Kosrae Recruiting Trip Report

18 February 2004

Wednesday afternoon Bastora and I worked at the Kosrae campus. During this time we had informal discussions with members of the Kosrae faculty and staff.

Wednesday evening I visited a COM-FSM alumni who was leaving the next day on a medical referral to the Philippines. Visiting students with medical issues always reminds me of our need to move forward on deploying a medical safety net for our students including insurance and the availability of a doctor in the clinic on a regular schedule.

The third FSM economic summit health sector documents call for the inclusion of all FSM citizens in the National Insurance Plan (NIP). This seems to me to provide the impetus to request inclusion of our students in NGEHI. Our students are a basically healthy group, their insurance would simply be a required fee. We should be an area of positive fund balance for NGEHI – 2700 insurees in their prime of life and peak of health. We must pursue this option vigorously.

19 February 2004

Thursday morning, Reverend Benjamin, Bastora Raymond, and Augustine met with the Governor here on Kosrae. Sitting as a representative from Kosrae DOE was Paul Hadik. After introductions by Rev. Benjamin and a welcoming by the Governor, I was asked to present on behalf of our delegation. I covered two main topics: the admissions board decision to admit only 400 in this round of intake and general information on the performance of the high school.

I noted that the impact is an effective 22% drop in intake and a consequent fall in the high school admissions numbers. I noted that the drop was not a reflection of a change in the performance of the high, just a result of our changing our admissions system. I also noted that performance at the high school was fairly flat on a year-to-year basis and the performance level was such that many students place into remedial courses.

I noted that only 11 students placed into MS 100, 45 students were above a 500 on the grammar section and 8 were above 500 on reading. In general the high school is not producing college level students - bear in mind that 164 students took the exam.

The governor asked if there were state quotas inside the 400, and I responded no, there were no such quotas. He clearly understood that a state that placed no one in the top 400 would not get anyone admitted to the college. The governor expressed concern that the increased competition implied by the drop in admissions would lead to teaching to the test. I noted that the admissions board had said it would examine a point based system that would value more than just a single entrance examination. GPA would also be examined along with other factors. This is something that the board has yet to do.

The meeting went on for more than an hour, or at least it seemed that way to me. The Governor asked that we continue to share data with him as it is crucial to their own performance based budget efforts. I noted that I felt the college needs to do a better job of communicating with the state departments of education, state leadership, and the community. I told the Governor to please ask us when he needs information, and if the college is not responsive to let me know so that I can determine whether the information is something we can or ought to release and to assist in that process of sharing information.

I noted that we all must work together, sharing and communicating, for the sake of our children. I did apologize for talking too much.

The team then met with the Director of Education and covered essentially the same ground. We were asked whether there was a plan to share this information with the other states, with the questions carrying an implied command to do so. Regent Robert asked that I produce a report on the information shared for the March board meeting. This report should also be shared and communicated in the other states.

The regent was informed of the concept of a category of students who would not be admitted to any program at the college fall 2005. The regent immediately applied the term "functionally illiterate" to them.

The regent also asked that the admissions board consider the financial impact of their decisions. He appeared to be taken aback by having not been appraised of this decision prior to its implementation. As we make decisions in committees, we have to be careful to reflect on whether we ought to first inform bodies such as the board of our decision prior to implementing the decision. I also understood that the Regent was calling on the admissions board to work closely with the finance committee on admissions decisions.

In the afternoon Bastora and I spoke to the state campus students, then I joined an Upward Bound (UB) recruiting assembly.

I learned that UB uses an "entrance" system consisting of a test, essay, GPA, and interview. All are rated on a 1 to 5 scale and then converted by a weighting multiplier to points. The students are then ranked and the top 17 will be taken into UB next summer. Parts of this mirrored the admissions board point system proposal, hence it interested me. The GPA is multiplied by five, the other portions are multiplied by three.

In the evening I delivered a FAFSA form to a parent of a student from Utwe. The student needed their father's signature on the FAFSA. I also stopped by and visited informally with the mayor of Utwe, Truman Waguk. Our discussion centered primarily on the performance based budget work being done in Kosrae at the moment. The need for numbers, data, is increasely critical to state and community leadership. To the extent that the College can assist with providing that data and training in utilizing that data, the college will be serving a critical need.

I then joined a home dedication and prayer session for a new home in Malem. Here I had a chance to touch base with Bruce Howell of the transportation department on Kosrae.

20 February 2004

On Friday morning Bastora and I spoke to the high school seniors. Bastora described student services at the national campus and then I spoke about programs. Although my Kosraen is broken at best, I started by talking about the three basic admission's classifications: certificate, IEI, and regular, in Kosraen. My usage of the local language was intended to make comprehension easier for the certificate and IEI level students.

Nga fwac fin kom wi certificate, kom muhta ke Kosrae. Fin tari certificate, kom ku sulpe is admissions test. Nga fwac fin kom wi IEI, kom muhtu year se Kosrae campus. Tari year se, kom etuku ke national campus.

When I came to describing the options available to the regular admissions students, I switched to English, which would be appropriate to this group.

I covered a variety of programs tying them to the local realities of a flat job market. I covered all of our programs. I spoke about the need for someone to pursue archaelogy through to a doctorate. I told them their dissertation awaits them in Utwe: Menka remains unstudied and a complete mystery. I noted that many will work abroad and that computer information systems and business will provide a strong basis on which to compete for jobs abroad.

As I described the HRM program I said that one day I would meet the one student who can take the idea and run that an American once had of an exclusive high-end resort in isolated Walung catering to the elite. Secure, beautiful, and away from the madding crowd. No press, superior security. I noted that such a student could start in the HRM program and then either continue on to a bachelors or simply use their skills to take the concept and develop it. A hotel was built, but the building is now decaying back into the sands of Walung. The students were laughing at me, but I would not find out why until later.

After the presentation a student came up to me. “I was planning to go to Hilo, but I want to know more about the HRM program. My father owns that hotel in Walung and runs a bike and hike in Hawaii. I want to develop that hotel in Walung.” The student did not realize we had an HRM program. I am hopeful that the student will be touch with Howard.

Before the presentation I had picked up three leaves, Asplenium nidus, Phymatosorus scolopendria, and Vittaria elongata. I held up the Asplenium nidus and said, “Mese eng?” One student answered “sra” (leaf). “Ao, sra se. Sra fuhka?” Another student answered “Foa?” (fern). “Ao, foa fuhka?” No one answered. “Kom nikun? Pwacya?” I asked. No answer. The students did not know. “Muliklik!” I told them.

I went on to the P. scolopendria and they knew not what it was nor its traditional use in Kosrae. After telling them the name, I noted that, “Fin kom kahn sra se ma srisrihk, el ku orella kom en tiac fwok soror.” Although my Kosraen is horrid, the students understood and laughed. I then descibed the use of the Vittaria in Kosrae, something the students also did not know. I noted that the Kosraen name for the Vittaria was already lost – we are losing our languages and with them our culture. On Pohnpei the Vittaria name is not known to the youth, but the name itself is not yet lost. One local appellation is Alis en Nahnsou Sed (beard of the sea ghost).

Then I capped off with, “The College of Micronesia is the only college at which you can learn these things. Our Micronesian Studies program can teach you things that no other college on the planet can teach you.”

At the national campus there has been occasional loose discussion of what a "local language arts" test would be. The 60 Kosrae seniors failed my impromptu Kosraen vocabulary/botany test above.

Friday afternoon our itinerary called for meeting with parents. I waited for parents, but none came. I like suggestion of meeting the parents and community. On Kosrae it is not the students alone who make the decisions on where to attend school, it is often made by the parents or the parents in consultation with the students. We need to recruit the parents. I would, however, want to be able to give better assurances of our ability to safeguard the health and welfare of their children than I can at the moment.

In the evening I attended a first year birthday party for the niece of Kosrae State Scholarship Director Alokoa Sigrah, Shantel Wain Nani Mongkeya. I was able to speak to Phil Ching while at that social function, as well as briefly with Alokoa Sigrah. Alokoa noted that an appropriation was moving through the state for funding the Kosrae state scholarship. We also spoke about the issue with the SEOG/CWS cash out not including FSM citizens in stateside schools.

My apologies for my Kosraen spelling. A student years ago who spelled Kosraen in a non-standard manner noted that one's spelling in Kosraen reflected one's personality. The old saw that if everyone spelled different no one could read anything was invented by some publisher of a dictionary looking for a way to market their beast. Over the years I've noted that Kosraens often choose their own personal spelling system. In this day and age of signature-free email, the unique spelling choices of a Kosraen assures the recipient as to the authenticity of the identity of the sender.

My thanks to Director Kephas, Pastor Benjamin, Alik, Aileen, Paul, and the rest of the Kosrae crew who handled all of the arrangements and made our visit possible. Thanks also to the state leadership for meeting with us at length and for allowing us to share with them. Finally I would like to thank Ringlen and the admissions board for sending us. I would suggest that we look at the percentage who choose the national campus this year versus last year to determine whether we had any positive impact.