VITA program again providing free tax assistance
Every year during tax time, Lakeland College accounting students power the local Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program, which provides free tax return service for lower-income citizens.
"VITA is a wonderful thing," says Lakeland College graduate Brittney Mauk, who completed her degree in accounting last December and now works for Schenck Business Solutions. "Not only did it give me hands-on experience; it also connects Lakeland College students to the community. It's such a great feeling to see the joy in people's faces and hear them say, 'Thank you so much!'"
The Sheboygan VITA program, sponsored by Guaranty Bank and Schenck SC, takes place one night a week from 5-9 p.m. and on Saturday from 9:30 a.m.-2 p.m. at the Sheboygan Salvation Army. For participating Lakeland College students, the volunteer work is linked to their Federal Income Tax 2 class.
Brett Killion, in his third year as Lakeland's assistant professor of accounting, said his students – with help from Lakeshore Technical College students – handled 766 state returns and 665 federal returns last spring. The average federal return yielded $1,356 and the average Sheboygan VITA state refund was $540.
In its first nine years, Lakeland's program has collected more than $9 million in tax refunds for low income earners in the area.
"You're dealing with live emotions," says Lakeland senior Tara Guell, who will graduate with her accounting degree in May and who works with VITA. "Happy, sad, angry, confused … I can relate to the people coming in for help. As a single mother I once struggled with some of the things they're going through. It feels good when we can help."
Lower-income citizens bring in their paperwork and conduct a short interview with the accounting student assigned to the return. There are 10 computers set up in the Salvation Army for the Lakeland students to use. Most returns take between an hour and an hour-and-a-half. The returns are then reviewed by the more experienced students and tax practitioners. After that, the paperwork is compiled. Mauk says she has completed anywhere from one to five returns per shift.
"There are people out there who are struggling," says Killion. "We provide that free service and hopefully put dollars in their pockets."
Citizens who receive money aren't the only ones with a sense of reward. "We actually have alums contact me and volunteer to help, even after they graduate," says Killion.
Lakeland gets an 'A' for safety
When parents send their children off to college, they expect their kids to be part of a safe, secure environment. Count Lakeland College among the schools that make meeting this expectation a priority.
SafeWise Security Systems, a national home security resource company, has included Lakeland on its list of "4 Colleges That Get an ‘A' in Campus Security."
The list, which also includes Stanford University, Gonzaga in Spokane, Wash., and Sheridan College in Wyoming, can be seen online at SafeWise.com.
"Lakeland works hard at making sure our students, faculty and staff are learning and living in a safe environment," said Nate Dehne, vice president for student development & athletics. "Our inclusion on this list is a nice compliment to our director of safety and security, Annette Gamache, and her staff. We have been confident that we are doing a good job, but it's always nice to see an outside source affirming that we're doing well."
Lakeland's safety and security team includes two full-time staff members and it recently added five part-time professional employees. The department also employs a number of student workers, often criminal justice majors who are getting real-life experience to support what they're learning in the classroom.
The department offers 24-hour "safe rides" between buildings for students and employees, vehicle jump starts and self-defense classes.
Lakeland expands relationship with Chinese schools
Lakeland College recently expanded its relationship with two sister schools in China.
Lakeland signed new agreements with East China Institute of Technology (ECIT) and Shanghai Finance Institute during a multi-day visit to China by Lakeland Interim President Dan Eck, Director of International Programs Jen Siebert and Instructor of General Studies and Chinese David Lynch.
Lakeland and ECIT signed new 2+2 agreements covering the following majors: accounting, biochemistry, biology, chemistry, computer science, international business, marketing, art and music and math. The agreements lay out an academic plan for students entering the programs so they stay on track to earn a Lakeland bachelor's degree.
Lakeland and SFU signed a 2+2 agreement for accounting and a 3+2 agreement for art, and renewed 2+2 agreements for business and marketing that have expired. The schools also discussed SFU's desire to send more one-term students to Lakeland and send some of their faculty to Lakeland for teacher training.
During the visit, Siebert met with students and gave presentations regarding Lakeland's summer program and undergraduate programs.
Lakeland and SFU initially signed a sister school agreement in 2006. Lynch has taken students to SFU for May Term classes twice, and a third group is going this May. Lakeland has hosted eight visiting SFU professors since 2005 and 25 one-term students since 2007, in addition to several other faculty/staff delegations.
Lakeland and ECIT also signed an initial sister school agreement in 2006. Since the summer of 2007, ECIT has sent between seven and 22 faculty and staff members to Lakeland's Summer Professional Development Program. A total of 58 ECIT members have participated in the program. Several ECIT students have participated in Lakeland's Summer English Language Institute, and there have been many visits by ECIT administrators and scholars. Siebert is among the Lakeland faculty who have taught at ECIT.
Central Lakeshore Conference 2014 Honors Band performance
More than 80 of Sheboygan County's most talented high school musicians recently performed a riveting 45-minute concert for more than 300 spectators at Lakeland College's Bradley Theatre.
The Central Lakeshore Conference 2014 Honors Band, an "all-star" collection of talent from nine Sheboygan County high schools, performed under the direction of guest conductor Christopher Werner, Lakeland's first-year director of band, on Jan. 2.
The students, who rehearsed only twice together prior to their collaborative performance, drew a standing ovation from many of the parents, friends and music lovers who attended. The concert included works by Beethoven and Bach.
"It was great fun," said Werner. "It's amazing what young people can do when they're challenged. The results were pretty impressive. Never underestimate young people."
Schools represented were Cedar Grove-Belgium, Elkhart Lake-Glenbeulah, Howards Grove, Kohler, Oostburg, Ozaukee, Random Lake, Sheboygan Christian and Sheboygan Lutheran.
Instruments played included alto sax, baritone sax, tenor sax, bassoon, clarinet, bass clarinet, flute, euphonium, flute, French horn, oboe, percussion, trombone, trumpet and tuba.
"These kids came together, from different schools, not knowing each other, and in an instant, they came together and played beautiful music," said Richard Tengowski, honors band chairman. "We could tell during the first rehearsal that this would be one of the better groups, so we chose a little more challenging music. The kids really stepped up and did a remarkable job."
Band directors from each of the CLC schools nominated their top performers to make up this all-conference musical ensemble. The students rehearsed at Lakeland under their respective schools' band directors on Dec. 17, then came together again at Lakeland on the day of the performance for four final hours of rehearsal under Werner.
Werner seemed to enjoy the evening, as he enthusiastically offered up brief nuggets of background and other details about some of the pieces the students performed. Tengowski said he was impressed with Werner's passion and musical acumen.
"We want this event to be on a neutral site, so Lakeland is ideal, but also, this is a way for these talented area students to discover that there's a great college in their backyard with spectacular music teachers," said Tengowski. "This is really a win-win for everyone."
Lakeland College named to U.S. Higher Education Delegation to Brazil
Lakeland College is one of 16 U.S. colleges and universities selected by the Institute of International Education (IIE) for the 2013-2014 Brazil initiative of IIE's International Academic Partnership Program (IAPP).
Lakeland will participate in a year-long program comprised of training activities designed to assist in implementing and sustaining partnerships with counterparts in Brazil. The program includes a week-long study tour to Brazil in spring 2014 to learn first-hand about the Brazilian higher education system and meet with potential partner campuses.
A 10-member steering committee at Lakeland has adopted the following as Lakeland's expected outcomes:
- Create university partnerships in Brazil for both short term and long term study abroad options for Lakeland students.
- Recruit more Brazilian students to attend Lakeland and therefore educate U.S. students about Brazil and its culture.
- Connect what is happening in Brazil with Lakeland College's faculty expertise. Associate Professor of History Krista Feinberg is teaching a course this spring on the history of modern Brazil, and Lakeland's biology faculty are interested in tropical biology in Brazil.
- Help achieve the college's goal to internationalize the campus, and have a strategic plan related to Brazil.
"For decades, Lakeland has made a strong commitment to international education," said Interim President Dan Eck. "Creating a strong presence in Brazil complements our existing international programs and presents new study abroad opportunities for our students."
This semester, Lakeland has 75 international students from 13 countries enrolled at its main campus in Sheboygan County.
Since 1990, Lakeland has operated a two-year campus in Tokyo, Japan, and Lakeland has sister school relationships with the following institutions:
- Koje College and Ansan University in Korea
- East China Institute of Technology and Shanghai Finance University in China
- Universität Kassel and (beginning next year) the Erfurt University of Applied Sciences in Germany
- Universidad Reformada in Colombia
- The University of Luxembourg in Luxembourg
The other participating U.S. campuses in the Brazil Initiative are: Dartmouth College, Farleigh Dickinson University, The City of New York's Lehman College, Medaille College, Rice University, Stetson University, Troy University, University of Arizona, University of Michigan-Dearborn, University of Missouri, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, University of Wisconsin-Stout, University of Wisconsin- Whitewater, Wayne State University and Western New Mexico University.
IIE's Center for International Partnerships in Higher Education will guide the campus representatives through a strategic planning process in the current academic year geared towards establishing partnerships with institutions in Brazil. This group will also have the opportunity to benefit from the experiences of previous delegations of high-level officials who represented 14 U.S. higher education institutions in 2013 and 18 additional institutions in 2012.
"Higher education stands to play a vital role in Brazil" said IIE's President and CEO Allan E. Goodman, "and educational partnerships between the US and Brazil will help build Brazil's intellectual capital while fostering key institutional partnerships between the two nations."
These partnership programs offer timely resources for campuses in both countries to explore areas of academic cooperation, including exchanging students and scholars and collaborating on research projects and degree programs.
Over the past few years, both the U.S. Department of State and the government of Brazil have emphasized the importance of educational collaboration. Continued cooperation between the two countries is evidenced by the expansion of the Fulbright and Brazil Scientific Mobility programs, the addition of English, a new language immersion program in Brazil, and the ongoing alliance in the US-Brazil Joint Action Plan on Racial Equality.
Brazil has become increasingly important to US higher education with the creation of the Brazil Science Mobility Program (BSMP) by the Brazilian government in 2011. This multiyear initiative will send 75,000 fully funded Brazilian students abroad for training in the science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields, with an additional 25,000 scholarships to be funded by the private sector.
Working with the Fulbright Commission, Brazil's Ministry of Education, Coordenação de Aperfeiçoamento de Pessoal de Nível Superior (CAPES) and the National Council for Scientific and Technological Development (CNPq), IIE has placed more than 6,000 undergraduate students from Brazil at 349 U.S. colleges and universities since the program's start, and a projected 7,370 students will receive scholarships to study at U.S. institutions in 2014.
Institute of International Education
The Institute of International Education is a world leader in the international exchange of people and ideas. An independent, not-for-profit organization founded in 1919, IIE has network of 18 offices worldwide and over 1,000 member institutions. IIE designs and implements programs of study and training for students, educators, young professionals and trainees from all sectors with funding from government agencies, foundations, and corporations. IIE also conducts policy research and program evaluations, and provides advising and counseling on international education and opportunities abroad. www.iie.org