Monday, August 27, 2012

The Closing Ceremony - Really a Goodbye?

(Brett was one of two students who worked on the Habitat Use and Activity Patterns of Reptiles and Amphibians in Relation to Temperature and Humidity project with faculty mentor Dr. Todd Fredericksen during the inaugural Freshman Scholars Program in summer 2012.)

by Brett W., Freshman Scholar and Guest Blogger

For Friday, August 10th, from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m., the schedule showed that there would be a Final Poster Session and closing ceremony in the Grousbeck 2nd floor lounge. To everyone else, this might have seemed like a "goodbye," but not for me. For example, say you see something amazing through the window of a door. You walk through that door to go into the amazing new world, but once you leave it, you close the door behind you on the way out. Although you have left, I don’t think you ended it; you’ve just simply moved on. That’s what happened in the Grousbeck 2nd floor lounge on August 10.

Throughout the twelve amazing days in the Freshman Scholars program, I worked alongside my roommate, friends, colleagues, and future professors to ultimately collect data for my project, which built up to creating the final poster and my presentation of it. In just those few days though, I did more than just work alongside those people; I grew close to them – every single one – students and professors alike. By doing so, the experiences I shared with them will remain with me throughout all of college, and for some, the rest of my life.

Therefore, when 9 a.m. on August 10 rolled around and I was interviewed by Ferrum Admissions about my project and how the week had gone, I was talking about more than just the science behind the project or the technicalities of the trip; I was talking about my life experience and how much this program meant to me. I was talking about my project to the professors, deans, provost, and president as more than just a program participant though: I was talking to them as friends.

A lot of people might want to walk back through the door they just closed because they are scared of what is in the new world. Originally, they were drawn to the amazing opportunities they saw available, but now what? What if something goes wrong? I might have felt this way. I might have felt as if I was saying goodbye to the world I just left, but I don’t feel that way because I have friends now to help me through this new world I’ve just entered; friends who will stay with me along the way.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Going from 12 to 1

(Cari worked on the Water Quality: Point and Nonpoint Sources of Pollution project with faculty mentor Dr. David Johnson during the inaugural Freshman Scholars Program in summer 2012.) 

by Cari A., Freshman Scholar and Guest Blogger

Before the Freshman Scholars Program, I was so nervous about being away from home for such a long time. I figured that all of the other scholars would be so introverted and kind of keep to themselves, but thankfully, I was wrong. Though I enjoyed all of my time at Ferrum College, I enjoyed meeting and getting close with the 11 other scholars the most. Each and every one of us came from completely different backgrounds and had gone through different experiences. Despite where we had come from, we went from being 12 complete strangers to being one crazy group of friends.  I enjoyed seeing each of the scholars interact with each other in different ways and form lasting relationships. It was also truly a blessing to get to experience spending two weeks with a group of faculty that have a heart for the educational advancement of young people.

As cliché as it may seem, my parents have already said that "the friends you make for life will be the ones who you meet the first week." After only a few days together, it was easy to see that we were working together and helping one another face our individual fears. The Ferrum Outdoors ropes course was my absolute favorite day of the program. When Professor Caston challenged us to work together to achieve a common goal but to do it in silence, we could have moved mountains with the amount of trust we put into each other. We played into each other's strengths to help fight our weaknesses and fears of others, and by doing so, we were able to accomplish so much more than the challenges we were given.

When the time for the high ropes rolled around, each one of us was challenged in some way; even some of the professors felt a sense of fulfillment. I know for me personally, I was challenged when I volunteered to go up with Professor Caston's eight-year-old daughter Mallory. Though she had been up on the course numerous times, she still wasn't tall enough to operate her lobster claws to make her own transfers from obstacle to obstacle. As her partner, I was able to assist her; essentially, I became her lifeline. She had to trust a complete stranger to safely transfer her to different obstacles, and she seemed to trust me with ease. Through my experience with Mallory, I also learned a lot about myself.

A second event on the ropes day that proved to me how our connections were growing so quickly was watching Jessa encourage Dr. Laura Grochowski as she faced several of her fears and enabled her to complete the whole course. Soon after Jessa helped Dr. G., she climbed up the tower to go down the zip line with me. Even though Jessa did not complete the whole course, just climbing up that pole to the zip line was a major accomplishment. As we prepped to jump off the tower, the uncertainty in Jessa's eyes was obvious. I was able to talk her through what we were going to do next; we were going to sit down and scoot off the tower. She looked at me and said, "You are going to have to hold me like a baby." She wrapped herself around me and held on as I scooted us off the platform and we went flying. Jessa had conquered her fear and a bond was formed between us. There are so many more examples of how each of us was challenged to face a fear that we didn't necessarily think we could.

The "unit"
I believe that without the support and the connections that each of the scholars and the faculty have made, we wouldn't have been able to test our own limits. I think that if you were to ask each of the scholars to name a fear they faced during the two-week program, each would be able to give an answer no matter how minuscule it may seem. The Freshman Scholars Program changed the lives of 12 scholars and of nine faculty members and possibly many other people that we don't even realize. The connections we made through this program will be with us all of our years at Ferrum College, and most likely, throughout our lives. I thank all those who put this program together and who will continue to hold it together in the years to come!

- Cari A.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Recreation Day Serves as Practical Application to Our Research

(Rachel was one of two students who worked on the Investigation of Natural Product Biosynthesis project with faculty mentor Dr. Laura Grochowski during the inaugural Freshman Scholars Program in summer 2012.)

by Rachel B., Freshman Scholar and Guest Blogger
Left to right: Dr. Grochowski, me, Shannon Brown
During the Freshman Scholars Program, we went to Philpott Lake for one of the day trips. This was an amazing experience and a really good bonding time for the group. Canoeing proved to be a challenge for some, but overall, it was a ton of fun! We swam yards out into the lake and enjoyed conversations that proved us to be a tight-knit group. While out on the lake, my research partner, Shannon Brown, and I discovered that Philpott Lake was just another practical application of our research on methanogens. Making discoveries such as this really help to relate lab work to real world experiences.
We poked our oars in the sediment and found that bubbles arose. This meant that methanogens are producing methane under the sediment and it is rising. Methane is one of the 5 main greenhouse gases and is one of the 2 major gases causing problems in our environment. Carbon dioxide and methane account for most of the greenhouse effect. Methanogens exist everywhere in the world, including places with cow pastures, rice paddies, and marshes. Ruminants, such as cows, produce most of the methane in the world, but lakes are still big contributors to the total amount of methane produced. Philpott Lake will be the subject of part of our research in the fall. Taking samples from places such as Philpott will allow us to understand the individual methanogens that live around Ferrum.

This experience was a wonderful way to enter college. I now know all of my professors for my upcoming classes. It will make the transition into my freshman year much easier. I will be a lot more comfortable going to class and asking questions.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Juvenile Amphibian Dispersal in Small Ponds of Southern Virginia

(Trevor was one of two students who worked on the Habitat Use and Activity Patterns of Reptiles and Amphibians in Relation to Temperature and Humidity project with faculty mentor Dr. Todd Fredericksen during the inaugural Freshman Scholars Program in summer 2012.)

by Trevor L., Freshman Scholar and Guest Blogger

For part of our Freshman Scholars project, we studied the dispersal of common pond amphibians at Chapman Pond on the campus of Ferrum College. We were trying to find out the timing of the juvenile dispersal of pond-breeding amphibians. We were also trying to find out the time of year and duration of juvenile dispersal of different species of frogs, toads, and red-spotted newts. Finally, we were evaluating whether the dispersal of juvenile amphibians was linked to temperature, humidity, and rainfall.

In order to record information on the juvenile amphibians, we used pitfall traps to catch them as they exited the pond. Pitfall traps are buckets dug into the ground so that the open top of the bucket is at ground level and the cover is placed several inches from the opening of the bucket to allow shade for the amphibians. A fencing material is used to stop the amphibians from getting to the forest, and the fencing helps to guide the amphibians - leaving or entering the pond - into the open pitfall traps.

The traps were by far the most exciting part of the study because we didn't know what to expect. Using the traps, we could have found the amphibians we were looking for to do the study, or we could have found reptiles or invertebrates. During the study, we found that the red-spotted newt was the most commonly trapped amphibian. Also, the majority of juveniles captured were caught in the late summer months instead of the early summer months because the juvenile amphibians needed time to hatch and mature after the mating season. Pickerel frog juvenile dispersal spiked in early June while the red-spotted newt juvenile dispersal spiked in early July. The timing of juvenile amphibian dispersal varied among species. It was also evident that there was a significant positive correlation between rainfall in the previous 24 hours and the total number of captures.

I have really enjoyed this experience, and I think it will help me with the rest of my education.

Moving Ahead with New Designs

Part two of blog posts on our web redesign project.

Updated 8/23/12 now that our survey has closed.

Read Part One: "Designing a New Web Site"

We have three designs, based on the wireframe the web redesign committee approved last month, and we want your feedback as we hash out a final homepage design prior to building out templates. Once a homepage design is approved we'll work on an internal page design.

Design 1:

Click on the image to see a larger version.

Design 2:

Click on the image to see a larger version.

Design 3:

Click on the image to see a larger version.

Thank you for participating in our survey. 

We had over 150 people respond to our request! 

Here's a snippet of the responses:

Click on the image to see a larger version.

Click on the image to see a larger version.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Inaugural Freshman Scholar Program, 2012

(Caitlyn was one of two students who worked on the Development of an Animal Model for the Cognitive Deficits Observed in Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) project with faculty mentor Dr. Megan St. Peters during the inaugural Freshman Scholars Program in summer 2012.)

by Caitlyn N., Freshman Scholar and Guest Blogger

During the first two weeks of August, I attended the Freshman Scholar Program on campus at Ferrum College.  The program was an awesome experience. I met a lot of new people, including several professors, and I got a head start on discovering what is expected of you as a college student.  The program was a lot of work, but there was also time for fun. I was able to experience many new things, such as a high ropes course and doing lab work making an animal model.

In my opinion, the best thing about the program was getting to meet some amazing new people, such as my RA's, the other scholars, and Dr. Goff, who was the coordinator of the program. Although it was hard work and an adjustment to what I was used to in high school, I would definitely recommend other incoming freshmen to attend the program. I can't wait for move-in day and to see everyone from the class of 2016!  

Monday, August 20, 2012

Porcupines, Otters, Snow Leopards, Oh My!

(Jessa was one of two students who worked on the Institutional Readiness for Online Education project with faculty mentor Dr. Karl Roeper during the inaugural Freshman Scholars Program in summer 2012.)

by Jessa K., Freshman Scholar and Guest Blogger
After a long week working with our mentors for the Freshman Scholars Program, our trip to Roanoke was the thing on everyone's minds! The activity that caught my attention from the get-go was our scheduled trip to the Mill Mountain Zoo, located next to the Roanoke Star. The word "zoo" caused images of lions, gorillas, and other large, uncommon animals. However, the Mill Mountain Zoo is not on the same level as a large scale zoo, and therefore does not have gorilla exhibits.

At first, I was slightly disappointed, but as I walked through and looked at each animal, I was surprised to see the variety of animals they did have. I thought the pig, goat, and cow exhibit was really cool because it displayed animals commonly found in the area. The size of the zoo really allows visitors to see wildlife that surrounds them but that they never notice. For example, I had never seen a porcupine before, and even though they are not native to my area, they are by no means classified as exotic. Another exhibit that caught my attention was the aviary. While I personally did not enter the structure where it was housed, it was a really interesting way for folks who are interested in birds to get an up-close and personal look at them. That was not the only hands-on experience. Throughout the zoo, there were faculty members moving the animals around who were more than willing to stop for zoo guests to answer questions about the animal. A few of my fellow Freshman Scholars had the opportunity to pet a very large rabbit.

As I rounded a corner with one of my friends, we came upon a snow leopard -- a real, living, breathing snow leopard! I was floored that there was such an exotic creature residing in such a small zoo. There were signs all over the area informing visitors about snow leopard conservation; I had noticed these signs, but the severity of the creature's situation had not hit me until I saw it lying there. The animal was truly pitiful. To see such a majestic creature in captivity was heartbreaking. I know the zoo is doing the best it can to care for the animal, and honestly, the snow leopards' only hope for survival is to breed in captivity. In the snow leopard's habitat, poachers kill the animals simply to sell their pelts for top dollar, without giving a second thought to the endangered animal.

After seeing the captive creature, I knew I wanted to help. Upon entering the gift shop, I saw snow leopard conservation crafts for which proceeds go to help the animals as well as the impoverished peoples surrounding their habitats; I knew I had found a way to contribute. I, along with another scholar, purchased a snow leopard Christmas tree ornament. I know it was a small gesture, but I also know it takes small gestures to make big things happen.

I really enjoyed my time at the zoo with my fellow Freshman Scholars. It provided us with a time to have fun with each other as well as a learning experience. Some of the scholars had never seen goats and pigs while others were able to connect over a common adoration for a particular animal. I plan on making trips to the Mill Mountain Zoo a regular thing during the school year!

Monday, August 13, 2012

Sweet Summertime!

By Grant W., Panther Blogger

As it is for many students, summer is a precious time to me. It is a time to be outside enjoying the entirety of what this world has to offer. Families go on vacation, friends visit friends, and we all get to kick back and soak up some rays. Along with all the fun in the sun comes some hard work though! Summer offers all of us some valuable time to try and strengthen our resumes, and get a head start for next semester.

This summer, I have traveled to Cocoa Beach, Florida, Charleston, South Carolina, Atlanta, Georgia, Chesapeake, Virginia, and have made countless trips to the lake; in the midst of all this traveling, I have been working at Richland Creek Animal Hospital to gain experience for my future career.

Preparing for graduating from college and applying to vet school are both processes that I began well before my senior year of college.  Preparing for vet school at the University of Georgia has been an ongoing process throughout my scholastic career. As a minimum requirement for the University of Georgia's Vet School, an applicant has to have a minimum of 350 hours of experience in the field. Well, for the past few years, I have been working on just that -- gaining experience.

Through my job this summer, not only have I gained some cash for books and other college needs, but I have also gained many priceless pieces of knowledge. I have been trained to administer vaccines and draw blood and have enjoyed many other great learning experiences at the animal hospital.  Over the years of preparation for my future degree(s), I have observed many different surgical procedures including declaws, spays, neuters, amputations, tooth removals, tail dockings, and intestinal obstruction removals; all of these add to my desire to become a veterinarian. I still have a long way to go to be fully prepared for applying to vet school, but I have accepted the challenge, and now I'm striving for my dream one step at a time. I hope that any of you reading this would realize one thing:  all dreams require hard, persistent work.

But enough of work, work, and more work; in my life there is always time for play. During the days I have had off, I have taken the time to go fishing, swimming, kayaking, and hiking. I have visited friends in Atlanta and Cocoa Beach, spending some needed time just enjoying the beach and city life, as well as enjoying time with family on the intercoastal waterways of Charleston crabbing, fishing, and cast netting. My summer has also included a visit to Athens, Georgia, where a Ferrum friend and I made a special trip to the University of Georgia, the Georgia Aquarium, the CNN building, and the Centennial Park. Of course, I can't forget the event that kicked my summer off:  representing Ferrum College at Norfolk State University for the Virginia Academy of Science Conference for my research work on bacteria and antibiotics.

All in all, this summer has been one of the best. I am anxiously anticipating the start of my junior year at Ferrum College, and I can't wait to see what Ferrum has in store for all of us this year. Just remember:  always make room for some fun in between the hard work for the future. Life is all about balance, as it will be again this school year when it comes to my classes and social life!