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The Millennials may be the most studied generation in American history.

Their size – which exceeds that of Generation X and rivals that of the Baby Boom Generation – coupled with their distinctive characteristics are fodder for a sociological analyst’s dream. Why do they appear to be so different from previous generations in the classroom, at work and in society, in general? Indeed, cultural shockwaves have been felt in the workplace since the Millennials’ entrance a decade ago.

To be sure, some of the same things have been said of every succeeding generation. After all, all one needs to do is look at the images of the late 1960s and early 1970s – the coming of age era for so many Baby Boomers – to feel the cultural stir that permeated society.

But many experts say that the changes within the Millennial Generation are deeper and more ingrained than those from previous generations. Some say that members of this generation approach their careers in a different way than in the past. For example, paying your dues at an organization for a significant amount of time — a path doggedly taken by most Baby Boomers and their parents — is no longer viewed in the same light. Millennials tend to want to make a significant, sometimes dramatic impact, right away.

Similarly, this generation sees the world in more horizontal terms than in hierarchical terms. Ironically, Millennials appear to be less confrontational toward authority figures than their parents were at their age…perhaps because of their closer relationship with their own parents than Baby Boomers had. But that relationship also has been controversial as educators frequently bemoan a less independent student body. This style of “helicopter parenting” owes some of its genesis to the technological boom with the creation of cell phones, iPhones and other new communication vehicles.

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Interestingly, phone conversations for college students have decreased over the years, according to Ro Conforti, associate professor of media studies at Southern. She tells the story of how one of her students used to complain…not that her mother called her frequently on the phone…but that her mother did not know how to text her.

Texting is considered the communication vehicle of choice. It’s faster and less intrusive than calling someone, or even emailing. And while Conforti says the new technology, including social media, allows friends and family members to stay in touch more easily, she adds that it comes with a price tag.

“I see many young people having a lot of trouble articulating their feelings or thoughts,” Conforti says. “Texting and tweeting don’t allow a person to express themselves fully. And it goes even further in some cases. Growing up, I remember looking forward to when the phone rang. We’re finding that many younger adults today actually perceive phone calls as an interruption in their lives.”

The use of high tech communication devices is bound to continue among those in the post-Millennial Generation, those born around 1996 and later and sometimes referred to as Generation Edge or Generation Z. But the early trends are beginning to show some behavioral changes, according to some experts. The prevalence of “helicopter parenting” may be waning as the children of Generation X are growing up. While a single breadwinner was common place during the childhoods of Baby Boomers, the “latch key kids” era was a trend among GenXers. In other words, they grew up in a family environment that required them to learn self-reliance at an earlier age with both parents working. It’s not surprising, then, if the kids of GenXers are being raised to be more independent.

But since the oldest GenEdgers are just now approaching college-age, the jury is still out in terms of how they will differ from Millennials, as well as previous generations.

The trends among Millennials and GenEdgers will be discussed in depth during a Nov. 18 forum at Southern called, “Ready or Not, Connecticut, the Millennial Generation is Here!…And the GenEdgers Aren’t Far Behind.” The program will explore topics such as how these two generations differ from past generations; Millennials in the workplace ; how modern technology may be affecting the interpersonal communication skills of younger folks and how to bridge the generation gaps. For further information about the forum, go to: http://www.southernct.edu/millennialforum.html

Halloween is a tough time to be a bat.

Only a month ago, the Flying Mammal had a buffet of available bugs to choose from for its meals. But the cool weather of late fall has drastically reduced the volume of mosquitoes, gnats and other flying insects from which to dine. The chillier conditions and declining food supply has sent some bats into hibernation already, with others preparing for the long, sleepy fast.

Brown bats are common in the United States.
Brown bats are common in the United States.

But if that’s not enough to give bats the blues, their reputation is annually besmirched during Halloween season. In movies, we see Dracula turn himself into a bat, flying around a haunted house and sucking blood from his victims. Kids equate bat costumes with those of witches, goblins and other menaces of the night.

“With the exception of ‘Batman,’ we generally don’t see bats portrayed in a positive light,” says Miranda Dunbar, assistant professor of biology at Southern and a self-proclaimed Defender of the Bat. “But the reality is the bat is actually one of the good guys.”

Dunbar, who has conducted extensive research on bats, has offered to help dispel some of the biggest myths about bats. Here are some of them:

Myth: Bats like to suck people’s blood.
Reality: There are only a few species of bat that consume blood at all, none of which are regularly found in the United States or Canada. And even among the species that do feed on blood, such as the vampire bat, they prefer livestock.

Myth: Bats are dirty animals that often spread rabies.
Reality: Bats are actually very clean, frequently giving themselves and their young tongue baths. And while it is possible to contact rabies from a bat, like many animals in wildlife, you have a much higher chance of getting rabies from raccoons, rats, foxes or dogs. When a bat gets rabies, it often dies within a week, not allowing it to hang around very long to spread the disease.

Myth: Bats are blind, at least during the day.
Reality: Although most have small eyes and don’t have great vision, they can see, even during the day. Some tropical species actually have vision that’s quite good.

Myth: Bats do nothing but sleep during the daytime hours.
Reality: Like other nocturnal animals, bats certainly sleep during the day. But they don’t sleep the entire time. In fact, they often groom and socialize during the day. Yes, they have friends.

Myth: All bats are brown or black in color.
Reality: While most in North America are some variation of brown, the Eastern red bats are actually a fiery red or orange. They are very handsome, but they tend to be a little high maintenance compared with the other bats.

Most bats wouldn't want to mess with this guy, an Eastern red bat.
Most bats wouldn’t want to mess with this guy, an Eastern red bat.

Myth: Other than eating some insects, the bat contributes little to the eco-system.
Reality: Not true. They eat a tremendous amount of insects – sometimes even their own weight in bugs during the course of an evening. But one of the little known facts about bats is that they are the primary pollinators and seed dispersers for many tropical fruits, such as bananas, mangoes and figs, as well as cashews and even for the Agave plant, which is used to make tequila. Their fur gets full of pollen when they eat the nectar of flowers. They then spread the pollen in their travels.

Note taking is one of the most underrated skills a person can learn in school.

You generally don’t get graded on it, per se, unless you take a class in shorthand. It’s often taught as a small component of another course.

But unlike some academic subjects that have little or no practical use after high school or college graduation, the ability to take notes has lifelong value.

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Good note taking goes a long way toward making good journalists. Doctors and other medical staff rely on notes concerning a patient’s symptoms and diagnosis. Staff meetings often require taking down important information.

“Note taking is a skill – like shooting free throws or dancing the waltz – which must be learned and practiced to be done well,” says Lisa Kuchta, an instructor of communication at Southern.

She actually landed a job in college as a note taker. In the long run, the profitability of her job depended upon the accuracy and effectiveness of her notes.

Kuchta offers the following suggestions to students on effective note taking, although many of the same principles can be applied to adults, as well.

  • Do your homework. It is important to read the material on which a lecture is going to be based before the class. Teachers and professors will use terms or ideas from the readings in their lectures. If you don’t understand the material, it will be difficult to grasp the meaning of what is said in class.
  • Eliminate barriers to learning. Simply put, you can’t take good notes if you can’t pay attention. So, make sure you can see and hear clearly what is said and written on the board. Turn off your cell phone. Avoid the temptation of checking an email or instant message if you are taking notes via a laptop or tablet. And while students today are probably better at multi-tasking than in the past, research has shown that the brain can’t fully focus on two mental tasks at once.
  • Learn to pick out the main ideas. “Ten minutes of lecture can likely be boiled to a few main points and a handful of sub points,” Kuchta says. “Trying to write down everything the instructor says will inevitably cause you to miss important information. You just can’t write as fast as the lecturer can speak, unless you know shorthand.”
  • Practice, practice, practice. If you find yourself having difficulty choosing what to leave in and what to leave out, take some extra time to improve that skill. One way to practice is to listen to a news broadcast. After each story, try to retell the gist of it in one sentence.
  • Use a clear, outlined structure. Outlines enable the brain to think logically. They enable us to differentiate between major and minor points. You can choose your own style – Roman numerals, capital letters, stars and bullet points, or whatever system that makes you comfortable.
  • Put ideas into your own words. Just robotically copying what the lecturer says – even when you don’t have a clue as to what it means – isn’t going to help you understand the material later. “Instead, listen completely to what the professor is trying to tell you and — in your head – re-explain it to yourself in your own words so that it makes sense to you. If you realize it does not make sense to you, ask the teacher for clarification,” Kuchta says.
  • Type or reread your notes later that day. It takes a little more time, but it will be worth it in the long run. By re-reading and/or transcribing your notes, it will allow you to fill in the blanks on what you don’t understand while the information is still fresh in your mind. And it will also help you commit it to a longer-term memory.

“Becoming a better note-taker may take commitment and diligence, but improving your proficiency will make your job – in school and in the real world – so much easier,” Kuchta says.

Few would like to return to the days of the Cold War — an era during the 1950s and 60s when the United States and the Soviet Union competed for military supremacy in a nuclear chess match. But the sense of urgency generated by the geopolitical struggle was the impetus — certainly one of the driving forces — behind America’s push to become the first nation to successfully land a man on the moon.

To accomplish that goal, the United States needed to ensure that its science and technology education was second to none. The Soviet launching of Sputnik in 1957 — the first manmade satellite to orbit the Earth — jolted the United States into action. Science education became a priority in this nation. And dividends were paid with a successful manned space flight in 1969 — nearly a decade after President John F. Kennedy outlined that goal. It left little doubt about the technological superiority of the United States.

blogphotoscienceliteracyBut nearly four and a half decades later, the state of science education in the United States has become much more ambiguous. For example, tests measuring scientific aptitude and knowledge show that American children are not at the top of the list. Not even in the top 5. And many educators have decried a lack of interest in science at the middle and high school levels.

So, what has gone wrong? Like most such complex questions, the answer does not lie in a single cause. But a de-emphasis on science education — and especially science literacy — has played a role in that decline, according to Susan Cusato, chairwoman of the Science Education and Environmental Studies Department at Southern. During the last few decades, education has placed more emphasis on literacy and mathematics — reading, writing and ‘rithmetic – but Cusato contends that it has come at the expense of science education.

“It is generally not until middle school that actual science teachers begin teaching science,” Cusato says. “What happens is that there is a continual catch-up process in the classroom.”

Cusato also feels that science education has done a disservice in focusing too heavily on training scientists, rather than promoting scientific literacy. She says students should have achieved basic literacy skills in all the major disciplines before college, including science.

“No matter what career path or profession our students choose, knowledge and wonder of science is critical,” she says. “By avoiding science you miss out on experiencing incredible things on a different level that can bring you great joy and insight.” She points to driving a car, riding a plane, or going to a concert, as examples of everyday tasks people often take for granted without understanding how science makes those things happen.

She says that scientific literacy is needed, not merely to fulfill an academic requirement, but to gain a better appreciation and understanding for what is happening around us. This would include climate change, pandemics and the search for sustainable energy sources.

So, what can we do to improve our scientific literacy? Cusato recommends several steps we can take that are relatively simple and don’t require a Ph.D. in molecular biophysics.

  • Visit museums, parks and nature centers. Pick out some activities you enjoy, or would like to try, such as maple syrup weekends, bird watching, fishing or nature walks. Science is part of all of them.
  • When reading the paper or listening to the news, try to pay attention to science stories. They may be more interesting than you think initially.
  • Read science magazines and other publications. They don’t have to be dissertations on string theory or Einstein’s theory of relativity. But many science-based magazines are available at local bookstores, and are written for the general public with photos and diagrams that help illustrate the subject matter.
  • Mention a timely scientific topic at a family gathering or when you are with friends. It may actually inspire others to learn more about a subject.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask science-related questions of your teacher, doctor, or anyone involved in the sciences. Many people enjoy talking about their chosen fields of expertise with others.

Speaking of science education, Southern will hold a groundbreaking ceremony Friday on a new academic and science laboratory building. To read more, check out: http://www.southernct.edu/about/construction/new-science-building.html

 

The forces behind a self-fulfilling prophecy can be powerful.

Whether it’s Muhammad Ali or Joe Namath brashly predicting victory, or a winless high school baseball team anticipating a meltdown in the seventh inning after holding a narrow lead, believing in someone or something can sometimes lead to the anticipated consequences.

This phenomenon occurs in sports, to be sure. But it also takes place in our daily lives – at home, at school and at work. And when it happens at the highest levels of management, it can significantly affect an entire organization – for better or for worse.

Paul Stepanovich, chairman of Southern’s (academic) Management Department, and Pamela Hopkins, professor of management at Southern, say that while there are some very perceptive bosses who understand human and organizational dynamics, there are also bosses who “learn” some faulty logic as it pertains to the operation under their jurisdiction. And this can have a spiraling negative effect on the organization, the employee and ultimately the manager.

As an example, if a supervisor praises an employee, but notices shortly thereafter that the worker’s productivity falls off somewhat, the supervisor over time starts to associate praise with performance drop off. Similarly, if an employee has had a below normal period and is reprimanded by the boss, and suddenly the individual’s performance is on an upswing, the boss starts to assume that the employee is someone who needs to be monitored closely and only performs when the “stick” is used.

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And while there are some employees who actually do perform in this manner, Stepanovich believes that more often than not, the perception is faulty. “There is a statistical phenomenon called regression to the mean,” he says. “That basically means that there is a natural variation – or a range – in the performance of an employee that averages out over time.”

In other words, a period of better-than-average performance will usually be followed by a period that isn’t as remarkable. And a period of below average performance will usually be followed by a better performance. In the long run, it averages out to a certain level within a range.

Stepanovich and Hopkins believe that understanding this concept is crucial to good management, but often is not realized by those in authority. As a result, bosses often develop some faulty beliefs that can undermine their own goals. Workers can become resentful, angry and eventually lose heart, no longer caring about their own performance, let along that of the organization to which they belong. In effect, the bosses have created their own problem when one previously had never existed.

In light of Labor Day, we thought we would share with you some of the more common managerial mistakes as seen by Stepanovich and Hopkins:

• Punishing without cause. As stated earlier, performance tends to ebb and flow within a certain range, regardless of whether the person had been recently rewarded or reprimanded. Workers can sometimes become disheartened and eventually lose their energy and drive, often creating the “deadwood” of an organization.

• Changing outlook toward workers. While a boss may enter an organization with a theory that workers generally want to do well, the manager might associate a company’s decline in performance with the view that workers are not trying hard enough. Over time, that association leads to a change in philosophy – a belief that workers need to be coerced to work effectively. In reality, the decline probably would have improved without managerial intervention.

• Development of a micromanagement approach. A supervisor might believe in empowerment of the staff when they start a job, but if an empowerment program is tried and results do not change favorably right away, the supervisor might be tempted to pull the plug. This person starts to monitor the staff more closely and develops a more centralized power structure, thereby leading to problems associated with micromanagement. That outlook can be brought to a new job, as well.

• Creating an overreliance on financial incentives. Incentives can be beneficial, but when if the boss starts to rely too heavily on this tactic, it can backfire. Workers might start to “game the system,” rather than focus on what truly is beneficial to the organization. It is similar to the criticism of the “teaching to the test” approach in education today.

You could call mathematics the “A-Rod” of high school and college classes.

Most students either love it or hate it, and just like with the Yankees embattled third baseman these days, chances are you fall into the latter camp.

Sure, for some students, writing is the skill they just can’t master. For others, a foreign language will always seem foreign to them. But if you surveyed your high school or college, chances are math would top the list of students’ “least favorite classes.”

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“In the United States, we take it almost as a badge of honor to dislike math or to be ‘bad at math,’” says Adam Goldberg, assistant to the dean of the School of Education at Southern.

“While most people would be embarrassed to admit that they couldn’t read very well, those same people wouldn’t think twice about admitting they aren’t very good at math. In fact, math teachers often hear parents confess at parent conferences that they weren’t very good at math and this is why their son or daughter isn’t doing well. It is this attitude that keeps the negative cycle going.”

But why do so many people fear and loath math?

Goldberg believes much of the negativity begins in middle school or high school, when there is a shift in what students learn. In elementary school, students are taught how to add, subtract, multiply, divide, work with fractions, etc. But the emphasis starts to shift in grades 7 to 12 from practical applications to more abstract concepts.

As an example, he points to subtraction. Students learn how to “borrow” to solve subtraction problems at an early age. But they don’t usually learn why they are borrowing to solve the problem.

“Therefore, they don’t have the conceptual knowledge needed to really understand the material,” Goldberg says. “This is what causes the negative feelings toward math.”

The good news, however, is that there are things that people – especially students – can do to help overcome the fear of math. Here are a few:

• Try to change your attitude toward math. You don’t have to love math. But if you can learn just not to hate it, it will reduce your anxiety and that alone will help you do better.

• Practice every day. Well, maybe not every day. But spending 10 or 15 minutes doing some quick mental mathematical problems at least several days a week can help. The more you do it, the more comfortable you will be with math.

• Make it fun and relevant. Part of the problem for many students is that they find math to be boring and/or irrelevant. So, try to apply math functions to something you find interesting. For example, practice figuring out your batting average. Or, as we noted in a previous post about practical applications for the number pi (~3.14), you can calculate how much extra you have to run around a track if you are running 5 feet away from the inside. For more advanced math students, you can figure out how much interest you can earn on a CD at a particular rate if the interest is compounded continuously, weekly, etc.

• Consider getting some extra help or tutoring. There’s nothing wrong with acknowledging that math is not your best subject, or that it is your worst subject. The question becomes: What are you going to do about it? Most math teachers would be willing to help you after school or during a free period during the day. Or, if you would rather put the time in away from school, you can ask a parent, sibling or friend. Or you could even ask a math tutor. College students with a strong math background, especially those interested in becoming teachers, are often willing to help middle, high school and other college students.

• Reduce math test anxiety. Tests of any sort tend to create anxiety, but math tests often spike that anxiety to higher levels. Goldberg suggests checking out the following website to help reduce testing anxiety: http://www.ets.org/s/praxis/pdf/reducing_test_anxiety.pdf

Here are a few other websites recommended by Goldberg that can help you overcome the fear of math:

http://www.mathacademy.com/pr/minitext/anxiety/#strat
http://cfaalearning.etsu.edu/2011/09/16/11-ways-to-reduce-math-anxiety/
http://www.math.com/students/advice/anxiety.html

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWith most school systems prepared to open later this month, students are enjoying their final few weeks of summer vacation. But for those who are about to enter their senior year in high school, thoughts of which college they will be attending a year from now are also sprinkled into their psyche.

Alexis Haakonsen, director of admissions at Southern, says the end of summer is a good time to start planning in earnest for the college search/admissions process. Without the pressure of daily classes, as well as sports and club activities, an effective action plan can more easily be put together.

As a guideline, Haakonsen divides the process into four components:

*Academic preparation. “This is, or at least should be, the number one priority for students,” she says. While the first three years of your high school transcript have been written, an impressive senior year can sometimes make the difference between getting into the college of your choice and having to settle for a school that was not among your first few. It may be a good idea to get a jump on the start of the school year by reviewing last year’s notes if you are taking an advanced-level class this year (such as Spanish 3 or Chemistry 2); doing some reading/practicing in advance, if you know which books and the course material you are going to see this year.

*Researching colleges. Find out important information about colleges that you are considering – everything from where they are located to majors and minors offered to scholarship availability to general admissions requirements. It is a good idea to prioritize the schools you are considering, if you haven’t already done so.

*Visiting colleges. “Students really need to get on the campuses they are seriously considering and see how they fit,” Haakonsen says. This process is much easier if you have narrowed your selections to a manageable number, especially if the schools you are considering are hundreds or thousands of miles away. Ideally, some college visits are done during the summer before your senior year, if not earlier. But if you haven’t visited some schools yet, it is a good idea to start planning to do so.

*Preparing the college application portfolio. In addition to standard paperwork and letters of recommendation, this includes the college essay. The essay can play a key role in determining your future school admissions, so be sure to give it your all. It may take multiple drafts before the essay exemplifies your best writing. But consider that an investment in your future. Don’t be afraid to let someone else – a guidance counselor, teacher, parent or even a friend — read your essay before submission. This doesn’t mean letting them write it for you, but rather providing feedback so that you can improve your own essay.

So, how do admissions offices ultimately decide whether you are accepted, placed on a waiting list, or are politely rejected? Haakonsen says each school proceeds in a distinctive manner, but that generally speaking, a “holistic approach” is used. “At Southern, we look at everything during an application review – high school grades, SAT/ACT test scores, essays, letters of recommendation and more,” she says. “The numbers don’t tell us the whole story – we want to know the whole person to help determine if that student will be successful at our particular institution.

“My main advice to students and parents as they are starting the college search process is to have fun! This is an exciting time in their lives and they should enjoy it,” Haakonsen adds. “There are so many great colleges and universities out there, students have many terrific opportunities to explore.”

She recommends the following link as being helpful to students entering their senior year, as well as for their parents:
http://www.collegebound.net/article/v/18956/college-preparationsenior-year-timeline/

And another link for a broader, multi-year approach in selecting a college:
http://www.petersons.com/college-search/planning-list-students-parents.aspx

In keeping with the theme from our last blog post about popular misconceptions associated with the birth of our nation, a new series offered by the Military Channel is must watch TV for U.S. history buffs.

The series, “America: Facts vs. Fiction,” was launched last week and is scheduled to run on Wednesdays at 10 p.m. The series explores commonly held beliefs about American history and is billed as a series to debunk fiction and to set the record straight on half-truths. A 30-segment last week pertained to the famous ride of Paul Revere to warn the colonists of an imminent threat by the British army.blogreverephoto

Revere, of course, set out on horseback from Boston and intended to warn our militia stationed in Lexington and Concord about the impending British march toward those locations. But the show pointed out some interesting facts that are bound to surprise many people. Some of them include:

  • William Dawes, a 30-year-old tanner and militiaman, had the same mission as Revere, although he took a different route to Lexington.
  • Both Revere and Dawes — as well as Samuel Prescott, a doctor and a patriot — then sought to go to Concord. But Revere was captured along the way. Dawes never made it either. Historians believe he had been bucked off of his horse. But Samuel Prescott was the person who actually made it to Concord.
  • Yet, the famous poem, “Paul Revere’s Ride,” written by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and first published in 1860, incorrectly states that Revere reached Concord and implies he was the only rider.
  • While Revere did warn colonial town and military leaders en route to Lexington that the British regulars were on the move, historians dispute the notion that he shouted “The British are coming! The British are coming!” Most colonists at the time identified themselves as British and were still under the British crown. “The Redcoats are coming! The Redcoats are coming!” is a more plausible refrain, but we really don’t know for sure.

Marie Basile McDaniel, assistant professor of history at Southern, says the show was essentially correct in its claims. She also said that she is more interested in the “how and why” that inaccurate portrayals of the past are handed down in society, rather than the actual misconceptions themselves.

“As an example, students all over the country had to memorize the ‘Paul Revere’s Ride’ poem – an exercise that lasted for decades!” she says. “You can still find people who had to memorize this poem in school.

So, why is it that Paul Revere is so emphasized in American history?

McDaniel notes that Revere was a patriot, and worked as a silversmith and engraver. He was very active in 1760s and 1770s political organizations, according to McDaniel.

“Maybe Longfellow’s poem, while not accurate, was reflecting a deeper truth about Revere’s place in pre-Revolutionary Boston.”

As an aside, McDaniel notes that many people might not realize the image on Samuel Adams beer is actually that of Paul Revere. “Although he was a brewer, Samuel Adams was not very good looking,” she says.

In fact, the homeliness of Adams is one of two prevailing theories as to why Revere’s image is on the beer bottles, rather than that of Sam Adams himself. The second is that the beer was originally going to be called “Revere Beer,” but that it did not fare well in poll testing. Yet, it was too late to change the image without incurring an additional cost.

Happy Birthday, America!

Our nation’s founding is a day to celebrate – often with fireworks, picnics and other early- summer fun. Most of us know the significance of Independence Day and the Declaration of Independence, of course. But there are plenty of interesting facts surrounding these historical milestones that would surprise many of us who are not experts in U.S. history.

blogindependencedayphotoWe wanted to share a few of these lesser-known facts with you. And thanks to background provided by Marie Basile McDaniel, assistant professor of history at Southern and our resident expert on colonial America, we’re able to do so.

First, contrary to popular belief, the United States declared itself an independent nation on July 2, 1776, not July 4, 1776.
The Second Continental Congress approved a resolution to do so on July 2. In fact, John Adams thought July 2 would be the date that would be celebrated as Independence Day. Nevertheless, you probably wouldn’t be successful in explaining to your boss that you should have July 2 off to celebrate Independence Day. Just a wild guess.

So, why do we celebrate the Fourth of July, rather than the Second of July?
The Declaration of Independence document itself was approved by the Second Continental Congress on July 4.

Okay. That means the Declaration of Independence was signed on July 4, right?
Wrong. Most historians believe that most of the 56 congressional delegates who signed the document did so on Aug. 2, 1776. And the last individuals to sign waited until at least November 1776 (some say it was longer) to put their John Hancock on the document. (Sorry for the pun.) By the way, Hancock really was the first to sign it.

When was the Declaration of Independence written?

Thomas Jefferson, with the help of Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Roger Sherman and Robert Livingston, wrote most of it in June 1776, soon after being appointed to a committee by Congress in that same month. The appointment followed a motion made by Richard Henry Lee, who represented Virginia in Congress, to declare the colonies independent. His motion was eventually voted on and approved July 2.

Were there revisions to the document?
Yes. In fact, Jefferson originally used the word “subjects,” rather than “citizens,” in the Declaration. This might well have been out of habit as the colonists had been considered “British subjects” since the pilgrims landed in the New World. But Jefferson later corrected the term. Congress made some revisions, as well.

Was there widespread support among the populace for the Declaration of Independence at the time it was approved?
Yes. While Americans were divided on whether or not to break away from England, there was considerable support at the grassroots level among those who wanted to be independent. In fact, many colonists were clamoring to issue a declaration even before 1776, but the elites in the Second Continental Congress kept delaying such a move because of potential military and logistical concerns.

And so it goes…Now you have some fodder to stump your Fourth of July party guests with a little Independence Day trivia. Does anyone have any other factoids about America’s birth that might surprise folks?

Happy 4th!

It wasn’t so long ago when high school and college graduates could be reasonably confident they would land a job not too long after the echoes of “Pomp and Circumstance” had faded. In fact, not getting some type of professional job a year after obtaining that diploma was the exception, rather than the rule.

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In today’s stagnant economy – especially with unemployment among 20- to 24-year-olds above 24 percent – securing a real job shortly after commencement is anything but assured.

So, what can someone do to increase their chances of employment in the near term?

Pat Whelan, associate director of career services at Southern, and Gerri Prince, the university’s coordinator of employer recruitment programs, offer some advice:

• Network! Hey, it might sound like a cliché, but this is a valuable piece of advice from Gerri and Pat. Let’s face it, the hunt for a job is somewhat of a numbers game. The people you are in contact with have contacts, who, in turn, have contacts, etc.

• Be sure to develop a refined, tailored version of your resume for each position to which you apply. A resume that is too generic can lead employers to think you lack motivation because you didn’t take the time to make it distinctive.

• Practice your interview skills. You can even request an “informational interview” from someone employed in an occupation in which you are trying to land a job. In those situations, it’s probably best to request no more than 20-30 minutes of their time since they might be very busy. And asking for a long period of time will make it less likely they’ll accept your request.

• Practice your pitch. No, not your fastball or curveball, but your commercial pitch. Be ready to talk about who you are and what you have to offer, even in unexpected settings, such as in the grocery store or at a social event. Politicians do this all the time and call it their “stump speech.”

• Professional dress for an interview is generally assumed by the employer. This should be a given, but you would be amazed at how many people think nothing of wearing jeans, T-shirts, tank tops, sneakers and even rather immodest clothing. The interviewer might mentally disqualify you from contention before you even utter a word if are attired in less than professional wear. Consider using graduation gift money toward the purchase of a career wardrobe.

• Join professional organizations in your field and try to build relationships with people. Individuals belonging to these groups often are well connected, and therefore it can help to meet them. If an opening occurs in their office and they know you, you might have an edge.

• Don’t under play your “soft skills” to potential employers, such as motivation, integrity, adaptability, organization, self-confidence and communication skills. These can be difficult to quantify or measure, but employers like team players, self-starters and those with a good work ethic.

• Remember to thank those individuals you encounter during your career search. Handwritten thank you notes, especially, are much appreciated. Even if you did not get a particular job after an interview, a thank you note leaves a good impression. And you never know if another job opening at the same organization is around the corner.

• Keep in mind that finding a job is a full-time job in itself, or at least it should be. Dedicate yourself to the search. The hard work you do now may not pay off immediately in terms of a paycheck, but it will increase your chances for finding a job you want.