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Faculty Insider: Prof. Mary Marchand

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“Stories are like events best undergone as a group,” says Prof. Mary Marchand. “They help us broaden our perspectives on life and move past our individual assumption.” Photo Credit: Danielle Brundage

As students, we have all taken classes that have contributed to our understanding of the world at varying levels. Some have been better than others, depending on our interest in the subject matter. If we are lucky, however, we encounter a professor who completely reshapes our understanding of a subject, whether it initially interests us or not. For many Goucher students, Mary Marchand is one such professor.
For 22 years, Prof. Marchand has directed the American Studies program. Goucher was one of the first colleges to offer this radical, interdisciplinary program in 1949, only one year after Yale. With only one core course requirement, the little known major allows students to draw from three different programs in order to define the Americas- its history, its cultures- for themselves. In fact, Prof. Marchand was also the program director for Individualized Interdisciplinary Majors for 10 to 15 years. She thus teaches several literature courses, both as part of the program and the English department.
Prof. Marchand grew up in Minnesota, where she graduated from the University of St. Olaf with a major in English and minor in Philosophy. She earned her Master’s and PhD at the University of Wisconsin. Despite three job offers in very different parts of the country, circumstances brought her to Maryland, where she fell in love with Goucher. “There is a kindness and quirkiness to my students that I really value… like a sort of openness and curiosity,” she explains.
Prof. Marchand believes that literature plays a special role in developing broader perspectives on the world and bridging divides. “Stories are like events best undergone as a group,” she says. “They help us broaden our perspectives on life and move past our individual assumption.” When we delve into the literary world, she explains, “we often read and understand points of view we would normally see as unforgivable.” Literature is meant to break rules, as well as challenge the status quo and ourselves as individuals, a process that Prof. Marchand sees as integral to the college experience. In her opinion, it is especially important in our time when assumptions are being made by the left and right. To her, college is a place to bring conflicting opinions together and experience friction. Yet it also has to be a place where people have the opportunity to participate in open discourse. This is probably the greatest challenge for her as a professor: creating a safe enough space for everyone to have a say while still encouraging a diversity of opinions.
Despite this dilemma, Prof. Marchand’s courses are reputed for their engaging conversations- a term she prefers over the contrived word ‘discussion’. Through these conversations, she explains, “most of the classes kind of just reveal themselves.” For example, students find meaning in an American literary canon often written off as dull and impractical. The key is “to ask the types of questions that lead to better understanding or thinking,”  which is one of many lessons she learned from her favorite professor and role model: her dad. He was a professor of humanities and director of theater at the University of Minnesota. “My dad… loved his work so much. He thought that one of the most important things in the world was to make people fall in love with learning again,” she explains. “[His] special gift was to listen intently.” Just like her father, Prof. Marchand values everyone’s voice in the classroom, earning the appreciation of many of her students.
In addition to her father’s mentoring, teaching for the Goucher Prison Education Program for two and a half years deeply shaped Prof. Marchand’s teaching style. “It was life changing. It was the most meaningful work I’ve ever done.” Working with people largely shut out of education from a very young age, she had to find ways to increase their joy and confidence in learning, separating their anxiety from their coursework. “It made me a better professor.”
When Prof. Marchand isn’t busy teaching classes or grading papers, she loves to cook. “You can see my ribbons there,” she points to her office board, chuckling. “I entered the [Maryland State Fair] contest as a joke one year; my son at the time entered in a logo contest, my husband entered a photo contest, and it kind of became a quirky thing we started doing.” She envisions a Goucher cooking standoff between departments, though she ponders about whom might be the appropriate judges.
She also spends her time between classes researching for her newest project on crime scene photography. Fascinated by early forensics of late 19th century France, she examines how identity was determined at that time using biometrics. She is currently looking for student researchers to join her in this endeavor! Perhaps this is not your primary field of interest, but with the guidance of a dedicated and beloved professor it is sure to be a transformative experience.

The CDO’s Professional Clothing Closet

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It is that time of the year again. School is back in session, and so are various career preparation opportunities. Maybe you have an upcoming college job fair to attend. Better yet, you’ve scored an interview for your dream internship. Sadly, in the midst of the tremendous excitement of seeing your friends again, you forgot to pack any professional attire. Don’t panic; the last thing we want is for you to be excluded from significant educational or vocational opportunities. The Goucher College Career Development Office (CDO) has a solution for you: the Professional Clothing Closet.
We at the CDO know that dressing appropriately for an interview, career fair, or networking event is key to boosting your confidence and helping you make a great first impression as a candidate. The clothing closet, free of charge to all currently enrolled students, is a resource to make sure you have everything you need to be successful in your job search. Thanks to generous donations from Goucher’s faculty, staff, and alums, the inventory includes suits, blazers, skirts, sweaters, dresses, ties, collared button-ups, shirts, shoes and more—in both men’s and women’s styles.
We want to help you make a positive impression as you enter the professional world. Stop by the CDO in Van Meter 117, Monday through Friday from 10am- 4pm to check it out. Spread the word!

ZULA MUCYO

Rascal: A Goucher Rabbit

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A Rascal of a Rabbit. Photo Credit: Mikaela Smith

On any given day at Goucher, students will walk down Van Meter and encounter dogs and other pets. However, students walking near Sondheim on a warm, sunny day may also see one of Goucher’s resident rabbits, Rascal. Owned by Mikaela Smith, Rascal is an eight-year-old Dutch Giant rabbit. Dutch giants are one of the largest rabbit breeds, and are easily recognizable by their distinct, often black-and-white, fur markings. Mikaela has had Rascal since he was ten weeks old and got him from a bunny farm in Missouri. This will be his third semester at Goucher as Mikaela’s emotional support animal.

Many students have emotional support animals that they bring to campus. There are a wide variety of them, including cats, dogs, rabbits, ferrets, and reptiles. Some animals don’t acclimate well to campus life, but Rascal seems to be having no problems.
“He’s very adaptable,” Mikaela says, “and has never really caused a fuss. He binkied yesterday (September 4th) in my room.”
Rabbits binky when they are especially happy. When a rabbit binkies, they jump into the air and twist their body and head in different directions before falling back to the ground. A binkying rabbit is a happy, relaxed, content rabbit. In addition, rabbits also flop to signal that they trust you. Flops are when a rabbit throws itself on its side. When a rabbit flops, it can be surprising to people who aren’t often around rabbits.

What a cute bunny! Photo Credit: Mikaela Smith

“When I first saw my rabbit flop, for a second I thought he had had a heart attack and died,” says Paige Harris, owner of Poe the bunny, another well-known rabbit at Goucher.

Having an emotional support animal is important to many students on campus to keep them calm and help them focus on work. “I had trouble with papers during my first year first semester here. I definitely noticed an improvement once I got him here,” Mikaela says.
Another student, who prefers not to be named, has said much the same: “I don’t know what I’d do without my pet here. She helps me calm down when I get too stressed, and taking care of her reminds me that I have to take care of myself. I’ve gotta be here for her, y’know?
And while there are many communities at Goucher, one of the newest ones caters specifically to bunnies: the Goucher Bunny Community. It recently debuted at the Involvement Fair, with Mikaela at the helm, though it’s been active for at least a semester. She is one of the founders of the community, along with Paige Harris. The Bunny Community also has a Facebook page (@goucherbunny), filled with pictures of Rascal, funny rabbit drawings, and notifications for when events take place. Most events are bunny get-togethers, where rabbits and owners alike can socialize. Even if you don’t have a rabbit, you’re welcome to come to an event to spend time with the rabbits and learn more about them.
“Rabbits are generally social creatures,” says Paige. “They live in warrens in the wild, and can form bonds. When they form bonds, it’s like they’ve found their best friend and never want to be separated.”
Just like with us, many of Goucher’s resident pets aren’t fond of the construction.

Rascal Poses. Photo Credit: Mikaela Smith

“Rascal’s mostly okay with it, he just doesn’t like the noise,” Mikaela says.
However, it’s not the construction that can cause the most stress to Goucher’s pets. It’s the fire alarms. Last week, most of the residential houses began their annual fire alarm drill. Many were glad it wasn’t happening at three in the morning like it had in the past, but the change in time doesn’t mean less stress for the animals.
Waiting in the residential quad for the alarm to stop going off, I witnessed someone run past a safety officer and into Sondheim. When they returned, they had Rascal in their arms, his ears high and alert.
“I couldn’t just leave him,” they said. “When I got in he was freaking out and banging his head against his cage. He hates these things.” They walked away, taking him to a quieter part of the quad so that he could calm down and hopefully munch on some grass.
Rascal is fine now and enjoying some of his favorite activities: eating lettuce, running around, and nibbling on Mikaela’s things.

Goucher EATS: Food Labels

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In my personal form of teenage rebellion (or more likely, an attempt to sneakily lower my caloric consumption) I refused to eat red meat sometimes in high school. It had never really been a regular part of my diet before then, but I had never labeled it as off limits either. I think along the way I convinced myself that it was because of health reasons, that the protein it provided wasn’t worth the other “unhealthy” characteristics. After a few months I even used the excuse that my body would no longer be able to process it and eating it would make me sick. But again, it was honestly just an excuse to be able to say “I don’t eat that,” something to make me feel that I was able to flat out refuse to eat some foods on principle.
There are many ways to have dysfunctional relationships with food, and I’ll admit, I’ve dabbled in most of them. But regardless of the reason, I didn’t eat red meat for years. For the most part, it really wasn’t an issue. Over time my father, a former meat cutter (bless his very patient heart), even offered to buy ground turkey when making meat sauce or turkey sausage when making kielbasa dishes. The restaurant where I work has a thing for bacon (I think most chefs and restaurants do, to be fair), which meant a lot of times I would politely decline trying dishes. But several of my coworkers were vegetarians, so no one ever made a big deal about it.

Eat what makes you feel healthy and happy! Photo credit: Google images.

But last spring break I worked a few shifts shortly after the menu had changed, so our chef had been passing me samples of the new dishes. Half way through the night, he slid me a bowl and told me try it. “What is it?” I asked. “Short rib ravioli.” I considered passing it on to someone else, but I realized I didn’t want to and I didn’t want to feel like I had to simply because it was something I had told myself I wasn’t allowed to eat. So I grabbed a fork and took a bite. “I haven’t eaten red meat in five years.” I told him, “And that was really stupid.”
Food walks this strange line because on the one hand our relationship with it is very scientific; you must eat to survive at a very visceral level. But there is also this intensely emotional side. People associate certain memories and feelings with certain foods, and to many, food is art. I think a lot of what we choose to eat or not eat takes both sides into account as we try to determine what is best for us, but also what we want.
I’m not saying that choosing not to eat certain things is always a poor decision. If you choose to be a vegan, or vegetarian, or gluten free, that’s fine. But don’t do it because you feel like you should. If you feel healthier and happier, then that is great. But if every time you see a plate of bacon you feel sad because you want it but can’t have it because you’re a vegetarian, maybe reevaluate. Don’t choose a diet just because it allows you to claim abstinence from certain foods if you like those foods and they don’t adversely affect your health.
We are a society obsessed with categorization. We like things to fit in a box; we like for ourselves to fit into these boxes. I think that is what is so attractive about labeled eating patterns like “vegan.” But people don’t always fit into boxes. So if most days you don’t eat meat, but sometimes you just really want filet mignon, don’t feel like you have to label yourself a vegetarian and constantly suppress that occasional desire for steak.
My relationship with food has come a long way. It can be so easy to get in your own head and make food into more than it needs to be. That artistic side and scientific side perfectly collide when we eat. We appreciate the artistry and the emotions attached to the food, while our bodies rejoice at the fact that we’re giving them sustenance. So eat what makes you feel healthy and happy. Eat what you want and decline what you don’t, but don’t worry about putting a label on it.

The Office of Accessibility Services (OAS)

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Arnelle Hanley from the Office of Accessibility Services (OAS). Photo credit: OAS

Goucher’s Office of Accessibility Services (OAS) opened its doors four months ago, and its director Arnelle Hanley has been busy at work ever since. The purpose of OAS is to provide a space for students who are seeking accommodations “to better engage with the Goucher community,” according to Hanley. Her work is not limited to learning or physical disabilities. Rather she is available to help students gain access to help with whatever limitations and barriers they may experience inside the classroom and all around campus. This can range from long term, chronic issues to temporary issues, such as broken ankles.
She collaborates with “pretty much any office that you can think of,” including residential life, counseling, health services, FMS, dining services, admissions, financial aid, and the Office of International Studies. She’s been meeting with prospective students and their families through admissions. With OIS, she’s been helping students think about the accessibility of the study abroad programs they’re considering and supporting them with aspects of their applications. She’s also been meeting with every academic center. She’s been a part of ongoing conversations with FMS about what accessibility looks like as Goucher is building new buildings and what it looks like in our current buildings in regards to what types of accommodations we can make now to make the buildings more accessible.
In respect to the dining halls, she may help students navigate dietary restrictions, as well as help develop systems that will make the dining halls more physically accessible for students who use a wheelchair or cane. One idea she’s been in conversation with the dining facilities about is the acquisition of trays for those who need to better balance their food and plates and utensils, etc.
Yet, Hanley’s job doesn’t stop there. “I look at my job as not just helping students access Goucher, but also preparing them to advocate for themselves after Goucher…I’m always thinking of life after Goucher.” She strives to empower students to advocate for themselves while at Goucher so that they can do so confidently with HR in their future careers: “Your parents can’t call your future employer,” she says.
Currently located in an office in the Alumni House, she will hold open hours for students to book appointments with her on Starfish. In the meantime, students can email her at arnelle.hanely@goucher.edu. “If you’re not sure who to go to, start with me…once you talk to me, I already know who the contact person is for you,” she says. ACE, Frona Brown (the Learning Disabilities specialist), and Hanley are developing a system that will allow them to effectively communicate between themselves. Starting the conversation with Hanley will allow her to efficiently direct students to the best resources for their personal needs. If a student already has a relationship with ACE or Frona Brown, Arnelle encourages them to maintain those relationships, but any student who hasn’t yet developed a relationship with these resources should contact Hanley first to discuss whether they need accommodations and what those resources would look like. Hanley reiterates that “my office is here to help you problem solve, not to solve your problems.”
Students, faculty, and staff can help Hanley make Goucher more accessible by reporting all barrier issues they notice and experience on campus. This can be suggestions as to where handrails can be placed around campus, or something as specific as the magnet locks being so low in a dorm building that people are likely to hit their heads on such a barrier. Reporting handicap buttons that don’t work and any barriers in classrooms are also helpful.
For more information about the Office of Accessibility Services and other campus resources, please visit the new and up-to-date Accessibility website: http://www.goucher.edu/student-life/accessibility-services.

Stories of Immigration

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Note: This article was written at the end of last semester. It remains relevant, however, especially in light of Trump’s recent attack on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).
Two recent Goucher graduates, Sabrina Jimenez, ‘17, and Fernando Parra Chong, ‘17, shed light on the continuously misrepresented, marginalized members of the United States: immigrants. For their senior independent project, Jimenez and Parra Chong, both Latino immigrants themselves, took on the task of conducting, recording, and transcribing interviews from local Latino immigrants living in Maryland. The project began spring semester, 2017, as they interviewed people from El Salvador, Guatemala, Peru, Mexico, and Honduras.
Why is it important to retell these stories of immigration? In the age of Trump and mass media, immigrants are often misrepresented by statistics and generalizations. Parra Chong stated, “these misconceptions [of immigrants] are because the public hasn’t heard their stories.” What better way to truly understand the experience of an immigrant than by listening to them?
Both Parra Chong and Jimenez have conducted numerous interviews and gained insight into the factors that persuaded or forced people to leave their home country, their families, and their comfort. One story included a woman who chose to move her immediate family, (herself and her two sons), from Mexico to Maryland after being targeted by rebel groups. She was a professor in a University in Mexico and was only given a one-year visa to stay in Maryland upon presentation of her legal documents. She is currently approaching the end of her stay and has the choice to live undocumented in the States, risking deportation, or move her family back home and face the same threats. Jimenez stated, “A lot of these immigrants are refugees from their own countries, yet they’re not classified as refugees.”
Jimenez noted the increase in fear, specifically related to the Trump administration, that has permeated through the latino community. “People have been living here undocumented for years, a lot of them are developing back-up plans. Not everyone has the choice to leave.” Unfortunately, due to the high stress and uncertainty of their situations, “many immigrants here struggle with mental illness.” In addition to the high stress environment, immigrants cope with leaving their home and families behind while adapting to a new culture in the States in which they are often discriminated against.
By presenting their findings and interviews in psychological summaries, pamphlets, and at the Goucher Symposium on April 26th, Parra Chong and Jimenez hoped to “give voice to the marginalized group of people.” These stories allowed others to “view them as people, not immigrants, put themselves in their shoes, and empathize.”

Fresh Check Day: a New Goucher Tradition

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Fresh Check Day aims to improve mental health awareness on campus. Photo credit: UBC

On September 22,  from 2-6pm in the Athenaeum Forum, Goucher College is having its very first Fresh Check Day. The event will be a resource and activities fair dedicated to improving mental health through raising awareness of the mental health obstacles college students often face, as well as introducing tools students can use to tackle these issues head on. There will be booths on topics such as mental health issues, suicide prevention, positive coping and life skills, and stigma reduction. Fresh Check is a program developed by the Jordan Porco Foundation, a family foundation that came about after the suicide of their son. This national non-profit will provide prizes for the event, such as a TV, t-shirts, and some other small items. JED Campus, a nationwide initiative of the Jed Foundation, also supports the event. The JED foundation works to promote emotional well-being, reduce the risk of suicide and serious substance abuse, and encourage the creation of healthy, thriving student communities.
Cameron Cox, the new Student Development and Outreach Coordinator, and co-chair of Goucher’s JED Campus Committee, states “I hope students learn as much as possible. I hope that we can dispel some of the myths about mental health, and really get the campus talking more about the importance of mental health.” Cox is not the only one interested in disposing with the stigma regarding mental health; students from the Peer Mental Health Advocacy Group, a club currently in the process of becoming official, are also aiding the event. This club-in-development hopes to build a base of motivated students who will explore the educational and support programs desired by the Goucher community, and create safe space in which they can educate their peers on matters related to mental health.
Jacob Givelber, a student helping to lead the establishment of the Peer Mental Health Advocacy Group, hopes that the Fresh Check Day is a success. He can’t express enough how important it is to rid Goucher, as well as other colleges and universities, of the negative stigma that surrounds mental health. He emphasizes that not talking about problems does not make them go away and that while mental health disorders cannot be seen, that doesn’t make them fake. Purging Goucher of the mental health stigma could save lives. Cameron Cox hopes “this is something where everyone can leave feeling like ‘I feel comfortable talking about this with my peers and the people I work with on campus, whether they be my professors, coaches, other students, or staff members I come in contact with.’”
Goucher’s Fresh Check Day has received support from the wider community and on-campus. Fresh Check community sponsors are The Bergand Group, Greater Baltimore Counseling Center, The Renfrew Center, TurnAround.  On-campus sponsors are Athletics, Community-Based Learning, CREI, Peer Listeners, The President’s Office, The Provost’s Office and faculty, Residential Life, The Student Affairs Office, Student Counseling Services, and the Title IX office.

Center for the Advancement of Scholarship and Teaching (CAST)

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C.A.S.T is here to support students. Photo Credit: CAST’s Facebook page

All students have complained about a professor or an assignment or a particularly bad incident in a classroom at least once in their lives. Maybe you’ve written these complaints in an end-of-course reflection or approached a professor directly about the issue. But how do faculty know the best ways to resolve these issues and navigate the feedback they receive? What can they change in order to make the next renditions of their courses more successful?
As of last year, Dr. Robin Cresiski at the brand new Center for the Advancement of Scholarship and Teaching (CAST) is that support system, which will “provide resources to faculty to help them be the best teachers and scholars they can be.”

Cresiski will help faculty integrate the latest research in effective teaching in their classrooms, promote undergraduate research, and cultivate student success. “Making faculty happier without increasing student performance is a failure,” according to Cresiski.
There is a variety of ways she is and will be undertaking this role. Faculty workshops and Lunch & Learns about a variety of topics are one route. The topics are selected from a survey Cresiski administered to faculty at the beginning of the semester to gauge the ones that are most in demand among Goucher’s faculty. Topics include “best practices for week 1,” “transparent assignment design,” and a variety of topics surrounding inclusivity and accessibility. While attendance is optional and some professors’ schedules may conflict with such workshops, Cresiski is working on a website where recordings of all the workshops will be available for faculty to consult if they could not attend.
She is also available for individual consultations to help faculty revise areas of their curriculum where students are falling asleep, to discussing ways to address a classroom incident, to anything else faculty made need support for. Faculty research is another area Cresiski will help with, such as thinking about research design and organizing research into a publication plan. Faculty may reach out to her or may be referred to CAST by another faculty member, administrator, or department chair. When faculty wish it, Cresiski will also observe their classes.
“The administration was very forthright with me about various issues on campus before I came forward,” says Cresiski, “[such as] the change in curriculum and the video from students about their experience as diverse students on campus. I am absolutely going to be a resource for faculty to make their classrooms more inclusive.”
In an effort to confront these issues, Cresiski has already started collaborating with the Academic Center for Excellence in order to help faculty reinforce the messages that ACE tells students and the Center for Race, Equity, and Identity about not only the Phoenix Program, but also what kinds of faculty programming CAST and CREI can collaborate on.
“Several of the workshops will revolve around helping faculty make their content and curriculum and lessons accessible and engaging for all students,” Cresiski promises. “There have been limited opportunities for faculty to learn how they might do that up to this point.” She cites the transparent assignment design workshop as an example of how she will empower faculty to be more inclusive. “Faculty that make just two of their assignments more transparent have smaller equity gaps between white and non-white students and between continuing and first generation students.” She also knows that addressing the issue of inclusivity and accessibility will require deeper work, more self-reflection and confrontation of the implicit bias one has when regarding examples used in class, hiring students for research or teaching assistant positions, and orchestrating class discussions.
Cresiski’s previous experience has definitely prepared her for this new role at Goucher. After completing a PhD in Immunology and serving as a visiting biology professor at Mt. Holyoke College (she will also teach biology at Goucher), she was hired at a small start-up college in Nevada where more than 50% of the student body were students of color, 67% were first generation, and almost all were low-income. Cresiski helped build a biology program and an undergraduate research program before becoming an administrator. As an administrator, she oversaw faculty development because she had become “very interested in developing faculty practices, especially in relationship with students who are very different than themselves and their experiences.”
In order to best serve the faculty, Cresiski is trying to figure out the best way to get feedback from students about their experiences with faculty at Goucher: “I’m a nice neutral resource…I’m nobody’s boss. So if students would love to see something happen differently in a classroom, I’m a place where they can come talk to me and they’re not getting anyone in trouble.” She’s hoping to figure out how students can compare and contrast their experiences and point out trends that they see, which students currently don’t have the opportunity to do in end-of-course reflections. Other colleges have advisory committees or pizza hours, which Cresiski has considered. In the meantime, she has been in conversation with ten students from a variety of disciplines that Dylan Margolis from GSG put her in contact with. She intends to form a working group including these students to think about the new center pair exploration courses—curriculum development being another aspect of faculty support that CAST will be a large part of.
In the meantime, students are welcome to email Robin.Cresiski@goucher.edu their ideas about how things could be better. She’s also welcoming students to tell her about really positive experiences they’ve had with faculty so that she can highlight such great teaching in her faculty newsletter.
“I’m really excited to be here!” Cresiski says, not only because her great-grandmother was a Goucher alumna, but also because she is “so inspired by [President Bowen’s and Provost Lewis’s] dedication to building Goucher into an accessible, transformative liberal arts institution.” Their dedication to accessibility is very important to her and she’s excited to contribute to the process of implementing the changes that will ultimately achieve this vision.

The Psychology of Climate Change

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In 2009, New York Times’ Dr. Paul Krugman compared climate scientists today to Cassandra of ancient Greek mythologies. Through a series of circumstances, Cassandra was gifted by the gods with the ability to prophesize the future, but was also cursed that people wouldn’t believe her prophecies. Throughout her lifetime she predicted a number of deaths and disasters. Her warnings of these impending events, though, went unheeded, and the disasters played out just as she foretold.

Today, we don’t have Greek gods gifting us with the ability to predict the future, but our modern sciences are doing a pretty good job of picking up the slack. However, they too are going largely ignored as they warn us about the dangers of climate change.

Why? Why is it that a scientifically proven phenomenon is being locked in a debate over its existence? Media technologies have offered a unique platform, not only for climate science communicators but also for climate science deniers to argue their positions. As our technologies become more expansive components of our daily lives, science communicators have broadened their tactics of reaching wider audiences. The situation that exists today suggests that although the data are available to the public as clear evidence of climate change and humans’ influence on its increased severity, people still don’t address this as a problem. Furthermore, they don’t address it as a problem they have any relation to or power to change.

In the last decade, climate scientists have taken direct measures to better communicate their research to a broader public audience through a more expansive media approach. Reaching beyond print platforms, web-based strategies such as blog and social media outreach have aimed to provide comprehensive basics of climate change research and discussions on small and large-scale advocacy and action.

The Union of Concerned Scientists’ website works to spread information through videos and blogs to engage a wider group of internet users. ClimateCentral.org also works specifically to provide climate change information to a mainstream audience through multimedia. And these are just a few of many organizations and campaigns working in similar ways to utilize our technological society.

Youtube, television programs, and documentaries are full of initiatives to connect popular media users to scientific conversations. The discussion is present and available, and yet on a national scale we so easily choose to ignore or disregard this information or fail to find ways to apply this information to our own lives through preventative action and advocacy. Whether disengaged, dismissive, or uninformed to some degree, there are psychological foundations to our ability to tune out and turn away from environmental conservation, advocacy, and action.

Humans are easily influenced by confirmation bias. We have a natural tendency to engage and agree with information and individuals who reconfirm beliefs we already hold. Similarly, we have a more difficult time connecting with information that opposes our beliefs. This plays out in self-enforced limitations and a general narrowing of the sources of information we seek out. It is easier to read news that already flows with our understanding of the environment rather than something that completely disrupts what we think we know.

Similarly, accepting that climate change is a global issue, and accepting that our behaviors have had and are continuously having negative impacts on the world, creates cognitive dissonance. In the United States just as in other countries throughout the world, we have built our economy and many of our social structures around practices that prove to be wasteful and harmful. Admitting these practices are leading to larger consequences pertaining to global health both on an environmental level and a human level changes how we can view our behaviors.

If we know our actions are directly or indirectly harming others and harming our planet, we are caught in a moral and ethical struggle of what it means to maintain our behaviors in the face of this knowledge. Choosing to ignore the consequences, or instead choosing to downplay their severity or their connection to our actions, is easier than recognizing ourselves as part of the problem and altering our comfortable lifestyles to fix that.

This leads to the concept of risk assessment. A recent study published by the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication showcases that areas in the United States that are experiencing consequences of climate change are more likely to recognize and prioritize climate change as a global issue. As the study explains, these are nonpartisan results. Regardless of one’s political stance, you are more likely to address a situation when you see yourself directly being affected. This is a dilemma in the United States because we are not directly exposed to many of the consequences of our actions.

The toxic digital dump wastelands and devastating deforestation that result from our technological and paper product consumption, for example, leave many communities throughout the world with devastating health consequences and a diminishment of resources. A community facing the day to day struggles of existing during a drought will better relate to the science of climate change because they are experiencing it with a higher personal risk assessment.

So what does all this mean? If people aren’t listening to our modern day Cassandra foretelling the future, where do science communicators and educators come in? Where do people with firsthand experience of the consequences of our current actions come in? What role do science deniers play and why do they continue to hold such influential roles? What policies and structures are at play or could be at play to address these issues? How can we, as students and community members, be positive forces in addressing this ever-growing alteration of our planet?

 

Garrison Keillor Visits Goucher

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Keillor-Headshot-2.jpgErika DiPasquale, Associate Editor

March 5th, 2017

On Monday, February 20th, Kraushaar Auditorium was filled to capacity for the sold out Garrison Keillor Event. The master storyteller was the first performer of “The Power of Storytelling” themed-semester event series, which strives to encourage “learning to gather stories, learning to craft stories, listening to one another’s stories, hearing master storytellers, and community reflection on stories,” according to Emily Perl, Assistant Vice President for Student Success, and leader of the themed-semester committee. The event was funded entirely by the Robert and Jane Meyerhoff Visiting Professorship fund.

Garrison Keillor hosted his very popular radio show, A Prairie Home Companion, from 1974 through July 2016 when he retired. His career earned him 3.5 million listeners on 700 public radio stations and Grammy, ACE, and George Foster Peabody awards, the National Humanities Medal, and election to the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He’s also an author of many books and editor of poetry anthologies. According to Emily Perl, Mr. Robert Meyerhoff and Ms. Rheda Becker “were instrumental in the decision to bring Garrison Keillor to campus this semester.”

Keillor entertained the crowd for 2 hours and 45 minutes straight—without stopping. Even during a ten minute intermission about an hour and a half in, he remained on stage and sang nostalgic songs with anyone in the audience willing to join in, expressing more than once how blessed he was to be in the same room as people who know the words to the same songs he knew—something he expects to not experience again in the coming years.

As for the content of his performance, his stories were certainly tailored to the audience, which consisted of more people with gray and white hair than Goucher College students. The age demographics of the audience shouldn’t come as a shock, being that a goal of the themed-semester is “to have a variety of speakers who appeal to different audiences and achieve a number of different goals,” according to Perl. Keillor started with stories about his brother-in-law’s hip replacement and his prostate, and then jumped backwards in time to share stories about college and his childhood. The audience heard stories about his first kiss, childhood punishments, and a couple funerals he’s recently attended. None of the stories he told took place during his impressive radio career. This organizational decision contributed to the development of the theme that “We strive to go far and then we end up back in the same place.”

Another theme he kept circling around to—one that is very relevant to the goals of the storytelling theme semester—is the act of writing things down and being remembered. After his longer stories, he would repeat the statement, “And I thought…I should write about this. But I haven’t written it down because I haven’t figured it out yet.” The first time he thought this, he was six years old. He wished to preserve the memory and prevent himself from simply disappearing from this earth. He wanted to write “to make sense of it.” The “strongest impulse of a writer,” according to Keillor, is “to hold onto the past and not let it vanish.” In his more recent reflections on his own mortality, as his performance illustrated, he’s felt this impulse even more so, in part because of a desire to be quoted posthumously like the greatest writers of all time—something he perceives as more meaningful than if he were to have a building named after him.

Because he told ordinary, relatable stories about his pre- and post- career life, the most resounding take-away from his performance is that anyone can tell their stories and be remembered in any form and style that comes naturally to them. Keillor’s style was one that evoked consistent waves of laughter and involved the audience in song at the beginning, middle, and end. Perl said, “The audience thoroughly enjoyed their evening with Garrison Keillor—I would call it a rousing success!”

A list of the remaining events in the series is below. Reserve your free tickets in advance at http://www.goucher.edu/tickets .

Queen Nur: Monday, February 27th, 7pm

Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: Wednesday, March 1, 7pm

Alec Dun: Thursday, March 23rd, 4:30pm

Ann Hamilton: Thursday, March 30, 6:30pm

Curtis Sittenfeld: Monday, April 3, 7pm

Peter L. Borst: Wednesday, April 5, 7pm

Anna Deveare Smith: Wednesday, April 12, 7pm

Participate in various Story Circle Sessions throughout the semester to listen and share stories in the ATH.

A Day in My Life Abroad: Tuesday, March 7, 4pm

The Place Where I Grew Up: Wednesday, March 22, 3pm

Hair Stories: Tuesday, April 11, 4pm

Goucher Stories: Wednesday, April 19, 3pm

Immigration Stories: Tuesday, April 25, 4pm

Visit http://www.goucher.edu/storytelling for more information about the speakers/performers and the Story Circles.

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