All posts by Hilary Valentine

Music, art, fun, and social causes at Pygmalion 2017

Parkland College students and staff enjoyed the 13th annual Pygmalion in late September, an event that has outgrown its “festival” label, continuously expanding its borders into the arts and technology, while showcasing outstanding local and national musical acts and so much more. And did we mention the food and beverage options? Only the best! Great job, Seth Fein (Parkland alumnus – yeah!), Patrick Singer, Justine Bursoni, and all who put their hearts and souls into making Pygmalion one of the reasons we are lucky to live in Champaign-Urbana.

Parkland highlights:

Tech Fest
Parkland digital media student Ryan Marshall demonstrated physics and fluid simulations that he and other students worked on in class using Autodesk Maya. Ryan was in illustrious company – other demos were from Beckman Institute, NCSA, and Volition.

Made Fest
Parkland Art Studio Collective participated in this curated marketplace featuring handmade and vintage items, selling works in a variety of media made by Parkland art students. Running the Parkland booth gave students the experience of participating in an art fair. Art students Daniel Quinn, Erin Rogers, Clare Margiotta, Joan Gary, Neda Sroka, Ray Irani, and Ruta Rauber sold their exquisite artwork—jewelry, painting, ceramics, textiles—and put in long hours setting up, staffing, and tearing down the booth. Lisa Costello, Denise Seif, and Laura O’Donnell were Parkland faculty Made Fest champs for coordinating and running the booth.

Lit Fest
Parkland English Professor and #1 Pygmalion fangirl Amy Penne was on the Lit Fest bill—along with mega literary superstar George Saunders (Lincoln in the Bardo)—sharing her new short essay: “A Fluff Piece: Or, Where Does Sex Education End and an Oedipal Complex Begin? One Midwestern Mom’s Query.”

PygHack

New this year at Pygmalion, a 24-hour hackathon with the wide-open theme of engaging coders, designers, engineers, and dreamers with a challenge to come up with an idea that benefits the community. Sara Stone, Parkland’s Tech Services Desk coordinator, served as a judge alongside an illustrious panel of local tech rock stars.

Of 11 projects submitted, top awards went to a proposal for connecting surplus food at grocery stores with food pantries and a proposal for mapping safe routes in C-U using crime frequency data. The grand prize went to SpreadBread, an intuitive food-sharing app that connects eateries, restaurants, and grocery stores to local homeless shelters and foodbanks. Sara’s vote went to SpreadBread because it seemed to have the potential to make the most positive impact on the community. Check out all the entries at https://pyghack2017.devpost.com/submissions and prepare to be inspired by the passion, teamwork, and innovation you see there.

PygTech judge Sara Stone checked out the experimental sounds of Animal Collective on Pygmalion’s main stage on Friday night.

Thanks to all the Parkland peeps who participated, attended, and enjoyed Pygmalion! See you next year.

It’s Plant Sale Week at Parkland

Parkland College invites the public to its 11th annual Greenhouse Spring Plant Sale, May 3 through 5 and May 8 through 11, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. The annual sale is an opportunity to showcase the work that our agriculture and horticulture students have been doing over the course of the semester. We asked Theresa Meers, who coordinates the popular semiannual Greenhouse Plant Sale, a few questions to find out more about the sale.

Q: What is the difference between the Parkland plant sale and a local nursery selling plants?

A: The students have been involved in the planning, seeding, growing, and now the sale of the plants, so it’s been a learning experience from the beginning. We have a very small selection of plants compared to the local nurseries, so we are not competing with them. Some of the plants we tried did not even make it to the point of being able to sell, which is a learning experience in itself. The funds go into the Horticulture account to help pay for greenhouse and other horticulture-related expenses.

Q: What role do students play in the plant sale?

A: Students have been involved from the planning phase, specifically through the agri-business work experience courses AGB 191 and 291; HRT 270, Greenhouse Production; and a new class HRT 111, Sustainable Urban Horticulture. Selling the plants is the reward of all their hard work. They will act as salespeople and answer customer questions.

Q: What kinds of plants are available for sale?

A: Because the students choose which plants to grow, each year is different. This year, we have lots of hanging baskets and annuals, plus some veggies and tropical plants. There is a limited selection of perennials this year.

Q: What new initiatives are you planning for this growing season?

A: We are in the second year of our sustainable plot between W and T buildings, so we are hoping to harvest a wider grouping of plants this year.

The greenhouse is located on the west side of the Tony Noel Agricultural Technology Applications Center on the west side of campus. Great vegetable plants, annuals, perennials, tropicals, hanging baskets, and other ready-made containers (great for Mothers’ Day gifts or your own yard) will be available.

Cash or checks only, please. For more information, contact Theresa Meers at tmeers@parkland.edu.

 [Hilary Valentine is associate director for Parkland College Marketing and Public Relations.]

 

Phi Theta Kappa: Exploring Innovation in the Local Community

Below, Phi Theta Kappa honor society invites anyone interested in entrepreneurship to attend next week’s FREE innovation events. LaTianna Dumas, a 2015 Urbana High School graduate and president of Parkland’s chapter of Phi Theta Kappa, extends the invitation.

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Are you interested in learning how local innovators developed unique and successful business ventures? Do you dream of a nontraditional career path that will allow you to go where your passion and creativity can take you? Phi Theta Kappa can help you explore these concepts of innovation, to help you turn your dreams into reality and success!

Phi Theta Kappa, the official international honor society of two-year colleges, recognizes the academic success of community college students and builds the leadership and professional skills of its members. In addition, Phi Theta Kappa builds camaraderie and compassion within community colleges. Parkland’s local chapter, Alpha Psi Eta, features a student-run officer team overseen by their advisor, Professor Lori Garrett. Their current focuses are engaging Parkland students from different backgrounds, contributing to the local community, and exploring their current Honors Study Topic, “Global Perspectives: How the World Works.”

Parkland’s chapter is researching the roles of individualism and collectivism in fostering business innovation. There are numerous facets to innovation, and the innovative process varies greatly depending on the creators and the corporate and societal structure around them. As a culmination of their research process—a model called “Honors in Action”—Phi Theta Kappa is hosting a series of three presentations featuring local business innovators from right here in Champaign-Urbana!

The series, “How to Build a Business,” runs from Monday, December 5 through Wednesday, December 7 at noon each day in Room D244. Attendees will hear local entrepreneurs discuss their businesses, their inspiration, how they got started, and how they turned their ideas into success. Everyone is invited to attend these one-hour talks and perhaps gain some inspiration of your own.

Here is the lineup:
Monday, December 5 PandaMonium Doughnuts: fueling Champaign-Urbana’s doughnut cravings (free doughnuts to the first dozen attendees!)
Tuesday, December 6 CU Community Fab Lab: creativity through collaboration
Wednesday, December 7 Cracked Food Truck: created for students, by students

To learn more about Phi Theta Kappa or this series, contact chapter president LaTi Dumas at latianna.dumas@yahoo.com. You may also contact chapter advisor Lori Garrett at lgarrett @parkland.edu.

 

[Hilary Valentine is associate director for Parkland College Marketing and Public Relations.]

 

 

“For the education you receive, Parkland is worth it”

Hundreds of University of Illinois students take Parkland College classes each year to shorten the road to their Illinois degrees. Below, Daniel Ito shares how Parkland helped him achieve his educational goals.

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Two classes shy of a full-semester transfer from the University of Michigan to Illinois, Daniel Ito chose Parkland College to fill in the gaps in his education and graduate on time.20160922-ito_daniel-for-web

A Champaign native, Daniel had known about Parkland since his youth as a College for Kids student on campus. As a spring 2008 freshman, he was back, this time taking microeconomics and macroeconomics courses.

“Being a business student, I guess I just appreciated the cost effectiveness of it,” Daniel said about his Parkland experience. “The quality of learning wasn’t sacrificed for the cost.”

So Daniel took other Parkland classes after entering the UIUC in fall 2008, such as music appreciation, introduction to psychology, and Japanese.

“Many of these classes were online, which required a different mindset for me,” he said. “I learned time management because I was on my own schedule rather than sitting in a classroom, and I enjoyed them.”

Daniel graduated from the University of Illinois with a BS in Finance in 2011. A few months later, he moved to New York and worked for two years in mergers and acquisitions for a multinational accounting firm.

Since returning to the Champaign area, these days Daniel focuses on art, freelance video production, and working on his own peace project, Crane Cloud, through which he has folded more than 4,000 origami cranes for peace. He believes his Parkland experience as well as volunteer opportunities in New York helped him better discover the kind of life he wants to live.

“If I’m doing work that’s not really helping others and I’m not really happy myself doing it, then what’s the point, really?” he asked. “Figuring out what you’re really passionate about learning, without the pressure of having to pay back a lot of school loans—that was a major benefit of coming to Parkland.”

Daniel Ito
’08 Parkland student, Business
’11 U of I graduate, Finance

***Visit the Parkland College website for more information on concurrent enrollment for UIUC students.***

[Hilary Valentine is the associate director of marketing at Parkland.]

Hospitality a Bigger (and Better) Fish to Fry

Hospitality is just one of many great options for adults returning to school to find a new career. Read Tiffany’s inspiring story and contact Tony Hooker at the Adult Re-entry Center (ahooker@parkland.edu) to start your own journey.

Early motherhood may have halted Tiffany Fry’s plans to complete her Parkland education 24 years ago, but it never stunted her dreams of doing so. Back then, the one-time Cobras track standout chose dedicating her life to raising her new son, and later, his brothers, over academic pursuits. The two decades of life away from Parkland only sharpened Tiffany’s career passion; upon returning, she knew just what she wanted to study: food.

Deciding to go back to school was a “leap of faith,” however, as she had to leave an eight-year management job to do so. “Facing your fears head-on is the best way; the challenge is yours to make, but you have to want it enough to take it on.”

Tiffany, a straight-A student, graduated from Parkland in May with degrees in Restaurant Management and Culinary Arts Management plus several Hospitality certificates including Hotel/Motel Management. She called the two-year journey to get where she is today “incredible and eye-opening at the same time.”

“I have changed in so many ways,” she explained. “Most of all, I believe in myself more now than ever before. Parkland has given me the tools to make the educated decisions I didn’t make before.”

With her post-graduation sights on a position as a food and beverage/banquet manager or director, Tiffany ultimately hopes to own her own restaurant and bar—”nothing fancy, just something that is my own.” She feels equipped to the task now, both because of her personal traits and her new Parkland training. “I know I am a people person, so this industry was just what I was born to do; it took me some time to get here, but nevertheless, I’m here and I never gave up,” she said. “My Parkland instructors were real people, meaning they have lived life and seen the struggles that go on with juggling school, work, family, etc. They are understanding, and as long as you communicate with them they will do what they can and will go above and beyond to help you.”

 

UIUC Student Touts Parkland Transfer

Hundreds of University of Illinois students, like marketing senior Brent Loth, take Parkland College classes each year to shorten the road to their Illinois degrees. Below, Brent shares why university students should explore Parkland transfer options.

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As a University of Illinois student, I sometimes find myself in a bind. I want to get my degree as soon as possible, but it can be hard to get in all the courses I need throughout the school year. I also have additional pressures, like being financially responsible and finding the right learning setting to prepare myself for life after college.

Luckily, I have lived in Champaign for most of my life and know that Parkland College carries a fantastic reputation for its education and atmosphere. After talking with my academic advisor, we decided Parkland would be a great fit for my college objectives, and I found some classes I could take during the summers to earn my degree in a timely way and stay productive during my time off from the U of I.

I was able to transfer classes with ease and had a smaller learning environment, getting individual attention that helped with classes I found difficult. I got to know my teachers on a personal level while getting the same credits I could earn at the U of I for a fraction of the cost.

So far, I have taken Intro to Marketing, Microeconomics, Macroeconomics, and Spanish 1. Now, as I prepare to graduate this upcoming year, my positive experiences influenced me to also finish language requirements with Parkland this fall. I plan to do so along with my other U of I classes.

I recommend Parkland classes for the following reasons:

1. Taking classes at Parkland can help you earn your degree faster, especially during summer and winter breaks.

2. You get more individual attention to narrow your focus for class, which helps with subjects you find challenging.

3. It helps ease financial stresses for yourself and your family.

4. Many classes transfer and have equivalency toward your degree.

I encourage you to talk to your academic advisor to see if Parkland would be a good fit for you. It turned out to be an amazing resource for me, and I know you will be happy with what the school has to offer. – Brent Loth

***Visit the Parkland College website for more information on concurrent enrollment for UIUC students.***

[Hilary Valentine is the associate director of marketing at Parkland.]

 

 

Thinking College? Club Latino Students Share Some Keys to Success

What are three key ingredients for success at Parkland College for Latino students?

The students themselves would probably tell you that: 1) family/friend support, 2) affordability, and 3) information is the trio to beat.

I recently sat down with members of Club Latino, one of the longest-running and most active student clubs at Parkland, for a Q&A session. These students come from various cities (Rantoul, Arcola, Tuscola, Decatur, and C-U) and are pursuing a wide range of majors (music therapy and neurology, psychology, computer science, criminal justice, surgical technology, Spanish, and sociology). Most of the Club Latino students work 30-40 hours a week as well as take classes, attend Club Latino meetings (free pizza!), and do volunteer/service work with the club.

As we chatted about their Parkland experiences and what has kept them motivated to learn, they also shared with me what they would like future Parkland students of Latino heritage to understand about college before they begin their journeys here.

What keeps you going?
  • My mom. She is so encouraging.
  • Support for our families; we don’t want to let them down.
  • We are hard workers—it’s in our blood.
  • We need a better future for ourselves.
  • I have goals—I want to achieve them.
  • I am a nursing major, and I’m getting closer to my goal of helping people.
How do you balance work and school?
  • It has not been easy. There are days I dedicate to school and days I dedicate to work.
  • I consider my Club Latino time my hangout time.
What made you decide to come to Parkland? Why is this place special?
  • I worked with my mom in a factory for two years. I saw how tired she was after working 60-hour weeks, and I knew I didn’t want to do that forever.
  • Parkland’s tuition is more affordable than other schools, and it’s closer to home.
  • Parkland feels safe to me. The environment is friendly and I don’t ever feel fear. I feel like it’s my home.
  • It’s a great place to start… a stepping stone.
  • I still don’t know what I want to do, but I will figure it out at Parkland.
How does campus involvement in Club Latino benefit you?
  • How important is it to be involved in college? 101% important. Students struggle with work and school, but being involved helps you realize how much more college has to offer and how worthwhile it is.
  • You’re also learning leadership skills, teamwork skills, accounting, planning. When you experience other things, you start to have a broader perspective.
  • I’ve met a lot of new people from new areas and made new friends.
  • It makes you more responsible because you see other people being responsible.
  • I never had much Latino culture growing up, so being in Club Latino connects me to my heritage.
  • We try to motivate younger Latinos to set goals and go to college. We do outreach to high schools.
What would you want a younger brother or sister to know about starting college?
  • Applying to college is not as hard as you think. When I first came to Parkland, I talked to Financial Aid and figured out how to pay for college. It seems like a lot of steps, but once you’re in, the only struggle is then getting through classes. Once you’re here, there are a lot of people to help you out.
  • Get started early for fall. Don’t wait. Fill out the FAFSA and use last year’s information. You want to be one of the first people to apply. You have to be persistent.
  • I think it’s important to find that support system before you come, and then once you’re here, find it here.
  • You don’t have to know what to major in before you come to school. The general requirements apply to a lot of majors, so none of it is wasted time.

    Thanks to Club Latino members who shared their meeting time with me: Kellyn, Jesus, Bree, Karina, Yulibeth, Chaz, Joey, Jennifer, and Lisette.

[Hilary Valentine is the marketing analyst for Parkland’s Marketing and Public Relations department.]

 

5 Reasons You Should Love Carter Family Music

The original Carter Family – A.P. and Sara Carter, and her cousin (and his sister-in-law) Maybelle Carter have been called “the first family of country music.” They recorded hundreds of songs in the 1920s–40s and Maybelle’s innovative style of guitar playing was enormously influential.

If you haven’t heard of them, you’ve almost certainly heard of Johnny Cash, who married Maybelle’s daughter June. Here are some other fun facts about the Carter Family and their music:

  1. Posters promoting Carter Family concerts featured the charming tagline, “the program is morally good.”
  2. Their concerts may indeed have been morally good, but there were plenty of juicy goings-on behind the scenes!
  3. The Carter Family back story includes the almost unbelievable tale of one Dr. Brinkley, purveyor of goat glands to a large and willing audience. No kidding!
  4. Maybelle Carter’s pioneering style, now known as the Carter scratch, changed acoustic guitar playing forever.
  5. Carter family descendants still run the Carter Family Fold in the location of the original homestead, featuring concerts and festivals year-round.

If you have any interest in early country or “hillbilly” music, we’d love to share the music of the Carter Family with you in an upcoming class offered by Parkland College Community Education. We will play and sing lots of their songs, and also talk about their history, why they were so popular, and why their music still endures today.

Mondays, September 14-October 5, 7 to 8:30pm, $45. Sign up by calling Community Education at 217/353-2055.

Feature image: Carter Family, the, Photograph, from Britannica Online for Kids, accessed August 28, 2015, http://kids.britannica.com/comptons/art-107922.

The bees are hungry!

Our pursuit of manicured weed-free lawns and ever expanding agricultural development has created a hostile environment for bees and other pollinators like the monarch butterfly, the Illinois state insect. Beautiful green lawns and cornfields with no violets, clover, or dandelions are virtual food deserts for insect pollinators.

The good news is, we’ve realized our bees and butterflies are in trouble, and we’re doing something about it! It’s in our best interest to do sowe need our pollinators to thrive if we want to continue to eat the food we enjoy today. No pollinators—no food—no exaggeration!

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The White House recently released a blog post  announcing the publication of a Strategy to Promote the Health of Honey Bees and Other Pollinators. The strategy has three main goals:

  1. Reduce honey bee colony losses to economically sustainable levels;
  2. Increase monarch butterfly numbers to protect the annual migration; and
  3. Restore or enhance millions of acres of land for pollinators through combined public and private action.

Here’s more good newsyou don’t have to be a scientist or an expert gardener to get involved: this plan calls for all citizens to step up and help save our bees and butterflies. If you’re interested in protecting pollinators, here are two resources you can explore:

  1. Download a plan for a small garden called a “pollinator pocket” at the University of Illinois Extension website here, along with other tips for making your yard into a healthy pollinator habitat.
  2. Learn about bees and beekeeping through Parkland College Community Education from expert beekeeper and owner of Second Nature Honey, Maggie Wachter.

And don’t fear bees—you’re more likely to get hit by lightning than stung by a bee!

Happy Earth Day

Before you dismiss it as just another day for tree-huggers*, consider that Earth Day is a long and important tradition in America. The first official Earth Day was held on April 22, 1970, in what may have been the most environmentally unsound time in human history, during the height of gas guzzling cars and ubiquitous air pollution. From that era came the clean air and clean water legislation that still remains the most significant environmental guidepost today.

Since then, each annual Earth Day has reminded us that we are all citizens and stewards of the planet that supports us, and we each in some way can care for and give back to the earth that has given to us so bounteously.

Parkland celebrates Earth Day/Earth Week each April with workdays on our prairie restoration and other natural areas, and other events during the course of the week. Parkland’s Sustainable Campus Committee coordinates these and other initiatives throughout the year.

Today, snag a free autumn berry donut while you learn about the invasive species, Autumn Olive, in the Student Union from 9:30 until they run out, and join us for a free showing of the energy documentary film Switch at noon in L124.

*If you’re not already a tree-hugger, become one! Trees help offset global warming by sequestering carbon. On Earth Day and every day, love a tree!

What’s In a Prairie?

You have heard Illinois called the Prairie State, but do you know what a prairie is? Hint: it’s NOT weeds!

Before the state was settled, 60 percent of Illinois (22 million+ acres) was covered by vast expanses of tallgrass. The deep  prairie plants’ roots (up to 15 feet!) make topsoils incredibly productive, and thus fertile for agriculture.  The invention of the John Deere self-scouring plow in 1837 made it possible to break up the prairie sod and change it into farmland. Many prairies still existed at that time, however, because there was too much water in many soils to farm well. By 1935, enough drain tile had been laid in Illinois to thoroughly drain off the soil water into drainage ditches, allowing the productive soils to be intensely farmed. 

Today, only 2,000 acres of prairie remain in Illinois (that’s .0001 percent).

You might be familiar with big bluestem, Illinois’ official prairie grass, but did you know there are about 150 kinds of grasses native to  prairies, including Indian grass, wild rye, and switchgrass? Native prairie wildflowers (forbs) include coneflowers, compass and cup plants with their bright yellow flowers, and milkweeds–the only plant species that monarch butterflies lay their eggs on. Prairies also provide habitat for hundreds of animal species. Check out the Illinois Plant Information Network database, which lists 851 species of plants native to Illinois prairies. 

Parkland’s prairie restoration, located due east of the Student Union, was started in the 1990s through the efforts of former biology professors Rich Blazier and Earl Creutzberg, along with community members and organizations and Parkland students. Today’s environmental and plant biology students learn about prairie and other ecosystems in Parkland’s natural land areas and regularly participate in prairie workdays, learning how to maintain prairies by collecting seeds, helping with prairie burns, and removing invasive plants.

Parkland’s Sustainable Campus Committee and Physical Plant hope to expand the prairie restoration by about 15 acres, including large tracts behind the Athletics track and small showy native flower beds by the buildings. This could eliminate hours of mowing, lowering the college’s carbon footprint by reducing fuel use. It also means beautiful flowers throughout the growing season. Planting tallgrass prairie costs less than planting turf grass, and requires little maintenance. Tallgrass prairie helps control drainage, prevents erosion, brings important pollinators to the area, and reminds us of our natural heritage.

 

Jonathan from Illinois Soil and Water Conservation
Jonathan from Illinois Soil and Water Conservation District loads prairie seed into the planter.

Parkland biology professor Heidi Leuszler recently worked with Pheasants Forever to establish a new one-acre tallgrass prairie across the Perimeter Drive in front of the union. The seed mix included about 75 species of prairie plants native to east-central soils.

Now that you know about Parkland’s prairie restoration, watch from the big windows in the welcome areaor better yet, walk right out the front door—to see how prairie changes over the seasons, and observe the wildlife that finds a safe home in Parkland’s prairie.