Pen pal program unites students, Bitty Buckeyes

The Ohio State University at Mansfield cares as much about future Buckeyes as it does its current students and alumni. The Bitty Buckeye Leadership Project pairs Ohio State Mansfield students with local schoolchildren as pen pals to promote community relationships and plant the seed that they too can attend college.

The project is being coordinated by First Year Experience Coordinator Natasha Stouffer and First Year Experience Junior Coordinator Savanah Osborn. While this isn’t the first year the program has existed, it is the first time that they’ve started expanding the number of students involved.

“The program started with a few Buckeye Ambassadors,” Stouffer said. “When I got here, I found Buckeye Ambassador Kaitlyn Miller’s instruction manual for the program. I saw the potential in the project and thought that we should continue the outreach into local schools. The instruction manual has allowed us to replicate the program in various schools.”

The program has now grown to include Buckeye Ambassadors and First Year Student Leaders.

The university students get a lot of satisfaction out of the program. Michael Morgan, a freshman from Cleveland suburb Shaker Heights, has a pen pal at Sherman Elementary School.

“I think the Bitty Buckeye letters are amazing,” Morgan said. “My participation in the Bitty Buckeye Program has truly helped me in my first year in college, and I hope it helps the children understand the importance of education and hard work.”

Morgan is an example of what Stouffer likes about the program.

“I see The Bitty Buckeye Program as a great way to make students who aren’t from the area feel connected to Mansfield,” Stouffer said. “I think it shows what can happen when a community and the university work together.”

The program has been well received in the community, according to Stouffer.

“The teachers really like it because it gives their kids a way to practice their creative spelling and writing,” she said.

The children really enjoy the program as well. The conversations between students and the children are typically about education.

“They’re really excited about being able to talk to Buckeyes and learn about the college experience,” Osborn said. “We talk about college and what they want to be when they grow up and what they think college is like. Then we explain to them what our experiences are.”

The conversations will continue throughout the school year as letters are exchanged every couple of weeks. The program culminates when the college students meet their pen pals face-to-face at the local schools and spend a half-day talking about college and doing educational activities focusing on college access.

Stouffer and Osborn believe Bitty Buckeyes is a scalable project and expect the program to expand.

“We have more interest in it than we have students to write letters,” Stouffer said. “I expect to see it grow and grow over the next year.”

Students love Buckeye experience

Homecoming Queen Jordan Morse and King Joey Burley are involved in activities.

Homecoming Queen Jordan Morse and King Joey Burley are involved in activities.

At Ohio State Mansfield, our students love being involved in campus activities, from student engagement to athletics programs, making Buckeye memories and friendships they will carry with them for life.

Homecoming king and queen, Joey Burley and Jordan Morse, were chosen for their extensive involvement in campus activities as well as volunteerism in the community.

Morse plays on the intercollegiate Mansfield Mavericks volleyball team and volunteers with children with disabilities at Raemelton Therapeutic Equestrian Center and at a local dog shelter.

Burley is involved in Psychology Student Association, English Club and Boxing Club. He participates in theater productions and is a summer cleaning and maintenance staff manager at campus housing Molyet Village Apartments.

They also have a lot in common. Both are Psychology majors, resident advisors at Molyet Village Apartments and graduates from Ashland High School. And they have been a couple for about four years.

“We have so many similar interests that we can explore those interests on campus, and we also, just like any other couple, have very different interests,” Burley said. “So it’s great that not only can we achieve all the experiences we wish to do together here but we can also achieve all the experiences that we want for ourselves as well.”

Burley, looking for sparring partners, started the boxing club on campus. He credits both the Office of Student Engagement and Athletics for guiding him through the process to succeed in his goal. They helped him craft liability documents, create club flyers to recruit members and granted the new club $800 for equipment. The club has grown to about 10 who are regular participants.

The couple decided to apply for homecoming court because it was something they could participate in together. The selection process included interviews with a committee of faculty and staff who evaluated their campus and community involvement.

“I was so nervous for the interview but it went so well,” Morse said. “Everyone was so calm and I got to talk about my interests, which was the best part.”

Students chose them as king and queen.

“Something told me that it was going to be a really good experience for both of us and it wound up like a fairy tale,” Burley said. “We were treated like royalty for the whole weekend. Especially standing right alongside the one you love – it was awesome.”

While both live close enough to commute to campus, they chose to live in the campus dorm. They love the community atmosphere and the friendships they have made.

“I absolutely love it here,” Burley said. “I choose to get involved in so many different things because it’s a part of who I am and the opportunity presents itself so often here even at a regional campus.

“I think a lot of people consider getting involved to be either something that you are innately able to do or innately unable to do and I don’t think that’s true. Everyone wants that Buckeye experience. Just open your eyes, because even here at the Mansfield campus, it’s available.”

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Student’s research has implications across Ohio

Freshman Jeff Hensal received a research scholar award to study long-term trends in precipitation across Ohio.

Freshman Jeff Hensal received a research scholar award to study long-term trends in precipitation across Ohio.

An Ohio State Mansfield student is conducting a research project that may have broad implications across Ohio for its number one industry – farming.

Freshman Jeff Hensal is the first from Ohio State Mansfield to receive a Research Scholar Award of $1,000 from the Ohio State University Undergraduate Research Office. His proposal looks at historical precipitation data to identify long-term trends in precipitation amounts, moisture regime and water availability in Ohio. Results from this study will help managers better prepare for extreme weather events and support farmers in their planning for irrigation and water usage.

Drawing from precipitation data from NOAA National Climatic Data Center going back to the 1970s from 205 weather stations in all 88 Ohio counties, Hensal and research mentor and professor Ozeas Costa hope to gain knowledge about the trends and patterns of climate change to be able to make accurate predictions about the weather, especially extreme weather events such as floods and droughts. They also hope to discover some of the factors that impact this change to help better predict future climate variability.

The Earth’s climate is intrinsic to everything important to society – the production of food and energy, human and ecosystem health, the functioning and characteristics of the hydrologic cycle, and much more, Hensal explained in his proposal.

“Natural and human-induced changes in the Earth’s climate thus have widespread implications for society,” he said. “We are particularly interested in the role of climatic changes on the hydrological cycle, since water availability is crucial to agriculture, one of the major drivers of Ohio’s economy.”

Tracking historical information means that researchers can determine what could be expected from the future, both in terms of intensity and frequency of rains, which will help farmers determine when to plant, and how much fertilizer and pesticides to use, according to Costa.

The Engineering major is expected to prepare a three-month progress report and to create an online research portfolio and update it each semester until he graduates.

Hensal’s work will be displayed at the Mansfield Undergraduate Research Forum April 20-23 and he will be available from 4:30 to 5:15 p.m. April 23 to answer questions about the project.

About 300 scholarships will be awarded through the program this year. Students can conduct research or pursue a creative activity with a faculty member’s supervision in any discipline, on any campus of The Ohio State University.

Tradition way of life for Buckeyeman and granddaughter

Buckeyeman Larry Lokai and granddaughter Catherine Williams visit the Cyber Café.

Buckeyeman Larry Lokai and granddaughter Catherine Williams visit the Cyber Café.

No one has more Buckeye pride and enthusiasm than Buckeyeman. For the last 17 years, the Ohio State alumnus has been plastering face paint on, hanging buckeyes around his neck, and cheering for The Ohio State University.

What people may forget is that there’s an ordinary man underneath that red and grey exterior. Larry Lokai, of Urbana, Ohio, isn’t just a Buckeye on the outside; he’s a Buckeye through and through. Lokai graduated from Ohio State in 1967.

Granddaughter Catherine Williams is carrying on the tradition as a freshman at Ohio State Mansfield. Twenty-four of Lokai’s family members have attended Ohio State including five other grandchildren who are currently attending the university at the Columbus and Lima campuses.

“If all goes well, we will have our 25th degree from our immediate family by 2018,” Lokai said.

Williams, a Special Education major, always knew she wanted to go to The Ohio State University. She learned more about regional campuses as two older sisters chose to attend Ohio State Lima.

“I already knew I had an option to go to a regional campus, but was not sure which one would be the right fit for me,” Williams said. “I narrowed down my search based on the option of housing and if my major was offered. My search was narrowed down to Lima and Mansfield, but when touring Mansfield, this campus seemed more of a fit for me even though I already knew people who were going to Lima.

Lokai has visited every regional campus as Buckeyeman, but didn’t stop at Ohio State Mansfield until this past November when he visited Williams at off-campus housing Buckeye Village and toured the campus.

He liked the modern buildings and the smaller campus setting.

“The primary value is the smaller setting with a closer group of fellow students,” Lokai said. “Plus, the Mansfield campus is located in a spacious, clean and safe part of town.”

When asked whether Williams will carry on her grandfather’s tradition, she said, “I will continue the tradition of being an avid Ohio State fan and will always speak highly of not only Ohio State, but how much of a fan he is for OSU.”

Professors create a community for the arts

Members of the Theatre department at The Ohio State University at Mansfield present The Tin Faces Project.

Members of the Theatre department at The Ohio State University at Mansfield present The Tin Faces Project.

Through unique venues and community collaboration, professors of the arts at The Ohio State University at Mansfield provide extensive learning experiences for both their students and the local community.

Most students who participate in theatre productions, art shows and chorus at Ohio State Mansfield likely will never pursue a degree in the arts; instead, they participate to earn general education credits and for the chance to perform.

“I think one of the things that is very different about our program is that we really get to know our students,” said art professor John Thrasher. “We definitely build a learning community here, and in the case of art, it becomes a very creative cauldron. There’s a great energy within the group.”

Professors blend community outreach with class assignments to give deeper meaning to the art students create.

The University Chorus last year performed at the NAACP Martin Luther King event and partnered with St. Peter’s Catholic Church and First Congregational Church to sing Puccini’s Messe di Gloria with a full orchestra and soloists.

“Most of the students had never sung with an orchestra,” said music professor and chorus director Joel Vega. “So it was really fun and a great learning experience for them.”

Kate Shannon, art professor and curator for the Pearl Conard Art Gallery, and Thrasher try to relate the content of the gallery art shows to the curriculum each semester.

“The gallery is our way to expose them to a wider variety of artists,” Shannon said. “We try to bring in artists who are working in non-traditional ways, or ways that we don’t typically see in the community. We aren’t looking to showcase artists who are primarily interested in selling their work. It is more of an experimental space.”

The art instructors also volunteer at the Mansfield Art Center. Shannon recently was on the board of directors while Thrasher and his students have created several pieces of art for fundraisers.

“One of the benefits of the connection with the art center is that my students realize that I am very engaged in a place outside of here,” Thrasher said. “They know that I am a regular participant in exhibitions. They know that I volunteer for their events. It excites their interest a bit and they end up showing up where they might not otherwise do that.”

The Theatre department produces three to four performances each year, combining the talents of Ohio State Mansfield students and community members. They also partner with The Children’s Theatre Foundation and the Renaissance Youth Theatre to produce children’s theatre productions hosted on campus. Theatre director and professor Joe Fahey serves on both the Children’s Theatre Foundation and the Ohio Theatre Alliance.

When a production has a community services connection or social cause behind it, Fahey reaches out to groups that support or advocate for the issue. Fahey partnered with The Welcome Johnny and Jane Home Project during the recent production, The Tin Faces Project.

“We offer patrons both an entertainment experience and an educational experience,” professor and theatre director Joe Fahey said. “They are getting a chance to see our students on stage doing really impressive work. It represents the campus very well.”

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Mansfield Homecoming Court active on campus and in community

Members of the Ohio State Mansfield homecoming court include Nella Blackford, Jordan Landis, Jordan Morse, Joey Burley, Maris Bucci and Greg Palmerton. Morse and Burley were named queen and king at ceremonies in Columbus.

Members of the Ohio State Mansfield homecoming court include Nella Blackford, Jordan Landis, Jordan Morse, Joey Burley, Maris Bucci and Greg Palmerton. Morse and Burley were named queen and king at ceremonies in Columbus.

Ohio State Mansfield junior Jordan Morse and senior Joey Burley were crowned Mansfield Homecoming Court queen and king at a ceremony Oct. 17 on the Columbus campus. The court also included Nella Blackford, Maris Bucci, Jordan Landis, and Greg Palmerton.

The court was chosen through an interview process with faculty and staff, who looked for campus and community involvement, volunteer work and GPA. Students then selected the king and queen from the court.

“The 2014 Homecoming Court was a fun and unique group this year,” said Elise Riggle, director of Student Engagement.  “They were leaders from many different areas on campus.  Collectively, they were six students, each with unique and wonderful personalities, coming together in a joyful, perky, ball of Homecoming goodness!  It was truly a pleasure to work with them this year, and to experience their celebration with them.”

Morse is from Ashland and is studying Psychology. She plays on the Mansfield Mavericks Volleyball team and is a third-year resident advisor & office assistant at university housing Molyet Village Apartments. She also works with children with disabilities at Raemelton Therapeutic Equestrian Center.

Joey Burley also is from Ashland, pursuing degrees in Psychology and English. He is involved in Psychology Student Association, English Club and Boxing Club. He participates in theater productions and is a certified research assistant in the Psychology department. Burley is also an office assistant and resident advisor at Molyet Village Apartments as well as a summer cleaning and maintenance staff manager.

Nella Blackford, a senior Early Childhood Education major from Ashland is involved as an ally in OutLoud, as well as Club Ed and the Book Bunch.

Communications major Maris Bucci is a sophomore from Bellville. She is a Buckeye Ambassador, an intern in the Office of Student Engagement, Campus Activities Board co-leader, Camp Hetuck facilitator, a member of the Mavericks Volleyball team, and involved in the Haiti Empowerment Project and 2014 OSU LeaderShape Institute.

Jordan Landis, a senior from Crestview, is studying Middle Childhood Education. Landis has worked as a tutor in the Conard Learning Center since 2012. He is also a member of Club Ed – a student organization for education majors.

Greg Palmerton, a sophomore from Norwalk, is studying Biology and Pre-Med. He is a Buckeye Ambassador, an intern in the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, and is involved in undergraduate research.

Homecoming events included a number of activities on the Columbus campus – the Ohio State homecoming parade, pep rally and recognition during the Buckeyes homecoming football game.

The Mansfield Homecoming Court commits to a year of service projects. During Homecoming Week they took whipped cream pies to the face to raise money for the Domestic Violence Shelter.

Students explore career options through speaker series

Planners of the Career Speaker Series What are YOU into… hope to illustrate to Ohio State Mansfield and North Central State College students the bridge from academics to the world of work.

“The Career Speaker Series focuses on connecting local employer experts with students who are in the process of making important career choices,” said Troy Shutler, coordinator of career development at NC State. “Students can learn a great deal about careers by tapping into the knowledge and advice from local professionals and experts in the field.”

Themes for the series came from the Explore Careers section of bigfuture.collegeboard.org. Shutler, along with Pam Schopieray, coordinator of career services at Ohio State Mansfield, and Tracy Bond, internship coordinator for both institutions wanted to cross-reference the career themes with majors offered on campus to introduce students to the professional world before graduation.

Topics change each month. September included representatives from banking, sales, human resources and entrepreneurs. Those from communications-based careers spoke in October. Future sessions include engineering, computer-aided design, manufacturing and medicine as well as writing, photography, graphic design and environmental careers.

Then it was a matter of saying “who do we know,” to begin to build a speaker’s list, Schopieray said. The trio relied on relationships they have cultivated in the community – employers who have provided internships, as well as associates from Leadership Unlimited and Richland Young Professionals.

The goal is to provide networking and mentoring opportunities and words of wisdom for students as they further define their future careers. Many of the speakers have been interns in college and mentioned the value of adding real-world experience to a student’s resume.

“We want students to realize that there is a benefit to networking and completing internships early in their college career,” Schopieray said. “They are building relationships with employers during their college years that may lead to a future job in the community.”

Professors make teaching math fun

Stephanie Tilley, an Early Childhood Education major at The Ohio State University at Mansfield, helps a student with telling time at a summer Math Camp.

Stephanie Tilley, an Early Childhood Education major at The Ohio State University at Mansfield, helps a student with telling time at a summer Math Camp.

Students busily measured Ladybug’s progress on giant sheets of paper as an elementary school teacher delivered the pre-planned lesson. Observers circled the room, making notes as the lesson progressed.

The class was part of a well-orchestrated combination of teacher professional development and math camp conducted at Springmill Learning Center by The Ohio State University at Mansfield in July. The professional development class was made possible through a $203,000 grant from the Ohio Board of Regents.

Twenty-two elementary and middle school teachers from the Mansfield City School District prepared and delivered lessons during the math camp. At the same time, camp teachers from several local school districts taught 170 children in the week-long camp, with relief from Ohio State Mansfield Education students.

A similar camp was conducted with 60 children and 10 teachers at the Lucas School District in August.

“There’s a lot of things happening at the same time,” said Terri Bucci, associate professor of Education and one of the coordinators of the grant. “It’s really exciting to see the results because all those groups of teachers and students are learning as well, not just the kids who are in the camp.”

The grant includes a year’s worth of professional development with course credit through Ohio State. Elementary teachers attended a week of intensive coursework and designed lesson plans adapted from the Algebra Project’s 5-step curricular process, which evolved from Professor Lee McEwan’s successful Algebra Project high school program. Teachers then used the plan to teach during the camp, with other teachers silently observing. After the class, teachers discussed the interaction and offered feedback.

“We wanted to demonstrate that the math camp process works with different kinds of districts,” Bucci said. “Mansfield and Lucas are very dissimilar – one is large and urban, one is very small, very rural. We wanted to show that this process would work in any kind of demographic.”

Kelly Scott, an Ohio State Mansfield Middle School Education student and Mansfield graduate, helped develop games for the camp.

“Growing up, I never really liked math,” she said. “I feel like if we get the kids involved and excited while they are younger, they will want to do math later on when they get to the harder stuff like calculus and algebra.”

Math Literacy Initiative

Ohio State Mansfield and the Mansfield City Schools Board of Education have approved a plan to house a Math Literacy Initiative at the Springmill Learning Center.

The center was on the closure list last spring when a plan was conceived to host professional development opportunities for elementary and middle school teachers in the facility.

Ohio State Mansfield Professors Lee McEwan and Terri Bucci, in their fourth year of teaching professional development for the Mansfield school district, will serve as co-directors.

Students from Ohio State Mansfield’s Middle Childhood Education program also are expected to receive field experience at the center.

Who are the Mansfield Mavericks?

New volleyball coach Connie Surowicz gives the team some pointers during a break in action during a recent game. For game schedules, go to mansfield.osu.edu/crc

New volleyball coach Connie Surowicz gives the team some pointers during a break in action during a recent game. For game schedules, go to mansfield.osu.edu/crc

There’s a hidden gem on the Mansfield campus and Athletics Director Mike LaCroix wants fans to find it. The Ohio State University at Mansfield and North Central State College collectively field intercollegiate teams in the form of the Mansfield Mavericks.

The Mavericks were formed in 2005 and now play six sports – volleyball, men’s soccer, men’s and women’s basketball, baseball and cheerleading. In 2010, they joined the Ohio Regional Campus Conference, which includes 10 other member schools. Although the Mavericks have shown success as state runner-ups four times, they are relatively unknown locally.

But this year, the playing field has changed with nearly half of incoming freshmen living in on- and off-campus dorms. That expands the talent pool to student-athletes from across Northeast Ohio as well as more fans. When Buckeye Village is fully developed, the campus population could become more than 50 percent residential, says Ohio State Mansfield Dean and Director Stephen Gavazzi.

“When you become primarily a residential campus, you have to have athletics,” Gavazzi said. “It’s something that we are very proud to be able to offer here on the Mansfield campus.”

There are no athletic scholarships offered. Student-athletes play for the love of the sport. That’s what drew new volleyball coach Connie Surowicz to the campus, as well as a chance to shape a relatively new program. She has coached collegiately for more than 20 years, at Ashland University and Wittenberg College, among others.

“When Mike (LaCroix) first offered me the position, I felt very comfortable because I felt his values were for the student-athletes,” she said. “Mike has a vision here to change the culture of the athletic program. I think he realizes how important athletics can be for retention at the university. When students can make that connection on campus, it does nothing but enhance their experiences.”

ORCC, as the governing body, conducts state tournaments and awards an all-sports trophy to the most successful regional campus sports program each year, according to Brett Whitacker, ORCC secretary and treasurer, and athletic director for the Newark campus. ORCC also names all-conference team members and honors all-academic students, those who attend full-time and maintain at least a 3.0 GPA during their semester of sports participation. Since joining the conference, the Mavericks have fielded 53 all-academic students.

Phil Schmook, a 29-year high school coaching veteran, was recently hired as men’s basketball coach. He understands the dual role academics and athletics plays.

“The long term goal here is to have this program be attractive to young people that want to come in here and understand that basketball is important and you love doing that but it’s also pretty darn important to get the academic piece of life taken care of so that you can be a productive member of society,” he said.

“I want them to realize that if they come here and they decide to put forth that effort in the academic world and on the athletic team, it will make it easier to be successful as they move on.”

Student-veterans can now get help adjusting to college

 

Josh Hurrell, a junior at The Ohio State University at Mansfield, is the new student-veteran community advocate.

Josh Hurrell, a junior at The Ohio State University at Mansfield, is the new student-veteran community advocate.

Student-veterans helping other veterans adjust to college life is the focus of a new position created at The Ohio State University at Mansfield. Junior Josh Hurrell, a Gulf War veteran, has been selected to receive a scholarship and position as Student-Veteran Community Advocate. For the first time this year, the Ohio State Columbus-based program has offered scholarships at the regional campuses.

In addition to the scholarship, Hurrell received $1,000 to provide four events and programs for Ohio State Mansfield student-veterans.

Hurrell, a Social Work major, has already conducted an ice cream social pairing tots and veterans at the campus Child Development Center in August, and hosted an information booth at the recent Involvement and Community Fair on campus.

He is planning two Veteran’s Day events – a National Roll Call on campus in November and participation in the Mansfield Veteran’s Day Parade. He estimates there are about 50 to 75 student-veterans on campus as well as about 15 faculty and staff.

“It will be a way for the faculty, staff and students to be honored, and to see face-to-face, these are students I didn’t know are veterans who are involved here on campus,” he said. “Some people just don’t want to tell anybody, don’t want to be involved. Maybe this will be a chance for more people to get involved.”

The U.S. Marine Corp veteran is no stranger to involvement on campus. Hurrell is a Buckeye Ambassador, vice president of the Student Veterans Association, co-president of the Multicultural Association and Campus Activities Board member.