Thursday, May 29, 2008

Hindsight is 20/20

or: Things I wish I had known when I was in college

Someone challenged me yesterday to tell them one thing I learned after college that I wish I had known before I started college.

It has taken me a long time to whittle my response down to just one thing.

I wish I had had more fun while I was in college. I worked my way through, taking 15 to 18 credit hours and working at least one, sometimes two jobs. I got married midway through, so I was responsible for my own home and all that entails.

I wish I had known early on that I didn't really want a job in my chosen major. I wish I had known there was a way to get a Master's degree in the same time it took me to get a bachelor's with a teaching certificate.

But the most important thing, looking back: I wish I had taken more care with the college I chose to attend. Being the first in my family to go to college, and coming from a military family in which we moved every three years, I didn't have ties to any particular school. But see above comment about working, and you'll probably guess I went to the school that would cost me the least. And while I stand by the quality of my education, I certainly don't have the loyalty or pride I see in FVSU grads. I wish I had gone to a school that inspired that kind of loyalty. So I say, pick your school carefully. It's the most important decision you'll make as a 17 or 18 year old.

How 'bout it Wildcats? What do you wish you had known? Click on "Comments" below.
--Misty Cline works in the Office of Marketing and Communications.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Things that go "bump" in the night

Do you believe in Bigfoot, Yeti, Sasquatch? How about the Loch Ness monster? Now, before you scoff and hit the exit button and move onto the latest happenings of Brad and Angelina, or check out your favorite sports scores online, consider this: Everyone believed the world was flat before Columbus “took the plunge” and risked sailing off the end of the earth. His success began an era in which mankind has attempted to explore and conquer everything about the earth, an era that we are still living in hundreds of years later.

I have spent most of my adult life in the noble and disciplined study of science in a variety of fields. Biology, chemistry, zoology, animal science, veterinary science, horticulture: you name it, I have probably taken a smattering of courses in the subject. And I consider myself scientifically savvy enough to put my name on more than one poster, abstract or paper. But I’ll let you in on a secret – I believe. Again, before you reach for the "back" button, let me explain why I am amazed that more “scientific” minded people don’t believe.

Picture this: Fouak, Arkansas, population less than 900 in an area that is highly agricultural with a multitude of winding waterways and natural swamp. It appears to be a place where boys still hunt with a dog and a rifle after school, old men tell tall tales around the spittoon in the general store and women still hang laundry out to get that fresh smell you only get from the clothes line. Since the 1940’s, there have been sporadic sightings of what is known in those parts as the “Fouak Monster” - which if the eye-witnesses are to be believed is a hairy manimal standing between 6 and 7 feet tall, weighs more than 300 pounds and is bi-pedal (sci-speak for walking on two legs). It lives in the swampy regions of the countryside and has been sighted on many occasions along the banks of Boggy Creek, located about fifteen miles south of Texarkana. The late 1970’s seemed to be a particularly active time for the Fouak Monster, whose presence allegedly accounted for scores of dead chickens, dogs, and even a shoat or two (that is ag-speak for a young, weaned pig). The creature is alleged to have attacked only one man to date, but the attack was so severe that the victim was treated for shock and injuries at the local hospital.

The Fouak Monster was publicized in a documentary which I have held in high esteem since first seeing it at the age of ten - “The Legend of Boggy Creek.” This home-grown docudrama featuring many Fouak residents kept me up for the rest of the night after seeing it in the theatres in 1973, and it kept me up this past Saturday night and again on Sunday night when I felt the need to watch it a second time after receiving it from an E-Bay seller earlier in the week. If you are a non-believer (or if you just want to be entertained cheaply) rent - or better yet buy - a copy; it will make you sit up and think twice about the possibility of the existence of Bigfoot.

The area surrounding the Texarkana region of the southeastern United States is a Mecca of sorts for Bigfoot sightings, with Fouak right in the middle. It is an area that I would dearly love to visit and traipse around during a vacation, preferably in late fall when the leaves are off the trees and one might be able to see the creature from afar. Just like storm chasing and snake handling, this is one of those activities I have wanted to partake in since first seeing the movie those many years ago. And yet, a part of me hopes that the sightings remain privy only to those who live in the region: the ones who never have a camera with them or a tape recorder to record the “unearthly screams” in the night. The everyday guy who hunts the land, has grown up listening to the stories at granddad's knee or the housewife who checks the doors three times at night, her hearing tuned in to every sound her hundred-year old farmhouse makes. These are the folks to whom this legend belongs, not the scientists who seek to explain away every legend and urban myth that spooked so many of us into staring wide eyed into the darkness as children.

So maybe I will leave my “scientific” self at home and if and when I ever get to go to Fouak, I’ll just leave the camera at home. And when I come home to tell you about my adventures, you will all have to simply…believe.

Now go rent that movie!

--Oreta samples is the Lead Veterinary Technician in Fort Valley State University's Veterinary Science department.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008


Or How a Minor in Education Might Help You Get a Job
by Eleanor K. Sikes, Ed. D.
Interim Chairperson, Middle Grades Education Programs

I do not know just how many teachers Georgia and the nation will need next year because all the retirements, resignations, and dismissals are not in. But I do know that the number will be in the thousands. Georgia needed several thousand just this year, and some positions were never really filled but were held by long-term substitutes all year.

When the supply of graduates from teacher education programs runs out, principals start looking at all college graduates. And when it comes to being hired, those graduates who have had at least some exposure to education program curriculum will have an edge over those who do not. SO, if you want to be among those most likely to be offered a job in education, but you really do not want to be an education major because that dream job just might come available when you graduate, you should think about getting a minor in education.

A minor in education consists of a minimum of 18 hours of pedagogical courses. These courses are foundational courses in understanding critical issues in education, in teaching students with disabilities, in learning how students develop and learn, and in planning lessons and managing classrooms. These courses will introduce you to real classrooms through the field experiences.

Anyone who is going to make a career of teaching must complete an approved preparation program. If this is not done before graduation, it must be done afterwards. HOWEVER, if one has completed a minor in education as an undergraduate, he will have much less to do afterwards.

The minor in education provides a beginning place for the college student who is just not sure about what he wants to do with his degrees. It offers him an alternative, a backup plan for not getting into graduate school, or for not finding a manager’s position right out of school. There never seems to be a surplus of teachers, so job certainty is increased. The pay is good, and the benefits are good, too. Think about Education for your major, but do not neglect looking into our minor if you are committed to another course.

Students who seek a minor in education are encouraged to speak with the Dean of the College of Education or with the Chair of the Department of the program in which the minor is sought.

A minor in education will not yield enough content or pedagogy for certification. However, having a minor might indicate to a prospective employer the applicant’s seriousness about teaching. Additionally, in some circumstances, the courses required in the education minor may be credited toward completion of a program at a post-bacc or Master’s of Arts in Teaching (MAT) level program. Such credit can only be determined by the institution offering the post-bacc or MAT program. Full certification can be achieved only through the completion of an approved Educator Preparation Program.

Because a minor does not lead to certification by itself, the courses included are generic; in other words, they are common to most programs. The courses included in the FVSU education minor are also required by the State of Georgia for all educators. The courses are:

Course Number Course Title Credit Hours
EDUC 2110 Investigating Critical and Contemporary Issues in Education 3
EDUC 2120 Exploring Socio-Cultural Perspectives on Diversity in Education 3
EDUC 2130 Exploring Teaching and Learning 3
EDUC 2110P Pre-Professional Block Practicum (50 hours of supervised field experience coordinated with the courses above) 0
EDUC 2503 Exceptionalities and Instruction 3
READ 3823 Expanding Literacy Across the Content Areas in Middle Grades OR 3
READ 3820 Expanding Literacy Across the content Areas in ECE/Sp. Ed 3
EDMG 3132 Classroom Management Strategies ( Middle Grades) OR 3
ECSP 3132 Classroom Management Strategies (Early Childhood/Sp. Ed.) 3 Total Hours 18

In addition to the courses listed above, the CoE faculty recommends that the student seeking a minor in education take other courses if possible: at least one classroom management course, one methods course closely related to his/her intended teaching field, and a course in instructional technology. Currently, FVSU offers the following:

EDMG 3232 Methods of Teaching Science in the Middle Grades 3
EDMG 3332 Methods of Teaching Language Arts/Reading in the Middle Grades 3
EDMG 3432 Methods of Teaching Social Studies in the Middle Grades 3
EDMG 3532 Methods of Teaching Mathematics in the Middle Grades 3
ITEC 2120 Introduction to Instructional Technology 3
ITEC 2433 Instructional Technology for the Middle Grades Teacher 3

We encourage students seeking a Minor in Education to take as many as possible of the courses listed above in order to increase marketability and progress toward certification and advanced degrees.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Newly minted freshmen

Congratulations, high school graduates! You have achieved a milestone in your education careers. But please do not think you have learned all there is to learn.
If you have not yet chosen a college, there is time. If you have already lined up a job, there is still time. And if you have been working for a while in a job you'd rather not be doing ten years from now, your time has come.
If you've already been accepted to FVSU, we'll see you, our newly minted freshmen, in the fall. If you haven't yet applied, there's still space for you.
It's never too late to continue your education. Just ask your teachers.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

A library worth the trip

While I was in Oxford, I was bound and determined to use what little free time was available to me to engage in some serious research in the library system at the University of Oxford, especially the Bodleian Library. Gaining access to this library, as an American, is not as simple as heading down to the Peach County Public Library and obtaining a library card. Instead, I had to first find an Oxford alum to sponsor my application for admission. Luckily, Dr. Kern Alexander, the former president of Murray State University in Kentucky, was the facilitator of the Roundtable and an Oxford alum. He sponsored my application.

Then, I took my application form, and the twelve pound application fee, to the library’s administration building, where my research proposal was considered. After another half hour, I had my picture taken and I was asked, by a very serious looking young lady, to recite the infamous Bodleian oath:

"I hereby undertake not to remove from the Library, nor to mark, deface, or injure in any way, any volume, document or other object belonging to it or in its custody; not to bring into the Library, or kindle therein, any fire or flame, and not to smoke in the Library; and I promise to obey all rules of the Library."

Then, after another 15 minutes, I was handed a shiny plastic card. I was an official patron of the University of Oxford library system. I could now walk past the velvet ropes and security guards which keep the tourists and other riff-raff at bay and, for the rest of my life, enter the oldest library in the English speaking world.

What is now the Bodleian dates back to a 14th century collection of books and manuscripts kept by Thomas Cobham, the Bishop of the University Church of Saint Mary the Virgin. In 1489, the Duke of Gloucester ordered that a suitable room be built atop the Divinity School to house the now enormous collection. That room is still in existence today and is known as Duke Humfrey’s Library. (However, only three of Humfrey’s books remain in the collection.) This room is a remarkable hall, filled floor to ceiling with ancient books and manuscripts. You’ve probably seen it as it has been prominently featured in the Harry Potter series of films.

I was guided to a small research nook by a stereotypically British research librarian. He was a wizened older gentleman with tiny rectangular reading glasses perched on the end of his long and winding nose. “Murphy, eh?” His pale blue eyes twinkled as he ran a gnarled hand through his thin white hair. “Yeh look more Irish than American.”

He smiled again as he read over the computer-generated list of books I had requested when I entered the building. The books were primarily 15th century schismatic texts and manuscripts; but I couldn’t resist asking to see the Tolkien manuscripts while I was there. “Yeh’ll be needin’ these, I suppose.” My companion fished a pair of white cotton gloves out of his pocket.

Within a few minutes, the ancient books and manuscripts arrived, each in its own white archivist box. I was shown how to correctly open the box and how to properly remove the contents and place them on the soft foam book form in front of me with my now-gloved hands. No photocopying was allowed, nor was the use of ink allowed, so I began studiously copying the passages I needed, in pencil, into my notebook.

The sheer sensual and tactile experience was overwhelming. The unmistakable aroma of the ancient parchment pages mixed with the leather binding to create a scent that was headier than the perfume of lilies to book lovers. As far as one could see, in the muted task lighting, stood row after row of ancient oak bookshelves; each filled with equally ancient manuscripts. I physically started when I noticed that, shelved directly in front of me, was a later copy of the Codex Sinatica, which was Constantine’s version of the Bible. The desks at which each researcher quietly worked were equally ancient and time-worn. Shallow grooves had been worn in the wood from centuries of rushed pencils copying down passages from these tomes. I was struck, however, by the noticeable lack of graffiti.

Despite that one lack of words, the Bodleian makes up for it by housing some very impressive works among its collections. Among the most famous are:
· William Shakespeare’s first folio of works.
· A Gutenberg Bible
· Poet Percy Bysshe Shelley’s letters.
· Four copies of the Magna Carta. (Another copy is held in a small chapel just outside of Oxford and you can get much closer to the document at this lesser-known chapel.)
· The Song of Roland.
· A famous Aztec work known as the Codex Mendoza.

Currently, the Bodleian’s 117 miles of shelving hold over eight million works (not counting their digital holdings). The library is growing so fast that they have taken over a defunct salt mine in Cheshire to use as a site to store holdings. Work is also underway to improve facilities for the preservation and archiving of rare manuscripts.

You can see why my new library card is the one souvenir I allowed myself while in Oxford. I was also able to discover a great deal of rare and original source material which, I hope, will lead to a new article about a faked appearance of the Virgin Mary (or the Holy Spirit) in 1555.

You should also be able to tell why I’ve already got the itch to go back.
Dr. B. Keith Murphy is the Associate Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Fort Valley State University

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

It's academic

Really. That's the defense I use when I tell people about things like the upcoming SC3: Slayage Conference. (Fans of the television series Buffy The Vampire Slayer are suddenly paying attention.)

With keynote speakers such as Jeanine Basinger of Wesleyan University (not to be confused with Macon's Wesleyan College), Matthew Pateman of Britain's University of Hull, and Elizabeth Rambo of Campbell University, and sessions that will tackle gender issues, religion and literary themes in the series, I'm not only interested because I'm a fan of the series, but I'm fascinated because Buffy was one of the first television series' in which the lead role was a strong teen aged female. She saved the world (a lot) and still graduated from high school. She made friends, she made enemies, she dealt with love and loss on a level that teens and young adults could relate to.

As with Keith Murphy's course in comics here at FVSU, there will always be naysayers who believe this can't be serious study. But teachers, are your students going to better relate to Romeo and Juliet or Buffy and Angel? The story is the same, and hey - there's a five-paragraph essay in there somewhere.

--Misty Cline works in the Office of Marketing and Communications.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Same memory, different decade

Recently I have been noticing some parallels in history between my generation of folks well into their 40’s and my parents' and grandparents' generations. For one thing, we are still complaining about the price of things such as gas and oil, much as my parents did back in the 70’s when there were oil embargoes and lines at the pumps. The stock market crash of the 1930’s was a direct influence on the economic times back then, while today the economic turmoil makes one wonder what is around the corner for us.

At dinner with friends a few nights ago, someone asked me “do you remember what you were doing when the towers got hit?” I didn’t even have to think about it; an instant flashback put me at my desk in my old office in the Annex building of the vet department. Our secretary, Donna, called me and asked what was in the World Trade Center in New York City. When I asked why, she said someone had flown a plane into the side of it. As the popular Alan Jackson song asked “Where were you when the world stopped turning, that September morn?” (, think a minute, chances are you remember exactly where you were, who you were with, and what you were doing.

In many ways, 9/11 will be the day of infamy that lives in the hearts of our generation much the same as another tragic day of infamy played out in Hawaii in 1941. And much in the same way as our parents and grandparents have reminisced about World War II, never letting the memories fade, we will sit and reminisce well into our dotage about 9/11. On a visit to Pearl Harbor, I took my place on a small boat which ferried groups out to the USS Arizona’s final resting place. I took comfort in the quiet, respectful behavior of the occupants of the ferry; not a word was spoken, and it didn’t need to be. The silence bore the honor for our fellow man, both then and now, who have died in pursuit of liberty and justice for all, much the same as the silence which surrounds memorials and monuments all around this great land that bear soundless witness to those who give all.

They say that history has a way of repeating itself, and if you think about it you see this every day. Take the white powder scare a few years ago. An envelope of Anthrax spores reached Senator Tom Daschle and Senator Patrick Leahy and soon law enforcement agencies around the country are besieged with calls about suspicious white powder being spotted everywhere from underneath Cousin Slim's deer stand to the streets of San Francisco and everywhere in between. I am not downplaying this episode of national security, but nationwide panic stemming from the power of suggestion is nothing new. Orson Wells did it with a simple radio program that got out of hand in October of 1938, suggesting that an invasion of Earth by Martians had occurred and triggering a mass hysteria of sorts. I wasn’t there, but I heard about it plenty of times over the years from - you guessed it - Mom and Dad; just like our grandchildren will hear about the Anthrax scare. People don’t change much, just ask an elderly Japanese American who remembers internment camps, or anyone of Middle or far-Eastern descent these days. Both are facing the same types of ethnicity-based challenges - six decades apart.

As you go through your day, take a moment and notice all the things that are happening in our old world today; it really is a series of repeat performances. The only question is: will we learn from our mistakes or be destined to repeat them? Until next time….

-Oreta Samples is the lead veterinary technician in Fort Valley State University's Veterinary Science department.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Educating the community

Some baby boomers barely keep up with the newest technology and latest dietary trends, so imagine how their parents are doing.

To keep the older generation up-to-date, Fort Valley State University is offering a free senior enrichment program, May 29, at its C.W. Pettigrew Farm and Community Life Center. The event, which begins at 10 a.m., is also open to caregivers and professional educators who work with the elderly.

During the five-hour workshop, presenters will cover several topics including cell phone usage, practicing healthy eating habits and gardening. Arthur Willis Jr., greenhouse manager and grounds supervisor for the university’s College of Agriculture, Home Economics and Allied Programs, will do a demonstration on how to plant flowers or vegetables.

“This is an opportunity for seniors to pick up a few tips that can keep them up-to-date with what’s going on in the world. Everyone doesn’t have children who can show them how to send a text message or have access to the Internet which can provide tips on how to eat healthy,” said Kena Torbert, the FVSU family life specialist who’s coordinating the event. “The Cooperative Extension Program at FVSU is reaching out to those who need help, or a refresher course, on some important life lessons.”

As people age their bodies change, and as a result they need to adjust their eating habits, Torbert said. She also noted how difficult it can be for older customers to use a cell phone or understand the many cell phone plans.

“I like to do the senior program because it’s fun for me. I just enjoy working with the people. It’s a way to meet someone new and show them that we care,” Torbert said. “Plus, it’s a great chance for seniors to get out of the house and mingle.”

Workshop information: When: May 29 from 10 a.m. - 3 p.m. Where: Fort Valley State University, C.W. Pettigrew Farm and Community Life Center, 1005 State University Drive, Fort Valley, Ga. Cost: Free. How: Participants can register by contacting Kena Torbert, FVSU’s family life specialist, at (478) 825-6573 or

Friday, May 16, 2008

Growing pains

Securing on-campus housing at Fort Valley State University may be tricky for returning Wildcats. That’s because a bumper crop of more than 1,000 new students are expected when fall classes begin in August. Due to the anticipated influx of freshmen, residential life administrators are encouraging all current students interested in university housing to prepare for alternative, off-campus living arrangements. Returning students who did not meet the May 2 deadline for housing applications will be placed on a waiting list.

FVSU Vice President of Student Affairs Dr. Terrance Smith says the university is in the process of compiling a list of safe, reputable apartment complexes within the local Fort Valley area and surrounding communities. FVSU’s Housing Director Hosea Lewis will visit each facility on the list, negotiate the best rates for students and develop a directory based on his inspections and discussions with apartment managers. The directory will contain a brief description of the property and its amenities.

Besides expanding its housing inventory, university administrators have assembled a residential life transition team to assess other needs of students, such as transportation. “This is just one of the ongoing challenges associated with FVSU’s rapid growth,” said Smith. “We’re approaching the challenges as opportunities and we’re working to ensure that our students have the accommodations needed,” he said.

For inquiries about university housing, please call (478) 825-6100.

--Christina Milton works in the Office of Marketing and Communications

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Golden years

It's hard to say "farewell" to any member of the Wildcat family. That's especially true of those who have been fixtures on campus for many years. At a retirement banquet last week, we attempted to do just that. The following Fort Valley State University employees were honored and lauded for their service:

Mrs. Barbara Davis, clerical lead, President’s Office
Dr. Yvonne Oliver, associate vice president academic affairs
Mrs. Janice A. Nelson, director of FVSU Foundation
Ms. Lauren Glover, residential life dorm director
Mrs. Gwendolyn Davison, residential life dorm director
Sgt. Richard Bizzell, campus police
Mr. Bonzie Lee Curtis, plant operations
Ms. Alveta Taylor, plant operations
Dr. Nathaniel B. Brown Jr., Head of Agricultural Economics
Rev. Dr. Willie Wright, Research Professional, Agriculture
Ms. Nellie Perry, Head Start, Family Consumer Sciences
Mrs. Mattie Watson, Head Start, Family Consumer Sciences
Ms. Annie Reeves, Residential Life
Mr. Leroy Troupe, Campus Safety
Ms. Shirley Dunn, Office of Title III
Ms. Phyllis Stripling, Mass Communications, Residential Life

Of course, this being Wildcat Country, we know that we'll see most of these folks around campus again - at homecoming, football games, the Black History Month Scholarship Luncheon... After all, you can take the Wildcat off campus, but he's sure to track his way back home.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Of Patriots young and old

Recently I was asked to participate in the Fort Valley State blog as a contributor. Being the sort who dreams of that “pseudo-career” as a writer who doesn’t necessarily have to eat on a daily basis, I jumped at the chance. So…here I am, Oreta Samples, currently the Lead Veterinary Technician here at FVSU, soon-to-be a doctoral graduate from Nova Southeastern University and now a “blogger.” So here goes good folks, enjoy!

I was invited to sit at the Friends of George Hooks table last Friday at the Governors Awards Luncheon for the Humanities. Hooks was one of the award recipients. The event was held at the Old Railroad Depot in Atlanta on as fine a Southern afternoon as I have ever seen here in the great state of Georgia; the type of day country musicians sing about and the southern belles of the past wrote about in their diaries. After attending a lecture on the merits of barbecue by John Edge, we were all treated to a fine buffet lunch of, (what else) barbecue. There was a fine rendition of our national anthem, sung by Sharon Lane and the expected speeches extolling quite appropriately the accomplishments of the award recipients; but there was something else that brought a tear to every eye in the place.

As we walked in after the guest speaker of the morning to find our tables and check out the exhibits, there was a line of eight or ten youngsters quietly standing against the wall, pressed and starched with a policeman watching over them. Glancing through the program, I discovered that the group was the Chestnut Charter Elementary School of DeKalb County Honor Guard. So why, you might ask, is this, such a big deal that I am writing about it in my first blog appearance? These children are the only elementary school honor guard in DeKalb County; they are hand picked and trained by Sgt. Rick Morgan of the DeKalb County Police Department, and a fine job he has done.

In this day and age, I think regardless of your political affiliation or views it does all of our hearts good to see a group of young people so proudly carrying out the duties of honoring our flag and our country, leading by example as they led a room full of state representatives, senators, seasoned politicians and friends in those precious words “I pledge allegiance… .” In a land where the military is a volunteer force, I couldn’t help but think of the parallel between our soldiers and these littlest volunteer guards. And I have to say it brought more than one tear to this ol' girl's eyes, and I hope to yours. So as you go about your daily lives, take a few moments and really think about the freedom and the privilege which is ours as Americans and then go find a soldier to thank or a child to hug, because within these individuals lies the future of our nation. Until next time, stay safe and May God Bless the USA.

--Oreta Samples is the Lead Veterinary Technician in Fort Valley State University's Veterinary Science department.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Making the most of a summer off

I remember taking summers off from academia when I was in college. I needed that time to work an insane number of hours at a crazy job to pay for my fall and spring semesters. But let it not be said that I let my brain rot during those weeks away from the classroom; I usually had a list of books I wanted to read. If I had known then about U.C. Berkely's Summer Reading List, I would have saved myself a lot of time and really boring reading. Check the list our here:
and happy reading!

--Misty Cline works in the office of Marketing and Communications at Fort Valley State University

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Soaking up a little history

Both the city of Oxford and the University simultaneously feel as comfortable as the company of an old friend and yet as overwhelming as being tasked with memorizing the Atlanta phone book (both yellow and white pages). The sense of comfort derives from the fact that so many books, films, and other bits of pop culture have used Oxford as their setting. Just in the last 15 years, Oxford was used as the setting for such films as The Madness of King George, The Saint, at least three Harry Potter films: Philosopher’s Stone, Chamber of Secrets, and Goblet of Fire before a digitized version of the Oxford setting became cheaper, The Red Violin, Oxford Blues, and The Golden Compass among others.

Readers have also come to know this place thanks to such works as Thomas Hardy’s Jude the Obscure, Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited, P.D. James’ The Children of Men, the series of novels begun with His Dark Materials by Phillip Pullman, and Endymion Spring among many others. So, it is hard not to feel very familiar with Oxford. The narrow streets, the awkward sidewalk cobbles, the unfriendly stone faces looking down at you from every angle, the friendly faces of the locals who always seemed to be able to tell who is and is not from Oxford.

At the same time, the volumes of history which seem to flow from every door can seem overwhelming. The city itself was founded in the days of the Saxons as “Oxforda” which, to no great surprise, means "the place where the ox can get across the river." This made the village an important place to be before humans figured out how to build bridges that would consistently carry oxen. So important that, in 912, Oxforda was first written up in the Anglo Saxon Chronicle. However news traveled slowly in those days as the founding of the town probably coincided with the construction of St. Frideswide’s nunnery at some point in the 8th century. St. Frideswide, now the patron saint of both Oxford the town and the University, was a 7th century Anglo-Saxon princess who was to be given in marriage to a Mercian King. Frideswide had established a priory (school) where her betrothed came to court her. When Frideswide refused his advances, the king, Algar, tried to rape her. She ran into the forest and hid. Later, after she returned to the priory, Algar continued his advances until he eventually went blind. Frideswide, for some reason, felt pity for her would-be rapist and prayed for him at a church in Oxford. There Saint Catherine of Alexandria told her to take her staff and strike the ground. Never doubting her sanity for a moment, Frideswide struck the ground with her staff and there on the grounds of what is now the Church of St. Margaret in Oxford a miraculous spring of water sprang from the ground. History holds that she used the water to heal Algar’s blindness. I’m not certain as to the moral of this tale. However, it is merely one example of the history which literally oozes from the ground here.

One of my very first stops was the Eagle and Child, the pub where J.R.R. Tolkein, of Lord of the Rings fame and C.S. Lewis, of Narnia fame, would gather weekly to discuss theology and literature. Of course, I had to hoist a pint of bitters at what was supposed to be the very table where the two would have their infamous disputations. One can also visit Einstein’s chalkboard and the taxidermist’s nightmares at the Oxford Museum of Natural History which served as the models for the talking animals in Lewis Carrol’s Alice in Wonderland tales. In case you are wondering, Carrol thought of himself as the dodo. On the subject of Oxonian literary ties, Kenneth Grahame wrote the children’s classic, The Wind in the Willows, which also features talking animals – must be in the water – while studying at Oxford. He decided to donate the copyright income from the book to the University’s Bodleian Library.

Other famous alumni and former students include 12 saints, an antipope, 47 Nobel prize-winners, a pair of British kings and 12 other assorted monarchs, 24 princes/princesses, 291 members of the British Parliament, 20 American congressmen (including a Speaker of the House), 4 associate justices of the U.S. Supreme Court, and 1 U.S. President.

Some names you might recognize include Aldous Huxley, Oscar Wilde, Percy Bysshe Shelley, John Donne, Stephen Hawking, Richard Dawkins, Tim Berners-Lee (who invented a little thing we call the World Wide Web), Hugh Grant, Kate Beckinsale, Dudley Moore, Michael Palin, Terry Jones, T.E. Lawrence, Adam Smith, John Locke, John Wesley, William Penn, Albert Einstein, Richard Burton, William Tyndale, Jonathan Swift, Thomas Hobbes, Imran Khan, Benazir Bhutto, John Le Carre, Mandfred von Richtofen, Dr. Seuss, T.S. Eliot, Kris Kristofferson, Edmund Halley, Rowan Atkinson, A.A. Milne, Terry Jones, Jethro Tull, Margaret Thatcher, Indira Ghandi, Chelsea Clinton, and Richard Adams of Watership Down fame, to name but a few. I’m certain the Oxford Univeristy Alumni Affairs Office is a bustling place.

Next time, more from Oxford.
--Keith Murphy is the associate dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Fort Valley State University

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

From a graduate's perspective

Saturday, May 3, 2008 was one of the proudest days of my life. It marked the end of a long journey. I finally walked across the stage and shook the hand of Dr. Larry E. Rivers, 8th president of The Fort Valley State University as a graduate, no longer a student.

My family, friends, and classmates made the day all the more worthwhile for me. Being that I am a little older than the average graduate, I wasn’t very excited at first. I contemplated not walking, but I wanted pictures of the special day for my children. But oh, when I arrived!

First, I was stunned by the number of people who were there. They came in droves. Traffic was backed up on State University and on Carver Dive at 8 a.m. Some came to share the moment with a loved one and others came just because it was graduation at FVSU and that’s what they do. Many of us were late for lineup because we couldn’t get through the traffic. I had no idea people would turn out so early for graduation! I had only seen crowds like this at FVSU for homecoming.

My heart burst with joy and pride as I crammed my way into the already packed room designated for graduates. As I gazed upon the students dressed in their regalia I thought, “Wow! Look at all these educated, young black people.” I then realized that I was one of those people! I quickly suited up. Everybody was so happy for each other, we bonded even if commencement was our first time meeting on campus. The two graduates I met appeared to be non-traditional as myself. I was struggling with my white collar and they lent helping hands.

When the door flew open and I heard Pomp and Circumstance echoing throughout the HPE, my heart raced with excitement. It was at that moment that I knew, regardless of what I had been through to get there, I deserved that moment. It’s amazing that I heard the song over the shouting fans. My heart-felt pride was interrupted by a loud “STACIE!” over my head. As I looked up, I saw my husband Robert and his best friend Demarcus acting like pure nuts. They were more excited than me. It was kind of cute. They were really happy for me. Right next to them were my children. I could even hear their little voices calling, “Mommy, mommy!”

I once made the comment that for an HBCU, the campus is dead, but the cheering, waving, dancing spectators brought it back to life Saturday. This is only the second HBCU graduation I attended. It was a rowdy time, but rowdy in the best way. The Valley overflowed with admiration and pride Saturday. As Dr. Rivers cited a well-known Bible verse: “This is the day that the Lord has made,” I rejoiced and was glad in it!

--Stacie Barrett works in the Office of Marketing and Communications

Monday, May 5, 2008

Commencement photos

The Class of 2008 rises by college to the applause of family and friends Saturday, May 3.

During the course of events, President Larry E. Rivers honored those he called "Trailblazers," individuals who have made an outstanding contribution to Fort Valley State University.

Jeremy N. Lewis, Jonathan W. Williams, Marcie T. Kindle, Quintrina F. Edwards and Sophia C. Mudd were commissioned into the U.S. Army during commencement.

Newly-minted graduates are sworn into the National Alumni Association.

Photos courtesy of Robert Ross.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Tales from Oxford, Part I

Skyline panoramic view from St. Mary's

Oxford Street

In the late 14th century, Geoffrey Chaucer wrote the following lines about an Oxford philosophy student in the “Clerk’s Prologue and Tale” of the Canterbury Tales:

For him was levere have at his beddes heed
Twenty bookes, clad in blak or reed,
of Aristotle and his philosophie
Than robes riche, or fithele, or gay sautrie.

More than 600 years have passed and now I’ve had the opportunity to retrace the steps of Chaucer’s philosophy student. Thanks, in great measure, to a Presidents’ Research mini-grant from Title III, in March I was granted the life-altering experience of lecturing, researching, and residing for eight days at the oldest university in the English-speaking world: Oxford University. Being invited to Oxford to speak was incredible in-and-of-itself; but that personal highlight was as forgotten as the spring lilies as I stepped off the Oxford Express back into history and directly into the worst Easter snowstorm in the recorded history of the kingdom.

Being too stubborn to wait for a cab, I decided that I could pull my rolling suitcases the “few blocks” from the bus terminal to Exeter College. I quickly learned that the English walk much more than we do and a “few blocks” to them, is a long cab ride to us. I also learned that they are as bad at giving directions as are the people I grew up with. I also learned that wheeled-luggage is not engineered to roll over medieval-style cobblestone side-walks; especially in a heavy downpour of snow. The flakes were now the size of one pound coins (or an American quarter) and falling hard and fast. I stopped at a pub, which was surprisingly open at seven a.m. on a Sunday, and ordered a pint of the local bitters and rested. I also whipped out a map and tried to get my bearings.

According to the map, I had been sent to the wrong college. I was next door to Harris Manchester College and needed to head to Exeter to meet the porter so I could check into my lodgings. Just as FVSU is composed of the undergraduate colleges of Arts and Sciences, Agriculture, and Education, Oxford is composed of 39 colleges and 7 religious “Permanent Private Halls” which function as colleges. Each of the 46 academic units function as complete academic corporations with Oxford University serving as the administrative body which brings them together into a cohesive academic whole. It isn’t as confusing as it sounds as the system works as a cohesive whole while providing a great variety of academic freedom for both students and faculty.

After being fortified by the bitters and steadied by the map, I continued to drag my burden through the streets of the city. Oxford is still very much a medieval town. When a new business such as McDonald’s opens, the franchise doesn’t tear down the historic building; they design their storefront to fit into the historic building. This makes for some interesting architectural choices. It is sad, however, to see American fast-food culture obliterating traditional British restaurants. The numbers of locally owned pubs is declining in Oxford while every major thoroughfare has a McD’s, Burger King, Kentucky Fried Chicken, and Gap. I suppose that this is just the American way of contemporary colonization.

The snow had turned the town into a quiet and beautiful setting that could have easily been the backdrop for a remake of Mr. Scrooge’s timeless tale. Snow capped the comical and grotesque gargoyles which peered down from nearly every building. Pigeons, the size of small chickens, cavorted in the whitened walkways. In time, I worked my burden past newsstands, used book-sellers, and other quaint little shops until I came to the imposing castle-like gates of Exeter College.

The porter quickly relieved me of my cargo and directed me to a spacious dormitory suite that was to be my home for the next eight days. As I unpacked, I looked out the bedroom window and was startled to see a face staring back at me. My new friend was a gargoyle carved to look like a startled priest. Within a few days, his face became a comforting sight each morning as I arose since I know I can appear rather startling to behold before I’ve had my morning cigarette and caffeine.

After a few minutes, the porter came to take me to breakfast. The dining room in which we were to eat was the same one used in the filming of a number of the Harry Potter films. When I was offered the “hot breakfast,” I expected bacon and eggs. Instead, a steaming pile of flesh was brought to my table. Sausages, ham, chops, cutlets, and other meats were stacked on the oversized plate. Next to that was a pair of eggs, over easy, a serving of toast and a cup of tea. When I began on the eggs, someone asked if I would like cereal or pancakes. When I said, “No, thank you. . . .” The waitress seemed genuinely offended. Even though I was famished from the overnight flight and my inability to eat the matter that Delta attempted to foist off on us as food; I could only make a barely visible dent in the mountain of meat. I was afraid I would offend my hosts. Until I saw one of the Oxford faculty return a large portion of their plate uneaten as well. Then I felt less conspicuous.

Breakfast, however, was not indicative of the remainder of the meals I would be served in the United Kingdom. The rest were filling, but bland. Even the Oxford students, the ones who had traveled to the U.S., admitted that Americans make better fish and chips than the British. One student said, “Once you’ve been to Captain D’s, its hard to come back here.”

Next time: More from Oxford.
Dr. B. Keith Murphy is the Associate Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Fort Valley State University.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

The sounds of summer

Classes officially ended yesterday, and construction is in full swing on the campus of Fort Valley State University.

Work on Phase III of the Wildcat Commons - adding 300+ beds to the housing complex -is under way, as is construction of the new science lab and classroom building.

May 29 the University will break ground on a new biotechnology center - keeping up with research into alternative fuels is a big priority, as is helping our agricultural community get the most out of their land.

Even as we turn our new graduates loose on the world, we're looking to the next generation - and offering them the best higher education has to offer.