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Picking out your college courses can be one of the most difficult choices you make as a student — it can also be really fun.
Alma College offers a number of courses that go beyond the prerequisites and into subjects a bit more specialized and interesting. Danny Wasserman-Soler, associate professor of history at Alma, teaches one such course: Witches and Demons.
Pretty spooky, right? In this course, Danny aims to go beyond pop culture icons like “The Crucible” and “The Exorcist” and into something a little deeper: an understanding of a controversial and misunderstood 300-year period of European history, during which as many as 90,000 (!) witch trials took place.
Danny agreed to share with us three facts about witches and demons that we might not have been able to gather from movies and TV. So, gather your coven, brew up a potion and check it out!
If you’ve ever seen “Hocus Pocus” and had the thought that all witches were women, Danny says that’s just a stereotype. While it is true that the majority of people accused of witchcraft in Europe from the time period he studies, 1500-1800, were women, there was a substantial minority of men who were also accused. In fact, in some countries, like Iceland and Russia, men made up the majority of accused witches.
Danny breaks the idea of witchcraft down to a math problem: Bad deeds + a pact with the Devil = witchcraft. But while many of the leading religious figures in Europe, like Martin Luther and John Calvin, would preach about the Devil during this time period, Daniel said churchmen didn’t carry out the majority of witch trials. Most witch trials were carried out by civil courts – not religious courts.
If you’ve ever been out and about and thought you saw a witch, but weren’t really sure if what you saw was the real deal, Danny has some suggestions. In Europe, at this time, it was believed that witches were given a special mark on the body from the Devil, as a way to show their allegiance.
Ever wonder how a person in this time period could be accused of witchcraft? Danny says it sometimes happened after someone in a community suffered from “demonic possession” — the idea that a demon took over their body and caused them to do horrible things. When thishappened, he said, the possessed person would blame their situation on someone in the community who they accused of being a witch. The next step was usually the “witch trial” commonly portrayed in books and movies, though the trials themselves looked different than what we see in books and movies.
Many of the most educated scholars of the time devoted themselves to studying witchcraft and the Devil, so witchcraft trials were sometimes surprisingly thorough and careful.
Danny Wasserman-Soler joined the faculty of Alma College in 2012. He teaches courses on European history (from Middle Ages to the Enlightenment) as well as world history and recently published a book, “Truth in Many Tongues: Religious Conversion and the Languages of the Early Spanish Empire.”
Everything Alma College will be celebrated on Wednesday, March 16, 2022, at I ❤️ Alma Day. At this event, alumni, parents, friends, faculty, staff and students will join together to celebrate and advance Alma College. We want you to get involved! Here are three ways you can participate:
Do you know someone who is trying to decide where to go to college? Tell them about Alma! The Refer a Scot program offers students who are referred by an alumnus, faculty, staff member, current student or friend of the college to receive a scholarship in the name of the individual who referred them.
Do you have a job or internship available at your company? Know of an employment opportunity that you would like to share with fellow Scots? Tell us about it, and a staff member can help share the opportunity with our students.
Giving to Alma College looks different for everyone. Major gifts enable Alma to make substantial changes that impact the college’s long term goals, but annual gifts of any amount make a difference to the student experience in any number of ways. However it’s done, your gift strengthens Alma and its students, and we appreciate it very much.
Perhaps you love the sound of bagpipes, or you heard them played at a meaningful moment and want to replicate that feeling. Read on to learn about bagpipes!
The world of music is full of many types of instruments, but perhaps none stand out quite as much as the bagpipes. A prominent symbol of Scottish heritage, it’s easy to picture them in your mind’s eye, perhaps being played by a man or woman wearing a kilt. Their sound is unforgettable — the average person may not be able to tell the difference between a clarinet and an oboe, but you immediately know when someone is playing bagpipes.
Andrew Duncan is the Alma College Pipe Band Director, a group of about 20 students, separate from other music groups on campus, who gather to play bagpipes at various events and gatherings. Andrew explained to us exactly what the bagpipes are, why the instrument is popular at Alma College — and even how you can get involved if you want to try them out!
How do bagpipes work?
Bagpipes are a woodwind instrument, Andrew said, in the same family of instruments as the clarinet and saxophone. “Pipers,” as those who play them are called, blow air through a blowpipe into a bag. (Weird, but true: these bags are traditionally made of sheepskin. Nowadays, they are made of synthetic materials.)
The bag feeds air into another pipe, called a chanter. Pipers use two hands to manipulate the chanter, which produces the melody of a song. Other pipes, called drones, make one continuous sound. Unlike other woodwinds, it’s difficult for bagpipes to stop producing sound after they have started, so pipers need to produce A LOT of air to keep the bag full.
Want to give them a try?
Andrew said the pipes seem challenging, but many people pick it up as their first instrument and get along fine. You can get started with a practice chanter — an instrument with no bag and no drones — which only costs about $100.
There aren’t many colleges and universities across the country with their own pipe band. Andrew believes Alma is the only one in Michigan that offers it. But it’s not something students do in far-off corners of the college — Alma embraces its Scottish background.
Pipes can be heard everywhere from Welcoming Convocation to the Traditions Dinner, from football games to the Homecoming parade. It’s the type of sound that grows on you. Students frequently comment that when they go home for breaks from school, they miss hearing the sound of a piper playing off in the distance as they go about their days.
The Alma College Pipe Band is the one of the only of its kind in the nation — made up entirely of students and faculty of the college. For more information, visit alma.edu.
With theaters closed, dancing for a camera became an alternative to choreographers and dance companies. Screendance is now more popular than ever.
We don’t need to go in too deep about the many sad ways the pandemic impacted the arts community. You already know about movie theaters closing, live performances being canceled, and artists broadcasting their work online. This might not be “the new normal” forever, but it’s what we’re living through right now — and could be for a long time.
On the positive side, art and media have flourished in new ways during the pandemic. With so much of our time spent in our homes — and with so many people using their computer webcams and smartphones — more people than ever are dancing for the camera. Maybe you yourself have tried to produce a dance video for TikTok!
If so, you should check out an art form that is growing in popularity across the world, screendance. It’s like a deeper version of TikTok videos — an art form that combines dance with performance, visual arts, cinema and media arts to produce something truly provocative, interesting and beautiful. Some colleges and universities offer courses where you can make your own screendances; Alma College, in Michigan, is one of them.
Rosely Conz is a dancer from Brazil, choreographer and dance teacher, who also serves as an assistant professor in the theatre and dance department at Alma. We asked Rosely to share a few things she tells her students about screendance. Here’s what she said.
You’ve probably seen screendances before
Maybe you haven’t heard of screendance, but it’s actually been around for quite a long time. On the first day of her screendance class, Rosely likes to show her students a black and white film by filmmaker Maya Deren and dancer Talley Beatty, which was made all the way back in 1945. They utilize some techniques that were innovative and experimental for the time, like a slow-motion jump. Pretty cool!
Screendance is for people who love dancing …
Screendance will get you thinking about choreography and dance in ways you never have before. Depending on what you’re trying to say with your screendance, you can move fast or slow, with high energy or low. You can move with strength or fluidity, forward or backwards, in-place or all over your room. Think of your body like pieces in a puzzle, Rosely said — screendance is how you make it all fit together.
… as well as other forms of media!
Like we said earlier, screendance isn’t just about moving your body — it’s integrative with film and media arts. Screendance will make you think about the placement of your camera in ways like, “Is it above my subject’s head, or at their feet?” It will push you to consider the site where you’re filming, like, “How can my subject use the blue paint on that wall to tell a story?”
It will also get you to consider lighting. Rosely herself created a screendance, “Still Here,” at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic that made use of something called a “ghost light” — an electric light that is left energized on the stage of a theatre when the theatre is unoccupied and would otherwise be completely dark. What she was trying to say, symbolically, was that while live shows may not be happening right now, they will return eventually.
Screendance is not exclusive
It may be true that screendance is like a “deeper” version of TikTok videos, but it’s definitely not exclusive or high-brow. Screendance doesn’t turn its back on social media, Rosely says — it embraces social media. Borrowing a phrase from Karl Marx, Rosely says, dancers own the “means of production” like never before, and that translates into some really cool art. As technology has improved through the years, social media users have (perhaps unconsciously) been able to incorporate elements of screendance, like moving the camera around, into their own videos.
What screendance hopes to do — and what we hope you will do — is expand on what you already know, to continue making better and more interesting art!
Do you want to learn more? Read about the Alma College Dance program or contact Rosely at (989) 463-7141 or email@example.com.
It’s normal to be nervous about living with someone new — or even someone you have known for a long time. But with a little bit of thought and planning, you can be the kind of roommate your classmates dream of.
Whether you’re moving into a residence hall during your first year of college or an off-campus apartment as a senior, living with someone new is bound to bring some challenges. However, there are easy things you can do to become a great college roommate.
Alice Kramer is the director of residence life at Alma College, in Alma, Michigan. She has experienced the college roommate life from multiple sides: first as a roommate in college herself, then as a resident advisor, and now in her current role. Because Alice has seen it all, she’s in a good position to pass on tips on being the best college roommate possible.
1. Expand your horizons
You might think you want a roommate who shares your interests — your favorite TV shows, music, movies and books. Maybe it would be nice to share notes with a roommate who has the same major as you. But what’s more important, Alice says, is having a roommate who shares your personality type. Let’s say your roommate likes to keep things neat, but you’re more of a free spirit. That is more likely to cause a problem than if you can’t agree on what movie to watch on a Friday night. Plus, it’s fun to explore new interests!
2. Don’t set your expectations too high, or too low
Alice has heard stories about roommates who became BFFs and ended up in each other’s wedding parties. She has also heard about roommates who became the perfect storm.
The most-common stories end up somewhere in the middle: not-so-dramatic success stories about people who came together for a year, were good roommates to one another, and got along well.
Your roommate doesn’t NEED to be your best friend in order for you to have a storybook college career. In fact, sometimes it’s better to have multiple people in your life you can bounce ideas off of, in case you need a different perspective.
On the other side of the coin: don’t get too discouraged if things aren’t working out right away. Any person who has ever lived with another person would say you won’t agree with the people under your own roof 100% of the time, even if you like them a whole lot. A little patience and understanding goes a long way.
3. Start the conversation early
You’ll likely find out who you’re living with at college before you move in. So, don’t wait to find out what they’re about! Give them a phone call, send a text, or add them on Facebook and Instagram. Listen to what they have to say and ask them follow-up questions. (It will show you’re paying attention.) Having a conversation when you’re relaxed is a lot easier than talking when you’re trying to write a term paper… and your roommate just invited friends over to hang out.
Looking for a good conversation starter? Alice suggests figuring out who is bringing what to your room or apartment, before you show up. If you both show up with a TV, microwave, futon and couch, it probably won’t all fit in your space. Also, talk with each other about your boundaries: “Do we have a collective set of snacks, or do you have your snacks and I have mine?” Be honest! A little bit of honesty now will help avoid big issues down the road.
There are no right answers to these questions. It all depends on your personality and preferences. But being on the same page is important.
Despite the challenges that can come from living with someone new, residence life is one of the most exciting and engaging parts of your college experience. Alma College is a residential college, which maximizes those opportunities to their fullest extent. Learn moreabout student life at Alma.
From taking notes to living away from home, your first year of college will go smoother if you know what to expect. Rely on current and recent students to offer the best advice.
Every college student has concerns or challenges during their first year. While some end up being no big deal, others may require some major changes. Liney Figueroa of Muskegon, now a senior at Alma College, offered these tips to students who are just starting out:
Try to have perfect attendance in your classes
There may be things that come up that make this impossible. But as far as a goal goes: go big or go home, right? Studies show that students who go to class and take notes do the best, regardless of how “smart” they might be. Plan your class schedule in a way that works best for you and pay attention to yourself more than anyone else. Liney uses a planner and charts every day out the night before, to make sure she’s prepared for whatever comes.
Take notes the old-fashioned way
I’m not going to tell you to never use your phone. More than likely, you know there’s a time and a place when it’s appropriate to use it and when it’s inappropriate — like, during a lecture. Consider using a pen and paper to write notes in class, instead of a laptop. Studies show you’ll remember more that way. You can always copy your notes to your laptop after class.
Meet with each of your professors for office hours at least once every term
Professors are required to set aside office hours, which are special days and times to meet with students in a 1-on-1 setting. You can usually find this information in the course syllabus you received at the start of the term. Your professors can help in all kinds of ways, in and out of the classroom — from going over coursework in a private environment, to discussing college life, to figuring out life after college. More importantly, your professors WANT to help — so help them, and take that first step toward getting to know them better.
Ask for help when you need it
The difference between “high school you” and “college you” is that you’ll be the main person in your life who deals with your problems. Even as a high achiever in high school, Liney found that college was more challenging. She wasn’t used to asking for help for her classwork, but eventually came around to the idea that she couldn’t deal with everything by herself. Ask around and seek out the BEST person to help you with your individual problem. For example: a resident assistant can help with issues in your residence hall, an academic advisor can help choose your major and a health professional can help with anxiety.
Join at least one extracurricular activity
So far, we’ve mostly focused on academics — with good reason, because doing well in your courses is the best way to have success after you graduate. But using your time away from class in constructive ways is also important. Joining an extracurricular activity gives you an easy way to meet other college students who are going through the same things you are. Liney said coming to college seemed intimidating at first, until she started getting more involved in student affairs. There, she said, she found fun things to do in her free time and made friends for life.
If you’re looking to become a student yourself, consider Alma College, in Alma, Michigan. We don’t just want you to succeed, we make sure of it.
Terms like “phishing,” “social media” and “two-step verification” weren’t very common only 20 years ago, but they’re more important than ever nowadays.
From the food we eat to the people we speak with, it’s apparent that communication technology has made its way into just about every important aspect of our lives.. What may be less apparent are the many ways technology — and the information we put out into the world every day — can be a threat to your relationships, job, bank account and credit report.
Elizabeth Cameron, professor of business administration, is a licensed attorney and business consultant who continues to consult with clients so she can bring real life examples into her law, cybersecurity and management classes at Alma College. Every day in her class, she tells young people that it’s not just their grandparents who need to be careful using technology — you can be a victim, too. She offered five tips to clean up your “online hygiene,” in order to stay safe and utilize technology to its fullest advantage.
Really. Do it. Make a better password.
Yes, Elizabeth says, there are still people using “password” as their password for social media, online bank accounts and e-mail addresses. If that’s you, it’s time to change your habits. Hackers are more skilled than ever at cracking combinations, and when you use a common password, you’re making it way too easy for them. Consider a string of symbols, letters, numbers, lowercase and uppercase letters that may be meaningful to you, but don’t make sense for others. One suggestion might be: I8@joes4the2ndtimethisweek.
Get smarter about social media
Facebook, Twitter and Instagram aren’t simply communication tools anymore. They are the world’s window into your life. Not only are your friends and family checking in on what you’re posting, but employers (current and future) and co-workers are, as well. Elizabeth suggests highlighting the good things you’re doing, like volunteer work, and saving your selfies, memes and jokes for the next time you’re together with friends. Remember, nothing is ever permanently deleted.
Remember that anyone can create content online and say that they are someone they aren’t. With that in mind, don’t believe everything that you read, watch or listen to — especially if it’s the kind of content designed to provoke an emotional response. Elizabeth suggests finding out who the source is, who produced the content and where they got their information. There is value in making you feel certain ways about various topics — don’t let yourself be manipulated.
‘More valuable than oil’
For centuries, whenever someone wanted to make a point about the value of a good, they could point toward the cost of oil. Nowadays, Elizabeth says, the information that you put out into the world every day — from the Instagram post you tagged yourself in at Starbucks to the review you left for the car wash on Google — is being monetized. She went as far as to say it’s “more valuable than oil.” So, why give it away for free? Be careful about sharing what you’re doing and where you’ve been.
‘Think twice, click once’
Phishing emails are more common than ever and scammers are very sophisticated about getting you to make a click you’re not supposed to. Even if it seems plausible that your co-worker is in need of some fast cash, Elizabeth says, it’s best to take every link online with a degree of suspicion. “Think twice, click once” is the advice she gives when it comes to interacting with people in situations outside of the norm.
Alma College, in Alma, Michigan, offers courses within its business administration department on topics like cybersecurity and risk management. If you’d like to learn more, check out the business administration page on alma.edu.
There are many types of ancient artifacts that can be found in Michigan, but the “Michigan Relics” are definitely a fraud.
In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, American newspaper headlines were dominated by conflicts like the Battle of Little Bighorn and the Wounded Knee Massacre. As a result, a newfound interest was raised in Native American peoples — who they were and how they came to settle in North America. The public turned to a relatively new field of study, archaeology, for answers.
Knowledge of the methods of archaeology, however, was not yet widespread, and numerous “finds” in North American turned out to be frauds.
Michigan was the setting for one of the more famous finds of “relics” that were eventually shown to be modern creations. Two men in Michigan, James Scotford and Daniel Soper, “discovered” a group of objects made out of clay, copper, slate and stone, which were decorated with writing that looked vaguely similar to popular Mediterranean and Near Eastern artifacts that were being publicized elsewhere. Scotford and Soper said they were evidence of ancient settlements near their hometowns and throughout Michigan.
But experts disagreed and provided ample evidence that Scotford and Soper were lying. Family members eventually came forward to tell the story of how the fraudsters manufactured the “relics.” Neither Soper nor Scotford ever confessed, however, and they both died in the 1920s. No additional relics were discovered after they were gone.
Even so, interest in the “Michigan Relics” has continued to live on. In defiance of archaeology, which has continued to grow and improve as a field of study through the years, small groups of people believe the relics are real. Alma College, in Alma, Michigan, has a few of the relics in its historical archives. It’s unclear how the college to possess them, but it likely has something to do with them being produced in nearby Montcalm County.
Alma College Library Director Dr. Matthew Collins, pointed out a few interesting facts about the fake relics:
What makes them fake?
If you’re from Michigan, you know the winters can be treacherous and the springs can be rainy. Anything that is allegedly thousands of years old and comes from the ground in Michigan needs to be able to survive in that kind of weather. Scientists at the time were quickly able to tell that the clay relics couldn’t have done that, because they turned into mud when wet. The next group of relics discovered were, by some change, items that had been fired with low-heat fires, making them resistant the Michigan environment. These objects were covered with symbols from several ancient cultures that supposedly were words in a language.
What do the words mean?
When the words printed on real relics are studied, archaeologists are able to determine what they say and what it means. They may be written in ancient languages, like Phoenician, or Egyptian hieroglyphics, or even Assyrian cuneiform. The “Michigan Relics” contain a combination of symbols that look like several ancient languages, which, when mashed together don’t spell anything.
Where do they come from?
While the creation of some of the clay items remains a mystery, metallurgical analysis that was taken of the copper relics many years ago showed that the dimensions are all exactly consistent with smelted hot-rolled copper produced at that time — not the pure copper that real Native American tribes in Michigan occasionally used for decoration. Some of the slate relics had the exact dimensions and characteristics of milled and precisely cut slate roofing tile, like that produced in Detroit near Scotford’s residence.
What happened to the relics?
The discovery of the relics by Scotford and Soper – who were always present – generated tremendous publicity and income for the two. The relics were sold to various collectors, even internationally. The Church the Latter-Day Saints, bought many of the relics, for example. After the relics were shown to be frauds, they were donated to various museums in Michigan. Alma College received its relics this way. After the publication of a scientific article in 2001 that showed clearly all of the problems, the Mormon Church donated all of its relics to the Michigan History Museum.
Michigan is an interesting place, that was very clearly filled with all kinds of interesting people at one point — and it continues to be! You can read more about the area in which the “Michigan Relics” were found at alma.edu, or, for more, visit the Alma College Library.
Did you know that your local library likely offers music, TV and movies and school supplies? The library has become about more than just books.
Libraries have come a long way in recent years. The stereotypical stiff, dusty and dull storehouse of books from way back when has been replaced by a more relevant hub of information and community activities. Now more than ever, libraries reflect the interests and needs of the people they serve — and that’s a really good thing.
The library at Alma College is no exception. Staff there know that most college students have a lot on their plate, so they do everything they can to save you time. The library also offers a number of different entertainment options that you might not be aware of, which can save money. Matthew Collins, library director, took us beyond the stacks of books to explore all the library has to offer.
Spotify is great, but vinyl is final
Why bother with an online music subscription for $10 every month when you can get music at the library? Music students are probably familiar with the library’s collection of sheet music, but fewer know about the CDs that are available for checkout. Even more unique at Alma is the college library’s selection of vinyl records. They even have a record player that you can check out overnight.
Who needs Hulu when the library comes through?
When it’s time for movie night or a TV-watching binge, you can take the money you’d normally spending on streaming services and use it on popcorn instead. The library has you covered, thanks to a collection of more than 4,000 DVDs — including foreign language, documentaries, popular films and more. If you don’t have a DVD player, you can check one out at the library. You can also subscribe to Kanopy, a streaming service with classics and indie favorites, through the library. And if you really want to go old school, the library offers VHS tapes and a VCR.
Short on school supplies? Head to the library
Unless you sleep at the FedEx Office, your residence hall room probably doesn’t have a printer to use. They do come in handy, though. Thankfully, the library has several black-and-white printers, and even a color printer, which you can use for less than what cup of coffee costs. The library has scanners to use and dongles available to rent. And the Olofsson Lab has brand-new computers that come equipped with Microsoft Office.
The best resource a library has — its staff
It might sound corny, but library staff really want to help you — and in just about any scenario you can think of, they can do it. Matthew says librarians have assisted students with everything from car repairs to filling out forms to research papers. They have a lot of life experience to share! Our librarians are also trained to help people find the information they’re looking for. Don’t spend three hours trying to find a source in a book when a librarian can find it in 10 minutes — that’s what they’re there for. All that time you saved can be much better spent elsewhere.
The Alma College Library, in Alma, Michigan, is a tremendous resource for students, staff and faculty. For more information, visit alma.edu.
By Matthew Cicci
Assistant Professor of Digital Rhetoric and Composition at Alma College
Alma College can offer you a way to study fandoms — a form of culture study that touches on everything from “Harry Potter” to Luke Skywalker to the NBA.
In my ENG 280: Fan Cultures spring term course at Alma College, students and I explore all the ways that fandoms — communities centered on media objects or hobbies — impact society. We examine how fans use fan objects to form their identities, how they form social groups, and how those social groups interact and influence the broader world.
But before I scare you off with these big questions, let me stress: We also revel in the joy of being a fan and sharing that experience.
If you find yourself relating to any items on the list below, you should join us!
You’ve got an eye for detail
Whether it’s identifying which issues of “Amazing Spider-Man” influenced the film version of his suit or picking out which Jonas Brother is attempting to hide his face from the cameras (because you know that Harry has a penchant for high-waisted pants), you pay attention to the aesthetic details of your fandom — you know, the little things most people might miss.
You don’t need Wikipedia
Who was Luke Skywalker’s uncle? Who won the NHL’s Conn Smythe Trophy in 1997? What does “THAC0” mean? You know the answers. You don’t need to look it up. By virtue of immersing yourself in a fan culture, you’ve picked up all kinds of deep knowledge on the subject. These things come easy to you. (By the way, the answers are: Owen Lars, Mike Vernon and “To Hit Armor Class Zero.”)
You make time
Your team is playing? Well, you schedule things around that. Your favorite show is released on Friday? Well, weekend plans can wait until you watch. Comic Con is in two months? Well, multiple nights a week until then, you will be crafting your most exceptional “Mass Effect” cosplay in the meantime. If you find yourself setting your clocks and calendars in an effort to align with your fandom, you should probably join us.
You might have a digital clubhouse
“Star Wars” Reddit. Comic Vine. NBA Twitter. Pitchfork music reviews. You know where to go to stay up to date with the content you are a fan of. You’re part of a bigger community — social media, YouTube shows, podcasts — you know not only how to find your fan object, but also the people who constitute your fandom, so you can tap into the broader conversation.
The above are just a few symptoms of being a superfan. But being a fan of something is so ubiquitous that this list is not close to being definitive. For some, fandom is an opportunity to engage in big social gatherings and online communities. For others, it’s a secret little joy just for them…
These and many other varieties are explored in ENG 280: Fan Cultures, as we think critically about our engagement with these fandoms. We question that sliding scale of communal to individual, we question what it means that fans make time for their fan objects, and so much more.
Oops … there is the professor in me going off on all the fascinating, deep questions again. Don’t worry, though — the fan in me is definitely here to simply enjoy the experience. That’s what being a fan is all about.
Matthew Cicci is an assistant professor of digital rhetoric and composition at Alma College, in Alma, Michigan. If you’d like to learn more about the ways Alma College can help you dive deep into interesting subjects like fandoms, check out our spring term course catalog.
Finances don’t have to be an obstacle to exploring the world.
First-generation college students — students who are the first generation of their family to attend college — can face additional challenges that others don’t encounter on campus.
According to at least one study, first-generation students deal with more financial strain on campus than continuing-generation students. There are several factors tied into those statistics, but it’s important not to let that scare you away from pursuing your college dreams.
There is a whole world to explore once you start college. Finances don’t have to be an obstacle to start that exploration — they can be a learning experience, like everything else. We asked Elon Brissette, the coordinator of financial counseling at Alma College, for advice on how first-generation college students — and anyone else who needs help — can navigate the process of paying for your college education.
Stop, breathe and think
People in general, whether they are first-generation college students or not, don’t know what they don’t know, Elon says. When first-year, first-generation college students are already thinking about everything from classes to food to living away from home … taking finances into account can be overwhelming. As it relates to this subject, students don’t always know what information they should share or what questions they should ask. So, knowing your resources on campus is key.
Elon suggests that students and their families take their time when considering topics like setting a four-year financial plan on paying for college, seeking scholarships and taking out loans. There’s nothing wrong with reviewing your financial aid award letter with your admissions representative and financial aid staff member and then taking your time to just think about it. Elon suggests you revisit the subject after a week and see if it all makes sense. If you feel confused, don’t be afraid to go back and ask for help.
Know your resources
It can be challenging for any student to come to campus without the built-in system they may have had at home, but there is always someone who will be there for you, Elon says. Too often, first-generation college students don’t realize the financial, academic and support services that are available to them on campus.
As it relates to financial supports, Elon suggests that students study up on what is available to them — and once again, don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need it. At Alma College, there is a Financial Aid Office (which can assist with the specific financial aid you were awarded, like grants, scholarships, work study, and student loans you were offered), Financial Services Office (which is where you go to pay tuition at the beginning of every semester and find out information on payment plans) and the Coordinator of Financial Counseling (who can talk to you privately or in small groups about more general financial wellness topics).
Find your family
It is also important to find highly motivated students you can partner with; peers who genuinely care about you and understand what life is like being the first in your family to go to college — or who are willing to listen. There is a group on campus for everyone, a group where you can be yourself.
At Alma College, the King-Chavez-Parks (KCP) Mentor Program is one of those groups. It provides mentorship for first-year students in navigating college and all it has to offer. Elon said, these mentors help with everything from how to access college resources to how to make friends. A similar program, Campbell Scholars, provides cultural, academic, social, and financial literacy resources and mentorship to students of color at Alma College. Both are wonderful opportunities designed to support you and help you make the most.
For more information on financial aid packages available at Alma College, visit alma.edu.
College student workout plans are varied and unique. Here’s how you can stay fit all semester long.
Embedded in the cost of tuition at many colleges and universities these days is a membership to a gym or a recreation center, oftentimes located right on campus. Concerns over “putting on the freshman 15” are outdated — college students these days feel more body-positive than their parents’ generation, and they want to be physically healthier, too.
But for some of these students, their first trip to the college rec center is their first trip to any gym in many years. They might not know or understand what their rec center offers and how to take advantage of those offerings. Fletcher Roberts, the director of sports performance and assistant wrestling coach at Alma College, in Alma, Michigan, has seen it all.
We asked Fletcher for some tips – and maybe a little tough love – on how beginner-level college students can get the most out of fitness resources during their time at college:
Pick a plan — then stick to it
Fletcher’s first tip is likely pretty obvious: Figure out why you want to go to the gym. Do you want to relieve stress, lose weight, gain muscle, improve as an athlete, or something else altogether? A fitness class, or personal trainer, can help you devise a plan.
The next step, however, is a little less obvious: Stick to it. Fletcher says that — now, in the age of social media, more than ever — students he sees in the gym are suffering from a “fear of missing out,” or FOMO. They see their friends at other schools doing a workout routine that looks good, so why can’t they do the same thing?
There’s nothing necessarily wrong with what your friends are doing, but your plan is yours. Stick to it.
Put your calendar to work
Just as important as knowing how to use a weight machine is knowing how to use your online calendar, Fletcher says. College students have heard variations on this theme time and time again: “Your mom isn’t going to wake you up in the morning to go to class any more! You need to do it yourself.” But that sentiment takes on new meaning in the gym.
If you don’t get enough sleep, Fletcher says, it will show up in your workouts. If you skip breakfast, it will show up in your workouts. If you spend your time at the gym taking selfies and goofing off with friends, it’ll show up in your workouts.
So, set your online calendar — or do whatever you need to do — to accommodate all of the tasks you need to do that day. Then, stick to the plan.
Everything in moderation
It should probably go without saying that if you’re making a serious step toward physical fitness, you’re probably thinking about your eating habits too. Fletcher says that while it’s a great idea to eat well, he abides by a “90/10” philosophy on diet — healthy foods 90 percent of the time and splurging 10 percent.
Be smart about it, of course. Don’t schedule your splurge day on the same day as your workouts. But enjoy! At this point, you’ve earned it.
Fitness and wellness programs at Alma College offer you everything you need to reach your goals. The Alan J. Stone Recreation Center offers personal training, fitness classes, yoga and more. Read all about it at alma.edu. And if health and fitness are your passion, check out Alma’s Integrative Physiology and Health Science program!
The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is designed to be easy for students and families to fill out, but difficulties can arise. We’re here to help you secure scholarships and student loans, so that your personal finances are less tricky.
Personal finances can be tricky. Even those who understand the ins and outs of saving and spending can find it difficult to talk about. However, for so many, financial aid is what makes college possible in the first place. With that in mind, let’s dive right in.
But where to even start? For help with that, we talked with Michelle McNier, director of financial aid at Alma College. She’s talked to most of the students who attend the college, as well as their parents, at one time or another, and has heard questions surrounding financial aid many times. Once someone has a firm understanding of the basics, Michelle says, she can help with more advanced questions that are more specific to your situation.
Q: What’s the first step to applying for financial aid?
A: The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) tells the government what they need to know about you in order to allow you to receive federal, state and institutional need-based financial aid. You’ll need to fill it out to receive grants, work study and Stafford Loans.
Q: When should students fill out the FAFSA?
A: The FAFSA is available beginning Oct. 1 for the following school year, and you should complete it as early as possible. The government is looking for your tax information from the previous two years, so it isn’t a matter of needing to wait. The deadline to apply for the fall term in Michigan is March 1.
Q: Is the FAFSA difficult to fill out?
A: It can be, but help is available. The FAFSA is designed to be easy to fill out, but there are inevitable difficulties that come up, as there are with any form. I would encourage anyone who is having difficulty to contact the Financial Aid Office by calling (989) 463-7347 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Q: Do students have to fill out the FAFSA every year, or just once?
A: That question comes up a lot, especially around deadline time. Students must reapply for financial aid each year and maintain Satisfactory Academic Progress to remain eligible.
Q: Do you have any other tips for people with respect to the FAFSA?
A: There are a lot of families who think they might not qualify for financial aid. I tell them to file the FAFSA anyway, especially in their first year. It may open a door you weren’t expecting, which can help fund a college education. If you don’t file, nobody is going to know you might need help.
Q: Are there other types of financial aid available beyond FAFSA?
A: Absolutely. Here at Alma, we offer scholarships and grants, in addition to state and federal aid. We offer student and parent loan options, with financing. Of course, there are various scholarships available through all kinds of organizations throughout the country. The FAFSA doesn’t need to be completed to receive this kind of aid.
Q: What else do we need to know?
A: As students are considering different colleges and universities, and reading the award letters that spell out the financial aid package, they should know these letters can vary tremendously between institutions. That can be very confusing. Having a true grasp on what students are getting from each institution they apply to, and how much they have to pay out-of-pocket is important. I would encourage anyone with questions to reach out to our office. We’re happy to help.
Alma College, in Alma, Michigan, offers scholarships and grants, in addition to state and federal aid, to help students go to college. For more information, visit alma.edu.
If you’re just starting out in the professional world, it can be hard to feel confident in your resume-building skills. We’re here to help.
When you leave college, your resume is an opportunity to make a good first impression. Whether you’re entering the job market, pursuing a graduate degree, or taking some other path in life, it tells people in the professional world not only who you are, but why you should be a part of their team.
It’s easy to find resume tips online, but how well can you trust the random corners of the web where Google can sometimes lead you? That’s why we asked Brittany Stoneman, associate director for career and personal development at Alma College’s Center for Student Opportunity, for her top tips. Brittany talks to hundreds of students every year about how to create a good first impression and help them on their next steps after college.
DO: Brand your materials to match.
Your cover letter, resume and reference sheet should all have the same header, font and style.
DON’T: Get too fancy with the font.
Use a clean, easily legible font. For most applications, now is not the time to be overly creative. You don’t have to be boring, though — consider personalizing your materials to mirror the company’s branding in your resume style (in terms of color scheme or font).
DO: Pay careful attention to language in the job description and company website.
Buzzwords go a long way! If you mirror their language to yours, it could show that you’re a good fit for their organization.
DON’T: Make things complicated.
If you save your resume using an obscure file type, the company may not have the right software to open it. Save your materials as a universal format, like a PDF, and call it something simple, like “Jane Doe Resume” or “John Doe Cover Letter.”
DO: Make it easy for the company to contact you.
The top of your resume should include your name — make it stand out, without overwhelming the rest of the information — as well as your contact information. Include a professional-looking email address, phone number, location and LinkedIn URL, if you have one.
DON’T: Forget to spell check.
Whether you’re applying for a job as a proofreader or not, companies will want to see that you pay attention to detail. Only use appropriate abbreviations and correct spelling, punctuation and grammar in your resume.
DO: Tailor your resume to the job for which you’re applying.
Clearly showcase transferable and industrial skills that fit the position. Your bullet points should explain the skills that you’ve learned through your experience, which you can apply at the position you are seeking.
DO: Put yourself in the best possible light.
Accomplishments should be qualified and quantified including the action, task and result by utilizing action verbs and specific examples. Using bullet points, explain the skills that you learned through your experience, which you can apply at your sought-after position.
If you’d like more help with resume-building, interviewing, networking and other career-related topics, check out the Alma College Center for Student Opportunity.
iGEM uses science to help the communities in which we live and work.
Alma College has a student organization for just about every interest you can imagine. If you love it, you can find like-minded students to serve, explore and have fun.
Want to go Greek? You can choose a social Greek fraternity or sorority. Academically qualified students may be invited into one of the disciplinary academic honor societies. The college offers dozens of interest-based, religious/spiritual and music groups as well; ranging from Model UN to Student Congress, Gender & Sexuality Diversity to the Alma Choir.
But the student org that might most closely replicate the interdisciplinary nature of a professional team is iGEM — short for the International Genetically Engineered Machine competition. It’s a long name for a simple concept: we can use science to help the communities in which we live and work.
Devin Camenares, an assistant professor of biochemistry at Alma College, leads the group, which is growing in size every year. Devin told us why the group is growing, and how you can get involved for yourself.
“Have I got a job for you!”
Basically, Devin said, the main goal of iGEM is to identify a problem in the community and use science to help solve it. But that doesn’t mean everyone who gets involved with iGEM works in a lab. iGEM believes that while research is important, it takes more than that to make change.
That’s why the iGEM team at Alma College has students tackling different jobs, based on their interests. The 2020 team had several students doing work in a lab, but there were also students who created a webpage for the project, hosted a podcast, created graphics and did other important work.
Joining iGEM is one of the best ways to meet people across campus from different disciplines. The 2020 iGEM team at Alma College included students from biochemistry, computer science, anthropology, psychology, fine arts and multimedia journalism, among others. Everyone on the iGEM team has had different experiences, Devin said, and that diversity has played a big role in the team’s success in recent years.
That’s another cool thing about iGEM — it’s a competition. Every year, more than 6,000 students from around the country work on iGEM projects. They come together in the fall to present their work at iGEM’s annual Giant Jamboree. Alma College won a gold medal at the iGEM 2020 Giant Jamboree, improving on the results of the 2019 Giant Jamboree, when the team took home a silver medal.
Make power moves
Have you ever wanted to be a part of something bigger than yourself? Something that allows you to really make change? iGEM will prepare you for that role in ways that few other student organizations can.
At the 2020 Giant Jamboree, the Alma College iGEM team explored a problem that has plagued the local Gratiot County community for decades — an environmental disaster that polluted groundwater, soil and the nearby Pine River. (The team won a gold medal for their work, too!) But even more important than the result of the Giant Jamboree, Devin said, was that the Alma iGEM team worked with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on their project.
When the federal government starts listening, you know you’re doing something important.
Do you want to learn more? Read about iGEM or contact iGEM Adviser Devin Camenares at (989) 463-7208 or email@example.com.
If you’re looking for something to do this summer in mid-Michigan, look no further.
Across the world, young students and their families are seeking ways to avoid learning loss due to school closures during the COVID-19 pandemic.
One way to potentially avoid the “pandemic plummet” — or simply get out of the house for some much-needed socialization and fresh air — is a summer camp. After holding camps virtually in 2020 due to the pandemic, Alma College, in Alma, Michigan, is back at it this summer in person.
There are a variety of activities at Alma, including performing arts camps, athletic camps in specific sports, cheerleading camps, and leadership camps, for kids from second grade through high school.
Kari Yerington, assistant director of residence life at Alma College, has a few suggestions for cool camps that families can get involved in, so that when students return to classrooms in the fall, they’ll be energized and already in learning mode.
First, a word about safety
Alma College is committed to creating a safe and healthy environment on campus, Kari said. The college adheres to all local, state and federal guidelines to ensure that the community and its guests remain safe and healthy. All faculty, staff, students and guests are required to practice safe social distancing in and around college facilities. Campers will receive more detailed information prior to arriving to campus, but families should know that they will be tested for COVID-19 before camps start.
The hottest new camp this summer is …
Ask college athletic directors across the country about the fastest-growing sports right now and they will likely come back with one common answer: eSports! Indeed, eSports and game design are way more popular than they were during the time of “Galaga” and “Mrs. Pac-Man.” (Kids, ask your parents.) Kari says she loves all of the summer camps at Alma College, but she’s really excited for the newest one, eSports and Game Design, which takes advantage of the recently opened, one-of-a-kind, bar-slash-restaurant-slash-eSports-hub , in downtown Alma.
Avoid the ‘pandemic plummet’
Learning loss due to the COVID-19 pandemic is a real issue, academics say, and summer camps can help avoid that. Alma College offers camps in several different subject areas, for students across various grade levels. They include Global Challenge, a United Nations Security Council crisis simulation for high school students, and Explorers Week, a science and mathematics course for students in grades 2-through-6. There are also science and mathematics courses for older children and a research course for incoming first-year college students, ACORN.
Exercising your social skills and body
Has staying inside during the pandemic led you and your kids to feel a little under-socialized and physically out-of-shape? (If so, you’re not alone, says the author of this piece.) Alma College offers a number of performing arts camps that can help get you feeling more “human,” including bagpipe competition, choral conducting and intensive dance. There are also athletics camps and events, where you can learn skills in football, basketball and volleyball from real collegiate athletes.
Summer camps at Alma College start in mid-June and run through August.
Students, staff and faculty members at Alma College participated in the first annual Chalk the Walk event in downtown Alma May 22.
The free event — a collaboration between downtown Alma business owners, the Alma Community Art Center and the Gratiot Area Chamber of Commerce — drew more than 100 participants and 40 sponsors overall. Trophies were made and given out by Alma Mayor Greg Mapes, along with several awards, including the Picasso Award and the Scotty Award.
Check out the photos below, courtesy of the Alma Community Art Center, to see how Alma College connects with the local area.