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PSU hosts National Writing Project camp for teachers, children

July 28th, 2014 by Lynn

    Photo by: COURTESY MICHAEL BRAMER of Campton reads his work to fellow students, family members and staff of the National Writing Project summer camp held July 21-25 at Plymouth State University.

    PLYMOUTH — Seven grade-school students clutch their notepads and anxiously eye each other in a Plymouth State University classroom as they prepare to share their inner-most thoughts out loud.

    The students are part of the National Writers Project summer writing camp, and today culminates their efforts as they read their work to each other, their teachers and family members. The camp’s goal is to help young people improve their writing skills; PSU English Professor Meg Petersen organizes the week-long camp and says the children are taught a variety of writing styles and encouraged to have fun developing their own voices in it.

    “We want children to develop a sense of joy in writing and to have them work on their writing in a situation where they are not pressured,” Petersen said. “Our goal is to have them come out of the camp loving to write; that’s our most important goal.”

    “Many children in schools think of writing as something that they have to do, it’s forced and difficult, and unless they discover the joy in it, they’re not ever going to be able to do it really well,” Petersen added.

    Michael Bramer, who will enter sixth grade in Campton Elementary School this fall, said he enjoyed the camp.

    “I learned writing is much easier than I thought — it was fun,” said Bramer. “I got to write stuff that I really liked and I got to write stuff that I didn’t know about, like poems.”

    This is the eighth year PSU has hosted a summer writing camp. NWP writing camps are also held in Hampstead, Peterborough, Meredith, Concord and Laconia.

    In addition to the writing camp for children, PSU also hosts a weeklong workshop for writing teachers, dedicated to improving the quality of writing instruction throughout New Hampshire.

    The teachers work closely with the students during writing camp, gaining valuable experience in instructing students on how to improve their writing skills.

    Founded in 2002, the National Writing Project in New Hampshire, (formerly Plymouth Writing Project) is the New Hampshire chapter of the National Writing Project, and is based on the belief that access to high quality educational experiences is a basic right of all learners and a cornerstone of equity.

    The National Writing Project focuses the knowledge, expertise, and leadership of our nation’s educators on sustained efforts to improve writing and learning for all learners.

    Republican gubernatorial candidate Havenstein tours ETC

    July 24th, 2014 by Lynn

       

      Photo by: COURTESY N.H. REPUBLICAN gubernatorial candidate Walt Havenstein, right, meets PSU President Sara Jayne Steen, left, and PSU Provost Julie Bernier, center, at the Enterprise Center at Plymouth during his July 22 tour of the facility.

      PLYMOUTH — New Hampshire Republican gubernatorial candidate Walt Havenstein toured the Enterprise Center at Plymouth July 22.

      The ECP is a business incubator space, providing a “one stop shop” for businesses throughout the region seeking advice and counseling, services, leased space, mentoring, and networking.

      The Grafton County Economic Development Corporation (GCEDC) constructed the building using $2 million in federal, state and corporate funding; Plymouth State University provides staffing, campus-wide business services and intellectual capital.

      Havenstein said the partnership between PSU and GCEDC is success story.

      “As a former business leader I certainly appreciate what you’re doing… I think the ECP represents a model that needs to replicated more and more across our state,” said Havenstein. “As a state, we’ve fallen from 14th in the nation in new business starts down to 35th in the past 15 years. This business incubator idea is a great way to reverse that trend.”

      PSU President Sara Jayne Steen noted since the ECP opened last fall, 21 PSU students have interned at ECP and five have turned those internships into full-time jobs.

      “The businesses here have already created 13 new jobs in this region and I’m proud to say Plymouth State students have helped create this success,” Steen said.

      Before running for elected office, Havenstein was the CEO of BAE Systems, one of New Hampshire’s largest employers.

      He has also been active in furthering science and engineering education, having acted as chairman of FIRST, a non-profit that inspires young people to be leaders in science and technology.

      He is a graduate of the United States Naval Academy and served 28 years in the U.S. Marines.

       

       

      N.H. college, university systems see enrollment increase for online classes

      July 20th, 2014 by Lynn

        By IAIN WILSON
        Monitor staff

        More New Hampshire students are turning to their computers for summer classes, mirroring a broader trend of increasing online enrollment in the state’s university and community college systems.

        Summer online enrollment in the Community College System of New Hampshire is up 11 percent over last year, said Shannon Reid, spokeswoman for the system, which includes seven colleges. Earlier this week, Chancellor Ross Gittell announced that systemwide summer enrollment – both traditional and online – had increased 4 percent. The boon is the result of course offerings in high-demand fields and the increased availability of online courses.

        While preliminary figures for fall 2014 online enrollment hint at significant increases, hard data won’t be in until the semester begins. Online degree programs have been embraced at different speeds by different schools, but for those colleges that have beefed up programming, staff and academic supports, an online degree is on par with a traditional one. Education leaders have also pushed for better access to college education in the past year, and online classes not only offer students flexibility timewise, but they also cut down on commutes.

        “From an institutional perspective, it enables us to leverage technology and course offerings to extend our reach to additional students,” said Reid.

        Nontraditional options

        At NHTI in Concord, the number of students who are taking online classes this summer is up 22 percent, and overall online enrollment last year was up 18 percent. The college is expecting that interest to increase, said NHTI spokesman Alan Blake.

        “It’s too early to say for this fall, but we expect continued double-digit growth,” he said in an email.

        Students are also flocking to expanded online options through the University System of New Hampshire. More than 4,000 students are currently enrolled in degree programs offered entirely online, said Chancellor Todd Leach.

        “We have experienced tremendous growth in online courses in recent years,” he said last week.

        While Granite State College has long had the most robust online course catalog, programs at the University of New Hampshire and Plymouth State have grown, and soon, Keene State will also have access.

        “I think it’s fair to say the university system fully expects pretty rapid online growth, and that Keene will be part of the online mix going forward,” said Leach.

        About 74 percent of students enrolled in online degree programs in the university system are New Hampshire residents, he said.

        Total enrollment at Granite State is up 30 percent, to almost 3,500 students. Sixty-percent of those students are enrolled in an online degree program, either taking a full course or working toward a degree a few courses at a time.

        Leach, who was Granite State’s president before being named chancellor, said the online growth at the school can be credited to its history of educating nontraditional students.

        “Perhaps Granite State is unusual because (while) some colleges have an arm that serves nontraditional students,” he said, “Granite State is focused on it.

        “It is something that has allowed us to be ahead of the curve for online learning.”

        In Manchester, Southern New Hampshire University has been nationally recognized for its online program, which reinvigorated the private nonprofit. Now, online enrollment trumps its traditional enrollment.

        Staying with core mission

        That is not the case at UNH, though its online enrollment continues to grow, even in the absence of a full-time online bachelor’s degree program.

        “As part of our core mission, we see us as focusing on that residential undergraduate experience,” said Terri Winters, director of eUNH, the university’s online learning branch. “We have not put any undergraduate degree programs online.”

        Still, eUNH offers more than 350 courses online, and the school has two online master’s programs: social work and business administration. The social work program, rolled out this year, has an expected enrollment next year of 25 students, up from 15 in its first year.

        “Especially with the master’s programs, we are definitely seeing students we may not have otherwise,” she said.

        The university launched online courses in 2009, mostly because of declining summer enrollment, said Winters.

        “We were seeing students transferring credits from other places. We wanted to keep and recapture our own students, and that has really grown since 2009,” Winters said. Between 4,500 and 4,800 students will take a summer course at UNH this year, and about 2,300 of those students will study online, she said.

        Addressing challenges

        One of the challenges facing online degrees is a perception of lower standards, as for-profit online schools such as the University of Phoenix and DeVry Institute have been scrutinized on a national level. Having a skilled faculty and strong educational supports are the best ways to change the perception, Leach said.

        “I think having a faculty that lives in both worlds helps ensures that students are getting the same product,” Leach said. “I think that’s harder to ensure if you don’t have faculty who are engaged in both traditional instruction and online.”

        As an advocate for 22 public and private colleges in the state, the New Hampshire College and University Council routinely recruits students to study in New Hampshire, but most of those efforts have remained focused on the traditional student, said President and CEO Thomas Horgan.

        At the council, “we’ve done very little around online recruiting,” Horgan said.

        In addition to rising college costs and declining state and federal aid, Horgan said he sees the technology as the third-major challenge faced by higher education.

        “As a sector, higher education needs to address those three waves that are crashing on the shore,” he said.

        As the demand for affordable, accessible education increases, so too will an emphasis on online college.

        “There does still remain an economic divide between people who can afford to go to college and those who can’t,” he said. “Lowering the cost and increasing the access are a big part of that, and we’re going to use technology to do that. What we haven’t figured out is how we’re going to use it.”

        (Iain Wilson can be reached at 369-3313 or iwilson@cmonitor.com.)

         

         

        International Singing

        July 18th, 2014 by Lynn

          Georgia Noonan is pictured with children of Chile during her May visit to the South American country with her singing group from Plymouth State College. Courtesy Photo.

          Raymond resident Georgia Noonan will be a junior this September at Plymouth State University where she is part of the college’s elite Chamber Singers. The group goes on an international tour every three years and were able to tour Chile for two weeks this past May. The students flew to Santiago and spent three days exploring the city. From there they took a bus to Viña Del Mar and Valpariso and spent three nights in host homes. In those cities the singers went to elementary schools to give concerts and workshops with the children.

          The trip then took them to Valdivia, which is in southern Chile. While visiting there they did workshops with students at the Universidad de Chile Valdivia and more elementary schools in the area. The final four nights were spent in Puerto Mont, which is very far south. The Universidad de Austral Puerto Mont paid for the group to stay in a nice bed and breakfast overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Georgia is looking forward to another trip overseas during her senior year at Plymouth.

           

          PSU grad turns music passion into festival

          July 17th, 2014 by Lynn

            By bmartin@citizen.com | Jul 17, 2014

            PLYMOUTH — For Plymouth State University graduate Ryan Dubois, seeing music and going to festivals has always been a way of life and something he loves. Since he left school, he has taken that love for music and made it his career by creating the Wild Woods Music and Arts Festival.

            The festival is set to take place from Aug. 8-10 at Page Farm in Croydon, and Dubois is very excited for the wide span of musical acts, artists, performers, vendors and food. It is taking place on 70 acres of farmland and wooded areas. There will be three stages — a wooden main stage, a tent stage and one created out of an old dock. There will be a professional projectionist Drew Suto and lighting done by Evan Antal throughout the weekend. Dubois expects a crowd of around 800 people and the event’s Facebook page already has more than 2,000 likes.

            “We are really going to have a great production this year,” said Dubois.

            Dubois graduated from PSU in 2013 with a bachelor’s degree in business, but since November 2012 he has been in charge of Green Vibe Entertainment. The production company is not only responsible for the upcoming festival, but has also local artists get their name out by putting on smaller shows.

            Dubois explained that in July 2013 he put on the Big Dig Music and Mining Festival, which was his first stab at a music festival. He said that this was not with Green Vibe, and he has since decided to work with a different crew for this year’s festival. He said he enjoys working with the current crew and expects Wild Woods to be a success.

            Leading up to the Big Dig, Dubois promoted various bands with Green Vibe that would be at the festival, with some moving on to be part of Wild Woods. This is all while he was still attending classes at school. Dubois said that he knew that this was something that he not only enjoyed, but was also good at.

            “For me, I just love going to other festivals myself,” said Dubois. “I’m a bit of a music lover — I find a love for it. This helps with the company since I am a big fan of going to all these festivals, and knew that I wanted to do it on my own and see where it would take me.”

            The music festival scene has been around for years, with the major ones being very famous such as Woodstock in 1969 which brought in about 500,000 people camping throughout the weekend. Gradually over the years the music has changed, the festivals have changed and they have also become more abundant. Huge festivals like Bonnaroo in Manchester, Tenn. have brought in close to 100,000 each year since its inception in 2002.

            Smaller festivals like Wild Woods are known for more multiple days of camping with localized musical acts, although the headliner Kung Fu has had ample musical success and been featured at various festivals for several years running. Other artists like Pinecone, Stop Tito Collective and Amulus have played locally and were also at The Big Dig.

            By attending festivals and concerts on both the small and large scale, Dubois has found things that he both likes and dislikes from each. He explained that he has used this experience to create what is to come at Wild Woods.

            “There are some aspects that I like and certain things I could do, and then there are others that I wouldn’t,” said Dubois. “Having all these festivals is great for promotion, too. We have a huge promotion team from all over New England who will be hitting all the big festivals this summer.”

            Dubois said that most of the musical acts at Wild Woods are from the east coast and many he has promoted himself at places like The Lucky Dog in Plymouth, The Stone Church in Newmarket and other bars and venues. He said that he and his crew will be promoting the festival by handing out flyers and putting up posters at these shows and the other festivals they attend.

            Dubois said that one aspect that he enjoys about music festivals is the art.

            “We are very focused on the art aspect this year,” Dubois explained.

            Dubois explained that there will have just under 20 live painters there, fire dancing, meditation and yoga classes, fire dancers and more. There will be an art collective, a tea lounge and various workshops offered as well.

            He said that Wild Woods is designed to be a positive experience, and said that there will be something for all ages. While there is a typically a party atmosphere in many festivals, Dubois added that there will be a quieter family section for people to camp in that bring children along, and that children 12 and under can enter for free.

            “We really want it to be family friendly,” Dubois said. “The real focus is on having a tight-knit community.”

            He also stressed that Green Vibe Entertainment is environmentally friendly, and that they will have compost bins with the recycling and trash areas at the festival. He added that they have a sponsorship with Natur-Tec so they will be providing biodegradable trash bags and cutlery for the vendors.

            Dubois said that by using his knowledge and experience through putting on other concerts and a festival, he has learned to be more organized and keep things together on-site while it can be stressful. He acknowledges the huge responsibility, and said he is prepared for a quality weekend of music and art.

            For a complete list of artists, activities and the weekend schedule, log onto wildwoodsfest.com.

             

            PSU summer courses a success in introducing children to science

            July 17th, 2014 by Lynn

              PSU Assistant Professor Mike Son, center, explains to Science Camp students why dry ice vaporizes in water. COURTESY

               

              PLYMOUTH – Seven wide-eyed children gather around a lab table in PSU’s Boyd Science Center, eager to find out what happens when a piece of dry ice is dropped into a container of water.

              As Assistant Professor of Microbiology Mike Son gently places the dry ice into the water. the resulting vapor elicits excited laughter from the kids, who range in age from six to eight. They’ve just participated in a simple experiment about matter; how water can easily change from a solid, a gas and a liquid.

              The class is part of a Plymouth State University summer camp called The Science Explorers, introduced this year by PSU as part of a Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) outreach effort.

              Dr. Cynthia Vascak, Dean of PSU’s College of Arts and Sciences, said STEM education is a priority for the institution and our summer camps are a tangible way to reach young people with that goal.

              “The science camps introduce children to dynamic real world applications of STEM skills and knowledge, inspire wonder and fascination, build confidence and interest, and open pathways of exploration and discovery,” said Vascak.. “Building a STEM pipeline with our K-12 schools and providing dynamic K-12 summer training for students helps us achieve our goal of prioritizing STEM education in New Hampshire, a goal the entire USNH system has pledged to achieve.”

              Professor Son developed the week-long course with the idea that each day would cover a different aspect of science education; rudimentary experiments involving chemistry, biology and eco-systems to introduce students to thinking critically and helping them gain confidence in their own ability to solve problems.

              “Now is the best time to get them aware of science, as early as possible,” noted Son. “STEM is a major influence and focus for me and the University. I wanted to get kids involved with science as quickly as possible to get them interested and build off that momentum.”

              Eight-year-old Ben Limric of Madbuy said he’s having a lot of fun at the Science Exploreres Camp.

              “Last year, when I was in first grade, we did some science experiments, and I just fell in love with it; it’s a lot of fun, and it’s amazing how it works,” Limric said.

              Eight-year-old Trisha Bradbury of Northfield was also enjoying the camp.

              “It’s fun to learn new things-what if one day I become a scientist?” she said.

              In addition to the Lab Explorers camp, PSU is offering other youth programs this summer including Junior and Senior Lego Engineering Camps and a Mindstorm Madness Camp.

              “It’s important for PSU to take the lead in having these youth programs available,” said Linda Hammond, PSU’s Community Education Coordinator. “Not only does it give the public an inside view of the university; it informs them that we are serious about education at all levels.”

               

              “Ut Prosim” in action

              July 17th, 2014 by Lynn

                PSU student Travis Bennett seeks elected office

                Courtesy Photo - Travis Bennett

                PLYMOUTH — Frustrated over what he calls partisan political wrangling and inaction on issues important to New Hampshire’s future, Plymouth State University student Travis Bennett says he’s seeking elected office.

                The political science major is running a write-in campaign on the Democratic ticket for the Grafton 8 District in the New Hampshire House of Representatives seat formerly held by Sid Lovett.

                “I just want to energize the debate,” Bennett said. “I don’t view myself as a partisan figure; I want to bring cooperation on important issues to Concord. I am definitely trying to seek a balance. ”

                As for the issues, Bennett believes New Hampshire should be concentrating on enhancing revenues, particularly in helping businesses grow and bringing more young people to the state. He opposes expanded gambling but supports expanded Medicaid funding.

                Bennett has worked for the Appalachian Mountain Club as a trail crew leader; he says that experience helped mold his strong environmental protection mindset.

                “A lot of people don’t know that New Hampshire had very few trees less than a century ago— legislation had to be passed to create what we have now,” he said.

                Bennett’s political aspirations started when he served as a Congressional page for New Hampshire 2nd District Congressman Paul Hodes in 2008. He is currently the President of the College Democrats of New Hampshire; he also is an active member of the Plymouth Area Democrats.

                Bennett stated he has always loved the idea of public service, and the University’s motto Ut Prosim (“That I May Serve”), encapsulates his desire to represent District 8. He will be campaigning in the Plymouth, Hebron and Holderness area, hoping to garner support prior to the Sept. 9 primary.

                “I plan to start canvassing more earnestly in the next couple of weeks,” he added.

                Bennett graduated from Nashua South High School in 2009, and is the son of Tom and Linda Bennett of Nashua.

                Meg Petersen named Stevens-Bristow Distinguished Professor at PSU

                July 17th, 2014 by Lynn

                  Professor Meg Petersen

                  PLYMOUTH — Professor of English Meg Petersen has been named the Stevens-Bristow Distinguished Professor at Plymouth State University.

                  Alumni Wallace R. Stevens and Meredith Bristow Stevens, class of 1962, established the endowed professorship in 2007 to celebrate and recognize extraordinary faculty who “educate the educators.”

                  The Stevens-Bristow Distinguished Professor must have a record of excellence in teaching, advising or mentoring, evidence of scholarly activity or creativity that is recognized nationally or internationally, and exhibit outstanding contributions to the profession, University or state.

                  Professor Petersen is a teacher, a writer of fiction and essays, a poet and a passionate advocate for the teaching of writing. As founder in 2001 of the Plymouth Writing Project, now National Writing Project in New Hampshire (NWPNH), she leads the organization’s efforts to promote exemplary instruction of writing in every classroom in New Hampshire. She says NWPNH believes that access to high quality educational experiences is a basic right of all learners and a cornerstone of equity. Summer workshops and student camps are held in Laconia, Concord, Hampstead and Plymouth. Plymouth State is also the host site for NWPNH Invitational Summer Institute for Teachers of Writing.

                  PSU Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Julie Bernier said, “Meg is an exceptional teacher who has been honored in the past for her work in both graduate and undergraduate English education. This professorship provides one more opportunity to highlight Meg’s good work.”

                  Petersen says the Stevens’ vision and generosity in creating the professorship honors their heritage as Plymouth Teachers College (1962) alumni, and the historical foundation of Plymouth State University.

                  “We remain one of the premier teaching programs in New Hampshire, and this professorship honors the importance of that mission and acknowledges it as one of the many things at which PSU excels,” she commented.

                  The Common Core for Education has a broad emphasis on writing in all subjects, according to Petersen.

                  “The craft of writing is all the more important and exciting in this participatory culture. Anyone can reach a large audience through online publishing and social media. Writing is not just a skill for communication. We talk about what writing means, and how it is done today. It is also a tool for thinking and for participating in a democratic society. This is a wonderful time to be involved with teaching,” Petersen observes.

                  Stevens loves the idea that the professorship touches the lives of professors who are educating educators.

                  “If this allows a professor the opportunity to explore a new idea, then everyone ultimately benefits. By underwriting this professorship, we can provide an experience that the recipient might not otherwise have had,” he said.

                  In 2008, Petersen was awarded a prestigious Fulbright Scholarship to work with teachers in Santo Domingo, the capital of the Dominican Republic, in the teaching of writing. Nineteen teachers from a single school voluntarily registered for her course to improve the teaching of writing. Petersen conducted many courses at schools and universities in the Dominica Republic throughout that year. Since that first visit she has established a group of teacher leaders capable of continuing this work at other schools in the Dominican Republic under the aegis of a Writing Project site in Santo Domingo. She has also worked to create opportunities for exchange between the two cultures to enable New Hampshire teachers to gain a better understanding of students from this region, and by extension, all students from other cultures.

                  She also serves as Coordinator of the PSU M.Ed. program in English, including teacher certification for grades five through 12, and the M.Ed. program in the teaching of writing. She teaches Theory and Practice in the Teaching of Writing, Teacher Action Research, and Leadership in Urban Schools. With undergraduates, she teaches composition, creative writing, introduction to English Teaching and Teaching Writing in the Secondary School, and is responsible for supervising student teachers in English at the secondary and middle school levels, serving on the Writing Across the Curriculum Task Force and other University committees, and is an academic advisor.

                  A New Hampshire native, Petersen earned a Ph.D. in reading and writing instruction from UNH. She earned her B.A. at Franklin Pierce College with interdisciplinary studies in psychology, sociology and education.

                  Petersen has presented and published widely, and has earned honors and awards both for her creative writing and for scholarly articles. She has received both the undergraduate and graduate Distinguished Teaching Awards at Plymouth State University and was a finalist for the New Hampshire Edie Award for Excellence in Higher Education. The New England Association of Teachers of English named Petersen New England Poet of the Year for 1998.

                  Petersen is the daughter of Dorothy Peterson and the late Gov. Walter R. Peterson, Jr. of Peterborough.

                  “I hope this professorship will enable me to continue to do what I am doing, but to do it better and more effectively. Teaching teachers is the most important thing I do, and what I hope to do for the rest of my life. Teaching is the way I can make an impact on the world,” Petersen concludes.

                   

                  PSU summer courses a success in introducing children to science

                  July 14th, 2014 by Lynn

                    PLYMOUTH STATE UNIVERSITY Assistant Professor Mike Son, center, explains why dry ice vaporizes in water to Science Camp students. Courtesy Photo

                     

                    PLYMOUTH – Seven wide-eyed children gather around a lab table in Plymouth State University’s Boyd Science Center, eager to find out what happens when a piece of dry ice is dropped into a container of water.

                    As Assistant Professor of Microbiology Mike Son gently places the dry ice into the water. the resulting vapor elicits excited laughter from the kids, who range in age from 6 to 8. They’ve just participated in a simple experiment about matter; how water can easily change from a solid, a gas and a liquid.

                    The class is part of a PSU summer camp called The Science Explorers, introduced this year by PSU as part of a Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) outreach effort.

                    Dr. Cynthia Vascak, dean of PSU’s College of Arts and Sciences, said STEM education is a priority for the institution and our summer camps are a tangible way to reach young people with that goal.

                    “The science camps introduce children to dynamic real world applications of STEM skills and knowledge, inspire wonder and fascination, build confidence and interest, and open pathways of exploration and discovery,” Vascak said. “Building a STEM pipeline with our K-12 schools and providing dynamic K-12 summer training for students helps us achieve our goal of prioritizing STEM education in New Hampshire, a goal the entire USNH system has pledged to achieve.”

                    Son developed the week-long course with the idea that each day would cover a different aspect of science education: rudimentary experiments involving chemistry, biology and eco-systems to introduce students to thinking critically and helping them gain confidence in their own ability to solve problems.

                    “Now is the best time to get them aware of science, as early as possible,” Son noted. “STEM is a major influence and focus for me and the University. I wanted to get kids involved with science as quickly as possible to get them interested and build off that momentum.”

                    Eight-year-old Ben Limric of Madbuy said he’s having a lot of fun at the Science Exploreres Camp.

                    “Last year when I was in first grade, we did some science experiments and I just fell in love with it; it’s a lot of fun and it’s amazing how it works,” Limric said.

                    Eight-year-old Trisha Bradbury of Northfield was also enjoying the camp.

                    “It’s fun to learn new things – what if one day I become a scientist?” Bradbury said.

                    In addition to the Lab Explorers camp, PSU is offering other youth programs this summer including Junior and Senior Lego Engineering Camps and a Mindstorm Madness Camp.

                    “It’s important for PSU to take the lead in having these youth programs available,” said Linda Hammond, PSU’s community education coordinator. “Not only does it give the public an inside view of the university, it informs them that we are serious about education at all levels.”

                     

                    Should Concord host a business incubator? Wait, what’s a business incubator?

                    July 13th, 2014 by Lynn

                      By SARAH PALERMO
                      Monitor staff

                      Did you know the best-selling software program for property appraisers and assessors is made by a company in Plymouth?

                      The company, which has grown from seven to 12 employees in the past eight months, is an anchor member of the Enterprise Center at Plymouth, or ECP, a business incubator space sponsored by Plymouth State University and the Grafton County Economic Development Council.

                      ECP is the newest member of the New Hampshire Business Incubator Network, which includes locations in Conway, Durham, Hanover, Keene, Manchester and Portsmouth.

                      “We basically have the state covered,” said ECP Executive Director Michael Tentnowski. “Of course, there’s a void between Manchester and Plymouth called Concord. I didn’t do a demographic profile, but it would seem like a natural to me. There is always room for a well thought out, progressive incubator.”

                      That’s exactly what some Concord-area officials think, too. They visited the Plymouth center last week with an eye toward possibly creating a similar space here.

                      But the first thing to know about incubator spaces is they are more than just space.

                      The Plymouth center offers Grafton County startups access to high-speed internet service as well as access to experienced business professionals, like Tentnowski, who has been in the business development field for more than 20 years. He’s able to answer questions, or find an expert in the community who can.

                      And for some entrepreneurs, having access to peers is almost as valuable as a fast computer and a full Rolodex.

                      Allison Grappone lives in Concord but commutes to AlphaLoft in Manchester, where she works on growing her new business, Nearby Registry. It’s an online gift registry service that connects consumers with independent shops who might not have the time to run their own registry services.

                      When Grappone won the statewide Start-up Challenge contest in 2011, her prize package included mentoring at AlphaLoft, an incubator organization with four spaces in Manchester, Durham and Portsmouth.

                      “Honestly, it reduced a lot of the barriers to starting up a business. I was surrounded by people who were asking similar questions to what I needed, or they had asked them in the past,” she said.

                      As she writes a request for proposals for software work, she can have a web developer at the desk around the corner review the language. And the developer can look over the estimates candidates send back, so Grappone knows what’s a good deal.

                      There are lunch-and-learn sessions with lawyers and human resource professionals and accountants. Local investors visit often to meet with entrepreneurs and are willing to listen to and help refine pitches, even if a company’s not ready for outside funding, Grappone said.

                      If a center opened in Concord, she’d consider switching locations only if the programs offered matched her needs.

                      “Anybody can rent an office anywhere. When you’re starting a business, you want a space filled with smart people willing to give of their experience and time and mentor others. These are people who aren’t looking for their next sales lead, they’re looking to participate in this enterprise so the business environment around them gets better,” said Marc Sedam, vice chairman of the board of directors for AlphaLoft.

                      “Physical location is the very last thing someone should look at when thinking about an incubator. You want to know, who’s in it, what kind of help and support do they offer?”

                      Sedam is also executive director of UNHInnovation. His office manages and promotes intellectual property developed by the university, and creates partnerships between UNH and businesses. UNH contributes about $300,000 annually to the centers, and operating with one leadership team reduced redundancies, Sedam said.

                      Until this summer, AlphaLoft’s four locations were run by different groups. But last month, they all combined forces – and budgets.

                      “What we don’t want as a state is to Balkanize, where there is an incubator every 10 miles. We’re not Cambridge. There’s not enough activity to split into tiny pieces. That’s a way to make sure no one’s successful,” he said.

                      There are still several questions for advocates to answer before an incubator in Concord could be successful.

                      The project in Plymouth was about 10 years in the making – from conception through feasibility studies, location scouting and construction.

                      “You can’t just say I’m going to build something and hope somebody shows up,” Tentnowski said. “Unless you do a feasibility study and an asset inventory, it’s not proper planning.”

                      He told the group from Concord that last week, and they heard him, loud and clear, they said.

                      Speaking after their tour, Steve Caccia, vice president of student affairs at NHTI – and the school’s recent interim president – Tim Sink, president of the Greater Concord Chamber of Commerce, and Byron Champlin, a city councilor and a member of the Concord Economic Development Advisory Council, all said this is a project in its infancy, but they are eager to learn more about incubators.

                      “Generally speaking, there’s a high incidence of companies that sling shot off of incubator spaces to stay in their local community and grow there. Why would we not want that?” Champlin said. “My concern is we might be a bit behind the curve (of other centers around the state), but we can learn from their experiences and lessons to develop, if we go this route, a really strong contender.”

                      NHTI would be interested in joining the partnership to offer professors as experts where needed, and to gain internship opportunities for students, Caccia said.

                      “I don’t think we would have the power or the expertise or the resources to do it on our own, but the more resources and the more local assets that are vested in it, the more successful it could possible be.

                      “Anecdotally, my gut’s telling me if we did it, we could make it work,” he said. He thinks the chamber and the city might be able to find grants to fund a feasibility study.

                      “But it’s not a case of ‘if you build, it they will come.’ You’ve got to ask all the questions first,” he added.

                      (Sarah Palermo can be reached at 369-3322 or spalermo@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @SPalermoNews.)

                       

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