Lakeland students learn about careers at ACUITY
ACUITY has hired more graduates from Lakeland College over the past five years than from any other college or university in the state, said ACUITY Human Resources Specialist Tracy Wusterbarth during a visit to Lakeland on Tuesday afternoon.
Wusterbarth said that when it comes to finding employees for the highly successful, fast-growing and nationally renowned property and casualty insurance company, Lakeland graduates are trusted and coveted.
"They are really producing for us, and that's fantastic, because Lakeland College is literally in our backyard," said Wusterbarth, whose department processed about 4,000 applications for employment last year.
"The people we have on board from Lakeland are doing very well, so yes, we really like Lakeland graduates. We don't want to spend our time visiting campuses that are not producing, so we did a study and found out that Lakeland was our top school in terms of employees over the past five years."
Tuesday's event, free for Lakeland College students, was sponsored and organized by Lakeland's Career Development Office. Wusterbarth was joined by Lakeland grads and current ACUITY standouts Adam Beltran, Brittany Ryan and Nicole Shavlik. The trio of Lakeland grads talked about how satisfying it is to work at ACUITY and how current students can best launch a career there.
Beltran, a 2012 computer science graduate, works as a commercial line system programmer. Ryan, a 2012 business management/marketing graduate, is an inside claims specialist. And Shavlik, also a 2012 business management graduate, is a commercial lines underwriter.
ACUITY, which is based in Sheboygan, Wis., has established a reputation with numerous awards as one of the best places to work in the state. Wusterbarth said ACUITY's retention rate is much higher than the national average.
In the upcoming months, there are expected to be at least 19 openings for information technology (programming) as well as 14 commercial processor positions and 18 underwriter positions.
Wusterbarth said graduating students' major does not make or break them as applicants at ACUITY.
"We have business analysts with English degrees," she said. "It's more about whether or not the applicant is a cultural fit. And the ability to communicate effectively is more important than what your degree is in."
Wusterbarth stressed that the culture at ACUITY, which is about to exceed 1,000 employees nationwide (including more than 750 at the Sheboygan headquarters building), is "family oriented."
"You feel valued at ACUITY," Wusterbarth said. "It's a very happy environment."
Lakeland students give back for spring break
Eighteen Lakeland College students and two staff members recently spent their spring break week in North Carolina, working with Habitat for Humanity on five different construction sites over four days.
"The students really appreciate the ability to do hands-on work that impacts the lives of others in a very positive way," said Lakeland Vice President of Student Development and Athletics Nate Dehne, who serves as advisor for Lakeland's chapter of Habitat for Humanity.
Dehne said at one of the sites, Lakeland's students worked alongside the future owner of the home.
"The woman who will be moving in was painting with us, and she said to one of our students, 'Every time I walk in the door, I will think to myself, Anna Faust from Wisconsin painted that door!'" Dehne said. "I think that's heartwarming, and provides clarity for why we do this.
"I'm really proud of our students. They could have done a lot of different things over Spring Break, but they chose to give those things up to work hard and help others. That's really neat."
The Lakeland contingent traveled to Wisconsin in a mini-bus and a mini-van, then stayed in Chapel Hill, N.C., and worked on construction of deconstruction sites in and around Durham, N.C.
Lakeland's affiliation with Habitat for Humanity has spanned decades. In the prior three years, Dehne said, Lakeland has worked with Habitat for Humanity in Lexington, Ky.; New Orleans and Springfield, Mo.
"I sent an email out thanking the students who participated this year, and one student wrote me back and expressed how happy she was that she went," said Dehne.
"She said the people she met, the experiences she had; none of that would have happened had she not had the courage to make this commitment. That's a cool thing. I think our students really get a sense of the impact they're having."
From Brazil to Lakeland
Minutes after polishing off a full plate of fish, rice and salad, Victor Prata had a big smile on his face.
"I love it here," the Lakeland College newcomer said. "I prefer cold weather over hot weather, and the food here is very, very good."
Prata, 21, is one of 13 students from Brazil who arrived on Lakeland's campus late last week. The group represents a new initiative by the Brazilian government, which pays for its best and brightest students to study in the U.S.
As part of Brazil's "Science without Borders" program, these students will sharpen their English skills through the English Language Institute at Lakeland. After that, they will study high-level science and technology for one year, either at Lakeland or at another U.S. college or university. Prata, like many of the newcomers, plans to stay at Lakeland for the full year-and-a-half. He is extremely interested in Wisconsin's dairy industry, and hopes to tour some of the many area farms.
"I am very nervous and excited," said Prata, a veterinary medicine student from Belo Horizonte.
After flying in to Milwaukee, the Brazilian students arrived on Lakeland's campus and, along with a Vietnamese newcomer, spent the following day learning about the school and life as a U.S. college student. They were given a tour of the campus by student leaders.
While Lakeland has welcomed individual students from Brazil in the past, this new program brings the most students ever from that country at any one time.
"These Brazilian students come to us with great enthusiasm and excitement," said Jennifer Alig, Lakeland's director of international recruitment. "We are thrilled to have this new relationship, which brings a new dynamic to the ELI and to Lakeland College."
Lakeland awarded $880,000 grant for teacher training program
Lakeland College has been awarded an $880,000 grant from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to help fund a $1.2 million program to train 20 teachers from the African nation of Malawi at the master's degree level. The program will be officially announced in Malawi and the United States this week.
Participants will be current language arts instructors at Malawi's six teacher training colleges and will study at Lakeland's main campus for the master of education (M.Ed.) degree with a focus on early grade reading instruction.
"Lakeland has a proud history of responding to the needs of communities it serves, and we are honored to be given the chance to improve literacy in Malawi through our graduate programs," said Lakeland College President Dan Eck. "We are delighted that USAID has entrusted us to partner with them to serve the people of Malawi."
The first cohort of 10 teachers will arrive in Wisconsin this June. A second cohort of 10 will arrive in June 2015. Coursework in Wisconsin will last 13 months, followed by research activities in Malawi for an additional five months. After receiving the M.Ed. degree, the graduates will lead efforts in teacher training to improve early grade reading instruction in Malawi's primary schools.
Raising early grade literacy rates in developing nations is one of USAID's main educational goals worldwide. The Lakeland program will complement a $24 million USAID-sponsored program, the Early Grade Reading Activity (EGRA), already underway in Malawi and coordinated by RTI International from the Durham-Raleigh-Chapel Hill area of North Carolina. RTI International is one of the largest non-profit organizations providing research and technical services around the world.
The primary goal of EGRA and RTI International is to assist the government of Malawi to improve and sustain reading performance in students in grades 1 to 3. EGRA involves school-based activities, community and parent activities and policy development to improve long-term literacy rates.
Malawi is a country of 17 million people in southeastern Africa. It is the size of Pennsylvania. Nearly 45 percent of the population is under the age of 15. Malawi ranks 221 out of 229 countries in the world for per capita GDP/purchasing power at $900 per year, according to the CIA's World Factbook.
Lakeland professors Jeff Elzinga and Mehraban Khodavandi will lead the Malawi program. Khodavandi, a professor of education and chair of the college's education division, noted that while significant education reform has taken place in Malawi during the past decade, an inadequate number of qualified teachers and budget constraints have hampered additional progress.
"Malawi's current education system emphasizes reading instruction, but most teachers have no specific training in reading pedagogy, and that makes this program even more significant," Khodavandi said. "This teacher inadequacy is particularly noticeable in the area of reading teachers and reading specialists from the elementary school level through their teacher training colleges.
"This program addresses those deficiencies by incorporating the cooperation of Lakeland College, USAID and the Malawian government to provide a significant impact to Malawi's education system, as well as its cultural, literacy and social development."
Lakeland College has a long association with enhancing educational efforts in Malawi. From 1999-2012, in another partnership with USAID, Lakeland provided full education scholarships for 55 students from Malawi, permitting those students the opportunity to complete a bachelor's degree at the Sheboygan campus.
Those Lakeland graduates returned to Malawi and assumed positions as lecturers at the country's teacher training colleges, instructing thousands of Malawi's future primary school teachers over the past several years. Many of the Lakeland graduates also went on to receive master's degrees from universities in Malawi, the U.S., the U.K. and other countries. A few are currently completing doctorate degrees.
Courses in the Lakeland M.Ed. program will be taught by full-time Lakeland faculty members, as well as by adjunct faculty, including certified reading specialists and school administrators from area public school systems.
"Training teachers and assisting in areas where there are critical needs are two of the things Lakeland does best," said Elzinga, a professor of writing at Lakeland, and chair of its general studies division. "I'm thrilled the college will have another opportunity to do both, and assisting with early grade literacy efforts is particularly important."
Sheboygan County teachers who are interested in obtaining graduate-level education credits and learning more about teaching practices and educational systems in Africa have access to a limited number of places in the courses with the Malawian teachers during the summer, fall and spring terms 2014-16. Anyone seeking more information about the Malawi Program should contact Elzinga at 920-565-1281, or email him at .
This program is made possible by the generous support of the American people through the United States Agency for International Development. The contents of this press release are the responsibility of Lakeland College and do not necessarily reflect the views of USAID or the United States Government.
Award-winning poet coming to Lakeland
Critically acclaimed and award-winning poet Stephanie Lenox will visit Lakeland College on Thursday, March 20 as a guest of Lakeland's creative writing program.
Lenox will conduct a daytime workshop with Lakeland College writing students, and perform an evening reading that is free and open to the public at Lakeland's Pub beginning at 7:30 p.m.
Lenox, a writer and teacher from Salem, Ore., recently published her debut collection of poems, titled "Congress of Strange People" (Arlie Press 2012). Critics have described her book of poems as thoughtful, humorous, zany and beautiful.
One reviewer, Denise Duhamel, author of the book of poems, Ka-Ching, wrote that Lenox's poems are "intimate, skillful, shimmering with complexity and awe."
After completing her MFA in poetry from the University of Idaho, Lenox worked as a communications director for a children's museum before moving to her current position as visiting professor of creative writing at Willamette University. She is a member of the long-standing poetry critique group, The Peregrine Writers, and is editor of the online literary journal "Blood Orange Review."
Her work has garnered multiple Pushcart Prize nominations and fellowships from both the Oregon Arts Commission and the Arizona Commission on the Arts. It was during her fellowship from Arizona that she completed "The Heart That Lies Outside the Body," a project that was eventually selected as the winner of the 2007 Slapering Hol Press chapbook contest.