Jeff Benedict, distinguished professor of writing and mass media at Southern Virginia University, is an American non-fiction writer who has authored a number of critically acclaimed books and articles. He was recently interviewed for a segment titled “Latter-day Profiles” on BYUtv. You can view the interview below and learn more about Jeff and his work at http://www.jeffbenedict.com/.
Every year, graduating seniors in the family and child development major execute senior capstone projects intended to both benefit the community and provide students with real-world experience and practical application of their education.
Daria Watts and Yvette Yanes, both seniors and family and child development majors, completed their capstone projects by presenting on the philosophy of the growth mindset to parents at a non-profit organization in Buena Vista, Va. I sat down with them to discuss their experiences with the project, their time at Southern Virginia, and their hopes for the future after walking at Commencement next month.
Q: What did you two do for your capstone project? Why did you choose to speak about the growth mindset?
Daria: The senior capstone project is picking a place and going and presenting something to them. There are papers along with it and a research paper you have to do to develop your understanding. First, you go to meet with the person in charge. And then you go, and you ask them what they think their parents or their participants would want to hear.
Yvette: We each took a subject that we particularly liked within the growth mindset and we did research and filled each other in. We wanted to be able to make the presentation very understandable for parents who have no idea what the growth mindset is, or the fixed mindset. And the person who was in charge of the organization [was] very willing and very excited to learn about what we had to say about it as family and child development majors.
Q: What do you hope the parents learned from your presentation on the growth mindset?
Daria: Well, [Buena Vista] doesn’t have a lot of resources, so the one point we wanted to get across to the parents was that their children could do [anything] they wanted to do.
We wanted them to understand that the way you think about yourself and the way you think about your actions can influence what you do with your life. So, if you think that you can practice and that you can get better at things, you’re going to.
Yvette: I personally hope that the parents are able to understand that even at their age right now they’re still able to develop a growth mindset and that just because you’re older than your 20s doesn’t mean you have to stop learning or stop developing these skills and talents and abilities. And from that, we hope that they were able to take away [the idea], “If I can still learn, then my children can continue to learn even more and improve even more.”
Q: Why did you choose to study family and child development? What do you hope to do with your degree once you’ve graduated?
Daria: I’ve always wanted to be a therapist for kids and families [and] parents who are having marital issues, like a family court appointed therapist. When I was younger, my parents [were] divorced. I did have to [go through] that, so I want to be a person who kids can trust. But now I’m leaning toward being a marriage therapist.
It relates to my family, and I want to just help people. My mom will just call me sometimes — I have an eight year old sister — and [my mom will] talk to me about a problem she might have with parenting. I can look at what I’ve been reading and share it, and she’ll be like “Whoa.” If it’s benefiting her, it can benefit everyone, because I think she did a good job with me.
Yvette: Initially I [wanted] to be a family lawyer, but within my major I started to have a fondness for wanting to help people in more of a social science area than from a legal perspective. I particularly want to go into counseling with at-risk teens because as a child — I’m from the D.C. area — I saw a lot of children struggling, a lot of teenagers struggling when they grew up.
And so that’s what influenced changing my mind from being a lawyer to wanting to be a counselor for teenagers and for women who have struggled with this before. And also I hope to just help within the world. That’s what our school is all about, you know, becoming leader-servants, and it has really influenced me [to want] to just make the world better in small ways.
Q: Is there a particular class or professor at Southern Virginia that has influenced you the most?
Daria: I would say Professor Rodriguez because he’s the head of the major, but also whenever he teaches, he gives examples and stories, and that’s what I relate to when I’m learning. And so, I’ll think of something, and I’ll think “[Dr.] Rodriguez solved it with this.” He’s really helped me understand the things that I’m learning. We go over it and explain it, and we learn how to apply it. That’s what we do in the major — [we] learn how to apply what [we’ve] read to help other people.
Yvette: The class that has influenced me the most was taught by Dr. Rodriguez [and] was “Adult Development and Aging.” The class taught me not only how adults continue to develop in every aspect but it taught me that it’s never too late to learn something. In other words, the more people learn or improve as they age, the more fun life becomes.
Q: What has been the most valuable part of your education at Southern Virginia? How do you think it will continue to affect you?
Daria: I definitely think — well, meeting my husband was pretty important — but I think having the small class sizes is one of my favorite things about [Southern Virginia].
I’m more outgoing now than I ever was in high school. I’m more involved than I ever thought I’d be. I’ve been involved in so much, and I think that’s helped me see that I can be involved and I can be a leader, but I can also be a follower. I can be beneficial to whatever situation I’m put in.
I also love that it’s LDS. I love the standards, and I love that [before a] class, we can say a prayer. In some classes, we say prayers before tests, and that really helps me out.
I definitely wouldn’t pick another school, doing it again. That’s for sure.
Yvette: Because we have such a small environment professors actually take time and want to take care of you and make sure that you as an individual are doing okay, that you are able to reach your potential. [Dr. Rodriguez] helps a lot in understanding “Okay, what do you really want to do and what do you really like and why are you studying this?”
I think that the small environment that we have is so perfect for us to find out who we are and what we want to do with our life. [And] we get the plus side of being in an LDS environment where you feel close to Heavenly Father, who also [plays] a huge part [in] finding out who you are, you know? Even if you’re not LDS, it really helps you understand, “Okay I’m this person, and I can grow within this particular area because I have professors who care about me, and I have this sense of why I’m here at Southern Virginia.”
(Post by Madeleine Gail Rex ’16. Photos by Jordan Wunderlich ’16.)
I think it’s safe to say that the moment “Google” became a verb, it also solidified itself as a prominent part of our society. Navigator, photo editor, notetaker — Google can handle just about anything. The very fact that people pick up their phones and say, “OK, Google” and expect some sort of answer is a testament to how accustomed we’ve all become to this jack-of-all-trades.
Why this ode to Google? We recently had the opportunity to hear from Google’s first (now former) chief accounting officer, Mark Fuchs, in a special lecture on April 10. The lecture was intimate and casual but the perfect environment to encourage questions and create a sort of familiarity between speaker and audience.
Fuchs talked about the journey that led him to his position at Google and the invaluable nature of both his experience working there as well as the journey itself. “That preparation process is really what it’s all about,” he said. The idea that the preparation we invest in an achievement, goal, or experience can be just as important or even more important than the end itself was one of the prominent threads of his lecture.
From his beginning as an architecture student, to his adventures in a start-up company, to his last “Google meal” in his final days at Google, he said his primary aim was “to make sure that every experience would make me evidently more valuable in the marketplace, evidently more employable than I was before the experience.”
And when struggles reared their ugly heads? An audience member asked Fuchs what it was that kept him from losing hope along the journey or being exasperated by the preparation.
“It’s human nature to continue to question yourself,” he said. “It’s healthy to do that … But I keep coming back as long as I was having a rich experience where I was, felt like I was really learning a lot and have the opportunity to have challenging issues, manage really good people, give presentations or what have you that would stretch [me]. Even if I didn’t know where it was all going to end up.”
Overall, his lecture wasn’t about how to be a great success or how to get rich quick or how to revolutionize the world, but how to make the most of everything you do, how to dedicate yourself to your work, and how to make something great out of it.
And I think it safe to say that if you, like he did, end up at some point in your career in Dublin lifting a goat to guess its weight as part of a team-building experience, then more power to you.
(Post by Madeleine Gail Rex ’16. Photos by Jordan Wunderlich ’16.)
The Shenanigans Comedy Troupe recently took the stage again, this time armed with some new ideas and games of wit – as well as some pretty nifty “Shenanifans” t-shirts. If you attend every show, can’t help but participate when they call out for ideas (and suggesting “Narnia” over and over again. You know who you are), and can name every member of the group, then chances are you’re a Shenanifan. It’s okay. It happens to the best of us. We Shenanifans can stand by each other and ward off enemies with plungers. And if you’re not a Shenanifan yet, attend their next show to check out their snazzy swag and ideas!
(Post by Madeleine Gail Rex ’16. Photos by Jordan Wunderlich ’16.)
Growing up with the last name Rodriguez, I’d always wanted to learn Spanish. I’d tell people I thought it would be a great way to get in touch with my Cuban half, but secretly just wanted to enforce the awkward stereotype that everyone with a Hispanic last name could speak fluent Spanish, eat habaneros without making a scene, and sprout mustaches through sheer force of will. I had the chance to check the first one off my bucket list when I received my call to serve a Spanish speaking LDS mission. I had some painfully fun times hitting my head against the brick wall that was acquiring a second language, but really started to enjoy it after some good old-fashioned divine intervention and action-movie-style flashbacks to Professor Fuentes’ Spanish classroom got me to the point of fluency. By the time my mission ended I knew that I wanted to continue learning the language, even if I didn’t get a degree in the field.
Upon returning in an airport terminal and shoe polish scented cloud of awkward RM glory, I was told majoring in Spanish would broaden the career choices available to me, and it certainly sounded like a good idea. But if you’re like me (and I know I am), picking a major has been about as clean cut as karate-chopped tomatoes.
Thankfully, I had great professors in all my Spanish classes at Southern Virginia, who helped me get past my commitment issues by making their classes too intriguing to stop taking. I would hear that Dr. Porter was teaching a linguistics class, and knew I had to be in it. His patience when explaining difficult concepts and clear teaching style were essential in helping me deepen my understanding of the language. I enrolled in Dr. Konstantinova’s Intro to Literature, and was relieved to find out I actually enjoyed the subject. As someone who’d had a primal fear of any and all forms of essay writing before my mission, her ability to explain good writing clearly and give me personalized feedback on my work allowed me to really feel confident in my abilities.
Friday of last week, Dr. Konstantinova’s hard work for the Spanish Program payed off in yet another way. Her application to start a chapter of Sigma Delta Pi, the National Collegiate Hispanic Honor Society founded in 1919, was recently accepted and I, along with five other students, was able to join and participate in the initiation ceremony.
Every aspect of the event was thoroughly planned and well-executed, complete with symbolic candles, Greek mottoes, and solemn oaths. I’ll never forget the look of excitement Dr. Konstantinova had as we filed in for the ceremony. She, along with my other Spanish professors, exemplifies two of the most important qualities a teacher can have: a love for her subject and an unwavering focus on the individual. Every student at the initiation that night knew her personally, and she’d feel comfortable calling any one of us if she didn’t see us in class to let us know we were missed. I’ll always be grateful for the chance I’ve had to associate with Southern Virginia faculty, and I hope to continue to live up to the high expectations they’ve set for me.
(Post by Nathanael Rodriguez ’16. Photos by Jordan Wunderlich ’16.)