Archive Page 2

A Professor’s Unusual Talent

A Profile on Professor Brian Nienhaus

 

Professor Nienhaus

Professor Nienhaus

With a coffee in hand and converse sneakers on his feet, an Elon University professor walks into his classroom after returning from a conference in Lake Tahoe. A student asks him if he won any money in the casinos there. He didn’t: he actually lost $17. The student is shocked, “How did you lose money if you know how to count cards?”

 

 

Kaelin Lutz, another student in the class, didn’t know about her professor’s card counting talent, and was surprised to learn about his secret skill.

“It was something I just didn’t expect from him,” she said. “I never thought to look beyond his classroom persona to what his real life might be like.”

Daniel Watts, another sophomore, said it’s interesting to learn about teachers’ lives outside the classroom because, “I forget that they do anything other than their job. It was really cool to hear about how Professor Nienhaus counts cards.”

Brian Nienhaus has an unusual skill that not only surprises his students, but that he adapts for his classroom lessons.

Nienhaus is an associate professor who teaches business communications at Elon. Originally from Alaska, Nienhaus grew up in Michigan where he received his undergraduate degree from Eastern Michigan University and his doctorate in mass communications from the University of Michigan. His brother taught him how to count cards in the early 1980’s when he was in need of cash.

Card counting is a system of tracking how many high and low cards are left in a deck, then using the information to vary bets to your advantage in the game of blackjack. It is legal, but unpopular in the playing-cardsgaming business because a good card counter can turn a slim house edge into a plump player advantage.

Today, Nienhaus says he uses the same card counting technique taught to him by his brother more than 20 years ago, with a few moderations as casinos have become more adept at catching counters over the years.

“The key to not getting caught is to make polite conversation with the people around you,” he said. “I talk about anything but gambling.”

“It’s true that you can make money,” he added, “but you can also get in a lot of trouble. I’ve been banned from three casinos and I just don’t like it.”

Since his card counting days are becoming fewer, Nienhaus turned to his penchant for gambling to explain some of the principles of business communications to his students. In a paper written this summer titled, “The Perils of Nonverbal Communication: Lessons from Professional Poker Players,” Nienhaus discussed how poker players and business professionals alike must make judgments about the future actions of others based on incomplete information.

Traditional business communications texts teach the use of nonverbal communication as a way to make these judgments, but Nienhaus suggests there are more promising strategies. He wanted to find a context to explain this to his students.

“Nonverbal communication in itself isn’t important.” said Nienhaus. “It’s the clues that people reveal about themselves individually that matter; and that’s what poker teaches us about communication.”

 “As a professor I always try to make my lessons practical,” he added.  “And the poker example relates back to one of my most basic lessons: make good judgments.”

Nienhaus’ students are grateful for his practical approach. Lutz said the best advice she’s received from him is to always be honest and not fake in the business world because people will see right through it.

“He taught us things we need to know, like how to write an effective resume,” said Lutz. “He’s a tough grader, but he’s always available for his students and willing to explain anything I need help with.”

Lutz and Watts both agree that it was fun to learn about their professor’s hidden card counting talent.

“It makes him a real person rather than a talking head spitting information at me,” said Watts. “I can relate to him in a way that I couldn’t thinking of him just as a teacher. Everyone has this image of card counters from movies like 21, and it’s cool to be able to say that I have a professor that can do that.”

Extreme Eating and Exercise

Kev McGuire paces in the corner of the gym, sucking air into his mouth. He loads 255 pounds onto the bench press bar and slides his 5-foot-4-inch frame underneath. McGuire squints to focus, reaches up and drums his fingers against the bar.

“Alright, man,” he says. “I think I can get out like 10.”

Another boy stands over the bench and guides the bar as McGuire heaves it up again and again. The last few are strained.

“Come on, dude,” his spotter says. “You got this. Keep going.”

Sweat beads on McGuire’s brow. He arches his back to push the bar up for the tenth time. The spotter helps him rerack with a familiar clank, and he jumps up.

 McGuire is the talk of the weight room because he eats over 5,000 calories per day, bench presses 255 pounds, squats 315 pounds and dead lifts 365 pounds, but he only weighs 135 pounds.

While McGuire’s extreme eating and exercise habits impress people, he remains humble, almost shy, about his accomplishments.

McGuire, 20, of Burke, Va., is a junior business major at Elon University. Soon after he was born in South Korea, he and his twin brother, Pete, were adopted and moved to America. The boys’ real names are Kev and Pete, not Kevin and Peter.

“Our mom thought naming us nicknames would be funny,” said McGuire, “She wanted people to call us Kev and Pete anyway.”

McGuire is 10 minutes younger than Pete, who attends a university in Florida. He says that Pete shares his exercise habits but does not eat as much as he does.

About six days a week, McGuire spends an hour and a half in the gym lifting weights. He also runs on the treadmill with an extra t-shirt covering the programming screen, so he can focus on running instead of how much time he has left.

“I used to run twice a day, every day,” said McGuire, “but I’ve gotten lazy. I run for 10 minutes at a time now. I’m trying to get more cardio back into my workouts.”

McGuire focuses mostly on lifting weights. Often, he performs exercises with more than twice his body weight. While he claims not to wear anything special for workouts, he is usually seen wearing black Nike socks that come midway up his tanned calves. He also chooses not to listen to music while exercising, partly because he broke his iPod, but more so because he concentrates better in silence.

All of McGuire’s friends admire how much weight he can lift.

“Kev is an animal,” said his friend Kevin Rate. “He is so jacked. I’ve never seen anyone his size lift as much as he does. He lifts more than guys that are bigger than he is.”

But lifting heavy weights is not the only impressive thing McGuire can do. He eats about twice as many calories as he should in one day because he is always hungry.

For breakfast, McGuire goes to the buffet at Elon’s Colonnades dining hall and has four cups of grits, nine pancakes, 15 scrambled eggs, eight mini cartons of milk and some sausage and bacon. A few hours later, he eats two chicken breasts, two cups of Kraft Easy Mac and five scoops of peanut butter for lunch. Then, for a typical dinner, he wolfs down nine slices of pizza, four pieces of toast and chicken Parmesan.

During the day, McGuire carries around a jar of peanut butter with a plastic spoon or a family-sized bag of Craisins for snacks.

“I love all-you-can-eat buffets,” he said. “My friends and I like to go to CiCi’s Pizza, Mongolian Grill and Old Country Buffet to set personal eating records.”

McGuire holds unofficial records at CiCi’s Pizza (24 slices) and Mongolian Grill (six plates). His friends constantly encourage him to set new records.

“I have no idea where he puts all the food he eats,” said McGuire’s workout partner James Burns. “He must have a really fast metabolism.”

McGuire says most people call his eating habits amazing, but some find it disgusting. He does not care. He has been eating more than anyone he knows since he started college.

Eat, exercise, eat more, study and sleep.

This schedule would be too much for most people to handle, but McGuire follows it almost every day. He does not worry that his calorie-consuming and iron-pumping ways will catch up to his waistline. In fact, he has trouble keeping weight on in the first place.

 

McGuire bench presses in the Elon University weight room.

McGuire bench presses in the Elon University weight room.

 

The Need to Serve, Never Drives Away

The Need to Serve, Never Drives Away

        Without the support and protection of the military our government provides out country would be in shambles. Elon University might not be a safe place for college, or you might not have a choice to attend college.

            Just as the military has served our country, the Elon Bio Bus drives serve Elon’s students. They work 12 hours a day in order to make sure students get to class and campus on time. They will never leave you in the cold. 

             Bill Crayton, 73 and native to Greensboro N.C, drives the outer loop Elon Bio bus. Bill served in the Korean War in the army, and has served Elon students every day for the past 11 years. After riding the bus, I have had the pleasure of talking with Bill one morning and hear about his life and services to others.

            Bill spent seven years serving our country including three in the army, four in the Coast Guard and two weeks apart of the Korean War. Bill is quick to assert that he is not the only one in his family that has had the privilege to serve in the military.

            “ My two brothers served 20 years in the Navy and my son served 20 years in the Navy” he says. “They did a lot more then I ever was able to do.”

            The Korean War is where his driving experience first started. After he was in battle for two weeks, he was stationed in Japan where he was an ambulance driver.

            When retelling his stories about the war, Bill smiled and laughed at the idea that he has been driving for that many years.

            “I guess there is just something about me and automobiles,” he says. “They wont ever leave me be, not that I’m complaining much.”

            Bill does have a passion with automobiles that has driven him in all of his career choices. At any opening he will talk about driving, or his side job of re-upholstering classic cars.               

             After his services in the military, he drove an 18-wheeler and after retiring from that, he saw an ad in the newspaper for the new Elon Bio Buses. He is one of the four original drivers that started the Bio Buses and has loved every second of his job.

            “ I have a lot of good kids here, I’m, um, happy I am able to serve them. It does get dead boring driving in circles for six hours. It’s why I got on with the football team,” he said. 

            As Bill stops to fill up the Bio Bus with fuel, he gets sidetrack from talking about the football team to give me an in-depth description of how the bus runs. His knowledge of vehicles is impressive and he is very passionate, “my son is a biological engineer in Ariz., he could gives us some better fuel then this!”

Bill then gets back on track saynig his work with the football team as their driver as a privilege. He says getting to watch the games for free doesn’t hurt, while he artfully gives me a wink. Bill serves the community of Elon in any way he can. 

Bill’s kindness is apart of what people love about him. Every student that gets on the bus gets a smile and a good morning from Bill and when he or she leave Bill wishes them a good day. Not only that but he remembers which stop all of his regulars live at.

 Caroline Klara, a sophomore at Elon,  said, “He makes my day! And never leaves me sitting in the cold!”

Bill will even skip his break on a cold day to drive a student home.

            Not many people know about his true passion. Bill spends all of his nights fixing classic cars upholstering to show car standards. He has his own shop behind his house, and is able to walk back and worth with his miniature poodle always following.

            “My wife hates it, but, well, she just doesn’t get it. My dog does.”

            Bill is currently working on 1957 Chevy post car for a show car with all pure leather interior. This is not just a simple hobby for Bill; it is a passion that takes around seven months to finish just one car.

            “If I could do anything I would keep on doin what I’m doin. Cars are my passion, and I am happy with this.”

            As we turn the corner to my stop, Bill thanks me for my interest in him. “It’s been awhile since anyone has asked.” Bill passes the stop to the back of my building, by passing the stop because it is cold and closer to my apartment. “I don’t want to make you walk in the cold if I can help it.” It is obvious that Bill’s kindness has served or country in more ways then one.

 

 

Remarkable Writing: Bright Fire

Stuck in the a Washington D.C. airport due to icy rain and holiday travel congestion on my way back to Elon after Thanksgiving break, I wandered into the bookshop and picked up the December issue of Vogue magazine.

subscribeI squeezed myself into a space on the crowded floor to browse through the magazine. I skimmed through the pages, admiring the accessories and marveling at the clothes, and then I came upon an article that contained remarkable writing.

“Bright Fire” by Joan Juliet Buck, is not an ordinary culinary article. Buck uses chile peppers as a metaphor for how she came back to life after a difficult breakup and the death of her father.

The article begins with Buck describing her move from Paris to Sante Fe. I She describes Paris as “arid” and Sante Fe as full of “outlaw colors” and “the haze of burning mesquite”. These vivid and contrasting adjectives show the extent to which Buck’s life has changed.

The best part of Buck’s writing is how she uses metaphors and other examples to show in her writing, rather than just telling. For example, instead of telling that her burrito was spicy to bite into, she shows it by saying, “It was like biting into the planet itself–a welcoming surface and then the harsh heat of the core.”

The structure of the story is effective as well. The beginning describes Buck’s personal experiences which transitions into a description of the different peppers. The end brings the article full circle when Buck says that after experiencing this new spice, everything without it had the taste and consistency of plain old white bread.

Effective Advertising

On magazine that took me by surprise with effective advertising, was Rolling Stone Magazine. They are very specific with their advertising to target the audience they are receiving. All of the ads are witty, funny, and target music advocates that love they lifestyle that goes along with music. From the multitude of alcohol ads to the ads just about upcoming movies and shows, Rolling Stone targets their audience.

A Glimpse at Dr. Thomas Erdmann

Dr. Erdmann

It is 9:25 a.m. Students have filled their seats and Dr. Thomas Erdmann, 49, a professor at Elon University stands in front of the room. He is tall, skinny, with long hair and braces. He holds papers, ready to hand out the everyday test promptly at 9:25 a.m. The whopping binder of women’s history in music sits on his desk along with the CD player ramped and ready to go. Class begins with lecture followed by a musical sample of each artist.

“Did I tell you this story yet?” Erdmann asks. Students always say no even though they’ve already heard it. He fills his stories with excitement and enthusiasm and even though you have heard it before, students want to hear it again.

A video documentary begins on Billie Holiday to finish off class, and Erdmann hands out his surplus of York Peppermint Patties. Perhaps this will help keep the students awake.

None of Erdmann’s students rests their eyes during class. If they do, they’ll fail. Three times in his teaching career Erdmann has failed students because of falling asleep in his class. “People who fall asleep immediately fail,” he says. Although he hasn’t for the past 8-10 years, he says he won’t shy away from doing it again because that inattention aggravates him the most along with general rudeness.

This is why his demeanor is very different the first day of classes. “ I was a real SOB the first day of class because I don’t want those people in the class,” Erdmann said. He filters out the people who shouldn’t take the course.

For the rest of the semester students say his demeanor is different. Students claim that he requires a lot and challenges them, but it’s what they need to succeed. “He is the model for what a professor is supposed to be in college. Somebody’s got to do it. He will be that professor that pushes you and you still don’t hate him. I don’t know anybody that doesn’t like Dr. Erdmann,” said Colin Harden, a senior music technology major at Elon University. “He doesn’t baby us, he treats us like adults, and we are expected to act like adults. Because his expectations are high we are more motivated to work harder,” said Emily Rice, a junior at Elon. The world is always in need of unique and motivating teachers.

Harden approached Erdmann’s office to see if he would listen to him play, although he did not have an appointment or lesson with him. He entered his office, a montage of graduate school sweatshirts of previous students along with old articles Erdmann has written (he asks his students that go onto graduate school to send him a sweatshirt and he hangs them in his office.) Erdmann dropped everything he was doing and listened to Harden play. “He is always there for his students no matter what he’s doing,” said Harden.

With his infectious laugh, his ability to make students feel like the most important student and his consistent teaching abilities, Erdmann has a magnetic personality and energy that helps students be the best they can be. Erdmann will be the first to admit his eccentricities and flaws but students find in him the dedication and drive of a devoted teacher.

Harden has been his student for two years both as a trumpet student and as a student in his music history classes. “You can tell that he really cares about your success no matter the skill level. You can really believe what he is saying just by his teaching style. He just really likes to teach. He’s consistent and genuine. You’re not going to hear a variation of stories on him,” Harden said. Harden believes that Erdmann pushes his students but that he is teaching life lessons.

Erdmann has an undying passion and love for teaching and learning. He is a professor in addition to a writer, trumpet teacher, and director of the University Symphony Orchestra. His father, an engineer, began teaching Erdmann addition and subtraction before entering kindergarten, and this is where he received his love of learning. He knew he wanted to teach music when he was in ninth grade. And he went on to pursue that career.

Three main things define Erdmann: his passion for teaching, his religion and writing. “ All I’ve ever wanted to be is a teacher and I love teaching. I really do,” he said.

Erdmann says he is happiest in the classroom because he believes that learning is the coolest thing in the world and he loves sharing that. By sharing and learning, he learns just as much from his students as they do from him.

Erdmann went to SUNY Fredonia for his undergraduate degree. After he finished his masters at Illinois State University, he taught at Bradly University for a little over three years. He earned his doctorate at the University of Illinois where he completed his full-time residency after a year. While he was doing this he vacuumed floors at a department store, taught private trumpet lessons and played piano at a hotel bar.

He then went to teach at SUNY Plattsburg where the department was so bad that after a year everyone quit, including Erdmann. He went to Central Illinois and chopped wood for a year, eight hours a day, six days a week while also going to school. For a man of his tall and lanky stature it is ironic that he would do this but says, “ You do what you got to do. The only thing you have to count on in life is yourself.”

He has always loved writing and became a police beat reporter for a year while attending school on the side. Elon heard about Erdmann’s abilities and contacted him about applying for a job. At this point he ironically didn’t want to go back to teaching but he thought, “Hey it’s a free vacation.” He decided to look into it and has been at Elon for twenty years!

Behind the intellectual professor, a little boy inside loves movies where things blow up, which juxtaposes his academic side that enjoys documentaries. “ I like documentaries..that’s pretty fricken nerdish” he said through laughter.

Along with his child-like quality, he is a thoughtful adult who helped his mother play the lottery. He figured out that the numbers aren’t random; certain numbers come up a lot. He determines which ones they are. He only plays the six lottery numbers and does it for the game aspect of it not for the money. “My mom would want to do it. She would love to say, “oh by the way I won this week!” It would give her such joy. I was hoping that she would hit it big.”

Everyone has their idea of what their life will be and for some everything falls into place. “Nobody’s life is perfect, but this is pretty fricken close” says Erdmann. There is one thing that would complete his life, his own family. Living alone in Burlington doesn’t bode well for a single middle-aged man with such a demanding schedule. “ This is a horrible place to be a single guy. Burlington sucks. I go to the bars, but I will probably end up being single the rest of my life. I do believe that God shapes and molds people, and for some reason he wants me single, I don’t know why but I leave it up to him.”

Anywhere he goes the pulse of music and learning are always right in sync with him. In the past you could find him as primary trumpet with the Illinois symphony, but he can no longer play because of a ripped abdominal muscle. Now you can find Erdmann sitting in the last row at any concert or performance, a habit he has had since he was little.

“It’s always good to know who’s in front of you” he chuckles.

Erdmanns’ teaching abilities and magnetic personality will encourage students to be the best they can be for years to come.

To learn more about Dr. Erdmann’s tangible successes click here.

A Tragic Accident Produces a Thriving Volunteer Program led by one Elon Senior

Chelsea Krieger works in the Kernodle Center recording the number of students who took a Safe Ride the previous weekend.

Chelsea Krieger works in the Kernodle Center recording the number of students who took a Safe Ride the previous weekend.

 

            This Monday Chelsea Krieger has a new problem. Over the weekend, the keys were accidentally locked inside one of the three Safe Rides vehicles. It is 3 a.m. on Saturday morning when she receives the call.

            Krieger wakes up from her slumber and sleepily answers her cell phone. It is one of the six Safe Rides captains calling to tell her what happened. She laughs to herself as she wonders how someone could possibly lock keys in a car while it is running.

This is just one example of Krieger’s hectic life as the student-director of Elon University’s Safe Rides program. Safe Rides is a student-run program that gives college students rides on weekends so they do not drink and drive. Despite the occasional stressful incident, Krieger loves the job.

             Monday morning she walks into the Kernodle Center and must follow-up with Campus Security and record the incident in her records.

Krieger then begins the towering mountains of paper work that have accrued over the weekend. She records the number of students who received rides and calls automotive services to report yet another burned out headlight.

Wednesday afternoon.  Krieger spends an hour walking back and forth to the McMichael parking lot. She tediously drives the two sedans and one van to the university’s gas pump to fill them up.

 Krieger is a senior biology major from Tolland, Conn.. She spends five hours a week in the Kernodle Center office working on Safe Rides. As the director of the program, she is in charge of managing three coordinators and six captains who together run the program.

Her dedication to the program is mainly the reason why Safe Rides has seen immense growth this year. Last year the program transported an average of 110 people a night Thursday through Saturday. This semester alone the number of passengers has increased to a nightly average of 160.

The increase in the number of passengers is largely due to increased publicity and the number of students aware of the Safe Rides program.

“I like being able to just take out my cell phone and know that I have a guaranteed ride somewhere, it makes me feel safer,” said Sophomore Amanda Shields.

Krieger credits her coordinators and captains for getting the word out about Safe Rides to Elon students more efficiently this year.

“People are more aware in general of what we do,” said Krieger.  I expect the increase in passengers to continue.”

Safe Rides is one of the longest running volunteer programs at Elon and began after a tragic car accident. On March 1, 1992, a student named Chad Macy was killed in a drunken driving accident in Elon.  He had been the one drinking. His death inspired his roommate, his family and some of his friends to make the push to get a Safe Rides program started at Elon.

A year later, on the anniversary of Macy’s death, Safe Rides officially began at Elon.

Initially students drove their own cars in the program. It was not until 2006, 13 years after it began, that the university gave the program two sedans.

Krieger first became involved in Safe Rides the very first weekend of her freshman year, when the Service Learning Community where she lived signed up to help in the program. She became a captain later in her freshman year and remained a captain her sophomore year. At the end of her sophomore year Krieger became director and has been devoted to improving the program ever since.

“It can always be improved no matter how well it is going,” said Krieger.

Other Kernodle Center directors have noticed Krieger’s commitment to the program.

“She is really dedicated to it and is always looking for opportunities to make it grow,” said Jana Murdock, America Reads program director.

The thing about the program that she most appreciates is its duality.

“I think it has a great impact on the Elon community,” said Krieger. “A lot of people don’t realize it’s not only about those individuals who we are giving a ride home to, but also the greater community and their wellbeing.”

Regardless of all of the hard work and occasional mishaps, Krieger loves being the director of the program and will be sad to leave it when she graduates in May.

“It is hectic at times but I love it,” said Krieger.

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A plaque hangs in the Kernodle Center office to honor the death of Chad Macy, the student whose death inspired the start of the Safe Rides program.

A plaque hangs in the Kernodle Center office to honor the death of Chad Macy, the student whose death inspired the start of the Safe Rides program.

 


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