Summer Silent Retreat at Camp Pecometh

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Join Pecometh Camp & Retreat Ministries in Centreville MD July 9-14 for their Summer Silent Retreat at the Riverview Retreat Center. Facilitated by Rev. Karen Covey Moore and Anita Woods, this retreat offers an opportunity for you to experience a daily rhythm of prayer, simple meals, communing with God in nature, and spiritual direction.
You have the option of staying with them for the whole time or just a few days.
If you register for the silent retreat you can attend for their Yoga Retreat on July 9 for free!
For details and to register, call Retreat Program Coordinator Megan Shitama Weston at 410-556-6900 ext 104, email megan@pecometh.org, or visit them online at the Pecometh website.

Maryland 3.0: WC “Dream Team” Creates Apps in NASA Competition

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A group of Washington College students and faculty sat down at the beginning of May to work on “You Are My Sunshine.”

No, they weren’t rehearsing old folk songs. Instead, they were working on a NASA space challenge – an international effort to find ways to educate the public about solar power and its possible benefits both for ordinary people and for a possible exploring party on Mars.

Washington College Associate Professor Shaun Ramsey of the “Dream Team” writes data on the wall of the Hot Desks center as other team mebers watch. From left, Joseph Erlandson,, Luis Machado, Katie Walker and Ian Egland.

Taking part in the project were Ian Egland, a 2016 WC graduate in Computer Science; Joseph Erlandson, a senior Computer Science major; Katie Walker, a Senior majoring in Environmental Studies; Luis Machado, a 2013 graduate now working as a project manager at the college’s Geographic Information Systems laboratory; and Associate Professor Shaun Ramsey, of the Computer Science and Mathematics departments at Washington College.

The group began work at the “Hot Desks” co-working center  at 903 Washington Ave. Michael Thielke of the Eastern Shore Entrepreneurship Center and Jamie Williams, Kent County Economic Development Coordinator, arranged for them to use the facility before the official opening

The “Dream Team,” as they named themselves, went to work  at 8 a.m. Saturday, April 29, for a 48-hour “hackathon.” Williams and Thielke were on hand to assemble furniture for the hot desk center and to provide breakfast and other meals during the project. The team set up computers in the large main room, using the facility’s high-speed wifi connection. They even took advantage of the dry-erase walls to jot down computations, web links,  and other information for handy reference.

Ramsey said the project was related to one that NASA is conducting in Hawaii right now, simulating conditions on Mars. “In space, power usage is variable, and mission critical, and essential to life,” so understanding power consumption is essential, he said. “The app that we’re developing is for everyday people to better understand their power consumption,” he said. Since solar power is freely available in space, the project focuses on that form of energy.

The Dream Team compiled a list of several typical home appliances – refrigerator, microwave, TV, air conditioner, etc. – and listed their typical power usage. In each case, the power draw listed is an average. Older, less efficient appliances will use more than new ones designed to minimize power consumption.

They also looked at the amount of sunlight available in Kent County over different seasons, so as to get a practical estimate of what kinds of equipment could be run on solar alone.

Ramsey said the group was one of 74 different teams from all over the world that worked on their particular problem. Presumably they’d all come up with different solutions, though the teams were allowed to share ideas, and NASA might well choose to combine results from several different teams once the project was completed.

Overall, the competition had five different categories, each of which included several different projects. Ramsey said it would be several weeks before NASA announces the results.

Ramsey updated the status of the project in an email, June 1. He wrote, “In the end, we created two applications that are useful, intuitive and that showcase solar power.” He said he had three goals for the competition: “To contribute to the overall community. To make an application of which I’d be happy to claim ownership. And the last was to have something that could inspire and grow. Something that could spawn other ideas and be developed into something larger if someone were inspired or interested. I definitely feel we accomplished all three of those.”

As of the date of writing, he said, “The awards have not yet been announced. We’re not in the finalists for people’s choice, but that’s to expected with such a smaller network compared to, say, a big school in a big city. It is possible we “win” one of the other awards, but there have been no posted results yet. (…) I do feel like we will be in the running,” he said. He said he would let the Spy know when results were announced.

Ramsey said the Dream Team had posted a brief video telling about their work. They also posted an update with more details. He also provided a like to an overview of the NASA challenge.

Click here for information on the “Hot Desks” facility.

Research-Based Singapore Math at St. Anne’s Episcopal School

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In an age when many questions can be answered with the aid of an electronic device, what do our children need to learn in school?

Singapore Math Consultant Sarah Schaefer engages first graders in talking about different ways they can solve the same problem.

 

In 2016 St. Anne’s Episcopal School adopted the research-based Singapore Math approach to prepare its students for a rapidly changing world.  Solving math problems is just one of the benefits; students, parents, and teachers are energized by this innovative approach, which asks students to understand the “why” before the “how.”

“Finding the answer is just one small piece of the puzzle,” Lower School Head Valerie White said. “What is more important is the ability to think critically and understand the “why” behind the solution. When we press kids to think more deeply and demonstrate understanding of the concept or skill we are extending their learning to create true mastery.”

St. Anne’s Episcopal School introduced Singapore Math in Kindergarten through 2nd Grade in the fall of 2016 and will expand the program through 4th Grade next year.

Singapore math is a teaching method and curriculum developed and used in Singapore, a nation that consistently ranks at the top of international assessments of student achievement in math.  One of the defining features of Singapore math is visualization. The concrete, pictorial, and abstract method underscores real-world application of math.

The Singapore Math approach emphasizes depth and process over memorization and drill work. It reinforces the life lesson that there is more than one way to solve a problem.  Because children work collaboratively with others to problem solve, Singapore Math also teaches children to communicate, to listen, and to respect their peers.  These are all skills that will help children navigate and build positive relationships in life.

St. Anne’s invested in Singapore Math resources and teacher training for faculty in Preschool through Fourth Grade and formally initiated the program in Kindergarten through Second Grade last year with the help of a grant from the Longwood Foundation.  Teachers, parents, and students tell us what a difference they see this year as a result of adopting Singapore Math:

“What has been happening in the classroom this year is really exciting!  Because we used the Singapore Math approach to teach place value, our students have a deeper understanding of numbers and how they relate to each other,” said first grade teacher Melissa Meier.  “My first graders this year have a stronger number sense, which is the foundation of all mathematics.”

John Burk, Director of Academic Innovation, Physics, Mathematics, Computer Science at St. Andrew’s School observed how the Singapore Math approach lays the foundation for success in high school.  “As a high school math and science teacher, I see daily that the most successful students are the ones who develop a flexible approach to problem-solving, are willing to seek out more than one way to solve a problem, and embrace the creative exploration that is integral to math and science,” Burk said.  “As a kindergarten parent, I am thrilled that my daughter is learning to approach math in a playful and creative way that is helping her develop a joyful approach to learning math, grounded in deep understanding that will serve throughout her education.”

St. Anne’s second graders shared the following reflections about math this year:

“I have learned that there are different ways to solve problems and arrive at answers.”

“I am not as worried about taking risks or making mistakes. I know it helps my brain to grow.”

“I like seeing how math can be USED, like in measuring length and mass.”

“I am better at math and more confident.”

“I have learned to not give up so quickly.”

Located in Middletown, Del., St. Anne’s Episcopal School focuses on academic excellence and spiritual growth in a small, family-oriented and diverse community. St. Anne’s is a co-ed independent day school for children in Preschool (age 3) through Grade 8. Founded by visionary educators from St. Andrew’s School in 2002, our academic program prepares students for honors course work in the finest area high schools through its commitment to intellectual, spiritual, physical, social, and artistic growth and character development.

Echo Hill Outdoor School – An Intern’s Snapshot

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Eden Ettenger arrived at Echo Hill Outdoor School in August of 2016 and seamlessly stepped into the role of Intern.  Hailing from Malibu, California with over eight years of residential camp experience in the Southern Sierras, Eden brought her genuine desire to make everyone feel important and included.  Her spirit and natural ability to put a smile on everyone’s face combined with possessing an incredible musical talent, placed Eden into the heart of our mission immediately.

During Eden’s three month internship with EHOS, she became immersed in every  aspect of our instructional classes, residential life, and recreational activities.

Eden asserted her passion for videography in long hours spent on a special project as a contribution to our program.

“Working for EHOS not only sparked my curiosity to delve deeper into the exploration of our world, but also my love for sharing this passion with our younger generations.  EHOS is a magical place that everyone needs; it is a family and community that provides a space for learning, growing, and most of all, playing.” -Eden Ettenger

It is with deep respect, admiration, and appreciation that we introduce Eden Ettenger’s snapshot video of life as she saw it at Echo Hill Outdoor School.

We extend a special thank you to one of Eden’s co-workers and mentors, James Stankewicz, for his original musical score and accompaniment with the video.

This video is approximately three minutes in length

 

 

 

 

 

Washington College Names Kurt M. Landgraf as Next President

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CHESTERTOWN—The Washington College Board of Visitors and Governors today announced the appointment of Kurt M. Landgraf as the next President of the college. President-elect Landgraf, who was determined to be an exceptional and highly qualified candidate during the Board’s most recent national search in 2015, will begin his tenure July 1.

Kurt M. Landgraf – New President of Washington College

“Throughout his remarkable career, Kurt Landgraf has set himself apart from his peers as an exceptional leader and an exemplar of the values we seek to instill in our students, faculty, and community here at Washington College,” said Board Chair H. Lawrence Culp, Jr. “We believe his collaborative leadership style, his ability to craft ambitious and integrated strategies, and his operational experience will be an asset to Washington College.

“We are thrilled that such an exceptional candidate was available to lead our College in support of the groundbreaking work of our students and faculty,” Culp continued.

“I am deeply honored by the opportunity to join the Washington College community, and to continue the work of my predecessors in providing students with the best possible education,” said Landgraf. “To join the ranks of this storied and historic institution is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and I’m certain that by working with the faculty, staff, student body, and board, as well as others in the community, we will be able to accomplish extraordinary things. And while new leadership always brings change, rest assured that President Sheila Bair’s exceptional work to address the national student debt crisis and to launch a comprehensive campaign will not only continue, but I hope will be energized and invigorated.”

Landgraf is well known to both the Washington College Board of Visitors and Governors and the most recent presidential search committee. In 2015, that search committee— proportionally comprised of faculty, senior staff, and board members—began its national search for a new president, considering nearly 400 candidates and seriously vetting nearly 60 contenders. During that process, Landgraf proved himself to be an outstanding candidate.

Landgraf comes to Washington College with a decades-long résumé as a senior executive with DuPont (including serving as Chief Operating Officer, Chief Financial Officer, Chairman of DuPont Europe Middle East and Africa, Chairman and CEO of DuPont Pharmaceutical Company and CEO of DuPont Merck Company), and a 13-year tenure as President and CEO of ETS, one of the world’s leading providers of measurement programs and evaluations for schools, including both the K-12 and higher education communities.

Currently, Landgraf serves as a member of the boards of directors for Corning Incorporated and the Louisiana-Pacific Corporation. He has also served as President of the National Consortium for Graduate Degrees for Minorities in Engineering and Science, and was nominated, confirmed, and served as Vice Chairman of the Higher Education Commission for the State of New Jersey, the state’s governing body for higher education institutions.

“Kurt Landgraf’s vision of cooperative co-governance will be a strong foundation from which to work together as a campus, and he has already shown a willingness to embrace the Washington College strategic plan. I’m certain his leadership will lend our campus and community essential guidance, and assist us in every facet of operations, from helping fight the national student debt crisis, to accomplishing our unprecedented fundraising goals as part of our Forge a Legacy campaign,” said Jonathan McCollum, Chair of the Washington College Faculty Council and Chair of the Department of Music. “It is a pleasure to welcome President-elect Landgraf to campus, and I look forward to working with him to continue instilling in our students the core values of Washington College: critical thinking, effective communication and deep, abiding moral courage.”

“Kurt is an exceptional leader who has an impressive record of success in higher education and the corporate world. At ETS, he did a remarkable job advancing its social mission, reimagining the future of the organization, and building a strong organization and culture,” said Robert Murley, who served as Chair of the ETS Board of Directors for four years during President Landgraf’s tenure as CEO, and who has been an ETS board member for nearly 18 years. “As a result of his leadership and his commitment to diversity and to ensuring fairness and equity in assessment, promising students have been able to realize their dreams to attend college and graduate school regardless of their financial circumstances. Washington College is fortunate to have him as its next president.”

About Washington College

Founded in 1782, Washington College is the tenth oldest college in the nation and the first chartered under the new Republic. It enrolls approximately 1,450 undergraduates from more than 35 states and a dozen nations. With an emphasis on hands-on, experiential learning in the arts and sciences, and more than 40 multidisciplinary areas of study, the College is home to nationally recognized academic centers in the environment, history, and writing. Learn more at washcoll.edu.

 

Washington College Transition: Bair Resigns

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The Washington College Board of Visitors and Governors today announced the resignation of President Sheila Bair.

“We are grateful to have had the opportunity to work with President Bair for these past two years, and wish her all the best in her future endeavors,” said Board Chair H. Lawrence Culp, Jr. “Her work on behalf of both this institution, and the nation’s undergraduate population as a whole, to diminish our national student debt crisis has been remarkable, and we both thank and commend President Bair for her dedication to improving access to high-quality education for all students.”

“It was my privilege and pleasure to serve as President of this historic college, and my time here is an experience I will treasure for the rest of my career and life,” said President Bair. “Being a part of an institution co-founded by our nation’s own Founding Father, George Washington, will be impossible to match, and I thank the students, faculty, staff, and Board of Visitors and Governors for their support these past two years, particularly for our access and affordability initiatives. Unfortunately, this job has required that I be away from my family quite a bit, and I underestimated the hardship that would create when I took up leadership of the college. I regret that I am not able to serve my full five-year term, but in many ways, thanks to the dedicated efforts of our hardworking campus community, we accomplished in two years what would have required five at other institutions.”

President Bair came to Washington College after serving as Chair of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation from 2006 to 2011, where she played a key role in stabilizing the banking system during the financial crisis. She was officially appointed in May 2015, and served as the institution’s first female president in its 234-year history.

A native of Independence, Kansas, Bair earned a bachelor’s degree in philosophy at the University of Kansas in 1974 and a law degree from the University of Kansas School of Law in 1978. She began her career in public service as an aide to Kansas senator Bob Dole and later served as a commissioner of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, a senior vice president for government relations at the New York Stock Exchange, and Assistant Secretary for Financial Institutions at the U.S. Department of the Treasury. For four years, she was the Dean’s Professor of Financial Regulatory Policy for the Isenberg School of Management at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst.

Appointed to lead the FDIC by President George W. Bush in 2006, Bair was recognized for sound fiscal management and for raising employee morale. She was one of the first officials to warn about the damage the growing subprime mortgage crisis would pose to millions of homeowners and the economy at large. Consumer advocates praised her relentless efforts to represent the interests of homeowners, bank customers and taxpayers. She helped shape and implement the Dodd-Frank Act, which gave the FDIC expanded power to “wind down” rather than bail out a failing bank, and created the Advisory Committee on Economic Inclusion in an effort to bring banking services to underserved populations.

Bair chronicled her five years at the FDIC in Bull by the Horns: Fighting to Save Main Street from Wall Street and Wall Street from Itself, a New York Times bestseller published in September 2012. A prolific writer, she has been a regular contributor to Fortune and has written three books for children that offer lessons in financial literacy.

During her presidency at the college, she pioneered several student debt reduction programs, including a program to match scholarship dollars to every dollar spent out of a family’s 529 or Education Savings Account, and George’s Brigade, offering full scholarships to highly qualified, low-income students. In addition, she ushered in Fixedfor4, a tuition plan that guarantees entering students that their tuition will not go up during their four years at the College, bringing certainty to one of the largest expenditures a family makes.

Launched in the fall of 2016, the Brigade saw 14 first-generation students complete their freshmen year. Twenty new George’s Brigade scholars are expected to matriculate in the fall. Another affordability initiative, Dam the Debt, is a “back-end” scholarship that helps pay off the federal loans of graduating seniors. Since its inception, Washington College has dispersed a total of $659,000 to graduating seniors, reducing their overall debt by over 10 percent.

The College expects to continue the efforts that began under Bair’s leadership. Her contributions to the improvements in diversity, retention, advancement, and alumni participation are greatly appreciated, as is the contribution she made to help raise the public profile of the College

President Bair’s resignation will be effective June 30.

Sky-Watch for June 2017 – Saturn Peaks and Eclipse Coming in August

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The two biggest planets in our Solar System, Jupiter, and Saturn adorn our early summer sky this year.  Jupiter, which has been near its peak in our sky since April, shines at magnitude –2.2 high in the south at sunset, remaining visible until well past midnight.  On June 3rd the waxing gibbous Moon will appear just two degrees from Jupiter.

Rings of Saturn 

Saturn reaches opposition on June 15th as it lies opposite the Sun in our sky and remains visible to us all night.  At oppositions, planets come closest to Earth, so Saturn also shines brightest and looks largest when viewed through a telescope.  The best times to look at Saturn with a telescope is when it is highest, which would be when it is up in the south, from later evening to early morning.  Saturn lies among the stars of Ophiuchus, just past the edge of nearby Sagittarius.  At magnitude 0.0 at opposition, Saturn is far brighter than any star in the surrounding sky.  Any telescopic view of Saturn is spectacular but now, with the rings tilted 27 degrees to our line of sight, seeing their structure is easier than normal.

            Another planet, Venus, dazzles too, but in the early dawn eastern sky.  Venus reaches greatest western elongation on June 3rd when it will be 46 degrees west(right) of the Sun.  Venus is at –4.4 magnitude, far brighter than any other morning object.  It rises two hours before the Sun and will be seen about 10 degrees above the eastern horizon one hour before sunrise.  It will be hard to miss, even though its altitude will not be great.  By the end of June Venus will rise 2.5 hours before the Sun and appear some 15 degrees higher.
A really great sight awaits us on June 20 and June 21.  The waning crescent Moon will appear near Venus in the early pre-dawn eastern sky each of those mornings.  And on June 30th, Venus will appear to rise just 8 degrees to the right of the well-known Pleiades star cluster.  Just as morning twilight begins to lighten the sky we should be able to see the Pleiades and Venus together in the viewing field of a pair of binoculars.
Moon phases this month:  1st quarter (June 1st); and (June 30th); Full (June 9th); Last quarter (June 17th); and New (June 23rd).
Summer Solstice occurs at 12:24 am EDT on June 21st ——Summer officially and astronomically begins.
We are getting closer to the wonderful Solar Eclipse of August 21st, so it is time for a few more words about it.  Solar eclipses happen only when the Earth, Sun, and Moon align perfectly so that the Moon passes between us and the Sun directly in front of the Sun.  This is the only time when we can actually see the phase of the Moon we call New.  Usually, we see the Moon partially or fully illuminated by the Sun’s light.  But when the Moon is between us and the Sun its illuminated part is pointed back towards the Sun.  The unlit part faces us and we cannot see it.  So only at eclipse time does that unlit part become visible.

Solar Eclipse

Here are a few things to look for during a total solar eclipse.  In the 5 or 10 minutes before totality, put down your Sun viewing eye protection glasses and notice how the Sun illuminates the grounds around you.  Cars, buildings, trees will appear a bit alien.  The Sun reduced to a mere crescent by the Moon has its light drastically changed in quality.  Shadows will have sharper edges, colors will be saturated, and contrast heightened.  The light passing through trees leaves will leave odd crescent-shaped shadows on the ground.

Totality may be announced by a diamond ring, a temporary small burst of light at the edge of the circle of light of the Sun.  During totality with binoculars look for solar prominences; small deep pink nuclear flames.  And marvel at the corona, the thinnest, wispiest part of the Sun’s atmosphere, which is never seen except during totality.  Around you, on Earth, it will look like a Full Moon night.
           I look forward with great anticipation to seeing my first solar totality.  I am told it feels like nothing else in life. So just let it in.  I heard of someone saying, “It felt like the home of my soul.”  American author James Fenimore Cooper, after viewing the total solar eclipse in Oswego New York in 1806, said, “Never have I beheld any spectacle which so plainly manifested the majesty of the Creator, or so forcibly taught the lesson of humility, as a total eclipse of the Sun.”
            All I can say is, “be there!”
Photos courtesy of NASA.
 Solar Eclipse

Remarks: Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution David Skorton at Chesapeake College

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Editor’s Note: Dr. David Skorton, Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, gave the commencement address in Wye Mills yesterday.  We have reprinted his remarks in their entirety.
Thank you for that introduction, Dr. Viniar (Barbara). I’m not surprised that you’ve been such a successful and innovative leader here at Chesapeake College, given your earlier successes, including your excellent track record leading the Institute for Community College Development when we were colleagues at Cornell. Thanks for inviting me to be here today.

It’s my pleasure to be here on Maryland’s Eastern Shore for this auspicious occasion. Go Skipjacks!

And let me share one of many congratulations to the 2017 graduating class! Well done!

As I thought about what I wanted to share with you and your families and friends today, the state of the world brought to mind a particularly relevant phrase: “May you live in interesting times.”

Supposedly a Chinese curse, there’s no evidence it is actually a curse, nor that it’s Chinese. Perhaps we can think of it as an early example of fake news.

If you are predisposed to thinking of our interesting times as a curse, you would certainly have justification to do so. This graduating class will have to contend with the effects of climate change. You will face a job market which is likely to become increasingly uncertain because of the proliferation of automation. And we are all living through a hyper-partisan era in which our elected officials seem less likely than ever to seek common ground to find solutions.

Given the realities on the ground, it is all too easy to become discouraged if not cynical.

However, I think these really are interesting times in the truest sense of the word. They hold great promise for the future. We have a tremendous opportunity in front of us, if only each of us and all of us grab hold of it.

I believe that wholeheartedly, because when things have been at their bleakest—wars, depressions, existential crises—the American people have always found a way to persevere and thrive. And I believe that we can and will do this again.

Despite your achievement today, it is understandable that you may feel somewhat anxious about your future or even be unsure what you want to do next. But the fact that you’ve taken on this challenge shows you have the fortitude to be successful in life. It’s true whether you arrived fresh out of high school or came later to continue your education; whether your next destination is the workforce or a four-year school.

So, before you feel the urge to rush out and prove my optimism right—or at least to get out of these robes and celebrate somewhere—I’d like to tell you why I feel so good about our collective future.

As the Secretary of the Smithsonian, I get to see what smart, dedicated people do every day. Not just the 6500 employees who work for us, but also the 6300 volunteers who work at our 19 museums, nine research centers, and the National Zoo.

In many ways, museums, like institutions of higher learning, are going through a massive transformation. Much of that is due to the pervasive influence of technology, from interactivity to communication to outreach. Perhaps the most obvious example of this is the explosion of connectivity brought about by the internet and the ubiquity of smartphones.

Author Clay Shirky has written extensively about the kinds of active and engaged networks of people that social media can enable. In a TED talk, he called our internet-connected age, “the largest increase in expressive capability in human history.”

I see a lot of that expressiveness from the Smithsonian’s digital volunteers. Outnumbering our on-site volunteers, this army of 8700 people around the world transcribes Smithsonian documents and data online. They are critically important to our mammoth effort to digitize much of our collection of 154 million objects. In this way, technology is helping us reach people globally with our collections. But it is also enabling the people who help us to do so.

The power of social media also becomes obvious when groups pool their money to accomplish goals that don’t receive enough funding through traditional means. This crowdfunding can take the form of philanthropy like the viral “ice bucket challenge” that raised 100 million dollars in a month for Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis—ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease. That money led directly to researchers identifying a gene associated with the disease, a breakthrough that could lead to new treatments.

The Smithsonian has also been the beneficiary of people’s collective generosity. The National Air and Space Museum had a successful Kickstarter campaign to preserve the spacesuit that Neil Armstrong wore during his historic Apollo 11 mission to the moon.

Technology is also increasingly giving hope to the underserved around the world. In developing nations, solar power, microloans, and clean water are lifelines to modernity.

Bringing technology to underserved populations has made huge differences in people’s ability to care for, educate, and feed their families. For instance, between 2011 and 2014, the explosion in mobile technology in developing nations led to a twenty percent drop in people who didn’t have bank accounts. This is a crucial development since, as World Bank

Group President Jim Yong Kim said in 2015, “Access to financial services can serve as a bridge out of poverty.”

The tools of the digital age also allow people from a large variety of backgrounds to engage in what has become known as “citizen science,” collecting data on a massive scale and giving the naturally curious the ability to experience first-hand the scientific method. One such program that our Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute takes part in is the

Global Amphibian BioBlitz. Its aim is to observe one of every amphibian in the world and create a database to study and protect them. So far, more than 16,000 amateur herpetologists have participated.

My outlook continues to be optimistic because so many of these technologies are being deployed by people for the benefit of their fellow human beings. Technology is a powerful tool, but ultimately it is only as important and effective as the people who wield it. The collective power of people to do good is so frequently underappreciated. Working toward a common goal, people can topple dictators, help cure disease, and change the course of history.

Making our individual voices heard is still one of the most powerful aspects of the United States. That truth is at the heart of our democracy. It is why people from around the world still aspire to the American Dream. I’ve had the good fortune to meet many of them at our National Museum of American History, where each year many people from distant shores come to be sworn in as new citizens in naturalization ceremonies. As someone whose father was a Russian immigrant and a naturalized citizen, the annual event is always a moving experience for me. I challenge anyone who meets these people and hears their stories of how they got here to question their patriotism. Seeing America through their eyes is to truly appreciate the ideals this nation embodies.

Immigration has always been important for the diversity it has brought to our nation. When people talk about diversity, they usually mean ethnicity, gender, or background. That is certainly important, for what is the American Dream but the notion that all have an equal opportunity to succeed? Thankfully, younger generations are already on board with a more diverse society.

But just as critical for the dynamism and innovation that drives the U.S. is a type of diversity that author Scott Page identifies in his book, “The Difference: How the Power of Diversity Creates Better Groups, Firms, Schools, and Societies.”

He addresses the value of “cognitive diversity”—the differences in how people think. Everyone sees the world a bit differently, everyone has different strengths, and these different perspectives facilitate problem-solving.

In fact, his research showed that the most diverse groups consistently outperformed the most talented groups.

And here is another reason for you to be optimistic today: education is still the greatest predictor of earnings in the workforce.

According to the Department of Education, college graduates with a bachelor’s degree typically earn 66 percent more than high school graduates. Over the course of a lifetime, that translates into a 1-million-dollar gap between a high school diploma and a bachelor’s degree. And in three years, approximately two-thirds of job openings will require postsecondary education or training, including associate’s degrees.

Colleges like Chesapeake play a critical role for their students, their communities and the country. That is why I have for decades admired and worked closely with colleagues in community colleges in Iowa, New York State, and beyond.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, associate’s degrees awarded increased from 634,000 to more than 1 million from the 2002 school year to the 2012 school year, a jump of 59%, more than the rate that bachelor’s degrees rose.

And an associate’s degree provides tremendous value. The College Board’s Annual Survey of Colleges found that the average 2016 tuition of a community college is about a third of a 4-year in-state public school. And it’s about a tenth of a 4-year private university.

Even more impressive is the value an associate’s degree can provide once you hit the workforce. According to Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workplace, about 30% of Americans with associate’s degrees earn more than those with bachelor’s degrees.

It is why there is a push to make community colleges free of charge, as the state of Tennessee recently did for all adults without a college degree or certificate.

Another encouraging and quite important aspect of community colleges is their forward-looking devotion to a robust emphasis on the liberal arts. According to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences’ Humanities Indicator Project, the share of humanities-focused associates’ degrees grew from 25.8 percent in 1987 to 38.9 percent in 2013.

The liberal arts are a big part of the curriculum and culture at Chesapeake College, which I think is so important today. You know that the arts and culture enrich individuals and communities intrinsically and practically. That understanding is reflected in the college’s vision, “to prepare students as independent learners who are intellectually competent, technologically proficient, and who share the responsibilities and privileges of global citizenship.”

Those are the very skills that the arts, humanities, and social sciences help provide. They improve our ability to think critically, analyze, synthesize, and communicate. They provide a historical and cultural perspective. All of which can benefit scientists, society, and employers, so I know that you are prepared for the next phases of your lives, no matter what comes your way.

This past Earth Day, I stood on a stage not too different from this, looking at a large gathering of scientists, environmentalists, thought leaders, and students not too different from you.

They were there as part of the Smithsonian’s first Earth Optimism Summit, a conference of people working on one of our most critical challenges, the environment.
If there is something that should be daunting, it’s the state of our planet. Increased floods and droughts, dwindling natural resources, increased opportunity for pandemic disease—all seem like intractable problems with no easy solutions.

But the people who work on these very real problems weren’t intimidated. They were engaged. They were energized. And, yes, they were optimistic. They knew that nearly every problem has a solution, that every challenge is also an opportunity.

As I looked over that crowd, I was encouraged and hopeful, just as I am standing here today.

So, before I leave you today, as a long-time educator I would like to give you one last assignment in a few parts.

First, imagine the world as you would like it to look in five years. Ten years. Then figure out how to get there.

Second, don’t let life’s inevitable challenges dissuade you from making a difference. Author Dr. Angela Duckworth has written about “grit,” the perseverance and passion toward achieving one’s goals, that her research shows is more essential to success than talent. You need to be possessed of that if you want to go as far as you can.

Third, be adaptable. Life is likely to throw several curveballs at you, for good and bad. Having agility of mind and spirit will allow you to roll with the punches and come out ahead.

Finally, and most importantly, don’t become cynical.

 

Righter Is Sophie Kerr Winner

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Catalina Righter has won the 2017 Sophie Kerr Prize at Washington College. This year marks the 50th anniversary of the award.

Catalina Righter – winner of 2017 Sophie Kerr Prize at Washington College in Chestertown, MD

Righter is an English major from Manchester, Md., who served as editor-in-chief of the Elm, the student newspaper. Her portfolio combined journalism, a travel essay on New Orleans, and a selection of her poetry.

In addition to editing the student newspaper, Righter was a poetry screener for Cherry Tree, the national literary journal published by the Literary House Press. She is a member of Phi Beta Kappa, the Douglas Cater Society of Junior Fellows, Sigma Tau Delta (the English honor society), and was active in the sailing and dance clubs. After graduation, she plans to look for a newspaper job, she said in an interview with the Spy when she was chosen as a finalist.

Poet Elizabeth Spires announced the award Friday night at a ceremony marking the 50th anniversary of the nation’s largest undergraduate writing award, this year valued at $65,768. The cash award totals more than the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award and the Penn Faulkner prize combined, according to Professor Kathryn Moncrief, Chair of the English department and Sophie Kerr Curator.

Accepting the award, Righter thanked her family, saying that “that my most true and unwavering sense of self comes from you.” She also thanked her teachers, and her friends and fellow writers, “especially anyone who has trusted me to read a piece of that work.” Finally, she said,  “Thank you for anyone who came today because you love someone enough to tell them to continue to write.”

Catalina Righter rises to accept award as finalists Allison Billmire, Ryan Manning and James P. Mitchell, and Washington College president Sheila Bair applaud.

“Catalina has an eye for finding the extraordinary in the ordinary. She brings to bear on her poems a reporter’s objectivity and a journalist’s sense of what makes a story both memorable and beautiful,” said James Hall, Director of the Rose O’Neill Literary House.

“Catalina’s writing evinces her remarkable ability to capture both the outrageous and the mundane, and to find surprising humor and beauty in both,” said Moncrief.

The ceremony, which drew a large crowd to the college’s Hotchkiss Recital Hall, showcased the five finalists reading from their work, which covered a range from poetry to political commentary.  (See more photos below article.)

Catalina Righter accepts Sophie Kerr Prize. Poet Elizabeth Spires looks on.

Spires, a faculty member at Goucher College, began her teaching career at Washington College in 1981. In a speech preceding the announcement, she reminisced about her days at the college, with memories of fellow faculty members Bob Day and Bennett Lamond, and offered advice to the finalists. Among her tips were learning from rejection slips and resisting the temptation to lose themselves in the online world.

Sophie Kerr Vanilla Cupcakes served at the reception following the award ceremony.

The Sophie Kerr award is named for a popular writer of the early 20th century, Eastern Shore native Sophie Kerr, who published 23 novels, hundreds of short stories, and even a cookbook. When she died at 85 years old, she bequeathed the College a half-million-dollar trust fund, stipulating that half of the annual earnings go to a graduating senior who shows the most promise for future literary endeavor. The other half funds student scholarships, visiting writers and scholars, and library books.

 

Catalina (3rd from left) with friends at reception after the presentation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Prof James Allen Hall Director of the Rose O’Neill Literary House.) Catalina Righter, Prof. Kate Moncrief, chair of English Dept and Curator for Sophie Kerr Prize)

Edible Coffee Cups – Dark Chocolate with Mocha Mousse, Whipped Cream, and Raspberry