Over the break, I had taken an online winter intercession Course (STA 210), this course was designed to be a semester long course but was jam-packed into 9 days. Since I am still on USP I needed this class to fulfill my requirements and graduate but it was not one that I wanted to spend an entire semester doing.
While I was thinking I was doing the smart thing by cramming it all into just over a week long course, it was difficult to do. First because I was out of town for the first week of the class and it was difficult to stay motivated to complete all the assignments every day but second because there was so much information being thrown at you at once it was easy to rush through the assignments to get them done. This was my approach to the class and while I felt great that I had completed all my assignments and did well in the course, at the end I felt as though I had not learned much from the course.
I have been taking ITIQ Web Publishing (A&S 100-205) which uses Canvas a system that is similar to Blackboard but in my opinion it functions much better. One of the first things that I noticed about Canvas was that the login page took you straight to your course, where BB (Blackboard) takes you to another landing page where you have to select your course from a list. Another thing that Canvas does better than BB was the way that you can switch between courses, there is a drop down at the top of the page that you just select a different course. This is much better than having to go back to the BB landing page, wait for it to load and then select another course from the list.
Canvas is much faster and everything on a page loads very quickly. There are two sections on the BB landing page that I don’t know what they are about because they never load, which doesn’t matter because all I want are my courses anyways.
This weekend a couple local friends and I drove out to Burana Tower, a former minaret in a town called Tokmok, about an hour by car outside the capital Bishkek. The minaret, along with mausoleums, grave markers, and castle remnants, is all that remains of a 9th century town in Kyrgyzstan’s Chui Valley. As usual in such a diverse country, Burana Tower makes for a fascinating and beautiful scene. The brick minaret and its winding staircase tower over the area, while grave markers resembling Easter Island statues are scattered throughout the valley. Yurts, the traditional form of Kyrgyz nomadic housing, are set up throughout the vicinity, and the ubiquitous snow-capped Kyrgyz mountains surround the entire valley. It was a fun trip with lots of adventures along the way, including asking a Tajik farm worker for directions, and stopping for кымыз, the traditional Kyrgyz refreshment made from fermented mare’s milk. All in all, a great way to spend a Sunday morning here in Киргизия.
Writing in the final days leading up to the 2012 presidential election, I am struck both by the importance of higher education to the presidential contest and the deep engagement of our College faculty and students with the election. As our nation debates its future, it is no surprise the future of higher education has become a key issue. Our future depends on increasing access to college; affordability of a college education and the availability of student loans are thus essential. Funding for research is equally essential. Public research universities, including the University of Kentucky, are responsible for more than sixty percent of the nation’s academic research and educate over seventy percent of the scientists, engineers, doctors, and professionals that we produce in this country. Continued public investment in our basic and applied research is therefore essential to the health, prosperity, and technological advancement of our nation.
While on a командировка in Jalalabad, Kyrgyzstan this month, I had some free time to visit Arslanbob, the largest walnut grove on earth. In Russian, the term for walnut is грецкий орех, which literally translates to “Greek nut.”
This past weekend, I got to go on an excursion to the Olkhon, and it was truly amazing. I learned a lot of history about the town of the island and the people who live there, and truly enjoyed the beautiful scenery. Thursday, Iraida Petrovna texted all of us and asked us to come to her office before class. When we did, she dropped a small bombshell on us - we were being given the opportunity to go on a three day trip to the island of Olkhon, the biggest island in Lake Baikal, but the trip was leaving Friday morning, cost 5400 rubles (roughly $180), and we had to let her know before the end of the day. Originally I told her I wouldn't go, because I wasn't sure I had the money. But after a quick conversation with my mom, I changed my mind and told her I would go. It was a wonderful trip. The island is beautiful, and I got amazing pictures, which are on Facebook - I took almost 200, so I'm not going to try to send more than a couple. It was very cold on the island - the temperature wasn't more than 50 degrees the entire weekend, and since it was an island, there was a lot of wind, but it was wonderful weather. Clear, sunny days - great for taking pictures.
Well, here I am struggling to believe I've only been in Siberia for two weeks - it feels like its been months already! I've seen and done so much that I can't believe it's all happened in two weeks, but maybe that's because I spent three days trying to recover from jet lag, and they were the longest three days of my life. I've done some pretty cool stuff - a tour of historic Irkutsk, exploring the central market and the city, getting lost on a bus at night, eating at a Lord of the Rings themed pub, a trip to Lake Baikal and the open air musuem of Толций (Toltsey), and getting enrolled and figuring out which classes to take. Of all the things I've done so far, the school part has been the most overwhelming (although for the first couple days, the fact that I really had no idea how to communicate anything beyonds extremely basic needs was frightening). I knew that I would be taking classes here, but for some reason, I thought I'd only be taking three or four. Instead, it turns out that in addition to the twelve hours I'll be spending every week in a class devoted only to learning Russian, I will also be taking six more classes, four of which will be in Russian. This is definitely going to be a test to see how fast I can learn.
I arrived in Moscow on a direct flight from JFK International. Just a few hours before the flight I was notified that Moscow State University had somehow forgotten to reserve our rooms for us American students… something they haven’t done in over fifteen years. I arrived at Sheremetyevo airport a little nervous. I knew nothing about what lay ahead. After a few moments I met up with other American students and we were told to get into a car heading to our apartment in Shablovka. Luckily, I grabbed a car with a student from New York who spoke fluent Russian. As we crept slowly toward Moscow, and I say crept only because traffic is insane and ever-present here, I was shocked by the beauty of Moscow’s architecture.
I had, for some reason, imagined Moscow’s architecture as being austere before coming here. I pictured easy-to-build, mass-produced, government-planned concrete buildings everywhere like I had seen in many Soviet history films. Instead, I found myself in one of the most beautiful cities I have ever seen. Moscow, to me, is the “crossroads of the world” because the buildings here are so eclectic. It sits at the intersection of Europe, Siberia, and Central Asia. Its buildings have hints of Middle Eastern, European and Central/South Asian influences coupled with uniquely Russian elements.
Recently, I had the pleasure of meeting all of our entering A&S students during the University’s K Week events, wherein we welcomed our largest undergraduate class ever. The official numbers are not in yet, but the University was set to enroll as many as 4700 new first-year students, up from 4100 last year. The total number of A&S majors is also set to achieve an enrollment high. As the College teaches 85% of all UK Core and 60% of all undergraduate students credit hours we will see almost all these new first-year students in our courses this fall. Educating such a large number of students can be exhilarating. On this issue, I am continually impressed, at the innovation and dedication of the A&S faculty. Over the last several months many departments have taken on curricular revisions. For just a few examples I offer the following: the Department of Mathematics offered a calculus boot camp for incoming students two weeks before classes started. Dubbed FastTrack, first-year students came to campus in early August for an intensive, two-week, 8-hour a day calculus study, and by all measures this pilot program was a success with plans for further expansion next year. The Chemistry Department has completely reimaged their General Chemistry courses, which is the most populous course in the entire University.