newsId: 806DC6DA-5056-AF26-BE70238742417269
Title: Panel Highlights Investigative Journalism, Women in Media
Author: Sadie Thorman
Subtitle:
Abstract: The importance of the Oscar-nominated 2017 film, The Post, and the portrayal of a historical milestone in journalism history.
Topic: Journalism
Publication Date: 04/24/2018
Content:

On Thursday, April 19th, American University School of Communication (SOC) Professor Jane Hall welcomed two Washington Post insiders to discuss the importance of the Oscar-nominated 2017 film, The Post, which highlights the tremendous impact investigative reporting can have.

This conversation also recognized the unique challenges of women in journalism, including overcoming gender stereotypes in the field, as Katharine Graham did at The Washington Post in the 1960's and 1970's.

Joining Professor Jane Hall to view and discuss clips from the film during this SOC American Forum were Katharine Weymouth, granddaughter of Washington Post publisher Katharine Graham, and Washington Post investigative reporter Kimbriell Kelly. Both shared their personal reactions to the film and discussed the implications of the Pentagon Papers case, investigative reporting, and the role of women in the media.





"It wasn't just about a newspaper and being a strong investigative reporter. It was capturing the experience that I felt as a woman in this industry," Kelly commented.





Weymouth, a former publisher and CEO of The Washington Post, shared her thoughts on the portrayal of Graham by Meryl Streep in the film and discussed the need for more diversity on corporate boards and in journalism.





Kelly, an award-winning Post reporter gave students an inside account of some of the challenges investigative reporters continue to face when reporting stories today. She gave students advice by describing some of her best techniques for working in the industry.





Most importantly, this crucial conversation detailed the responsibility the Press has in America, not only throughout history, but today. The Post takes the audience inside the Washington Post during the aftermath of the Vietnam War. In the film, Katherine Graham, owner and publisher of the paper, is presented with photocopies of classified documents detailing the U.S. involvement in this highly controversial war by a whistleblower.

She and her team of reporters must make important calculations about whether or not to expose these documents, the Pentagon Papers, to the public. This launches The Washington Post into a contested legal battle with the Nixon White House and intelligence agencies of the U.S. government. The film highlights the responsibility of the Press to hold government accountable and emphasizes important role the Press must play in ensuring our state of democracy.

This event was co-sponsored by the AU School of Communication Investigative Reporting Workshop, a non-profit, professional, newsroom that pairs experienced professional reporters and editors with graduate students. It co-publishes in-depth stories on government and corporate accountability, with mainstream media partners and nonprofit newsrooms.

The Post: Film Clips and Discussion was presented as part of the AU SOC 25th Anniversary celebration. For more information on the 25th Anniversary, as well as upcoming Anniversary events, visit the 25th Anniversary page.

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Title: Classroom Inclusion: Faculty Training on Race and Identity
Author: Gregg Sangillo
Subtitle:
Abstract: The Faculty Development Leadership Cohort model enables professors to train their colleagues.
Topic: On Campus
Publication Date: 04/23/2018
Content:

To improve the racial climate on campus, faculty engagement is imperative. And many American University students have pressed for more rigorous faculty training around race and inclusion.

“In response to the racial incidents on campus, students expressed concern about whether our faculty were sufficiently adept at addressing issues of race,” says Mary Clark, AU’s senior vice provost and dean of academic affairs. “They felt the professors were either not addressing this in class—they weren’t saying, ‘By the way, I know that racial incident must be on your mind,’—or they seemed very uncomfortable in doing so.”

Faculty had previously taken implicit bias workshops with outside groups, but Clark started pondering new ways to approach this challenge. With the help of a key consultant, a select group of AU professors could work with faculty peers across campus. “Faculty are going to respond better to those who know the culture here and, indeed, will respond best to their own colleagues,” Clark recalls thinking.

AU set up a new Faculty Development Leadership Cohort (FDLC) on Diversity and Inclusion, essentially a process of training the trainers. The early feedback from faculty has been overwhelmingly positive, and there are plans to form another cohort next year.

Training the Trainers

For the cohort, 14 AU faculty members were chosen to participate in the initial training sessions. To facilitate the group, AU brought in Kumea Shorter-Gooden, a clinical/community psychologist, longtime professor, and former chief diversity officer at the University of Maryland, College Park. They held five, four-hour sessions in October and November of 2017.

“I worked with this faculty team to develop their competence, expertise, and understanding on these issues. So we ask, ‘How do you teach in a way that’s inclusive? How do you engage students from different backgrounds and cultures and identities? How do you make sure that students see themselves in the syllabus and in the curriculum?’” Shorter-Gooden explains. “There’s a lot of evidence that if, for example, a history class is taught as a history of what white guys did, it’s harder for women to connect, to engage, to learn.”

They also dealt with “hot moments,” hypotheticals of tense classroom discussions. The hot moments can be triggered if a student says something perceived as racist, sexist, or homophobic. Some examples were a student joking in a math class that “all irrational numbers must be female.” Or if an African-American student is talking about overpolicing in black communities, and some white students sigh or roll their eyes. Another scenario is how a class reacts to a racist act on campus.

“If you’re a faculty member trained as a biologist, or someone who has a doctorate in English, how do you know what to do? Most of us didn’t get PhDs in how to handle these kinds of hot moments,” says Shorter-Gooden. “It’s creating classrooms as spaces where all students can learn effectively, and where we’re actively engaging with what’s going on in the world.”

Spreading the Knowledge

The 14 professors took what they learned, and subsequently fanned out to various departments at the university to lead and co-lead sessions—usually 75-90 minutes—with their faculty colleagues.

Eventually, some 500 faculty members were trained by the cohort professors. Evaluations from those sessions have been encouraging, and, anecdotally, Clark has heard from professors who were impressed.

“One individual said that this was the best training program that they had experienced at AU in the 20 years that they had been here. That the faculty-to-faculty engagement was what was the most meaningful and impactful for them,” Clark says.

Environmental science professor Kiho Kim—a cohort professor who became a trainer—noted how his science colleagues responded.

“One of the more frequent comments that I heard back was, ‘We didn’t have enough time,’ which I think is a really good comment to hear. They said they felt engaged, and that they could have thought about this more deeply and for longer periods of time,” Kim says.

Intensive Discussions

During the initial cohort meetings, the conversations were often penetrating and powerful. Cynthia Miller-Idriss, a sociology and education professor, described them as something akin to therapy.

“We had this group of people who spent really intense time talking about very personal things, and also processing our own relationship to issues of diversity and race and inclusion,” she says. “It’s a very emotional subject. We bonded, and I feel much more connected to the rest of the university now.”

As those cohort sessions progressed, they moved from intimate issues to finding pedagogical tools to teach their colleagues, and ultimately, their students. Based on student survey data, cohort members learned that during hot moments—when a student blurts out an offensive remark—professors do need to speak up.

“When faculty ignore an issue that comes up in the classroom, students from vulnerable groups often read that silence as agreement with what was said,” notes Miller-Idriss. “Addressing those hot moments are a really important first step in having our students feel a little bit more heard and understood in the classroom. It’s not an easy thing to do, but it’s a tangible thing that faculty can do.”

Incorporating New Ideas

It will be a while before AU can assess this program’s impact on the students. Yet after being immersed in these sessions, Miller-Idriss noticed some differences this semester. She incorporated new “ground rules” for respectful dialogue in her class on terrorism, education, and extremism.

“As we moved into those hard discussions, it’s a simple way to remind people that this is what we all agreed upon,” she says. “It made us feel more like a community of learners.”

A professor for 15 years, Miller-Idriss says this is the best class she’s ever had, and she partly attributes this to the pedagogical training on inclusiveness.

Kim is adjusting his teaching approach, confronting real-world events less directly related to his curriculum. “I had responsibilities to really lean into some of the issues that I have largely not addressed in my classroom,” he says. “I needed to express that I was an ally on issues of obvious right and wrong. So, I think I stepped into that role more comfortably.”

Shared Responsibility, Inclusive Community

Shorter-Gooden believes the role of university professor has changed over the years. “Those of us who are baby boomers got our doctorates and began teaching in a very different time. The issue of teaching inclusively was not part of the lexicon at all,” she says.

In addition, even how a professor taught wasn’t heavily scrutinized. “There was an assumption that if you had been taught, you knew how to teach,” Shorter-Gooden says. Now they know that, “there really is an art and a science to it, and we do have some responsibility for students’ experience.”

The cohort was diverse—some were people of color who’ve often felt othered, and some were white professors thinking about allyship and privilege. That was by design, Clark explains, for an urgent matter affecting the entire university.

“We all should be doing work in self-reflection,” she adds, “and we all need to lead in this area.”

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Title: Gates Scholars Raise the Bar
Author: Raheem Dawodu Jr.
Subtitle: Students share their Gates Millennium Scholarship experiences
Abstract: Gates Millennium Scholarship recipients share their experiences with the program and their time at AU.
Topic: Student Life
Publication Date: 04/23/2018
Content:

AU currently has 12 Gates Millennium Scholars Program (GMSP) recipients enrolled in classes. They have worked hard to create a community and make a name for themselves on campus.

GMSP was established in 1999 through a grant of more than $1 billion from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Since 2000, more than 20,000 students have been named Gates Scholars. Of those students, 54% are first-generation college students, with 14,677 completing their bachelor's degrees, according to GMSP.

"When I arrived at American University, I was excited to have the chance to meet with our AU Gates Scholars," AU President Sylvia Burwell said. "I sent a picture and note to Bill and Melinda Gates letting them know how their generosity not only changes lives, but the nation and the world through the leaders that this program produces."

The aim of GMSP is "to promote academic excellence and provide an opportunity for outstanding minority students with significant financial need to reach their highest potential." AU's Gates Scholars are great examples of how this scholarship can open new doors.

Beginnings

To get to know a few of AU's Gates Scholars, first you need to know about their backgrounds, including family expectations and being first generation college students.

Yamillet Payano, Senior, Economics and Mathematics major, minor in Mandarin

I am originally from Washington Heights in New York City, but grew up in the Dominican Republic. During my senior year of high school, my grandmother died. She never explicitly said it, but she wanted me to get an education.

Glorimar Barrios, Senior, Law and Society major

I was born and grew up in Miami. My parents emigrated from Nicaragua. Throughout high school and even now, college wasn't much of a topic in my household. Navigating the college process without parental guidance or just any guidance was hard.

Alberto Garcia, Senior, International Business major

My parents never went to school. They were both undocumented immigrants from Mexico . I think my dad came here when he was 18. He bounced between the U.S. and Mexico a few times before meeting my mom, and he brought her here to the states. My senior year plan was to work with my dad in construction and then eventually go to community college, then maybe go to state school.

Applying and Winning

Yamillet Payano picture in SIS.
Yamillet Payano, CAS/BA '18

The GMSP application is not for the faint of heart. "I applied three days before it's due date. It's a 20-page long application with a lot of essays," Barrios said. "The Gates Scholarship was really my bedrock on whether I would be able to afford to attend college. My parents didn't have a college fund or anything like that."

Payano's experience with the application was very similar. "Gates seemed daunting because it was so much work! I tried to complete it, but I was not going to make the deadline. Then Hurricane Sandy happened in New York and they postponed the deadline for a week, and that is how I was able to complete my application."

Garcia said that he was encouraged by his high school guidance counselor to apply. "It was a full ride to college, but it sounded competitive, so I did not want to do that. She told me to work on it over winter break, but I put it off until later," he said. "It was like working every day because I had to write a lot of essays that were three pages long and the questions were difficult."

Garcia's efforts paid off. "In my cohort, there were 60,000 applicants, and only 1,000 were awarded out of that pool-and I was named a recipient," Garcia said. "I did not see that coming. It was totally out of the blue."

Coincidentally, Payano was at AU when she received the life-changing news. "AU has a weekend for multicultural students to see the campus, and that was the weekend I learned I was awarded the Gates Scholarship." It turned out the application was just the start and that attending AU would be the next challenge. "I was proud but also scared in some sense," Barrios said. "It's very competitive, and I didn't know what to expect."

Attending AU

After completing the difficult application process, the next step was adjusting to college. Most college students have a tough time transitioning, but Gates Scholars' backgrounds often make the adjustment more difficult.

"There was a definite culture shock when I first came to AU. I remember being aware of my surroundings and feeling this was different from where I grew up," Barrios said.

Alberto Garcia, Kogod/BA '19
Alberto Garcia, Kogod/BA '19

For Garcia, the added difficulty of being a transfer student made his start at AU different than his Gates peers. "I literally didn't know anybody here. Everyone is already in their friend groups, and I was also far from home for the first time," Garcia said.

There was also the challenge of not feeling connected with fellow scholars . "When I got to AU, the cohort was not as together as opposed to the later cohorts," Payano said. "There is an element of, 'I can give you all this money and I can make sure that you don't have to think about financial aid.' But then where does that support come from when you're writing a paper and you're like, 'I don't know how to write a paper because my high school didn't properly prepare me?' It's very important to amplify the that Gates Scholarship cannot do it all on its own."

"Many scholars had trouble fitting in and feeling welcomed on campus," Barrios said.

This inspired Barrios to become a Gates Campus Based Leader to support her fellow scholars and disseminate information on how to access the resources they need to succeed. It also helped bring the Gates Scholars together. "I found out that there was a group of five from my cohort during my first year at AU, which brought me to the rest of the scholars. They have been my support group and have now become my best friends," Garcia said.

Meeting President Burwell

Creating a community amongst themselves and forging a path to success has helped the Gates Scholars gain recognition on campus, and some very important people have been paying attention. This past December, the Gates Scholars had breakfast with President Sylvia Burwell.

Glorimar Barrios, SPA/BA '18 picture
Glorimar Barrios, SPA/BS '18

"It was an eye-opening experience," Barrios said. "She really does have a lot of plans for this university, and we're proud to be able to have been part of the conversation."

Payano said that the Gates Scholars were not previously recognized in the way they are being acknowledged today. "I think that she's changing that, and I can see her doing a lot of great things for us in terms of exposure and supporting us. I honestly think she will help propel us forward at AU."

"President Burwell's support of the Gates Scholars will be key not just for today, but for the future. With the recognition on campus from President Burwell, as someone who had worked with the Gates Foundation, it's beneficial and provides support that we didn't have before," Barrios said. "And the benefit would be establishing our presence on campus and building a lifelong relationship."

Raising the Bar

GMSP has gone beyond providing an education for students in financial need; the scholars have become a symbol of success at AU. "The Gates Millennium Scholars are exceptional students who exhibit excellence and service. AU is very fortunate to have a group of committed and passionate change agents in the GMSP," Fanta Aw, Vice President of Campus Life & Inclusive Excellence, said.

Associate Director and Business Analyst for Financial Aid in the Office of Enrollment Sam Berhanu has formed a strong bond with many of the Gates Scholars. He assists the students in receiving their scholarship money and, in the process, has seen their growth from their first year at AU to today.

"They're some of the most ambitious students that I've had the privilege of working with these last few years. Each student's story is unique, and in that, I've maybe received more from them than they have from me," Berhanu said.

The scholars have not just become leaders on campus, but also important figures in their communities and in their families. Their determination to graduate from college has influenced younger family members to pursue their dreams.

"Since I am here, my sister is going to go to college. My cousins are going to attend college because I pushed them to go," Payano said. "I'm grateful because Gates literally changed the pages to come in my family and the generations to come."

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Title: Macron-Trump summit has high stakes for France’s embattled leader
Author: Professor Garret Martin
Subtitle:
Abstract: Professor Garret Martin outlines the high stakes ahead for French President Emmanuel Macron during his two-day summit with President Trump in Washington, DC.
Topic: International
Publication Date: 04/23/2018
Content:

French President Emmanuel Macron can expect a warm welcome from Donald Trump - and, most likely, some glitz and pomp - when he arrives in Washington on April 23 for a two-day summit. It is the Trump administration's first state visit of a foreign leader.

The two leaders, both political outsiders who achieved surprising electoral victories, have developed a strong working relationship despite their many ideological differences. Macron and Trump speak regularly on the phone, and Trump reportedly greatly appreciated the warm reception he received in France when he visited Macron in July 2017.

As a scholar who studies France, I believe the stakes in the summit are particularly high for Macron. The two presidents will tackle a list of complex international challenges, such as the Syrian civil war, terrorism and relations with Russia and North Korea.

Macron will also have to convince Trump, a conservative with protectionist instincts, not to break with Europe over trade tariffs and the Iran nuclear deal.

A successful return from Washington would give Macron a political boost at home and abroad.

Triumphs, then strikes

Macron's rise to power was remarkable.

In 2014, most French people had no idea who he was. By 2017, he was elected president in his first-ever run for public office. Shortly afterward, the political party he created from scratch, En Marche, captured a large majority in the French Parliament. Macron achieved all this before turning 40.

In office, Macron has tried to deliver on his campaign promises of transforming France by revitalizing its moribund economy and restoring its influence on the world stage.

After years of sluggish growth and persistently high unemployment, he easily passed controversial reforms to France's labor market. Among other changes, the new rules make it easier for companies to hire and fire employees.

But the French president faces stiffer resistance to his latest batch of proposed reforms.

A government plan to prevent new hires at France's state-owned national railway from being awarded the same generous benefits as current workers - such as early retirement, extra vacation time and lifelong employment guarantee - has been met with three months of strikes. Railworkers also oppose Macron's decision to end the railway's monopoly, opening it up to foreign competition by 2020, in line with European Union rules.

At the same time, college students across the country are also protesting a proposal to make university admissions more selective and merit-based. They have staged sit-ins, barricaded campuses and disrupted classes.

French medical workers and Air France pilots have now joined this broader strike movement.

Challenges at home and abroad

Union opposition is a significant first political test for Macron. It comes at a critical time: A year into his presidency, Macron's approval rate is 40 percent. It was 64 percent just after his election.

Macron also faces challenges abroad. He campaigned as a uniter who would deepen European cooperation. He has championed the European Union at a time when rising nationalism threatens to divide its membership.

Macron enjoyed early support from German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who has emerged in recent years as the reluctant leader of Europe. But Germany's new coalition government disagrees with parts of Macron's plans to create a larger - and more flexible - European Monetary Fund that would offer countries bailouts to prevent a repeat of Europe's continuing debt crisis.

France's strikes mark a particularly crucial juncture for Macron. If he faces down France's powerful unions to implement his labor reforms, he will have achieved something none of his predecessors could do. And that, I expect, is something Donald Trump could respect.

Convincing Trump

Trump is rolling out the red carpet for Macron's visit: a private dinner at George Washington's home, Mount Vernon, and a joint address to Congress.

Macron and Trump agree on several important foreign policy issues. France joined recent U.S.-led air strikes against Syria's chemical laboratories and both countries continue to cooperate well on counterterrorism.

But it is less clear that Macron can leverage his good relationship with Trump to prevent a major breakdown over two important areas of discord: trade and Iran.

The U.S. administration temporarily exempted the European Union from its major tariffs on steel and aluminum imports announced last month, but this exemption is set to expire on May 1. Trump has called on the European bloc to rectify what he deems "unfair" trade practices.

Macron is probably hoping to secure a permanent exemption for Europe while in Washington. But European leaders have stated their steadfast refusal to negotiate under what they consider blackmail, so Macron has limited room to maneuver on trade.

Macron will also try to convince Trump to stick with the 2015 Iran nuclear deal President Barack Obama signed along with France, the United Kingdom, Germany, Russia and China. Trump has said the agreement has " disastrous flaws" and gave Congress until May 18 to "fix" them. Otherwise, he has said, he will withdraw the U.S. from the deal.

Do no harm

The French president is a skilled diplomat, but still I find the odds of a breakthrough over trade and Iran unpromising. Donald Trump has historically paid little heed to his foreign counterparts' input on global issues like climate change and NATO.

Reports suggest that Macron himself is not very optimistic. He probably hopes simply to avoid further damaging transatlantic relations by entering in a prolonged dispute on either subject - or, worse, on both.

A trade war would be very costly for the U.S. and Europe, which are economically interdependent. And if Trump withdraws from the Iran deal, it would both provoke and humiliate the United States' European partners who spent more than a decade crafting this agreement.

The ConversationThe summit could not have higher stakes for Macron. He must realize that the fate of the more than a half-century-old Western alliance might rest on his ability to sway Donald Trump in Europe's direction - which will be no easy task.

 

This article was originally published on The Conversation by Garret Martin. Read the original article.

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Title: Student's Class Paper Helps Land Him in Senate Office
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Abstract: Networking and classwork were all factors to how first-year Political Communications MA student Jake McClory nabbed a coveted Hill internship in a senator's office.
Topic: Achievements
Publication Date: 04/20/2018
Content:

American University (AU) political communication MA student Jake McClory used a class project assignment as part of an application that landed him a coveted internship position in a US senator’s office on Capitol Hill.

McClory is a first-year student in the AU School of Communication (SOC) Political Communication MA program and is currently a communications intern for Senator Gary Peters (D-MI). In his Principles of Strategic Communication class in the fall, Professor Lenny Steinhorn asked each student to analyze a campaign for a specific candidate or organization. McClory chose Senator Peters’ 2014 senate campaign and talked to Peter’s press secretary, whom Steinhorn had taught a few years back.

About a month after completing this assignment, McClory applied for a communications internship position in Senator Peters’ office and used the campaign analysis that he wrote as a writing sample for his application.

“My previous interaction with the press secretary and my interest in Senator Peters' first Senate campaign definitely gave me a leg up,” he said. “I'm pretty sure it's why I got the internship!”

As a communications intern, McClory has gotten first-hand experience working on Capitol Hill and has seen how congressional offices interact with the press and how things work behind the scenes. He helps staff the senator for TV and radio interviews around the Capitol, facilitates photos during weekly “Coffee with Gary” constituent meetings and attends press conferences and various events for the senator. McClory has also gained experience writing speeches, talking points and press releases.

“It's a lot of work,” McClory said. “I'm lucky to be working for a senator who is easy going and gets along with just about everybody. Even in this really polarized environment, it's great to see that there's still a lot that the two parties can come together to get done - when they put in the effort.”

McClory has put the work that was required of him during the first semester to good use during his internship.  

“I feel like I understand what’s behind a lot of the decisions that senior staff make every day based off of the theories, case studies, and readings I've done for my classes,” he said.

McClory, who majored in Choral Music Education at the University of Michigan, got his first taste of working in politics as a volunteer Neighborhood Team Leader on Barack Obama’s 2012 presidential campaign. In this position, he did mostly field work – registering people to vote, canvassing homes, leading phone banks and meeting with supporters and volunteers.

A few months into that position, he was asked to work with a campaign speech writer to craft an introduction for Michelle Obama and then delivered it in a conference call with other Michigan volunteers and supporters.  

“It was a really cool experience, both working with a speech writer and introducing the First Lady,” McClory said. “I realized that my interest in politics had become more than just a hobby – or at least I wanted it to become more than just a hobby.”

After spending a few more years music directing at a youth theatre in Michigan, teaching privately and in schools and also making a move to Colorado, the idea of working in politics would not go away. He started looking at graduate programs and came across the AU Political Communication program.

McClory said two things stood out to him when he was considering the Political Communication program. He was impressed with the faculty and their credentials and how they have experience in the communications field and have so many connections to communication professionals in DC and around the country. And he was also impressed with the Campaign Management Institute, a two-week intensive course he completed earlier this semester.

In this course, students spent all day hearing from different professionals currently working as political strategists, consultants and campaign managers. Then students worked in teams to create a hypothetical campaign plan for real candidates.

He said he is also impressed with the number of guest speakers who come to his classes. “From Gabe Debenedetti at POLITICO to Carrie Dann at Meet the Press Daily to Peter Hart of Hart Research, our professors are always trying to bring in top professionals in the industry,” he said. “We’ve probably heard from close to 30 and the year’s not over.”

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Title: AU Professor's Phone Booth Captures DC Stories
Author: AJ Springer
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Abstract: When the Smithsonian's Anacostia Community Museum opens its latest exhibit, an American University professor will have a hand in helping District residents tell their stories to visitors.
Topic: Research
Publication Date: 04/20/2018
Content:

When the Smithsonian's Anacostia Community Museum opens its latest exhibit, "A Right to the City" on April 21, an American University professor will have a hand in helping District residents tell their stories to visitors.

Benjamin Stokes, a professor in the School of Communication, created the exhibit's "community phone booth," which allows callers to hear voices from the exhibit. "A Right to the City" examines the changes in Adams Morgan, Anacostia, Brookland, Chinatown, Shaw and Southwest.

From the Smithsonian's press release:
"A storytelling 'telephone hotline,' made possible by a collaboration with Benjamin Stokes of American University, allows visitors to call in, both on and offsite, and hear excerpts from some of the nearly 200 oral-history interviews recorded as part of the research for the exhibition. The hotline will also allow callers to record and share their own neighborhood stories. It will accept calls from anywhere at anytime and will launch in conjunction with the opening of the exhibition."

The community phone booth captures residents' views on displacement, gentrification and other issues impacting neighborhoods.

"Callers will hear the voices of DC residents who fought for their neighborhoods and saw their neighborhoods change -- drawing on oral histories gathered by the Smithsonian," Stokes said. "Such voices are especially important right now, as DC faces intense pressures of gentrification and change."

Stokes also notes that new stories will be added to the exhibit over time.

"We built this as a participatory system, so over the next two years the hotline will gather new voices and evolve, including to distribute multimedia from the exhibit. Rather than focus on the internet, we believe an audio system for phones may have special uses to circulate stories that matter for DC neighborhoods. The hotline comes out of my research on neighborhood storytelling systems."

The exhibit runs through April 20, 2020. 

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Title: AU Mourns Passing of Arts Patron Sylvia Greenberg
Author: Patty Housman
Subtitle: Longtime and dedicated supporter of the Arts at AU
Abstract: American University arts patron Sylvia Greenberg, whose generous gifts propelled AU’s arts programs to new levels, has passed away. She was 96 years old.
Topic: In Remembrance
Publication Date: 04/20/2018
Content:

American University arts patron Sylvia Greenberg, whose generous gifts propelled AU's arts programs to new levels, has passed away. She was 96 years old.

Mrs. Greenberg and her late husband, Harold, were loyal and enthusiastic supporters of American University and the arts at AU. They served on the American University Board of Trustees for 25 years and established the Sylvia and Harold Greenberg Endowment for the Performing Arts Scholarship Fund more than 30 years ago. They also provided significant funding to build AU's state-of-the-art Harold and Sylvia Greenberg Theatre, which opened in 2003.

"Sylvia leaves behind a lasting legacy at American University," said College of Arts and Sciences Dean Peter Starr. "She and Harold had a vision for the Greenberg Theatre and then made it a reality. They made great contributions to the arts, endowed scholarships for gifted students, and played a leadership role for decades here at AU. Sylvia's enthusiasm for the arts was remarkable, and we will all miss seeing her at the Greenberg Theatre, enjoying the plays her gift made possible."

Stage Dreams

The 300-seat Harold and Sylvia Greenberg Theatre presents 20 Department of Performing Arts productions every year, along with countless auditions and rehearsals. "I really wanted AU students to have a place where they could feel like they were on stage," Mrs. Greenberg said in a 2014 interview for AU's Connections magazine. "I think a lot of these young people have great talent, and I wanted to give them a place to cultivate that."

Mrs. Greenberg had another more personal reason for funding the theatre: she always dreamed of being on stage herself. "When I was getting ready for college, I wanted to go to New York and be an actress," she said. "My father said no, so I never pursued it, but I think being on stage was my big dream."

In 2013, when Mrs. Greenberg was 91 years old, she finally got the opportunity to fulfill her dream—on stage at the theatre she established. Surrounded by AU students, she performed a part in Amy Herzog's 4,000 Miles, a finalist for the 2013 Pulitzer Prize in drama. According to Assistant Professor of Performing Arts Carl Menninger, Ms. Greenberg was a natural. "She was terrific—she got a standing ovation," he said.

For Mrs. Greenberg, it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and she came away with a new appreciation for AU students. "I've never had more fun, working with Carl and all the young people," she said. "I've connected with the students before because I've always attended performances, but I never really got this close to them. I really enjoyed getting to know them."

Sylvia Greenberg clasps hands in a line of performers on stage

Sylvia Greenberg, celebrating the tenth anniversary of AU's Harold and Sylvia Greenberg Theatre.

A Lifetime of Philanthropy

Mrs. Greenberg's family has a long tradition of supporting American University, including her deceased brother, Jack Kay. AU's Kay Spiritual Life Center bears the name of her father, Abraham Kay. Mrs. Greenberg continued this tradition, supporting a wide array of causes at AU, including AU Hillel, Friends of the Performing Arts, the Kerwin Family Emergency Financial Aid Fund, AU Fund for Excellence, the Library Renovation Fund, the Center for Israel Studies, and the Diane Rehm Fund for Public Dialogue.

In recognition of her leadership and generous donations, Mrs. Greenberg received the AU President's Award in 2001 and the university's Cyrus A. Ansary Medal in 1991.

Mrs. Greenberg's gifts live on, according to Gail Humphries Mardirosian, emeritus professor of AU's Theatre/Musical Theatre Program. "The impact that Sylvia made is living and breathing in all of the students whose lives were touched by the scholarships and our beautiful theatre. It is an exponential gift," she said.

Department of Performing Arts Chair E. Andrew Taylor couldn't agree more. "Sylvia's invaluable contributions provided essential scholarship support and performance spaces for our students to succeed. But more than that, her personal and passionate commitment to our entire learning community was and will always be a spark that inspires us to keep reaching."

Sylvia Greenberg outside a door labelled 'Diva Room'

Tags: Center for Israel Studies,College of Arts and Sciences,Donor,Giving,Greenberg Theatre,Kay Spiritual Life Center,Library Advancement & Development (UL),Performing Arts Dept
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Title: Proud to Be First
Author: Raheem Dawodu Jr.
Subtitle: AU's First-Generation Students Claim Their Identity and Build Connections
Abstract: AU’s first-generations students are proud of their identity and showing that together they can build the bridges first-generation students need to succeed.
Topic: Student Life
Publication Date: 04/19/2018
Content:

Without anyone in their immediate family to turn to for guidance on navigating college, the traditional uneasiness that students may feel leaving home for the first time can be amplified for first-generation students. Many first-gen students experience this feeling starting with the college application process. "I had no idea what I was doing," freshman international studies major Kimberly Rodriguez said. "FAFSA? I had no idea. And even just colleges in general, with trying to figure out which school would be a perfect fit."

First-generation college students often must work harder to understand processes and the college experience. "With this identity comes a 'just figure it out' mentality," sophomore international studies major Yamai Jack said. "My parents aren't able to coach me through my college years in terms of building community, where to go for academic, financial assistance, etc."

Finding Support

Nearly 15% of this past fall's freshman class are first generation. With a growing number of students arriving as first generation, AU is continually working to find the best ways to support their needs.

"It is critical that we embrace the narrative of first-generation students, as one of achievement, success and grit," Center for Diversity & Inclusion (CDI) Senior Director Tiffany Speaks said. "A deficit model fails to tell the good news story of our resilient and tenacious AU students."

CDI offers first-generation students a friendly space to express themselves and share their experiences through advising and educational programming. Along with the one-on-one support, workshops like "Paving the Way: Working with First-Generation College Students" have been beneficial for first-generation students to share their stories, and for the AU community to learn how to work better to support those students.

"The workshop provides national and AU-specific data on first-gens and how to support students with that identity," CDI coordinator for Multicultural and First-Generation Programs Camille Clark said. "In addition, I love to talk to students about their experiences as first-gens in and out of the classroom, their transition to AU, and their AU journey overall."

Aligning With Peers

AL1GN 2018 Conference logo

On March 23-25, 10 AU first-generation students and their peers across the country had the chance to attend the Alliance for the Low-Income & First-Generation Narrative (AL1GN) Conference. AL1GN is a student-led movement that is dedicated to empowering and connecting low-income and first-generation students across the nation. The students who attended the conference gained knowledge to help navigate college and shared their experiences with first-gen students from other universities.

"The conference was incredible. I left inspired to really embrace my identity and continue to exceed academically," Jack said.

Freshman public health major Hannah Chichester learned that she was not alone in grappling with being a first-gen student. "I learned about imposter syndrome, which was interesting because I got a name to what I have been feeling this whole year," Chichester said.

Students who attended also got the chance to listen and learn from those who took the path before them. "I especially enjoyed meeting first-generation adults, who were well established in their careers," Jack said.

Celebrating First-Gen Identity

AU's First-generation students hope to apply what they learned at the conference to bolster their proposed student group, Proud to Be First. The group will provide a community for fellow first-generation college students and help give a roadmap for navigating AU as a first-generation student.

Proud to Be First logo

"I know first-generation students come here and feel scared, and feel like we don't fit in," Rodriguez said. "I feel like this organization is a great first step in trying to bridge that gap and trying to bridge the university and the students together and hopefully to find resources."

"Our identity isn't explicitly recognized on this campus, and I hope that Proud to Be First changes that," Jack said.

"I am excited for the future of the Proud to Be First club on campus," Chichester said.

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Title: SPA Professor to Study How Climate Change Finance Works in Developing Countries
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Abstract: SPA Professor Todd Eisenstadt has spent years understanding how climate change affects indigenous populations in developing countries. Now, he’s working to track funding for climate change projects from international donors to local development projects.
Topic: Research
Publication Date: 04/18/2018
Content:

American University School of Public Affairs (SPA) Professor Todd Eisenstadt has spent years understanding how climate change affects indigenous populations in developing countries. His time spent abroad will inform what he discovers as he tracks funding for climate change projects as funding flows from international donors to local development projects. His interest in countries ranging from Ecuador to Bangladesh will have him shining a light on what is and is not working.

This research is timely - a new era of project implementation is underway after a decade of pledges and the establishment of implementation structures by the United Nations Framework on Climate Change Convention.

"This is a burgeoning area of study because a lot of money is being collected," said Eisenstadt. "It is important for the public, policy analysts, scientists, and policy makers to understand whether and how these funds are being channeled so they get where they need to go."

Eisenstadt will be on sabbatical from the SPA starting in the fall of 2018 for an International Affairs Fellowship for Tenured International Relations Scholars, sponsored by the Carnegie Corporation of New York and the Council on Foreign Relations. He will focus on climate change finance, which involves understanding and assisting in the process of setting criteria for the funding of loans and projects to governments working to mitigate and adapt to climate change.

Eisenstadt said the fellowship is an extension of two of his ongoing research projects, including work in Ecuador where he and co-author Karleen West (SUNY Geneseo) conducted a national survey with indigenous communities in the Amazon region. They learned that people's attitudes toward the environment are driven more by how vulnerable they feel to environmental change than by any ideological predispositions, as earlier literature had presumed. Their findings, published in numerous academic journals, will be shared next year in a book titled "Who Speaks for Nature? Indigenous Rights Movements, Public Opinion, and the Petro-State in Ecuador."

Another project in Ecuador included a survey conducted with Ecuadorian partners to study rural indigenous communities to understand how they experience climate vulnerability, especially in areas of heavy oil extraction. Eisenstadt collaborated with Emmy-winning environmental filmmaker Larry Engel of AU's School of Communication to produce a video explaining the environmental concerns of people in the Amazon.

With a grant from AU to conduct research in Bangladesh with Tawfique Haque of North-South University in Dhaka, Eisenstadt continues his work with fellow SPA Associate Professors Jie Lu and Matthew Wright to survey people in vulnerable nations about their awareness of climate change. They have submitted a proposal to the National Science Foundation for further work on this project.

"We hope to understand the flow of finance from the international level to the most local of levels in a few vulnerable countries like Bangladesh, where projects are most needed," said Eisenstadt.

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Title: American University Announces 2018 Commencement Speakers
Author: Kelly Alexander
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Abstract: American University will hold to tradition and host its 135th commencement ceremonies on Mother’s Day weekend on campus in Bender Arena with an illustrious assembly of commencement speakers.
Topic: Announcement
Publication Date: 04/18/2018
Content:

American University will hold to tradition and host its 135th commencement ceremonies on Mother's Day weekend on campus in Bender Arena with an illustrious assembly of commencement speakers to offer congratulations, inspiration and motivation to approximately 3,500 graduates. A seat at an AU commencement ceremony this year will put you in the presence of extraordinary leaders - a Nobel Peace Laureate, a civil rights leader, a medical doctor and Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient, a Washington Post reporter, a member of the Broadcasting Board of Governors, or a former National Economic Council director. Individual school ceremonies will be held on May 12 and 13, followed by the law school ceremony on May 20. This will be the first Spring commencement under the leadership of President Sylvia M. Burwell.

Michael Kempner is the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of MWWPR, one of the nation’s largest independent public relations firms. He started this public relations agency in 1986, six years after he graduated from AU and is a nationally recognized authority on reputation and crisis management, public affairs, business to business, consumer marketing and corporate social responsibility. Kempner has been honored with several of the industry’s highest accolades, including PR Week’s PR Professional of the Year in 2015 and 2010. An active member of his community, Kempner was appointed by President Obama and confirmed by the U.S. Senate as a Governor of the Broadcasting Board of Governors. In this position, he helps direct all U.S. international media including the Voice of America, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, the Middle East Broadcast Network and Radio Free Asia.

Kempner is also active in progressive politics and issues, having played major roles in the campaigns of President Barack Obama and Secretary Hillary Clinton. In January 2018, Kempner was elected the Chairman of the Board of the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce, is a current member of the Fulbright-Canada Scholarship Board and is a founding Board Member of ConnectOne Bank, one of the nation’s most successful community banks.

Jeffrey Zients, former director, National Economic Council and current Economic Strategy Group member of The Aspen Institute, will address the graduates of the Kogod School of Business at 1:30 p.m., Saturday, May 12. Prior to his current role, Zients was President Obama's principal economic policy advisor as director of the National Economic Council (2014-2017). He also served in the Obama Administration in the Office of Management and Budget as acting director (2012-2013), and deputy director, Management and Federal Chief Performance Officer (2009-2011). During his time in the Administration, he spearheaded the turnaround of the failed healthcare.gov website launch (2013).

Zients founded and managed a private equity firm, Portfolio Logic, LLC (2003-2009) and held several leadership positions with other organizations including the Advisory Board Company and Corporate Executive Board (1992-2003). Zients will receive an honorary Doctor of Laws degree.

Leymah Gbowee, Liberian peace activist, social worker, women's rights advocate and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate (2011), will address the graduates of the School of International Service at 6 p.m., Saturday, May 12. She is founder and president of the Gbowee Peace Foundation Africa, based in Monrovia, Liberia.

Gbowee is best known for leading a nonviolent movement that brought together Christian and Muslim women to play a pivotal role in ending Liberia's devastating, fourteen-year civil war in 2003. This historic achievement paved the way for the election of Africa's first female head of state, Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. It also marked the vanguard of a new wave of women emerging worldwide as essential and uniquely effective participants in brokering lasting peace and security. Her story as told in the 2008 documentary film Pray the Devil Back to Hell and her 2011 memoir, Mighty Be Our Powers - as well as her lectures and discussions with groups large and small - have engaged, inspired, and motivated untold numbers of people worldwide. She serves on the Board of Directors of the Nobel Women's Initiative, Gbowee Peace Foundation and the PeaceJam Foundation, and she is a member of the African Women Leaders Network for Reproductive Health and Family Planning. She will receive an honorary Doctor of International Affairs degree.

Robert Costa, moderator for Washington Week, PBS's Peabody Award-winning weekly news analysis series, and national political reporter at The Washington Post, will address the graduates of the School of Public Affairs at 10 a.m., Sunday, May 13. Costa covers Congress and the White House for The Washington Post and regularly travels the country to meet with voters and elected officials. At Washington Week, Costa oversees the weekly roundtable discussion of journalists on the program, which broadcasts live on PBS stations nationwide and on digital content platforms.

Costa joined Washington Week in April 2017 with nearly a decade of reporting experience that began with granular coverage of movement politics and Congress and later the battle over health-care policy and the 2010 mid-term elections. Prior to joining The Washington Post in January 2014, Costa was a reporter and then Washington editor for National Review, directing a team of reporters and where his reporting on the 2013 U.S. federal government shutdown earned acclaim. He will receive an honorary Doctor of Laws degree.

Anthony S. Fauci, MD, director, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), National Institutes of Health, will address the graduates of the College of Arts and Sciences at 2:30 p.m., Sunday, May 13. Dr. Fauci was appointed director of NIAID in 1984. He oversees an extensive portfolio of basic and applied research to prevent, diagnose, and treat established infectious diseases such as HIV/AIDS, respiratory infections, diarrheal diseases, tuberculosis and malaria as well as emerging diseases such as Ebola and Zika. NIAID also supports research on transplantation and immune-related illnesses, including autoimmune disorders, asthma and allergies.

Dr. Fauci has advised five Presidents on HIV/AIDS and many other domestic and global health issues. In a 2017 analysis of Google Scholar citations, Dr. Fauci ranked as the 24th most highly cited researcher of all time.

Dr. Fauci has delivered major lectures all over the world and is the recipient of numerous prestigious awards, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom (the highest honor given to a civilian by the President of the United States) and the National Medal of Science. He is the author, coauthor, or editor of more than 1,300 scientific publications, including several textbooks. Dr. Fauci will receive an honorary Doctor of Science degree.

Vanita Gupta, president and chief executive officer of The Leadership Conference and former leader of the Civil Rights Division at the U.S. Department of Justice, will address graduates of the Washington College of Law at 1 p.m., Sunday, May 20. Vanita Gupta is an experienced leader and litigator who has devoted her entire career to civil rights work. She served as Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General and head of the U.S. Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division from October 2014 to January 2017. Appointed by President Barack Obama as the chief civil rights prosecutor for the United States, Gupta oversaw a wide range of criminal and civil enforcement efforts to ensure equal justice and protect equal opportunity for all during one of the most consequential periods for the division.

Under Gupta's leadership, the division did critical work in a number of areas, including advancing constitutional policing and criminal justice reform; prosecuting hate crimes and human trafficking; promoting disability rights; protecting the rights of LGBTQ individuals; ensuring voting rights for all; and combating discrimination in education, housing, employment, lending, and religious exercise.

Prior to joining the Justice Department, Gupta served as deputy legal director and the director of the Center for Justice at the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). She began her legal career as an attorney at the NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund. She will receive an honorary Doctor of Laws degree.

In addition to conferring honorary degrees, American University President Sylvia M. Burwell will present the President's Award, the highest award for AU undergraduates, to a graduating senior who has displayed a longstanding commitment to building community and promoting AU's ideals of academic achievement, integrity, selflessness, leadership, and service.

More information on the speakers is available on AU's commencement website. Students, alumni friends, and family will be tweeting using the hashtag #2018AUGrad. Those who cannot attend the ceremonies will be able to watch a live stream of each ceremony on AU's commencement website.

Tags: Media Relations,President,College of Arts and Sciences,School of Communication,School of Public Affairs,School of International Service,Kogod School of Business,Washington College of Law
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Title: Alumnus Publishes Memoir About His Teen Years Working at the White House
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Abstract: Don Stinson (SPA/BA ’77) worked as a White House messenger when he was a freshman at SPA. His new book, “Downstairs at the White House,” details his experience with politicians at the highest levels — all while studying political science at SPA.
Topic: Alumni
Publication Date: 04/18/2018
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In 1973, Don Stinson stumbled into a position as a messenger at the White House when he was a freshman at the American University School of Public Affairs (SPA). He worked for the Nixon and Ford administrations through mid-1975, giving him a front row seat to the unfolding drama of the Watergate scandal.

Stinson's new book, "Downstairs at the White House," published in 2017, details his chance meetings and gaffes with celebrities and politicians at the highest levels — all while studying political science at SPA. 

"The book is a memoir of mostly funny things," said Stinson (SPA/BA '77). "It is a little like Dennis the Menace meets Richard Nixon. I wrote from the perspective of being 17 and never expecting to be in a place like that."

Stinson, now a business consultant living in Boca Raton, Florida, spent more than a year researching and piecing together his notes to write his first book. He spent most of his career working on the business side of the newspaper industry. Most recently, he was an executive with Gannett Co. in Virginia, serving as senior vice president for marketing.

"I had successfully bored my entire family with these stories, so I thought I'd push on and add victims," said Stinson.

As an SPA student, Stinson would commute by bus to his job at the White House. He was not an intern but a regular government employee working as a messenger and handling correspondence, eventually with a top-secret clearance status.

Always looking for an encounter with the president, he would enter through the West Wing and loiter outside the Oval Office. Conversations with Nixon, Vice President Spiro Agnew, First Lady Pat Nixon, and President Gerald Ford are retold — often in a self-deprecating fashion — throughout the book. 

"I had way too much fun. They never should have given me the ability to have the run of the place like I did," said Stinson, who started college after completing his junior year of high school in Atlanta under a special AU program.

The book also includes the story of Stinson meeting Bob Hope and Charlton Heston at a gala where Stinson's date fainted after being starstruck. The book includes a photo of Stinson with friends and Nixon just before Stinson tripped on his shoelaces and did a face-plant on the South Lawn. Another time, on the afternoon before Nixon resigned, Stinson ran into Gerald Ford on the stairs in the White House and prematurely said, "Excuse me, Mr. President."  

Looking back at his time at SPA, Stinson talked about the school fondly. 

"I liked that the place was always buzzing," he said. Stinson appreciated how the professors were approachable and shared their real-world experiences in class.

The book illustrates the value of asking questions, taking risks, and having a sense of humor.

"Working at the White House was an incredible learning experience," said Stinson. "Life's short — you need to laugh, and you need to laugh at yourself."

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Title: American University Launches Innovative Carbon Offset Program in Washington, D.C.
Author: Kelly Alexander
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Abstract: AU has announced an innovative program that will offset the carbon emissions caused by students, faculty and staff members who commute to campus by planting atrees throughout D.C.
Topic: Announcement
Publication Date: 04/18/2018
Content:

American University has announced an innovative program that will offset the carbon emissions caused by students, faculty and staff members who commute to campus by planting and nurturing 650 trees throughout the nation’s capital. The initiative will also provide AU students with access to the urban forestry data from this program to inform their own field studies in urban planning and other related fields. 

As a charter member of the Second Nature Climate Commitment, AU is committed to achieving carbon neutrality by 2020. In addition to cutting emissions by promoting energy efficiency and adopting renewable energy projects on and off campus, the University also purchases carbon credits to offset the effects of commuting across the D.C. region. 

“AU is proud to be the first higher education institution in the region to participate in this program,” said Megan Litke, Director of Sustainability Programs at American University. “Not only are we able to offset the climate impacts of our daily commutes, but we’re doing it in a way that beautifies our city and provides other very significant benefits to the District and its residents.” 

Carbon credits often are generated by tree-planting or emission-reduction projects in remote locations. While helping to reduce global greenhouse-gas levels, these distant projects typically offer no tangible benefits to the local community. Through the new program, facilitated by Urban Offsets, a North Carolina-based urban forest development company, a portion of AU’s carbon offsetting funds will be used to augment the District of Columbia Department of Energy and Environment (DOEE) and Casey Trees’ ongoing tree planting and maintenance efforts, specifically the RiverSmart Homes and Large Parcel Tree Planting initiatives. 

“The new approach to carbon offsets was developed specifically to help the hundreds of higher education institutions in this country working to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions find local solutions that give back to the communities they serve,” said Shawn Gagné, Urban Offsets’ CEO. “We’re grateful to the Office of Sustainability at AU for their partnership on this project and validation of the approach.” 

“Tree planting is an important part of the stormwater control work we do here in the District to protect our waterways,” said Dr. Luke Cole, the District’s tree policy coordinator at the Department of Energy & Environment. “We appreciate American University and Urban Offsets for the ingenuity in creating this innovative funding source that recognizes the multiple benefits of urban forestry and brings new awareness to the District’s stormwater reduction initiatives.” 

 

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Title: Celebrating Volunteerism
Author: Mina Kato
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Abstract: April is all about celebrating service, encouraging volunteerism, and honoring those who serve.
Topic: Alumni
Publication Date: 04/18/2018
Content:

It is National Volunteer Month! April is all about celebrating service, encouraging volunteerism, and honoring the volunteers serving our community. As an institution, AU is committed to making a positive impact on the world through service. And more than 2,300 alumni volunteers serve as ambassadors for AU, engage alumni in their local communities, recruit new Eagles, help plan All-American Weekend, and provide career assistance and mentorship to current students.

Alumni volunteers reflect upon the importance of volunteerism and their reasons for giving back:

I believe very strongly in giving back to your community and to those who have helped you. My time at AU helped to shape who I am today; I love being able to help others, whether it's through admissions volunteerism or serving on the alumni board. It's very fulfilling to be a part of such an important mission as that of American University.

-Amy Lampert, SOC/BA '94

I volunteer and give to AU because of all that AU has given to me. AU is a wonderful institution, where a student can grow and develop into a conscientious and well-informed individual. As a first-generation college graduate, AU has forever shaped my life, and I am always grateful.

-Christopher Quintyne, SPA/BA '07

"The education and connections that I received while attending AU have served me well over the years. I have looked for ways to serve the university through volunteering. Whether it's visiting the campus, speaking on panels, or co-chairing the Women's Network, interacting with students and alums has given me an opportunity to share AU's impact on my life and career."

- Lori George Billingsley, SOC/MA '91

Alumni volunteers are changemakers on and off campus. With opportunities all over the country, including Eagles in Action: A Coordinated Day of Community Service on April 28, volunteers make an impact on their communities from cleaning up trash to serving food and beyond. In the spirit of service, learn about the many ways to volunteer and get involved today!

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Title: Lens Collective 2018: Connecting Real People to Real Communities
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Abstract: American University was one of the eight universities invited to take part in Lens Collective 2018, a multimedia workshop in Mississippi. A student reflects on learning about civil rights and storytelling.
Topic: Television & Film
Publication Date: 04/18/2018
Content:

The Lens Collective 2018 was created by Alysia Burton Steele of the University of Mississippi Meek School of Journalism. Steele organized eight universities, including American University, 38 students, and 15 mentors for a four-day intensive multimedia workshop. This year's theme was civil rights.

The students had one full day to shoot their projects and about eight hours to edit their films. The films premiered to the community. Topics ranged from efforts of desegregating a church, a cafe where most of the civil rights leaders would eat at, the Grammy museum, the shooting and destruction of the Emmett Till's sign, and so much more.

A student who attended the workshop, Jasmyn Shumate, reflected on her experience:

When baby boomers bog graduating seniors with the question, "So what's your next move? What are you going to do after college?", I simply respond and say that I am going to travel the world and tell stories. I think the world would be a much safer, secure, happy, vibrant and healthy place if we all knew more about each other.

This conference included a series of group instructional workshops led by professors and mentors in the conference, covering topics from Adobe Premiere Pro video editing and audio recording and mixing. These workshop sessions were extremely helpful for me. As a Public Relations and Afro-American Studies major, I was not able to take many film and media arts production courses at American University (AU) so this allowed me to get my hands wet and help pace me along the week-long conference.

The Lens Collective Digital Storytelling Workshop connects real people with real communities. Students are matched with community members and partners to build and exchange ideas and stories.

The three-minute documentary that my partner and I created at the end of the session was just a small snapshot of what we captured that weekend and what the experience meant to us. It was humbling, truly humbling to be in that environment, a place not too far from home, as my family grew up in Kemper County, MS which is about three hours West from Clarksdale, MS.

When we pulled up to Ole Miss I honestly didn't know what to expect. I mean, when my ears hear and feel the word "Mississippi" there is often a deep breath that follows the thought because of the historical tension that has stood on the grounds of the state and its residents. Touring campus grounds and meeting students from the hosting university put this experience into perspective. So much of my perception of Ole Miss and Mississippi have been visualized through a timeline kept with tight annotated notes.

Shumate lays down on the New Africa Road in Clarksdale, MS filming Chandra Williams, Director of the Crossroads Cultural Arts Center

I took each day with ease, headed into the morning with no exceptions and walked into every space with open arms to absorb as much of this culture and space as I could. I set aside pre- meditated thoughts and listened a lot with my eyes. My Canon 5d and Nikon 35mm cameras were my tools of choice for that particular weekend but I was conscious to not let it become a divider between my subject and me.

During the conference we heard from several professional photojournalists who emphasized the importance of establishing trust with your subjects, this is the most important when capturing a story. The best stories are those that are humanized and reflect the journey of an individual's experience throughout time and space.

Attending the Lens Collective Workshop was a truly blessing...these words don't/can't really contextualize the experience/feeling I had during and have after the conclusion of the conference. Any student that is able to take this journey to the Delta is in for something special.

Syndi, my partner and student from Penn State University, and I produced a three minute video that focused on the African roots of Blues music throughout the Mississippi Delta. We interview Ms. Williams of the Crossroads Cultural Arts Center and her friend and musician Kumba who toured as around the city showing us how much of the past is still with us in the present. This four-day journey ended way too soon, and I am still holding on to this experience, and the people I met while on this journey. The memories are forever.

Tags: Film and Media Arts,Journalism (SOC),Journalism,School of Communication
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Title: School of Public Affairs Faculty Member Named Russell Sage Visiting Scholar
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Abstract: SPA Associate Professor Bradley Hardy is among 15 social scientists selected by the Russell Sage Foundation to be a visiting scholar for the 2018-2019 academic year.
Topic: Research
Publication Date: 04/18/2018
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American University School of Public Affairs (SPA) Associate Professor Bradley Hardy is among 15 social scientists selected by the Russell Sage Foundation to be a visiting scholar for the 2018-2019 academic year. He will work out of the organization's headquarters on the Upper East Side of New York City beginning in September.

"It will be beneficial to interact with a group of visiting scholars who are really at the top of their fields, and it will also be great to have the time to be able to focus on my work," said Hardy. Other academics in the program come from Princeton University, Harvard University, and Northwestern University, among others.

During his sabbatical, Hardy plans to look at the role of historical racial segregation in driving contemporary economic outcomes. His research will build on a 2017 paper published in Economic Letters, "Location Matters: Historical Racial Segregation and Intergenerational Mobility," that he co-authored with Rodney Andrews, Marcus Casey, and Trevon Logan. Where someone lives is a large predictor of movement up the economic ladder. Hardy's team linked that data with information on racial segregation as far back as 1880 and showed that higher levels of racial segregation still predict lower economic outcomes at the geographic level in modern times.

Those patterns have profound economic and social costs.

"One of the things that you see with inequality is that it represents lost human potential," said Hardy, who hopes to examine during the visiting scholars program what is contributing to the correlation. "This is in line with my interest in poverty, economic mobility, and understanding those mechanisms."

The Russell Sage Foundation, one of the country's oldest foundations, was established in 1907 for the improvement of social and living conditions in the United States. In its early years, it undertook major projects in low-income housing, urban planning, social work, and labor reform.

"I'm excited to have the opportunity to push forward on these research topics," said Hardy, "and I'm grateful to my colleagues at SPA because they have been a big part of supporting and improving my scholarship. In part, I feel like they were awarded along with me. I didn't do it alone." 

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Title: Students’ Film, Airing on MPT, Aims to Inspire Action to Heal Baltimore’s Harbor
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Abstract: Baltimore's harbor is a national landmark and a source of pride for the people of the city. However, water pollution is a serious issue in Baltimore.
Topic: Communications
Publication Date: 04/17/2018
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Baltimore's harbor is a national landmark and a source of pride for the people of the city. However, water pollution is a serious issue in Baltimore, affecting human health, wildlife and the city's economy.

Healing Baltimore's Harbor: A Pipe Dream? is a documentary that looks at these challenges and the work being done to overcome them. Conceived, written, produced, shot, directed, and edited by American University School of Communication (AU SOC) students in Environmental & Wildlife Production (COMM 568) in association with SOC’s Center for Environmental Filmmaking and Maryland Public Television (MPT), the program debuted in February on MPT and will re-Air Tuesday, April 24 on as part of the station's Bay Week programming.

The challenge for students in this course is to put together a long-form documentary in 10-12 weeks - a tight timeline for a professional crew, and even more so for a class made up of graduate and undergraduate students, as well as alumni who were auditing the course, most of whom had never worked together before.

MPT Senior Executive Producer Mike English, who teaches Environmental and Wildlife Production and was executive producer on the film, organized the class into segment production teams, with MFA in Film & Electronic Media students Crystal Berg and Sirjaut Kaur Dhariwal acting as film producers.

Berg, an Associate Producer at National Geographic, and Dhariwal, an Associate Producer at Smithsonian Channel, bemoaned the logistical challenge of coordinating schedules and travel to Baltimore when students had so many other commitments to juggle, including full-time jobs and personal milestones such one the birth of one student's child, and Berg's own wedding. However, they praised the group's dedication to the project and willingness to pitch in wherever needed which allowed them to stay on schedule and get the footage they needed. Berg said the collaborative nature was "unlike anything I had experienced before."

Dhariwal, who had come to SOC with no background in filmmaking, said that working with English was incredibly helpful for her professionally. She said he is incredibly knowledgeable about environmental film production, and English's relationships with local environmental writers and organizations also helped the students access interviews.

English is also an expert on audience engagement, and was able to provide insights that dramatically improved the film. The co-producers agreed that the opportunity to complete a long-form documentary, from start to finish, with an experienced executive producer who knows how the process should work and lets nothing fall between the cracks, was incredibly valuable. And, of course, having a film credit on a program that airs on TV is an impressive resume-builder.

Berg and Dhariwal share a hope that the film will not only highlight the current problems the Baltimore Harbor is facing, but also the real solutions that are available, not only to Baltimore, but to other cities, and inspire communities and elected officials to act.

In March, AU SOC and its Center for Environmental Filmmaking held a screening and panel discussion, hosted by SOC professor and CEF director Chris Palmer, where the audience questions suggested that the film was engaging and thought-provoking. The panelists included many of the student filmmakers (The filmmakers were Crystal Berg, Sirjaut Kaur Dhariwal, Rebecca Castaneda, Danielle Criss, Keeli Howard, Mike Kuba, Madison Long, Carlos Macher, Charles Mullen, Nawfel Raghay, Alec Smyth, Dee Starnes, and Jean Vozella) and English.

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Title: Educate, Empower, and Elevate: Team Wins AU’s Global Health Competition
Author: Jolynn Gardner
Subtitle: Developed innovative approaches to nutritional challenges in Sub-Saharan Africa
Abstract: Six teams competed in AU’s 2018 Intramural Public Health Case Competition
Topic: Achievements
Publication Date: 04/16/2018
Content:

What would you do if you ran a public health nonprofit organization and just received a $2 million grant to address critical malnutrition issues in Sub-Saharan Africa?

This was the question confronting six competing teams of AU students in AU’s 2018 Intramural Public Health Case Competition, sponsored by the Department of Health Studies and the College of Arts and Sciences. Each team was given the “case” details two weeks before the competition. They had to research the issues, develop strategies, and prepare an action plan.

The teams then presented their plans to four judges: Alexander Justice Moore, Chief Development Officer of DC Central Kitchen; Leslie Koo, Senior Nutrition Advisor in the US Agency for International Development’s Bureau for Global Health; Emma Sacks, PhD, Evaluation and Research Lead at the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation and adjuct faculty member of AU’s Department of Health Studies; and, Lynda Honberg, Captain, US Public Health Service (ret.).

“The event was a great success,” said Jolynn Gardner, director of AU’s Public Health Program. “All seven interdisciplinary teams presented very innovative, well-researched strategies to address the case. The judges commented on how impressed they were with all of the presentations.”

The Winning Team

The winners, the Educate, Empower, and Elevate team, won a $1,000 prize. Members included: 

Shyheim Snead (BA political science ’18)  

Bayadir Mohamed-Osman (BA public health ’18) 

Brianne Drury (BS neuroscience ’18) 

Naudia Porter (BS public health ’18) 

Ajayi Pickering-Haynes (BS biology ’19) 

Brianna Belo (BA public health ’18)

The team’s Educate, Empower, and Elevate initiative addressed four key goals of the Ministry of Health of Sierra Leone: 

  • Facilitate adequate household food security to satisfy the dietary needs of the population; 
  • Promote adoption of appropriate feeding practices of households; 
  • Strengthen preventive measures against nutrition related diseases; and, 
  • Promote operational research and periodic surveys into food and nutrition issues.

The innovative approach would utilize community partnership, outreach, community workshops, and agricultural education. The team based its strategies in social ecological model and recommended partnering with existing health clinics already working with the target population in Freetown, Sierra Leone.

“The winning team's solution stood out: they presented a sustainability plan and evaluated strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. They prepared a logic model, and thoroughly researched a feasible and practical strategy to address the issues of the case,” said Gardner. “Additionally, they based their approach on solid theory. They created a very thorough evaluation plan, which directly reflected the desired outcomes. The winning strategy also reflected the reality of the need to engage the local community in assessment of needs and development and delivery of interventions.”

The Runner-Ups

Gardner praised the work done by all the teams. “The second- and third-place teams also based their strategies on sound theory and feasible goals,” she said. “They presented very creative ideas and expertly utilized evidence to support their approaches. All of the presentations were impressive: the judges actually had a hard time making their final decisions!”

Second Place Team: Loans and Legumes – South Africa ($500 Prize)

Maria Esposito (BS public health ’18) 

Giselle Rodriguez (BA public health ’20) 

Kendell Lincoln (BA public health ’19) 

Hannah Francis (BA international relations ’19) 

Mary Kate Fogarty (undeclared ’21)

Third Place Team: Healthy Family – South Africa ($300 prize)

Maria Kelly (BS public health ’20)

Siena Roberts (BS public health ’20) 

Ashley Franz (BA public relations and communication ’18) 

Ryan Pontone (BS business administration ’20)

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Title: Five food trends that are changing Latin America
Author: Professor Johanna Mendelson Forman
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Abstract: Can “social gastronomy” address the high levels of violence and youth unemployment in Latin America? Professor Johanna Mendelson Forman walks through five culinary ventures doing good across the region.
Topic: International
Publication Date: 04/13/2018
Content:

Latin America's economy has grown enormously over the past two decades. However, unemployment in the region still hovers at 8 percent, double that of the United States.

Youth joblessness is even higher-almost 15 percent among Latin Americans under the age of 18. Sixty percent of young people between the ages of 16 and 24 work informally, without a contract, benefits, or social security.

The region also has among the world's highest violence levels, a problem some scholars have connected to high joblessness. In Brazil, for example, studies show that a 1 percent rise in male unemployment leads murders to rise an additional 2.1 percent.

Some Latin American restaurateurs think they can help.

These pioneering chefs are stepping out of the kitchen and into public service, going beyond feeding customers to creating jobs, boosting economies, and preventing violence.

This movement-dubbed "social gastronomy" by Brazilian chef David Hertz-is the focus of my academic research on the politics of food.

Here are five Latin American culinary ventures you should know about.

1. Brazil: Cooking to prevent violence

Hertz first realized that food could help alleviate the poverty and violence of São Paulo's poorest neighborhoods over a decade ago.

In 2006 he launched a project called Gastromotiva, urging local gang members to come train with him and start their lives anew as chefs.

"By interacting with other people through cooking, you learn confidence, discipline, collaboration," he told me recently. "So why not use gastronomy to empower people?"

So far, Hertz's social gastronomy program has trained 1,850 young men and women, 80 percent of whom have gone on to get jobs in the restaurant industry.

Working with the World Economic Forum, chef Hertz urges leaders across Latin America to use culinary training as a violence prevention tactic. Gastromotiva has expanded to Rio de Janeiro, Mexico and El Salvador.

During the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics, Hertz worked with Italian chef Massimo Bottura to launch a Brazilian version of Bottura's pop-up soup kitchen in Milan called Refettorio. The Brazilian venture turned food waste from Olympic Village food stands into hot meals for Rio's poorest residents.

The project continues today, staffed by volunteer chefs and supplied, for free, by Rio food companies.

2. Venezuela: Feeding the hungry

At night, Venezuelan chef Carlos García runs Alto, a swanky restaurant in the capital of Caracas. But by day he directs Barriga Llena, Corazon Contento—"Full Belly, Full Heart"—a foundation that delivers daily meals to schools in Caracas' poorest neighborhood.

Venezuela's three-year-long economic crisis has led to widespread food shortages. Venezuelans lost an average of 20 pounds each in 2017. Childhood malnutrition has spiked.

Against this backdrop, "each day we prepare meals for 260 children and 100 of their grandparents," Chef García told me. The Venezuelan government won't let the group serve inside schools, so kids line up for food in a nearby building.

The foundation also serves 160 people at the J.M. de los Rios Children's Hospital, where parents often cannot afford to feed their children while they receive treatment for cancer. García feeds 30 doctors as well.

More than an act of charity, García says, he sees feeding starving people as the professional obligation of a chef.

García won't disclose how he gets ingredients every day in a country with empty grocery store shelves and an inflation rate of over 450 percent. But his project's crowdfunding campaign, seven co-chefs and a wide circle of allies surely help.

3. The Amazon: Creating a rainforest-to-table movement

Perhaps the most innovative social gastronomy project in Latin America is Cumari, a collaboration of several nonprofit environmental organizations based in the Amazon rainforest of Peru and Brazil.

With 40,000 species of plants, thousands of kinds of fish and 3,000 different fruits, the Amazon is bursting with ingredients. But traditional food production is threatened by development and the rise of industrial agriculture.

Cumari's founders hope that demand for local ingredients will rise as more people get to know Amazonian cuisine. A bigger market for rainforest foods should, in turn, protect this biodiverse environment.

Working together to attract influential Latin American chefs into the jungle, the Cumari collaborative places them in kitchens across the region. There, the chefs prepare meals spotlighting traditional Amazonian flavors-from super healthy fruits like acai berry and sacha inchi to fleshy river fish-in indigenous village lunch spots and big city restaurants.

This is rainforest-to-table dining.

4. Peru: Fighting inequality with gastronomy

Chef Gastón Acurio put Peru on the map as a culinary destination in the early 2000s, opening outposts of his award-winning Lima restaurant Astrid y Gastón in London, Bogota and beyond.

Now, he's using global interest in Peruvian food to help young people back home. Acurio's Fundación Pachacutec Culinary Institute, which opened in Lima in 2007, offers scholarships to budding chefs from marginalized communities in Peru and pays them a living wage while they train.

"Peru is a developing country. Many who dream of being a chef don't have the opportunity," Acurio says.

Though its economy is growing quickly, 9 percent of Peruvians still live on less than US$2.50 a day. Acurio believes that education is Peru's most powerful weapon against inequality, which remains very high.

Today, the institute's more than 300 graduates showcase their Peruvian cooking skills in many of the world's most celebrated restaurants, including El Celler de Can Roca in Spain and Acurio's own Astrid y Gastón.

5. Bolivia: Reclaiming indigenous cuisine

Latin American cooks aren't alone in seeing the social power of the region's food.

In 2013 Claus Meyer, the Danish founder of Copenhagen's award-winning restaurant NOMA, wanted to open a great restaurant abroad that could also make a difference.

Bolivia is the Western Hemisphere's second poorest country, after Haiti. Over half the population lives in poverty.

The Andean country of 11 million also has a large indigenous population. An estimated 40 to 60 percent of people identify as a member Bolivia's 36 recognized indigenous communities.

Meyer launched Gustu in La Paz, Bolivia's capital, in 2013. The restaurant's menu highlights the "unreleased potential" of indigenous Bolivian cuisine.

"Bolivia may have the most interesting and unexplored biodiversity in the world," he told The Guardian newspaper when it opened. All ingredients are locally sourced.

The ConversationGustu also runs a culinary training program that recruits students from La Paz's poorest neighborhoods. Meyer pays them well above the country's $143 a month minimum wage, pulling them out of the informal economy and, hopefully, keeping them there for the long term.

This article was written by Professor Johanna Mendelson Forman and originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

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Title: Health Studies Professor's Research Sheds Light on Link Between Chronic Pain and MSG
Author: Rebecca Basu
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Abstract: Health Studies Assistant Professor Kathleen Holton's research into glutamate, or what most consumers know as MSG, shows a link between the food additive and chronic pain.
Topic: Research
Publication Date: 04/13/2018
Content:

Chronic pain is among the most vexing of health problems. It is linked to many illnesses and conditions, making it difficult to treat. For some, sensitivities to food additives play a role, and making a dietary change can help. Why does diet make a difference? The science is not well-understood. At American University, Kathleen Holton, assistant professor of health studies, explores how food additives contribute to people's pain. In her studies, Holton limits people's exposure to food additives and creates a new diet for them to assess if their pain diminishes or goes away.

Holton published research on one of the most common food additives, glutamate, or what most consumers know as monosodium glutamate. The research, published in the journal Nutrition, shows a link between chronic pain and consumption of glutamate. When study participants cut MSG from their diets, their symptoms improved.

Holton conducted the research in Meru, Kenya, with Dr. Peter K. Ndege, M.D., of Meru University of Science and Technology in Kenya, and University of Michigan Professor Dr. Daniel J. Clauw, M.D., a leading expert on chronic pain.

"This preliminary research in Kenya is consistent with what I am observing in my chronic pain research here in the United States," said Holton. "We don't know what exposure is leading to this susceptibility to dietary glutamate, but this pilot study suggests the need for a large-scale clinical trial, since dietary change could be an effective low-cost treatment option for developing countries."  

Glutamate and chronic pain

Most research suggests that the prevalence of pain in the developing world is similar to the United States and other developed nations. Where diet is concerned, there are seemingly more similarities than ever before. MSG, a flavor enhancer, is found in Western and non-Western diets alike. Consumption of processed foods and fast food are global mainstays.

While glutamate naturally occurs in some foods, like soy sauce and parmesan cheese, it is more commonly seen as a food additive. For consumers in the U.S., it can be challenging to keep track of food ingredients because of the number of additives approved for use here. In the U.S., glutamate is added to many food products and found under many names including 'monosodium glutamate,' 'hydrolyzed protein,' 'protein isolate,' 'protein extract' and 'autolyzed yeast extract,' just to name a few.

As researchers study glutamate, they're gaining insights into how the chemical works in the human brain and body. In the nervous system, glutamate is a neurotransmitter, a chemical messenger that stimulates nerve cells and is essential to cell communication. But too much glutamate and the chemical can act as an excitotoxin, over-stimulating and damaging or killing nerve cells. In the U.S., excitotoxin exposure typically results from food additive consumption. Holton is trying to determine the effects of excitotoxins on neurological symptoms like headaches or migraines, chronic fatigue, cognitive dysfunction, and sleep issues.

In Kenya, people's largest exposure to MSG is from a mixed seasoning spice called Mchuzi Mix, which is typically used in cooking daily. Holton created an alternative spice mix for the villagers who participated in the study.

"I thought I'd get stopped going into the country. I had this suitcase full of bagged spices," she recalled. The goal was to test whether the dietary intervention – the alternative spice mix -- could perform as well as or better than over-the-counter medication in relieving pain.

With a sample size of 30 participants, the researchers tested the effects of removing MSG, increasing water consumption, or a combination of both, relative to acetaminophen (the main treatment option available in Meru). The group that removed MSG from its diet and consumed more water reported significant improvements in their symptoms, as did the group receiving acetaminophen.  

In the future, Holton, Clauw and Ndege plan a larger, epidemiological survey to further probe widespread chronic pain in the region, which early data show to be much higher than average. They also plan to train Kenyan research staff and then conduct a large-scale clinical trial to test the efficacy of dietary change for pain in countries like Kenya.

While carrying out the pilot study, Holton was struck by people's attitudes. "In Kenya, people liked that they could potentially benefit, but they loved the idea that this was being used to help the community," Holton said. "When I'd talk to them about the potential for the community benefit, they would light up."

Gulf War Illness  

In the U.S., Holton is currently recruiting veterans for research on reducing glutamate in their diets. The goal is the same as in Kenya: to see if dietary change can be used to treat chronic widespread pain and other neurological symptoms.

GWI is a multi-symptom illness occurring in veterans who fought in the Persian Gulf War of 1990-1991. Illness rates among those who were deployed vary from 21 percent for those serving on ships to 42 percent for those stationed in Iraq or Kuwait. The clinical trial is funded by the U.S. Department of Defense.

The opioid epidemic has drastically changed how pain is being treated in this country, Holton said, and the novel idea of using dietary change for those suffering from multi-symptom illness, including chronic pain, could be a low-cost treatment strategy.

As Clauw, Holton's colleague and University of Michigan professor and doctor, says, "This would be incredible if we could impact chronic pain simply by making slight modifications to diet."

 

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Title: To Serve a Free Society, Social Media Must Evolve Beyond Data Mining
Author: Aram Sinnreich, Barbara Romzek
Subtitle:
Abstract: As Congress and the public wrestle with the Facebook-Cambridge Analytica scandal, many people are now realizing the risks data collection poses to civic institutions, public discourse and individual privacy.
Topic: Communications
Publication Date: 04/13/2018
Content:

As Congress and the public wrestle with the Facebook-Cambridge Analytica scandal, many people are now realizing the risks data collection poses to civic institutions, public discourse and individual privacy. The U.K.-based political consulting firm didn’t just collect personal data from the 270,000 people who used researcher Aleksandr Kogan’s online personality quiz – nor was the damage limited to 87 million of their friends. Facebook recently revealed that nearly all of its 2.2 billion users have had data scraped by “malicious” people or companies. The firm itself has joined calls for better privacy regulations.

For years, watchdogs have been warning about sharing information with data-collecting companies, firms engaged in the relatively new line of business called some academics have called “surveillance capitalism.” Most casual internet users are only now realizing how easy – and common – it is for unaccountable and unknown organizations to assemble detailed digital profiles of them. They do this by combining the discrete bits of information consumers have given up to e-tailers, health sites, quiz apps and countless other digital services.

As scholars of public accountability and digital media systems, we know that the business of social media is based on extracting user data and offering it for sale. There’s no simple way for them to protect data as many users might expect. Like the social pollution of fake news, bullying and spam that Facebook’s platform spreads, the company’s privacy crisis also stems from a power imbalance: Facebook knows nearly everything about its users, who know little to nothing about it.

It’s not enough for people to delete their Facebook accounts. Nor is it likely that anyone will successfully replace it with a nonprofit alternative centering on privacy, transparency and accountability. Furthermore, this problem is not specific just to Facebook. Other companies, including Google and Amazon, also gather and exploit extensive personal data, and are locked in a digital arms race that we believe threatens to destroy privacy altogether.

Government regulation can help

Governments need to be better guardians of public welfare – including privacy. Many companies using various aspects of technology in new ways have so far avoided regulation by stoking fears that rules might stifle innovation. Facebook and others have often claimed that they’re better at regulating themselves in an ever-changing environment than a slow-moving legislative process could be.

But these companies have clearly failed to regulate themselves. As Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg admitted, “We did not think enough about the abuse” potential of their data collection practices.

So government regulation is both reasonable and necessary, to reduce the risks that social pollution and data abuse pose to political stability and personal privacy.

Considering new rules

Congress is already discussing how to fight the social pollution of misleading advertising with hidden agendas. The Honest Ads Act would require both buyers and sellers of online political ads to disclose more information. Facebook’s response to the Cambridge Analytica crisis has included switching from opposing this act to supporting it, and even announcing it’s improving transparency before being required to by law.

This is a good start, but it does nothing to protect people’s privacy. New rules must govern privacy policies, which today bamboozle consumers into signing away their rights. Most online sites, apps and services have extremely long documents with obscure legal language that most users never read and can’t digest. People simply click “agree” and move on.

A new rule could require standard notices, along the lines of financial services disclosures, communicating a company’s privacy protections in a short and straightforward manner. Another rule could also let users opt out of certain uses or analyses of their data.

Seeking broader protection

Even better than single-issue bills focused on political ads or privacy policies would be sweeping, proactive data protections for online consumers. The European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation, which goes into effect on May 25, is a reasonable effort at achieving these ends.

One particularly interesting feature of the GDPR is the “right to be forgotten,” which among other things allows individuals to ask companies to remove information about them from online databases. And the potential penalties for a firm violating the law are significant – up to 20 million euros or 4 percent of the company’s global annual revenue

However, even a broad law would not address the most fundamental problem. The internet at present is based on a single business model: surveillance capitalism. Online businesses need new ways to make money, without aggregating, exploiting or selling individuals’ data.

Changing the business model

To encourage companies to serve democratic principles and focus on improving people’s lives, we believe the chief business model of the internet needs to shift to building trust and verifying information. While it won’t be an immediate change, social media companies pride themselves on their adaptability and should be able to take on this challenge.

The alternative, of course, could be far more severe. In the 1980s, when federal regulators decided that AT&T was using its power in the telephone market to hurt competition and consumers, they forced the massive conglomerate to break up. A similar but less dramatic change happened in the early 2000s when cellphone companies were forced to let people keep their phone numbers even if they switched carriers.

Data, and particularly individuals’ personal data, are the precious metals of the internet age. Protecting individual data while expanding access to the internet and its many social benefits is a fundamental challenge for free societies. Creating, using and protecting data properly will be crucial to preserving and improving human rights and civil liberties in this still young century. To meet this challenge will require both vigilance and vision, from businesses and their customers, as well as governments and their citizens.

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Title: A Day to Remember: Sylvia Burwell is Inaugurated as AU's 15th President
Author: Gregg Sangillo
Subtitle:
Abstract: In a Bender Arena ceremony, Burwell celebrates AU's shared values and charts a path forward.
Topic: On Campus
Publication Date: 04/13/2018
Content:

After a series of cold, cloudy days, the long winter may finally give way to a nascent spring. It was refreshingly warmer on Thursday, April 12. And, like the arrival of spring, it's a time of new beginnings at American University. The inauguration of AU's 15th president, Sylvia Mathews Burwell, was a celebratory occasion. It was a chance to contemplate where AU has been, while aspiring for an even brighter future.

In Bender Arena, Burwell - AU's first woman president - was introduced by Board of Trustees Chair Jack Cassell. There were also remarks from former President Neil Kerwin, Provost Scott Bass, Washington, DC, Mayor Muriel Bowser, and Atul Gawande, a surgeon-author and Oxford classmate of Burwell. Film and TV director Davis Guggenheim - of An Inconvenient Truth fame - served as master of ceremonies.

The event had strong student involvement, with contributions from the Color Guard, AU Gospel Choir, Prelude Brass Ensemble, AU Jazz Quartet, and the AU Chamber Singers. Toward the end, there was a lively, artistic montage of student voices created for the occasion by theatre professor Caleen Jennings.

Also on hand were the Board of Trustees, alumni leaders, and faculty. University Marshal Andrea Pearson, a professor and chair of the Faculty Senate, welcomed the AU community to the ceremony. Cassell, Pearson, and Student Trustee Valentina Fernández were on stage to present Burwell with the presidential medallion and a copy of the Act of Incorporation and Bylaws of American University.

Hard Work and Family

Burwell's family attended the event, and she drew connections between her personal background and her role at AU.

"While the title of president is an incredible honor, it's a distant second to my favorite title: mom," she said. "To my new family here at American University, thank you all for this honor and this responsibility. I will strive to fulfill the trust that you all have placed in me."

Burwell then talked about her small-town upbringing in Hinton, West Virginia. "My path to this podium actually started in another community…One that treasured education, hard work, and service," she recalled. "It's a town that's about the size of our gathering; small but overflowing with a commitment to one another."

She referenced Halloween trick-or-treating for UNICEF and serving ice cream at Kirk's Home of the Hungry Smile in Hinton. "If Suzie got a dip of maple walnut and she had wanted strawberry, you got instant feedback. It was really great training for someone who is a university president in the age of social media," she joked. "You worked hard in order to help others. Service was at the core of our community."

Earlier, Burwell's friend Guggenheim vouched for her lifelong dedication to service. "She's distinguished herself at everything she's ever set her mind to, but she's also one of the loveliest people I've ever known," Guggenheim said. "She wants to make the world a better place, which can sound trite. But if you've been doing it since sixth grade, it's also true."

In her address, Burwell found parallels between Hinton ideals - education, service, hard work with a smile - and AU's history. "Those values that pushed me forward are the same values that I will hold as your president. You see, those are the values of American University. They were etched into our founding," she said.

An Illustrious History

Burwell, a former secretary of the US Department of Health and Human Services and director of Office of Management and Budget, mentioned the numerous world leaders who have visited AU. She highlighted President Theodore Roosevelt dedicating the cornerstone of the McKinley Building, and President Dwight Eisenhower's call to wage peace at the the School of International Service founding.

She recalled President John F. Kennedy's words at his famous AU commencement speech. Kennedy said that problems of war and peace are man-made, therefore they can be solved by man, Burwell noted. "I would add just one slight edit to that: Women are pretty good problem solvers, too," she quipped.

Burwell tied in the lesser-known history of newly freed, working-class African Americans who settled where Tenleytown stands today. And in elucidating AU's shared past, she struck themes of inclusion and unity.

"We're a university of strivers and dreamers, of activists and artists, of scholars and servant-leaders. We realize that when we all contribute, we all succeed. We are all, quite literally, one AU."

Present and Future, Poised to Lead

Burwell praised the cutting-edge work on campus. She mentioned the new Center for Postsecondary Readiness and Success, the Don Myers Technology and Innovation Building, and the forthcoming, state-of-the-art Hall of Science.

"Our past does not confine us. It propels us forward," she said, "toward an uncharted future - with nearly boundless opportunities and challenges."

She also didn't shy away from the difficulties facing higher education and the economy. "On the one hand, a college education has never been more essential to success and the ladder of opportunity. On the other, there is great pressure on what education looks like and what it costs."

And Burwell discussed how campuses can be a setting for broader societal tensions. "Today's national pressures can force our students to look at issues like inclusion and freedom of expression as a binary choice, rather than the complementary and unifying ideas that they really are."

She added, "Times of great challenge call forth great leadership. American University, we are poised to lead."

Five Pillars

Burwell outlined five pillars she believes will be crucial for AU's collective future.

  1. The university must forge partnerships with local and national groups, in both the public and private sectors, to achieve excellence.
  2. AU needs to lead in research, teaching, and experiential learning. "We need to be the university of 'and,' not 'or,'" she emphasized.
  3. AU must set its sights on the future - the future of learning, the future of work, and the future of citizenship - and be a leader in charting the course in each of those areas.
  4. AU must nurture our connection with Washington, DC. The mayor made earlier comments about how Burwell is uniquely qualified to do this. "She knows DC, she knows business, she knows budgets, she knows numbers, she knows politics, which means she's perfect for our town," said Bowser, also an AU alumna.
  5. AU should make a positive impact on the world, combining scholarship with service. The goal is to produce changemakers and changemaking scholarship, she said.

As she concluded her speech, she brought the conversation full circle. "Just like Hinton, the best reflection of American University is its people. That is our strength. That is how we will navigate through the challenges ahead," she said. "That, as one AU, is how we will nurture the fire of our souls and build a future worthy of the legacy we inherit."

Burwell thanked the community with a final, fitting sendoff: "Go Eagles!"

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