Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Employability and "Value"

Today did a piece today on the job market for this year's college graduates, and it did little to dispel common myths about the "value" of a liberal arts education.

Of course, the real value of a college education is only partly linked to the salary a graduate is likely to be offered immediately upon graduation. If you disagree, I would respectfully observe that today is Pennsylvania's primary election and that the very concept of democracy relies upon the responsible behavior of an educated and engaged populace. For this purpose I do not equate "educated" with "college-educated," but I think that the critical thinking skills and global perspectives students gain in pursuit of bachelor's degrees ought to matter in the democratic process, and at any rate they have plenty of value aside from increased earning power.

Still, increased earning power ... that's pretty important, right? Sure it is! Check out this recent USA Today article that argues that the skills and values most directly associated with the liberal arts are indeed directly related to increased earning power. It's predicted that today's graduates will change careers half a dozen times or more. The liberal arts prepare students for all of their jobs, not just the first one.

The Today spot does make two important points, though. First, canny liberal arts students can do a lot to maximize their employment opportunities through choices about second majors, minors, study abroad opportunities, internships, and other strategies. There are many ways to move a résumé to the top of the pile on a manager's desk. Second, students and their families must carefully consider the impact of debt--student loan debt as well as auto loan and credit card debt--on their quality of life in the present and the long-term future.

This is good advice. If your passion or your career goals lead you to study the humanities, arts, or social sciences, do so--and do it with your eyes wide open to the myriad opportunities to maximize your potential for gainful employment upon graduation, whether your major is philosophy or criminal justice. And if you want to keep your post-graduate debt to a minimum (who doesn't?), public higher education is still your best value.

James S. Brown

Friday, April 20, 2012

Not Macro but Macho Economics

A leading scholar in the field of feminist economics is calling for more egalitarianism in both the home and the workplace.  Susan Feiner, professor of economics and gender studies at the University of Southern Maine, was the guest speaker at a public presentation on the Bloomsburg University campus last week.  She told a crowded auditorium of students, faculty, and staff that “there’s a macho bargain through the privilege of higher wages for men, who get off the hook when it comes to the responsibilities of the household.”   Feiner traced the phenomena of the nuclear family with the traditional roles of men as breadwinners and women as family caregivers to the 1830s in England and to the 1880s in America.   She said despite cartoon depictions of the Flintstones as a nuclear family with similar assigned roles, it has not always been that way.  Further, Feiner doubts that such division of labor will prevail in a “Jetsons” like future.

Feiner presented a model of labor and consumption that differs slightly from the accepted economic models, noting that the workplace increasingly is occupied by both parents.   Families with both parents working now comprise 64% of all households in America.  Yet as increased costs for housing, food, energy, and transportation send women into the workplace, Feiner says “there is not a commensurate shift in men contributing to the home and caregiving support.”  This imbalance is exacerbated by government cuts to elderly care, day care, and after school programs.  Feiner believes that such support programs are targeted because “macho economics” influence budget decisions.  “Cutbacks in these areas,” Feiner notes, “are based on the belief that there are always enough females to take care of children and elders.”  Feiner pointed out that in Europe, where the 35 hour work week is the norm, men and women are more likely to participate equally in family responsibilities.

How do we change a gender-influenced economy and provide better access to economic stability for both men and women?  Feiner told the audience, “one of the pressing problems is that mass consumption and sustainability are at odds with one another.   We need more socially responsible ways of consumption.  We need to think about what that might look like.”

Feiner is the editor, co-editor or author of publications including Race and Gender in the American EconomyRadical Economics, Out of the Margins, and her most recent book, Liberating Economics: Feminist Perspectives on Families. Here appearance was sponsored by Bloomsburg University’s Department of Economics and the College of Liberal Arts.

--Submitted by Kevin Clark

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Strange Creatures in Old Science

“Make a Wish” by Jessie Kilby (Dandelion)

“ Shoemongous” by Melanie Ortiz

Your sense of reality may be challenged when you visit Old Science Hall, which houses the Department of Art and Art History.  Positioned throughout the building – at the entryway, in the lobby, and in the hallways—are oversized re-creations of usually familiar objects.  

Students in Professor Meredith Grimsley’s Three-Dimensional Design course are making replicas of everyday objects that are two to ten times their usual size.  The “larger than life” theme gives students a chance to experience and evaluate common everyday objects in a fresh, new way.  The assignment also causes them to be attentive to details and features that may be otherwise overlooked, and so sharpens their perceptions.  

 Finally, students are asked to interpret their object with one of these themes in mind: humor, fear, social consciousness, or identity.  Each piece is displayed with a brief essay by the student explaining his or her choice.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Around the College

Garry L. Hagberg, James H. Ottoway Jr. Professor of Philosophy and Aesthetics at Bard College, and guitarist for the Atlantic Jazz Trio, will present his talk, “Playing as One: Group Improvisation and Collective Intention” at 7:00 on Monday, April 23 in McCormick 1303. Professor Hagberg will give his talk guitar in hand, so jazz improvisation will accompany his talk…on jazz improvisation.

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Here's another convincing argument in support of liberal eduation, though billionaire businessman Reid Hoffman doesn't actually use the term. The cofounder of LinkedIn's advice on making sure college is worth your investment? ". . . you have to be serious about what it is you're doing and think about [whether] this college expense is going to be the one that is right for me."

The essential skills gained in college "include communication, reading and writing, the ability to learn quickly, critical reasoning skills and how to use new technologies." Thank you, Dr. Jing Luo, for the link.

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Last Saturday, students in Dr. Doug Karsner's US Business History class visited Bloomsburg Airport to hear local members of the business community, pilots, and others involved in general aviation present a series of talks on the importance of the Bloomsburg Airport and general aviation to the success of their enterprises. One of the course's major themes this semester is the growing impact that commercial and general aviation and airports have had on American business and the economy. The activity was designed to help students see how even small towns have been influenced and benefited from aviation/airport developments.

* * *

Dr. Nicole Defenbaugh has received two grants with Dr. Noreen Chikotas this past year to work with the Nursing Department on Standardized Patient sessions.  She also has two articles in press:

Defenbaugh, N., & Kline, K. Gendered construction of HPV: A post-structuralist critique of Gardasil. In T. Carilli & J. Campbell (Eds.), Women and the Media: Global Perspectives.

Defenbaugh, N. Revealing & concealing ill identity: A performance narrative of chronic illness disclosure. Health Communication. (*Won the 2011 Norman K. Denzin Qualitative Research Award).

Dr. Defenbaugh continues to work with Internal Medicine at Geisinger as an actor and rater/reviewer for their Standardized Patient sessions. She will also be a guest presenter at Lehigh Valley Health Network and Einstein Healthcare Network in May. 

Monday, April 16, 2012

It's National Poetry Month

Jerry Wemple, professor of English, has four new poems in the recent issue of the literary Fledgling Rag. The work is from “The Artemas Poems,” a series that is part of a manuscript-in-progress. Wemple is the author of two poetry collections and co-editor of the anthology Common Wealth: Contemporary Poets on Pennsylvania. He has won several awards from his writing, including the Naomi Long Madgett Poetry Award and a Fellowship in Literature from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts.

Here is a poem from among those published:

Happy as the day

Happy as the day is long, Artemas
begins his stroll each a.m., a’ nine ‘xact,
he claims when asked, though few do. Who would?
Those about know wastrels, and his stale act.

Artemas is the finest fellow in all
downtown. He knows all the old, long-gone stores,
and where each brick used to lie. Still keeps tokens
from the defunct bridge, ready in a drawer.

A broken bird in flight, a stain against
the night sky, that’s what Artemas sure sees
and falls from his perch. He walks until woods
thicken. Notices fences even here. Why? asks he.

Information about National Poetry Month can be found at Poets.org, the website of the Academy of American Poets. 

Friday, April 13, 2012

The Valuable English Degree

Allison Hardy
What can you do with a degree in English? Four English Department alumni returned to Bloomsburg April 9 to share their experiences with current students. All say their English degrees are valuable in their careers.
Allison Hardy, a 2007 graduate, is an annual giving officer at the Mercy Health Foundation in Baltimore. Hardy notes a strong correlation between what she learned at Bloomsburg University and her professional life.
Marisa Peterson
"As an English undergrad, I spent most of my time reading, writing, and researching,” she said. “As a fundraiser, I spend most of my time reading, writing, and researching. Just the topics are different. From Shakespeare and Austen to donors and capital projects, the skill set remains the same. The flexibility of an English degree speaks to the importance of good communicators and clear writers.”
Likewise, Marisa Peterson, a 2010 graduate who works for the Jackson Hewitt corporate offices in New Jersey, credits the research and writing skills she learned as an English major as a key reason she was hired from the company’s temp pool. “As English majors, we are trained to view and interpret the world in a very different way,” Peterson said. “These skills set me apart from other young temps.”
Shawn Rosler
Panelist Shawn Rosler earned two Bloomsburg University degrees: a BS in Secondary Education/English in 2000 and an MS in Instructional Technology in 2002. Rosler is the lead analyst/project manager for the EHR Computer-Based Training Development Team at Geisinger Medical Center in Danville. 
Grant Clauser

The fourth panelist was Grant Clauser, a 1991 BU alum who earned an MFA in English from Bowling Green State University. Clauser taught writing at several colleges, then moved to the publishing business as the editor of several magazines about technology. Currently, he is the technology editor of Electronic House magazine and the web site editor of www.electronichouse.com. Clauser also has a new poetry collection, The Trouble with Rivers

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Generosity of Spirit

Dave Dannenfelser from Theatre Arts shares his experiences with visiting artists John Clancy and Nancy Walsh, who are directing the next BU Players production, The Shape of Things.

My career as a theatre artist really began when the NYC International Fringe Festival hosted my play, When Words Fail. I’d been writing, directing and working as an educator in theatre arts for some time, but my Fringe experience made me believe that my future would be about making a life out of my work in theatre.

It happened when I met John Clancy and his wonderful wife and partner, Nancy Walsh. John and Nancy were busy forming the foundations for what would become the largest and one of the most prestigious theatre festivals in North America, the Fringe. But I never would have been a part of this event or the movement that grew out of it if not for the Generosity of Spirit John, Nancy and so many other fine artists possess.

Photo by Eric Foster
Back then, I approached my long-time collaborator, Kevin Kittle, with the idea of getting a bunch of actors together to “find” a play that I could go off and write. Kevin exercised his Generosity of Spirit and said, “Sure, let’s do it” and we were on our way. We didn’t know we were entering a process now known as Devised Theatre. We just called it fun.

Since rehearsal space in NYC can cost a small fortune, location was a problem. Enter John Clancy, his own Generosity of Spirit intact, with an offer of space he wasn’t using that summer on 45th Street.  And that was it. We had a space, gratis and enough naiveté to ask a group of actors to come and play with us. Because actors are also full of Generosity of Spirit, they did.

That play went on to a small, successful run Off-Off Broadway and was later published by Martin Denton of nytheatre.com. Recently there has been interest in using the play in a collection focused on artists working on the Independent Theatre scene. Independent Theatre or Indie Theatre is the movement to remove the geographical and class distinctions of the Broadway, Off-Broadway and Off-Off-Broadway Theatre structure. It’s being led by the League of Independent Theatres, with John Clancy as executive director and Nancy in the fight with him.

Generosity of Spirit. It’s a phenomenon created by the best impulses of a theatre artist and John and Nancy have it in abundance. These two fine artists have been spreading some GOS around Bloomsburg University as they prepare students through rehearsal for the BU Players’ production of The Shape of Things by Neill LaBute, which will be performed April 18 through 22 in Alvina Krause Theatre. Performances are at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday and at 3 p.m. on Sunday. Join us for the play and see what a little GOS can do for you.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Undergraduate Research at the Capitol

 Last week Dr. Mary Katherine Waibel-Duncan and Psychology students Meghan Weeks and Ellie Benner participated in the 2012 Undergraduate Research Conference at the Capitol. Both students offer their views on the event below.

Meghan and Ellie with Senator John Gordner ...

My colleague (Ellie Benner, Psychology major), research advisor (Dr. Mary Katherine Duncan, Professor of Psychology, and I (Meghan Weeks, Psychology major) recently presented a poster on the “Development of Y.O.O. Rock Columbia County II: Youth Outreach Opportunities for Families, Children, and Youth” and distributed complimentary copies of the reference guide at the Undergraduate Research Conference at the Capitol in Harrisburg, PA.  We were honored to represent Bloomsburg University and are most grateful to the College of Liberal Arts for sponsoring our travel.

During our time at the Capitol, we met with many legislators including Representative David Millard (Columbia County), Senator John Gordner (Columbia County), Representative Jerry Stern (Blair County) and Representative Rick Geist (Blair County). Representative Stern even posted our picture on his home page! All of these gentlemen graciously welcomed us, inquired about our project, and noted the value of undergraduate research in preparing young women and men for advanced study. In addition to presenting our research to a learned audience, we had the opportunity to speak with other students and faculty from colleges and universities across the Commonwealth about their research accomplishments. We also had the honor of being recognized by the Speaker of the House during an official House session.

--Meghan Weeks

... with Representative David Millard
The Undergraduate Research Conference at the Capitol was all of what I had hoped for and more. Meghan Weeks, Dr. Duncan, and I were pleased to have been able to meet with four legislators throughout the day, speaking with them about both our research as well as current political issues. We presented our poster and research project to numerous students from other Pennsylvania colleges as well as to faculty from various institutions as well. The student researchers were also given the opportunity to travel to the House of Representatives to be recognized in front of the Members of the House for our research accomplishments. Overall the day was a uniquely enriching experience that I will forever remember. I thank you for the opportunity to travel to the Capitol to have this monumental experience.

--Ellie Benner

... and with Representatives Jerry Stern and Rick Geist and Dr. Duncan

Monday, April 2, 2012

Author Stephen Elliott Visits Bloomsburg University

The following was written by Stasi Golembiewski, a sophomore Psychology major with a minor in Creative Writing. 

Acclaimed author Stephen Elliott recently visited Bloomsburg University. Stephen Elliott is the author of seven books, including the award winning novel Happy Baby and the widely acclaimed memoir The Adderall Diaries. In addition, Elliott is a film director, and he founded and edits the cultural and literary website The Rumpus. He came to campus on March 27 and 28.

Elliott’s visit kicked off with a small screening of his new movie, Cherry, which he directed and co-wrote. The audience, which consisted mainly of students from upper-level creative writing nonfiction and seminar classes, was surprised by the announcement that only about one hundred people in the US have seen the movie so far. The film stars James Franco, Heather Graham, Dev Patel, Lily Taylor, and newcomer Ashley Hinshaw. It debuted at the Berlin Film Festival in Germany last month and will have its US premiere at the San Francisco International Film Festival later this month. Elliott told the audience that IFC Films recently picked up the North American distribution rights for the movie.

After the screening Elliott, a few professors and I headed to Marley’s downtown for a late dinner. Elliott’s humanity is startling considering his fame. He was soft spoken and listened intently to what everyone had to say. He jotted down a few thoughts to remember. He twitched every so often. He ordered soda water and ate someone’s left over mozzarella sticks. The only real difference between him and anyone else at the table was his collection of awards and, perhaps, his persistence.

Wednesday’s events began with an afternoon talk held in Kehr Union, focusing on writing in the new media. Around fifty wide-eyed students and professors sat in an intimate setting and listened to Elliott reveal the secrets to his success. His main point was that the current media world is fractured. Having a fractured media was beneficial, he said, because authors now had many different forms to write in and could really own how their words could be delivered. To explain, he told the audience that “where once everyone used to read a book together, now there is a smaller audience, but it's more intimate and more specialized.”

At 7 that evening, Elliott read from The Adderall Diaries in 1303 McCormick. He broke his reading into sections, with short questions and answer sessions between each reading. The audience sat in silence as the soft-spoken Elliott read his memoir, and aspiring writers asked questions about his writing. What made the reading special was the content of his book. The feeling of excitement was palpable among the member of the audience, most never having been this close to someone as acclaimed and involved in big media as Elliott.

There was another dinner following the reading, where eight students and three professors repaired to Rose Marie’s to talk with Elliott in a more intimate setting. He offered advice to a student who was struggling with her writing. The student knew that her experiences in the world would make good content for a memoir, but she was aware of the personal nature of her experiences. Elliott’s advice was to write what she knew would make a good piece, regardless that it was not the most polite of topics. When the evening ended, everyone paid for their meal, the students got their copies of The Adderall Diaries signed, and I watched Stephen Elliott drive away in the back seat of a small, black car.

Special thanks must be given to Professor Jerry Wemple, Dr. Claire Lawrence and the College of Liberal Arts for orchestrating such a memorable event.