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Summer 2016 | Ventures

Date: Jun 9, 2016

Veteran Cap against Flag

By Sherry Bithell

At Stevenson University, veterans are more than welcomed—they’re appreciated for their service, and they’re supported throughout their education, including being prepared for a non-military career.

As Mark Hergan, Vice President, Enrollment, says, “We’re committed to veteran students. They’ve done something special for the country, so why wouldn’t we do something special for them?” To explore the ways Stevenson recruits and supports its veteran students, Ventures talked to a student and an alumnus to see how their SU experiences have been—and learned how they, in turn, are doing their part for other veteran students.

Making the Transition

Christian Manning

Christian "Mac" Manning

Christian “Mac” Manning (interdisciplinary studies ‘15) joined the U.S. Marine Corps in 2010 after an unsuccessful brief stint at another college, and after serving, he decided to give college another try. “After looking around at a few schools, I had heard that Stevenson was starting a football team. This intrigued me because I played football in high school. I was also looking for a university that I could perform well in. As an undergraduate, I started for the football team for three seasons and at the same time found myself performing well academically for the first time in my life.”

He says that for veterans, returning to civilian life can be difficult. “The Marine Corps was the greatest accomplishment in my life at that time. It can be hard to relate to other students because 18-year-old freshmen do not understand what it’s like to be in military service.” Yet because he joined the football team, he says, his transition was a little easier than most. “Playing a sport gave me a sense of purpose again. You wake up and go to practice, train with the team. Your teammates become your brothers in many regards, and that was a familiar feeling from the Marine Corps. I believe that because I became part of the SU community, I was able to enjoy my time here.”

Matthew Morris, who will graduate with a degree in business information systems in December 2016, had a similar start to his college experience. After a semester at Covenant College in Georgia that ended with a low GPA, he joined the U.S. Army and served for seven years. Because of his prior educational effort, he wasn’t sure where he would be accepted—until he came to Stevenson.

“I came here on instant decision day,” he recalls. “They looked at my packet, they looked at the courses I’d taken, and then one of the admissions counselors brought me into a meeting room and said, ‘We think you’ve worked hard enough to earn a second chance.’”

Morris says he’s paying that faith back in full. One advantage the second time around, he notes, is the discipline instilled by the military. Another is the set of tools he’d learned that have made him a more successful student.

Veterans at Stevenson“When you go into the military, they’re going to put you where they need you,” he explains. “So coming out of the military, you’ve learned something that maybe before you weren’t good at. I’m awful with math yet I was doing upper-level algebra because I was working with ballistics. So you gain the ability to learn something you didn’t know before and master it. That’s the word: master. That’s the level where they expect you to perform.”

As with Manning, Morris—who has a wife and two children—saw the difference between himself and traditional students. “Because I’m a commuter, it’s not as bad, but I could imagine a traditional student perhaps feeling lonely or not having many people to reach out to because they’re feeling by themselves.”

That’s a big adjustment, he adds, because it’s such a change of atmosphere for veterans. “American culture is very individualistic; people think, ‘What’s the value to me? Is this worth my time?’ In the military, it’s very collective. It is even reinforced as part of the Army Soldier’s Creed: ‘I will never leave a fallen comrade.’”

Veterans Serving Stevenson

Both Manning and Morris continue to help others by working to support students at Stevenson.

By working as an Admissions Counselor for transfer students, Manning says that his SU experience has allowed him to relate to prospective students on a more personal level. “I truly enjoyed learning here and that is something that I had never experienced before. My teachers, tutors, advisors, and coaches helped push me to succeed. I cannot tell you how much fear I had concerning science classes and math classes before coming to Stevenson, but I worked with the teachers and with the help of tutors. At the end of the semesters, I could feel that the teachers really wanted me to succeed.”

The combination of his military service and Stevenson education have led him to set his sights higher. “In the military, a quality that is instilled on everyone is leadership. My ultimate goal is to earn graduate degrees and pursue a career in higher education. It could be in student activities, maybe a program of study—who knows, maybe I could be a dean of students one day.”

While earning his degree, Morris works in Career Services as a Peer Advisor, helping students with their cover letters and resumes. He also reaches out to the veteran community, he says, to try and smooth the process of their seeking jobs after college by working with the Maryland Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of Economic Workforce and Development. In addition, he has talked with the heads of veterans clubs at Towson and the University of Maryland to see how they support their students.

“I’m trying to evangelize the importance of working with veterans. With each institution trying to do its own thing, you’re missing a lot of that teamwork that can help reach a similar goal.”

One way Morris has been trying to help both the Stevenson and larger veteran community has been through the Veterans Career Resource Guide created by Career Services. In addition to giving it to the University’s veteran students during drop-in appointments and at job fairs, he’s distributed it to the general community, including other colleges, workforce development centers, one-stop centers, and homeless shelters.

When he talks to Stevenson’s veteran students, he speaks from experience. “I give them a little bit of guidance and say, ‘As a veteran to a veteran, here are the problems I ran into, here’s how I solved them.’ I try to help them set themselves up for success so that when they’re done here, they don’t jump right into the void again like when they left the military.”

School's Certifying Official (SCO)

One person crucial to supporting veteran students at Stevenson is Laura E. Holland, Assistant Registrar, Veterans Affairs Programs. She serves as the School’s Certifying Official (SCO), which acts as the liaison between the students and the VA.

“One of my most important functions as SCO is making sure a student’s credits for which they are registered are certified so that they receive the benefits to which they are entitled for that corresponding semester,” Holland says. “Depending on the chapter under which their benefits are calculated, students receive assistance with their tuition and fees, as well as any housing allowance, if applicable.”

Other functions of her vital role include contacting the VA on behalf of any veteran student who expresses concern about their benefits or with questions about their entitlement. “I keep track of every student’s entitlement and any changes they make to their program and their schedules,” she says. “And, of course, I assist with the process of making sure students apply for educational benefits with the VA if they hadn’t already.”

Growing the Veteran Community

That Stevenson will continue to support its veteran students is being physically manifested. Hergan says “We’ve found that they need their own space, so we’re looking forward to building a Veteran Resource Center on the first floor of Garrison Hall this summer.”

The center makes both Manning and Morris feel optimistic about the future for veterans.

“As a prospective student who would see the Veterans Resource Center, I would be excited to come to Stevenson,” says Manning. “I think that as the school continues to grow, so too will the military community within the university. I have heard President Manning and Mark Hergan speak about attracting veterans, and their primary objective is providing a positive environment with top academic programs. Stevenson wants to give veterans their best opportunity to succeed.”

Morris agrees. “A Veteran’s Resource Center will help provide more awareness to other veterans on campus that there is the opportunity to make face-to-face contact with each other and get the support they need. This center will really help us meet our student veterans where they are. It’s important to make sure that we reach out to them, that we can identify them, that they’re getting the best education possible. It can sometimes be hard for a veteran to pluck up the courage to be a self-starter, but when every single part of your day is scripted and now you’re suddenly scripting it for yourself, it can be difficult to adjust.”

For these reasons and more, Manning says, “As an alumnus, I believe that Stevenson is an amazing place to get an education. The graduates that we produce are prepped and ready for the real world, and for a person who is getting out of the military, it’s an excellent choice.”

Study Away

By Sherry Bithell

Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all of one's lifetime.

Those words, written by Mark Twain in 1870, remain just as true today. That’s why Stevenson University has long promoted study abroad programs.

Today, the promotion and organization of both international and domestic academic travel falls under the recently created Office of International and Off-Campus Study. Rebecca Pisano, Ph.D., Associate Dean, Study Abroad, has worked in the field of international education for more than 15 years and remains enthusiastic about the opportunities such programs offer.

Study Abroad

“It’s a way for students to examine their subject from a different perspective,” Pisano says. “You not only learn about another culture and way of life but you’re also putting yourself outside of your comfort zone, which can be a great learning opportunity.” She also points out that added benefits not often considered are that students who travel gain cross-cultural communication skills, learn how to navigate new situations, and generally become more self-reliant—skills that hiring managers consider valuable. “Having participated in study away programs helps in job interviews. It gives you something to talk about, to show tangible proof of how you acquired critical soft skills through this distinctive experience.”

For these reasons, the Office of International and Off- Campus Study provides students with all the information needed to plan an international or domestic program experience. For example, Pisano says, “A lot of students think that if they don’t speak another language well enough they can’t go to the place where it’s predominantly spoken, but we tell them about program options that are specifically set up for international students, so it’s actually not a hurdle nor an expectation.”

Oh, the places you'll go. -Dr Seuss

Study Abroad

Study Abroad

Students and faculty from Stevenson’s School of the Sciences spent their 2016 Winterim traveling throughout Costa Rica in an effort to observe and analyze the unique ecosystems the Central American nation has to offer.

The concept of a study away program encompasses any organized credit-bearing experience that’s course-based and takes place off campus and includes overnight travel. “It’s usually a structured experience for multiple students that has a travel component lasting from several days to several weeks (or even months),” Pisano explains. “The Washington Center Internship Program is one domestic example.” This independent nonprofit gives students opportunities to work and learn in Washington, D.C., for academic credit.

Study Abroad

Stevenson offers two study away formats: faculty-led travel courses and affiliate programs in 50 countries around the world in a variety of academic disciplines during the semester, Winterim, Spring Break, and Summer terms.

Faculty-led travel courses are both domestic and international, and they tend to be short-term (defined as being from one to eight weeks in duration). These programs have a specific academic focus and locations can vary each year. For example, SU faculty-led travel courses during the 2017 Winterim will include forensic studies in Malta, human services in Jamaica, and environmental science in Hawaii.

Affiliate programs can be short-term or long-term, from a few weeks up to an academic year. Stevenson’s current six affiliate partners—with which the University has collaboration agreements—include opportunities offered by the American Institute for Foreign Study (AIFS), the Lorenzo de ’Medici Institute in Italy (called “SU in Italy”), and Academic Programs International (API).

Pisano says that typical housing scenarios for these programs can include a residence hall, an apartment with locals or other international students, or a homestay with a local family. In addition, some of SU’s options offer an internship or service experience. These types experiences were highlighted recently at the first annual Experiential Learning Expo. She also wants to make more students aware of the many scholarships available for international study, from national organizations as well as program-specific and SU scholarships. “The goal is to give students with different needs—including academic and financial considerations— the opportunity to participate in international and off-campus study through a variety of choices in courses, destinations, and aid mobility.”

A man travels the world over in search of what he needs and returns home to find it. - George Moore

The comprehensive student support Pisano’s office provides goes beyond advising and help with applications; it also includes helping students readjust when they come back to Stevenson.

“We offer re-entry resources for students upon their return. That’s because many times, they don’t anticipate the adjustment back to the United States,” Pisano says. “The more they integrate while they’re away, the more challenging the reintegration is. It’s basically reverse culture shock. Our job is to explain that it’s normal and that everyone goes through it to a certain extent. Also, often returnees find that their friends and family do not readily understand how they were affected by their travel experience.”

Study Abroad

Stevenson students most recently traveled to India, Eastern Europe, and Italy. Students are interviewed by WJZ-TV News about their experiences in Italy.

There are a number of ways to help returning students adjust. Several universities in Baltimore—including, recently, Stevenson—participate in a conference about returning from study abroad. The office also teaches the students how to take what they’ve learned and the skills they gained and translate those into their future plans. They are encouraged to join clubs, such as the International Student Association, as well as to volunteer in the office and at study abroad events to speak about their experience.

Overall, the Office of International and Off-Campus Study is well prepared to help students find programs and funding, fill out applications, and process their study away experiences. Pisano believes that taking part in a study away program, whether at home or abroad, is well worth considering.

“Often people will tell me that their one regret from college was not studying abroad,” she says. “The opportunity to live in another country is one that is so much easier to pursue during rather than after the college years, and is an integral part of a well-rounded liberal arts education.”

The Office of International and Off-Campus Study is one facet of the many experiential opportunities offered at SU. Others include Experiential Learning, Internships, Service-Learning, Undergraduate Research, and Clinical Experiences and Practicums.

2016 Commencement

Stevenson celebrated its 63rd spring Commencement on May 18 for the School of Graduate and Professional Studies and on May 19 for its traditional undergraduate students.

[My mom] said, ‘Brad, you’re looking at it all wrong. Instead of dreading every morning where you lose your vision, you have to look forward to the end of every day where you get your vision back for a while.’ It was a very rapid lesson for me to learn that there’s always a way to reframe our perspective, that there’s always a way for us to look for that silver lining, to look for the good in every person we interact with, to find good in every situation and in our futures, and leverage that positive perspective.

The keynote speaker for the undergraduate Commencement was U.S. Navy veteran and Paralympian swimmer Brad Snyder. A retired Navy Lieutenant, Snyder was severely injured in Afghanistan when he stepped on an improvised explosive device (IED) in 2011. He sustained complete vision loss from the explosion. As a part of his rehabilitation process, Snyder, who served as swim team captain while at the Naval Academy, returned to the pool. After a few months of training, he was able to earn a spot on the U.S. Paralympic National Swim Team. At the 2012 Paralympics in London, he competed in seven events, earning two gold medals and one silver medal. His victory in the 400-meter freestyle occurred on September 7, 2012, which marked exactly one year from the day he suffered his vision loss. Snyder is currently training for the 2016 Paralympics in Rio de Janeiro. He first spoke at Stevenson in August 2014 when he addressed incoming freshmen and their families at the University’s Convocation.


Stevenson also recognized Stacey D. Stewart, U.S. President of United Way Worldwide, with the University’s 6th Annual Social Entrepreneurship Award. Stewart leads the U.S. network of nearly 1,200 local and state United Way campaigns in an effort to create changes to improve lives. Under her leadership, the U.S. network engages thousands of local partners, more than 11 million individual donors and volunteers, and raises more than 3.9 billion dollars each year to rally around initiatives in these vital areas.

Both Snyder and Stewart received an honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters, Stevenson University’s highest academic honor.

Serving as keynote speaker for the School of Graduate and Professional Studies was Bradley Chambers, Senior Vice President of MedStar Health and President of Good Samaritan Hospital and Union Memorial Hospital. In this role, Chambers is responsible for the strategic and operational direction that enhances performance and supports ongoing efforts to build a stronger, more effective integration between these two hospitals, as well as system-wide clinical platforms.


SUTV, Stevenson University’s Web TV station, is providing an in-depth look into campus life, academics, faculty, sports, and career preparation at Stevenson through original, fresh, and daily video updates.

“We realize there is so much happening at Stevenson on a daily basis," says John Buettner, Interim Vice President for Marketing and Digital Communications. "We've set up this Internet TV station to serve as a video hub for all things Stevenson. We're very proud of the final product and we're confident this is a platform that the campus community, prospective students, and alumni will enjoy.”

SUTV highlights what makes Stevenson the place to be. Watch now.

President's Perspective

President Kevin J. Manning, Ph.D., with Stacey D. Stewart, U.S. President of United Way Worldwide, recipient of the University’s 6th Annual Social Entrepreneurship Award.

Stevenson University is a diverse institution, which we believe adds strength and character to our educational experience.

Most experts on the topic of diversity agree that inclusion is one of the greatest challenges for colleges and universities to achieve. For example, a curriculum needs to reflect a variety of rich academic programs available for diverse audiences. By offering these courses, we help the campus more fully understand human differences and similarities through the lens of such topics as culture, race, religion, gender, language, and socioeconomic factors, thus spawning healthy conversations and dialogues about them. Given our core curriculum requirements, it is sometimes difficult to find room for additional courses about these subjects—yet we understand that it is necessary to do so.

During the past year we have had an opportunity to understand even more fully the importance of diversity to members of our campus community. Recently, we hosted a town hall meeting in order to assess the state of diversity and inclusion at Stevenson. Nearly 200 students attended, and I helped to facilitate an open discussion among the students as well as faculty and staff.

Many perspectives were shared during the town hall, and they included a variety of concerns from security and student activities to curriculum and inclusion. Although all of these issues are important, one that seemed to dominate the discussion was some students reporting that they love being at Stevenson but don’t always feel part of the community. Also, a critical reminder that we took away from the meeting is that we are all different in one way or another. For example, my father immigrated from Ireland, and I remember hearing and feeling the inclusion issues that were part of his life experience in America. Unfortunately, our nation has a history of excluding people based on race, gender, religion, and more, which is why we need to provide opportunities to share our own personal experiences, learn from each other, and learn about other cultures in order to be more inclusive. Here at Stevenson, we share a common consciousness in that we all have similarities and differences, a fact that we embrace as we critique our curriculum and continue to move forward on diversity initiatives.

The town hall meeting offered many insights and following this productive meeting, we decided to engage a national expert on diversity who spent three days on campus visiting with students, faculty, and staff. As a result, Stevenson has decided to hire an Associate Vice President for Diversity, Inclusion, and Compliance; promote an existing position to an Assistant Vice President for Multicultural Affairs; and develop a comprehensive plan to foster diversity and inclusion throughout our community. Toward that end, we are creating a diversity and inclusion committee that will work with our new AVPs. The committee will be charged with creating a plan for diversity initiatives that we will support by bringing in speakers, adding to the curriculum, discussing diversity and inclusion, and helping each member of the campus community to become more conscious of their own uniqueness while developing a deeper understanding of others.

In addition to providing a high-quality education, Stevenson also must support its values through inclusion. We become a stronger and more effective university by including the many voices in our community. Through conscious inclusion efforts we can become the kind of institution that we want to be while preparing our students to become contributors in a world that is increasingly complex, diverse, and interconnected.

We are very optimistic about our ability to create a national model of significance in the area of diversity and inclusion that will not only benefit Stevenson but all of higher education. We look forward to the challenge and to reporting on these issues in the future.

Kevin J. Manning, Ph.D.

Alumni Contribute to Education Textbook

Pictured: First row (left to right) Megan Polis ’16; Brittany Somers ’16; Judy Hemler ’16; Tina Mikula ’11; David W. Nicholson, Professor of Education; Rebecca Knolleisen ’14; Zac Stavish ’13; Donald Bufano; Deborah Kraft, Dean of the School of Education. Second row (left to right): Bob Pelton, Professor of Education; Gina Weber ’16; Brooke Pazoles, Kellsye Piper ’12; Alix Weyforth ’13; Emma Oberlechner ’11; Victoria Abrecht ’16; Stephanie Miele ’16; Beth Kobett, Assistant Professor of Education

On May 10, the School of Education recognized David W. Nicholson, Professor of Education, with a signing party celebrating the publication of his Philosophy of Education in Action: An Inquiry-Based Approach. The textbook examines different philosophies of education, and each chapter features a vignette based on observations in actual classrooms by alumni and current education student-candidates in cooperation with several local schools.

For Nicholson, one of the most gratifying aspects of researching and writing the textbook was working with former and current students. In particular, Nicholson says that conversations with Kellsye Piper ’12 and Zac Stavish ’13 helped inspire the idea to author his own textbook. As the project began to take shape, Alix Weyforth ’13 and Allie Withrow ’13 offered feedback, and Rebecca Knolleisen ’14 provided extensive editing suggestions. Later in the process, Molly Malloy ’15 assisted in researching and verifying sources.

Other alumni were instrumental in contributing to the book’s development, Nicholson says. He and his students observed in the classroom of Tina Mikula ’11, teacher at Monarch Academy Charter School in Glen Burnie, who also shared instructional materials. Emma Oberlechner ’11, teacher at East Middle School in Carroll County Public Schools, provided a lesson plan. This information became the basis for vignettes featured in two chapters.

Current seniors also became involved. Megan Polis and Milvelis Vargas assisted in researching sources, verifying references, and compiling the index. In addition, Judy Hemler and Megan Polis along with a team of four students (Victoria Abrecht, Stephanie Miele, Brittany Somers, and Gina Weber) followed the inquiry model described in the textbook to conduct observations. They presented their results at the Paul D. Lack Scholars’ Showcase held at Stevenson University and the John Dewey Society’s Centennial conference in Washington, D.C.

During the signing party, Paul D. Lack, Ph.D., Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs, commended the project as an example of experiential learning, collaboration among faculty, students, and alumni, and outreach with educators in the local community.

Watch a Faculty Focus interview with Nicholson.



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Ventures, Summer 2016
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