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Southern Virginia University

Posts with the tag: Community

  1. Why Dress Nice at Southern Virginia: An Open Letter to First Year Students

    August 30, 2016

    Dear First-Year Student,

    In the following weeks and perhaps months, you’re going to hear many messages about the dress and grooming standards at Southern Virginia University. If you just groaned in anticipation of that prospect, I understand. Most likely, you grew up in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, during which time your adult leaders regularly talked to you about the importance of dressing modestly. Given such a background, you might feel like we here at Southern Virginia are just doing more of the same—giving you that same message you’ve heard countless times before.

    That’s not what we’re doing.

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    Don’t get me wrong: we think that modesty is important. We value modesty. But we want to build on that message about your dress and grooming standards. To the modesty standard of your church upbringing we want to add a certain level of professionalism.  A professional standard. Not modest vs. immodest. Rather, formal vs. casual. Or perhaps, appropriate for the occasion vs. inappropriate for the occasion.   As a professor here at Southern Virginia, I really want you to understand this new standard. I want you to buy into it. Make it a part of who you are. Live it. If you do, it will make a difference for you, for your peers in the classroom we share, and for the Southern Virginia community as a whole.

    So let me share with you why dressing nice for class is a good idea. But before I do, I need to share two very basic ideas.

    Early in my high school career, the other kids started dressing in odd ways. Goth became a thing, along with Disco and other dress codes I’ve worked hard to forget. So all these kids started dressing differently, and they all gave the same reason.   “I’m just expressing who I am.”  In their minds, they were expressing their individuality by being different from the crowd. They were not sheep like the rest of us. They were individuals. They were unique.

    But developmental psychologists know better. They have shown that adolescents use dress to express their identity not by being different but by signaling their affiliation with (or desire to be affiliated with) a particular social group. For example, at my high school, I could tell who the jocks were by the clothes they wore—just like I could tell the preppies, the stoners, the surfers, the low-riders, and other groups. It wasn’t rocket science. Each group had their own dress code.   I’m guessing it was the same at your high school, right?  Consequently, scientific studies of the relationship between clothes and identity suggest that we dress to identify with a particular social group. Anyone who tells you different is probably still working out his or her identity issues—which is OK.

    Putting this into perspective, the Southern Virginia community is a social group with a particular dress code. You came here on purpose—knowing about that dress code. You electronically signed a document indicating that you were OK with our dress and grooming standards. And I trust you will hold to these standards with vigor. This doesn’t make you any less an individual. You’re not following the crowd. You’re not a mindless zombie. Instead, you’re someone who has intentionally chosen to adopt the identity of a Southern Virginia Knight, in the same way that you’ve chosen to be a Mormon, a Catholic, a soccer player, a thespian, a Marvel movies fanboy or whatever else makes you you.  To be a Knight and adopt the dress and grooming standards doesn’t mean you can’t be all those other things. We don’t want to take anything away from who you are, we want to add to who you are.

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    The second basic idea: the Southern Virginia dress and grooming standard includes the idea that context determines what is appropriate. So if you’re participating in 6:00 a.m. soccer practice, warmups would be appropriate clothing. No one is suggesting that you wear a button down dress shirt or blouse to play soccer. We all dress differently for different occasions: church, school, athletic competitions, dates, job interviews…. A typical wardrobe includes items specific to many different dress codes.  Putting this fact in context, the Southern Virginia standard isn’t, strictly speaking, one dress code as much as it is the idea that your dress is appropriate to the context and associated dress code (i.e. warm ups for soccer practice, nicer clothes for class).

    Now, why dress nice for class?  In a nutshell, what you wear affects you and the people around you in important ways. For example, cognitive psychologists have discovered that some cognitive processes are causally influenced by features of the physical body—including the clothes we wear. In one experiment[i], researchers had participants wear a white coat. Some participants were told the coat belonged to a doctor, while others were told the coat belonged to a painter. The participants were then given a tests of attention. Participants who thought they were wearing a doctor’s coat performed significantly better on the tests—they were better able to focus and maintain attention without being distracted by spurious details—compared to those who thought they were wearing a painter’s coat. In the study, wearing the coat seemed to be important. Simply seeing the coat hanging on the wall nearby didn’t impact that result. Weird, huh?

    There are many more studies addressing the way in which clothes affect us, and I’d love to share all the details of those studies—because I’m obsessed with social science research—but you’d probably get bored, so let me just cut to the chase. The more formal you dress, the more perceived social distance you create between yourself and others[ii]. Remember how I said we’re striving for a professional standard?  Well, such a standard necessarily involves a certain degree of social distance. But with that social distance comes: increased attention (the white lab coat study), an increased propensity to process information abstractly instead of concretely (which has implications for critical thinking and learning)[iii], and a greater perception of yourself as competent, productive, trustworthy, and authoritative[iv]. Alternatively, dressing more casually creates less social distance which has been associated with less attention, an increased propensity to process information in concrete terms, and a decreased perception of yourself as competent, productive, trustworthy, and authoritative. There’s more research documenting the connection between clothes and learning (i.e. students learn more and behave better when graduate student instructors dress more formally[v]), but you get the idea.

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    The big picture: good things will happen as you dress and groom yourself just a little more professionally in the classroom this semester. You’ll have more confidence, you’ll be able to focus better, and you’ll favor an abstract cognitive processing style which will predispose you to critical thinking.

    You don’t have to dress for a job interview every day. But “dressing for class” is a thing. Or at least it should be. And it should mean more to you than rolling out of bed and coming to class in the sweats you slept in. A little effort is all it takes. Modest. Clean. No extremes in style. Appropriate for the occasion. By small and simple things, great things are brought to pass, right?  And as the research shows, a little more effort beyond the minimum standard will lead to even greater gains.

    I hope you can understand and accept the invitation we’re offering here at Southern Virginia. We’re not simply restating the moral standards of your adolescence. We’re hoping to draw you into a more professional standard of dress and grooming that will enhance your classroom experience and prepare you for future work in professional settings. Here at Southern Virginia, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to continue your practice of casual dress in many appropriate settings, but don’t miss out on this new opportunity to expand your collegiate and professional identity via the adoption of a more professional dress and grooming standard.

    Respectfully,
    Dr. Rodriguez
    Associate Professor of Family and Child Development


    [i] Adam, H., & Galinsky, A. D. (2012). Enclothed cognition. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 48, 918–925.

    [ii] Michael L. Slepian, Simon N. Ferber, Joshua M. Gold, and Abraham M. Rutchick (2015) The cognitive consequences of formal clothing, Social Psychological and Personality Science, 6(6) 661-668.

    [iii] Ibid

    [iv] Peluchette, J. V. E., & Karl, K. (2007). The impact of workplace attire on employee self-perceptions. Human Resource Development Quarterly, 18, 345–360.

    [v] Roach, K. D. (1997). Effects of graduate teaching assistant attire on student learning, misbehaviors, and ratings of instruction, Communication Quarterly, 45,(3), 125-141

  2. 2016 Elton Lecture: Art and the Core Values

    April 19, 2016

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    Every year, a Southern Virginia professor receives the Michael and Kay Elton Lectureship for Outstanding Teaching and Scholarship, and every year the university has the privilege of hearing from the Elton Scholar. This semester, we heard from Barbara Crawford, professor of art.

    Professor Crawford came to Southern Virginia over 35 years ago. Throughout her time teaching here, she has become very well-acquainted with the university’s mission and core values. In her speech, she showed us how much we can learn of the core values through classic pieces of art.

    Michelangelo's_Pieta_5450_cropncleaned_editI found most touching her remarks on Michelangelo’s “Pieta.” She explained that “[the] artist has not focused on suffering and death, but the focus is on the serene expression on the face of Christ and a youthful Mary at peace” and examined the way the statue looks from an aerial view, pointing out the way the circling design unifies the mother and son from a Heavenly Father’s perspective.

    And though much more of consequence was said throughout her speech, as she considered each of the five core values (scholarship, discipleship, accountability, enthusiasm and refinement), it’s her comments on perspective and refinement that struck me most.

    “Don’t always look at things the same way,” she said. “Change your perspective. Look at things from a different point of view. Try someone else’s point of view, or refine your understanding of something by changing — refining  your point of view. Most often, students think refinement is going to a concert or a museum. It’s not the going to the concert or the museum that is refinement, but the results, the change that takes place in us because of that experience that is at the heart of understanding refinement. We can come away with a deeper understanding of ourselves and of our world.”

    (Post by Madeleine Gail Rex ’16. Photos by Sarah Foster ’19 and Stanislav Traykov. Video by Rex Winslow ’16.)

  3. Redbuds in Springtime

    April 7, 2016

    OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA“How do you like the redbuds?” Professor Barbara Crawford asked our intro to watercolor class the other day. Professor Crawford knows everything about Buena Vista and Lexington, our neighboring town. She even told my fiancé and me the history of a sign in the background of an engagement photo we took in Lexington. But I had no idea what “buds” she was talking about. As she kept talking, I figured that the redbud is a tree, and that the ones in our area have purple flowers. Classmates affirmed their beauty. It’s a good thing I’m in this art class to attune my artistic senses, because I had apparently missed one of the many aesthetic perks of our Shenandoah Valley, nestled up against the picturesque Blue Ridge Mountains.

    After classes I went into Lexington to run some errands. Driving back along route 60, purple-pink blossoms along the green roadside popped out at me, one meandering turn after another. These, I figured, must be the redbuds. The blossoms, the green, and the mountains in the distance looked like they came right out of the pages of a fairytale. Fortunately, they are now also in the picture book of my life. And now you, too, know about the redbuds, so you can bask in their splendor before the next random bout of cold takes them away. Enjoy!

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    (Post by Lauren Hafen ’16. Photos by Hannah King ’13.)

  4. Q&A: Erik Flores, VP of Academics and Service

    March 18, 2016

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    In the past week you may have noticed that campaigning for next year’s Student Association positions has begun. As you consider which candidate will get your vote, we’re continuing to interview this year’s members of the Executive Council to better understand the responsibilities each position entails. Erik Flores, vice president of academics and service, had a lot to say about his experience serving the Southern Virginia community.

     Q: What are your responsibilities on the Executive Council?

     Erik: I am the Vice President of Academics and Service … [I] plan and carry out various service projects both on and off campus. … It’s the really fun portion of the job. And the school has done a pretty good job of being known in the community for being leader-servants, so many of the jobs get sent our way. For the academic portion, one of the main functions is the faculty appreciation dinner. Some of our goals early on in the year were to promote the historical societies and to work with alumni to help our students receive jobs. … In this position it can become very easy for service to become the priority just because there’s so much more demand for the service to be accomplished. … The increase in service through athletics has also helped mediate the burden between just the service council to more broadly include the student community. Men’s lacrosse made a commitment to find someone to serve every Saturday, and the team has done a fantastic job of making sure that vision has come to pass. So I think [Southern Virginia Athletics] has done a tremendous job in making sure community service needs have been attended to.

     Q: Why did you choose to run for Executive Council?

    Erik: I’m a first generation college student, and I’ve had a lot of gratitude to [Southern Virginia]. … I’ve been able to participate in the Fading Point, which [worked] very closely with the admissions department to directly help people come to know more about Southern Virginia. … And I saw the EC role as an opportunity to more directly affect the affairs of the school and just make it run well. I have a great love for this institution and I wanted to make sure that a candidate with that love was part of the EC. [My second year at Southern Virginia] I was able to serve as the service senator, which helped me to work really closely with Dan Cline, who was the VP of Academics and Service that year. … I loved what he was able to do and how he was able to contribute [by] planning projects that helped not just our school but also the community. [I wanted to help] the school that I love and the community that I love [by] bridging gaps through service so that the [Buena Vista] and Lexington community could know who we are.

    Q: How was your campaigning experience?

    Erik: [It was] difficult just because I had never done anything of the sort before. I was really surprised and grateful for people that … were willing to help in the creation of posters and various campaign paraphernalia. Very creative people came to me and said, “Erik, I want to help,” and helped make posters and just generally spread the word. … I realized it wasn’t just my burden; there were people who believed in me and what I wanted to do for the school and would help me accomplish it.

    Q: What has been the best part of being on the EC?

    Erik: Being able to see the growth of the next generation of [Southern Virginia] leaders. … I was able to meet a lot of students that have that enthusiasm and love for this campus … and hopefully to give them knowledge so that they can have an impact on this school. It will take a lot of time and work, but they can do it, and hopefully I’ve been a mentor to students to help them know that they can implement change. … Just to get to know them has been the greatest part of this role.

    Q: What kind of student would be a good fit for your position?

    Erik: A go-getter. Someone [who is] not looking for a resume booster, [but] someone that genuinely cares. … A genuine person that loves this school and is willing to work through red tape and policies and procedures to get the job done. … I want people to know that if you want to get it right it takes time [and] it takes heart.

    Q: Why should other students run?

    Erik: There’s a lot that needs to get done and there’s a lot of responsibilities that this role has, and it would be a tremendous burden on the school if this position wasn’t a thing. … The quote that hangs outside the business office [says that] in the world you get paid in two ways: you get paid in money and in experience. In this role you will get paid in experience. If that’s what you’re looking for, this role is a great opportunity to get hands-on experience, … to know how to work with people, [learn] to work with people that disagree with your opinion, and know how to disagree agreeably. … if you’re looking for stuff like that, this is great for that.

    Q: Anything else you want to add?

    Erik: I wish I could have done more, but I was grateful that I was able to … see that there are students on the campus that are super talented and super go-getters! I got to meet a freshman that came in this year that has incredible artistic ability and a really kind heart and she saw a need in the community that she and her roommate and these students could address. … And she doesn’t have a responsibility, per se, but she’s a go getter — she’s that motivational elite student that President Wilcox talks about. [Executive Council is] not mysterious, there’s not a hidden agenda … the things we talk about are just the needs of the students and how we think we can best fulfill them.

    Q: Are you glad you did it?

    Erik: I’m so glad I did it. … [I learned] that it takes guts to get good stuff going. Just because it’s a good idea doesn’t mean the road to accomplish it is going to be easy. It’s a laboratory to learn that good initiatives take time. I wouldn’t have learned that so deeply if it weren’t for this opportunity in student government.

    (Post by Lauren Hafen ’16.)

  5. Come to the Garden

    February 20, 2016

    This week marks the closing weekend of the university’s production of “The Secret Garden,” and the start of some very mixed emotions on my part. I’m thrilled to know that audiences will be exposed to the inspiring, magical story of this play and the many characters within it. I’m excited to see what it is that makes people laugh tonight and what it is that makes them cry tomorrow. And I’m filled with a bittersweet, indescribable sensation — a sort of premature nostalgia  at the thought that the wonderful experience of being involved in this show is coming to an end.

    When I came to Southern Virginia two and a half years ago, I didn’t know a soul. Not one. A week passed, and my social status (or essential lack thereof) didn’t seem to change. But then Professor Stoddard, who was at the time my theatre history professor, walked up to me and asked me to be his assistant as he directed “The Servant of Two Masters.” Within a month, I was assistant director for another show, “Hello Dolly,” and ready to declare theatre in addition to my English major.

    Since high school, directing was always the element of theatre that held the most appeal to me, and I dreamed of doing a directing senior project at the end of my tenure at Southern Virginia. I fought my way awkwardly, nervously, yet somewhat successfully through two acting classes in order to take directing last semester, and then Professor Stoddard made me an unimaginable invitation: he asked me to associate direct this spring’s musical, “The Secret Garden.”

    I was raised on this musical, and it was difficult for me to believe that many people had never heard the music, or perhaps even of the play, before Professor Stoddard added it to this year’s season. My mom and I used to belt “Lily’s Eyes” in the car. When he offered me the position, I don’t think Professor Stoddard realized that he wasn’t just providing me with fodder for a senior project — he was giving me the most perfect culminating experience, the best possible cherry on top, of my career as a theatre major at Southern Virginia.

    This entire production is such a testament to the wonders brought about by “the genius of small.” Theatre majors and non-theatre majors alike have come together to sing, learn, act, live, and laugh. Though only a student, I have been fortunate enough to work with Professor Stoddard as a collaborator, to learn from him while we worked together to block scenes, coach actors, and realize our vision for the show. At what other university could I possibly have had this opportunity?

    Ultimately, in five short weeks of rehearsal and many hours of work, the cast and crew of this production have put together what I think is the best show I’ve seen since I’ve been here. Sure, I may be a bit biased, but just as being so closely involved in this show has made me attached to it, it has (necessarily) made me especially critical of it, too. So, it is with both tenderness and the “eye” of a director that I say that this show is a gem.

    “The Secret Garden” tells a story of loss, fear, mistakes, faith, hope, family, love, and forgiveness. It captures, in my opinion, some of the most vibrant and integral emotions of the human experience  the messiness and the beauty of it alike. Furthermore, it tells this story through incredible music and characters that you’ll either love to love or love to hate. This particular production also adds some intricate physical elements through the set and costumes that together provide the audience with a performance that is rich musically, visually and emotionally all at once.

    So, as the lyric says, “come to [the] garden.” I can attest to the fact that the efforts of the many talented and diligent people I’ve been able to work with have produced a show that has the ability to both entertain and enrich. One audience member told me, following the opening night performance, that the show was a “sacred experience,” and I really can’t think of a better commendation.

    The final performances are tonight and tomorrow night at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $10 for the general public and $7 for children, senior citizens, and Southern Virginia students, faculty and staff. They are selling quickly and ought to be purchased in advance, if possible, through Student Financial Services or at 540-261-8464.

    (Post by Madeleine Gail Rex ’16. Photos by Eva Sorensen Smith ’17.)