Wednesday, September 17, 2014

2009 Grad Waxes Philosophical in PhD Program


The following was contributed by Josh Cruz, Class of 2009: 

I graduated from Bloom in the spring of 09 with a degree in philosophy and English liberal arts. When I started in 05, I was in English and education, and my parents were concerned about my career options when I dropped the ed portion and took up philosophy. Given my majors, I suppose I didn't leave myself much of a choice but to go off to graduate school. So I did. And while philosophy isn't generally seen as a “practical” course of study, there is no field that has been more informative and helpful for the things I've been doing in my years post-Bloomsburg. The point of this piece is to give a few specific examples of the real-world, real practical value that my philosophy degree has.

The most salient examples come from the last month of my life. At the beginning of August, I started a PhD program at Arizona State University in language, literacies, and technology (it's part of the college of education). They're “training” us to be educational theorists and researchers.

So let's look at some of the classes I'm taking: on Mondays, I have research ethics. The first assignment had us reading Mill, Kant, and Aristotle. I am one of two students in that class with a background in philosophy; guess which two students were really comfortable discussing Aristotelian ethics and started an argument about whether virtue is contingent upon social perceptions. I have another class, qualitative research methods. Currently, we are working on our epistemological identity statements, which are reflective pieces about what we think can and should be considered knowledge. Our beliefs, presumably, will inform the ways that we go about conducting research and designing studies. A quick list of words and phrases that regularly appear in this class: epistemology, phenomenology, (post)positivism, ontology, metaphysical assumptions, discourse analysis, constructivism, truth, power dynamics, lived experiences, post-modern... you get the idea.

And let's not even talk about what I'm doing with my research advisor (okay, let's talk about it a little). We're trying to 1) figure out if it's possible for schizoanalysis (of Deleuze and Guattari fame) to be a legitimate kind of research method and 2) apply a Foucauldian genealogy to capoeira, the Brazilian martial art (think Eddy Gordo from Tekken). The point here is that philosophy not only underpins these activities, but it is present—in very obvious ways—in just about everything I'm doing. I could talk about how philosophy has helped me discover myself as a person and how it helps me live more fully and all that other generic, non-tangible kind of crap, but at the end of the day, in the really-real real world, some of my classmates are already struggling with these classes because they don't have a philosophical background.

This post is getting long—I would love to talk about how Marx, Bourdieu, Horkheimer, Freire and other critical theorists are huge figures in education too, but you'll have to take my word for it. Bottom line: there are places where the philosophy degree is not only valuable but absolutely critical for success. I could never have known how practical it would be to get a BA in philosophy, but at this point, in hindsight, it is possibly the best educational choice I could have made for myself.

Friday, August 29, 2014

White House "Correspondence" in Summer US Gov't Class

Two students from Dr. Sheng Ding's summer US Government class recently received letters from the White House in response to a writing assignment. Says Dr. Ding: "I have always encouraged my students to apply their classroom learning to real-world politics and develop their independent thinking and communication skills. In my US Gov’t class, I require my students to complete an essay 'Letter to President Obama.'"

The assignment asks students to "Write a letter to President Obama telling him what he has done right and what he has done wrong in his five-and-a-half-year presidency." Students are encouraged to mail their completed essays to the White House.

English major Mary Heffner wrote to the president about the conditions of Veterans Administration Hospitals, based on the experiences of her brother, a Vietnam-era veteran. President Obama's response reads in part as follows: "Where we find misconduct, it will be punished. Those responsible for manipulating or falsifying records at the VA-and those who tolerated it-are being held accountable, and some have been relieved of their duties. At the same time, we are working to get every one of our veterans off wait lists so they receive the care they have earned."

Ashley Rivera, a student in the Audiology and Speech-Language Pathology program, wrote to the president expressing her concerns about the Affordable Care Act "Obamacare," welfare reform, and the NSA scandal, writing in part, "... my own government doesn't trust its own citizens enough to let them have their own privacy to the luxury of the Internet and social media. In my eyes, this is in direct violation of the fourth amendment ..."

Thanks to Mary Heffner, Ashley Rivera, and Dr. Sheng Ding for providing the above.




Tuesday, August 19, 2014

"Why do I need to take this class?"

In her "From the Editor" column in the Summer 2014 issue of Diversity & Democracy, Kathryn Peltier Campbell writes the following:
The idea that components of one’s education are boxes to be checked seems most fitting if higher education is simply a series of training modules preparing students for the workforce. But higher education must be so much more than this. As Michael S. Roth recently recounted in The Chronicle of Higher Education (2014), American luminaries from Thomas Jefferson to Martha Nussbaum have conceived of liberal learning in college as necessary to prepare students for the messy unknown that is life, not simply the specific requirements of a job. As Roth argues, a narrowly practical approach to higher education will do nothing less than “impoverish us.”
 Last Saturday a colleague and I were discussing how society has lost sight of education as a public good. In higher education, so-called "general education" has been the chief casualty, its erosion hastened by budgetary challenges and--more importantly--by the hesitation of its professed proponents to accept the challenge of asserting its relevance.

We in the humanities, arts, and social sciences need to accept that challenge. We may not see ourselves as agents of "workforce preparation" as such, and we are certainly not just that. But let's not shy away from it either. We know that in the "messy unknown that is life" our future leaders--including those sitting in our classrooms next week--will need to make decisions drawing not only on their own experiences but on an unpredictable collection of facts, ideas, and dreams to which we introduce them, the experiences of historical figures and of those who never existed outside the pages of a novel. In response to challenges we cannot even imagine, they will need to exercise the creativity that was nurtured and challenged on our stages and in our classrooms and studios. They will need to apply the intellectual rigor they sharpened against scientific and abstract philosophical concepts as well as the compassion that comes from understanding the plights of others.

The future depends on it.


Monday, July 14, 2014

Gender Studies Student Wins "Emerging Scholar Award" at Feminism Conference in Akron, Ohio

Wheeler (left) and Whitman (right) with keynote speaker Vanessa Valenti (center)
(photo courtesy of Ferda Asya)
Albra Wheeler and Jacqueline Whitman, two Gender Studies Minor (GSM) students, presented their papers at a conference titled The Multiple Faces of Activism: Feminism in the 21st Century, at the University of Akron, in Akron, Ohio. Both students are recipients of the student professional development awards from the College of Liberal Arts.
Wheeler's paper, "The Wonderbra: Oppression vs. Liberation in a Patriarchal Society," traces the evolvement of modern brassieres and looks at the bra through historical and feminist perspectives and aims to establish whether the “Wonderbra” signifies submission to or emancipation from the patriarchal society.

Whitman's paper, "Womanhouse: Opening the Closed Door," is a study of three bathrooms, “Nightmare Bathroom,” “Lipstick Bathroom,” and “Menstruation Bathroom,” which symbolically represent the anguish women endure in their private lives.

Wheeler with her award
(photo courtesy of Ferda Asya)
At the conference, Wheeler won the "Emerging Scholar Award,” which is given in recognition of a student who displays exemplary scholarship as demonstrated in research, education, and related academic activities that seek to further feminist research, practice, teaching, and/or activism by the Committee for Research on Women and Gender of the University of Akron. This award also recognizes a student with a demonstrated commitment to women's and gender issues.

Wheeler's achievement is especially outstanding considering that the conference was open to graduate and undergraduate students from several states, including Kentucky, Michigan, New York, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.

“Frankly, when I conveyed the ‘call for papers’ of this conference to the GSM students, I expected them to deliver successful papers, but I did not predict that one of them would receive this prestigious award,” said Dr. Ferda Asya, associate professor of English and Director of Gender Studies Minor.

Congratulations, Albra and Jacqueline!

Friday, July 11, 2014

BU Prof Awarded Phi Kappa Phi Literacy Grant

Congratulations to Dr. Mary Katherine Waibel Duncan of the Bloomsburg University Department of Psychology, recipient of a Phi Kappa Phi Literacy Grant in support of “Handmade Literacy for Our Hometown." Working with the BU Toy Library, faculty and students from the university’s chapter of Phi Kappa Phi will educate elementary and middle school-aged children about the needs of the community and engage the children in literacy-based service projects. The literacy projects will include fashioning inspirational banners to adorn the rooms of residents at assisted living facilities and nursing homes, handcrafting cards for displaced children and their families residing at local hospitality houses and creating informational posters to share the stories of animals awaiting adoption at local shelters.

The Phi Kappa Phi Literacy Grant program was initiated in 2003 to provide funding to Phi Kappa Phi chapters and active members for ongoing projects or new initiatives that reinforce part of the Society's mission "to engage the community of scholars in service to others." Drawing from a multi-disciplinary Society of students and scholars from large and small institutions, applicants are encouraged to consider literacy projects that have creative relevance to their disciplines and to the needs of their communities.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Scholarship Takes to the Stage

Scholarship takes many forms. For David A. Miller, assistant professor in the Theatre & Dance Division, scholarship includes directing professional theatre and this summer he is doing just that: directing The Nosemaker's Apprentice: Chronicles of a Medieval Plastic Surgeon for Amphibian Stage Productions in Fort Worth, TX. The play, according to its authors, is part Monty Python and part Airplane. Fans of Mel Brooks and South Park will also delight in the particular brand of humor in this play.

 Alexandra Lawrence as Amelia and Scott Weinrich as Gavin
in technical rehearsals for 
The Nosemaker's Apprentice.
About The Nosemaker's Apprentice: "A father weaves a magic tale for his daughter to justify his unlicensed plastic surgery practice, tracing the origins of cosmetic surgery to craftsmen in medieval Europe. The hero of this tale is Gavin, a young orphan rescued from a dismal existence in the Ivanhoe Workhouse for Criminally Impoverished Boys when he is apprenticed with the local Nosemaker, and who eventually becomes one of the finest surgeons in Vienna, cradle of quack medicine." (Samuel French, Inc.)

It's not the first visit to Cowtown for Miller. Over the course of the past 10 years, David has directed 6 full productions and 4 staged readings for Amphibian. He first connected with Amphibian company members through colleagues in graduate school at Rutgers University, where he earned his MFA in Directing. His most recent Amphibian productions include a reading of On the Ceiling, about two artisans at work on the Sistine Chapel, and a production of Wittenberg, about Hamlet's senior year at Wittenberg University where his professors are Martin Luther and Doctor Faustus.

Bloomsburg University audiences will have a chance to see The Nosemaker's Apprentice when it is performed as part of the BU Players' 2014-15 season. For more about the BU Players' season, visit http://www.bloomu.edu/buplayers-current. For more about the Fort Worth production and Amphibian, visit http://www.amphibianproductions.org/2014-Nosemakers_Apprentice.htm. For more about David's professional work, visit http://mrdavidamiller.com/.

Photo: Alexandra Lawrence as Amelia and Scott Weinrich as Gavin in technical rehearsals for The Nosemaker's Apprentice.