Social Responsibility

A Better World, Fall 2004

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No Child Left Behind:
Catchy name, bleak outlook

By Nikki Knisley
SR Graduate Assistant

Deana Hausman sits in her 1st grade classroom at Kennedy Elementary in St. Joseph and says, with a nervous laugh, “I have 28 kids this year. I thought the levy was supposed to reduce class sizes.”

Rebecca Groenewald, a teacher at Westwood Elementary School in a combined 3rd/4th grade classroom echoes this sentiment: “25 kids is a big class. As you can see, we don’t have a whole lot of room.”

These thoughts are echoed throughout District 742, as well as countless other districts nationwide. With so many states, including Minnesota, suffering from enormous budget shortfalls, passing levies that increase property taxes in order to raise additional funds for local schools has become a common solution.

A key reason for the strain on public school budgets can be traced to the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). Passed in 2002, authorized funding figures reflecting dollars necessary to accomplish the mandates established in NCLB were included in the legislation’s text. Yet since its inception, NCLB has been significantly under funded.

The current administration’s Fiscal Year (FY) 2003 budget fell $7.2 billion short of approved NCLB funding, while its FY 2004 budget is $9 billion under budget. Included in that $9 billion is $1.4 billion necessary to keep pace with inflation. Programs originally included in NCLB that addressed resources to reduce class sizes were completely eliminated from the president’s proposed FY 2004 budget.

The results have been abysmal yet predictable, as many states are unable to breach the gap between promised federal funding outlined in NCLB and actual federal dollars budgeted. In districts that fail to pass an education levy, and even in some that do, class sizes are swelling as districts are forced to lay off teachers. District 742 has had to cut teachers as well as school counselors to deal with budget pressure. They have also consolidated school populations by closing neighborhood elementary schools and turning buildings meant to house grades K-4 into K-6 schools.

These facts beg myriad questions about kids and the quality of the education they were promised in NCLB. How many kids are going to graduate this year without basic reading and writing skills? How many children will be labeled as “behavioral problems” instead of having a possible learning disability investigated? How many students will struggle during thirteen years of education and in the end come to hate the process of learning? How much potential are we missing out on by denying teachers the chance to consistently work one on one with their students?

Unfortunately, at this point, it isn’t a matter of if children will be left behind, but how many.

Faces in the Program

Spotlight on Vance Ressler

My name is Vance Ressler. I received my undergraduate degree from St. Mary’s University of Minnesota (Winona Campus) in 1997, where I majored in Social Science Secondary Education. Since that time, I have been employed at Albany Senior High School teaching U.S. Government, World Geography, and Mass Media.

During my years of teaching, I began looking for a graduate program. My career, political ideology and feelings toward the future were pulling me in the direction of a program that would contain two fundamental components. The first component would be a personal one, while the second would involve the sense of responsibility I feel toward my students and my profession.

In regards to the first component, I searched for a program that would force me to challenge the person I have become. This challenge could not be strictly academic, but would challenge my own core beliefs, values, and daily lifestyle. I wanted a program that would force me to evaluate the life that I was leading.

The second fundamental component I was looking for was a program that would provide me with the knowledge and skills that would enable me to help students in their pursuit of becoming active, responsible, and positive citizens of the world. Working with young adults on a daily basis affords me the opportunity to see an energy that has the potential to change the world.

I feel that it is my responsibility as an educator to become as informed as I possibly can in order to be a window on the world for my students. The Social Responsibility Program at SCSU has provided me with the opportunity to learn and grow in both a personal and professional way. I consider myself very fortunate to have found this program.

Spotlight on Menan Jangu and his Research

Experiences acquired throughout the time of my academic and employment career have enabled me to realize how factors such as environmental stresses, change in diets, and usage of different chemical products are more pronounced as the cause of health problems encountered by humans in the world. I realized, however, that addressing global challenges and designing holistic approaches requires the diverse understanding of various issues. I felt that with my technical knowledge in Chemical and Process Engineering (my undergraduate) alone, I was missing better understanding of societal challenges.

It was from the above facts that I thought of graduate studies in Social Responsibility offered at St. Cloud State University. I considered the Social Responsibility program would strengthen my social skills and enable me to acquire skills and knowledge that would give me a better understanding of human relations and their interactions with the environment. I also wanted to learn more about environmental issues. These facts are the foundations for my ambition to simultaneously pursue two Master’s Degrees at St. Cloud State University: Social Responsibility and Environmental and Technological Studies.

Having lived in communities that successfully depended on traditional knowledge in various aspects such as health and medical care services has raised my consciousness about the need to preserve and foster the applications of traditional knowledge. This has been my motive to conduct research for a thesis titled, “Traditional healing Practices and Their Applications in Health Care Systems in Tanzania”. It is particularly important to establish the nature and status of indigenous knowledge in some social structures and their contributions in addressing various health and environmental challenges, which is reason for me to identify this area for my research. The major drive for undertaking this research has been to excavate the cultural, economical, historical and political practices that inform the use and/or deterioration of traditional indigenous knowledge in medical field.

There is an important need to emphasize traditional knowledge, because its applications in many fields are declining each year in Tanzania. Threats to human health are emerging at an alarming rate, the conditions that make for imperative actions at individual, local, national, regional and global levels to recognize and accept traditional medicine in the predominant health care systems. Systems that have been shaped by a dominant health paradigm in which only western medicines can solve the problems related to health and medical care.

Grad News

Greetings to everyone connected to the Social Responsibility Graduate Program! My name is Heather Ebnet and I graduated from the program in May of 2003. I currently live in Albany, MN with my partner Ryan (whom I met while taking classes in the Social Responsibility Program) and our son Isaac. I am also currently the 21st Century Grant Coordinator at Talahi Elementary and I am an Adjunct professor in Human Relations and Multicultural Education at SCSU.

I entered the program with a B.S. degree in Elementary Education from The College of Saint Benedict. I was very interested in incorporating diversity issues into my classroom and the Social Responsibility program was a perfect fit. I began my coursework and realized that there was so much more to this master’s program than I first realized. I began learning about issues of social justice and the way they fit into education, politics, and my own personal life. My life began to change and I was inspired that one person can truly make a difference in this world. I saw for the first time in my life that I had a voice and that my voice could be used to influence and make change. It was because of the guidance of wonderful professors that the Social Responsibility program became more than just a pay raise for me. It became about changing the world one person at a time.

It is hard to explain the numerous ways I use the information I gained from the Social Responsibility Program. There are days when I feel like a minute does not pass without some connection to what I learned as a graduate student. As the coordinator of the 21st Century Learning Grant at Talahi, I work with a diverse group of fifth and sixth grade students. I rely on the information I learned as a graduate student to help me better understand and connect to my student’s lives. For me, it is important to understand their culture and personal history in order to truly be an advocate for them. While teaching classes in Human Relations and Multicultural Education, I rely on many of the resources I gathered while taking courses in the SR program to reach my own students. I have repeatedly relied on the advice of the professors I had in graduate school to help me become a better professor. I also continue to reach out to my family and friends by presenting them with information they may not receive through mainstream media sources. The Social Responsibility Program really is a part of every aspect of my life.

I would like to thank all the professors and friends I was able to meet while a student at SCSU. You have all truly impacted my life more than you will ever know. You have brought me hope in times that don’t seem hopeful and peace in times that are not peaceful. For that, I am grateful.

Meet the Faculty

Hello, my name is Lindah Mhando. Before coming to St. Cloud State I was at State University of New York where I earned my PhD in Sociology and Plattsburgh State University where I taught courses in Sociology, Women studies, Human development, Africana studies and Criminal Justice. At present I am teaching Race and Ethnicity classes and Sociology of Inequality. Next semester, I will add another interesting class namely, “World System and Gender Relations” in my repertoire.

My major research interest is World systems. In particularly I am interested in challenging the social whole by bringing existential global histories, which provide a framework to investigate transnational, local viewpoints, cultural studies and world politics. I also have a long standing interest in interlocking relations of Gender, Race and Class more importantly how we can re-map the critical geographies that overlap or displace the conceptual mapping of the gendered, racialized and sexualized bodies which embodies many “unspeakable things.” I am also interested in post colonial contraventions, historical forces behind the dispersal of African people in the New World in the 19th and 20th century, commodification of female labor (trafficking and violence on female bodies) and Transnational feminism. I have written on issues of pedagogy, feminist theories, women and development, peace and political history and more recently, I have been engaged in the study of Griots and Griottes, as well as empirical research on the impact of HIV/AIDS.

Why St. Cloud? Teaching students from working class has always fascinated me. I believe they bring to class, down-to-earth engagement that goes hand in glove with the use of non-conventional teaching approaches. This I believe enhances the learning environment. I look forward to a fruitful career.

Essay From A G.A.

By Paul Gregersen
SR Graduate Assistant

Depending on how efficient the printer and the U.S Postal Service function, the most significant election of our generation may be history by the time this newsletter makes its way into your fingertips. If so, then you are fully aware that ____ is going to lead this country through the next four years as President of the United States, assuming the votes were counted/recounted correctly.

You may be ecstatic that _____ will occupy 1600 Pennsylvania Ave through 2008 because you have been disgusted by his opponent and the people around him for what seems like an eternity. You might be thinking, “I’m glad he got elected but is he really that much different from his Ivy League counterpart?” Then again, it is very possible that you are dismayed because _____ managed to frighten enough people into casting votes for him by using such terms such as “evildoer,” “terrorists” and “gay.”

Remember, no matter who our president and his colleagues are, no matter what his agenda is, and no matter where is finances originate, we must continue to let our voices be heard. Just because the votes have been counted, doesn’t mean our opportunity to participate in this wonderful democracy is over. We can continue to push a responsible progressive agenda. Write letters, protest, email, talk to your family and friends, call your congress people and never forget that it IS PATRIOTIC to question our government, no matter who the elephant or donkey is that sits behind a desk in the oval office.

Let it be known to supporters of _____ that just because he resides in office, doesn’t mean he owns the key to the door. We do, regardless if we voted for him or not. For all we know, we might have. Let’s hope so. If not, let it be known even louder.

The Social Responsibility program at SCSU is a great place to start, educate yourself, become aware of the issues and spread the word about the program! If you are reading this and you are not a member of the program but are interested, let us know and get involved! Most importantly, let’s work together. Regardless if the _____s of this country, who serve at the local, state and federal level, received our votes or not, this democracy is ours.

Let’s use it!

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