Training for Service with a Smile

Students need to know how to use their leadership skills before leading in the best way that they can.

That’s why Frostburg State University places an emphasis on preparing freshmen as leaders. No matter the student organization, there are opportunities to lead.

At the same time, there is a call to service for these students.

In the fall, 80 freshmen were whisked about an hour away from campus to a bucolic campground in Stoystown, Pa., so they can learn more about themselves and how they work with other people through team-building exercises.

I completed a story used for the Alumni eNews and packaged it with photos I shot and a video I produced, to help round it out so you can get a feel for what’s going on.

My favorite moment captured is the honesty from student Alexis Thomas. It shows you how aware students are of the branding and marketing by colleges and universities to attend. FSU’s tagline is “One University. A World of Experiences” and had an ad campaign to go with it.

“I have a better idea of what Frostburg is about,” said the Bowie resident and biology major. “When they show us the video about how they are one community, I thought they were just saying that to get us to come here. But I see that the professors here, the advisors here, really care, and they really want their students to do well and graduate on time.”

A big part of this trip is to train students who signed up to be a part of ECHOSTARS, which stands for Empowering Communities Helping Others: Service Through Action, Resources and Sustainability. It’s quite the mouthful, but it’s a residential volunteer program at FSU offered through AmeriCorps. FSU also sponsors an AmeriCorps program for Western Maryland.

Here’s an excerpt from Beth Bair, FSU’s National Service coordinator with ECHOSTARS about the experience:

“The goal is to help the students dig deep into their strengths,” Bair said. “All of them have completed the StrengthsQuest Survey, which is part of the Gallup program we do at Frostburg State. Once they learn their top strengths, it’s a matter of what their strengths reveal about them and applying it to this weekend.”

When the students return to FSU, the lessons and experience will serve them well in student organization leadership roles, Bair added, whether it’s working at the Lane University Center, leading a Greek organization or being involved in community service.

Here’s the story in its entirety:

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India Comes To Frostburg

It’s nice to see word-of-mouth marketing in action and its result.

That’s what happened when Frostburg State saw an increase from eight to 78 Indian students in a matter of a year, mainly all enrolling in a master’s program in applied computer science.

It’s hard to say who exactly was the first person to spread the word, but the stories of the people here now were incredible to hear.

Mohan Vorganti, as he Americanized his name, left video game powerhouse EA to pursue his master’s at Frostburg because he wanted to be among Americans. Another, Shanthan Mareddy, also wanted to come to America even though he already earned a master’s degree in computer systems engineering from the University of East London!

Mohan and Shanthan would hear from their friends and family, either through texts or Facebook posts, and then would also tell their friends and family, too, about coming to Frostburg.

In a short time, the students formed their own cultural club, hosted a large event celebrating the Indian holiday Diwali, organized cricket matches and yoga sessions and ingrained themselves in the community.

You can read the story in the Spring 2016 issue of Profile magazine and watch this video about this phenomenon.

Continue reading India Comes To Frostburg

Becoming A One-Time Flood Insurance Policy Expert

I’d guess that 80 percent of journalism is having to write about something you don’t know about.

Don’t ask me what the other 20 percent is, though.

It could be something as simple as you don’t know what’s going to come out of a meeting, or covering a religious event that you don’t celebrate or in this case, explaining to people what the hell was going on with skyrocketing flood insurance policies. Thankfully enough noise was made that forced the federal government to delay changes that were making people pay more for flood insurance than their mortgage.

I don’t own a home. And so I don’t pay for flood insurance. So, I have no idea how any of this works.

But I was told to tell people what happened in my community and what’s behind the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act. It must have resonated because a law office decided to cite one of my articles as a source in a Tampa Chamber of Commerce newsletter and InsuranceNewsNet picked up the story.

Part of the reporting was to convince the Washington Bureau that the flood insurance problems are not just a Florida problem, but a national issue. I also contributed to a McClatchy Washington Bureau story on the issue, too, when the bureau was able to follow the goings-on in D.C.

Continue reading Becoming A One-Time Flood Insurance Policy Expert