Sunday, May 29, 2011

College Dreams

Fortunately, most of my students have tremendous parental encouragement and support regarding their choice to go to college. Parents fondly recall their roommates, favorite professors, autumn football games and the first all-nighter they pulled to finish a paper or study for an exam. They want their children to have wonderful college experiences.

 I also work with students who are the first in their families to attend college. Most of these parents are thrilled that their child has the desire and drive to choose college as part of his or her life path, even though they do not have personal memories of college life. 

Tough economic times have made it increasingly hard for families to afford college. Sometimes parents are not convinced that the value of a college education exceeds the cost. Convincing them may feel draining or impossible to the student. These tension-filled moments are brilliantly captured by poet Marge Piercy.

Where Dreams Come From
A girl slams the door of her little room
under the eaves where marauding squirrels
scamper overhead like herds of ideas.
She has forgotten to be grateful she has
finally a room with a door that shuts.

She is furious her parents don't comprehend
why she wants to go to college, that place
of musical comedy fantasies and weekend
football her father watches, beer can
in hand. It is as if she announced I want
to journey to Iceland or Machu Picchu.
Nobody in their family goes to college.
Where do dreams come from? Do they
sneak in through torn screens at night
to light on the arm like mosquitoes?

Are they passed from mouth to ear
like gossip or dirty jokes? Do they
sprout from underground on damp
mornings like toadstools that form
fairy rings on dewtipped grasses?

No, they slink out of books, they lurk
in the stacks of libraries. Out of pages
turned they rise like the scent of peonies
and infect the brain with their promise.
I want, I will, says the girl and already

she is halfway out the door and down
the street from this neighborhood, this
mortgaged house, this family tight
and constricting as the collar on the next
door dog who howls on his chain all night.

"Where Dreams Come From" by Marge Piercy, from The Hunger Moon: New and
Selected Poems, 1980-2010. C Alfred A. Knopf, 2011.,qdr8,dv,960m,azf4,bni5,e2x5

Students—your parents do not owe you a college education. If they can help you attain it and choose to do so, you are very blessed.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Blown Away by the Portland State University Wind Tunnel

On sunny May 18 I visited Portland State University (PSU) for an “Umbrella Tour”. They are so named because you usually need your umbrella to stay dry as you traipse to different parts of campus to see the cutting-edge research and community outreach that faculty is doing.

 I am a bit of an engineering geek due to my longstanding involvement with FIRST Robotics, ( so it is no surprise that my favorite part of the tour was getting to meet Assistant Professor Raúl Bayoán Cal and see a demonstration of the wind tunnel. Due to his boyish good-looks and demeanor I mistook him for a student tour guide, but there was no doubt about his expertise once we entered his lab. I was blown away by the sophistication of the work being done there and the hands-on opportunities for undergraduate students to be involved in research at the forefront of the sustainability cluster for which Portland is getting so much attention.

The custom-built wind tunnel has generated great excitement in Portland design circles, and has spurred new industry partnerships. Before the custom-built tunnel (which cost more than $500,000) was installed at PSU, most industry researchers had to travel to OSU for wind-tunnel experimentation.

Raúl Bayoán Cal’s area of research is focused on understanding hydrodynamic turbulence and complexity in fluid mechanics in general. He uses theoretical and experimental tools to assess the behavior of flow. Cal was a postdoctoral fellow at Johns Hopkins University prior to coming to Portland State University in 2009. He received his B.S., M.S. and Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, NY, and a M.S. Degree in Experimental and Computational Turbulence from the Chalmers University of Technology in Gothenburg, Sweden.

The Mechanical and Materials Engineering Department at PSU ( is a dynamic place to study. Mechanical engineering applications are used in virtually every industry, every branch of government, and every type of utility, including aerospace, energy conversion, environmental design and management, chemical processing, manufacturing and electro-mechanical systems. The PSU curriculum is distinguished by its computer applications and emphasis on the design process.

After our tour stops I was treated to lunch with University President Wim Wiewel, who shared his vision for PSU. Some of those green dreams are already coming to  fruition with faculty additions such as  Raúl Bayoán Cal. By the way, I did get a lovely green PSU umbrella as a parting gift and I have needed it most days since.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Chapman University: A Peach in the Heart of Orange, California

Perhaps the Chapman students looked outrageously happy because it was sunny and the last day of classes. Maybe they were planning to finish their work and treat themselves at the corner gourmet waffle stand Bruxie ( Whatever the reason, Chapman students appear to enjoy their college experience.

 Chapman University ( is celebrating its 150th anniversary this year. My mom grew up in Los Angeles and was incredulous that the school could have so much history, yet only have come to her attention recently. Yes, Dodge College’s amazing facilities are certainly helping Chapman get noticed, but students interested in business, creative writing, perfroming arts or an all-around strong liberal arts education should consider Chapman.

The Italian-inspired piazza at the center of campus featuring four pillars of education (intellectual, social, physical and spiritual), an abundance of sculptures and fountains, and a mix of historic and new architecture help make Chapman a physically inviting space. There were several panther sculptures in various poses, adding to the sense of school spirit and pride.

The dorms are well-laid out and the triple rooms with bath are spacious and airy. The dining hall had plenty of vegetarian, vegan and gluten free options, so even those with special diets should find food to their liking. The dessert bar was especially decadent! Bicycles seemed popular for short treks into Old Towne Orange, a few blocks away.

Chapman is NCAA Division III and athletics are popular. The pool and field are gorgeous, and students turn out in big numbers to support one another. There are plenty of club and intramural sports for those students who are interested in staying fit and having fun. The rock climbing wall is a big recreational draw.

Don't miss the Sala and Aron Samueli Holocaust Memorial Library during your visit. The sculpture that greets you when you step off the elevator into the exhibit space is very powerful, and the survivor stories that adorn the hallway are gripping.

With 6,000 undergraduate and graduate students, Chapman University appears to be doing an excellent job of fulfilling their mission: to offer a personalized education of distinction that leads to inquiring, ethical and productive lives as global citizens.

Students should note that Dodge College and the College of Performing Arts require extra applications. If you're interested in those programs you must meet the November 15 early action deadline. Don't forget to schedule your audition. On-campus auditions are preferred over electronic submissions. Regualr admission applications are due January 15. As the school is increasingly competitive, all students who know Chapman is a top choice should submit early action.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Dodge College of Film and Media Arts

I visited Dodge College of Film and Media Arts ( and Chapman University on Friday, May 13, 2011, and it turned out to be a lucky day for me. I loved what I saw—from the enthusiastic and engaged students, to the incredible facilities, to the charming surrounding town.

 As is often the case in Southern California, my mom was with me for the tour. She was really curious about Chapman because she knew of two students that had gotten into the film program at USC and UCLA, but had chosen to attend Dodge. Like any good detective, she wanted to understand why.

Our tour guide was from the Seattle area. He had applied to Dodge as a high school senior and did not get in. Because his heart was set on attending there (and nowhere else) he did a year of community college and reapplied. He got in on his second try. I don’t know too many students who are that sure about the college experience they want, but he said the wait had been completely worthwhile. He did not think he could get the same level of hands-on film production experience on state-of-the-art equipment anywhere else.

My dad was a USC film school grad, and my close friend is Foley artist ( so I have spent a bit of time in studios. The Marion Knott Studios at Dodge are amazing. A partial facility list includes:
  • 2 sound stages (2200sqft and 3900sqft)
  • Cinematography and Directing insert stage
  • Television and Broadcast Journalism Hi-Def stage and control room
  • Foley stage
  • Motion Capture stage
  • Set Design shop
  • Production Design studio
  • 36 individual editing suites
  • 3 mixing studios
  • Spirit 4K Datacine
  • 500-seat Folino Theater with Kinoton 35mm projectors, Barco 2K digital projector
My college coaching students know that I believe every student has a story to tell. Great storytelling is essential to getting accepted at a good match school. What I liked best about Dodge was the focus on filmmakers finding, creating and sharing a compelling story.

Acceptance into Dodge is extremely competitive. Students must apply to Chapman University and complete an extra application for Dodge College by November 15. The Dodge application gives you the chance to tell your own story, in a creative manner.