you have been able to visit and see our new location in the DiGiorgio Campus Center, The Wedge! Students really seem to enjoy the new healthy concept in our food court.

It’s about that time when students start to get low on their Café Cash. For a limited time, we are offering a Café Cash bonus promotion! For every $100 placed on your student’s account, we will add a 10 percent bonus. So if you add $100, your student will get $110, add $200 and get $220, etc. It’s a great deal and only will last for a short time. Load up for the rest of the semester!

To purchase Café Cash, you can go to the dining website and create a username and password. The only information you will need from your student is their student ID number (which is the long number on the bottom of their ID card). You then can choose the amount you would like to add and click “check out” – this allows you to purchase with your credit card. The 10 percent bonus will be added by the office once we receive your purchase of $100 or more. If you have any questions or trouble adding Café Cash, please don’t hesitate to call the Dining Services Office at 803/323-2119.

Hope to see you dining here on campus soon!

Dates to Remember

Fall Study Abroad Deadline: 3/1
Course Withdrawal Deadline: 3/6
Spring Break: 3/11-15
Offices Closed: 3/15

 

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