Category Archives: Campus Life

Personal Safety Reminders

Our campus and local community continue to feel the impact of missing UIUC visiting scholar Yingying Zhang, and our thoughts and prayers are with her family, friends, and loved ones.

This week’s post serves as a reminder of personal safety tips and habits that can help keep you from becoming a victim. We would like to note that you are not to blame if someone commits a crime against you; however, there are several steps you can take to safeguard against being victimized. Today’s set of tips is broken into two categories, communication and awareness. Both are important elements that work together to keep you safe.

Communication

Make sure someone knows where you’re coming from, where you’re going, and when you’re supposed to get there. This is particularly important if you’re going out to a bar or a party for the night, but can also be a good practice to generally incorporate. This person can be a roommate, friend, significant other, or relative.

Call the police. Police officers get paid to investigate suspicious circumstances. If something happens to you, or you see something that seems out of the ordinary or suspicious, pick up the phone and call. You’re not inconveniencing anyone. It’s our job, and it’s what we get paid to do.

Awareness

Recognize when you’re in a situation where someone is more likely to target you. This can be when you’re standing at an ATM, walking alone on a dark sidewalk/path at night, or fumbling with your keys before you get into your vehicle or enter your apartment. Keep an eye out for anything suspicious, and if something doesn’t look or feel right, consider choosing a different route, finding a public area, or possibly calling the police.

It’s also important to think critically about situations you’re presented with. When you’re at a party or a bar, be cautious about accepting drinks that you haven’t seen prepared. If someone asks you for help that requires you to get into a vehicle or enter a house or apartment, that should definitely set off some red flags in your mind.

No one wants to live their lives dominated by fear, and that’s not what we’re suggesting. Despite the sense that social media and the daily headlines may give you, it’s ultimately not very likely that you’re going to be the victim of a serious crime. Nevertheless, there are simple, relatively unobtrusive steps you can take to further drive those odds down. If we all work together to take a little better care of ourselves and each other, hopefully we can avoid the next tragedy.

 

[Ben Boltinghouse is a public safety officer with Parkland College.]

Rest up for Finals Week…and Your Safety

Sleep is one of the most powerful indicators of student success, and with good reason. Sleep not only refreshes our organs and physical bodies, but it helps us consolidate and synthesize the information  we take in everyday. Many college students (and adults in general) find that they have trouble getting enough quality sleep at night.

Not only is sleep important for success in the classroom or the workplace, but getting enough sleep is critical for your safety. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration conservatively estimates that 100,000 police-reported crashes are the direct result of driver fatigue each year. This results in an estimated 1,550 deaths, 71,000 injuries, and $12.5 billion in monetary losses. These figures may be the tip of the iceberg, since currently it is difficult to attribute crashes to sleepiness.

I found some great tips for improving the quality and quantity of your sleep, from Middlebury College in Vermont:

Develop a routine. Routines signal to our body that something is about to happen—in this case, sleep! Starting a bedtime routine 30 minutes before going to sleep can help unwind the mind and body and release melatonin, a hormone that promotes sleep. Starting the routine at the same time and trying to wake up and the same time everyday can improve sleep quality and quantity.

Reduce caffeine. Caffeine has been shown to cause people to take longer to get to sleep, cause more awakenings, and lower the quality of sleep. Many types of soda contain caffeine as does chocolate, coffee and many types of teas.

Limit alcohol. Consuming alcohol, even as little as one to two drinks can produce fragmented sleep, causing a decrease in deep and REM sleep.

Go screen-free. The light emitted from cell phones, computer screens, tablets, and televisions trick our bodies and brains into thinking that it is light outside and we should be awake. Adding screen-free time into your routine can help you fall asleep faster.

Make time for physical activity. Often at the end of the day our brains are exhausted but our bodies are restless after sitting in class all day. Making time for physical activity, even just a walk around campus or your neighborhood, can help the brain and body get on the same page at the end of the day.

[Ben Boltinghouse is a public safety officer with Parkland College.]

10 Tips for Nighttime Walking

Whether you’re walking out to your car through the Parkland parking lots or enjoying an evening out in downtown Champaign, Urbana, or Campustown, foot travel at night carries more risks than the daytime. As starts to get nicer outside, we’ve compiled the following list of tips to help you safely reach your destination:

  1. Stay away from poorly lit areas and avoid taking shortcuts down dark alleyways or paths. Choose well-lit, heavily traveled sidewalks.
  2. If you are in an emergency situation, call 911.
  3. Whenever possible, do not walk alone at night.
  4. Be aware of places along your path that could conceal a criminal (shrubbery, buildings, recesses, etc.). Avoid these areas.
  5. Do not use headphones or talk on a cell phone while walking alone at night as this reduces your awareness of your surroundings.
  6. If you think someone is following you, make your way to a populated area and consider calling the police.
  7. Carry yourself with confidence. If confronted, shout or use a whistle to attract attention.
  8. It is risky to travel under the influence of alcohol or other controlled substances. Drugs and alcohol can greatly alter your perceptions, reaction time, and judgments.
  9. Make sure to tell someone your plans and travel routes and when to expect your arrival.
  10. Wear clothing that will allow you to run if necessary. If you need to run, drop any heavy cargo you’re carrying (heavy books, packages, etc.) since these slow you down.

[Ben Boltinghouse is a public safety officer with Parkland College.]

Internationalizing Parkland Curriculum: A Personal Journey

A few years ago, Parkland College Study Abroad Coordinator Jody Littleton challenged me to think about how my classes could be different and possibly even better through adding more cultural reflection. When teaching in the quantitative sciences, it is easy to overlook the power that curriculum infused with an international perspective can have on student learning.

I had fallen prey to the mindset that I just needed to “get through the material” as presented in the book and on the Course Information Forms. After ruminating on her suggestion, though, I realized that I might be able to teach specific topics better if I created well-thought-out assessments with a global outlook. Jody and I continued the conversation, and when several Parkland faculty partnered with Joliet Junior College to travel to China a month ago (March 2017), I joined in.

It was a trip of a lifetime that opened my eyes to what may have been missing from my teaching. For one, this trip made my feet itch with the desire to travel outside of the US for my professional development. How can I teach about unique nutritional deficiencies, different modes of physical activity in the world, living quarters’ impact on health, medical training, and more if I only have a book for reference? I also quickly realized that my perspectives on China had been missing critical pieces of information; once abroad, I was able to form a holistic picture of Chinese culture and better compare it to the US as well as other to countries I have visited. While many topics I had studied prior to my trip were “mostly correct,” visiting China clarified several misconceptions, gave me a new appreciation, and allowed me to better understand the full picture.

What I Learned During the Faculty Study Abroad

  • I was shocked to see how quickly China is becoming Westernized, to the point that McDonald’s delivers in many cities in China. At the train station waiting for the bullet train, there were two KFC restaurants as well as a McDonald’s in one moderate-sized train station.
  • At the farmer’s market, we saw many choices that we don’t see in the United States. Lamb intestine, cow stomach, chicken feet, and more were sitting out for purchase from morning until evening, with patrons bringing them home to cook for dinner. When we were invited to eat with the Nanjing Technical School faculty and deans, we were able to sample more of the local fair, including duck heads, a native delicacy. (In case you were wondering, you eat duck heads like oysters.)
  • Most places we ate at served food “family style” with a turntable in the center. Plates were significantly smaller than in the US. Because everyone is sharing, I didn’t want to take more food than would be socially appropriate, so, it encouraged me to eat more modest portions than I am accustomed to eating. I also learned that rice is often not served in China if the host would like to impress you with the quality of food offered. Rice is not the food of the rich. The rich eat a meat- and fish-based diet with significantly fewer vegetables than China has historically consumed. In turn, there is a marked rise in obesity, heart disease, and type II diabetes.
  • Even on good days, the smog in some locations of China would impede my ability to see the sun and, possibly, my ability to synthesize enough vitamin D to meet my nutritional needs without supplementation/fortification.
  • Toilets in China are often similar to the stalls you see here.  We discussed that women would realistically need to retain the ability to perform a deep squat if they were to use a public toilet. However, it seemed of little concern as many older individuals in China had a greater range of motion than we see in the US. Possibly due to the toilets?
  • When we visited a local park at 10  a.m. during the weekday, we noted that many people engaged in exercise…dance, tai chi, fencing, badminton, etc. Retirees in China do not retire to the couch. They get out during the day to enjoy other’s company as well as keep active physically and mentally.

How What I Learned Changed My Curriculum

  • Now, in each module of my BIO 120 class (Fundamentals of Nutrition), students have the opportunity to present a module-specific cultural comparison between China and the US. During the digestive system module, students can discuss the incidence of specific GI disorders in China relative to the US. For example, a student researched and found a higher incidence of lactose intolerance/maldigestion in China due to both environmental and genetic factors.
  • My KIN 288 (Exercise Physiology) class is finding peer-reviewed journal articles comparing topics such as air quality impact on VO2max, changes in childhood obesity rates in response to Westernization, and the selection and training of Olympic hopefuls in China.
  • In all of my classes, students have the option of creating a video focusing on the cultural comparison between China and the US. We are partnering with our PCTV studio, and many of the videos will become available on YouTube mid-May.

Overall, visiting China was a surreal, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I constantly took pictures, spoke with locals, and absorbed all the nuances I could. Other Parkland College faculty who participated in this grant echo my sentiments, and we plan to collectively present  about our experiences this September. We look forward to sharing more of our perspectives then.

[An associate professor in  Natural Sciences, Toni Burkhalter was Parkland College’s Teaching Excellence Award winner for 2016].

Cyber Safety, Part 2: Cyberbullying

Cyberbullying isn’t just a problem for adolescents; it often impacts those who have long since left high school behind. If you find yourself being bullied or harassed online, there are a few steps you can take to remedy the situation.

  1. Document all evidence of the bullying, taking screenshots or pictures of any messages, posts, or comments that are made. You should also block the person who is cyberbullying.
  2. Next, report that evidence to the online service providers. Cyberbullying often violates the terms of service established by social media sites and Internet service providers, and they can take action against the users who are abusing their sites. This not only protects you but stops others from being bullied as well.
  3. Finally, depending on the severity of the bullying, bring the evidence you have to law enforcement as well. This should definitely be done when the bullying involves threats of violence, sexually explicit messages or posts, stalking and hate crimes, or taking photos or videos of someone where they would reasonably expect privacy.

The Pew Research Center estimates that 40% of adult Internet users have personally experienced some form of online harassment. If you or someone you know is the victim of online bullying, please reach out and start the process to freedom from cyberbullying.

[Ben Boltinghouse is a public safety officer with Parkland College.]