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Expert Alert.

Expert Alert

U of M experts available to discuss back-to-school issues

August 22, 2012

As thousands of students – from kindergarten to high school to college - across Minnesota and the United States begin going back to school in the coming weeks, students and parents will be faced with myriad issues.

The following University of Minnesota experts are available to speak with the media about various aspects of this back-to-school season:

Literary development (K-6); supporting struggling readers (K-6)

Lori Helman, co-director, Minnesota Center for Reading Research, associate professor, College of Education and Human Development (CEHD)

Helman’s quest is to understand the literacy development of students from a variety of cultural and linguistic backgrounds, and apply this understanding to effective classroom practices. Working with bi-lingual students, Helman also studies the interaction of language, literacy and educational practices as young students learn English.

Health Advocate program; college-aged health issues

Julie Sanem, associate program director, Boynton Health Services

Sanem oversees the U’s Health Advocate (HA) program, where students serve as a health resource in his or her residence hall or apartment community, fraternity, or sorority. She also can speak about general health issues facing college students.

Parenting college students; becoming empty nesters; dealing with homesickness

Marjorie Savage, U of M Parent Program director

Savage, a liaison between the University and the parents of more than 29,000 undergraduate students, works with parents as they help their students prepare for college while also advising those who will return home to an ‘empty nest.’ A leading national expert on these issues, Savage also helps students cope with the transition to college and dealing with homesickness. She is the author of You're on Your Own (But I'm Here If You Need Me): Mentoring Your Child During the College Years. (Simon & Schuster Fireside Edition, second edition 2009) and co-author of the ASHE monograph, Parental Involvement in Higher Education: Understanding the Relationship Among Students, Parents, and the Institution, 2008.

Healthy financial habits; financial aid and student loans

Julie Selander, interim director, U of M OneStop

Selander heads up the U's “Live Like a Student” campaign, which aims to put students on the pathway to healthy money management habits. OneStop staff helps students can find information on registering for class, financial aid, grades/transcripts, degree planning and a wide variety of University resources.

Finances and the stress it can cause families; familial communication about finances

Catherine Solheim, associate professor, Family Social Science

When a child enters college, a new financial reality often sets in. For many families this causes stress on all members -- for the college student, parents and siblings. Solheim understands why this stress occurs and offers advice to ease the financial burden. She can also speak to how families can better communicate when it comes to talking about finances.

Research on public attitudes about college readiness

Julie Sweitzer, interim executive director, College Readiness Consortium

Sweitzer and her team, along with the Minnesota Private College Council, recently released research that found while 89 percent of Minnesotans believe high schools' top priority should be preparing students for college, nearly half (44 percent) still believe there will be plenty of ways for high school grads to make a “decent living.” The survey also says the top reason students don’t continue to college is financial. Sweitzer can discuss this research and the impact for legislators, educators and Minnesotans statewide.

How youth use digital/interactive/social media and the issues it raises; cyber bullying

Shayla Thiel-Stern, associate professor, School of Journalism and Mass Communication

Thiel-Stern’s research questions the critical intersections of youth, interactive media and gender - how the changing media environment and the production and consumption of digital media affects culture and society today. She can also speak to issues of cyber bullying - why it happens and how students and parents can deal with it.

College internships; post-graduation employment; career services

Paul Timmins, director of Career Services, College of Liberal Arts

It’s never too early to start thinking about what to do after graduation. Timmins says while the job market for recent grads is better than it has been in past years students still must work hard, plan ahead and start a job search as early as possible. Helping U of M students for more than a decade, Timmins urges soon-to-be grads to focus on all the skills learned in college, not just their major. He also stresses the value of having an internship during the college years.

High school start times; school leadership and its effects on learning outcomes; sleep needs of students

Kyla Wahlstrom, director for Center for Applied Research and Education Improvement (CAREI), associate professor, CEHD
In her work, Wahlstrom, a nationally recognized researcher, found that a later start time for teenagers led to more beneficial learning. Along with U of M colleague Karen Seashore, Wahlstrom conducted a six-year study of school leadership and its affects on student achievement. Currently, she is working to understand how sleep needs among students affects learning outcomes.

To schedule interviews, contact Steve Henneberry, University News Service, at (612) 624-1690 or

Expert Alert is a service provided by the University News Service. Delivered regularly, Expert Alert is designed to connect university experts to today's breaking news and current events. For an archive and other useful media services, visit Views expressed by experts do not necessarily represent the views of the University of Minnesota.

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