October 24, 2012

The Weekly Blab

Volume 7, Issue 10—October 24, 2012

Thanks to All…

Thanks to everyone who posted comments on the last BLAB and its move onto a BLOG.  Your kind words are appreciated, and who knew that the library archived it?  It’s like a strange form of immortality.

News from New Zealand

As most people are aware, Facebook is a great way of keeping up with people you went to school with or hung around with in a previous life.  Its nice and casual, and you sometimes get interesting surprises in what others post, or responses to what you post.  I was moving pictures from my camera to my computer this weekend, and decided to post a few on Facebook.  One was a picture of myself and my mother from when my folks were here last week.  In it, I was wearing a Liverpool soccer jersey.  While all loyal readers of the BLAB are aware that Chelsea is the greatest team in the Premier League, there are other teams that are also acceptable and besides, one has to wear something different now and again.  The picture drew the usual “likes” from family members, but also the comment “Get that Liverpool top off, you traitor!” from an old friend, Paul Millican, who taught chemistry at the college in England I went to on my first sabbatical. A little later, I posted a second picture (taken on Saturday along the Chattahoochee river), in which I was wearing a West Ham jersey.  This prompted the following deeply significant exchange:

Paul:    “And now a West Ham top.  Make your mind up!”

Zvi:     “Chelsea is my team, but Liverpool and West Ham are OK too!”

Paul:    “No, no, no.  Newcastle United, the only team worth following in the premiership.”

Zvi:     “And just who is in first place?  And won the FA and UEFA last year?  Hmm?”

Paul:    “What can I say?  You can take the boy out of the town, but you can’t take the town out of the boy.”

What’s strange about all this is that it was taking place pretty much in real time—him and I both adding comments, about one minute apart, while separated by 8200 miles, because Paul now lives in Christchurch, New Zealand.

Paul tells me Christchurch is a beautiful place, though you might have heard about it in the news because the city recently has suffered through two major earthquakes, and is the subject of a New Zealand movie, “When a City Falls”.  Quoting from the film review in the Timaru Herald by Matthew Littlewood:

Where were you, when the earth moved?  Gerard Smythe’s When A City Falls doesn’t so much document Christchurch in the wake of the earthquakes as bear witness. True, there has been so much coverage of the September 4 earthquake, and its deadly February 22 sequel, (not to mention the thousands of aftershocks since) that you wonder what is left to say, or show. Yet Smythe’s film amounts to a collective examination of the damage; physical and emotional.

When A City Falls began as a smaller project documenting the effects of the September 4 earthquake, but predictably spiraled into something much bigger after February 22. Smythe and his team assembled more than 100 hours of film, some from amateurs, and condensed it to 100 minutes.

Locals assess the September 4 earthquake, which wracked untold havoc but killed no-one. Even those stressed, exhausted and displaced tend to talk about how lucky they are, although one comments, after the Boxing Day aftershock that another “big one” could happen any minute.

Cut to February 22, and the 182 killed…

We also hear testimony of those who lost loved ones in the earthquake, but arguably worse are those who wonder how they survived, and the sheer random nature of it.

When A City Falls is unashamedly parochial. Every suburb gets covered; the sections on Halswell, Redcliffs and Aranui are both stark, and sometimes blackly amusing. Community centre volunteers, rest home assistants and civil defence workers get more screen time than any array of politicians, while geologist Mark Quigley provides the science behind the shaking…

When A City Falls might not provide any closure, but it allows people to remember. Mandatory, shattering viewing.

The first earthquake was of magnitude 7.1.  The second and deadlier earthquake was actually weaker at magnitude 6.3.  As the movie says, random.  The earthquakes actually made the news this week once again, for a very different reason.  A Yahoo News article by Melissa Knowles dated October 22, 2012 reported:

A couple from New Zealand are finally getting some good news a year and a half after an earthquake shattered their world. Newlyweds Fen Jeremias and Martin Burley had just returned from their honeymoon in February 2011 when a massive 6.3-magnitude earthquake hit their home in Christchurch.

The quake forced the couple to flee their badly damaged home, and in the process, Burley dropped their camera somewhere outside and couldn’t recover it at the time. The camera contained images from their honeymoon and wedding, which they assumed were lost forever. In fact, the couple say they felt “gutted” when they lost the camera.

Everything changed last week when the pair returned to the rubble that was once their home and noticed something poking out of the mud. It was the camera they had lost. Even though the camera itself was beyond repair, the memory card inside was still intact. After many hours of tedious dirt removal, the 2.5 gigabytes’ worth of pictures on the card were saved and transferred to a computer.

One of the Burnley’s wedding photo (c. Martin Burley, printed in the London Daily Mail)

The couple believe the recent bad weather in the area where their home once stood is to thank for turning up their lost camera. After being reunited with the camera, Burley said, “I really didn’t expect to find it there at all. Everyone’s pretty amazed.”

The happy ending for this couple rebuilding their lives after a tragedy does not end there. After reading their story and recognizing the type of memory card used in their camera, marketing manager Jonathan Williams, whose company distributes those memory cards, gave the couple a new camera, a new memory card, and a hard drive for backing up their photographs.

Paul loves it in Christchurch and is staying put.

Road Trip

I just got back from spending the day in Macon for the USG’s annual Diversity Summit.  Since the Summit started at 9:30, we had to leave Marietta at 7:15, which meant getting up at the inhuman hour of 6:00 AM.  I dropped Jill and Mark off at Panera Bread (her comment: “Wow, it’s dark at this hour!”), headed to campus and picked up Jeff Orr and Mary Ellen McGee who were carpooling with me, and off to Macon we went.  Throwing caution to the winds, we decided to go through downtown on I-75 instead of around on I-285, and that proved to be the right decision—there was hardly any traffic, and we zipped through Atlanta faster and easier than I’ve ever done it before.  On the way down, we talked about the election and listened to a CD by Louis Jordan.  All the songs seemed to be about food (“Coleslaw”, “Beans and Corn Bread”, “Hungry Man”, “Saturday Night Fish Fry”, and “Lemonade”), so we were working up quite an appetite!

We got to Macon around 9:10, so our timing was perfect.  We met up with Sonia Toson and Ron Koger, who had each driven separately, completing the SPSU team that was present.  The main focus of the conference was about how to get funding for university diversity efforts, and the first couple presentations were about the right and wrong ways of approaching foundations and how to write grants to federal agencies.  There’s a lot of potential support for efforts to broaden participation in colleges, especially in STEM areas, and I’ll be looking for volunteers who are interested in working on a few grant proposals in the near future—please let me know if you are interested.

One of the speakers was Kenneth Boyer (of the major accounting firm Ernst and Young), who talked about how his company looks at folks who submit grants to them.  Their first question is: “Is your institution really engaged in diversity?  What does diversity mean to your institution?”  The company is focused on Driving Innovation Through Diversity.  Why?  In their own words:

Differing voices and viewpoints are powerful factors in steering innovation. If an organization does not leverage the potent weapon of diversity, it risks limiting its creative potential and ultimately losing its competitive edge.

In the evolution of leadership, diversity is not defined just by race or gender. It also encompasses the whole human experience — age, culture, education, personality, skills and life experiences. Managed effectively, this cultural diversity offers the flexibility and creativity we need to recover from the economic crisis and confront the many forces challenging us:

  • Economic and social upheavals
  • Major demographic shifts
  • Globalization
  • An urgent need to innovate to renew economic growth
  • Increasing demands for diversity from our partners, clients, customers and other stakeholders

The company has produced a report titled “Redrawing the Map: Globalization and the Changing World of Business” which is well worth looking at.

After lunch we split into three different tracks, with me attending the one on Courageous Conversations (what the various institutions are doing to promote awareness of the importance of diversity on their campus).  One of the ways we’re doing this at SPSU is through our Cross-Cultural Conversations Committee, which works to develop and schedule a wide variety of activities that both examine and celebrate the diverse aspects that make up the broad “us”.  Information about the activities can be found here, with the latest thing being a Twitter feed that will send followers information about upcoming events and ties to a couple of interesting RSS feeds.  Coming soon is a Facebook page that will let the SPSU community continue the conversation after our scheduled events.

The final session was given by Regent Eldridge McMillan (winner of the BoR’s first Lifetime Achievement Award) and Houston Davis, the new Senior Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs.  Regent McMillan talked about his experiences as a Regent in the ‘70’s, when there was a lot less diversity in the USG in general, and at the University of Georgia in particular.  He was interesting and funny, and I’m going to see if we can arrange for him to come to SPSU to give a longer talk about his experiences.   Houston Davis spoke about challenges that face the USG in the “new normal”, noting that the resource base for universities has changed for the worse, and is not likely to come back to its former levels.  He emphasized the importance of the Complete College Georgia effort, and its focus on improving success rates, increasing diversity, and increasing the number of graduates within the USG.

The Diversity Summit was interesting and worth the trip, and it got me thinking—how do people think we’re doing with regard to diversity at SPSU?  In some ways, we’re a very diverse place.  Our faculty and students come from 40 and 80 different countries respectively.  We’ve been #1 in the country in granting degrees in engineering technology to African-American students, and have a large percentage of non-traditional and adult students.  We offer a degree program in International Studies, and our mission statement speaks of graduates who “are well prepared to lead the scientific and economic development of an increasingly complex state, nation, and world.”  On the other hand, we have a way to go (and are working hard) to increase the percentage of women and Hispanic students and faculty on campus.  We have a global perspectives overlay in our core requirements, but I wonder how many people are aware of the various ways our departments focus on global perspectives within the majors.  I’m sure there are other areas that I’ve left out where we’re strong and where we need increased effort.  I would be interested in hearing your comments if you’d care to post them.

Last Week’s Trivia Contest

Last week’s trivia contest had to do with the subject of students.  Our winner was Carl Snook, with a fabulous four correct.  Carl is the winner of a jazz CD from the vast Szafran repository of duplicates.  Here are the correct answers:

  1. Alice Cooper song that every student sings in May or June.  School’s Out (for Summer)
  2. In the past, students had to wear them during Freshman year.  A beanie.
  3. Protest movement in the 1960’s, Tom Hayden was its president in 1962.  Students for a Democratic Society (SDS)
  4. Song from the musical “Where’s Charlie”, they could have beat Napoleon.  The New Ashmolean Marching Society and Students Conservatory Band.
  5. Operetta by Sigmund Romberg, it was the longest running Broadway show of the 1920’s.  The Student Prince.

This Week’s Trivia Challenge

The answers to this week’s contest all have to do with women.  As usual, the first with the most takes the prize.  No looking up the answers now!  SEND ALL ENTRIES BY EMAIL TO zszafran@spsu.edu, since if you put them as a response on the BLOG, everyone will be able to see them!

  1. Book by Louisa May Alcott.
  2. Became law in the United States on August 18, 1920, but not ratified in Georgia until February 20, 1970.
  3. Edith Wharton, for The Age of Innocence.
  4. She was the second female member of ASME, the first honorary member of the Society of Women Engineers, and the first woman elected to the National Academy of Engineering.  Along the way, she also had 12 children.
  5. Jeannette Rankin, in 1916.
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2 Responses to October 24, 2012

  1. Tony Rizzuto says:

    Thought I would let you in on a conversation in my studio the other day. Several of my students were talking about how diverse they found the student population at SPSU and what a good thing it was. They were saying that they thought it was a major strength and one of the reasons they liked being at SPSU. They also expressed that they thought our diversity made us better as a school than other universities.
    Who knew eavesdropping on student conversations could be so uplifting!
    I did ask them about thier comments and they cited the diversity of students ethic and cultural backgrounds and how they thought it was great and taught them much about the world and each other. So hats off to those on campus that work hard to bring in our students. Your doing it right!

  2. We do have a high population of international students on campus, and I do sometimes get the sense that at least some of the students may be a bit isolated. I saw an article about some of the challenges for international students on Inside Higher Ed and I think that the points that are raised in the article would be useful as we take advantage of the benefits of having international students on our campus. http://www.insidehighered.com/views/2012/10/26/essay-how-colleges-should-respond-racism-against-international-students

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