December 1, 2015

University of Nebraska officials hope to avoid MU-type protests

UNL_entrance_studentsUniversity of Nebraska officials hope to prevent the disruptions that have occurred on campuses throughout the country from happening on the Lincoln campus.

UNL Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs, Juan Franco, says university officials try to keep communication lines open, both formally with different groups and informally in one-on-one discussions with students.

“We try to determine what’s on their mind, what’s troubling them,” Franco tells Kevin Thomas, host of Drive Time Lincoln on Nebraska Radio Network affiliate KLIN. “We try to arrange it so that they feel comfortable coming to us. I think, to a larger extent, it’s work. We’re not perfect, of course.”

Many campus disruptions have been far removed from Nebraska, with a big exception. The University of Missouri erupted with protests that both the officials at the Columbia campus and those with the university system as a whole failed to adequately address concerns expressed by African-American students. Protests simmered to a boiling point when the Missouri football team threatened to boycott its game with BYU if the issues weren’t addressed. The president of the system resigned. The chancellor of the Columbia campus is stepping down.

Franco believes a lack of communication has been a big factor in those campus disruptions.

“Certainly that’s one of the things we try to keep in mind,” Franco says. “The students are smart. And they know there is no easy solution to a lot of these things, but they want to know that the administration cares that the administration is trying to do something.”

Franco says the university wants to provide a safe environment for minority students while upholding the principles of free speech for all students.

“We don’t want to tell people they can’t say certain words or censure them,” according to Franco. “We simply want them to be respectful.”

Franco says it boils down to creating the appropriate culture.

“And that’s what we’re struggling with is to make sure that the culture here at UNL is one that allows for those two things to happen; free exchange of ideas, but in a respectful way, in a civil way. That’s how a democracy should work.”

SCC to offer classes at state prison in Lincoln

Southeast Community CollegeSoutheast Community College plans to provide a limited number of courses for inmates at the state penitentiary in Lincoln starting next year.

SCC Vice President of Instruction Dennis Headrick says the school was approached by Nebraska Correctional Industries in July, the entity that employs inmates.

“We’ve looked at some of the things they’re doing in Correctional Industries to see how the training they’re doing fits with some of our programs,” Headrick says. “A good example would be welding. Obviously, if you go to any of the state parks, if you have a grill there, that was made by inmates at the Nebraska Department of Corrections.”

Headrick says the U.S. Department of Education has formulated a pilot program called Second Chance Pell, a financial aid option for inmate retraining.

“Our goal is, starting in January, to offer two welding classes at the state penitentiary, plus another couple of general education courses,” Headrick says. “It will be primarily for inmates who are in a window of probably five years or less from being able to get out.”

SCC had formerly provided training in the state prison system for several years, but funding fell short and the program was discontinued. It offers opportunities for the inmates, Headrick says, and for society.

Headrick says, “Hopefully, they can get the training, they can get some education and when they do get out, maybe they can continue that education with us and get employed and hopefully not end up back in prison.”

He says funding and progress with the early offerings of courses will determine the success of the effort.

The college has also been asked to consider other locations, like the Tecumseh State Correctional Institution and the York State Prison for women.

By Doug Kennedy, KWBE, Beatrice


Researchers in Omaha study hearing loss in very young children

Child fitted with hearing aidA first-of-its-kind study was done in part at Boys Town National Research Hospital in Omaha on hundreds of children with mild-to-severe hearing loss.

It finds those kids don’t learn to speak or communicate as well as others who have good hearing.

Researcher Beth Walker says children who were fitted with hearing aids at a very young age developed language skills much more quickly.

“We did find that these hearing aids really do have an impact on language outcome,” Walker says. “They need to be fit as early as possible, worn consistently during all waking hours and fit appropriately.”

The study involved children from 17 states, ranging in age from six months to seven years. It’s the first time such a study has been undertaken since universal newborn hearing screening wasn’t available to most children at birth until about a decade ago. Those screenings, Walker says, are vital.

“Ninety-eight percent of all infants are screened for hearing loss at birth, so we want to get all of those babies screened as soon as possible,” Walker says. “We can do this when they are as young as two or three days old. That will allow us to identify the hearing loss very early on and then we can provide the intervention that they need.”

While there is a wealth of study on deaf children, before this study, Walker says little was known about hard-of-hearing kids. It’s important for a child with hearing loss to get the hearing aid as early as possible, but she says it’s equally important for that device to fit properly.

“Children’s ears grow very quickly,” Walker says. “With kids, we’ll have them wear behind-the-ear hearing aids. They’ll have an ear mold and then the hearing aid will go behind the ear and with their ears growing so fast, we have to have those ear molds replaced pretty frequently.”

In an infant, that could mean visits to the audiologist every three to six months for fittings, and less often as the child ages. Walker says about one-third of the study’s hearing-impaired children were not well-fitted with hearing aids.

The Outcomes of Children with Hearing Loss study was conducted by researchers at the University of Iowa, Boys Town National Research Hospital, and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. It’s being published in the journal, Ear and Hearing, the major journal published by the American Auditory Society.

Click on this VIDEO to see a demonstration of the findings.

Commercial drone pilots can now train in Siouxland

UAV HexCopterMartin’s Airfield in South Sioux City, Nebraska, and Morningside College in Sioux City, Iowa, are partnering on a new program to train commercial drone operators.

The Federal Aviation Administration is requiring anyone who wants to be paid to fly a drone to obtain a commercial rating. Tom Fredricksen is an FAA certified ground instructor for the program.

“Our program is designed to not only get flying drones, but to understand air spaces, understand communications between towers and airplanes,” Fredricksen says, “and to get them at least three hours of flying in an airplane, along with the drone courses Morningside has mapped out.”

The course is for commercial drone operators, not for the hobby-type of drones you can buy at the store.

“The hobby drone operator is limited to visual site and 400 feet above ground level,” Fredericksen says. “However, there are more sophisticated drones out there that’ll fly to 16,000 feet and fly at 120 miles-an-hour. And they can carry about 55 pounds of cargo and can stay up in the air for 55 minutes.”

The federal government has announced plans to require recreational drone users to register their vehicles as there are more reports of drones flying too close to airports. Fredricksen says the rule should help.

He says the regulation will be good as their job is to make sure there aren’t any collisions and everyone understands what is going on in the air.

Fredericksen says he’s seen ads offering an annual salary of $135,000 for FAA-certified commercial drone operators.

By Woody Gottburg, KSCJ, Sioux City


Southeast Community College students benefiting from growth in scholarships

Southeast Community College, Lincoln campus/SCC photo

Southeast Community College, Lincoln campus/SCC photo

The Southeast Community College Foundation is nearing the two million dollar mark in scholarship support provided to students annually.

Former Southeast President Jack Huck, who works with the foundation, tells the SCC Board of Governors the foundation raised $1.24 million for scholarships last year and this year, has raised $1.93 million.

Huck points out the scholarship program grew by more than half a million dollars, even during a down period for investments.

“Basically, affiliated with the fact that the Stock Market was not the best Stock Market we’ve ever had the last year,” Huck says, adding, “We feel pretty good about that half million dollar increase under the economic conditions that we’ve been experiencing and obviously believe that that will start to tick upward, again.”

Huck says the college keeps in contact with over 44,000 SCC alumni and has urged them to “pay it forward” in a recent marketing campaign.

The SCC Foundation began in 1978, raising $1,000 its first year. It now has nearly $20 million in assets.

Doug Kennedy, KWBE, contributed to this story.