President's Blog

Need for Vigilance on E-Mail Phishing

Posted on September 19th, 2018



Owens Community College is under attack.

While that statement may seem dramatic, it is 100% true. Hackers and cybercriminals are constantly targeting legitimate organizations, attempting to infiltrate their computer networks. One of the most common types of attack is e-mail phishing. A number of recent phishing e-mails have attempted to use my identity to trick unsuspecting users at Owens Community College into downloading files, clicking on suspicious links, or even making purchases.

If you have not done so already, I encourage you to logon to your account and change your Owens password. You can reset your password by logging into Ozone and clicking the Change My Password link. I realize that it can be cumbersome to change and update your password, but it is one of the most effective ways that our employees can stay secure in our computing environment.

Please Make Sure “Steve Robinson” Is Really Me

It is a bit embarrassing that a number of these e-mail phishing attack messages pretend to sent by me. These messages have ranged from very unsophisticated to fairly elaborate. Attempting to impersonate the president of an organization is a fairly common tactic for these phishing e-mails.

I will never send you an e-mail asking you to purchase gift cards for me, nor would I instruct anyone to provide me with access to their account or to download a risky file. If something seems odd about an e-mail that appears to be from me, be very skeptical.

No hacker has been successful in sending an e-mail from my account, and the folks in IT are taking extra steps to make sure that our e-mail accounts are secure. Messages from me personally will always come from my address.  Sometimes mass communications and announcements will be sent from the account. These are the only legitimate accounts for messages from me. While it is not impossible for hackers to impersonate our domain, this has not happened to date thanks to the hard work of our IT professionals.

So-called “bogus boss” or “CEO fraud” e-mail attacks are on the rise. Many organizations and corporations have fallen prey to these attacks. Here are some interesting stories from the recent past on this subject; these were prompted by a 2016 FBI warning about the billions of dollars lost to spear phishing attacks that impersonate the CEO of an organization:

I want to thank the faculty and staff who have reached out to me and IT immediately upon receipt of these fraudulent e-mail messages. The safe online practices and common sense of our employees is our first line of defense for these attacks. If you receive a suspicious e-mail, please reach out to IT before opening or forwarding the message. We have highly trained staff in the area of computer security, and our IT team has sophisticated tools to help manage the risk associated with these attacks.

What You Can Do to Stay Safe

Recently, our Information Technology Services department sent a set of best practices to all employees. Here they are again for your future reference:

  • Do not click on links or attachments from senders that you do not recognize. Be especially wary of .zip or other compressed or executable file types
  • Do not provide sensitive personal information (like usernames and passwords) over email
  • Watch for email senders that use suspicious or misleading domain names
  • Inspect URLs carefully to make sure they’re legitimate and not imposter sites
  • Do not try to open any shared document that you’re not expecting to receive

In addition to the tips above, IT has referred us to this excellent web resource at the Department of Homeland Security.

Be safe out there!

Steve Robinson, Ph.D.

Growth Mindset with Dr. David Yeager

Posted on September 7th, 2018

During Opening Week, our campus community was treated to an excellent professional development session by Dr. David Yeager, Associate Professor of Developmental Psychology at the University of Texas at Austin.  Dr. Yeager’s talk was easily one of the best opening lectures on teaching that I have had the privilege to hear on a community college campus.

I would like to thank Dr. Denise Smith, Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs and a number of other dedicated individuals for bringing Dr. Yeager to Owens. In addition to Dr. Smith, Dr. Anne Bullerjahn, Professor of Science; Eric Haynes, Coordinator of STEM Teaching Effectiveness; Dr. Anne Fulkerson, Director of Institutional Research; and Jessica Stoner, Secretary Life & Natural Sciences, who played a key role in making the event happen.

For members of our community who were not able to hear the address, below is a video of the presentation, which lasts approximately one hour and twenty minutes. If you were not able to come, I strongly recommend you grab a coffee and/or a snack and cozy up to a screen for this presentation. It is chock full with very important information that can help you and your students have a better semester… immediately.

The Driving Puzzle

About six minutes into his excellent presentation, Dr. Yeager asks this incredibly important question:

“Why is it that some students or learners might feel safe taking risks of deeply challenging themselves acquiring that knowledge before it’s obviously needed and then go on to thrive in college at any level, and why may others shy away from difficulty and not fulfill their potential?”

He refers to this as his field’s “driving puzzle.” During my many years in the classroom, I thought about this problem every semester. Dr. Yeager’s very engaging discussion of growth mindset and his years of research on college students shed important light on this topic.


As a developmental psychologist, Yeager explains the growth mindset hypothesis for why college students don’t learn with the same facility as babies:

“Our hypothesis is that one thing that erodes that kind of love of learning and challenge that many of us started with is the worry that when we struggle and fail we’re going to be negatively evaluated and labeled in some way and compared to others and judged to be inadequate, and those fears prevent us from taking the intellectual risks that we know are good for us in the long run. By that logic, though, we might be able to address those fears and inspire more students to persist even in the midst of that early uncertainty and by doing so they might acquire the skills and habits and relationships that that help them to succeed over time.”

One of the simplest and most enlightening practices he highlighted during his talk was engaging the help of his current students to help future students. His “A Message from a Former Student” technique is something I sporadically tried in the classroom, but only on the syllabus. Yeager has adapted the technique of harnessing the voices of our current students (who will soon become our former students) to help our future students (who will soon become our current students). Those instructional materials shared by Dr. Yeager during the workshop can be accessed by faculty and staff on this internal link:

In addition to many suggestions about what we CAN do as a college to facilitate and support growth mindset, Dr. Yeager also suggested something we can AVOID. He called it the “s**t sandwich.” Consider the following table from one of Dr. Yeager’s worksheets on providing feedback to students:

Again, as a teacher it is sometimes helpful to hear what to avoid. “Sandwiching” an unhelpful and negative piece of feedback between two mildly positive ones certainly is not helpful to students. This particular suggestion got a big laugh from the audience.

In closing, I hope this is an exciting semester for everyone. One thing that could make it even more exciting is to implement some of the “growth mindset” concepts outlined by Dr. Yeager. This would also be a great time to start to solicit and collect those “messages from former students.”

Have a great semester,

Steve Robinson, Ph.D.