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UVa-Wise earns national recognition as College of Distinction

UVa-Wise News - Tue, 08/11/2015 - 4:48pm

Strong and creative learning opportunities at The University of Virginia’s College at Wise have earned the public liberal college recognition among the nation’s Colleges of Distinction.

“It is gratifying that UVa-Wise has earned recognition as a national College of Distinction for our innovative learning opportunities,” said Chancellor Donna P. Henry. “Our students earn college credit and valuable life experience by participating in study abroad programs, service learning, internships, undergraduate research, and other educational programs that are models for higher education across the nation.”

UVa-Wise received notification of the recognition on Aug. 10.

“Colleges of Distinction is delighted to honor UVa-Wise for its success in expanding programming by developing competencies relevant to graduates’ lives,” said Tyson Schritter, executive editor for Colleges of Distinction. “Active engagement is well recognized as a key to ensuring that undergraduates get the most out of their educations, and it has proven correlation with on-time graduation as well. Students increasingly demand access to hands-on learning, and Colleges of Distinction congratulates UVa-Wise for leading the way in the development of new methodologies that prepare students for the future.”

Schools must demonstrate results across the Four Distinctions—Engaged Students, Great Teaching, Vibrant Community, and Successful Outcomes. High school counselors and educators make nominations and each school is evaluated on key indicators including student engagement, student empowerment, and curricular innovation. Colleges that have distinguished themselves in each of the Four Distinctions and that have demonstrated dedication to enriching student outcomes through innovative learning opportunities are then invited to join Colleges of Distinction.

The annual process to select the nation’s Colleges of Distinction also includes a review of each institution’s freshman experience, as well as its general education program, strategic plan, and alumni success and satisfaction measures.

“Colleges of Distinction provides more than just a ranking or a tally of test scores,” Schritter said. “We identify colleges that offer every student an educationally rewarding experience, The Colleges of Distinction have earned solid reputations for nurturing and serving their students across every measure. Like UVa-Wise, our member schools provide the affirming undergraduate experience every student deserves.”

To view UVa-Wise’s profile or to find more information about the innovative learning experiences it offers, visit CollegeosfDistinction.com.

About Colleges of Distinction

The Colleges of Distinction website and e-guidebook recognize and honor schools throughout the U.S. for excellence in undergraduate-focused higher education. The member schools in the Colleges of Distinction consortium distinguish themselves through their focus on the undergraduate experience. CollegeofDistinction.com provides dynamic college profiles, customized tools, and more for students, parents, and high school counselors. For more information, visit CollegesofDistinction.com

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Summer Session II: Grades Posted by 12:00 Noon

UVa-Wise Calendar - Mon, 08/10/2015 - 8:00pm

Summer Session II

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Summer Session II: Exams

UVa-Wise Calendar - Sun, 08/09/2015 - 8:00pm

Summer Session II

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Summer Session II: Last day of classes

UVa-Wise Calendar - Thu, 08/06/2015 - 8:00pm

Summer Session II

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Recent grad chronicles shipwreck heroes

UVa-Wise News - Thu, 08/06/2015 - 3:47pm

Jessica Miller, a 2015 graduate of UVa-Wise, is researching a 128-year-old shipwreck that took the lives of five U.S. Life-Saving Service surfmen as they made an unsuccessful but heroic attempt to rescue the German crew of the Elizabeth.

Miller, a history major, is working as an intern at the Coast Guard Museum in Virginia Beach. The U.S. Life-Saving Service later became the U.S. Coast Guard.

The Elizabeth wrecked between Dam Neck Mills Station and Little Island Station during a Jan. 8, 1887 snowstorm. Miller’s research reveals the dedication and bravery of the seven surfmen who worked hard to rescue the 22-member Elizabeth crew. Two of the seven surfmen who attempted the rescue survived.

Miller’s research shows that a handful of life-saving stations were operated along the Virginia Beach coastline in the later part of the 1800s. Each station had a keeper and several surfmen to patrol the shore.

According to Miller, a surfman from the Little Island Station and a surfman from the Dam Neck Mills Station were on routine patrol when they discovered the wreckage of the Elizabeth.

“Both surfmen returned to their respective stations to inform the two life-saving crews of the shipwreck,” Miller said. “After arriving at the scene of the accident, the surfman attempted to make contact with the ship’s distressed crew by using a Lyle gun. Their efforts, however, were unsuccessful and the German sailors were forced to abandon the Elizabeth and crowd into a large lifeboat.”

In her research, Miller learned that Abel Belanga, the keeper of the Little Island Station, made a decision to deploy a surfboat to rescue the crew. The keeper picked six surfmen to accompany him as oarsmen.

“From his own station, Belanga chose surfman John T. Etheridge, John H. Land, George W. Stone and Frank Tedford,” she said. “He also chose James E. Belanga and Joseph Spratley from the Dam Neck Mills Station.”

James E. Belanga was the keeper’s brother and Tedford and Spratley were his brothers-in-law.

“When the life-saving crew reached the German sailors, Keeper Belanga informed Frederick G. Halberstady, the captain of the Elizabeth, that the 22 Germans would be transported to the beach in three trips,” Miller said. “As the surfmen attempted to bring the first group of men to shore, an immense wave overturned both the surfboat and the large lifeboat.”

The surfmen and the Elizabeth crew fought to survive the cold and choppy water, but Etheridge and Tedford were the only survivors.

Miller said the internship is giving her real world experience that she can use in the future, regardless of her career path. She plans to pursue a master’s degree, but has not decided whether to pursue the degree in history or criminal justice.

“The history department helped me develop marketable skills such as researching, writing and critical thinking,” she said of her time at UVa-Wise. “I feel like my major did prepare me for life after college. The professors in the history department are also willing to help students with their resumes and cover letters as well as providing students with continued advice and support after graduation.”










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Compliance Office to launch online reporting system

UVa-Wise News - Wed, 08/05/2015 - 2:50pm

bewisereportitThe UVa-Wise Office of Compliance and Conduct is launching an online reporting system, called “Be Wise, Report It,” for incidents of sexual or gender-based violence.

“The system, which will go live on August 7, will allow for prompt reporting of instances of prohibited behavior that we learn about, witness or experience,” said Tabitha Smith, Title IX Coordinator and Director of Compliance Programming.

Smith explained that UVa-Wise is committed to maintaining a respectful, professional and nondiscriminatory academic, living and working environment for students, faculty, staff and visitors.

“This includes having an environment free from sexual and gender-based harassment, sexual assault, intimate partner violence, stalking sexual exploitation, complicity and retaliation,” Smith said.

Smith said Katelyn Sturgill, a senior majoring in history with a minor in women’s studies, came up with the name for the system.

“The Office of Compliance and Conduct encourages every member of the UVa—Wise community to use the Be Wise. Report It. system to promptly report incidents and to also have full confidence those reports will be treated seriously and investigated timely and impartially,” Smith added.

The “Be Wise. Report It” system will be available at https://home.uvawise.edu/complianceforms/forms/incidents-report-form

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Marching Highland Cavaliers donate drums to Lee High

UVa-Wise News - Wed, 08/05/2015 - 11:31am

The Marching Highland Cavaliers continued the band’s tradition of boosting the region’s high school music programs by donating several drums and accessories to Lee High School.

Rick Galyean, director of bands at UVa-Wise, said the Marching Highland Cavaliers have helped the music program in Dickenson County and at Twin Valley High in Buchanan County by donating gently used instruments and equipment from time to time. Several high schools have also been given a needed instrument or two over the years as the Marching Highland Cavaliers purchase replacement horns and equipment.

The Marching Highland Cavaliers came into existence nine years ago when the College began a full-fledged music program. The band has less than 100 members, but the Marching Highland Cavaliers top bigger Virginia colleges and several peer institutions in terms of the percentage of enrolled students who join the band.

A generous gift from the Hunter J. Smith Foundation helped the band grow over the years. Smith, in making the gift, expressed the hope that the band could promote music programs in the region’s schools and communities. Galyean said the band honors Smith’s intention by performing at various events in the region, helping local band programs and assisting local band directors when possible.

The music program at UVa-Wise has produced several graduates who are now teaching music or band in schools across Virginia and in other states. Ben Harding, band director at Lee High, is a 2010 graduate of UVa-Wise. Galyean said the donation to Lee High was special because the drums were donated to an alumnus who was part of the College’s first year of the marching band program.

“Purchasing new drums would have been a major financial hurdle our boosters would have had to face,” Harding said. “They can now use the money they would have spent on the drums on other pressing matters.”

Galyean, who often visits local schools to recruit students for the music program, noticed that Harding and his students had patched up their 20-year-old drums with duct tape or other adhesives.

“Our drums were 10 years old, but they were in much better shape that those 20 year-old drums,” Galyean said. “We were at the point where we had to purchase new ones, so we decided to help Lee High out.”

Harding said his students were excited to receive the drums and accessories. He said the equipment would make a difference, especially as the Generals get ready for another performance season. The drum donation amounts to about $15,000 worth of equipment.

Lee High has 78 band members on its roster this season. Harding said he always tells the students about his experiences at UVa-Wise, and he encourages them to keep his alma mater in mind when they begin to consider colleges.





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U.Va., U.Va.-Wise Students Preserve Past, Discuss Future in Appalachia, Va.

UVa-Wise News - Tue, 08/04/2015 - 8:53am

University of Virginia doctoral student and Institute for Public History summer fellow Meredith McCool once helped her students in Anchorage, Alaska collect oral histories from survivors of a 1964 earthquake, culling stories of survival, hope and resilience. U.Va.-Wise student Tessa-McCoy Hall, a research fellow for the APPalachian Prosperity Project and the Center for Appalachia Studies at U.Va.-Wise, is a poet who writes about the Southwest Virginia area where she grew up.

This summer, the pair brought these approaches to the small Southwest Virginia town of Appalachia, interviewing residents to preserve the town’s past and build hopes for its future. The summer fellowships are supported by the APPalachian Prosperity Project, a partnership between U.Va. and U.Va.-Wise and a number of public and private partners in the Coalfield Region of Southwest Virginia.

McCool, a student in the Curry School of Education, and McCoy-Hall, a senior studying communications, are working with the APPalachian Prosperity Project to build an oral history of Appalachia, population roughly 1,900.

Over the weekend, McCool and McCoy-Hall presented the oral histories during the annual Coal/Railroad Days festival and led discussions about the town’s past and, more importantly, its future. Residents viewed excerpts from the oral histories, recorded short snippets of their own thoughts and memories and shared ideas, both in-person and through the social media campaign #visionsofappalachia.

This fall, the Appalachia Cultural Arts Center will begin to develop the oral histories into a community play, to be performed at the center’s theater, which has anchored the town’s Main Street even as other businesses have come and gone.

“We hope this project will generate discussion about new economic drivers for the town, particularly the heritage tourism economy and, just as importantly, remind community members and others about the people, work, and place that made Appalachia a thriving town  ” said Suzanne Morse Moomaw, associate professor of urban and environmental planning in the U.Va. School of Architecture and faculty research lead for the APPalachian Prosperity Project.

Appalachia has been searching for a new economic engine since the decline of the coal mining and railroad industries and many see heritage tourism and recreation as the answer. McCool and McCoy-Hall are using their presentation at the Coal/Railroad days to spur new ideas for growth.

“It is one thing to be on the fringes of a problem and know that it is happening, but to sit down with people, hear their memories and realize what is truly at stake integrates you into the problem and makes you want to be a part of the solution,” McCoy-Hall said.

The pair hopes their efforts will bring more voices into that discussion and help people connect around common solutions.

“People here have so many thoughtful ideas about the future of the town. We want to honor the ideas that we have heard in our interviews and ask for other perspectives,” McCool said.

Historical photograph of a man standing with his two goats in Appalachia, Virginia

Appalachian resident Sally West, along with his herd of goats, came up in several anecdotes. (Photo provided by Meredith McCool)

Appalachia resident Sally West, along with his herd of goats, came up in several anecdotes. (Photo provided by Meredith McCool)

The oral histories, gathered through interviews with 22 longtime residents, speak both to the challenges of the region and the resilience of its people. Main characters emerged – 1950s police chief Charlie Blair; mischievous Sally West, who, together with his herd of goats, featured prominently in some of the more hilarious tales; or mysterious Bessie Kilbourne, who rarely left home without a black fur coat.

Some researchers might have stopped there, content with a few colorful anecdotes embodying the stereotype of small-town Appalachia that began with a 1964 LIFE Magazine story on the War on Poverty and continues today.

McCool and McCoy-Hall wanted their oral history to go beyond the stereotype. They heard stories of an extraordinary community – mothers waking early to sweep the town’s streets, fathers putting together Christmas baskets for neighbors in need. They met a photographer inspired by the landscape he grew up in, a memoirist motivated by her mother’s love of poetry, and a U.Va..-educated doctor who returned to revitalize the local hospital.

Key themes recurred: the constancy of change, the perils of a boom-and-bust economy, the joy and sadness of the “brain drain” as some of the town’s brightest children went beyond its borders, worries about the next generation, but above all, deep pride of place.

“Over and over, we heard not about the poverty of the town, but about its generosity, community spirit and the resilience bred by the mountains,” McCool said.

The pair did encounter some skepticism. Other scholars, they learned, had collected oral histories only to leave without sharing their results. They are determined not to repeat that pattern.

“Everything we collect, while it will be used for study, will be returned to the town,” McCool said. “One of our main goals is to preserve the dignity of the people that opened up to us and give them the respect they deserve. They are thoughtful and insightful and hilarious and just good people and I want to make sure that we are honoring that and immediately giving back.”

“I have enjoyed the companionship with the townsfolk,” McCoy-Hall said. “They have become our friends, and it is great to feel that if we were to return, they would be truly glad to see us.”

The project has generated fresh discussions around ideas for economic growth – a demonstration coal mine and scenic railroad for tourists, improved trail systems for hikers and even the legalization of gambling, which previously played a large role in the town’s economy. Such discussions could generate improvement beyond the borders of Appalachia.

“The story of Appalachia is not unique to this particular area. It really is a universal story of change and boom-and-bust cycles,” McCool said. It is also, she said, a lesson in the negative effects of stereotyping. It is part of a big-picture discussion about what arts and culture can do to broaden people’s perspectives and make sure that everyone is treated with dignity and respect.”

by Caroline Newman

Media Relations Assistant

Office of University Communications

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