Monthly Archives: October 2013

Classification of College Courses: Demystifying Course #s and Levels

October 24th, 2013

college

We regularly get asked by our international student applicants what is meant by “lower division” and “upper division.”

In the U.S., undergraduate degrees such as the Associate and Bachelor comprise of a select number of courses with a specific number of credits. In order to qualify for the award of these degrees, students must complete a required number of courses at what is considered to be lower level and or lower and upper levels. Graduate degrees also have a specific number of required courses with corresponding course numbers.

We have prepared the following description and hope you’ll find it helpful!

    Lower-Division Courses

Lower-division courses, typically numbered from 100 to 299, are designed primarily for freshmen and sophomores. Certain classes are closed to freshmen who lack the designated prerequisites or whose majors are outside the units offering the courses.

    Upper-Division Courses

Upper-division courses, are typically numbered from 300 to 499, and designed primarily for juniors and seniors. Prerequisites and other restrictions should be noted before registration. Courses at the 400 level apply to graduate degree requirements for some graduate programs. Always check with the Graduate office at the U.S. institution for information. Generally, upper-division level build upon material taught at the lower-division level in introductory or survey courses. For example, English 101 – Freshman English is a lower level course at the introductory level. Some courses labeled “Introduction to…” can be upper level courses depending upon the university reviewing the course. On a 100-400 numbering system, for example a course titled “Politics 512 – Introduction to International Law” may be offered for both undergraduate and graduate credit. It’s clearly “upper level” even though it says “Introduction” in the title. Upper division courses are courses offered at the junior level or higher.  By definition any course taken at a community college is not upper division.  Lower division courses are any course taken at a junior college or community college or courses offered at the freshman and sophomore level at a four-year college or university regardless of the title or content of the course.

    Graduate-Level Courses

Graduate-level courses, are typically numbered from 500 to 799, and designed primarily for graduate students. However, an upper-division undergraduate student may enroll in courses numbered 500-599 with the approval of the student’s advisor, course instructor, department chair and dean of the college in which a course is offered. If such a course does not meet an undergraduate graduation requirement, it may be eligible for use in a future graduate program on the same basis as work taken by a non-degree graduate student.

Alan

Alan A. Saidi
Senior Vice President & COO, ACEI, Inc.
www.acei1.com

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Filed under Credentials, Education

The Land of Hungry Ghosts

October 24th, 2013

ghost

It is no coincidence that rituals and celebrations commemorating those that have passed on, of honoring the dead, have a direct connection to the rituals and the seasons that sustain the living. Times of seasonal change, such as autumn harvest festivals, prepare us for and acknowledge the physical change of moving from the light, into the darker days of winter, from warmth into cold, and become a metaphor for death itself.

As the care-fee joys of the summer months are short, life too is brief, filled with both joy and pain, and the uncertainty of this duality and transition is unsettling for the human heart. To try and ease the pain and the grief of loss, many similarities and traditions have developed around the world to commemorate and accept the inevitable.

Between the eighth and eleventh centuries the Christian Church had already converted the ancient Celtic Samhain, the feasts of the harvest and the dead, and set them to coincide with both the Feast of All Saints (All Hallows Eve), on the first of November, and All Souls Day on November second.

All Saints Day, is observed by Christians, in many countries around the world. In Spain, Portugal, Romania, Croatia, France, Italy the Philippines and, Mexico, cemeteries are crowded with people who come to clean and decorate family graves with flowers, offerings and candles.

When the conquering Spanish arrived in the New World, they brought Christianity, forcing the native people to convert. The Christian Church used images depicting death, memento mori-(remember that you die,) in the form of skulls and bones, already quite familiar to the native people, who accepted death as a part of life.

The skull is used in many cultures on All Souls Day, fashioned out of both sugar and chocolate. In Mexico, the sugar skulls and skulls of papier maché are everywhere on Dias de los Muertos. In Italy on Il Giorno dei Morti, they make bean shaped cakes called Fave dei Mort, beans of the dead, and in Sicily they make crunchy cookies called, “Bones of the Dead.” Taking it a step further, in Rome some young people announce their engagements on All Souls’ Day. Life and death intertwined.

How does the way we view death affect how we live our lives?

The ancient Aztecs believed that life on earth was a dream, and only in death did they become fully awake. This belief is rooted in the acceptance that death, is a continuation of life, therefore, instead of fearing death, they embraced it. As such, death was not viewed as a tragedy, even when it occurs early in life or through unfortunate circumstances. Death was seen as a natural process. Death, like life, has meaning, and is part of a divine plan.

Similarly, Muslims accept death and are resigned to what is believed as one’s “appointed time,” which in Islam is inescapable and fated. For instance, surviving a grave illness, or a serous accident, is often remarked by the thought that, “ones appointed or pre-destined time has not come yet.” Muhammad advised,” Introduce into your gatherings some mention of death to keep things in perspective.”

That perspective, also infoms how Buddhists lead their lives. Buddhists believe that death is not the end of life, and as such, strive for connection to spirit, allowing for the peaceful belief that death is not to be feared as it will lead to rebirth. It emphasizes the impermanence of life and includes lives beyond the present one. What those future lives will be is determined by cumulative actions, both positive and negative, cause and effect, or karma.

In the sacred Hindu scriptures is stated that, “death is certain for the one who is born, and birth is certain for the one who dies.” As such, the sole purpose of life from birth to death is to engage the physical body as an instrument of conscious action, sadhana, and the spiritual engagement with the divine. Thus, one prepares for the time of death in a lifelong relationship to the divine.

The Hindu faith believes that death is only one part of life, and as such marks the end as well as the beginning. Hindus belive that although the body has a limited lifespan, the supreme spirit, the atman is eternal and that it is beyond emotional suffering, pleasure and pain––it is pure consciousness.

Hungry Ghosts

Most of the rituals associated with ancestor worship around the world are based on the belief that the spirits of the dead continue to dwell in the natural world and have the power in some way to influence the fortune and fate of the living. To consider a persons death, is to in effect consider their life, and in doing so, reconnect us to the divine, by connecting us to our transcendent self.

Funeral arrangements, preparing a feast, offering the deceased their favorite objects and earthly possessions to accompany them on their journey to the hereafter, calling upon the spirits, saints and gods to help guide them and ensure a smooth transition.

Dios de los Muertos is celebrated by creating exuberant and opulent altars for the dead, full of flowers, food, drink and favorite possessions of the dead during their lives. They are lured back home with trails of marigold flowers, Cempoalxochitl the flower of the dead, and fed warm meals in their honor. It is a time of celebration, humor and love, not at all a morbid affair.

In Celtic lands, Samhain was celebrated by lighting fires to illuminate the darkness, but these fires were also considered to be cleansing and healing as well. And like the Mexicans, they believed that it was a special time when spirits, or fairies could easily pass between the world of the living and the dead, partaking in feasts set out to welcome them. However, great care was also taken to ward off evil spirits, as they were on the move as well. Traditions evolved in order to fend off these evil spirits such as wearing your clothes inside out, disguising yourself with masks and costumes, carrying salt, or sprinkling salt around your bed while sleeping.

In China, the seventh lunar month in the traditional Chinese calendar is called Ghost Month. On the first day of the month, the Gates of Hell are sprung open to allow ghosts and spirits access to the world of the living. The spirits spend the month visiting their families, feasting and looking for victims. The 15th day of the month is Ghost Festival, sometimes called Hungry Ghost Festival. The Mandarin name of this festival is zhōng yuán jié. A rather superstitious time, it is considered a bad time to take evening walks, travel, start a new business, and many avoid swimming, as it is believed that many spirits dwell in water which might try to drown you. For more information, see:

http://mandarin.about.com/od/festivals/a/ghost_month.htm

Rituals help us to recognize the interconnectedness in life, as well as in death. And in the words of Jack Skellington, the Pumpkin King in the movie, The Nightmare Before Christmas,” Just because I cannot see it, doesn’t mean I can’t believe it.

Happy Halloween!

Jeannie Winston Nogai
Owner / Winston Nogai Design
www.jeanniewinston.com / E: jeanniewn@gmail.com

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Filed under Education, festival, History, Human Interest, Travel

IRAN: Flirting with Change

October 17th, 2013

Tehran_Students
Students at Tehran University source: en.irangreevoice.com

Though the world is viewing the overtures made by Iran’s new President, Hassan Rouhani, with cautious optimism, on Monday, October 14, 2014, he challenged the country’s hardline factions and called for the lifting of restrictions on academic freedoms and for granting Iranian scholars more opportunity to take part in international conferences. Speaking to students and professors at Tehran University, Mr. Rouhani said that his “administration will not tolerate factional pressures on universities,” and called on the importance of scholars from taking part in international conferences as “scientific diplomacy.”

“I urge all security apparatuses, including the intelligence ministry, to open the way for this diplomacy. Trust the universities,” said Rouhani.

In an earlier blog I wrote about how the government of Iran, under the former presidency of Ahmadinejad, had justified its decision to bar women from studying in 70 plus programs. Mr. Ahmadinejad and the hardliners in his government were concerned about the disparity between the increasing numbers of women versus men enrolling at universities. Mr. Rouhani’s predecessor’s government wasn’t only concerned about limiting women’s access to over 70 fields of study, but also barring scholars and professors from attending international conferences and engaging in research, and making it difficult for Iranian students to seek higher education outside the country.

Mr. Rouhani’s Monday call was broadcast on state television. The Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s top policymaker, has endorsed Rouhani’s outreach to the U.S. However, this does not mean the hardliners are taking Mr. Rouhani’s calls for education freedom and his attempts to reach out to the U.S. lightly. In fact, they have vowed to organize a major anti-U.S. rally on November 4th to mark the anniversary of the takeover of the U.S. embassy in Tehran by militant students in 1980.

When Rouhani took office in August, he had called for lifting the restrictions on social media access and even urged police to be less vigilant toward women and the perceived violations of strict dress codes. I believe Iranian women had already taken matters into their own hands, even before Mr. Rouhani’s declaration. Street fashion in Iran, as seen in this series of photos, is alive and well and young women and some men are pushing the envelope expressing their individualism and unique sense of style even with dress code restrictions.

Perhaps change is underway in Iran and as far as academic freedom is concerned, the only way to gauge it is to see how students, professors and scholars are treated under Mr. Rouhani’s watch.

Jasmin S. Kuehnert
President & CEO ACEI
www.acei1.com

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Education and Experience: A Healthy Partnership

October 10th, 2013

eduexperience

The only source of knowledge is experience.
-Albert Einstein

There are those who are book smart and those who are street smart. Some get their “education” from the school of hard knocks and some from sitting in a classroom and listening to a teacher’s lecture. The rising cost of a college education and the anemic job market has many scratching their heads wondering if it’s worth it. However, not having a degree or too little education is also not an option in many industries where a bachelor’s or master’s degree is the norm. Someone with experience but no college degree may qualify for certain jobs but may find growth opportunities and advancements limited or non-existent. Yet, the four or six years spent sitting in college lecture halls and pouring over books and reports leave many little time to acquire the hands-on work experience potential employers are looking for when hiring. How do you prioritize between education and experience?

We’ve all heard the arguments from both sides. Proponents of a college education quote statistics and studies to demonstrate how a college degree helps a person’s employability and earnings while those who dismiss education as a waste of time and money remind us of the famous college dropouts like Steve Jobs and Bill Gates to prove their point.

Is education more important than experience or vice versa? The truth is they are not mutually exclusive but together are the combination needed to begin a career path and grow.

Recently, we received documents from an applicant who had attended a university in Australia and received a Master’s degree. When asked to submit his undergraduate documents for evaluation, he explained that the university considered his professional (work) experience and admitted him to its Master’s degree program in lieu of the earned bachelor’s degree. The university provided a detailed document explaining the methodology it employs in recognizing professional experience and qualifications for entry into its post-graduate degree programs.

Experience-based evaluations based on a set of guidelines/criteria by which professional practice can be recognized and applied objectively is an approach some institutions, especially in today’s market, are adopting. The Australian institution in question provided the following criteria by which credits are allocated for the learning acquired through the experience, which in the case of the candidate being evaluated was in the field of music:

1) Nature of training
-Duration
-Mode of learning, teachers and so on
-Any other relevant considerations (partially completed degrees/non recognized qualification etc.)

2) Nature of professional practice:
-Context(s)
-Duration
-National/International Experience
-Professional Referees /Peer Recognition
-Other relevant professional experience/considerations: Recording contracts/nature of collaborations/performances

3) Recordings/Publications:
-Context
-Publisher

In addition, candidates for this mode of entry to the Australian university mentioned are required to provide relevant documents that support their case for admission, including recordings, press reviews, letters of reference, proof of prior study and so on that can be examined by the subcommittee (comprised of the Head of Department, Program/Curriculum Developer, and one Faculty member).

Recognizing experience, that is; proven and well-documented experience-based learning is one approach institutions of higher learning can take into consideration offering individuals the opportunity to bring the knowledge gained through hands-on experience into the university classroom environment.
Another approach is implementing work-based training/experience into the degree program so that the college graduate leaves not only with a diploma highlighting his/her ability to think analytically and logically, demonstrating his/her exposure to an intellectually stimulating environment, but with basic skills set of experience in solving real-world work problems.

According to a recent Northeastern University survey, higher education students and employers strongly support experiential learning where a student’s classroom education is integrated with professional work experience. An interesting finding in the Northeastern U. survey shows that nearly 75% of hiring decision-makers surveyed believe students with work experience related to their field of study are more successful employees, while 82% of graduates from experiential learning programs say the experience was valuable for their personal and professional development. The business world is taking notice and sees the link between academic with industry as a big step forward.

Some Universities, like Purdue U. have in place study-abroad opportunities as experiential learning models. This international experience is seen as exactly what their students need in order to polish their talents and become more competitive in the global market place.

Experiential learning programs represent a logical blend of the old adage of hands-on-learning in the work place and a college education. Even the White House is a fan of experiential learning programs. James Kvaal, the Deputy Director of the Domestic Policy Council at the White House has commended Northeastern and Purdue for “delivering good value for students and continually improving and innovating.”

Education, a great foundation for any professional, is no longer enough in a competitive marketplace. One way to stand out among other professionals who have the same degree is to show work experience, whether acquired through a paid-full-time job, volunteering, apprenticeships, freelancing, internship or part of co-operative work placements of their college degree. The debate is no longer about education “or” experience, or education “versus” experience; it is about the right combination of a successful academic history and relevant work experience.

Jasmin S. Kuehnert
President & CEO ACEI
www.acei1.com

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3 Things I’ve Learned as a Transglobal Pilgrim

October 3rd, 2013

Transglobal

Learning by doing is one of the most powerful, and rewarding ways to enter into another culture. I studied the French language for 12 years before finally going to France, and it was there that the desire to “become French,” overwhelmed me. As an avid people watcher, I love to observe body language, gesture, facial expressions, and attitude. So, I perfected the art of mimic. I returned to the states and studied the language for another 3 years and when I could afford it, I took vacations in French speaking lands–– islands being my favorite.

Growing up in Los Angeles I also fell in love with the Mexican culture. It is inescapable in terms of cultural celebrations, holidays, and the coming and goings of daily life. As far as I am concerned, it is a necessity to learn to speak Spanish if you live in L.A. Of course you can stay on the surface, and observe others from afar, but what fun is that? To fully experience life in the multitude of Spanish speaking populations of the city, you have to do some cultural shape shifting.

I have found that my eagerness to relate is always well received and it opens up doorways to completely new and fascinating worlds hidden just under the surface of daily life. Ones that can make the most mundane trip to the corner store a richly rewarding experience.

I have only lived in Germany for about two years now, and I am trying to learn by doing, but I have not tried to mimic this time. I absolutely refuse to raise my voice 5 octaves when given the customary ciao––Tschüsss! Grown men over 25 go completely falsetto when saying it. Everyone does.

I do admit to a language deficit, but I always start off by saying, “Mein Deutsch ist nicht so gut, Ich komme aus Kalifornien,“ my German is not so good, I come from California. By looking at me they just assume I am German, and they get a funny look on their face when I try complicated sentences, poorly. So, I’ve found that by offering an explanation up front, things usually go quite well from that point on. The Kalifornien always breaks the ice. The more fluent I become, of course the more I learn about how life here works. Here are three important things I have learned about my new land.

1. Taxi Cab Ride

The taxi cab driver that came to take us to my husband’s first doctor’s visit, post hip-replacement surgery, recently had a knee replacement himself. He came from Turkey a number of years ago, and spoke flawless German. I listened to the best of my ability as the two men exchanged stories and chatted in the front seat. It slowly came out that they had been at the same, quite famous Orthopedic Hospital for their surgery and recovery.

In addition, in Germany, everyone stays in the hospital for two weeks of monitoring and the beginning of physical therapy/ rehabilitation. The insurance companies pay, knowing they will still make a profit, because two weeks in the hospital in Germany is still cheaper than a second, more complicated surgery. It has been shown that 2 weeks of post-operative care, lowers the recidivism for most surgeries.

Wow–– It astonished me to learn that costs are structured, and social thinking dictates that absolutely everyone can get great care, and be given the exact same physical therapy and rehab, and go to one of the many “Wellness/ Rehab” centers throughout the German countryside.

On top of it, imagine that the Taxi Company in Bremen allows this recuperative time, and with full pay! Of course there are those who are privat versichert, those that pay for “Private Health Insurance” versus the Government mandated insurance everyone must have, the gesetzliche Krankenversicherung.

The privat patients do get priority with doctor’s appointments and surgery schedules, because the doctors and institutions make more money off them, and know they will always be paid without tedious Insurance Carrier negotiations.

The last time I was in New York I learned that the taxi cab drivers in the city all own and are responsible for their own cars, which was news to me, and I am sure that the Senegalese driver who told us that, did not have the opportunity to get the same medical treatment as his Turkish counterpart in Germany. I am pretty sure he did not get paid rehabilitation for a month in the countryside or a city clinic.
In Los Angeles, the taxi drivers are often educated professionals, immigrants from other countries. They are classically trained musicians, doctors and dentists from the Ukraine, Iran, India, or you name it. I am pretty sure that they also don’t have the opportunities for care that the taxi drivers in Germany have.

2. Ticket Revenue

Cities get inventive when it comes time to collect more revenue. In Los Angeles the car is still the dominant mode of transportation, however, the city is installing a very much needed rail system. The last time I was in Los Angeles, I took the first chance I could to ride the rail between Culver City and Exposition Park. I got a TAP card and happily passed on the traffic jams, and cost of driving and the exorbitant cost of parking. The Expo Line Phase 2, due to be completed by 2015, will connect Downtown Los Angeles and beyond, directly to the beach in Santa Monica. They still have to create an access system to get through the city to the Metro Rail Depots, but that will come. Check out the budding system : http://www.buildexpo.org/

But back to revenue. On the car dominant streets of Los Angeles, the costs vary; a jay-walking ticket – $191, a parking ticket-up to $68, a speeding ticket $210 and more, and let’s not talk about texting while driving.

First of all, Europeans would laugh in the face of police-person who tried to give them a jaywalking ticket, as it is done all the time. However, here, I am one of the few who cross against the light at a street corner! Everyone, waits for the light to turn green before walking, even when there are no cars around for city blocks.

Now that I live in a place with an amazing mass transit system, I have learned to never get caught trying to ride for free on the city trams, and definitely, not more than 3 times. Each violation costs 40 Euros and after the 3rd time it goes on record as a criminal offense. I remember thinking it was like our 3-Strikes Law in California. A bit over-the-top. The tram cost is 2,40 Euros one way for all destinations farther than 3 stops, so pretty much everyone pays, and the system runs great.

I know it costs more in Manhattan, something around $100 per offense. And the jury is still out in Los Angeles, as the whole inner-city rail concept is just now being brought back to life. At one time, Los Angeles had one of the most extensive light rail systems in the country, so I am sure the city will figure that out.

I learned by using the wrong, small piece of paper. I mistakenly used the receipt-for-the-purchase-paper (who knew?), paper-clipped together with the bunch of tickets my father-in–law had given me.

I stamped them in the machine inside the tram, as I had seen others do, and when the tram-police-guy came up and asked for my tickets, (the first and only time to date) I proudly handed him the stamped paperlet. He looked at them, gave a smug laugh, and told me they were Müll, trash. I was shocked, and tried to explain in my imperfect German that my father-in-law had given them to me, and I did not know the difference between them, so I did not think I used an invalid ticket.

It did not go over too well, trying to explain to him that I am not yet fluent with the language or the system. He asked how long I had been in Bremen and if I was a citizen. No, I am an American married to a German. Then he asked for my passport–– of course I didn’t have it. He did not like that answer, so I informed him I was a permanent resident and produced my card. He told me to learn German, and wrote me a ticket and admonished me not to develop a criminal record. Not fun. Public transport does not take kindly to fare evasion, it taxes everyone more.

Now that I am an immigrant, I just couldn’t help wondering what would have happened if I didn’t have my residency card…would it be something like not having your green card while Mexican in California? I think I will avoid that experiment.

3. The Market

Shopping for food is another way to begin assimilating into a new culture, and one that still comes with a bit of stress. In the markets, people are usually in a hurry, and everyone packs their own bags. There is no standing around while the checker or “bag-person” does it for you like in American markets, although we always packed our own bags in Los Angeles, much to the shock and appreciation of the clerk at the checkout stand. It seems only logical to help things move along.

In Germany it goes very fast, and between trying to pack my cloth bags, not break the eggs and translate in my head the amount the checker has just quoted me, I always break into a small sweat. Things can pile up quickly with the press of impatient shoppers breathing down your neck. You must learn to ignore them and pack with deftness and speed.

I remember the first Trader Joe’s in Pasadena on Arroyo Parkway in the 1970’, and until I moved to Germany I had no idea that it was bought by the German Aldi Nord Company, known here as Aldi. When I go to the Aldi discount market near us, I walk away with California Almond and California Walnut packages bearing the Trader Joe’s logo! However, I have to say, the Almonds are not as good as the California Almonds I get at the California Trader Joe’s. But it still makes me smile.

Buying food is different here. You absolutely have to go to the market every day, or every other day, max if you want to have fresh produce. The produce here does not last more than 2-3 days in the fridge. That is good on one hand, because you know with certainty that nothing has been done to prolong the freshness. It is bad on the other hand, because it takes more time, and is especially not fun in sub-zero temperatures to run out for lettuce and tomatoes.

Fresh Hummus here from the Turkish fruit and vegetable stand is utterly delicious and goes bad after two days, so I manage to eat it up. In the states, Hummus can last for a week in the fridge. Same goes for all dairy products.

Occasionally a piece of fruit, usually one out of season, will rot from the inside out. Aha! Evidence of being previously frozen. But I still prefer that to artificially prolonged food. I never understood why the Horizon Organic Half and Half lasted for a month? That just ain’t right.

Jeannie Winston Nogai
Owner / Winston Nogai Design
www.jeanniewinston.com / E: jeanniewn@gmail.com

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