Starting the semester off right

by guest blogger Dan Dankert, graduate assistant, WIU-QC Student Services

Note: For some advice on starting off a successful semester, we turned to Dan Dankert, who started a food pantry on campus (which can be found online here and on Facebook). Dankert was able to launch such a venture while serving at WIU-QC as an Americorps volunteer, and enjoyed his time here so much, he decided to stay and enroll as a graduate student in college student personnel.

Guest Blogger Profile

Undergraduate degree: in Political Science from Central College (Pella, IA); graduation year- 2016
Hometown: Davenport, Iowa
Favorite hobbies and interests: Esports, Fantasy Football, Volunteering, Politics
Photo of male student sitting outdoors

Dankert, who started a food pantry on campus, knows about getting involved

The second week of classes is already in full swing. You have met your professors, read your syllabi (hopefully), and befriended some of your classmates. You now have 15+ weeks to go until the end of the semester, and hopefully the end of a great one. College is all about learning, growing, and experiencing. If you want to have the best semester possible, here just a few tips.

  1. Get Connected to Campus

    The students who have the most fulfilling college experience are students who connect with campus. You can do this in a bevy of ways. The easiest ways are to attend events on campus or join student organizations. Connecting to campus is a great way to meet new people, and find cool new activities. One of the coolest examples of this is the Academic Club for Engineering and all of the fun events they put on each year. They have some events like board game nights that are social, l and they have panels that are much more educational.

  2. Push Your Comfort Zone

    When I was in high school, I was not very involved with clubs or organizations. I was on the football team and that was about it. When I first stepped on campus my freshman year of college, that all changed. I quickly got involved with student government, mock trial, the Esports club, and many more. At first it was difficult balancing school, work, and activities, but by pushing my boundaries I grew in my abilities and as a person.

  3. Always Look Ahead

    Do you know what homework is due in all of your classes this week? What about next week? Are you going to be out of town all weekend? Do you normally do most of your homework for the next week on the weekend? It’s so easy to fall behind your classes if you aren’t looking ahead. It’s crucial to know what homework you have over the next several weeks so that you can work ahead if you need to. This is probably most important near the end of the semester when book reports, semester papers, semester projects, and finals all seem to be due at the same time. One of the ways to keep all of your classes and projects organized is to put important due dates on your Google Calendar that you get just by being a WIU student. It’s a great place to keep all of the most important dates to remember both for school and for your life outside of school.

  4. Be Respectful

    You are in college now and there is a certain level of maturity expected of all students. It’s important to treat your professors, classmates, and campus staff with respect. This tip is a great tip for succeeding in college but also in life. One way this might come up is if you have to miss school and you know about it ahead of time. By being polite and talking with the professor about it can make a big difference. You will most likely have to do some sort of makeup and the professor can give you plenty of time to get it done before you ever miss school. Also, by being mature and telling the professor ahead of time, you can build a rapport with them.

  5. Be Engaged

    This might be the best tip of all. It’s so easy to take days off, or skimp on readings here and there. But it’ss vital to always be engaged with everything that you do. If you’re doing readings for class and you realize you were dozing off, don’t keep reading, go back and make sure you understand all of the material. If you are in class and there is a discussion going on, make sure you are listening to everyone’s points and try to bring a unique viewpoint to the conversation if you can. When you are engaged you are learning and when you are learning you are succeeding.

    Ultimately your college path will be decided by you. You decide how much time you want to spend on campus connecting with student organizations and your fellow students. Finally, you decide how much fun you will have on campus. The possibilities for learning and fun are endless here on WIU-QC all you have to do is seize them.

Do you have tips and advice to share with current or prospective students? Are you a graduate who can share some thoughts about what led to your success? To suggest a post, contact Public Information Specialist Alison McGaughey at ar-mcgaughey@wiu.edu.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What do you call a ‘jungle gym’ when it’s actually in a …marsh? These RPTA students can tell you.

A group of Western Illinois University-Quad Cities students recently put the finishing touches on a project that gave them class credit for working outdoors, creating something for kids, and improving a part of the Quad Cities community.

And perhaps even more interesting for nature-lovers: they did the entire thing with almost 100-percent natural materials.

“My classmates and I were taking a geographic information system (GIS) class last fall (2016), Site Planning, and we had to design something for our final project,” explained Maddie Kull, a senior recreation, park and tourism administration (RPTA) major from Morrison, IL. “It just so happened that around the same time, Nahant Marsh received a donation to create a natural play area for children who visit the marsh.”

Kull and the rest of the group members worked from the beginning of their class in the fall semester, and into the summer, to create an all-natural “playscape.”

“Nahant wanted an area that was safe and engaging which would spotlight the area’s natural landscape,” added Jennifer Swofford, an RPTA major from Coal Valley, IL. “The request fit perfectly with our class’s emphasis on wise land-use through inclusive community recreation and conservation.”

Maddie Kull at the Nahant Marsh “playscape”

What’s That Word?

“We use the word “playscape” instead of “playground” because, rather than this being an area separate from its surroundings in what it offers, it blends the natural elements of the marsh into a space that encourages free play and imaginative interaction with the environment,” Swofford explained. “Many of us on the project have very fond memories of playing in nature as children, so this allowed us tap into our experiences in a fun and creative way.”

photo of an outdoor playground made of all-natural materials

Wiki-up and wingspan: Nahant Marsh all-natural playscape created by WIU-QC students

What’s That Stuff?

The all-natural playscape consists of

  • a living fence made of different bushes all with edible fruits,
  • a large balance beam,
  • stepping stumps,
  • a wikki-up, which is a Native American hut made up of brushwood or covered with mats (“We created ours with willow saplings from the marsh,” Kull explained),
  • a loose play-area where children can play with cut-up pieces of small logs, and
  • bird silhouettes kids on which kids measure their “wingspan”

But Didn’t They Have to Kill Some Nature to Make Something out of Nature?

“Most of the materials used to make this project were gathered here at the marsh,” said Jevonnah Prashaw, Nahant Marsh Education Center natural resources manager, who oversaw the construction.They cut willows and used them to make the wikki, the stepping stones, and balance beam, and the loose play logs were all from trees here at the marsh that were taken down either because they were hazard trees or were non-native (a lot of it was mulberry, green ash, and boxelder). The ‘living border’ around the playscape is made of native shrubs, including aronia berry, hazelnut, serviceberry, and crab-apple.”

Prashaw noted the improvement that the playscape brings to the site. “It adds an enriching experience to the younger children that visit the marsh and gives them a chance to play with and experience natural materials in a safe learning environment,” she said.

Another fulfilling achievement from the project was working with RiverStone Group of Moline to secure a donation of crushed limestone to use as substrate, said Kull, who is also minoring in environmental studies.

“The best thing about this project for me was being part of it every step of the way,” Kull said. “I was there from the very beginning until the very end, and it’s wonderful seeing your ideas actually come to life!”

What RPTA Work Is All About, Inside and Outside the Classroom

“The class project was designed around wise land-use,” Swofford said. “There were so many things that I enjoyed both while in the class and while doing the project. The class is extremely helpful in focusing on all of the considerations that arise during park planning. Not only do you learn about the physical and technical aspects of planning through GIS, but you also incorporate the human and conservation side of planning that allows you better serve the community in a thoughtful and educated way.”

Swofford said she also enjoyed putting the classroom work into a collaborative, practical application.

“We worked as a team to create, work, and present our plan as would any company,” she said. “It was very helpful in shining a light on what we are able to do well and what considerations we should make in the future. Our professor, Rob Porter, did an excellent job of guiding us when necessary, but giving us enough freedom to experience the project from a professional point of view.”

Swofford reflected on what she’ll take away from the project overall.

“The greatest thing I learned from both the project and the class is that wise land use is really a balancing act wherein you must consider many different elements of planning,” she said. “Recreation is not always about what attracts the most people to an area, but how well both the community and environment is cared for when they do come. Effective planners have to take into account all aspects of a landscape and community to bring a service that will be both fun and functional, while being considerate of the surrounding environment.”

Summer Love

Even once the project was finished, Kull was happy to remain at the Marsh this summer as an intern doing animal care as an intern.

“We have a variety of reptiles and amphibians that call the education center their home,” she said. “I also work on the natural resource team, working on restoring prairie and making sure the marsh is a thriving healthy ecosystem. I’ve fallen too deeply in love with the animals and the marsh to leave!”

 

 

 

 

 

 

WIU professor helps bring comic strip to the stage

WIU professor helps bring comic strip to the stage

One father’s love for his son has gone from a pent and paper (a cartoon strip), to Facebook fans, to a touring production. And he has a WIU theatre and dance professor to thank, in part, for taking his show on the road.

Jason Platt, a single dad who lives and works in the Quad Cities, (IL/IA), was featured in a story in the Quad City Times over the weekend. The story details how Platt’s comic strip about him and his son, Mister & Me, has been turned into a play for kids, thanks to Platt’s partnership with Ray Gabica, professor in the theatre and dance department at WIU. (And to add to the WIU connection to this story, Platt works for LinguiSystems, which happens to have been founded by two WIU alumnae!)

Screen shot QC Times story

a screen shot QC Times story

Professor profile: Ray Gabica

As the QC Times‘ story explains, children in the area got to enjoy the comic-turned play through a performance by the Western Illinois University Regional Touring Theatre Company (RTTC), which is known for putting on touring productions of kids’ shows like The Lion and the Mouse, The Tree House, and Free to Be…You and Me.

Gabica not only leads and designs the RTTC shows, but, in addition, designs from four to six productions a year, and can count among his accomplishments the more than 48 Summer Music Theatre productions, plus more than 60 main-stage shows. Gabica, who has an M.F.A in costume and make-up design from Michigan State University, teaches the costume design sequences on the undergraduate and graduate levels, as well as theatrical make-up and visual concepts for the stage.

As the story points out, Platt is also involved in local theater, which is how he connected with Gabica, who adapted and directed the play:

“I kind of let him run amok with it,” Platt said. “I love and trust Ray so much that I knew he would handle the material with respect. I had no problem with how he was going to adapt the comic.”