Parents Council > Meeting Minutes

Parents Council Meeting Minutes

March 15, 2014

Present: Shelley Barton, Danny Chang, Audra & Dave Drahn, Kim Fuller, Buck Jones, Darcy Lewis, Karen Tardrew, Carol Wirth

Following continental breakfast we gathered for our meeting.

Sara Farrell, Associate Professor of Psychology

Sara has been on the faculty for eight years. She introduced us to the current faculty via the Mt. Psychmore t-shirt.

The Psychology major is the second largest major at Coe. Psych graduates are required to take ten courses. The curriculum includes a strong methodological core so that students are proficient in terms of statistics and biology. Research methods and statistics courses instruct students on how to analyze psychological information. Students are also required to take several electives and to either take a seminar course or conduct research with a psychology faculty member. The seminar course is led by a different faculty member each semester on a more specialized topic of interest to the instructor. Students may lead some of the teaching that occurs in a seminar course.

Advanced experimental psychology students do research with a faculty member. Students typically take part in most or all of the steps of the research process. Obviously these experiences strengthen faculty-student relationships. During the psychology symposium students present their research in addition to presenting it at the April campus-wide Research Symposium. Approximately one in three psychology majors does research in the psychology department. Majors are invited to attend and present their research at two regional undergraduate psychology conferences every year and travel to these events is provided by the Psychology Club. Coe hosted the Tri-State Conference in Nov. '14.

Coe has collateral majors; it does not have concentrations. Students who elect a collateral major are also required to complete another, non-collateral, major. All collateral majors are interdisciplinary, but some collateral majors are broader and others are narrower (Organizational Science, Biochemistry, etc.). The collateral majors related to Psychology are Neuroscience and Organizational Science (OS). Neuroscience majors may have a primary major in chemistry, biology, or psychology whereas OS majors must have a primary major in psychology.

The Organizational Science major started just last year. Organizational Science (OS) covers topics related to the field of industrial/organizational psychology, such as employee selection, training, employee attitudes and motivation, leadership, and teamwork. Students majoring in OS are required to take courses such as human resources, business law, organizational psychology, and testing and measurement. Organizational Science students recently visited the John Deere corporate headquarters and met with several industrial/organizational psychologists. The Bureau of Labor projects that industrial/organizational psychologist will be the fastest growing occupation over the next ten years.Last year the department had 46 psych graduates; there were 45 graduates in 2012 and 20 grads in 2011. This year there will be four students who graduate with organizational science collateral.

Grad school is a strong option as is the work force for Coe psychology graduates. Psychology students commonly cite their desire to help people as the basis for their interest in psychology. Often these students are interested in working in human services or other non-profit organizations. Non-profits perform many of the same organizational functions as do for profit organizations, such as determining how to best select and train employees and volunteers for their organization.

Recent psychology graduates are attending industrial/organizational psychology programs at the University of Manchester, the University of Missouri - St. Louis, Bowling Green University, and East Carolina University. To provide some examples of jobs available in the field of industrial/organizational psychology (taken from research analyst, culture consultant, employee survey research consultant, data analytics, organizational analyst and HR analytics manager. OS graduates might take part in activities such as organizational research, work analysis, recruiting, employee selection, training, management development. Coe OS students have interned at CRST, Van Meter Co. and ACT.

Psychology students have various opportunities to learn about psychology graduate programs. Psychology Club has a panel each year of Coe grads offering their tips on how to get into grad school. The Psychology Club is also building a library of books on how to get into grad school.  Individual conversations with their faculty mentors are probably the most common avenue for students to learn about and discuss grad schools. Coe faculty are able to write strong letters of recommendation because they often get to know students well as a result of working closely with them on research projects, through classes, and through other events, such as those sponsored by the Psychology Club each year.

Erik Albinson, VP for Student Affairs

Erik has had a year of transitions - new baby, interim VP, named the VP and Dean and working with a new president. He believes in the direction Pres. McInally is taking the college and he has become more and more dedicated the longer he is here.

Mental Health (MH) concerns are a major issue. Coe is good on the reaction end although he'd like to see the college more proactive before an issue happens. Coe has a major benefit other colleges don’t have - St. Luke's Hospital is so close to campus. The two top causes for students seeking or being referred to counseling are anxiety and depression. Mental health issues often surface for the first time with this age group but students are also overwhelmed by college life and lose their coping skills. Resiliency is a major concern of Erik's. He's learned quite a bit from Martin Seligman, Ph.D. at the Univ. of Penn., about positive psychology. How do you build resiliency?

Sara Farrell will meet with the staff to talk about positive psychology techniques and then focus on the students. Positive psychology is focused on happiness but also realizing that it is about being engaged but not overwhelmed. The same can be true for relationships.

Wartburg used a National College Health Survey with their students this year. Wartburg and Coe draw from a similar pool of students. The survey asks about their general health issues. According to the Wartburg results, in the  last 12 months: 30% of students felt hopeless, 86% felt overwhelmed, 58% felt very lonely, 31% felt depressed, 11% felt angry, 3.5% intentionally hurt themselves, 13% seriously considered suicide, and 1.2% attempted suicide. Erik will ask Coe students to take this survey later this Spring or in the Fall. The issues on their minds include: academics, career, intimate relationships and finances. Erik plans to do this survey at Coe and will report back to Parent Council with the results.

How do we focus on the positive side so that we are not only reactionary? For some people there is a chemical imbalance but for some students, these issues can be addressed.

March 22, 2014 is the one-year is anniversary of Joel's suicide. Student Life is focusing on how we take care of our students. One way is through relationships and helping students find their niche.

According to UCLA professor Alexander "Sandy" Astin who for over 30 years has studied college students to determine when makes a student successful, the number one criteria is that they are involved and the second most important criteria is that they get to know their faculty. Students are engaged and overwhelmed. Erik will focus the student life staff so they can role model the balance of engagement while not feeling overwhelmed through exercise, family time, and trying to raise general level of happiness in the student life department.

There are many programmatic efforts available but the hope is to bring intentionality to the student life programs by focusing on student learning. The tracks may be:


  • Diversity and Internationalism (may have a conference for FYS students which results in students actively doing something around this theme in hopes that this curricular involvement will enhance the moral imperative of a liberal arts education by enriching their education with skill development and a capstone experience);
  • Leadership (employers say grads are unprepared in terms of basic leadership skills, common sense, and relationship skills, social justice, social grace in any situation; students don't read email although in the workplace it is the predominant form of communication;
  • Positive Psychology;
  • Experiential track.


As the senior staff writes the strategic plan the tracts may change. Currently the programs student life offers are not connected in any systematic way. Student Life hopes to create pathways/tracts of how to make these cohesive and complete with the mission as the focus resulting in student affairs being aligned with the strategic plan of the college. The group that has the most influence on students is peers; Coe hopes to develop peer education groups.

The Firehouse will be Scholars House with the hope that students will engage in the neighborhood and partner with the neighbors on projects.

In terms of RESILENCY - physical fitness (Coe’s retention is strongest with athletes), meditation/religion/built in reflection, being engaged, being in relationships, basic life skills (diet, sleep patterns, etc.)/lifestyle. Should we expand exercise class options? This is a facility issue because we need more room. Statistics show that this generation is dealing with more MH issues. They lack coping skills when a relationship breaks up, or they have a test, they seem to lack a normal response. Where is the resiliency piece?

Student Life's top priority is to support the academic mission of Coe.

Parent thoughts:

  • Is the "overwhelmed" rate of 86% due to academics? What’s the balance between academic rigor and good mental health? Ideally we’d have just the right combination of challenge and support so students can thrive and grow.
  • Would faculty include the support services available on campus on their syllabi?
  • Could Coe reach out to alumni in the counseling field (for instance in the month of April which is suicide prevention month)?

President McInally

President McInally thanked Parent Council for their service. He reported that the college is healthy and that the draft budget for 2014-15 is balanced; it provides for reduced endowment spending, increased debt service, and a new contingency line. Historical (but necessary) overspending in enrollment and physical plant has now been incorporated into the budget.The college is concentrating on four points on the current strategic plan.

  1. Increasing enrollment slightly over the next two years (by 5 students the first year and 25 the second).
  2. A new marketing and promotion plan with messages focused on our academic reputation, supportive campus environment, internship and career opportunities associated with our location.
  3. An individual action plan of courses for first-year students, outlining their course requirements and practicum opportunities (internship, research, study abroad) for the subsequent years. This is designed to address retention, which continues to be a concern. Fall-to-spring retention was 91.9%, below the typical range of 92-94%.
  4. Several facilities initiatives, including:
    1. An energy reduction plan the Trustees recently endorsed. Coe will borrow $3.5 mil (1% interest for 15 years) to invest in contractor-guaranteed energy reducing measures.  The debt is self-financing due to reduced utility charges. Energy use will be reduced by at least 20%.
    2. The Trustees are considering some long range facility goals.

Amy Leitch, Director of Health Services

Teresa, the Health Services medical assistant, does vitals, schedules appointments, triages patients, etc. There is also a nurse practitioner who works a few hours a week. Electronic records and prescriptions have been added which is an efficient time saver.

There are 30 students involved in Kohawk Wellness; Amy would like participation to increase and include a holistic component. The clinic is open six hours/day and most students are seen the same day. Sept. and Oct. are the busiest months, averaging 15 patients/day. Amy draws blood and does lab in the clinic which Med Labs analyzes.  Coe partners with both the state hygienic and county labs. April is "Get Yourself Tested" Month (for HIV, STD, and hepatitis). St. Luke's Family Health Center does health exams. Coe has an annual health fair in the spring for the Coe community with approximately 20 organizations participating at Coe. There is a Flu Shot Clinic every fall. Currently Amy has a yoga class with 10 football players. CPR classes taught by Amy and athletic trainers are a future venture. She is hoping to entice HyVee Pharmacy to deliver prescriptions to Coe.

Students often tell friends they are considering suicide; students should not take this information on alone. The student that confided in them needs to be connected to the right resources. This summer Amy is planning to work on a program to help students understand the need for good, consistent sleep every day in hopes of relieving their anxiety.

In terms of travel advice and immunizations Amy refers students to Linn County Public Health because they are the least expensive. Students get a receipt and invoice to should submit to their insurance. Students studying abroad are urged make an appointment for anti-diarrheal medication, etc. Amy is not credentialed with an outside insurance company although she is hoping to be a network provider.

Parent Council talked about two items of business from their fall meeting:

  1. The Silent Auction is a lot of work but has never raised as much money as Parent Councils had hoped. Do parents feel pressured to purchase an auction item? We’ve rarely had big ticket items. It was decided to discontinue the Silent Auction and continue the Presidential Reception and add a small fee when families register. Could some of the registration fee go to the Parent Council (PC) Scholarship? We also talked about the possibility of have containers scattered around the room for donations for the PC Scholarship.
  2. Some PC members are willing to phone first year (FY) parents two to three weeks after move-in to welcome them and ask how move-in went. Kate will follow up with Admission and Student Life to get their feedback. We talked about the need for information parents can be versed in and topics in order to refer FY parents to a campus office (financial aid, student life, academics, etc.). Parent-to-parent conversation may be helpful for some FY parents. At our fall meeting we will continue this conversation.

Kate Rose
Director of Parent Programs