The World Comes to Whatcom

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by Lexi Foldenauer

Horizon Reporter

For a lot of international students, studying in America is a dream, and one that takes a lot of work and effort to make come true. Most do not know what to expect initially, as they have formed different perceptions of American culture mostly through the media.

Once here, it is tough for most to navigate things like where to live, creating a bank account, finding work, along with other basic necessities.

At Whatcom Community College, there are programs intended to help make transition to life in America a smooth one. In the International office in the Syre Building, Kelly Kester, International Programs Director, and colleague Ulli Schraml are hard at work to help students get adjusted.

Kester, who has worked at Whatcom for eight years, says the reason for the plural use of the word “program” in International Programs, is that they work both to recruit and host international students. The programs cater to incoming and outgoing students alike, and do some coordination for the ESL academic program as well, for those trying to learn English.

Bonnie Chan, 22 came to Whatcom about two years ago from Hong Kong, and said it was a hard adjustment at first.

“I was really nervous because English is only my second language,” said Chan.

After a few months of adjustment, Chan now feels more at home. She appreciates the people she has met in the International office.

“Sometimes you just walk in and talk with them,” she said. “They’re really helpful.”

This quarter, an estimated 140-145 students are involved in the programs, from 25 different countries.

“We are like parents or family for the students here,” Kester said about the level of support they strive to give each student individually. The feedback from past students has been “overwhelmingly positive” for the most part, he added.

“They really appreciate the people, place, and everything that is Whatcom,” said Kester.

Pearl Baimpwi, 29, is an international student at Whatcom, originally from Kenya. Before coming to America, most of her perceptions of the culture were based off of what she had heard or seen on television or word-of-mouth from family and friends.

“In Africa, we assume everything in the States is easy,” she said.

After four years in the United States, however, Baimpwi’s opinions have changed.

“Everyone is so individualistic here,” she said, which is a big difference from the small, close-knit farming community Baimpwi originally lived in called Ngong’, where people always have a close neighbor to count on.

Leaving the village, located 35 minutes away from Nairobi, the capital city, was a big transition for Baimpwi, she said.

“I guess I’ve had to grow up mentally,” said Baimpwi.

Part of her adjustment into American life, has come with culture shock and an occasional tinge of loneliness. Baimpwi says that even after four years, she is still experiencing culture shock, but realizes that it is all apart of the learning and growing process.  Baimpwi enjoys life here and likes the city, appreciating the fact that it is clean and quiet, and people smile at you, she said.

In choosing to study at Whatcom, a big deciding factor for Baimpwi was the school’s willingness to help with paperwork that allowed her to study in the United States. Back home in Africa, Baimpwi was a healthcare worker for a Christian organization called YWAM. Baimpwi worked in clinics in third-world countries, where there were hardly limitations for healthcare workers, considering the scarcity of medical facilities close by.

“We delivered babies and gave shots, things like that,” Baimpwi said. “It was really cool.”

She hopes to get her master’s degree in nursing, and go back to work for the missions.

“I love it,” she said.

Arturo Camejo, an International student from Venezuela, can often be seen seated at the front desk in the International office, where he works part-time. He has been attending Whatcom for just over a year, and is enjoying it so far. Camejo recalled his first impression of Whatcom’s campus. He was particularly attracted to the soccer field on campus, because he’s a soccer player.

“It seemed gorgeous to me to play there,” Camejo said.

For most international students, the program can make the adjustment to life in America a bit smoother. Camejo commented that the program gave him time to prepare himself and learn more about American customs, such as what Americans find fun and how to be polite.

It is hard to avoid having expectations when going to another country, and most students will find that their experience defies their initial expectations. When he first came to visit the United States, Camejo initially thought that Bellingham would be more like the big cities he had visited prior, like Seattle or Los Angeles.

“It’s cool, it’s quiet. I really like it,” Camejo said about living in Bellingham.

In Venezuela, the average temperatures are up to 90 degrees—a big difference from the often rainy Pacific Northwest. Besides missing friends and family, Camejo finds himself missing the numerous beaches back home.

After his time at Whatcom, Camejo will continue on to Western Washington University to get a bachelor’s degree in sports medicine. He has not yet decided where to locate for a career, but said that his parents are both family doctors back in Venezuela, if he chooses to settle and work there.

The process for international students can be a lengthy one. Some students come from partner institutions, and others hear about Whatcom through a web advertisement or as a recommendation from an advisor.

Next, a student must apply with an international student application, including a bank statement proving they will be able to support themselves throughout the quarter. They must also apply for a visa. At an appointment at the United States Consulate in their country, a yes-or-no decision is made whether the student is able to get it or not.

The international students will be hosting their annual event, International Night, on February 25. Last year, the club had performances that ranged from Martial arts and a Japanese band to a performance by teacher Ben Kohn’s band. Dining (Ika) Adhikawati, international student and International Friendship Club member at Whatcom, expects the event to have similar performances this year.

“I think it was really interesting to see people actually dancing and performing from different countries,” said Ika, about last year’s event.

The event will take place from 6 to 9:30 p.m. in the Syre Student Center Auditorium.


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E-learning: The future is here

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by Kelly Sullivan

Horizon Reporter

As Whatcom continues to grow, so do the needs of its students. To suit the ever-transforming demographic, new ways of teaching that use developing electronic technologies are being implemented to improve the way students learn both on and off campus.

Sherri Winans, who is a teacher and director of Whatcom’s writing center, along with Signee Lynch, Lori Martindale, and Danielle Gray, recently won the “Leadership and Innovation in E-Learning Award” for their work in using eLearning technologies, including  the introduction of the “Jing” technology into the writing center response process.

Jing is a program that anyone can download for free, and is available to the public. At Whatcom, it allows teachers to record themselves speaking about a document such as a student’s paper, for five minutes. Winans uses this to respond to most of the papers she receives electronically.

Winans has also used it in class, and posts course documents on her Moodle site, her online classroom environment, for students to go back and read later. Jing allows students more time to process the discussion, she said.

There’s also something that happens when you can see and hear a discussion, Winans said. “People have time to stop and process the information.”

For the most part, students respond positively to the new technology, although Winans has had a few students who didn’t like the Jing method. The process of downloading the technology can sometimes take too long for some student’s tastes.

Jing is a versatile product because of its accessibility. Anyone with a recording device on their computer can put it to use. If you have pictures you want to send your mother in Texas, you can send her a Jing message and go through them verbally for her, explaining the meaning or moment behind each photograph.

“It saved me time in student feedback and I was able to provide a higher level of feedback that they appreciated,” said Michael Shepard, Whatcom’s Electronic Learning Coordinator.

Moodle is another form of electronic learning at Whatcom students are becoming familiar with. Teachers use Moodle as a private online community for their classes to post information about assignments and for online discussions among students and their teachers.

New technology you might have seen in the classroom are the “clickers.” They are currently being utilized in the medical assistant, nursing, early child education, physics and adult basic education programs. Their function is to input polls from class homework or opinion questions, with answers then displayed for the entire group.

“It’s nice for students who don’t like raising their hands,” said Shepard. “It creates a different kind of dialogue in the classroom.” It’s also good for professors to gauge student comprehension of a subject.

By polling the class on the covered material, teachers can see in class what they should cover.

Leo Hopcroft has done some online pod-casting. He first creates a recording of a lecture and then makes it available for students to download onto iTunes to put on their iPods or Mp3 players. He holds on-campus training sessions for teachers to learn about pod-casting once a year.

Signee Lynch, who teaches English at Whatcom, uses a program called Elluminate Live, which is now available statewide. It consists of video and voice recordings to speak over the Internet with students. If a student has a web-camera they can have office hours together even if they are not in the same room. It allows for online collaboration for responses when writing a paper or an online lecture or project.

Online courses at Whatcom are created on a platform called “Angel.” One option Shepard is excited about is the option of receiving a full degree online in physical therapy assisting. Whatcom is one of a handful of schools across the U.S. using the program. All of the class is online, except an intensive weekend-long lab held once a month. Students travel from as far as Alaska and Idaho to attend the class.

“Whenever we’re able to utilize multimedia and resources we are really providing students with a better learning environment,” said Shepard.

In the past year, 20 new online courses have been made available at Whatcom, in math, English, and economics. Shepard said the next big project is the nursing program. They want to model it to reflect the physical therapy assisting program and hope it will be as greatly successful.

“I’m excited about reaching different students and discovering how to teach in different ways,” said Winans.

“More students with full-time jobs who can’t get here can still learn,” she said. “We can reach more people.”


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The right equation

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by Lexi Foldenauer

Horizon Reporter

John Toof, an ESLA instructor at Whatcom Community College, was at Civic Field one Saturday afternoon with his son, when he noticed a woman who looked very familiar practicing sprints on the track. The following week at school, Toof was surprised to learn that it had been his colleague, Daphne Sluys.

“I thought wow, I didn’t know that side of Daphne,” said Toof. “She kind of transcends, she’s kind of multi-faceted.”

Daphne Sluys, director of the math lab and an adjunct math teacher, scored 4,390 points in the track and field division at a competition over the summer in Shoreline, Washington. A decathlon is a two-day event that challenges athletes in every dimension, from physical endurance to mental and emotional, Sluys said.

“I see the decathlon as a celebration of overall athletic excellence,” said Sluys, in an e-mail.

So, how exactly does one transition from being a math teacher to a national record-holding decathlete?

One of her early memories of becoming interested in competing in decathlons was during high school in South Africa. She sat and watched an Olympic highlights movie with Bruce Jenner in it. At the time, women were not allowed to compete in the Olympic Decathlon in the early 1980s, but that did not stop her.

Although that rule remains unchanged, Sluys said her dream is to one day witness the first women competing in the Decathlon at the Olympic Games.

“I tend to be a bit of a rebel – if somebody tells me I can’t do something, I want to do it,” Sluys said.

It was not until years later, that Sluys heard of an upcoming event that sparked her interest. In 2009, there was a national multi-event championship for “masters,” competitors age 30 and older, in Shoreline, Washington.

“I couldn’t resist,” said Sluys.

She began training for the event, and had received no prior training in any of the areas in which she would be competing. In fact, six out of the 10 events she had never even done before. At the competition, there was only one other woman in her age group, and 16 women competing total, ages ranging from 16 to 69 years old.

Sluys pulled through, and scored points in all 10 events, and left the competition a national champion, with an American record in tow. One of the things Sluys is most proud of about her award is that 2009 marked the first year that decathlon records for women have been officially recognized and published in the United States.

“Hard to believe, but true!” said Sluys. The first time Masters Women were able to officially compete in the decathlon in the USA was in 2006. It took another three years to acknowledge and publish their records, she said.

To this day, women under 35 are still unable to compete in an official decathlon. That fact has not seemed to stop females from gaining both national and world recognition in track and field divisions, however.

Sluys had the pleasure of competing with two female world champions, Nadine O’Connor, 67 and Rita Hanscom, 55, and continues to keep in touch with both women.

“They give me moral support and technical advice,” Sluys said.

As an athlete, Sluys recognizes the importance of having a set routine for her diet and exercise regimen. She said she can see a noticeable difference in her performance even days after she has eaten something that is outside of her normal diet.

“You can actually give more if you take care of yourself better,” said Sluys, of being a teacher, mother, wife, and decathlete.

Massage, acupuncture, physical therapy, and chiropractic are just a part of her average routine. Sluys attributes some of her success to physical trainer, Alex Harrison, a Western graduate student from the exercise science program. He is also a team captain for Western’s track and field team and a top decathlete.

“Alex volunteered to train this middle-aged woman in a month,” Sluys said with a laugh.

Harrison’s training has really helped Sluys’ performance, she said, as she has seen a noticeable improvement in her times at races.

When she is not working with her trainer, Sluys prefers to train alone, mostly at Civic Field, and at Western Washington University on occasion. Sluys also meets for pole-vaulting at the skate park twice a week with a program through Bellingham Parks and Recreation—the same program where Sluys originally learned the sport.

In her spare time, Sluys enjoys reading non-fiction books, particularly ones that relate to her role as a qualified hypnotherapist.  She recently read, “Stroke of Insight,” which discusses recovery from a stroke. Sluys enjoys books that have to do with brain development, particularly because she uses mental imagery in both sport and relaxation.

On her Web site, Sluys has created a tool for her students to calm their math phobias, and help with success in school. Sluys wrote the focus exercise herself, and encourages students to personalize it and use it to pertain to their own needs, by making a recording in their own voice, for example.

Sluys has designed her Web site to not only be helpful to students taking her courses, but as an informative tool to help get people more actively involved in sports. Her Web site can be accessed on the faculty page, by clicking on the Web page link.

As for her plans, Sluys will be heading to Kamloops, British Columbia, for the world indoor championships in March, and it will be her first experience at such an event. From there, she will head to Missouri for a decathlon in June. Since Sluys turns 50 this summer, it is her last year to improve prior records before switching to a new age group.


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Bellingham local goes for Olympic Gold

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by Kathy Pace

Guest Writer

Ron C. Judd, a Western Washington University graduate and Bellingham resident, is an Olympic contender. He has participated in the Games every two years since 1998.

This man goes for the gold in events such as “the bus relay,” “the mixing zone heats,” and “the 20-day marathon endurance contest.” Sometimes, Judd competes in five events in a single day.

Judd also participates in the World Cup events that occur between the Olympic Games.

This mountain of a man shrugs off the rigors of the Games. Judd’s schedule demands, day after day, that he is up at 4 a.m. after getting a few hours of rest. Enduring extremes of sweltering hot and shivering cold temperatures are all in a day’s work.

There are times he asks himself, “What in the world am I doing here?” Or those dark, ominous times when the pressure is on, and he admits, “I’ve got nothing.” Yet, he manages to deliver.

He says he is just lucky. We know different. Ron C. Judd is an Olympic journalist.

Ron C. Judd is like a Joseph Campbell of the Olympic Games. He doesn’t just report the scores, the times, the winners and the losers. He relays the human drama that unfolds during the Games—the glorious victories and, yes, the gut-wrenching agonies. He writes of transcendent experiences, of impossible feats, of “moments that are beyond description.” Nevertheless, he does try to describe them in his testaments.

Most of the athletes who compete in the games have Judd’s admiration. “What they go through is really phenomenal. They train their whole life,” he says. “Yet, they are completely out of the spotlight.”

Every day they go through these brutal regimens, because they love what they do, he says. Most of them will never make any money or gain celebrity even though they endure long, grueling hours of training, with no pay, just for the chance of competing in the Olympics.

“Ninety-eight percent of Olympic athletes that compete will never win a medal,” he says. Judd’s high regard for the Olympic athletes is because they follow their passion, or as Joseph Campbell would put it: They are following their bliss.

Judd prepares for the Olympics at least a year in advance. He researches the athletes, how they train and their stories. He says he tries to discover their dreams, their obstacles and their personal histories. He wants to know how they became involved in the sport in the first place. His background research leads him to athletes who have incredible competitive instincts such as Gary Hall Jr., an Olympic gold medal winner for the 50-yard freestyle dash in swimming.

About 10,000 reporters/journalists cover the games. Six thousand of these work for NBC. Out of the 4,000 reporters who do not work for NBC, only a couple dozen of them cover the Olympics full-time. These full-time Olympic journalists call themselves “ringheads.” Among these ringheads, there are four or five who have covered the Olympics for the past 30 to 40 years.

Judd is a self-described ringhead. He has been following the games since he was in high school, watching the 1980 Lake Placid Olympics on TV. He is a journalist for The Seattle Times where he has worked for the past 21 years. After lobbying his editor at the Times, he was allowed to attend and report on the 1998 Nagano Olympics. He has never looked back.

His favorite event, he says, is the opening ceremony because it is a unique opportunity for a country to go on stage before the world, and tell its story. “Here’s who we are; here’s what we are about,” he says. “Here’s what we like for you to know about us.” He says the journalists, photojournalists and videographers are making a first draft of history as it is taking place. “The Olympics are the one moment, really in modern global society,” he says, “where the whole world is tuned into the same thing at the same time.”

When he recalls the opening ceremony of the 2000 Sydney Games, he speaks of a transcendent experience. He tells of watching Cathy Freeman, the first Aboriginal athlete to represent Australia, light the Olympic cauldron. “It was an incredible moment in history,” Judd says. “It wasn’t just a ceremony; it was a national catharsis.” Australia chose that moment, by selecting Freeman to light the cauldron, to acknowledge its past of institutionalized racism and to show that Australia wanted to change. He says, “This is the kind of event that can only happen at the Olympics.”

There is even an Olympic love story in Judd’s life.  He met his wife Meri-Jo Borzilleri, a free-lance Olympic journalist, at the 2006 Turin Games. He proposed to Borzilleri at the Lake Placid Olympic Oval where Eric Heiden won five gold medals in speed skating. Coincidently, Borzilleri attended high school in Lake Placid during the 1980 Olympics, where she and her sister sold bagels to the press corps. Now she is the journalist buying the bagels.

Another Olympic coincidence for Judd is that he moved to Bellingham from Seattle in 2001, and the 2010 Winter Olympics are being held in Vancouver—just an hour away from his home. This occurrence inspired him to write his first book covering the games. It was published in 2009 and is titled “The Winter Olympics:  An Insider’s Guide to the Legends, The Lore, and the Games.”

Let’s hope that Ron C. Judd, Olympic journalist, continues to go for the gold.


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Prelude to the Nazis:

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by Kelly Sullivan

Horizon Reporter

This winter, Ben Kohn is teaching a class on the Weimer Republic, an attempt at German democracy that collapsed and led to the rise of Nazi Germany.

The class is not about Hitler’s Third Reich, but the period between 1918 and 1933 called the Weimer Republic, named for the city its constitution was drafted in. Kohn’s class focuses on the political, artistic, and cultural atmosphere of the republic, and the problems with the German government that contributed to the rise of the Nazi regime.

“It’s an investigation of the inter-war period, particularly what happened during that period that eventually led to the rise of Hitler and the Nazi party,” Kohn explained. It was a very dynamic time in the country’s history when many changes, both politically and culturally, were taking place.

Kohn, who teaches first-year German, came up with the idea for the class after his German course last spring, where he introduced a brief lecture on Nazi Germany to his students.

“A cultural education is as important as a linguistic one,” said Kohn. He explained that understanding the cultural context of a language brings more color and excitement to the learning experience. Kohn found the students extremely interested in the topic and it took two class periods to answer all of the questions posed.

“They were asking really intelligent questions,” said Kohn, noting students were very curious how such a fascist system “could take over an entire European nation and lead the world to the cataclysm of World War once again,” Kohn said.

Most students said they had not received the education in school that explained how such a facist government could gain a position of power.

“How and why this happened are never really investigated,” said Kohn.

The Weimer Republic was Germany’s first attempt at a democratic republic, Kohn explained. It was a political experiment, as up until 1918 Germany had been an imperial power. After World War I, Germany’s citizens, especially artists, intellectuals, and the working class, were in crisis. They wanted to completely overthrow the previous culture, society, economic and political system that existed in Germany, for it was this that had led to the deaths of 250,000 people in the battle of the Somme.

After World War I, German society experienced a “collapse in traditional morality and values as well,” Kohn said. Germany’s economy was in a complete state of disarray with hyperinflation, and the unemployment rate was around 25 percent in 1933. Many segments of society were completely poverty-stricken.

Kohn’s class has already covered the element of communism apparent in this period. The students read Karl Marx’s “Communist Manifesto,” published in 1848, as this was the foundation of many political movements and parties in Germany during the Weimer Republic.

Communism and socialism were alternatives offered to previous political and social models. The class will also be reading excerpts from “Mein Kampf,” the book Hitler wrote while imprisoned in the 1920s. It offers a very different alternative, and outlines the program of the forthcoming Nationalist Party, which eventually became known as the Nazi Party.

“There are some sensitive topics,” said Nathan Lindquist, 23. He is one of nine students in the class.

“Everyone in here has a certain level of maturity,” added Ryan Haynes, 28. “If someone’s uncomfortable we know we can change subjects.” The small size of the class and Kohn’s teaching style result in a discussion-based class. Kohn said many of his students feel very comfortable adding to the conversations, and he tries to facilitate this as much as possible.

In the second week of February, the class studied the cultural side of what was happening in Germany during the Weimer Republic. One example Kohn brought to the discussion was that of the Dada movement. Dadaism originated in Switzerland in World War I, and by the 1920s had moved to centers of intellectual and artistic activity in Germany.

Dada “completely messed with people’s sense of reality,” said Kohn. “It was supposed to explode actual reality. Totally subvert it.”

Another movement that attempted to do things in a new way was German Expressionism. Poets and artists experimented with language and images. Poet Georg Trakl’s poem, “Grodek,” captures the horrors of a battle he witnessed in the town of Galicia, Poland. He captures the beauty of the setting and horror of the situation with contrasting images such as “the night embraces dying warriors, the wild lament of their broken mouths.”

The class spent time breaking apart and analyzing the verses. Kohn then reads it to the class in impeccable German.

There is a “musicality to the language,” said Kohn. “The sound of the words themselves contain a different level of meaning.” Listening to Kohn read the poem, one instantly understands what he means by this. When Kohn recited the lines in German, “Softly the dark flutes of autumn sound in the reeds,” one could hear the mournful hum of winds blowing through tall grasses.

Kohn compared some of the Dadaist performances to Monty Python skits in their use of humor to subvert power and authority, and another student added similarities from popular media, such as South Park. The point was to get a subversive message across through art. One effective way to do so is to use humor.

Kohn said the Dadaists disagreed with the more extreme contemporary ideological forces of the left and right that said, “There’s only one way to subvert things: violently overthrow them; let there be blood!”

The Dada poet and artist Kurt Schwitters completely overturned the traditional manner of communicating through language in his works. His poetry sounds like complete gibberish, “non-sense composed of syllables” Kohn said, but is meant to make people think about what it could mean to them. It is about the nonsense or meaninglessness of conventional language, especially traditional and sentimental poetic language, and the empty and deceitful language of political rhetoric.

“Everyone here has been really receptive to what we’ve been talking about,” said Haynes.

“What we are finding through the discussions in the class are that there are similar problems [as during the Weimer Republic period] in the way our society and especially our political system is being run today, especially in the way these things are discussed,” said Kohn.

Watching the students come to their own conclusions through discussion, and hearing their critiques of the material Kohn presents to them, has been very gratifying, he said. “It’s a great group of students.”


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The official student newspaper of Whatcom Community College in Bellingham, Washington