COPLAC collaborations include women's soccer


Trailblazer fans are in for a treat this weekend when, for the first time, the MCLA women's soccer team goes head to head with a team from Minnesota. It's an unusual occurrence that Head Women's Soccer Coach Deborah Raber says has some people a bit perplexed.

The game - set for 3:30 p.m. Friday on the Ron Shewcraft Field at the Joseph Zavattaro Athletic Complex - will be against the University of Minnesota-Morris - a team the Trailblazers typically would never play.

What's the connection between these two teams? Besides the fact that Raber knows Dan Magner, the other team's coach, both MCLA and the University of Minnesota-Morris belong to the Council of Public Liberal Arts Colleges (COPLAC).

Raber said the idea for the soccer match came about after Magner - whom she knows through her association with the National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA) - decided to bring the Minnesota team to New England to play against some schools on the East Coast.

"We are very excited," Raber said. "It's pretty cool that this COPLAC school coming to play us is from the Upper Midwest. We have a lot in common. It'll be fun."

Although Friday afternoon's game will be a unique event for our women's soccer team, it won't be the first time MCLA has collaborated with another COPLAC school.

In fact, it's just one of many collaborative ventures MCLA engages in with other COPLAC-member institutions. This fall, the College once again will host the Northeast Regional COPLAC Undergraduate Research Conference, to be held Oct. 25 and 26. Then, students from COPLAC institutions throughout the region will have an opportunity to present the results of their research.

"This is a powerful experience for students to be able to present and discuss their research with faculty members and peers from the other institutions," said Monica Joslin, MCLA's dean of academic affairs.

"MCLA's strategic plan emphasizes the value of high-impact activities, such as the Undergraduate Research Program," she continued. "Engaging students in undergraduate research is an important educational experience with multiple benefits for students, from increased confidence to an understanding of the process of science, and emphasizing liberal arts skills such as critical thinking, problem-solving, communication and presentation skills."

When a student joins MCLA, they also benefit from the College's membership in COPLAC.

According to Joslin, COPLAC institutions have developed many collaborative initiatives that present exceptional opportunities for students. These experiences range from undergraduate research and distance mentoring to study away opportunities.

In addition to providing a public liberal arts experience, close faculty-student interaction, and innovative curriculum and student life programming, COPLAC schools provide experiential learning, a commitment to civic engagement, and provide dynamic partnerships that exist across member campuses.

Raber and Magner keep their soccer programs connected through Facebook, and their teams often end up named on the same lists for their accomplishments. They also have much in common with their coaching style and philosophy. And, both plan to win on Friday.

"Maybe we'll travel to the Upper Midwest next year," said Raber. "Who knows?"

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