Monday, November 30, 2009

Helpful online security tips for the holiday season

Over the years, I've been asked by students and staff about the safety of online holiday shopping. This is no surprise, considering the 24/7 convenience it offers those of us who work full-time or are focused on completing the semester and attending classes. And for those of us who are already online taking classes.

As we begin the week with "Cyber Monday," I'd like to share a few practices to keep the Pierce community "cyber safe" when shopping online.
  • Use a secure browser (SSL): This is usually either Internet Explorer or Firefox. Make sure you have a current version. If you're sharing any private information or buying online you should look for "https://" in the address bar where the Web site address is displayed (that "s" is for "secure"). Another way to determine if a Web site is secure is to look for a closed padlock displayed at the bottom right, or upper right corner of your screen. If that lock is open, you should assume that it is not a secure site.

  • Shop with companies that you know: Anyone can set up shop under any name online (even playing off a more established retailer). This is called "spoofing." To protect against it, you can download free software called SpoofStick that can help you understand if the site is real or fake. If you're not familiar with a merchant, ask for a paper catalog or brochure to get a better idea of its merchandise and services. And make sure you determine the retailer's refund and return policies before you place your order.
  • Keep your password(s) private: Remember, NEVER give any personal information in response to an email or phone call, regardless of the source. No company or business will request your password or private information. A common scam to be aware of is a notification that your account has been hacked and you should "fill out the page or form to get your account reinstated." Nope, don't do it! Be creative when creating your password. Avoid using a telephone number, birth date, or a portion of your Social Security number. Instead, use a combination of numbers, letters, and symbols. For example, instead of GOEAGLES you can use G0e@G1eS.
  • Pay by credit card or charge card: If you pay by credit card or charge card online, your transaction will be protected by the Fair Credit Billing Act. Under this law, consumers have the right to dispute charges under certain circumstances and temporarily withhold payment while the creditor is investigating them. In the case of unauthorized use of a credit or charge card, consumers are generally held liable only for the first $50 in charges. Some cards may also provide additional warranty or purchase protection benefits. I also suggest that you have a separate credit card reserved for online transactions only. This helps in tracking your purchases and reviewing your billing statement. The Privacy Rights Clearinghouse has some great information on this as well. Also, some credit card companies have a software download that lets you create a one time "virtual" credit card number. The Washington Post recently covered this -- check with your provider to see if it's offered.
  • Keep a record: Be sure to print a copy of your purchase order and confirmation number for your records. Also, you should know that the Federal Mail or Telephone Order Merchandise Rule covers orders made via the Internet as well. This means that unless stated otherwise, merchandise must be delivered within 30 days, and if there are delays, the company must notify you.
Remember, these pointers are just a start. Above all else, use your head! If you don't feel comfortable with a retailer's site, don't use it. If someone on eBay makes you feel uneasy, don't purchase anything from them.

Most of all, enjoy the holidays and shop safely!

A note on career services, higher education, and creating engagement

Hello Peirce College! Uva Coles here.

Though I officially joined the Peirce College community two weeks ago as the new Dean of Career Management Services, I wanted to take this chance to introduce myself and share with you what my new role is with the college, as well as what I'll be discussing on Peirce Connections.

Let me start with the questions I have been getting from a lot of students over the past week: "So Uva, what will you be doing?"

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Happy holidays to the Peirce College community

The approaching holiday season provides a strong reminder of the great community of alumni, students, faculty, staff, and administrators we have at Peirce College.

It's important at this time of year that we recognize the special bond the College provides us, and give thanks for being part of each others' lives. This is a most exciting time at Peirce, as we create a new era and design a path for future generations to fulfill their educational and career goals.

My holiday message to you is one of sincere gratitude for making Peirce an outstanding institution that is positioned for an even greater future. I wish nothing but the best to you, your families, and your friends. May the joy of the holiday season last throughout the year and beyond.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Hired: Real-world benefits of continuing education

The stories and feedback we get from students are easily one of our greatest motivators as educators.

My colleague Cynthia Gentile, a professor in our Paralegal Studies program, shared with me a note she recently received from one of her students.

Cynthia is extremely excited for this student (as we all are)! Truth is, so many of the individuals that come to Peirce College are looking for new opportunities in their professional life. As far as I'm concerned, whenever we help a student achieve this goal, we've accomplished our mission.

Here's the note Cynthia received (with some names and details removed to respect the student's privacy, but otherwise verbatim). From what I understand, this student has nothing to worry about, and is ready for the task ahead of her!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

VA's Post 9/11 GI Bill video

Following my post last week regarding the tuition resources available to military service members and their families; an acquaintance shared a video with me from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) regarding the Post 9/11 GI Bill.

Thought I'd share this as a resource for any service members that are looking into continuing education. You can also reach out to me directly at with any questions.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Mark your calendars: Upcoming workshops at the Walker Center for Academic Excellence

Hello students! One of the reasons we started this blog was to keep you in the know about all things Peirce College. As part of that, we'll be sharing details here about upcoming events on campus, and spreading the word about programs and services offered at Peirce in hopes of keeping you all fully aware of the resources available to you.

On that note, there are a number of workshops on the calendar that are quickly approaching. Over the next month, the Walker Center for Academic Excellence will be hosting the following workshops, both on campus and online - and free!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Post-9/11 GI Bill and other essential tuition resources for military service members

As part of my job at Peirce, I've counseled a number of current and former military men and women over the years. This has been such a rewarding experience for me, because in many cases, they represent some of the most motivated and disciplined students that pass through our college doors.

From what I've seen, these students usually have two primary concerns that follow their decision to continue their education: time and money.

In a recent post, I talked a bit about how time concerns can be addressed by choosing a school that recognizes military service for college credit. But financial resources are essential for service members and their families in starting or going back to a college or trade school.

The good news is that helpful resources are out there for military service members and their families, both through the Federal government and through resources offered by a college or trade school.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

This is Peirce Connections

Welcome to the official Peirce College blog! We've worked hard to design this blog as a source of information for you, the Peirce community. And obviously that means nothing without ... YOU. We need your help to make Peirce Connections a true window into the college -- YOU the students, YOU the faculty, and YOU the staff.

Our goal is simple: Create an online community that tells an honest and transparent story of the school and how higher and continuing education empowers people to live better lives. Now here's where you come in. First, join the community on the blog! Start talking. Share ideas. And get writing. Posts include observations about higher education, stories about students and alumni, and information about events.

They can even be as simple as your own thoughts about what's going on in Philadelphia, because if it affects you, it affects us! Septa strike making life difficult? New park benches providing a fun new study spot? Political or community events have you excited? Share your own ideas for the blog and posts with us! You can send these thoughts directly to

And it's easy to share your comments at the end of a post to offer your own insight and experience. In fact, please do! You can even rate what you think of each post via a "star" system. Be honest -- and, of course, be respectful -- in your interactions. This is meant to be open and fun for all involved, but we'll also ensure that nothing is offensive or damaging. Comments will be moderated.

Share the blog with others. For those that are active on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and other social networking sites, we encourage you to share posts via those outlets. Forward links to others via e-mail and instant message. We're making our online presence known.

You can now find us on all of the above social networking sites. Become a fan of Peirce College on Facebook. And follow us on Twitter. Or, if you need help getting set up on any social networking sites, let us know! We'll be happy to show you how. I hope you'll stay tuned and stay engaged with us here, because this new blog is going to be an experience for us all.