Chris Millis Visits Sierra Nevada College

By Bryce Bullins

Acclaimed author of the book Small Apartments (and soon to be film director) Chris Millis launched the Spring 2014 Writers in the Woods season at SNC by giving a craft talk on screenplays and more specifically, the act of storytelling. Millis’ talk centered on Aristotelian poetics, specifically the three act structure and the dramatic devices therein. He showcased how several films still hold to these ancient conventions.

Chris Millis

The films he used as examples were as wide ranging as Pixar’s animated series Toy Story to more serious affairs such as Paul Thomas Anderson’s Boogie Nights. Millis presented the idea that stories are the only way with which we, as part of the human experience, are able to explain the often un-explainable and connect with something approaching our own lives, and through this parity, we are able to better understand the world in which we live. The talk was attended by upwards of 50 people and was a fantastic start of the 2014 Writers in the Woods season.

For more on Chris Millis’ projects, visit:

Psychology Workshop Series on Graduate School–First meeting tonight!

The Psychology Program will be offering a workshop series, led by Wade Brown, M.A., on Graduate Programs in Psychology this semester.  Each workshop will focus on a different aspect of the application process, and students will leave each meeting with resources to aid them in their own search for a graduate program.

The first workshop will be on Thursday, February 27th from 5:30-6:45pm in Patterson Hall, room 211.  Other workshop dates are posted below.  We hope all psychology students interested in graduate school will join us for this series in Patterson Hall, Room 211.


February 27th 5:30-6:45p

Intro to Grad School Applications

Objective: Students attending this workshop will be informed of typical admissions protocol in psychology  graduate programs. Students will learn about important resources that are available to them, how to research individual programs, and what the application process consists of. A list of important questions will be generated in regards to individual programs.

Deliverables: Students will leave this session with handouts describing the application process and a generated list of questions to ask about graduate training.


March 27th 5:30-6:45p

Personal Statements

Objective: The purpose of this workshop is to inform students about the Personal Statement portion of the graduate application. Personal statements are easily the most difficult portion of the application process. A short description of personal statements will be provided, following an interactive workshop where student attendees will actually generate portions of their statements. Students are encouraged to bring laptop computers to this event in order to view application requirements from institutions and to begin writing their own statements.

Deliverables: Students will leave this session with a partial draft of their personal statement, handouts and materials guiding the process, and a list of resources to aid in the writing process.


April 10th 5:30-6:45p

Drafting a Curriculum Vita (CV)

Objective: This workshop will explore the formatting of the Curriculum Vita. Student attendees will be informed of appropriate sections and headers of the CV and view multiple variations for the first portion of the workshop. The session will then focus on an interactive portion where students will either edit their existing CV or start composing a new one. Students are encouraged to bring laptop computers in order to properly engage with the writing process.

Deliverables: Students will leave this session with a partial draft of their Curriculum Vita, handouts and resource materials describing the document, and a list of resources that will aid in the writing process.


April 24th 5:30-6:45p

GPA, GRE, and Supplemental Materials

Objective: This workshop will focus on the typical supplemental materials that need to accompany traditional graduate applications. Information will be provided on the importance of GPA and transcript information, scores on standardized tests, and other forms to include. An emphasis will be placed on the importance of forming diverse professional relationships from your degree granting institute.

Deliverables: Students will leave this session with handouts regarding upcoming testing dates and information on various subject tests.

June Saraceno launches book with several readings

June Saraceno

New poetry book by June Saraceno

English Chair June Saraceno’s third book, “of Dirt & Tar,” arrives this week from the publisher and is already attracting attention. Local publications are choosing to feature the press release about the book, and Saraceno will be featured at several upcoming readings.

Here are the list of readings:

March 13 Sundance Books, Reno, “of Dirt and Tar” book launch 6:30.

April 2, Sundance Books with Laura Wetherington and friends, 6:00
April 4, Sierra College, Truckee campus
April 15, Modesto Junior College, reading with Patricia Smith
April 24, Lake Tahoe Community College reading with Laura Wetherington

Soraya Cardenas speaks at DRI

Soraya Cardenas

Sustainability Professor Soraya Cardenas speaks at the Desert Research Institute on Feb. 21

Sustainability Professor Soraya Cardenas visited the Desert Research Institute Feb. 21 to discuss how collaboration with various agencies can help obtain competitive grants. She used a case study from Fort Kent, Maine about a $97,000 grant, funded by a National Science Foundation Sustainability Initiative.

SNC Alumni, Evelina Rutdal, Submits Paper for Publication

M. I. Evelina Rutdal, a SNC Psychology major and 2013 graduate, has submitted her work for review at an empirical journal called the International Journal of Humor Research.  The study is entitled “The Impact of Self Induced Laughter on Psychological Stress” and the abstract is included below.

This is a particular achievement as Evelina is the first student in the history of our program to challenge herself beyond publication in an undergraduate research journal.  While any publication is to be celebrated and publication in undergraduate research journal is to be revered, Evelina has set a new bar for SNC Psychology majors!

Evelina says: “Everyone who has tackled a project like an experiment knows the great deal of blood, sweat, and tears that go into it and, at times, it can seem overwhelming.  What I can say now at the end of the process is that it has all been worth it.  I have experienced a new world where I can do anything I set my mind to. If I can accomplish this, what can I not do?  It’s a eye opening process.”

Authors: M. I. Evelina Rutdal, B.A., and Christina M. Frederick, Ph.D.

Title: The Impact of Self Induced Laughter on Psychological Stress

Abstract: American stress levels rose 39% in 2011 (APA, 2011). Research shows laughter produces endorphins that decrease health risks (e.g., MacDonald, 2008) but has primarily considered laughter produced by comic events (e.g., Ko & Youn, 2011). The current study examined the impact of self induced laughter on psychological stress. Undergraduates (33 males and 27 females) were randomly paired and assigned to laugh or read aloud. Following, participants completed a stress inducing activity (adapted from Försvarsmakten, 2013). During this activity, participants listened to and recorded answers from a soundtrack, sorted cards, and paired information. After stress induction, participants completed the Emotional Stress Reaction Questionnaire (ESRQ; Larsson, 2010) followed by a relaxation exercise. ESRQs were sorted by laughter or reading group and scored. General linear modeling indicated no significant difference in psychological stress between laughter and reading conditions (p = 0.980). No significant difference in psychological stress was found between genders (p = 0.767). Generally, the findings indicate self induced laughter prior to a stressful event does not decrease psychological stress.

Evelina Rutdal with her UCLA Conference Presentation Certificate

Turnip the Heat Tuesdays organized by SNC senior

Senior Samantha Van Ruiten continues to be a huge asset for the Tahoe-Truckee community as she works with several area nonprofits organizations on community events. She has created an event for the Tahoe Food Hub called Turnip the Heat Tuesdays.

She began working on a community soup night last semester for her Service Learning project and is now continuing this semester for her Senior Portfolio. The goal of Turnip the Heat Tuesdays is to create a more food-focused community, using fresh, sustainably grown ingredients.

The first Community Soup night was held Feb. 11 at Spice. The next one will be from 6-8:30 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 25, at Full Belly Deli in Truckee’s Pioneer Center. Cost is $5 for soup and bread, and the event includes a raffle, music and drinks.

The next event will be March 11 at Coffeebar in Truckee.

Go have some soup and support Samantha!

Jared Stanley collaborates with The Holland Project

Poet, writer and professor, Jared Stanley, once again is collaborating with visual artists; this time for the The Holland Project’s exhibit, “Bathed in Sunshine, Covered in Dust: An introduction to contemporary art in Reno, Nev.”

Jared Stanley

Jared Stanley

Stanley worked with Megan Berner, whose work, “Lake Lahontan’s Maritime Legacy,” is featured in the current group show, Feb. 3-28 at the gallery, located at 140 Vesta Street in Reno. Gallery hours are 3-6 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, or by appointment.

English chair releases new book of poems, “Of Dirt and Tar”

Congrats to June for her new book of poetry to be released next week. Here’s the press release we sent out about her achievement:

Readers will discover “deftly-crafted narrative moments that unreel like snippets of cinema” in the poems of June Sylvester Saraceno’s new book, entitled “Of Dirt and Tar.”

June Sylvester Saraceno at the Camac artists residency in Marnay-sur-Seine. Saraceno’s new book, “Of Dirt and Tar” is slated for release March 1 by Cherry Grove Collections. Photo by Carolina Cruz Guimarey

June Sylvester Saraceno at the Camac artists residency in Marnay-sur-Seine. Saraceno’s new book, “Of Dirt and Tar” is slated for release March 1 by Cherry Grove Collections. Photo by Carolina Cruz Guimarey

The second, full-length collection of poetry by Saraceno, the English department chair at Sierra Nevada College, will be released March 1 by Cherry Grove Collections, with accolades on its jacket by some of the nation’s top poets.

 Patricia Smith, who won the Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize for the most outstanding book of poetry in 2013, said, “There’s a rumor making the rounds that poetry, alas, is dead — I know of no better way to refute that idiocy than to immerse yourself in these lyric stanzas, these deftly-crafted narrative moments that unreel like snippets of cinema. June Saraceno has once again infused the literary landscape with a necessary breath; this long-awaited volume couldn’t come at a better time.”

 While Iraqi war veteran and poet Brian Turner, author of the acclaimed “Here, Bullet,” invites readers, saying, “I promise you: this book is just as good at 30,000 feet over the Atlantic seaboard as it is in a rocking chair on the back porch of a moonlit home in the woods.”

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APS Convention, 2014!

Student and Faculty researchers in SNC’s psychology program submitted and were accepted to present two research projects at the Association for Psychological Science (APS) Convention (!  This is an honor and a journey we are all excited to be on!

The titles, abstracts, and supporting summaries for each accepted project are included below.   The Active Learning research will be presented as part of a special Teaching Institute at the APS Convention.


Title: Active Learning in Practice: Alignment and Misalignment of Faculty and Undergraduate Perspectives

Authors: Christina M. Frederick, Kallie B. Day, Constance A. Barnes, Robert D. King, Carly S. Courtney, and Briana T. Crespo

Abstract: This study redefined and empirically scrutinized active learning pedagogy.  40 faculty and 75 undergraduates completed institutionally-tailored surveys regarding active learning; comparative analyses were applied.  Survey data indicated general alignment between undergraduates and faculty in perception with notable exceptions in practice.  Considering exceptions, strategic modification to college practice is developed.

Supporting Summary: Active learning methods are variegated among the pedagogy literature, ranging across educational contexts from childhood through higher education and extending back to the origins of pedagogic theory.  Despite differences, students learn to actively construct knowledge in their educational experiences through heightened participation and self-reflection (Bonwell & Eison, 1991; Prince, 2004).  We operationalized active learning as self-caused learning, a definition we employed axiomatically.  This allowed us to show how active learning methods require students to engage in activities that explicitly demand their increased participation in the learning process.  Next, we viewed active learning from the perspective of both college undergraduates and faculty.  75 undergraduates, across class standing and major, completed the Student Active Learning Survey (SALS) which inquired into their understanding of, experience with, and perception of outcomes produced via active learning.  40 faculty, ranging in teaching experience from 1 to over 15 years, completed the Faculty Active Learning Survey (FALS) measuring their understanding of active learning, familiarity and use of specific techniques, and concerns about incorporating them in the classroom.  Data were sorted and analyzed by group membership.  SALS and FALS data revealed notable alignment between undergraduate (97.3%) and faculty (100%) views on the importance of incorporating active learning techniques in the classroom.  Undergraduate (93.3%) and faculty (97.5%) responses also aligned indicating their value of active learning techniques.  Undergraduates and faculty did, however, express various concerns.  Primary student concerns included 1) the capability of faculty to effectively use active learning techniques to convey important content and 2) the overuse of particular techniques (e.g., student presentations).  Primary faculty concerns included overuse of particular techniques, but also the potential cost of losing content traditionally provided via lecture and the need for financial support to facilitate development of effective techniques. SALS and FALS indicated misalignments as well.  For instance, where faculty (100%) indicated the benefits of active learning outweighed the costs, students (36%) were not convinced.  The SALS and FALS also offered opportunities for institutional assessment. For instance, we assessed active learning techniques currently used or experienced, undergraduate willingness to prepare outside of the classroom to balance content exposure with deeper learning, and the importance of faculty discussing the purpose of new techniques with their students prior to implementation.  Ultimately, SALS and FALS data were used to forecast new institutional directives regarding active learning techniques that align perspectives across faculty and undergraduates.  Based on the results of the current study, we began a series of development workshops to promote effective use of active learning techniques and expose faculty to a greater variety of techniques.  Taking faculty feedback into account, we refined our axiomatic definition of active learning and also considered what it means to be an active learner.  Our conclusions contribute to literature on active learning pedagogy in terms of alignment between faculty and student perceptions about its uses, aims, and purposes.  Future studies will investigate the relative effectiveness of various active learning techniques for maintaining engagement and promoting student outcomes.


Title: Cosmetics Use Among Teachers is Irrelevant When Considering Student Retention

Authors: Margaret K. Burns and Christina M. Frederick

Abstract: Cosmetics positively influence confidence (Stuart & Donaghue, 2011).  60 undergraduates viewed a lesson taught by a teacher in full or no cosmetics and, then, completed a teacher confidence assessment and content quiz.  Results show no significant difference in confidence (p = .22) or quiz (p = .58) scores across conditions.

Supporting Summary: Research evidence shows cosmetics positively impact female teacher confidence (Stuart & Donaghue, 2011).  Female teachers who wear cosmetics indicate they feel more productive, knowledgeable, and confident than their counterparts who do not wear cosmetics (Dellinger & Williams, 1997).  Confidence has also been shown to increase teaching effectiveness (Sadler, 2013).  The purpose of the current study was three-fold, (1) assessment of whether female teachers appear more confident to students when wearing cosmetics, (2) analysis of whether students retain more information when provided by a teacher who appears more confident because she is wearing cosmetics, and (3) examination of a potential correlation between teacher confidence produced by wearing cosmetics and student retention.  These questions were experimentally assessed with 60 participants (39 females and 21 males) who were randomly assigned to view an 8 min, pre-recorded and projected, lesson on facial anatomy led by a teacher in full cosmetics or no cosmetics.  The topic of facial anatomy was strategically chosen for the lesson to draw attention to the teacher’s face and allow the teacher liberal use of facial gesturing.  On conclusion of the facial anatomy lesson, participants completed a teacher confidence assessment on a 5-point Likert scale and 10-item multiple choice quiz on lesson content.  Data were sorted by condition, summarized, and submitted to an Anderson-Darling test (Ryan & Joiner, 2001) to determine properties of the sample.  As the Anderson-Darling test indicated the data did not source from a normal distribution, the non-parametric alternative to the two sample t-test, the Mann-Whitney U (Ryan & Joiner, 2001), was used to test for differences in confidence ratings and content quiz scores.  Results show no significant difference in confidence ratings (p = .22) or quiz scores (p = .58) between cosmetics conditions.  A Pearson correlation coefficient was calculated between confidence ratings and student retention in the cosmetics condition (r = -.166) and confidence ratings and student retention in the no cosmetics condition (r = .107). No significant correlations were found.  These results address the three-fold purpose of the current study: (1) no significant difference was found in teacher confidence ratings across conditions indicating student perception of female teacher confidence is not impacted by the presence of cosmetics, (2) no significant difference was found in retention of lesson content delivered by a teacher wearing cosmetics or not wearing cosmetics (confidence not considered given previous finding), and (3) there was no significant correlation between a teacher wearing cosmetics and student retention.  As we did not show a significant difference in perceived confidence between the cosmetics and no cosmetics condition, this lack of a correlation is no surprise.  While previous research (Stuart & Donaghue, 2011) may suggest teachers who do not wear cosmetics should wear cosmetics to increase their confidence, the current study provides evidence there is no need for adjustment to cosmetic use rates.  The internal feeling of increased confidence produced by cosmetics is not perceived by external audiences and, thus, does not impact content retention in those external audiences.