The Academy Celebrates a Great Fall Semester

Monday, December 5, 2016

The Bucksbaum Early Entrance Academy students celebrated completing their first semester in college with hot chocolate, holiday cookies, and a Netflix fireplace.  They also shared their best college memory to date, and reminisced over a late night gathering that bonded them together.

Belin-Blank Executive Director, Susan Assouline, Assistant Director of Student Services, Jan Warren, Administrator of Bucksbaum Academy, David Gould, Graduate Assistant, Kristin Wurster, and Kristin’s infant daughter, Ellen, joined the students.  Susan, Jan, David, and Kristin each shared a favorite recollection as well, which ranged from the welcome dinner – to how well the students had represented the Center at the November salon.

The students were given Ta-Nehisi Paul Coates’ book, Between the World and Me, to read over winter break.

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The Academy Hosts Its First Salon On Noble Failure

By Brady Farmer, Kolten Hagens, Austin Henderson, Phuc Lee, Max Salinger, Henry Sharpe, Devyn Stewart, Ava Stipanovich, Juan Tello, and Bryanna Thumma

This fall, the University of Iowa’s Belin-Blank Center welcomed its first class of Bucksbaum Early Entrance Academy students.   The long-term development and success of these students is very important to the Center, and toward that end, we have designed a series of salons around meaningful subjects like noble failure, wonder, and humility.  These conversations take place around a dinner table and include perspectives from our University and Iowa City communities.  

Our first salon took place on Monday (11/7), 5:30 pm – 7:00 pm, in the North Room of the Iowa Memorial Union.  The topic was noble failure, with each student being paired with an invited guest. The following are a few student reflections on what they learned:

Joe Sulentic, (lecturer, Tippie College of Business)joe-devyn-salon-1

The wonderful person I had the pleasure of conversing with was Joe Sulentic. He is a businessman and professor, and his life experiences all had a type of common theme. Throughout his life of traveling the world, racing cars, and doing business, he never failed to seize an opportunity. He would talk about his failures as if they were the best things to ever happen to him. He said that attending UCLA after failing to get accepted to any Ivy League schools made him into the man that he is today, and the rest of his stories followed suit. He talked about how much he loved racing cars in Italy after being denied a trip to Germany. And he talked about how many times in his life he had no idea how to keep moving forward and always managed to be better off than he was before. All in all, Joe sure knew how to make the best of a bad situation.

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The Bucksbaum Early Entrance Academy Travels to Des Moines

Already three weeks into the fall semester, the first class of the Bucksbaum Early Entrance Academy took a field trip to Des Moines, Iowa. The trip was an opportunity to continue building a sense of community among the students, while introducing them to the exciting urban renewal underway. 

The following are a few of their reflections:

Our first stop on the trip was the Des Moines Botanical Garden. We were fortunate enough to get a tour of their new outdoor space which housed lots of beautiful wildlife. We also met Laurie Belin, the daughter of philanthropists Connie and David Belin, after whom the Belin-Blank Honors Center is named. It was nice learning about her parents and the other philanthropists who funded our program in order to better understand their goals and motives. The meeting was very laid-back as we reminisced on the history of the center and the academy, especially when Susan Assouline fought to hold back tears when showing her appreciation for all that the Belins have done throughout the years. We then had lunch at The Trellis Café, a restaurant associated with the Des Moines Botanical Garden, which had delicious food and provided a good opportunity for all of us to mingle.

Our second stop in Des Moines was Raygun, self-described as “The Greatest Store in the Universe.” Raygun was founded by Mike Draper in 2005 when he experienced what most people would consider a failure: rejection from graduate school. Without a professional plan, he started selling t-shirts on his college campus as a way to pay his bills; however, he soon developed a passion for entertaining people through the messages on his t-shirts. His passion, coupled with hard work and dedication, led him to grow his business from a box on the street corner, to a store so successful that Hillary Clinton deigned to visit it. In addition to his inspiring story, Mike willingly shared his biggest piece of advice: success is 90% contingent on dependability, and 10% contingent on talent. Mike’s story was immensely inspiring, and his advice invaluable, making our visit to his store an educational, encouraging experience.

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Bucksbaum Early Entrance Academy Welcomes Inaugural Class

On Sunday, August 14, 2016, the Bucksbaum Early Entrance Academy welcomed its inaugural class. The keynote presentation was given by Dr. Eileen Lee who was a member of the first class of what was then known as The National Academy for the Arts, Sciences, and Engineering (NAASE), the first incarnation of the Belin-Blank Center’s early college entrance program, in 1999. Here are Dr. Lee’s inspiring remarks to the new students:

It’s a true delight to be here at this welcome dinner and to reconnect with the people and the program that helped give me my start at this University so many years ago. Part of me finds it difficult to fathom that it’s been seventeen years since I started college. The other part finds it difficult to fathom that it’s only been seventeen years as, in many ways, it feels like that was another me another lifetime ago. When Jan tracked me down back in June, I didn’t hesitate to say yes to speaking at this dinner, but when I actually sat down and tried to brainstorm what I wanted to say to you tonight, it was rather like the end of Finding Nemo when the fish escape the dentist’s office and find themselves in the ocean still trapped in their plastic bags, and there’s lots of cheering, and then an awkward silence, and one of them asks, “Now what?” So much has happened to me since my Belin-Blank Center days that it actually took some effort to dig into my memory and try to figure out how my experiences back then have translated into what I believe and who I am now. Ultimately I did piece together a few thoughts, and I hope they’re useful to you, and if they aren’t, well, you’re in college now, so you might as well get used to hearing people drone on about something while you let your mind wander. For the record, I’m not encouraging it, but it’s bound to happen from time to time.

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A Conversation with Sally Krisel

Interview conducted on June 15, 2016, edited by David Lynn Gould

Dr. Sally Krisel is the President-elect for the National Association of Gifted Children, and a member of the Board of Directors. She is also the Director of Innovative and Advanced Programs for Hall County Schools in Gainesville, Georgia, and leads innovative programming initiatives designed to help teachers recognize and develop the creative and cognitive abilities of children from culturally and linguistically diverse groups. A former State Director of Gifted Education and part-time faculty at the University of Georgia, Dr. Krisel is dedicated to raising academic standards for all students, including those who are gifted and talented, by expanding rigorous curriculum offerings and integrating the know-how from programs for the gifted to develop students’ academic potential through engaging, joyful learning experiences. She has helped Hall County Schools develop 25 charter schools, magnet schools and innovative programs of choice, all with roots in gifted education.

In what ways have gifted education strategies influenced your breaking away from remediation models?

More than anything else, what characterizes gifted education is its focus on individual strengths. How can we build upon what a student is already good at? By comparison, traditional education all too often employs a deficit view. We look at what children don’t do well, and respond with a more prescriptive, didactic approach. In the United States, forty years of educational reform has largely been built on remediation models. I think we all have to ask ourselves the question: How’s this working out for us? I think we have to admit that, with the exception a few shining lights, the answer is, “Not very well.” How enthusiastically would you go to school if you were made to feel like a failure?

There is a growing body of research that shows that even when children need remedial instruction, it is most effective when it takes an interest-based, strengths-based form. We need to be more skillful as educators to tie the things students already love to the things we’ve been charged with teaching them.

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The Bucksbaum Early Entrance Academy is an early college entrance program at the University of Iowa’s Belin-Blank Center. Since 1999, we have provided an opportunity for high school students who are academically gifted to skip their final years of high school and head straight to college. We offer an enriched academic and social community for young students as they transition to university life.  Get to know our students:

Rediscovering My Childhood Dream at the University of Iowa

By Maddy Pettit

When I was in high school, and going on college visits with my parents, I became fixed on two very different schools: the University of Iowa, a large research institution, and Loras College, a small private school. I remember telling my mom how I was leaning towards the smaller school because I wanted an intimate community feeling. My mom, however, had a different view. She kept pushing me to look closer at the University of Iowa. With a larger university, if I wanted to change my major once, twice… or even three times… it would be far easier to do so with so many majors to choose from. But no, I told her, I already know what I want to do for the rest of my life!

The funny thing about college, or life in general, is that you may think you know what you want to do, but new experiences will change your mind. That happened to me—and most people I know—several times.

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