WIU International Student Success Spotlight: Bahar Mamedova

Bahar Mamedova

Bahar Mamedova is an international graduate student in Western’s Department of Recreation, Park and Tourism Administration.

Recently, our office helped promote the fact that Western Illinois University’s international student enrollment has reached more than 500, thanks to the diligence of Center for International Studies (CIS), administrators, faculty and staff.

Rick Carter, executive director of the School of Distance Learning, International Studies and Outreach, along with WIU administrators and Western’s English as a Second Language (WESL) director, have crossed the oceans and traversed to embassies in Washington, D.C., establishing relationships, forging partnerships and spreading the good word about WIU. As a result, new international student enrollment has increased by 140 this fall to 511 students from 370 in Fall 2013.

Behind those numbers are the stories of the hundreds of international students who come to Western from faraway lands. To share their experiences, once a month, with the help of staff in the Center for International Studies, we’ll be spotlighting an international student.

This month, we start with graduate student Bahar Mamedova, who is from Turkmenistan.

Q: How did you learn about Western Illinois University and why did you decide to apply to and attend Western?

Bahar: My husband attended WIU, and after he graduated, I also decided to apply at Western to pursue my master’s degree. I always had a dream to study at an American university, and despite current criticism of American higher education, I still believe that it is among the most competitive higher education systems in the world. America, in the past, has made large investments in higher education and has built a tremendous infrastructure of universities, libraries, classrooms, and laboratories.

Personally, I applied here because Western is equipped well with updated electronic technologies and there are lots of different educational resources that I could benefit from. Additionally, at Western, international students are free to choose from vast programs of study and faculty members are always accessible and ready to help.

Q: What do you hope to do with your graduate degree in recreation, park and tourism administration (RPTA) once you graduate?

Bahar Mamedova - WESL Graduation

Bahar Mamedova (center) and Western Illinois University President Jack Thomas (left) and School of Distance Learning, International Studies and Outreach Executive Director Rick Carter at Bahar’s graduation ceremony from Western’s English as a Second Language (WESL) Institute.

Bahar: After I graduate from Western, I would like to utilize my knowledge and skills in international tourism administration in my home country, Turkmenistan. Currently, Turkmenistan is trying to develop its own tourism industry. New tourism-promoting ideas and innovative approaches are needed in Turkmenistan, and I believe I would be able to positively contribute to this process.

Q: What have been (or are) your RPTA favorite courses and why?

Bahar: My favorite RPTA classes include international tourism, statistics, and event planning.

From the international tourism course, I learned a lot about cultural diversity, multiculturalism, and globalization. In the statistics class, I significantly improved my ability to extract value from data and effectively communicate that value. The event planning class equipped me with important tools and skills and also provided me with a necessary foundation to organize high-quality events.

With all I have learned in my graduate courses at WIU, I am successfully utilizing during my internship at WIU’s Center for International Studies.

Q: What kinds of things did you learn during your internship at Western?

Bahar: My internship experience allows me to work with diverse international student populations. While at the Office of International Student Orientation and Activities, I had an opportunity to work in a friendly, professional, and exciting environment that provides a great potential for growth experiences and advancement. Over the course of the internship, I was involved with several projects aiming to improve international student experiences on campus. These experiences clearly defined my internship expectations and goals.

Overall, it was a valuable experience that gave me a greater appreciation for those who deal with a culturally diverse international student population within the university on a daily basis.

Q: Tell me about one of your most memorable experiences here at Western.

Bahar: One of my most enjoyable volunteer experiences was teaching children to speak Russian at the PACT Head Start. It was fun and exciting to see children trying to learn a new language. This experience gave me an understanding that even a little effort can make an impact in a child’s or anyone’s life. I deeply believe that being involved as a volunteer will make our community a better place to live, and it also enriches our own lives.

Q: What are some of your favorite activities to engage in while you’re here in the U.S.?

Bahar: I like to spend all my free time with my children by engaging them in different learning and recreational activities. I also like to travel to see new places. While in the U.S., I have learned skiing and ice-skating. It was a fun experience.

The Making of the #WIUnselfie Movement

WIU Students taking part in the WIUnselfie Movement

Brett Moody, Caitlyn Westfall, and Brian Kocher, students in Western’s College Student Personnel (CSP) Program working on the #WIUnselfie Movement project. According to the CSP student group, the mission of the WIUnselfie Movement is to develop a culture of positive community built upon meaningful connections through social media. The student group responsible for the project aims to reverse selfie culture by promoting recognition of others through accountability and awareness of often overlooked qualities, achievements, and good will at Western.

A few weeks ago, two Western graduate students reached out to us for a brief meet up in the University Relations Office. They wanted help in promoting their “WIUnselfie movement,” a project that they, and some of their fellow master’s candidates in Western’s College Student Personnel Program (CSP), were involved in via one of their CSP courses.

Naturally, we wanted to know what it was all about—as you likely do, particularly if you have seen their various messages around campus. So, with the help of her fellow students, Caitlyn Westfall (Macomb, IL) provided me with the details of the project and how the students hope to use it to “reverse selfie culture” on social media these days.

Q: Tell me about how the #WIUnselfie project came about.

Caitlyn: This project came from one of the classes in Western’s CSP Program. We were given the project by one of our professors to “make the world a better place.” We were not given any other context other than that. We talked for a few weeks about some things we thought could make a change in the world around us (to the Western Illinois University/Macomb community).

One of our group members brought up an idea of doing something selfless, such as leaving sticky-notes with positive messages around WIU’s campus. From there, another member brought up an idea he had observed in his undergraduate experience—he and his friend tried to get an “unselfie” movement started. The purpose of that movement was to promote unselfish acts and recognize the people who perform them. Examples of this are such things as holding the door open for someone behind you or paying for the person behind you in the drive-thru line. From there, we worked out the details, and the hashtag #WIUnselfie was born, and we went from there!


WIU College Student Personnel Master’s Degree Candidates made this video as part of their “WIUnselfie Movement” for a project in CSP Professor Tracy Davis’s group dynamics course.

Q: Who is involved with it here at Western?

Caitlyn: The people involved are primarily in Dr. Tracy Davis’s group dynamics class.

Q: What does the group hope to accomplish with this project?

Caitlyn: We have seen a rise in negative social media lately, and we wanted to find a way to spread positive social media. We are hoping that by creating a new outlet for positive social media to take over, we’ll be creating a new buzz on campus. Instead of sitting around the lunch table gossiping negatively about their peers, we are hoping students, faculty, staff, and community members talk about the great things going on.

WIUnselfies on Instagram

Follow the WIUnselfie Movement on Instagram at instagram.com/wiunselfies

Q: How will the group go about accomplishing these goals?

Caitlyn: We have created an Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook page for people to submit pictures to. We also have these social media outlets so that we are able to promote the movement itself. We have gone around campus a few different times getting pictures of people or groups doing great things and also getting the word out. We have created a neat Instagram style frame for people to take pictures with. We have also promoted our movement as big campus events such as the Fall Leadership Conference and Make A Difference Day and we saw great feedback from that.

Q: Who are the other CSP students involved?

Caitlyn: Amy Bumatai (Mililani, HI), Melinda Daniels (Milwaukee, WI), Brian Kocher (Henry, IL), Maggie Miller (Boone, IA), Brett Moody (Taylorville, IL), Kelly Severs (Macomb, IL), and our group facilitator Emily Simon (Moncolva, OH).

Q: Anything else I neglected to ask you about in the above-listed questions that would be important to include?

Caitlyn: Anyone can find us on Instagram at @wiunselfies, Facebook at www.facebook.com/wiunselfiemovement, Twitter at @wiunselfies, or we can be emailed at wiunselfiemovement@gmail.com.

Field Contributions: WIU Prof Chairs National Counseling Conference in QCs

WIU counselor education students and faculty

WIU Counselor Education Professor Rebecca Newgent (in pink shirt) and (L to R) Rona Galica (Rock Island, IL), Molly Watkins (Davenport, IA), and Julie Churchill (Davenport, IA) at the AARC National Conference in Moline. Galica, Watkins, and Churchill are master’s degrees candidates in the Western Illinois University Department of Counselor Education and helped Dr. Newgent plan and organize the conference as Newgent’s conference chair committee.

In early September, Dr. Rebecca Newgent, professor in Western Illinois University’s Department of Counselor Education, served as the chair for the Association for Assessment and Research in Counseling‘s national conference. Held at the iWireless Center in downtown Moline (IL), the event drew participants from 27 states and many different institutions.

“She did an excellent job organizing the event and received rave reviews for the venue and content,” noted Lloyd Kilmer, assistant dean of the College of Education and Human Services at the WIU-QC campus.

Recently, Dr. Newgent provided an overview of how one goes about organizing such a large gathering for fellow counseling educators and counselors, all the while keeping up with the daily demands of being a university faculty member.

Q: Can you provide a little background about the AARC’s National Assessment and Research Conference?

Newgent: The Association for Assessment and Research in Counseling (AARC), a division of the American Counseling Association, is an organization of counselors, educators and other professionals that advance the counseling profession by promoting best practices in assessment, research and evaluation in counseling. The purpose of the AARC’s National Assessment and Research Conference is to advance the mission of AARC by promoting and recognizing excellence in assessment, research and evaluation in counseling. The benefits of the AARC conference include professional development, professionalization, research and knowledge, human development, public awareness and collaboration.

Professional counselors, counselor educators, researcher and educators attend. It is held annually in various cities throughout the country. This was the first time the conference was held in the Midwest, and we had attendees from 27 states and almost doubled the attendance from prior conferences.

Q: How did your chairperson position of the National Assessment and Research Conference come about?

Newgent: Each year the executive board of AARC accepts proposals from members to chair and host the next conference. With the help of the Quad Cities Convention and Visitors Bureau, the Quad Cities was selected—over major cities around the country—for the 2014 conference. We began this process approximately 14 months prior to the conference.

Q: What the benefits of chairing the conference for you as Western Illinois University professor? for your students?

AARC Conference Keynote Speaker Thank You

Dr. Thelma Duffey, president-elect of the American Counseling Association, receiving her “Thank You” gift after her keynote speech at the AARC’s National Assessment and Research 2014 Conference, which was chaired by WIU Counselor Education Professor Rebecca Newgent (in the pink). Pictured with Dr. Duffey and Dr. Newgent is Dr. Shawn Spurgeon, president of the Association for Assessment and Research in Counseling.

Newgent: As a university professor, it was an honor to chair the conference. As chair, I was able to highlight my department and Western to my colleagues across the country. My students also benefited, in that they were exposed to national leaders; several came to classes to talk with my students about their leadership roles. Additionally, WIU had the largest number of student attendees at the conference, where they were exposed to cutting-edge information about assessment and research and also had the opportunity to meet the president-elect of the American Counseling Association, Dr. Thelma Duffey, our keynote speaker.

Q: What are the duties of the conference chair?

Newgent: In AARC, the conference chair must wear multiple hats. From the submission of the proposal to host/chair the conference through the post conference accounting, the chair is involved in every aspect. Fortunately, we have a great conference model to follow. The role was intensive for the entire 14+ month period, but fortunately I had a great committee of graduate students who made my job much easier.

Q: How do juggle those duties with your instruction and other scholarly work as a WIU faculty member?

Newgent: It was certainly not easy juggling my conference chair duties with my faculty position. It was not uncommon for me to work into the wee hours of the morning and all weekend just to make sure that I was keeping up with all of my responsibilities. Would I do it again? Ask me in a couple of years!

Q: Any other info. that you would like shared/highlighted about the conference and your work with the AARC for it?

Newgent: Personally, I love being associated with AARC. This association provides me with valuable information, tools and a network of colleagues that are leaders in the field of counseling. Over the years, I have increased my involvement with AARC. In addition to having chaired the 2014 national conference, I am the editor of Counseling Outcome Research and Evaluation, a national peer-reviewed journal published by SAGE in association with AARC.

Next year, AARC will celebrate its 50th birthday and the conference will be in Memphis, TN.

WIU Biology Alumnus Appears in LEGO Form

By Kolette Herndon
University Relations Student Writer

Western Illinois University alumnus Aleshia Kenney, who received her master’s degree in biology in 2004, was recently turned into LEGO form through the concept of “LEGO Ideas.” This is a platform where LEGO fans can submit new design ideas and, if approved by a popular vote, the designs will be created and sold.

Kenney is a fish and wildlife biologist at the Rock Island Ecological Services Field Office in Moline, IL. Through the Rock Island Ecological Services Field Office, Keeney works with private landowners to develop habitat restoration plans for their properties.

The recently approved design series using Kenney’s likeness is c

WIU Alumnus Aleshia Kenney, a fish and wildlife biologist, appears in LEGO form as part of a new series of scientific sets.

WIU Alumnus Aleshia Kenney, a fish and wildlife biologist, appears in LEGO form as part of a new series of scientific sets.

alled “Research Institute,” and was created by Ellen Kooijman, a geochemist and a LEGO fan, for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s (FWS) Midwest Region. The plan created designs around five female scientists in an effort to get more women interested in scientific fields.

These sets are part of a series called “The Building Blocks of Women Scientists.” Kenney’s likeness and details of her career are now in LEGO form on the FWS website, Facebook, and Twitter.

A picture of the design and article can be found at http://www.fws.gov/midwest/news/WomenInScience-AleshiaKenney.html. To see the other four women scientists that were also turned into a LEGO, visit http://www.fws.gov/midwest/news/WomenInScience.html.

WIU Students, Alumni Part of Macomb Roller Derby Team

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1900092_695094153847319_350306090_nBy Kolette Herndon
University Relations Student Writer

When Macomb’s roller derby team, the Macomb Bombshells, take on the Midwest Derby Divas Saturday, April 26, several Western Illinois University students and alumni will be part of the local team.

The event, which will benefit the McDonough County Special Recreation Association (MCSRA), runs from 6-9 p.m. at the Outskirts Fun Center in Macomb. The MCSRA provides positive, personal and purposeful recreation to people with disabilities in the McDonough County area.

Natalie Lister, a graduate student in psychology from Macomb, is a member of the Macomb Roller Derby team.

“I would also say that being a member of the derby team has done so much for me personally,” Lister said. “I have missed sports since I was in high school and never thought I would play on a team again. Derby has fixed that. I love the intensity of the sport and the fierce competitiveness of the teams. Even better, we play hard on the rink, but show support to the opposing team as well, getting to know them after the bout is over.”

Lister added that she enjoys giving back to charity through this upcoming event.

Participants and spectators are invited to dress as a favorite superhero, and a costume contest will take place during halftime. Kids are invited to dress up as well.

Tickets are $10 at the door; $8 for veterans, seniors and students (with an ID). Children ages 12 and under are admitted free. Concessions and merchandise will be available for purchase.

WIU Music Professor Earning Art Degree

CaldwellBy Kolette Herndon
University Relations Student Worker

Jim Caldwell, a professor in the Western Illinois University School of Music since 1985, is pursing a completely different dream that is now becoming a reality. Caldwell will graduate with a bachelor of fine arts in art degree in May after not taking an art class since sixth grade.

Caldwell teaches music theory, composition and electronic music at WIU. He is also a composer, and specializes in computer music. He is a co-director of the annual New Music Festival.

In his professional world, Caldwell is the chair of the University Personnel Committee, a former president of the WIU chapter of UPI Local 4100, was named the Distinguished Faculty Lecturer in 2009, and received the Provost’s Award for Excellence in Teaching in 2005.

However, Caldwell sparked a new interest in simply learning to draw in 2004 when he began taking studio art classes in the art department. He had no art experience other than what is required in grade school and middle school. After the first few classes, Caldwell just kept going and eventually realized that he had accumulated enough credits to pursue a degree in art.

After meeting with Professor Jan Clough for advising and figuring out what courses he had left to take, Caldwell is now taking his last course requirement, an art history class. Caldwell will graduate in May and take part in undergraduate commencement while wearing his doctoral regalia. He will even have his own graduation party.

“My experience in the Art Department has been meaningful to me, and I think of myself as a visual artist, as well as a musician now,” Caldwell said. He adds that teaching has been wonderful and inspiring, and his traditional-age classmates have always made him feel welcome.

Inspired by WIU Classes, Alum Opens Her Own Business

Screen Shot 2014-03-06 at 1.22.11 PMBy Kolette Herndon
University Relations Student Writer

A recent Western Illinois University alumna was inspired so much by her classes at WIU that she has created a new organization called Real Women of the Quad Cities to help women with their self-image.

Stephanie Hoover graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Liberal Arts and Sciences in Fall 2013 after transferring from Scott Community College (SCC) to the WIU Quad Cities campus. In the midst of her studies at WIU, she continued taking classes at SCC and took on two internships and two independent studies.

Hoover was inspired and motivated to develop her organization from within her WIU classrooms. First, she watch a video from her gender and society class, called “Killing Us Softly 4″ by Jean Kilbourne, which discussed how the media and society negatively affect women and their body image. The following fall, Hoover took a women’s health class, where she began to realize how accepting herself and others was a topic that needed attention. So, Hoover began to write her ideas on what could be done and how she was going to do it, which evolved into Real Women of the Quad Cities (later shortened to Real Women LLC).

The organization began with local women replicating photos of models and actresses who had been digitally altered.

“(This is) who we are told we are suppose to look like,” Hoover said.

The images were shared over a Facebook page Hoover created. Eventually, she began receiving many messages and page ‘likes,’ and she began to take names of women who wanted to model for the organization. Women were interested in blogging for the organization as well.

Hoover hired five local photographers to take pictures of women who had volunteered. The idea was to compare the images of what society says women should look like to how they actually are.

Assistant Professors Tammy Werner and Nancy Schaefer from the classes in which Hoover was inspired helped her create an independent study on body image for Spring 2013, which won first place at the Macomb campus Undergraduate Research Day in sociology.

Now, after graduating, Hoover has written a business plan and is pairing with Mando Murga, a former WIU business graduate, to apply for grants in hopes of renting an office and hiring staff.

Hoover is fulfilling her dream of being her own boss and plans to put her strong and personality to good use in standing up for the beliefs that she and others hold. She is currently editing her third book, which she won an award for from WIU in Spring 2012.

To learn more about Real Women of the Quad Cities, visit realwomenofthequadcities.com or visit the organization’s Facebook page at facebook.com/pages/Real-Women-of-the-Quad-Cities/438737702829430.