Take Your MAP-WORKS Survey

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It’s time for freshmen and new transfer students to complete the required survey online on the MAP-Works website, and then view their individualized Student Outcome Reports. On Feb. 4, first-years students (whether you entered in fall ’15 or in spring ’16) will receive an email with the link to the online survey.  The subject line will read: Mapworks Spring Survey Requirement.

Why do you have to take this 10-minute survey about your courses, roommate situation, and overall experience at Appalachian? Because the University tries to help new students succeed and this survey tool is a way we check in with you. We want you to succeed here and have a good experience.

Once you take the survey it gives you a risk indicator based on your study habits and other answers you gave.  You could get a green, which indicates that you’re on target for success, a yellow to indicate that you’ve at a slight risk of poor academic performance, or a red for being at risk of poor academic performance. Once you see where you stand, and if you are at risk, the system offers you ways to get help.  It’s all about checking in and turning things around before it’s too late.

Students who complete the survey have said (in conversation, focus groups, and scholarship applications) that they found their MAP-Works survey-taking experience helpful because:
– It was a wakeup call;
– It helped me change some of my study habits; and
– It offered helpful advice to turn a bad college experience into a good one.

You can take the survey between Feb 4 and Feb 24.

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Your Mood, Your Body

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Here at Appalachian, we know you are capable of great academic work.  But we also know that in order to reach your academic potential you’ve got to attend to your health and overall well-being.  That’s why the Counseling Center has created a series of events for you this semester.  You can come by and test your mood (Wed, Feb 10), consider improving your body image (Wed, Feb 24), consider how to take care of and talk about your mental health (Wed, Mar 23), and explore how to relate to others well (Wed, Apr 6) and take advantage of the rejuvenating powers of being outdoors (Thur, Apr 14).

wellness workshops 2016 (2)

Skipping Class: Major Predictor of Failing

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Did you know that skipping class is the best predictor that you’ll flunk?  So even if you don’t feel bad wasting your tuition dollars (or the taxpayers’ dollars) when you skip class, you probably ought to attend class regularly so that you don’t flunk out.

When I spoke with some academic advisors, they said that students who are on academic probation because of bad grades routinely attribute the problem to not attending class.

While it can be tempting to skip class when you’re feeling down, keep in mind that once you’re there you’re part of a learning community that might just lift your spirits. I mean, will it really help things to stay in your dorm under the covers feeling sad and blue?

Moreover, once a student starts to skip class they can end up too embarrassed to show up and start trying again, thereby starting a vicious cycle they might not get out of.  If you’ve already missed too many meetings of a class (or classes), DON’T GIVE UP– SHOW UP!

Your Well-Being in Mind

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Welcome to First Year Seminar! This may or may not be your first semester at Appalachian, but either way I predict you’re already sensing the mountain of work you’ll have this semester and also learning of the many compelling opportunities–social, academic, travel, etc–that will require your time and energy.

If you’re a person who needs no sleep or who’s good at multitasking, this won’t be overwhelming. But most students need to find an approach to all the activities asking for their attention.

When I was in college, going to hear a band or watching Cheers on television Thursday nights was always a tempting distraction from my work. Talking to roommates was also a potential distraction. But there were easy ways to control these distractions. If I went to the library or a study room somewhere, my friends were not there to talk to. If it wasn’t Thursday night, there was no band playing and Cheers wasn’t on TV.

How different it is today! In your quiet study room you might text, call, or Skype with your friends. On the very laptop you’re using to look up sources for a research paper you’ve got to write you can watch any episode of Cheers (or Big Bang Theory or Arrested Development) you want. Even the music you want to hear can come through the device you’re using for homework. Shutting out distractions is far more challenging for students in the wired world.

Prof. David M. Levy, author of Mindful Tech: How to Bring Balance to Our Digital Lives (2016, Yale University Press), argues that most people have allowed their online activities to be controlled by unconscious habits and unexamined rules. If you’ve found yourself “on” your computer for hours on end without actually accomplishing what you set out to do, or surfing along mindlessly in a sort of Internet blackout, you might find Levy’s suggestions useful. He suggests the following exercise to help you bring greater attention to your activities:

• Practice your ability to maintain focus on one task.
• Notice what typically distracts you from the task you want to focus on.
• Notice what actions or environmental conditions help you stay focused.
• Decide how you want to adopt a more focused approach to the task.

Ultimately, approaching tasks with careful attention will help you “waste” less time and enable you to find time for socializing, for exercising, and for eating and sleeping.

Preparing for Finals

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Feel like there’s so much to do in a really short amount of time?  Here’s how you can take stock and prepare a plan of action to make it through finals.

Step one:

Visit http://lap.appstate.edu/effective-study-skills to find a four-page final exam planning packet. Print it out—even if you have a wonderful digital calendar or system, use this paper copy as a planning and thinking tool– and as a road map for the final weeks of the semester.

Step two:

Write down the times of your finals for each class you’re in.

Step three:

Go through each syllabus and record all remaining deadlines and tasks. Review your class notes in case you recorded any deadlines and important notes there, too.

Step four:

Break large assignments into smaller steps. Be sure to identify any questions you might have for your professors so you can ask them now.  Make sure you understand what is expected for every major test and project.  Attend every class—hints and insights will be shared every day that will boost your success.

Step five: 

Strive to take care of yourself for this final phase—get enough sleep, make healthy choices in nutrition, and save time to exercise. Your mind is connected to the rest of your body. Communicate with friends, roommates, and family members that this month is particularly challenging, and you may not have as much free time as usual.

Step six:

Whittle away at each project or major test. Try to spend a little time with each one every day—reviewing is more effective (and more motivating!) if you spread it out over time.

Yes, the final days of the semester do require a lot of time studying.  Break will be here before you know it. Plan now to end this semester on a strong note!

What is the Cost of Poverty?

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Remember, you should be doing at least as much learning outside of your classes as you are doing in classes.  Here’s one such opportunity.  And you can even earn an official certification for your civic engagement efforts.
Social Justice Coffee Hour, a committee of the A.C.T. Office on campus, will be hosting an event called C.O.P.E, or the Cost of Poverty Experience next WednesdayNovember 18th from 6-8pm on the fourth floor of the Plemmons Student Union.
The Cost of Poverty Experience is an event that offers participants a glimpse into the lives of low-income individuals and families living in the Boone community, through the presence of volunteers who take on the role of agencies (schools, law enforcement, grocery store), and through the presence of participants who take on the role of the low-income families. They seek a few more volunteers to fill the roles of the agencies during the even and participants. The committee would highly appreciate if you are interested in attending.  Students so interested, or simply interested in COPE in general, may email Courtney Quick (quickcr “at” appstate.edu).
And again, please consider earning the Civic Engagement Certificate during your time at Appalachian.  Students who enroll in four designated service-learning courses, complete a portfolio of the work from those classes, and participate in either an international service-learning course or a service capstone project can receive the Civic Engagement Certification.  Designation of the Certificate appears on your academic transcript and you receive a special stole to wear at graduation.  Woot!

No Hammocks on Sanford Mall

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Could you imagine Sanford Mall without hammocks stretched between the trees? Me neither.  Appalachian is actually a certified “Tree Campus USA“.

Well, if you want to preserve our tree-loving, tree-hugging status, or if you’re just looking for something fun to be involved in, you can volunteer to plant trees next week.  Come help dig, plant, mulch, and stake trees along Boone Creek on campus. Each fall and spring Physical Plant and the Department of Biology coordinate to plant trees as part of our Tree Campus USA recertification efforts.

Sign up to plant trees during one of the following shifts:
•    Monday, Nov 9th,  9:00-11:00am
•    Monday, Nov 9th, 1:00-3:00 pm
•    Tuesday.  Nov 10th,  9:00-11:100am
•    Tuesday, Nov 10th1:00-3:00pm

Please email Mike Madritch at madritchmd@appstate.edu to sign up. Specify which date and time you can help out, and Mike will provide details (location, what to wear, etc.).

Successful Communication with Instructors

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guy talking realAs a new student on the Appalachian State campus, you’ve surely been told that attending class regularly and keeping up with homework are important strategies for success in college. But communicating with your instructors is another important success element.  Here you’ll find tips to communicate your academic needs appropriately and effectively.

Who are your teachers at Appalachian?  Professors are members of the faculty who have earned their doctoral (or terminal) degrees in their fields and who, in addition to teaching courses, engage in research and/or creative activities that contribute to the growth of knowledge in their fields.  They may also be writing grant proposals, supervising graduate students, and serving their profession.  You call those with their doctoral degrees Dr.” or “Prof.,” not “Mr. or “Ms.”  If you’re ever unsure how to address one of your college teachers, though, just ask them!  Instructors more often teach part-time and without the research and professional service responsibilities of tenure-line professors.  Sometimes these instructors have their doctorates, and sometimes they have a certain minimum number of graduate hours in the field they’re teaching.

Getting to know your instructors is important, but always be prudent, professional, and realistic as you get to know your college teachers.  Establish professional relationships with your instructors–you may very well need to ask them for a letter of recommendation in a few years.

Communicating in class is crucial, and doing so starts with arriving to class on time and being attentive.  It’s distracting to the instructor, and to everyone, when students walk in late, fall asleep, or keep checking their mobile devices.  Voicing disagreements can be done in a way that is respectful and conveys your desire to learn and process ideas.  Questioning is appropriate when there is something you don’t understand.  But don’t take valuable class time by asking questions that have been answered on your syllabus.  Use class time for concerns that no one but the instructor can help you with.  If the question is particularly involved, it might be best to see the instructor in her/his office hours.  Asking the instructor questions immediately before and after class is not the best way to communicate because you will not likely get your instructor’s full attention.  Emailing can be more convenient for you than stopping in at office hours, but before you use email to communicate with your instructor be sure this is the instructor’s preference.  Never email the instructor to ask “did I miss anything on the day I was absent?” or request the professor’s notes from a class you missed.  Your instructor is not paid to give individual tutorial sessions.  Further, the instructor owns the copyright to her/his lecture materials and as such has the right not to share them with you.   Should you run into your instructor outside of the class or campus setting, understand that this is not the ideal time to ask her/him questions about class.  Saying hello is polite, of course–but remember that your instructor has other work responsibilities and a personal life.

Presenting your work professionally is also important in college.  Have your work done as instructed and submitted as instructed by the date and time it is due. Don’t come to class saying your paper isn’t printed because you ran out of money on your App Card, or come in asking your teacher for a stapler (when, let’s face it, you can make that handy-dandy little piece of technology your own for less than $6).  Always keep a copy of the work you hand in so that if you want to refer to it or it gets lost you will have it. If you are asked to email a paper to the instructor, cc yourself so that you have a date- and time-stamped copy of your submission.

Negotiating assignments and grades might be necessary at times, and is only appropriate if you approach this delicate matter with maturity and professionalism.  If you feel that you’d gain more from a modification of the instructor’s assignment, propose an alternative with a justification well before the due date. Your instructor might appreciate your proactive approach; but you should also be prepared for the instructor’s rejection of your request.  Even if you are ill or faced an emergency, it’s your responsibility to contact your instructor to request arrangements get made.  If you think there’s been an error in grading, let your instructor know.  If you are unsure why you received a particular grade on an assignment, you can request that the instructor provide you with more feedback. Asking during office hours or giving the instructor a week or two to provide you with more written comments is appropriate. If you feel that you were not given credit for a part of an assignment, the best way to get your instructor to consider seriously regrading your work is to provide a written statement that outlines what (and where and how) you said/did that was incorrectly evaluated. Marching into your instructor’s office demanding a grade change will not help your case.  Rather, your needs will best be served when you put your request and rationale in writing and kindly ask your instructor to consider your request.  If your instructor finds that your work was graded appropriately, find out how to improve.  If you are not open to learning more, it will only produce skepticism about why you brought your work in for a re-evaluation in the first place.  Likewise, don’t go to your instructor telling her/him that you “need” a certain grade or that you “can’t fail” the course lest you lose your scholarship, financial aid, or suchlike. Remember, you’re ultimately responsible for your performance in any college course.  If you are having a problem understanding the material, see your instructor immediately.  You should also utilize the many on-campus resources for students, from the library to the writing center to counseling services.

Giving your instructors feedback is an important role you have throughout the semester. If you are having a problem understanding the material or with the structure of the course, approach your instructor immediately and explain what you’re willing to do to help solve the problem. If your difficulties have not been resolved by talking professionally with your instructor, several individuals on campus can help you: a supervising faculty member; a departmental academic advisor; and the department chair.  You’ll also have the opportunity to fill out a formal course evaluation at the end of the semester.  Specific comments about what did or did not work in the class are always more helpful than curt remarks such as, “Get a new teacher.”  Finally, you can always provide positive feedback about excellent teaching. Each year, Appalachian honors a number of outstanding instructors, and you can nominate a great instructor for such awards online at: http://teachingawards.appstate.edu/bog-excellence-teaching-awards

Your Well-Being Needs Matter! Take this Survey!

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Appalachian State initiated our campus wellness assessments this week and want you to participate!!

Already 500 students have participated.  The data gathered will be used to guide the university’s wellness and prevention efforts for the next two years.  More specifically, this data will help us address student needs as they relate to health, safety, and well-being.

Your participation is completely voluntary and is by no means associated with your academic standing with the University. Furthermore, all survey submissions are anonymous and no identifying information will be gathered that can be linked to responses.

If you have previously completed this survey we ask that you do not attempt to complete it again.

Here is where you access to online survey:

https://appstate.az1.qualtrics.com/SE/?SID=SV_0lg25UfFNI0rdAh

If you have questions or concerns regarding the Wellness Assessment please feel free to contact Alex F. Howard (howardaf@appstate.edu), Director of the Department of Wellness and Prevention Services.

Wind Down on Wednesdays! With Art! Free!

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The Turchin Center for the Visual Arts on King Street is now offering a free weekly “Wind-Down Wednesdays” event on –yes–Wednesdays from 5:30-6:30pm for students. It’s free and it’s just for students.  Go there for a free look at the gorgeous art in their gorgeous space and do the 20-minuted guided meditation and make art! All art supplies are there for you.  I mean, what’s not to love about this?