How Good is Advising at Wittenberg?

June 7th, 2011

Apparently, it is pretty good! Last summer, I asked students to rate advising at Wittenberg.

The Faculty Manual lists the following objectives for the academic advising program:

  • To help the student understand the nature of a liberal education
  • To help the student obtain maximum benefit from the total educational experience by discussing emerging interests and relating these interests to University opportunities and opportunities beyond the classroom
  • To help the student determine career goals based on the student’s aptitudes and interests and outline a course of study that will enable the student to achieve these goals
  • To assist students in understanding the policies and regulations which give structure to the students’ educational experience
  • To offer support to a student as academic and developmental problems arise by counseling or referring the student to appropriate resources

The survey questions mirror these objectives, and the results are here. advising_survey

Is Your Department Easy or Hard?

June 7th, 2011

Are the grades given out in your department a little on the high side, or are your colleagues too tough? Or just right? To answer that question, it would not be a good idea to simply compare average departmental GPAs across campus. We all “know” that some departments attract better students.

Is it possible to account for the quality of student in your department, down to the class level? I have constructed a GPA predictor for entering Witt students. It uses High School GPA and an index number of HS quality to predict Wittenberg GPA at the end of a student’s first year. I would argue that it is a good proxy for the “quality” of an entering student.

If you apply the predictor to every Wittenberg student, compare it to the actual grade given (to calculate a differential), aggregate across all students in a section, and again at the department level, we can see some interesting patterns.

The first column names the department. Actually, I have used invisible ink so as not to set off a campus kerfuffle.   (I would tell you under solemn oath on which row your department resides.) The third column gives the average predicted GPA for students in FA10 classes. It may be a proxy for the quality of student attracted to a particular department. Column 2 reports the grades given in a certain department.

The department in row 1 attracts good students who are predicted to earn B+ grades, while they actually earn B- grades on average. That department is the toughest grading department at Wittenberg using this measure. The department listed last in the table is the easiest grading department using this method.

department Avg. FA10 grade Avg. predicted grade Differential
2.76 3.37 -0.60
2.41 2.88 -0.47
2.90 3.28 -0.38
2.92 3.19 -0.27
2.93 3.19 -0.26
2.93 3.17 -0.24
2.82 3.02 -0.20
2.72 2.91 -0.19
3.15 3.29 -0.14
3.11 3.21 -0.11
2.83 2.93 -0.10
2.88 2.97 -0.09
2.97 3.03 -0.06
3.02 3.06 -0.05
2.94 2.98 -0.04
3.06 3.10 -0.04
3.12 3.13 -0.02
3.02 3.03 -0.01
3.17 3.15 0.02
3.18 3.14 0.04
3.07 3.01 0.06
3.06 2.95 0.11
3.14 3.02 0.12
3.14 3.01 0.13
3.19 3.02 0.17
3.39 3.22 0.17
3.28 3.02 0.25
3.19 2.93 0.26
3.44 3.15 0.28
3.82 3.53 0.29
3.35 2.99 0.36
3.67 3.24 0.44
3.50 2.92 0.58


What does it all mean? Should some departments lighten up? Should some departments toughen up? Or might there be other factors in play? Maybe the “easiest” department is just the “best’, getting the most out of the students they encounter?

Dream Course

June 7th, 2011

I asked students at Wittenberg in August 2010 the following question. Note that 20% of the responses come from first year students. Their responses are probably pretty uninformed.

“If you could name and create a course not taught at Wittenberg, one that you would love to take in your time here, what would the title of the course be and how would the course description read?”

First, I recognize that some of these courses are already actually taught at Wittenberg. But the results represent an interesting snapshot of how students might respond if given a degree of autonomy in course selection.

Here is a “dump” of the results from students responding.

If you could name and create a course not taught at Wittenberg, one that you would love to take in your time here, what would the title of the course be and how would the course description read?

“Dream On” Study various types of dreams and the meanings behind it, as well as famously recorded dreams. (Or something along the lines of that).

20th Century History of the Hispanic Caribbean

A class that deals with more computer related things. Like learning how to use microsoft to its fullest extent (get certified) (I took a summer class at another college and it was a great learning experience for other projects)

a filming class, filming 101, it would be were students learn to film and learn about movie making.

A Study of Christianity. Description – This course looks at the Christian religion from its founding until today. Throughout the course, students will be exposed to the history of the church and its influence on the world. Students will also be asked to question and answer if the religion is still believable/relevant today.

Animal Behavior

Animal Rights in this course the student will learn about the history of animal rights and the laws guiding it. The student will also learn about the relationship between animals and humans and how it began. The student will right three essays and will have to give an oral presentation at the end of the semester.

Any Chinese course specifically on areas of history not literature. Wittenberg does not have an official Chinese historian. With the greater increase in people interested in Chinese, it is about time that the Chinese department grow!

Aquatics Course This course counts as a Health and Physical Education credit. All activities will be based around the water. These include swimming, diving, and water-related sports such as water polo and flip-turns.

Astronomy II A continuation of astronomy one, including more observing, an actual research project, complete with presentation and technical report. As the observatory at Wittenberg is amazing, it makes sense for us to have more courses that use this asset.

Behavioral Economics Course. This course would be designed to determine through psychology and economics, the differing factors that determine the choices we make when purchasing items.

Biol XXX – Ecology of a Denali National Park. Survey of biotic communities and populations of Denali National Park. This extensive and rigirous field experiance will cover aquatic as well as terrestrial systems. Each student is required to conduct a small field project during the stay. First aid and bear training is encouraged.

By Hook or by Cook —————————– Gastronomy is a fascinating new field that fuses science and cooking in a delicious marriage of know-how and beauty. In the tradition of Julia Child, Alton Brown, Remy, and MacGyver, this is a class that will empower anybody to cook well because the art is a learnable science. Also, there will be lots of tasty treats in this class.

Cartooning and Comics. An art course the teaches the fundamentals and history of the art of comic book making.

Changing the World-Do you want to make a difference in this world? Do you want to help shape society and make it a better place to live? If you have this dream but need the structure to guide you this is your class. Dream of bigger and better things for this world and change it forever.

Comics in Culture. Description: How comic books were created, and their ever changing relevance in society.

Course Title: Conflict Resolution Studies Course Description: This course teaches the various theories for assessing conflicts and techniques for resolving them. Students will have the opportunity to practice mediation and conflict resolution through in-class simulations.

East Asian Traditional Costumes: An overview of the styles of ancient and modern dress across East Asia. Students will examine beliefs, events, and terms related to these traditional costumes, as well as analyze the influence left on the fashion world of East Asia today.

Environmental Biology

Enzymology-Enzymology is the study of enzymes, how they work, and the processes they control. Enzymes control every part of life and help evolution continue to grow. This course will cover the functions of enzymes, how they control the body and life of living organisms, and how it can be used in careers.

Fashion chaos : students would learn the different styles of clothing and designers throughout time They would also be allowed to create their designs. Lesson in sketing and the different technology designers used to transfer their designs from their head to paper sewing lessons (by hand and with mechine) must create one look and a class critique of the look Final would be something written and a fashion show.

Film Composition

Global Citizenship Experience the world through new eyes and through different perspectives.

Henry Ford: An American Legacy. This course covers the life of Henry Ford, America’s greatest industrialist, and his contributions to American car culture and the society we live in today. It also discusses the controversies in his life and the evolution of his company, such as his views on race relations and labor disputes. The unique ways in which mass automobile ownership have influenced American society and culture will also be touched upon. Historiographical interpretations of Ford’s life and career will be included as part of the overall course material.

Hip-hop (dance) HIP-HOP DAN – History of Pop music: An in depth look at Popular music, starting from the 50s and covering Rock and Roll, Heavy Metal, Psychedelic Rock, Punk, New Wave, Hip Hop, etc

I would like to see a course in the East Asian Studies department that focuses on how the different types of monsters in these cultures reflect societal fears.

I would like to take a course on how to assimilate into another culture. For me personally, it would be how to assimilate into Japanese society. Like, what to expect when doing business in Japan, how to have good relationships with Japanese people, etiquette at college or work in Japan etc. There are so many classes about the history of Japan or the politics of Japan, but none to prepare you for actually working in a new cultural environment. My biggest fear for getting a job in international business after graduation is that I would not be prepared for many interactions I would have with others. Many people say this problem could be solved simply by studying abroad for a time, but first, not everyone can study abroad because of expense, as well as studying abroad could not always simulate say, a business situation or how to act at a wedding etc.

I would really like to see a course on “The Science of Superheroes” examining the scientific principles behind superheroic powers. There is a similar course being offered at the University of California Irvine ( and I’m sure that many people would be drawn to that class if it were here at Witt as well.

I would really like to see a course taught called: History Through Comics that would be all about the evolution of comic books, their audience, their stories, and their heroes through the times that America was facing (such as Watchmen and the Vietnam War, and the idea of Hitler appearing in WWII era comics). The course would make the parallel between the popular culture inside comics and the real time history that they reflect.

Intro to Iceland This course discusses the language, culture, and history of Iceland.

It would be a course dealing with exercise science. The course would deal with a physiology and kinesology curriculum.

It would be a course on Jane Austen.


Man and Nature. A survival course that will teach students the importance of the world around them and conservation while incorporating survival techniques such as map reading and skills used while camping in the backcountry. The course could end with a week long backpacking trip in the United Staters or Canda.

Marine Mammals Dive in head first and learn about the mammals of the oceans. Besides general information and anatomy topics discussed include food webs, adaptations, and hot topics like captivity, whaling, conservation, etc.

martial arts self defense. it would teach people self defense and that types of situations you need to stay away from. teach students that anyone can come onto campus which could cause a threat to their safety. I think this course would be especially good for freshmen women. i would like to suggest having a guy from town teach the course. the person i believe to be the most capable for this job would be jason burkhard

Mathematical Economics. It would focus on the calculus behind Economics and its basic equations going deeper into the mathematical relationship between many of the core principles such as all marginal values in economics are the derivatives of their parents.

Medical Related Class: would go through common procedures, practice suturing and learning the instruments commonly used in the medical field

Medieval England – a course about life in England during the Middle Ages.

Medieval Europe – 500 AD to 1500 AD

Motivations and driving forces of humans

Moving, Migration, and Multiculturalism A comprehensive history and study of why and how people groups decide to leave their “home country”, state, city, or family in search of a better life. The course would have an international focus and would highlight how immigration has affected the current cultural dynamics of nations around the world. How do foreigners assimilate to new situations? What happens if they aren’t welcomed in a new environment? How will I handle potentially moving to a new city after I graduate from Witt and start my career?


Non profit Philanthropy

optometry for students

Paleontology: Remember watching Jurrasic Park as a kid? Well now it’s your chance to be Dr. Grant. Learn about the real land before time as you study some of the most and least well known dinosaurs and the many therories as to what caused their demise. We’re some really smarter than primates? There’s only one way to find out.

Personal Training. The course will cover all material required to become a personal trainer and at the end you would become certified. This would give students an opportunity to learn about proper technique , etc and then when your certified it would give students and opportunity to have a job through out school

Real Life Business A trip into to the real world of running your own business. From Hardships to hundreds, this course will put students in real life business situations and challenge them to overcome adversity by making the right or wrong decisions.

Sign Language – foriegn language credit like any other language taught at Witt, this course would have different levels for beginners and more advanced.

Some sort of social notworking course that overviews all the different social media outlets, their history, their impact on society, and their future.

Speech pathology and audiology

Sport- Define it This course would look at the history of sport, its origin, and look to find the characteristics of what makes a sport. You would look at sports played around the world, how they effected society and what impact they had then and now present day: economically, socially, even physically.

Textiles Design- A course that teaches you the basics for anything and everything you would want to know about textiles design [a studio class]. Techniques taught range from silk-screen, to tie-dye, to batik, and many more!

The “magic” of Literature

The art of Collage: This class gives students the opportunity to experiment with the assembly of 2-D paper into 3-D pieces of work. It would be an A credit, or 200-level art elective. Experiment with color and monotone projects.

The Art of Homiletics: An Introduction Learn about the art of homiletics, the art of preaching. Class will include methods and styles of sermons. Class will explore various texts on the topic as well as how to approach a Bible text to form a sermon.

The course I would create would be about learning and exploring the history of all sports. I would love to take this course because I love to play sports and just getting to know the history of them. I believe it would make me more connected with the sport and getting to know other sports that I haven’t played.

The course I would create would be all about discovering one’s self. Personality tests would be taken at the beginning and end, to see how much a person has changed and just to evaluate everybody. We would also discuss better ways to manage time in order to have more time for ourselves, because time to ourselves is necessary to self-realization.

We would read novels such as Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert, Siddhartha by Herman Hesse, and other novels that involve characters or real people discovering themselves.

The course would be focused on the philosophies of John Locke, Voltaire, Montesquieu, etc – contributors to the fundamental ideas of the American Constitution, as well as a multitude of other governmental frameworks. The class would delve into details of how much these philosophers have effected the governments of modern day society.

The Femme Fatale An in depth course that discusses the various uses of the feminine figure in literature. We would explore the positive and the negative representations of women in books ranging from works as early as Beowulf to modern classics such as Fight Club. Why are women portrayed the way they are in literature? this class would help students answer this question.

Travel to another country, write a paper on your experiences, and get credit!!!!!!!!

University 101- this is a class for first years students new to the university. The class would get new students into the traditions and activities around Wittenberg.

Yoga 3 days a week starting with beginning yoga

Yoga This class would be counted as a phys ed credit and the time spent in class would be focused on practicing yoga, the muscles involved, and how it is beneficial.

Zzz: How Do You Dream? The course description would delve into the stages of dreams, how they are affected, and what they symbolize.

Do We Have Grade Inflation at Wittenberg?

June 7th, 2011

An IR colleague shared the following link, hoping to generate a discussion about grade inflation.

Using data from 200 schools found on the website, I generated the following graph. (Click on the image to expand it.)


 It appears that there is a decent relationship between SAT scores and average cumulative GPAs. (We could ponder the many possible reasons for this relationship.)

Our average cumulative GPA at Witt is pretty close to 3.0 and our board scores have been between 1100 and 1150 in the last few years.

So are we “on the mark” in our grading, compared to other schools?  Put an SAT of 1114 into the equation and the predicted GPA is 3.0.

If students expect a certain “GPA return” it seems we are in line with other institutions.