The Dean Blog

September 14, 2010

The Dean Blog has moved

Filed under: News and Announcements — LBA @ 9:49 am

It is now located at http://thedeanblog.com

If you subscribe via feed, please change your link to http://feeds.feedburner.com/TheDeanBlog

September 7, 2010

Student Media Accomplishments

Filed under: News and Announcements — LBA @ 9:31 am

Several Rowan students from the Department of Radio Television and Film have achieved national recognition in the National Student Production Awards of College Broadcasters, Inc.  College Broadcasters, Inc. is an organization that represents students involved in radio, television, webcasting and other related media ventures and its members includes colleges and universities from across the country.  You can read more about CBI  and the awards at http://www.askcbi.org/?page_id=1165

Rowan Television Network is a finalist in the “Best Live Sports Production” category for their broadcast of “Profs Football: Rowan vs. Montclair State”.  RTN’s official release, with more information about the program, can be seen at http://www.rowan.edu/colleges/communication/news/RTNCBIAwardsRelease-September2010.pdf.

Additionally, Mike O’Brien, a junior RTF major is a finalist in the “Best Technical Production” audio category for his work “No Speed Zone”.  This work was created for the Sound Communication class when Mike was a sophomore at Rowan.

Awards for the best production in each category will be awarded at the National College Media  annual conference in October in Louisville.

Please join me in congratulating the students of RTN and Mike.

LBA

September 1, 2010

College of Communication Annual Report

Filed under: News and Announcements — LBA @ 12:56 pm

Dear friends,

The College of Communication Annual Report 2009-2010 is now available for viewing at http://www.rowan.edu/colleges/communication/documents/CommunicationAnnualReport2009-10.pdf The report highlights some of the changes and accomplishments of the college for our last academic year.  Janice Rowan and Tom Kloskey did a wonderful job with the composition and layout, and the students, staff, and faculty of the college did amazing work providing us with these achievements to discuss.  I’m so pleased that we can share this with our students, alumni, and with you. I hope you agree with me that the work showcased here represents our university well.

Happy September to you!

LBA

August 11, 2010

Some Recent Online Ventures by College of Communication Faculty and Students

Filed under: News and Announcements — LBA @ 3:20 pm

In the past few months, faculty, students, and staff of the College have participated in a variety of “nifty” online activities.  Three of these are linked here for your viewing pleasure.

The Real New Jerseyan online magazine produced by students in Online Journalism 2, taught by Mark Berkey-Gerard.  As described by Professor Berkey-Gerard

On the Website, you will find profiles of unique New Jersey residents, including a civil war re-enactor, a big game hunter, an Alpaca breeder, a UFO chaser, a Camden bookstore owner,  and the chief beekeeper for the state.

Students interviewed more than 200 people in their search for unique residents to profile. They carried around backpacks full of cameras, recorders, and microphones. The reported and produced dozens of multimedia pieces: audio interviews, audio slide shows and videos. Students from the Photojournalism course also contributed to the project, and there are photo essays on various New Jersey locations – from Fortescue to Hoboken.

Remixing Composition in the Writing Classroom: An Installation of Student Videos - work completed by students in Dr. Bill Wolff’s Writing Arts courses, and compiled for the 2010 Computers and Writing Online Conference.   As Dr. Wolff says,

Writing, in our highly mediated culture, is remixing. Complementing this mode of writing are low-tech, low-cost, user-friendly technologies, such as the Flip Video Camera and YouTube. This installation of student videos will challenge viewers to rethink traditional concepts so often fixed in meaning: text, research, writing, and composition, among others.

“The One: Contagious Kindness” by Christopher Austin and “Hitler Finds Out about the Downfall Parodies” by Michael Pfister – published in The JUMP – The Journal for Undergraduate Media Projects, v. 1.2

Happy viewing/reading!

LBA

July 20, 2010

Be like Shakespeare?

Filed under: The Field of Communication — LBA @ 4:38 pm
Tags: , , ,

Recently, Sarah Palin tweeted using the word “refudiate.”  After it was noted in media outlets and on Twitter that this was not a word, she replied with a tweet stating,

“Refudiate,” “misunderestimate,” “wee-wee’d up.” English is a living language. Shakespeare liked to coin new words too. Got to celebrate it!

Of course, this post didn’t decrease the scrutiny of her language use, but it did prompt today’s blog, on the subject of language, word creation, and meaning.

One of the characteristics of verbal communication (language) is that very few symbols (words) have an inherent connection to their referents (the object, concept, place, etc. that they refer to).  There are a few word that do, but mostly those are onomatopoeia words, where the word represents a sound made (moo, meow, bark).  For the most part, the connection between a word and its meaning is arbitrary and conventional.  There are a few implications of this loose connection.

  1. A symbol has many referents. This occurs in multiple ways.  A word can refer to multiples of the same object (i.e. millions of apples are referred to with the word “apple”).  The same word also has different meanings for different people.  As language users, we have denotative meaning for words (the culturally agreed upon official definition) and connotative meaning (meaning based on our experiences).  So, while we might all agree that a snake is a legless reptile, for some of us the connotative meaning of the word snake might be AAAH! SCARY!, while for others it is Wow! Cool!.
  2. Many symbols can signify the same referent. There are many words that one can use, even within a particular language, to represent a single “thing.”  If I want to speak of my dog, I could use the words “being,” “animal,” “canine,” “dog,” “lab mix,” and her name, “Luna” (among other terms).  All of these words refer to the same dog.  In the UK, a mother might put a “nappy” on a baby, while in the US we would likely use a “diaper.”  Slang also comes into play here.  Think about the terms that teens and young adults have used over the decades for a romantic relationship.  In my grandfather’s early adulthood, they were “courting,” in my father’s youth, they were “going steady,”  when I was a teenager, we were “going with” (never mind that we often were not going anywhere).  Now, I hear my kids say that their peers are “dating ____” (even when they don’t actually go on dates) or I hear my students talk about “hooking up.”
  3. Language changes over time – but it is slow and a collective process – This is where Sarah Palin goes a little wrong in her tweet.  As cultures shift and change, the connections between symbols and referents do as well.  The word “gay” went from referring to a state of joy to a state of sexual orientation.  We grab our “cells” before we head out of the house (25 years ago, anyone listening would have wondered how you could possibly leave your cells at home).   There wasn’t any terminology to refer to what we now call “sexual harassment” in the 60s.  As Palin notes, we create new words (like “tweet”) or redefine old ones all the time.  But, it’s not simply the case that if one person decides that a word exists or means something then it is so.  Symbols have utility because the meanings are shared.  If only I understand the meanings of the sounds I make, then they are not really language, just noise.  So, the fact that language does change and new words can be created does not excuse us from the responsibility to use language with care, in part because…
  4. Once created, language has power – Words are just collections of noises.  They only mean because we say that they do.  This does not, however, suggest that language isn’t powerful.  Once the connections are made, language has significance and power.  Words can hurt (as you well knew the first time you were called a hurtful name), or heal.  Words can uplift us, or beat us down.  Words can depress us or inspire us.  They can move us to anger or to passion (also see post from June 21st).

So, in a sense, I agree with Sarah Palin.  We should celebrate language and all that it can and does do for us.  But, we have to be careful with it, because it has power.  Language can be changed, but it can also be change.

LBA

June 28, 2010

AY10 in Brief – The College of Communication Annual Report

Filed under: News and Announcements — LBA @ 1:51 pm
Tags: , , ,

Executive Summary:

AY10 was an active and productive year in the College of Communication.  With almost 1400 undergraduate majors, almost 50 graduate students, and an impressive number of general education courses, we provided over 13,000 course seats.  As in the past, we achieved a high level of efficiency in the college, filling courses to 99% of capacity.  Departments in the college undertook major assessment and curricular efforts, continuing to improve the offerings in communication at Rowan.  The members of the college were extremely active in their research/creative scholarship this academic year, producing 16 journal articles, 58 conference papers/presentations, 9 book chapters/selections, 36 professional publications, as well as a variety of books, media productions, journal reviews, etc. Our faculty and students also contributed to the Rowan prestige with an impressive array of regional and national awards.

What follows is a brief representation of the 2009-2010 academic year in the College of Communication.

Major Initiatives:

  • The Department of Journalism introduced an investigative journalism class that researched and produced An In-Depth Look at the New Jersey State Budget and How It Affects Teachers, Students, Parents and the Public (http://rowaninvestigates.com).  The Online Journalism class also continued its multimedia magazine (http://nj1134.org)
  • The Writing Arts Department welcomed its first class of dual BA/MA students this year. The program allows students to complete both the BA in Writing Arts and the Masters in Writing in 5 years. Three students completed their senior year/first year of the MA in 2009-10.
  • The Writing Arts Department established a newly reconfigured Writing Center on the Library’s fourth floor. The new director, Dr. Deb Martin, reports that walk-in students made 600 appointments in fall 09 and 700 appointments in spring 2010.  In addition, the Writing Center served 120 students from the department’s Integrated College Composition I course in each of fall and spring semesters. These students completed one of the three class-meetings per week as tutorial sessions in the Writing Center.
  • The departments of the college proposed a New Media Communication Concentration, which is currently moving through the curriculum process, planned for launch in AY11. 

Major Accomplishments:

Program

  • The Department of Public Relations and Advertising had external evaluations for both programs.  The outside reviewers were very impressed with the offerings at Rowan and have provided feedback for continued excellence.  The department expects to receive its CEPR recertification from the Public Relations Society of America in October.
  • Public Relations and Advertising held a successful master class in Crisis School Public Relations.  Hosted by the graduate class in School Public Relations (boasting 18 students), this master class featured Rick Kaufman who handled the Columbine tragedy as the PR person onsite and Rich Bagin, head of the National School Public Relations Association.
  • The Department of Writing Arts brought two speakers to campus as part of the Harrah’s Emerging Voices Series. Spoken word artist Sarah Kay performed at Rowan on November 23, followed by two workshops for Rowan students. And on February 4, Maja Wilson, author of Rethinking Rubrics in Writing Assessment, met with a Writing Arts class and delivered a public lecture, “Responsive Assessment: What Would Grandma Do?”

Faculty

  • Faculty member Mark Berkey-Gerard (Journalism) served on the Awards Committee for the Online News Association, the world’s largest membership organization of digital journalists.
  • Dr. Carl Hausman (Journalism) served as coordinator for the judging of the National Headliner Awards, one of the nation’s oldest broadcast journalism-excellence awards.
  • Mark Berkey-Gerard, Claudia Cuddy, and Kathryn Quigley (Journalism) were selected as judges for the National Headliner Awards.
  • Mark Berkey-Gerard (Journalism) continued production of the popular Campfire Journalism blog and created a series of video tutorials for multimedia instruction (http://markberkeygerard.com).
  • Candace Kelley (Journalism) produced a program, League of the Extraordinary, heard on WGLS (http://wgls.rowan.edu/podcasts.html).
  • Carl Hausman (Journalism) this year completed his tenth year as editor of Ethics Newsline, a web-based publication covering ethics in government, media, medicine, and business.
  • Faculty members in the Department of Writing Arts contributed two book chapters to the edited collection What We Are Becoming: Developments in Undergraduate Writing Majors, a volume on the theory and practice of majors in writing studies. In addition, the department was given significant mention in the February lead article “The Undergraduate Writing Major: What is it? What Should it Be?” in College Composition and Communication, the premiere journal in the field.
  • Writing Arts faculty member Dr. Martin Itzkowitz served as Associate Editor and editorial board member of the Atlantic Journal of Communication.
  • Dr. Deb Martin (Writing Arts), in her capacity as director of the Writing Center, organized a student and faculty panel presentation at the Mid-Atlantic Writing Center Conference at the University of Delaware. The panel “On the Ashes of the Old: Creating an Identity for a New Writing Center” included presentations by Writing Arts faculty member Dr. Drew Kopp, professional tutor/Writing Arts adjunct faculty member Andrew Liss and two graduate students, Sharada Krishnamurthy from Writing Arts and David Dinn from Educational Leadership, as well as Writing Arts major Loralynne Yost.
  • Carla Spataro and Julia Chang (Writing Arts) served as the co-publisher/fiction editor and the non-fiction editor, respectively, of the regional literary journal Philadelphia Stories. In addition, the editorial board includes three Writing Arts graduate students, Steven Harbold, Jacqueline Cassidy, and Diane Stopyra. Professors Spataro and Chang are also editors of the book Philadelphia Stories, a collection of the best pieces published in the journal.

Students

  • Journalism senior Alexandra Harcharek was featured in The New York Times for her food blog (http://www.afoodcoma.com).
  • Journalism senior Emily Kostic and 2009 graduate Julia Hayes presented How to Use Social Networking as a Reporting Tool at the News Innovation Conference at Temple University in April.
  • For the first time, students in Broadcast Writing were encouraged to compete in Campus Moviefest where they were given laptops and had two days to make a 5-minute film of their choice. As a result of the new way that Broadcast Writing is taught, two students seized the opportunity and competed in this national contest. 
  • Several Communication Studies students were accepted into excellent graduate programs, including Jillian Beley, who was accepted in the graduate program at the University of Illinois with a full assistantship.
  • Four students (Jillian Beley, Kate Harman, Kevin Lessard, and Lisa Pontelandolfo) from the Communication Studies program presented their research in a competitive program at the Eastern Communication Association.
  • Three students in Writing Arts had their video compositions accepted for the competitive online journal Jump.  Two of those compositions (by Michael Pfister and Christopher Cullen) were published in vol. 1, issue 2 of the fledging journal (http://jump.cwrl.utexas.edu/v1.2).  The third project, (by Sarah Gould), is awaiting publication.
  • Three Writing Arts students (with faculty Drew Kopp, Deb Martin, and Andrew Liss) were selected to present a panel at the Mid-Atlantic Writing Center Association Conference.
  • Lynn Albanese (Writing Arts) and Josh Potchen (Biology) published creative work that they developed and workshopped in Rowan creative writing courses.
  • Many students received outstanding internship opportunities, including placements at NBC40, NBC10, The David Letterman show, BBC America, and Conde Nast publications.

Scholarship Summary:

  • 6 Books
  • 9 Book chapters/selections
  • 16 Journal articles
  • 36 Professional publications
  • 6 Media productions
  • 58 Conference papers/presentations
  • 4 Juried media screenings
  • 3 Book translations/editorial work
  • 1 Workbook
  • 6 Reviews for journals
  • 6 Editorial positions for national/regional journals
  • 18 Campus/local presentations
    1 Monthly radio interview programs

New Programs:

  • Several new courses were proposed and approved, including: Sports Journalism I, Sports Journalism II, Investigative Journalism, Participatory Media, Ethics for Public Relations, Television History Two, Film Noir, Sound Communication Two.
  • An interdisciplinary concentration in New Media Communication was submitted and approved by the Senate committee for announcement at the first meeting in AY11.

Number of Majors:

College total – 1391 (with an additional 49 MA students)

Journalism – 128

Comm Studies – 168

Public Relations – 184 (with an additional 17 MA students)

Advertising – 138

Radio/TV/Film – 397

Writing Arts -376 majors (with an additional 32 MA students)

Grants:

  • Mark Berkey-Gerard and Candace Kelley (Journalism) received a $2500 grant in June 2009 from Rowan’s IT Department and the Faculty Center for Excellence. The grant was used to purchase equipment that assisted in merging a portion of two advanced level courses: Online Journalism II and On-Camera Field Reporting. The project expanded the multimedia skill sets of students in the areas of print, broadcast, and online news, producing a framework and technical instruction that continue to be used.

Awards:

Faculty

  • Mark Berkey-Gerard (Journalism) was nominated to the Wall of Fame for Advising.
  • Joy Cypher (Comm Studies) and Larry Litwin (PR/Adv) received “Wall of Fame” Nominations for teaching.
  • Dr. Christa Teston’s (Writing Arts) article, “A Grounded Investigation of Gendered Guidelines in Cancer Care Deliberations” from Written Communication was selected as a finalist for the 2009 John R. Hayes Award for Excellence in Writing Research.
  • Writing Arts faculty member Dr. Bill Wolff’s Technical Communication Quarterly article, “Systems of Classification and the Cognitive Properties of Grant Proposal Formal Documents,” was nominated for the 2010 National Council of Teachers of English Best Article Reporting Qualitative or Quantitative Research in Technical or Scientific Communication, with the winner to be announced in September 2010.

Students

  • The first recipient of the Craig Monroe Scholarship for Advertising was named this year.
  • The first recipients of two NSPRA awards to graduate students in school PR were named this year – Veronica Martinez and Brian Nicholas.
  • The first recipient of the David Cromie Communication Scholarship was named this year.
  • The university paper, The Whit, was awarded the Online Pacemaker Award for 2009.
  • Stephen Hanulec (Producer), Dan Ferrara (Director), Ashley Zazzarino (Camera), and David Monk (Editor). Life Behind Beards (2009).  Documentary, 29m. Diana Nicolae (Executive Producer) – 2009 College Broadcasters, Inc. (CBI) Award – Best Special Broadcast and Honorary Award at Downbeach Film Festival..
  • Harry Fleckenstein (Producer), Melissa Stankowski (Co-Producer), Tim Hill (Editor), Steven Klink (Director) and Anthony Mennie (Camera). Generation rX (2008).  Documentary, 27m.  Diana Nicolae (Executive Producer) -  2009 College Broadcasters, Inc. (CBI) Award – Best Documentary/Public Affairs.
  • Tara Acquesta (Producer), Patrick McKee (Director), and John Clements (Editor). Empty Room (2009).  Documentary, 31m. Diana Nicolae (Executive Producer) -  2009 CINE Golden Eagle Award and Honorary Award at Downbeach Film Festival.
  • Rob Crowthers (Producer), Diana Frack (Director) and Casey Keating (Editor). Breaking Through the Static (2009).  Documentary, 14m.  Diana Nicole (Executive Producer) – 2010 Greater Philadelphia Student Film Festival – 3rd place, Best Documentary
  • Nini, M. (Producer). Unleashed (2009).  Documentary, 12m. Diana Nicole (Executive Producer) – 2010 Greater Philadelphia Student Film Festival – Finalist, Best Documentary
  • Monk, D. (Producer). Be Somebody (2008).  Documentary, 13m. Diana Nicole (Executive Producer) -  2010 Re:Image Festival – Best Picture, Young Adult category
  • E.J. Campbell, student and staff member at WGLS – Rowan Radio, was recognized for his work at the station, winning two Philadelphia College AIR Awards.
  • Joe Staudenmayer and Jim Vassalo (Producers). From First Snap to Stagg: The History of Rowan Football. Radio Documentary. 2009 College Broadcasters, Inc. (CBI) Award – Best Radio Documentary.
  • EJ Campbell (Producer). Rowan Sports Minute – Harry Kalas. 2009 College Broadcasters, Inc. (CBI) Award – Finalist Radio Sports Reporting.
  • Kate Harman (Journalism and Communication Studies) was accepted as a 2009-2010 Humanities, Arts, Sciences, and Technology Advanced Collaboratory (HASTAC) Scholar.

June 21, 2010

The Power of Words

Filed under: The Field of Communication — LBA @ 12:46 pm

As part of my summer reading, I’ve been working on Old Path White Clouds by Thich Nhat Hanh.   During my reading yesterday, I came across this quote:

Do not speak words that can create division and hatred.  Your words should be in accord with the truth.  Yes means yes. No means no.  Words have the power to create trust and happiness, or they can create misunderstanding and hatred and even lead to murder and war.  Please use words with the greatest care.

It really struck a chord with me, because of what I (we) study, and also given many recent issues in the news.  The power of communication is a complicated issue.   After all, words only mean what we allow them to mean – they are simply random collections of sound.  However, that isn’t completely true; once meaning is associated with language, it takes on power.  We know this in our own lives, where we have hurt others, and been hurt, by something said.  Perhaps you knew it when we were children and cried over a hurtful comment.  Your parents may have told us the saying, “sticks and stones can break my bones, but words can never hurt me.”  But, did we believe them?  If you are like me, you may well have found yourself thinking, “Well, that is silly; words CAN hurt me – they just did!”  Maybe you realized the power of words the first time you said, “I HATE you!” to a family member or friend and saw the pain it created.

On the other hand, I’ve recently been told by a young adult that online flaming or bullying shouldn’t matter, because it’s simply words and people should not care about what is said to/about them in social media settings.  And, I understand the point that he was making.  Such words only have power if we allow them to – they cannot hurt us without our permission.  And yet…

So, what is the reality of the power of words?  Well, it seems to me that, by being scholars of communication, we have acknowledged that communication forms, including the verbal, have power and importance in our lives.  In fact, many communication scholars would say that communication is the fundamental factor of our very humanity.  And, regardless of whether we should or shouldn’t allow the words of others to affect us, they do.  And in the face of that truth, Thich Nhat Hanh’s advice makes sense.

LBA

*******************************************************

A few recent news stories that point to the power of language:

http://www.time.com/time/politics/article/0,8599,1995258,00.html

http://www.cnn.com/2010/POLITICS/06/16/angry.black.man.obama/

http://www.cnn.com/2010/WORLD/americas/06/21/mexico.drug.war/

http://www.cnn.com/2010/POLITICS/06/16/obama.speech.analysis

http://politicalticker.blogs.cnn.com/2010/06/21/palin-calls-emanuel-a-liar

http://www.cnn.com/video/#/video/us/2010/06/18/jk.peter.sagal.words.of.bp.cnn

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/8727647.stm

June 19, 2010

Communication Studies Professor is in it for the Long Haul

Filed under: News and Announcements — LBA @ 1:53 pm

Maria Simone, from the department of Communication Studies, is currently in training for the Lake Placid Ironman Triathlon and using her training to help make a difference for Rowan students.  You can read about her progress on the Rowan Today page at http://www.rowan.edu/today/news/index/PR/2735 or on her blog  http://www.runningalife.com

Go, Maria!

June 11, 2010

Summer Reading 2010

Filed under: Student advice — LBA @ 8:23 am
Tags: , , ,

Across the United States, communities (including Philadelphia), library systems, and schools participate in “One Book” programs. These programs are designed to encourage members of a community or school to read a common book, then allowing for community discussion, reflection, and analysis of the text. For colleges and universities, such programs allow the shared book to be woven across the curriculum, pointing to the interconnections between areas and bringing a coordination of learning to the student (and faculty/staff) experience A sampling of schools that have adopted the one book model include University of North Texas, Villanova University, Clemson University, University of North Carolina, Marquette University, Sacramento State, DePaul University, Florida State University, and Michigan State. While Rowan does not currently participate in a one book program, it is instructive to look at some of the texts that have been selected by others and use those to inform our summer reading plans. So, here, for your enjoyment, is a small sampling of “One Book” selections for 2010 from colleges across the U.S.   Happy Reading!

Picking Cotton: Our Memoir of Injustice and Redemption – by Jennifer Thompson-Cannino, Ronald Cotton, and Erin Torneo

(from Washingtonpost.com review by Kate Tuttle)
Nearly everyone in prison protests their innocence, but Ronald Cotton was telling the truth. Cotton was just 22 when he walked into a Burlington, N.C., police station to answer rape allegations; he spent the next 11 years seeking freedom. “Put a man in a cage with beasts and throw away the key, and it’s usually not long before the man is a beast himself,” he writes in this unusual joint memoir, written with his accuser and now friend, Jennifer Thompson-Cannino. Considering the odds stacked against him — a bum alibi, a victim focused on being the strongest possible witness, a justice system all too willing to send another young black man to jail — it’s extraordinary that Cotton emerged from prison at all. More stunning still was his willingness, upon exoneration by DNA evidence, to forgive the people who had put him there, including rape victim Thompson-Cannino, whose erroneous identification of Cotton in a police line-up had begun his horrible odyssey. Their story, told here in alternating sections, emphasizes that both were victims. Still, as both acknowledge, Thompson-Cannino, traumatized as she was, spent the next decade in freedom, marrying and having kids, while Cotton endured prison. Left mostly unexamined is the role that race played in his incarceration, but even the most cynical reader will be impressed by Cotton’s resilience and grace.

The Help by Katheryn Stockett

(from Publishers Weekly)
What perfect timing for this optimistic, uplifting debut novel (and maiden publication of Amy Einhorn’s new imprint) set during the nascent civil rights movement in Jackson, Miss., where black women were trusted to raise white children but not to polish the household silver. Eugenia Skeeter Phelan is just home from college in 1962, and, anxious to become a writer, is advised to hone her chops by writing about what disturbs you. The budding social activist begins to collect the stories of the black women on whom the country club sets relies and mistrusts enlisting the help of Aibileen, a maid who’s raised 17 children, and Aibileen’s best friend Minny, who’s found herself unemployed more than a few times after mouthing off to her white employers. The book Skeeter puts together based on their stories is scathing and shocking, bringing pride and hope to the black community, while giving Skeeter the courage to break down her personal boundaries and pursue her dreams. Assured and layered, full of heart and history, this one has bestseller written all over it.

Mudbound by Hillary Jordan

(from Publishers Weekly)
Jordan’s beautiful debut (winner of the 2006 Bellwether Prize for literature of social responsibility) carries echoes of As I Lay Dying, complete with shifts in narrative voice, a body needing burial, flood and more. In 1946, Laura McAllan, a college-educated Memphis schoolteacher, becomes a reluctant farmer’s wife when her husband, Henry, buys a farm on the Mississippi Delta, a farm she aptly nicknames Mudbound. Laura has difficulty adjusting to life without electricity, indoor plumbing, readily accessible medical care for her two children and, worst of all, life with her live-in misogynous, racist, father-in-law. Her days become easier after Florence, the wife of Hap Jackson, one of their black tenants, becomes more important to Laura as companion than as hired help. Catastrophe is inevitable when two young WWII veterans, Henry’s brother, Jamie, and the Jacksons’ son, Ronsel, arrive, both battling nightmares from horrors they’ve seen, and both unable to bow to Mississippi rules after eye-opening years in Europe. Jordan convincingly inhabits each of her narrators, though some descriptive passages can be overly florid, and the denouement is a bit maudlin. But these are minor blemishes on a superbly rendered depiction of the fury and terror wrought by racism.

This I Believe edited by Jay Allison and Dan Gediman

(from Publishers Weekly)
In the 1950s, the Edward R. Murrow–hosted radio program This I Believe prompted Americans to briefly explain their most cherished beliefs, be they religious or purely pragmatic. Since the program’s 2005 renaissance as a weekly NPR segment, Allison (the host) and Gediman (the executive producer) have collected some of the best essays from This I Believe then and now. “Your personal credo” is what Allison calls it in the book’s introduction, noting that today’s program is distinguished from the 1950s version in soliciting submissions from ordinary Americans from all walks of life. These make up some of the book’s most powerful and memorable moments, from the surgeon whose illiterate mother changed his early life with faith and a library card to the English professor whose poetry helped him process a traumatic childhood event. And in one of the book’s most unusual essays, a Burmese immigrant confides that he believes in feeding monkeys on his birthday because a Buddhist monk once prophesied that if he followed this ritual, his family would prosper. There are luminaries here, too, including Gloria Steinem, Warren Christopher, Helen Keller, Isabel Allende, Eleanor Roosevelt, John Updike and (most surprisingly, considering the book’s more liberal bent) Newt Gingrich. This feast of ruminations is a treat for any reader.

Flight: A Novel by Sherman Alexie

(from Publishers Weekly)
A deadpan “Call Me Zits” opens the first novel in 10 years from Alexie (Smoke Signals, etc.), narrated by a self-described “time-traveling mass murderer” whose name and deeds unravel as this captivating bildungsroman progresses. Half-Indian, half-Irish, acne-beset Zits is 15: he never knew his alcoholic father; his mother died when he was six; his aunt kicked him out when he was 10 (after he set her sleeping boyfriend on fire because the boyfriend had been forcing Zits to have sex). Running away from his 20th foster home, Zits ends up, briefly, in jail; soon after, he enters a bank, shoots several people and is shot dead himself. Zits then commences time-traveling via the bodies of others, finding himself variously lodged in an FBI agent in the ’70s (helping to assassinate radical Indian activists); a mute Indian boy at the Battle of Little Big Horn; an Indian tracker named Gus; an airplane pilot instructor (one of whose pupils commits a terrorist act); and his own father. Zits eventually comes back to himself and to an unexpected redemption. While the plot is wisp-thin, one quickly surrenders to Zits’s voice, which elegantly mixes free-floating young adult cynicism with a charged, idiosyncratic view of American history. Alexie plunges the book into bracing depths.

The Devil’s Highway: A True Story by Luis Alberto Urrea

(from Publishers Weekly)
In May 2001, 26 Mexican men scrambled across the border and into an area of the Arizona desert known as the Devil’s Highway. Only 12 made it safely across. American Book Award winning writer and poet Urrea (Across the Wire; Six Kinds of Sky; etc.), who was born in Tijuana and now lives outside Chicago, tracks the paths those men took from their home state of Veracruz all the way norte. Their enemies were many: the U.S. Border Patrol (“La Migra”); gung-ho gringo vigilantes bent on taking the law into their own hands; the Mexican Federales; rattlesnakes; severe hypothermia and the remorseless sun, a “110 degree nightmare” that dried their bodies and pounded their brains. In artful yet uncomplicated prose, Urrea captivatingly tells how a dozen men squeezed by to safety, and how 14 others whom the media labeled the Yuma 14 did not. But while many point to the group’s smugglers (known as coyotes) as the prime villains of the tragedy, Urrea unloads on, in the words of one Mexican consul, “the politics of stupidity that rules both sides of the border.” Mexican and U.S. border policy is backward, Urrea finds, and it does little to stem the flow of immigrants. Since the policy results in Mexicans making the crossing in increasingly forbidding areas, it contributes to the conditions that kill those who attempt it. Confident and full of righteous rage, Urrea’s story is a well-crafted malange of first-person testimony, geographic history, cultural and economic analysis, poetry and an indictment of immigration policy. It may not directly influence the forces behind the U.S.’s southern border travesties, but it does give names and identities to the faceless and maligned “wetbacks” and “pollos,” and highlights the brutality and unsustainable nature of the many walls separating the two countries.

Brooklyn: A Novel by Com Toibin

(From Amazon.com)
Committed to a quiet life in little Enniscorthy, Ireland, the industrious young Eilis Lacey reluctantly finds herself swept up in an unplanned adventure to America, engineered by the family priest and her glamorous, “ready for life” sister, Rose. Eilis’s determination to embrace the spirit of the journey despite her trepidation–especially on behalf of Rose, who has sacrificed her own chance of leaving–makes a bittersweet center for Brooklyn. Colm Tóibín’s spare portrayal of this contemplative girl is achingly lovely, and every sentence rings with truth. Readers will find themselves swept across the Atlantic with Eilis to a boarding house in Brooklyn where she painstakingly adapts to a new life, reinventing herself and her surroundings in the letters she writes home. Just as she begins to settle in with the help of a new love, tragedy calls her home to Enniscorthy, and her separate lives suddenly and painfully merge into one. Tóibín’s haunted heroine glows on the page, unforgettably and lovingly rendered, and her story reflects the lives of so many others exiled from home.

Zeitoun by Dave Eggers

(from the New Yorker)
Through the story of one man’s experience after Hurricane Katrina, Eggers draws an indelible picture of Bush-era crisis management. Abdulrahman Zeitoun, a successful Syrian-born painting contractor, decides to stay in New Orleans and protect his property while his family flees. After the levees break, he uses a small canoe to rescue people, before being arrested by an armed squad and swept powerlessly into a vortex of bureaucratic brutality. When a guard accuses him of being a member of Al Qaeda, he sees that race and culture may explain his predicament. Eggers, compiling his account from interviews, sensibly resists rhetorical grandstanding, letting injustices speak for themselves. His skill is most evident in how closely he involves the reader in Zeitoun’s thoughts. Thrown into one of a series of wire cages, Zeitoun speculates, with a contractor’s practicality, that construction of his prison must have begun within a day or so of the hurricane.

The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell

(from Amazon.com)
In 2019, humanity finally finds proof of extraterrestrial life when a listening post in Puerto Rico picks up exquisite singing from a planet which will come to be known as Rakhat. While United Nations diplomats endlessly debate a possible first contact mission, the Society of Jesus quietly organizes an eight-person scientific expedition of its own. What the Jesuits find is a world so beyond comprehension that it will lead them to question the meaning of being “human.” When the lone survivor of the expedition, Emilio Sandoz, returns to Earth in 2059, he will try to explain what went wrong… Words like “provocative” and “compelling” will come to mind as you read this shocking novel about first contact with a race that creates music akin to both poetry and prayer.

May 14, 2010

Commencement Remarks 2010 and Honoring Tony Fulginiti

Filed under: Student advice,University Issues — LBA @ 2:03 pm
Tags: ,

Class of 2010, you made it.  It’s been a challenge, but here you are.  And we, your professors, advisors, professional staff, friends, and family are so glad and so proud.  In your years here at Rowan, you as a group have accomplished much.  You have gotten good grades, excelled at sports, become a part of Greek organizations, kept student groups alive and successful, and won awards. Your successes and your challenges have touched your faculty and your peers.  You’ve made lifelong friends and learned more about yourself in the process. And now you turn to a whole new set of pursuits.  Some of you will head off to graduate school, some will get full time jobs, some will travel, some will start a family or continue raising a family, and some of you may not be quite sure what you will do after the graduation party.  There are many paths that you can take, but regardless of what you chose to pursue, my one piece of advice to you is the same – but, before I turn to that piece of advice, I would like to speak briefly about a member of our college, who is an impressive example of the principle I am about to espouse to you.  That individual is Professor Tony Fulginiti.

Professor Tony Fulginiti has been at Rowan since 1976, helping to build the Public Relations program and providing his service and support to the department and its students.  During his time at Rowan, Professor Fulginiti dedicated himself to doing each task to the best of his ability, and it showed.  He established and “brought up” a nationally award winning chapter of the Public Relations Student Society of America that has contributed to the career success of many students.  In recognition of his work, the local chapter of the Public Relations Society of America named an award for education in his honor, and he received the Outstanding Educator in the Nation award from PRSA in 1987. An author, a practitioner, and a dedicated teacher, Professor Fulginiti recently established the Fulginiti Education Foundation to serve public relations students at Rowan. He is clearly an example of long-term excellence to which we can all aspire and we are lucky to have had the pleasure to have him as a vital part of the College of Communication.  Professor Fulginiti is moving into a new phase of his life, retirement, this summer, and I suspect he will launch into that phase with all the devotion and focus he has shown to his work at Rowan.

Professor Fulginiti’s career can be seen as an example of the piece of advice I would like to leave you with today.  That advice is as follows:  Whatever path you choose to take with your life and your career, engage it fully and to the best of your ability.

Kenneth Burke, noted scholar of communication talks about humans as being the inventors of the negative.  Now, to discuss all of the things Burke meant by that would take more time than I have today, but one of the ways to understand it is that Burke is saying that we humans think in terms of what is not-here and not-now.  While we are doing one thing, we think about what we are not doing or what we should or shouldn’t be doing.  We have lunch with a friend, but we are thinking about the fact that we have to go to work afterward.   We get to work and do our jobs, but we are thinking about the workout we didn’t get that morning and planning how we will make up for it later.  We type up a report, but while we do, we consider whether our boss will like it and what she will say about it and whether it will help us get a raise or a bonus. We head home and have some leftover pizza, but we think about the salad that we should have had and what’s on television that night.  In any case, we are so busy thinking about where, or when, or who we are not, that we cannot dedicate ourselves to when, and where, and who we are. We miss truly listening to that friend and the joy of the conversation; we don’t do our very best work on that report or feel the satisfaction of fully focusing on the task and bringing our utmost to it; we don’t even really enjoy the taste of that pizza.

Keeping yourself in the moment you are in while putting your attention firmly onto the efforts you are engaging in, is the best path to success.  Now, I am not saying that if you do this you will never make a mistake or that you will end up on a yacht in the Caribbean, but when you truly focus on what you are doing and give it your very best, whatever you accomplish in that moment is a success and you can be proud of it.  You probably know this at some level intuitively.  When you have taken a test or written a paper and just put your attention into creating the most persuasive and clear argument you could or really showing what you knew, you likely did far better than when you were worrying about your grade, multi-tasking online, or thinking about something else. And even if the grade wasn’t your highest, you likely still felt good about working to your utmost.

In summary, class of 2010, take this piece of advice, this thing you already know at an intuitive level but maybe rarely consider, and head into your next set of opportunities.  Whatever you do, be in that place and in that time and who you are. In the words of Henry David Thoreau, “You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in each moment.” Go forth, Class of 2010, and enjoy the surf.

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