Astrophysics Club Field Trip

This series is part of an effort to showcase the many great employees who contribute to teaching and learning efforts at MVC.

Posted on behalf of Shahnaz Sokhansanj.

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What teaching and learning opportunity recently occurred at Mountain View College (MVC)?

The Astrophysics Club took three van loads of students on a field trip to the Three Rivers Foundation (3RF) Observatory in Crowell, Texas. This was a continuation of a club tradition that began more than 15 years ago. The astrophysics club has been active for many years at Mountain View College and has been trying to engage students outside of the classroom by inviting experts in the field of physics and astronomy to campus. We encourage students to research various topics related to physics and astronomy, and to later present their research to the class. We also travel to places such as the Very Large Array telescopes in New Mexico; NASA Mission Control in Houston; Cape Canaveral in Florida; the McDonald Observatory in Fort Davis, Texas; the meteor crater in Odessa, Texas; and the Three Rivers Foundation in northwest Texas. We have done each of these trips a few times. We also have monthly star parties on campus for students, MVC employees, and their families, and for the community as well.

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What about this topic are you most excited about?

Physics and astronomy open the door to the beauty and order of the universe. They also can make science come alive, so that anyone can enjoy it. Science is often misunderstood by the public and is rarely as appreciated as, for example, music or the performing arts. So astronomy is a form of science that people can “relate” to and connect with, and that is what is most exciting to me as a teacher. Physics and astronomy touch upon the great mysteries of the universe. Does the universe have a beginning and an end? Why do human beings exist? We all want to know where we come from and where we are destined to go.  We want to learn about the smallest particle (or string in case of string theory)  in this world as much as we want to know what may lie at the edge of the universe. In sum, physics and astronomy help us understand who we are—morally, mentally and physically.

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Why is this topic so important to everyone at MVC?

Astronomy is inherently appealing to almost everyone, both within the MVC community and outside of it, from young children to older adults. Its appeal to a wide range of people is shown by its millenia-old history in cultures from around the world. Aside from that, there are legions of dedicated amateur astronomers of all ages, from many professions, ethnic groups and genders. Astronomy brings everyone together and creates a common bond among all these people, and also creates a bond from each of these people to science itself.

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What did participants learn or take away from this experience?

Because the conditions for sky observation during this trip were less than ideal, the students had to be patient and resourceful. These are traits that are absolutely necessary for any scientist and for many engineers as well. We were able to do many indoor activities, and also were able to watch the sky whenever there was a break in the weather. We were able to see the Milky Way stretched across the sky full of stars in the middle of the night, while coyotes were making noise a short distance away, probably fighting over scant prey. We visited and learned about a variety of telescopes on the 3RF campus. The trip allowed students to learn how to cope with other people in close quarters while having fun and learning at the same time. They also were able to experience a very rural area far from the urban environs of Dallas, which expanded their educational and social horizons.

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What is some of the feedback you received regarding this event?

The students were very appreciative of this opportunity. They mentioned that the trip was unforgettable to them, not only from an educational standpoint. While this field trip allowed them to have fun with a group of their peers and classmates, it was also a spiritually enriching experience, as it allowed them to see all the beauty of the sky above us.

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If people would like to learn more about this topic, where would you point them towards?

There are many web sites available on the field of astronomy. For example:

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There are very good documentary or films on science-themed channels such as Nova and National Geographic and many others. The resources above are only a few among many. While there are many astronomy-oriented web sites, please be sure to avoid the astrology sites, because that is not what we would consider astronomy.

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Faculty Spotlight: Jessica Battes-Grabowski

The Teaching & Learning Center at Mountain View College seeks to share teaching practices across the entire institution. The following article showcases a faculty member, provides insight into the environment they’ve created for MVC students, and demonstrates effective teaching practices. 

This month we showcase Professor Jessica Battes-Grabowski .

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What is one element about MVC that makes it the “best college on earth?”

The students are what make MVC so special! Teaching art classes have given me the opportunity to get to know my student’s thoughts and feelings about a wide range of topics and issues. I have come to find that MVC has a fantastic student body that is focused on achieving their goals. I am also continually impressed with how friendly and thoughtful the students are at MVC.

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How would your students describe you or your teaching style?

I think students would say I have a blended style of teaching because I incorporate demonstrations, multimedia presentations, activities (both individual and group), traditional lectures and class discussions. This blended style of teaching allows me to reach all students and keep them engaged with the material.

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What teaching strategies do you find most successful in your courses?

I make sure to incorporate new technologies that my students are familiar with and interested in. I make sure to begin each class by stating the itinerary and goals for the class period. This helps keep students on task and aware of deadlines.

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What do your students love most about your courses?

I think my students love being challenged by the projects I give, the ability to explore new ideas, techniques and the freedom to express themselves in a safe environment free from judgment. I think they enjoy a lot of freedom with their projects. I want them to bring their own experiences and interests into the course.

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What is one creative solution you’ve implemented to address a specific challenge in your courses?

Students sometimes have trouble talking about their artwork. I have found that writing assignments can really help students to formulate their ideas and concepts. This exercise also helps students to present their work during the critique more clearly.

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What has been your most positive or rewarding teaching experience?

Sometimes a student begins a project with a lot of self doubt and trepidation. When they overcome this fear and finish the project successfully with great pride in what they have accomplished it is extremely rewarding.

What advice would you give to a new faculty member at MVC?

Get to know you students and find out what they are interested in. This will help you incorporate new elements into your course and keep students engaged in the material.

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Who is one person at MVC who has been instrumental to your success (and why)?

Professor James Behan and Cristina Medina have both been instrumental in helping me be successful at MVC. They are always there to help and answer any questions or concerns I have. Their support has been really great and I have learned a great deal from both of them.

 

Establishing a Human Connection in Online Courses

There is something magical about the first day of class. Everyone arrives excited about the semester ahead, there’s a buzz that can be felt around all parts of campus, and it is truly the first time you, a faculty member, are able to connect with your students. That connection, one which signals credibility, provides insight into the subject matter as a whole, and, perhaps most importantly, establishes a human connection for the entire semester, ensures that students feel connected to their learning environment. Instructors are human after all and instructor presence is an important aspect of teaching and learning.

Credibility, Insight, Connection

As I began to strategize for the first day of delivery, I wanted to ensure that I achieved all three elements stated above (credibility, insight, and connection). Teaching an online course, the challenge I face would be never actually getting to see my students in front of me. I could of course write an award winning essay that addressed these same elements, but reading alone might not be the best method to achieve the results I seek. I want each student to feel a personal connection and I believe video to be the most effective format for that purpose.

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That Horrible Blinking Record Icon

As it turns out being in front of the camera is an entirely different experience than being in front of a classroom full of students. In the classroom you don’t have time to worry about your hair, if you tend to say the word “um” a few times, the pitch of your voice, or how often you tend to blink. In front of the camera however, that’s all you tend to worry about as you transition from looking at your students to looking at yourself for the duration of the video. The funny thing is, even faculty who have spent years in front of a classroom may turn camera-shy as soon as soon as that little red record light comes on. There is no escaping or ignoring that blinking red light.

Beep. Recording. Beep. Recording. Beep. Eek!

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Something Magical Happens

Once you realize that you’re no longer auditioning for a lead role in the next summer blockbuster, you let your guard down just enough to appear to be a normal human being. Then something truly magical happens…you begin to smile…your sense of humor becomes apparent…and you end with a video that (although it won’t win any awards) isn’t that bad after all. Heck, you could do this every week! Kidding of course.

The end result is that, by simply creating an introductory video for your online course,  you will have established an instructional relationship with your students that encompasses all aspects of a “Community of Inquiry” model (image below). Such a video, in whatever method you use to create it, helps students feel a sense of belonging in their course (even if they’ll never actually see you in person since this is an online class after all).

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Garrison, Anderson, and Archer Community of Inquiry Model

Last Steps

The last step I needed to accomplish was simply sharing the video with my students. I did this by uploading the video to YouTube publicly (I know that’s a scary idea for some instructors, but unlisting the video on YouTube or utilizing Vimeo with privacy settings fully enabled would have been other options). Once uploaded I made sure to create closed captioning (subtitles), before embedding the video in my first official welcome message within Blackboard (image below).

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Additional Resources

Share Your Process

Please feel free to add your comments or suggestions in the comment box below. I’d love to learn what other instructors are doing and in turn share great ideas even further.

Faculty Spotlight: Yasmin Gulzar

The Teaching & Learning Center at Mountain View College seeks to share teaching practices across the entire institution. The following article showcases a faculty member, provides insight into the environment they’ve created for MVC students, and demonstrates effective teaching practices. 

This month we showcase Yasmin Gulzar, Professor of Computer Science.

What is one element about MVC that makes it the “best college on earth?”

Wow, this is hard to describe in “one” element but the first thing that came to my mind was diversity.  Mountain View College is full of diversity – If you look all around the campus you will see people here from all parts of the world.  But MVC is diverse in all areas; student dreams and goals, teaching and learning, in every department and in every area of MVC.  I believe that this is one of the many elements that makes MVC the “best college on earth” and sets us apart from all other campuses; we embrace all the different aspects of every culture that is unique within each area of MVC.

MVC is able to embrace diversity because of the MVC family atmosphere here on-campus, and this is one thing I like to bring into my classrooms and tell my students that you all are part of a big family here at MVC and our goal and mission is to help you succeed not only in my classroom but also in your life.  We are here for our students to help them achieve their goals and dreams!

How would your students describe you or your teaching style?

Based on the class surveys I give my students at the end of each semester, students have described me as: caring, inspirational, punctual, organized and respected. Below is some feedback I have received from my students on the class surveys:

“I really liked this class it was helpful and really fun to go too”

“One of the best teachers here at Mountain View. I really enjoyed her class.”

“Best teacher ever at MVC in my opinion. She is super nice, helps you whenever, understands that things in life happens. She is the angel among teachers.”

“The labs were VERY time consuming for me but it was a good way for me to learn. DO NOT get behind! It is a lot of work but it is not hard at all! She is very helpful. She responds to emails quickly and she would even email us every week to remind us what work was due.”

“Mrs. Gulzar is very helpful and can guide you through any problems you may have, plus she’s nice.  :)”

What teaching strategies do you find most successful in your courses?

The teaching strategies that I have found most useful in my courses are anything that get students engaged in the learning process so for me this involves:

  • Active learning & Interactive lectures – I have students get involved in the lecture by dividing them up into groups and giving them topics from the chapter readings. They are told to read through their topic, analyze what they read, and create a PPT presentation on their topic and present it to the class.  This gets students engaged in the learning process and students enjoy learning from each other. Students have always told me they like doing this because it allows them to learn and hear from their peers.
  • Discussion Strategies – students are given discussion topics to talk about at the end of lectures, discussion topics are tied into real-world examples so students can see how that chapters topics are being used in the real-world.

What do your students love most about your courses?

I teach Computer Science courses so when students come into my class they are learning about computer concepts and computer applications.  Based on what students have come back and told me and the feedback I have received on my class surveys students love working with the simulations, they like working on group projects and being able to present topics to the class.  I have had students tell me that they like being able to hear what their peers think about the topics being presented and they like listening to these things from a different perspective.  I think what they love most about these courses is that they are learning real-life skills and applications and they enjoy how the whole course ties into the real-world.

What is one creative solution you’ve implemented to address a specific challenge in your courses?

I believe getting students engaged in the classroom is a challenge I have faced and I have been able to address this challenge by utilizing group projects and interactive lectures to get students involved in the learning process. I use a lot of cooperative and active learning and apply some of the flipped classroom approach in my classes.  By doing this, students are having to read, write, analyze and create presentations as a group and then present their projects and topics to the class.  I also use a Learning Management System where students can work in a simulation environment and learn software applications being taught with a hands-on approach.

What has been your most positive or rewarding teaching experience?

The most positive and rewarding teaching experience has been to see students from my past classes come back to me and say, your class was great and what we learned in their we used in our other classes. Also, being able to link students with industry partners and to know that you are helping them achieve their goals and dreams is a rewarding experience.  We are here at MVC to help our students succeed in life and if I can help at least 1 student achieve their goal then I will feel like I have done my job well.

What advice would you give to a new faculty member at MVC?

Enjoy each and every day you have with these students, sometimes you alone are going to be there mentor, coach, advocate and support to help get them through that semester.  Working at MVC is an honor, make sure you avail opportunities to give back to the community and support MVC in all you do.  Lastly, be committed to lifelong learning, because like I tell my students in my classes, learning doesn’t end in my class or at the end of the semester, we are always learning even as Instructor’s we are always trying to find new ways to teach our students and get them engaged in our classrooms, we do this by committing ourselves to lifelong learning.

Who is one person at MVC who has been instrumental to your success (and why)?

Wow! This is a really, really tough one and it was so hard to narrow it down to one person because there have been many MVC family members who have been an inspiration to me and have helped guide me while on my journey here at MVC.

If I must pick one person then I have to say, Alex Diaz.  When I first came to MVC five years ago as an adjunct instructor, my Dean at that time, Alex Diaz, was a remarkable person who taught me to pursue my goal of full-time teaching.  I have learned so much from him, he is a dedicated person always ready to assist his students, his fellow faculty members and his division.

Library: Internet Access Student Survey

Posted on behalf of Stephanie Noell, Librarian.

What prompted this survey and why are you interested in the results?

This survey is the result of a series of conversations I have had with my librarian colleagues as well as faculty and staff from across the college. In my experience as an instructor, I came across several students whose only access to the Internet at home was via their smartphone. Over the last year, I have spoken with other employees at Mountain View and many reported the same experience. These experiences combined with a survey by one of Dr. Patricia Lyons’s classes on phone usage at MVC left me wondering just how our students are accessing the Internet at home. The results of such a survey would be helpful in determining how important the on-campus computer labs are to our students.

How does device usage, access to the Internet, and student technology preferences impact the teaching and learning environment?

Since most of our courses have accompanying eCampus pages, access to the Internet is now right up there with food, shelter, and clothing in terms of daily essentials for our students. How students access the Internet impacts how well they are able to write and format their papers as well as research for their projects. In the instance of my students who only have access to the Internet at home via their smartphones, these students were typically also working full-time jobs and were single parents. With our labs closing around the same time that classes let out for the day, these students were left with little to no time to work on any other device but their phone. The papers that they typed up on their phone were not formatted well and were difficult to read.

As far as technology preferences go, the number one issue that comes up for me as an instructor (and as a librarian assisting students in formatting their papers) has been students who own a Mac who save their papers as Pages documents. Pages and Word are both word processing software that do not play well together on PCs. If students are typing up their papers in Pages, make sure that when they are done they go to File>Export As>Microsoft Word (.docx). This will save a Word document version which they can then submit for their eCampus assignments.

Was there anything that surprised you in the results and if so, why?

The results of our survey were as follows:

Q: What kind of Internet access do you have at home?

  • None = 2
  • Smartphone = 60
  • Laptop = 53
  • Desktop = 29
  • Tablet = 41
  • Other
    • TV = 11
    • Xbox = 6
    • Playstation = 7
    • Nintendo = 5

The surprising aspect of these results for me was how few of the responses fell under the None category. With so many of our students living at or below the poverty line and with Internet bills and computers being as expensive as they are, I was surprised to see how much of a financial priority technology and Internet access are to our students and their families. I was also surprised to learn how many students are using gaming consoles and SmartTVs to access the Internet at home. I would be interested in exploring the functionality of our webpages and our eCampus sites on the various gaming consoles. Finally, the low numbers of desktop computers when compared with mobile technology like smartphones, laptops, and tablets seems to indicate a preference for mobility with one’s hardware. Since most of our students are accessing the Internet off-campus from mobile devices, we must be mindful of how mobile-friendly our online resources are. For eCampus pages, there are many considerations to make for content to be mobile-friendly (see Blackboard PDF below).

If interested in learning more about this topic, what web resources might you point people towards?

  1. Blackboard. (2017). Best practices for mobile-friendly courses. Retrieved from http://www.blackboard.com/Images/MobileBestPractices_FINAL.pdf
  2. Feinberg, I., & Greenberg, D. (2016, August 11). How adult learners are not getting 21st-century skills. The Conversation. Retrieved from https://theconversation.com/how-adult-learners-are-not-getting-21st-century-skills-63490
  3. Young, L. (2016). E-learning, the digital divide, and student success at community colleges. EDUCAUSE Review, 51(5). Retrieved from https://er.educause.edu/articles/2016/8/e-learning-the-digital-divide-and-student-success-at-community-colleges

Faculty Spotlight: Shelley Ford

The Teaching & Learning Center at Mountain View College seeks to share teaching practices across the entire institution. The following article showcases a faculty member, provides insight into the environment they’ve created for MVC students, and demonstrates effective teaching practices. 

This month we showcase Shelley Ford, MSN, RN, Nursing Professor.

What is one element about MVC that makes it the “best college on earth?”

I love the community at MVC, and I love our diversity. I guess those are two elements. But I think they are both so important, and two of the reasons I’m so proud to work at Mountain View. The faculty and staff show great pride in their work and remain strong advocates for our students. Our differences, both as employees and students, make us stronger and help us strive toward excellence in all we do.

How would your students describe you or your teaching style?

I think my students would describe me as outgoing and friendly, but tough. I take the job of training future registered nurses very seriously, and I hold our MVC nursing students up to the highest standards. My teaching style is interactive, and I do everything I can to make the classroom an open environment. As a nursing professor, we teach in several different settings – theory lecture in the classroom, skills courses in the simulation lab, and clinical practice at the hospital. In all of the environments, I ask a lot of questions and encourage student participation.

What teaching strategies do you find most successful in your courses?

I believe open dialogues are important. When a student comes to me asking for help with their course work, I try to start the conversation with listening and understanding what they’re doing on their own and then offer advice to assist their progress. When I teach in the classroom, I walk around a lot to show the students that I am engaged in their learning and not just reading off a slide or directly from the book. In all of my teaching environments, I ask questions to allow students to use their critical thinking skills before just giving them the right answer. As future nurses, they need to know how to find the solution using the tools they’ve been taught. I believe it is my job to give them those tools, along with teaching the critical thinking skills they will use for the rest of their careers.

What do your students love most about your courses?

As a nursing professor, I am blessed to teach students in small groups (as mandated by the state board of nursing), so I get the privilege of getting to know our students very well over the 2 years they are in our program. I think my students like my level of engagement and the passion for nursing I display in my teaching. All of our nursing courses are very difficult, but I try to remain personal and approachable to help assist all students during one of the most stressful periods of their lives. I use a lot of examples from nursing practice and make the material presented in all of our teaching environments relatable. I make sure the students know I remember what it was like to be a nursing student myself, and therefore, I will do everything I can to help them be successful within the policies of our program.

What is one creative solution you’ve implemented to address a specific challenge in your courses?

Nursing requires a lot of hands-on learning. During my time here at MVC, I have worked directly with the dean and other faculty members to revise and update many of our courses. We have changed aspects of our curriculum to ensure students are up, moving around, and engaged with active learning in the skills & simulation lab, instead of sitting and listening to a lecture. We have worked hard to maximize their time during skills and on-campus clinical courses to give them as much active practice as possible, so they are fully equipped to take care of real patients in the hospital clinical settings.

What has been your most positive or rewarding teaching experience?

Nursing Pinning is my favorite day of the school year. I am the faculty member in charge of pinning each year, and I love working with the graduating students to plan their big day. Pinning is a worldwide nursing tradition that goes back centuries. I love getting to celebrate with our graduates and their families. Watching them walk across the stage to receive their MVC nursing pin brings me such joy and pride. All of their hard work has paid off, and we get to celebrate their extraordinary accomplishments.

What advice would you give to a new faculty member at MVC?

Give yourself some grace as you begin teaching at MVC. Whether you’re new to teaching or just new to our institution, there is always a learning curve. Don’t be afraid to ask for help (lots of help!), advice, and guidance as you acclimate to your new position. Get to know your coworkers – they are invaluable resources. Remain firm with students, but humble. Practice consistency in the classroom, which students appreciate and respect, but don’t forget to also practice compassion. Learn from your mistakes and implement guidelines to prevent the same mistakes from happening again next semester.

Who is one person at MVC who has been instrumental to your success (and why)?

Without a doubt, it is Cherlyn Shultz-Ruth, Dean of Allied Health/Nursing. When I started at MVC, she was still a full-time professor at El Centro and serving as an adjunct at MVC. She spent extra time with me during my first semester teaching me how to use Blackboard and other ways to enhance my teaching skills. After coming to MVC full-time, we served as faculty coordinators together, and I learned so much watching how she taught with clarity, intelligence, and passion. Once she was appointed Dean, she has thrived in the role, and I am proud to serve under her leadership. She is a huge student advocate, loves nursing, and is committed to graduating qualified, compassionate, MVC-strong nurses.

Teaching & Learning: Nepantla

This series is part of an effort to showcase the many great employees who contribute to teaching and learning efforts at MVC.

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Posted on behalf of Professor Tina Medina.

What teaching and learning opportunity recently occurred at Mountain View College (MVC)?

Currently a solo exhibition by MVC faculty Tina Medina is on view at Mountain View College in the Cliff Gallery from the dates March 6 until April 7, 2017. A workshop based on the art techniques will occur on March 29, 10:10am until 11:00am in the Cliff Gallery. In connection with the Nepantla exhibition, Dallas artist Tina Medina will demonstrate portrait drawing related to visual heritage. Participants will experience mixed media drawing techniques and be guided on how to draw portraiture. Participants are encouraged to bring a copy of a photo of a face or work from those provided. The workshop is free and art materials will be provided. Space is Limited, the workshop is limited to 15 people, thus, the first 15 who show up to the workshop will be given a seat. However we welcome onlookers and questions from those individuals that do not get to directly participate in the workshop activities.

What about this topic are you most excited about?

The exhibit relates specifically to the student population and community demographic. Through various themes about family, ancestry and US history, the art is portrayed from the viewpoint of people from various ethnic backgrounds and immigrants. The themes relate also to the current events and political topics. Through this art exhibition I am hoping to open avenues of communication, dialogue and discussion for all students and members of the community. These artworks are meant to create critical thinking situations for students in classes of all disciplines.

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Why is this topic so important to everyone at MVC?

These topics are so important to everyone at MVC because these viewpoints are the viewpoints of our students, faculty and staff. Various individuals from all walks of life and cultural backgrounds come together at the community college in order to better their lives, whether that be through working or taking classes there. The diversity of our campus is the strength and beauty of our college.

What did participants learn or take away from this experience?

Participants who view the art exhibit and/or participate in the workshop will learn about various art methods including installation art, mixed media techniques, as well as themes in art regarding ancestry, politics, social protest, affirmation, race, gender and class. Those who view the art will hopefully take away questions about history and the viewpoints of others.

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What is some of the feedback you received regarding this event?

Some of the feedback so far has been that many who have seen the art comment on how the topics are powerful and meaningful. Faculty have requested to view the exhibit with their classes, the Culture of Writing Festival will feature the exhibit as part of a presentation during the festival. A local news channel has contacted MVC media about interviewing the artist.

If people would like to learn more about this topic, where would you point them towards?

Interested people who want to learn more about the art exhibit or the workshop can visit or contact the Cliff art gallery or contact the ARCO division office. Regarding learning more about the topics in the art exhibition people will find more information in libraries and literature and history books written from the viewpoints of people of varying racial ethnicities and cultures.