Saturday, December 13, 2014

A Christmas Story by Marsha Fralick

The following story is based on my childhood memories of Christmas in 1957.  It shows how my family faced adversity and my thoughts about the events over a half century later.  

Christmas 1957 was one of the happiest days of my life.  It was made all the more joyful by surviving challenging times. 

On April Fool’s Day 1957, our house burned down.  I was 10 years old and was playing with my ducks in the irrigation ditch behind our house.  I heard screaming and run to the house to see my whole family crying and calling out my name.  My parents had all my brothers (ages 8, 6, 4, and 2) out of the house and they thought I was still inside.  I arrived just as my father was trying to go in our house, which was totally engulfed in flames, to find me.  He surely would have died if he went back into the house.  My parents were only able to save what was most valuable, our family, and nothing else.  Even my Dad’s wallet with his paycheck was left inside.
All my parents had were 5 children and a green 1950 station wagon which had the keys inside.  We were all wearing our oldest clothes that we used to do our chores.  Now we had no home or clothes to go to school.  We drove to Albuquerque to stay with my abuela.  She had only a 2 room house with one bed.  Our parents arranged us like logs on the bed and they slept on the floor.  In the morning my abuela made us frijoles and tortillas and we were happy to have good food.  I still think that frijoles and tortillas are the best food around. 

My father worked as a security guard at Los Alamos and was able to get government housing during the summer.  We moved to Los Alamos into a home with nothing in it.  Some of my Dad’s friends brought over boxes of clothing and household items.  I remember going through the boxes hoping to find something that would fit me.  There were lots of miscellaneous items including a small silver pin in the form of a cuckoo clock.  I was able to start school in Los Alamos with donated clothing and the cuckoo clock pin.

We met a Santa at one of the stores and my brothers wished for trucks and toy pistols and cowboy hats.  I wanted a doll dressed like a bride.  That Christmas was the year that I began to seriously doubt the existence of Santa Claus.  I knew that we would get nothing because we could barely afford food for the family.  We did manage a scraggly tree with one string of lights.  We all stared at the tree as if it were magical.  I don’t think I slept very much on Christmas Eve.  I dreamed of the bride doll and hoped for a new sweater.  As the lights came in the window I imagined it was Santa and the lights on the wall looked like Christmas presents.

On Christmas morning, we all went downstairs and looked at amazement at the 3 bicycles and 2 tricycles left by Santa.  There was a bride doll too.  My mother had made a most beautiful bridal dress for the doll.  There was even a blue sweater too.  We were all so happy that Santa remembered us in our new home.

I was cleaning out my jewelry box this year and found the little silver cuckoo clock pin that I received over a half century ago and remembered that Christmas which was one of the happiest days of my life.  My father has passed away and I never asked him how he managed to buy all those bicycles.  I never thanked him for risking his life to save mine either.  However, the Christmas spirit that I experienced as a child still lives strong in my home.   My Christmas tree still looks magical.  I just bought some new bicycles for my granddaughters too.  

Here is a photo of that Christmas in 1957.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Authentic Happiness: Book Review

Over the years of my working with students, one of the lifetime goals most mentioned is "happiness."  Students are more likely to accomplish goals if they are specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timely (SMART).  Authentic Happiness,  by Martin Seligman, a positive psychologist, helps faculty and students to define, understand and achieve happiness as well as enhance personal and career success.

Excerpts from Authentic Happiness by Martin Seligman:

Real happiness comes from "identifying, cultivating and using your most fundamental strengths and using them every day in work, love, play and parenting."  (page xiii)  Seligman describes a process of being "in the flow" which is the state of gratification we feel when totally absorbed in an activity that matches our strengths.  When engaged in these activities, we do not notice the passage of time.  It occurs when our activities match our talents.  For example, musicians are in the flow when they are totally involved in their music.  Athletes are in the flow when they are totally focused on their sport.  Writers are in the flow when they are totally absorbed in writing down their ideas.  

Seligman contrasts happiness with hedonism.  He says that a hedonist "wants as many good moments and as few bad moments as possible in life."  He states that hedonism is a shortcut to happiness that leaves us feeling empty.  For example, we often assume that more material possessions will make us happy.  However, the more material possessions we have, the greater the expectations, and we no longer appreciate what we have.  

Seligman has a formula for happiness: (p. 45)

Happiness = Set Range (50%) + Circumstance (10%) + Voluntary Control (40%)

In this formula, about 50% of happiness is determined by heredity.  In other words, about 50% of happiness is determined by our ancestors.  In good times or bad times, we generally return to our set range of happiness.  

About 10% of happiness is determined by circumstances such as money, marriage, social life, health, education, climate, race, gender, and religion.  Here is what psychologists know about how these circumstances affect happiness:
  • Once basic needs are met, greater wealth does not increase happiness.
  • Having a good marriage is related to increased happiness.
  • Happy people are more social.
  • Moderate ill health does not bring unhappiness, but severe illness does.
  • Educated people are more happy.
  • Climate, race, and gender do not significantly affect the level of happiness.
  • Religious people are somewhat happier than nonreligious people.  
In the above formula, about 40% of happiness is under our voluntary control. Factors under voluntary control include optimism about the future and positive emotions such as hope, faith, trust, joy, calm, zest, ebullience, pleasure, flow, satisfaction, contentment, fulfillment, pride, and serenity.  Seligman suggest some ideas to increase positive emotions and happiness:
  1. Realize that the past does not determine your future.  The future is open to possibilities.  
  2. Be grateful for the good events of the past and place less emphasis on the bad events.
  3. Build on positive emotions through forgiving and forgetting.
  4. Work on increasing optimism and hope for the future.
  5. Find out what activities make you happy and engage in them.  Spread these activities out over time so that you will not get tired of them.
  6. Take the time to savor happy times.
  7. Take time to enjoy the present moment.
  8. Build more flow into your life.
Seligman has some interesting and useful ideas on work and personal satisfaction.  He suggest that we must build on our personal strengths to maximize job satisfaction.  He identifies three types of work: a job, a career, and a calling.  A job is something that we do for the paycheck at the end of the week.  A career has more personal meaning and involves achievement, prestige, power, and income. A calling is "a passionate commitment to work for its own sake.  Individuals with a calling see their work as contributing to the greater good. . ."  Work provides the opportunity for being in the flow.  

Why does happiness matter?
  • Positive emotions predict health and longevity.
  • Happier people are more satisfied with their jobs.
  • Happiness is positively related to productivity and higher income.
  • Happiness increases the joy in life.
As we approach the Thanksgiving holiday, it is a good time to reflect on being grateful and taking steps to increase happiness.


Authentic Happiness: Using the New Positive Psychology to Realize Your Potential for Lasting Fulfillment, by Martin E.P. Seligman, Free Press, 2002.

More information on this topic, including free assessments of signature strengths and happiness, are available at: 

Dr. Fralick integrates concepts from positive psychology in her textbooks to help students achieve personal and career success.  

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Excerpts from "Chasing the American Dream: Recent College Graduates and the Great Recession"

How are recent graduates faring in the workplace in current economic conditions? How can we better help students in their transition from college to careers?  Some answers are suggested by the Work Trends report, “Chasing the American Dream: Recent Graduates and the Great Recession” by Charley Stone, Carl Van Horn and Cliff Zukin of the John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development of Rutgers University.  Their research is based on a nationally representative sample of 444 college graduates from 2006-2011.

Of the students in this sample, 51% were employed full time with a median pre-recession (2006-2007) starting salary of $30,000 and a recession (2009-2011) salary of $27,000. It is noteworthy to compare these starting figures with the average student loan debt of around $30,000 for these students.  About 57% of recession graduates receive financial help from parents or other family members and nearly one third have moved back home or receive help with housing, partly to pay off student debt.  It is significant that 58% of these students believe that the American dream of upward mobility has stopped with their generation. 

Students were asked, “Thinking back to college, is there anything you would have done differently to be successful today?”  Here is a summary of some interesting data useful to college educators and students:

·         37% would have been more careful about selecting their major or chosen a          different career.  
·         29% would have done more internships or worked part time.
·         24% would have started looking for work much sooner while still in college.
·         20% would have taken more classes to prepare for a career.
·         14% would have gone to a different college.
·         3% would not have gone to college.
The above answers show a need for more career guidance and careful consideration in choosing a major.  Those who said that they would have been more careful in making a decision about a major were asked what they would have done differently with the benefit of hindsight.  Here is what they said:

·         41% would have gone into a professional major (communications, education,
social work.)
·         29% would have gone into a STEM major (science, technology, engineering, or         math.)
·         56% said they should have taken more computer and technology courses.
·         36% regretted not taking more business/finance courses.
·         36% regretted not taking more quantitative skills courses.
For educators, the report reinforces the need for career guidance early in college in order to help students prepare for the world of work after graduation.
For students, it is important to begin thinking about careers at the beginning of college rather than waiting until after graduation.  Students can begin the process as soon as they start college by exploring their personal strengths and how they match the world of work.  Gaining skills in mathematics, science and technology can enhance career prospects as well as salary.  Students can also benefit from part time work and internships while in college. Early career planning can help students make a successful transition from college to careers.  

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Is a College Education a Good Investment?

The costs of a college education keep increasing while wages earned after graduation are stagnating or decreasing.  Some students (and their parents) may wonder if getting a college education is a good investment.  The good news is that data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and economic analysis show that a college education continues to be a good investment.  

The Bureau of Labor Statistics has published data on earnings and educational attainment for 2014:

$1,015,560           Lifetime earnings with a high school diploma
$1,212,120           Lifetime earnings with an associate’s degree
$1,728,480           Lifetime earnings with a bachelor’s degree
To put these figures into perspective, a person with a bachelor’s degree earns $712,920 more over a lifetime than a person with only a high school diploma.  So, what is the value of a college education?  It is $712,920 on average. 

We can do some further comparisons to help students understand the value of a college education:

                Completing one course is worth $17,823 over a lifetime.
                ($712,920 divided by 40 courses in a bachelor’s degree)

                Going to class for one hour is worth $371 over a lifetime.
                (17,823 divided by 48 hours in a semester course)

You can ask students, “Would you go to class if someone paid $371 per hour?”  Of course these are benefits of working over a lifetime of 30 years. 

Another interesting conclusion from the Bureau of Labor Statistics data is that college graduates are less likely to be unemployed.  In 2013, the unemployment rate for persons with a bachelor’s degree was 4.0% as compared to 7.5% for persons with a high school diploma. 

Another way of looking at the value of a college education is return on investment.  This takes into account the cost of a college education, lost wages while attending college, and future earnings.  According to economists Jaison Abel and Richard Deitz of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, the rate of return for a bachelor’s degree has been about 15% over the last decade, and for an associate’s degree around 14%.  These economists note that since 1950, investing is stocks has yielded an average annual return of 7%; therefore college is a good investment because it has a higher return than investing in the stock market. 

While the average rate of return for a bachelor’s degree is around 15%, not all college majors are equal investments.  Here are some rates of return for different majors:
    Engineering                       21%
                Math and Computers        18%
                Health                                18%
                Business                           17%
                Communications               15%
                Technologies                     15%
                Social Sciences                 15%
                Sciences                            14%
                Architecture                        14%
                Liberal Arts                         12%
                Agriculture                          11%
                Leisure and Hospitality       11%
                Education                             9%

Again the good news is that all majors have a greater return than investing in the stock market and are well above the average for what economists consider a good return on investment.  In addition to the financial reasons for attending college, let’s not overlook personal growth, job satisfaction, quality of life, and the other less tangible rewards of becoming a college graduate. 
Students may wonder if going to college is worth it.  You can reassure them that it is still a wise investment.   You can increase their extrinsic motivation by saying, “Go to class today and do your homework because you are earning $371 an hour (over a lifetime.)”   


Bureau of Labor Statistics are from:

“Do the Benefits of College Still Outweigh the Costs” by Jaison Abel and Richard Deitz:

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Setting up Your Online Course for Maximum Student Success

Investing some time at the beginning of your online course can maximize student success.   Here are some items to consider in getting your online class off to a good start.  These suggestions are based on my 10 years of successfully teaching college success courses online, including good student success, retention and satisfaction.  Modify these suggestions to match your own teaching style, use of technology, and the needs of your students. 

1.        Get Organized
When your course is well organized, your students will be able to easily navigate your course and you will have fewer students with problems and questions.  The following is a suggested basic checklist:

The Welcome Letter
Once your class is filled, send your students a welcome letter that outlines the course content, benefits, myths about online courses and time required.  This helps students know what to expect before the class begins and to make sure they are ready for online learning.  For a sample online letter, go to:

The Course Syllabus
The course syllabus is different from a face to face course in that it includes links to all your online material.  As you gain experience in your course, revise your syllabus to clarify any questions you received in the previous semester.  For an example of an online syllabus, go to:

The Course Calendar
The course calendar is one of your most important organizational tools.  It contains all the assignments on a weekly basis.  For an example of an online calendar, go to:

The Course Management System
Your course management system (such as Blackboard) is usually provided by your college and has your course content and grading.  Attend professional development sessions at your college to learn your course management system and have it set up and available before your class begins. 

Having a website with all your course information is helpful to begin communication with students during the registration process.  List your web address in the college course schedule.  Here is my page:

Set up a system to send text messages to your students.  A phone app called Remind enables you and your students to communicate via text messages without students being able to view  your cell phone number or the phone numbers of other students.  You can send text messages from your computer to all students or individual students in your course.  Set up your faculty account at: 

Your college probably provides a way to send emails to your students, but realize that text messages are more likely to be read than emails.

Set up Your Assignments and Grading System
Use your course management system to set up your assignments and grading system.  Provide clear directions on how to complete the assignments with outlines or student examples if available.  Plan to provide immediate feedback on assignments.  Make a column for “Current Grade” since it is important that students know their overall grade in the course each week.   

2.       Make it personal.
Take steps to help students get to know you and other students.  This will help students maintain interest and involvement in the course. 

The Course Blog
I use a blog in my course instead of a discussion board.  I can begin my blog before the class begins and it is independent of my course management system.  In the welcome letter, students are invited to my blog to begin their introductions before the course begins or during the first week.  My first blog has a brief video introduction of myself and the course.  I ask students for a 100 word introduction and a 100 word description of their educational journey.  I do the first postings as an examples. 

Here is my blog for Fall 2014: 
Here is my completed blog for Spring 2014:
You can set up a blog for free at:

Establish Positive Rules for Conduct
It is easy to criticize others online because of the lack of proximity and personal involvement.  However, students learn better in a supportive environment and I set this up before the course begins.   I spell out the rules for conduct in my blog.  Students are encouraged to be supportive of other students.  If they disagree, they are asked to simply state their opinion without putting other students down.  I closely and quickly monitor student interaction, especially in the first postings. 

Provide Personal and Supportive Feedback
Grading assignments is a good opportunity to provide personal feedback and to be supportive to your students.  Of course, include suggestions for improvement.  

3.        The first 2 weeks are critical.

Once your course has begun, pay particular attention to the first 2 weeks which are critical for student success and retention.  If students are on track the first 2 weeks, they are more likely to have fewer problems in the course and to successfully complete it.  By the end of the second week of school, all students must:
·         Log into the course management system.
·         Connect through the phone app, Remind, for text messages.
·         Introduce themselves on the blog.
·         Complete the online orientation. (See
·         Complete the first assignment.

I look at the first two weeks as a trial period where it is possible that students may not understand how the course works and the requirements. If any of the above items are missing, I follow up with students and allow them to make up the work without penalty. My follow up is quick and I am persistent. Students are then required to turn their work on time after the second week.

4.       Make it interactive. 
Students are more likely to stay interested in your course and finish it if it is interactive.  Think about ways in which you can encourage interactivity with the professor, other students, the textbook, the Internet and how you design your assignments. 
·         The blog encourages interaction between the professor and other students.
·         Text messages help remind students of assignments and how to stay on track. 
·         Select one of the new generations of textbooks that are interactive as well as online.  To see a sample of an interactive online textbook, take a look at this short video demo of CollegeScope, the interactive online text used in my course. For more information on CollegeScope, go to:
·         Design assignments that make use of the Internet and encourage critical and creative thinking.  

Many of the followers of this blog use my interactive online textbook, CollegeScope.  Here are a few reminders to get started with CollegeScope at the beginning of the semester:
·         Delete your students from the previous semester.
·         Delete your previous groups and set up groups or classes for the new semester.  In this way, when students register for CollegeScope, their accounts will appear under “My Students.”
·         Have students register for CollegeScope the week before class begins.  Registration is free. Students do not pay until they begin Chapter 2.
·         Compare your class roster with “My Students.”  If any are missing, use the search function to locate them and add them to your account. 

Does this seem like a lot of work?  It is more work in the beginning and less once you have passed the first two week critical period.  All your hard work will pay off when your course is running smoothly and students are enjoying and benefiting from the course.  Keep in mind that how you begin is how you will end, so invest your time at the beginning of the course to make it the best it can be.  I wish you much success as you teach your online course.  

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Making the Most of the First Week of Your Course

The first week of the course can be the most important week of the semester because it is an opportunity to set the stage for all that follows.  Here are some suggestions for the first week:

1.    Do an engaging and enjoyable activity so that students leave the first class with enthusiasm for the course.
First impressions are important in many areas of life, including the impression you make on the first day of the course.  Be sure to include an enjoyable activity that engages students and gives them an opportunity to participate in discussion.  There are many engaging activities for the first day or week of class in my Instructor Manual, Section 1:

2.     Pace your class to maintain student interest. 
As a general rule, plan to spend no more than 10-15 minutes on any activity.  Plan some activities that require student interaction. 

3.     Establish a supportive environment for learning.
Provide positive feedback to students who volunteer, especially during the first class.  Encourage students to be supportive of one another.  I usually make this statement early in the course:
I believe that students learn better in a positive and supportive environment.  It is my goal to be supportive of your learning and encourage you to be supportive and respectful of other students. 
4.     Introduce yourself. 
Spend about five minutes or less introducing yourself so that students get to know you.  Here are some ideas to include in your introduction:
·         Your educational journey
·         Your most important values
·         Why you enjoy teaching this course
·         What you hope students learn in the course
·         Your professional experience
·         Your favorite inspirational quote
Don’t spend too much time on your personal introduction since there are other important goals for the first class. 

5.     Get to know your students and help your students get to know one another.
Students begin any new course with some excitement or anxiety about a being in a new situation.  You can build on the excitement and reduce anxiety by doing some ice breakers.  You can find a variety of ice breakers and introductory activities on this page of my website:
Don’t spend the entire first class on ice breakers since there are other important goals for the first class.  Ideally, aim to spend no more than 10-15 minutes on the ice breakers.  You can do the ice breakers quickly by dividing your students into groups of 5 and having the group share some answers to the ice breaker questions.  Call on each group to share some of the responses.  Remember to share some of your own answers to the questions.
6.     Use your syllabus to help students understand the course objectives and requirements. 
You can find components and sample syllabi at:
As an alternative to reading your syllabus, give students 5 minutes to skim your syllabus.  Tell them that there will be some discussion questions at the end of 5 minutes.  Ask for volunteers to answer some questions such as:
·         What is a syllabus and why should you keep it?
·         How can you make an A in this course?
·         Do you have to attend every class?
·         What behavior is required in this course?
·         What happens if your assignment is late?
·         How do you contact the instructor?
·         What textbook is required?
·         What is one student learning outcome that you find interesting?

If students cannot answer your questions, pause so that they can look up the answers.   You could also give a 5 minute quiz on your syllabus at the beginning of the second class meeting.
7.     Set the standards for appropriate behavior in your classroom.
Standards for student behavior should be outlined in your syllabus and implemented on the first day.  It is important to enforce the standards from the beginning.  For example, if you want only one person speaking at a time, enforce this behavior at your first opportunity.  If you would like some ideas on dealing with difficult students, see Faculty Resources on this page of my website:

8.     Provide an overview of online components of the course such as your course management system or electronic textbook. 
While you may not be able to provide this overview during the first class, it is important to include this information during the first week or no later than the second week.  Show students how to log into Blackboard or other course management systems.  Help them to access their online textbook or other online materials. 

Adjust these suggestions to match your teaching style and the needs of your students.  I hope you find these ideas useful in making a good impression and generating enthusiasm for your course.  Best wishes as you help your students to be successful. 

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Summary: A Stronger Nation Through Higher Education

As faculty who teach college and career success courses, we are interested in improving the numbers of students who successfully complete their college degrees.  The Lumina Foundation has yearly reports on educational attainment that provide data and recommendations for improvement that can be useful to faculty in advocating for change. 

According to a Gallup/Lumina poll, 74% of Americans believe that attaining a post secondary degree is important to attaining a better quality of life and obtaining employment in a changing job market.  The poll also shows that 89% of Americans believe that higher education needs to change to better serve the students of today. 

The goal of the Lumina Foundation is that by 2015, 60% of Americans will hold a degree, certificate or other high quality post secondary credential.  As of 2012, only 39.4% of Americans ages 25-64 had at least an associate degree.  When comparing educational attainment in the United States with other countries during the last six years, other countries have a higher rate of college completion.  The global economy has resulted in increasing demand for higher education and other countries have been more successful in meeting this demand. 

Degree attainment for different racial and ethnic groups varies, showing the need to improve higher education attainment for underrepresented groups.  This is especially important since underrepresented groups will have a higher increase in overall population. 

White                                  43.87%
Black                                   27.62%
Hispanic                              19.81%
Asian                                   59.35%
Native American                23.43%

The 6 year college completion rate is 58.8%, but also differs according to population groups:

White                                 62.1%
Black                                  39.9%
Hispanic                             51%
Asian                                  69.2%
Native American               Not provided

See the full report for detailed statistics on educational attainment for all major metropolitan areas in the United States and statistical profiles for each state.  You can read the full report at

Lumina Recommendations:

1.     Base post secondary education on learning outcomes.  The Lumina Foundation proposes the Degree Qualifications Profile (DQP) which provides a common framework for defining learning outcomes across all programs, institutions and degrees.

2.       Create clear and flexible pathways to degrees to help students in choosing courses and reducing time to graduation.  Students should be able to transfer easily between institutions.  These pathways should be aligned with the changing needs of society and the economy.   Include credit for work and military experience.
3.       Make higher education accessible and affordable to all who need it.  Some ways to decrease cost include online education and competency based education.  Current models of funding are based on time rather than learning.  There is a need to focus on the student and learning rather than seat time.  Changes in the accreditation process may be needed to adapt to new ways of delivering education. 

Saturday, April 26, 2014

End of Semester Activities, April 26, 2014

The last day or week of a college success course can the most rewarding week for students as well as faculty.  It is a way to reflect on the course and apply what has been learned in the future.   Here are some suggestions for activities to end your course on a positive note.  Since you probably won’t have time to do all these activities, choose the ones that match your teaching style and are appropriate for the students in your course.

1.     Intentions for the future
Have students look over the table of contents of their textbook and think about what they have learned and how they will put the information into practice.  Have them write ten intention statements about what they have learned in this course and how they will use the material to be successful.  Have students share their intention statements with groups or the entire class.  I intend to . . .

2.      Visualize your success
To be successful, students need a clear mental picture of what success means to them.  On one sheet of paper, challenge students to make a picture of what success means to them.  Ask students to include education, career, family life, lifestyle, finances, and anything else important to them.  Students can use a drawing, mind map, list, outline or sentences to describe their picture of success.  This can be done as a homework assignment or an in class activity.  Have students share their pictures with the class.    

3.       Happiness is . . . .
On one sheet of paper, have students list or draw the small or big things that make them happy.  Challenge students to finish this activity in 5 minutes.  Share the pictures with the class.

Share this quote from Joseph Addison:
Three grand essentials to happiness in this life are something to do, something to love, and something to hope for. 

4.       Three wishes
Ask students to pretend that they are on the beach and find a bottle.  A genie pops out and says that they can have three wishes.  Here are the requirements for the wishes:
You cannot wish for more wishes.
The wishes are for yourself.
The wishes should be realistic ones that actually can be accomplished. 

Ask students to write down their three wishes.  Then ask students to volunteer to share their wishes.  Then tell students you would like them to change the wishes into affirmations. 

Review the guidelines for writing an affirmation:
The statement should be positive.
The statement should be written in the present tense.
The statement should begin with “I.”
An affirmation can be made stronger by adding an emotion (how you feel when it is accomplished.)

As an example, mention some of your wishes and how you have changed them into affirmations. 

Example:  I wish for good health.
Affirmation:  I enjoy having good health. 

You can take the exercise one step further by asking students to list a beginning step to accomplishing their affirmation.

Example: I make exercise a priority each day. 

5.       Traits that lead to success
Have students brainstorm 8-10 traits that they believe would make a person successful.  This can be done individually or in groups.  Follow up the activity with the 3 minute video by Richard St. John, “Eight Traits that Lead to Success” which is based on over 500 interviews in which he gathered words of wisdom from successful people.  This is a TED talk available at

6.       Write a letter
As part of the final exam, have students write a letter to students who will enroll in this course next semester.  The topic is “How to Be Successful in This Course.”  Use these letters for group discussion during the first week of your class next semester. 

Another variation is to have students write a letter to themselves on the last day of class.  The letter should be about how they will use the information learned in this class to be successful in the future.  You can include their exercises on visualizing success, happiness, affirmations or intentions for the future.  Remember to bring envelopes to class and have students address the envelopes and include their letters and exercises.  Then all you have to do is drop these letters in the campus mail at the beginning of next semester. 

7.      Diversity Potluck
On the last day, ask students to bring food that represents their ethnicity or other individual differences.  Do a sign up list in advance.  For students who don’t know what to bring, assign them to bring water or utensils.  (At our college we have many Middle Eastern and Mexican students, so the food is always interesting and students enjoy the activity.)

See my list of videos on the above topics at my website:
Click on Thinking Positively about the Future

Additional Activities
You can find additional activities and handouts at my website:
Click on Thinking Positively about the Future

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If you have additional end of semester activities you would like to share, add them to the comments at the end of this blog or send them to me at

Have a great ending to your semester!

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Book Review: Generation on a Tightrope, April 2, 2014

Generation on a Tightrope by Arthur Levine and Diane Dean (Jossey-Bass, 2012) describes our current generation of college students and their struggle to achieve their dreams and aspirations in the difficult economic times that students are facing upon graduation.  It is based on research completed from 2006-2009 on about 5,000 undergraduates and describes college students born in the 1990's.  This new generation has been given many labels including Generation Z, the Internet Generation and the iGeneration, to name a few.

Today's college students remain hopeful about their futures, but are facing difficulties upon graduation.  Students are graduating with an average of $31,500 in student loan debt for a bachelor's degree and 9.1% of current graduates are unemployed.  Many of them (25% of 18-29 year olds) deal with the situation by moving back home with their parents.

This is the first generation of digital natives and the use of technology is the most important characteristic of this new generation.  The authors present some interesting statistics: (p. 23)

For adults 18-35 years old:
  • 95% have cell phones 
  • 74% have iPods or other MP3 players
  • 70% have laptop computers
  • 63% have game consoles
  • Only 1% have none of the above devices
  • 57% of four-year college students and 38% of community college students check their Facebook pages daily
  • 35% are more likely to join a Facebook group than join a similar on campus group.
When students were asked how education could be improved, they replied as follows: (p. 47)    
  • 78% reported that education could be improved if their professors made greater use of technology (and knew how to use it)
  • 52% want more blended education.
  • 33% want more totally online courses.
Here are some other characteristics of this new generation:

They are:
  • the most diverse group in the history of higher education.
  • more connected through digital media, but lack interpersonal skills.
  • described as a digital tribe that consists of friends and family connected through digital media such as Facebook, Myspace, and LinkedIn.
  • reported to be more immature, dependent, and feel more entitled than previous generations.
  • pragmatic and career oriented.
  • lacking in basic skills (66% of community college students and 29% of four-year students are enrolled in remedial courses. (p.46)
  • dealing with rapid change in society.
Their main reasons for going to college are jobs and money.  Most students (67%) say that "the chief benefit of a college education is that it increases one's earning power." (p. 38)

Their preferred learning mode is practical and interactive while professors prefer abstract and theoretical (reading and lecture).

To prepare students for the future, the authors make these suggestions:
  • Prepare students to deal with change by teaching critical thinking, creativity, and continual learning.  
  • Prepare students for life in a digital society.  "The Internet needs to replace the blackboard." (p. 185)
  • Move from an emphasis on teaching to an emphasis on learning.  Seat time does not guarantee learning.
  • Prepare students for life in a diverse, global society.  
  • Prepare students for an economy in recession.  The authors state that career counseling is "too little, too late." (p. 180)  Career development should begin during the first college orientation and continue throughout college.  It should be part of a required college success course.
  • Students need to have basic skills in language, mathematics, and communication to be successful in college and careers.  
Share your thoughts on the current generation of college students and how we can help them to be successful.