newsId: 4D498C2A-F198-D0A1-FED728F68140A389
Title: What is Involved in a Title IX Complaint?
Author: Sally Acharya
Subtitle:
Abstract: Find out what happens when a student comes forward with a complaint to the Title IX office.
Topic: Campus Safety
Publication Date: 10/18/2018
Content:

Up to a quarter of women nationally undergo a sexual assault or attempt during college. Over four percent of college students have been stalked. The statistics are appalling. But as students increasingly choose to speak out, many also have questions about what happens if an incident is reported.

What does it mean, at AU, to come forward about sexual and gender-based harassment or violence? One part of the process can involve exploring whether to file a Title IX complaint.

Title IX is a federal civil rights law that applies to institutions like AU that receive federal funding from sexual discrimination. “It’s the right to have full access to education,” explains Title IX program officer Regina Curran, “regardless of your sex or gender or something that happened because of your sex and gender.”

Curran and investigator Fariha Quasem are the team at the Title IX Office, and their job is to determine if a student’s rights have been violated in ways that can be addressed by the university.

What to Expect

The Title IX office is housed at the Office of Campus Life near a sign that reads, “You Matter.” When a student contacts the office (which can be done through an online form), the first meeting will be with Curran, a down-to-earth Oklahoman, and it’s always just a chance to talk — a conversation about what happened and what could be done by AU to address it.

If the complaint is pursued, there’s a fact-finding process that engages, separately, with each student involved. Many times, Curran notes, there’s little disagreement on the facts, but each person’s experience of the situation is different.

The investigation is led by Quasem, whose job to gather physical evidence, such as social media posts and texts, and talk to witnesses proposed by the parties involved.

“I know there won’t usually be eyewitnesses to a sexual encounter,” Quasem says, but she’ll listen to people who may know something about an event and are comfortable coming forward. There are no disciplinary consequences for conduct that a witness opens up about, such as drinking at a party; the only conduct issue being looked at is the one in the complaint.

They’re very concerned that everyone involved in the case — the complainant, the student being accused, the witnesses — are treated with fairness and respect. “At the end of the day,” Curran says, “I want everyone to feel that even if they don’t like the outcome, they understand how it was arrived at and feel they were treated fairly.”

The recent intense public discourse about sexual assault has had a marked impact on reporting at AU, including Title IX complaints, a pattern that has been seen on campuses across the country. Reports began to spike at AU in October 2017, immediately after allegations against film producer Harvey Weinstein made the news and the #MeToo movement began.

That semester, AU had also expanded the Title IX office to include an investigator, which allowed Curran, as program officer, to do more outreach and training, processes that are also associated with higher numbers of people coming forward to explore the complaint process.

Even if a complaint can’t be pursued — for instance, if the perpetrator isn’t a member of the AU community — a student still has rights under Title IX. “Sometimes, they just want to not fail a test because it happened two days after a rape,” Curran says. The office can help with that, too, by helping to arrange accommodations.

About the Team

While a Title IX complaint process is a fact-finding effort about rights violations and not a legal case, both Curran and Quasem are well-versed in the law; in fact, they trained as lawyers. For Curran, it was Hurricane Katrina that set her on her path. As a college student in Texas interning after the 2005 natural disaster, she worked with displaced people housed in FEMA trailers and not only learned about civil rights but had a glimpse of troubling situations intensified by stress, including domestic abuse.

She went to law school, but when she saw the overloaded dockets and speed at which lawyers were often forced to push through cases, she found herself drawn to applying her legal knowledge in a more one-on-one setting that also included a focus on behavioral change.

Quasem, a lifelong Marylander who went to both undergraduate and law school at the University of Maryland not far from where she grew up, still lives in Montgomery County where she enjoys walks with her husband, thoughtful conversations with friends, and evenings with books. She’s also a keen global traveler, from trips to visit relatives in Bangladesh to annual adventures abroad with girlfriends. (Last year’s trip was to England and Scotland, and she just got back from a weekend in Venice.)

The team shares the work, with Curran focusing on intake and outreach to the community, and Quasem handling the investigation. Ultimately, a finding is written that determines if policies were violated, in which case the final decision about consequences will be made by a sanctioning panel and Dean of Students. (A flow chart for the process is on the Title IX webpage.)

Sanctions come in two types: educational sanctions (such as reflections, alcohol education, and other follow-ups) and status sanctions (including warning, censure, disciplinary probation, suspension, and dismissal). Every student who is found responsible will be given a status sanction and many will be given educational sanctions.

“Most people think of the most severe cases in Title IX,” Curran notes, such as rape and assault, “but it does cover a wide array of behaviors, so we want to keep all our sanction options in mind to address the situation at hand.”

Finding Support

AU’s Title IX office is one part of a three-pronged approach – emotional support, advocacy, and civil rights-focused — that ensures AU students have resources in cases of sexual assault, rape, dating or domestic violence, sexual harassment or stalking.

“Every student who comes through that door – I never want us to be the only place they’re talking to,” Curran says.

Students seeking counseling support are encouraged to reach out to the Counseling Center.

For free and confidential victim advocacy services, or if students are unsure about contacting the Title IX Office and want to talk it through (or find someone to go with them to the Title IX Office, which is always a right), the advocates at OASIS are available to help. It’s located at the Health Promotion and Advocacy Center (HPAC).

Staff seeking accommodations or supports should contact Beth Muha, the Deputy Title IX Program Officer in Human Resources (employeerelations@american.edu).

Faculty should contact Deputy Title IX Program Office Lisa Leff at deanofacademicaffairs@american.edu.

It’s all a part of ensuring that civil rights laws work for the campus community and helping to make AU a place where everyone feels safe and supported.

Tags: Wellness,Women's Issues,Wellness Center,Counseling Center,Campus Life
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newsId: 2207B056-AAA6-0576-0F91B344ACC6EE0E
Title: SOC Alumna Uncovers the Numbers Behind #MeToo
Author: Taylor Potter
Subtitle:
Abstract: How many women in Hollywood experience sexual assault?
Topic: Communications
Publication Date: 10/17/2018
Content:

Over the past year, Hollywood repeatedly made headlines with high-profile stories of sexual assault and abuse by powerful men, such as Harvey Weinstein. The number of revelations in the wake of the #MeToo movement led USA TODAY to survey hundreds of women working in Hollywood to get an idea of how prevalent sexual assault is in the industry.

The result: 94 percent of respondents said they’d experienced some form of sexual harassment or assault in their careers.

Of the 843 women in Hollywood’s entertainment industry who responded to the survey, almost all of them had experienced sexual assault to some degree. The survey led to gut-wrenching video interviews where the women described some of the treatment they faced."

“After the Weinstein news broke last year, I developed the idea for my favorite project to date, called ‘The 94 Percent,’” said Cara Kelly, a 2011 journalism and public affairs alumna and enterprise reporter for USA TODAY. “It led to a series with a half-dozen stories, plus incredible video and audio components, that wrapped just last week.”

Kelly said she’s covered the #MeToo movement over the past year primarily from a Hollywood perspective, but also worked on USA TODAY’s coverage of the allegations against U.S. Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh during his confirmation hearing.

The #MeToo movement opened Kelly’s eyes to investigative reporting, she said, and now she is transitioning to a new role on USA TODAY’s investigative team. As the engagement reporter, she works to package content to reach the largest audience possible and encourage them to interact with different parts of a story.

“This may be brainstorming unconventional story forms or putting together a social strategy,” Kelly said. “I also work on my own stories and projects. Some are quick-turn enterprise pieces off of the news cycle and some are longer term investigations.”

Confidence in the newsroom

After graduating in 2011, Kelly began working for The Washington Post as a producer in the Style section before becoming a digital editor and overseeing the digital side of award shows and holiday guides. She went on to join The Post’s innovation team, which developed new products, such as apps.

After two years in that role, Kelly moved to USA TODAY and took over the entertainment blog — one of the highest performing in the USA TODAY network. She managed a team of 5-6 reporters and covered events like award shows and the royal wedding. In August, she moved to the investigative team.

Kelly said her experience at AU gave her the confidence she needed to excel in big-time newsrooms.

“I had worked previously for local and alt-weekly papers, but AU helped me get to the next level,” Kelly said. “By covering things like hearings on Capitol Hill and elections while in school, I was able to learn what would be expected of me at the Post and USA TODAY. I also learned the digital skills – and more importantly, how to always be open to new technology – that has been my most marketable quality.”

The AU Experience

Kelly was drawn to AU’s cutting-edge digital instruction and its connections to some of the country’s top newsrooms. She also liked that its Washington, D.C., location would give her access to some of the biggest stories in the country.

In her time at AU, Kelly said she enjoyed learning from professors like Chuck Lewis, Lynne Perri, Jane Hall, Bill Gentile and John Watson. She said she highly recommends taking any class Watson teaches.

“My best piece of advice: Take full advantage of the amazing professors and programs offered at AU, they will lead to the education and connections you need to land a job in this competitive industry,” Kelly said.

Kelly said she particularly enjoyed working with Amy Eisman, the director of the School of Communication’s Journalism Division.

“Amy Eisman is such an amazing person and professor that I can’t say enough good things about her and what she’s done for the hundreds of us who have crossed her path,” Kelly said. “I’ve worked with so many AU grads who she taught or helped find a job that we’ve jokingly called her the fairy godmother of digital journalism.”

Tags: School of Communication,Journalism,Journalism (SOC),Alumni,Diversity
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newsId: 266A4EBD-DC79-C5B9-AAA4443C70E54966
Title: Ambassador Susan E. Rice to Receive AU's Cyrus A. Ansary Medal
Author: Kelly Alexander
Subtitle:
Abstract: Ambassador Susan E. Rice will receive American University’s Highest Honor, the Cyrus A. Ansary Medal
Topic: Announcement
Publication Date: 10/17/2018
Content:

American University has bestowed the 2018 Cyrus A. Ansary Medal upon Ambassador Susan E. Rice for leadership and service. She will receive this top honor at AU’s 37th Annual President’s Circle Celebration on Thursday, October 18. 

The Cyrus A. Ansary Medal is awarded to members of the American University community who have displayed extraordinary commitment and leadership, both within the university and within their professions, and who have significant accomplishments, either in service to the university or for the benefit of the community at large. Cyrus A. Ansary has made a marked imprint on American University – as an extraordinary student, a loyal alumnus, a dedicated member of the Board of Trustees, and a wise and committed Chairman of the Board.The Ansary Medal has been awarded annually since 1990. The Ansary-Kerwin Scholarship for students will be awarded for the first time this year and was announced by the Ansary Foundation at the President’s Circle Celebration in 2017.    

“Ambassador Rice is the 2018 Cyrus A. Ansary Medal recipient because of her lifelong commitment to leadership and service,” said President Sylvia M. Burwell. “American University is proud to have our nation’s former National Security Advisor and Ambassador to the United Nations as a member of our community, as a Distinguished Visiting Research Fellow in the School of International Service.”

Most notably, Ambassador Rice has advised President Bill Clinton and President Barack Obama on some of their most important policy decisions. She served as Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs from 1997-2001 and, as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations from 2009-2013 and, later, as the 24thNational Security Advisor from 2013-2017. A native Washingtonian, she was the second youngest person and the first African American woman to represent the United States at the United Nations.In a world of 21st Century threats that pay no heed to borders, Ambassador Rice helped rebuild an effective basis for international cooperation that strengthened the United States’ ability to achieve its foreign policy objectives and made America safer.

In addition to her role at AU, Ambassador Rice is a Non-resident Senior Fellow at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government.  She is a contributing opinion writer for the New York Times, and currently serves on the boards of Netflix and the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. Ambassador Rice holds a master’s degree and Ph.D. in International Relations from Oxford University where she was a Rhodes Scholar, and a bachelor’s degree with honors from Stanford University.

This year’s President’s Circle Celebration will include a special conversation between President Burwell and Ambassador Rice. The pair of Rhodes Scholars were classmates at Oxford. President Burwell and Ambassador Rice continue their commitment to leadership and service to the community here at AU.  Upon arriving at AU, Ambassador Rice expressed her delight in becoming a member of the AU community. “I am very pleased to become a part of SIS and the AU family,” said Ambassador Rice. “I look forward to joining this distinguished community.”

“American University is a community of scholars and changemakers known for excellence and impact,” said Courtney L. Surls, Vice President, Development and Alumni Relations. “We are grateful to the Ansary family, Ambassador Rice, and President Burwell for their commitment to expanding AU’s impact and helping us realize our aspirations.”

Tags: Media Relations,Public Relations,Development,Alumni Relations
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newsId: B7D03DB3-DB49-89B3-54BDFBA5E09ECF7A
Title: On the FRONTLINE of Documentary Filmmaking
Author: Melissa Bendell
Subtitle:
Abstract: Emily Crawford is the newest FRONTLINE Fellow and has been helping the team work on a new documentary series.
Topic: Communications
Publication Date: 10/16/2018
Content:

As the newest American University (AU) FRONTLINE fellow, Emily Crawford gets hands-on experience in the documentary filmmaking world. She works with professionals on a high-profile team and has more responsibilities than most internship-level positions.

“I am very involved in every aspect of the documentary filmmaking process,” Crawford said. “I’ve learned so much about the investigative process and how teams work together to create a finished product.”

FRONTLINE’s projects are mostly classified, but Crawford said she learns the process of creating quality journalistic content from professionals and is excited to see what projects she will work on in the future.

Before becoming the FRONTLINE fellow, she received a MFA in Film and Electronic Media in May from AU School of Communication (SOC). While at AU SOC, she created a documentary for her capstone project called Game Flow.

The film highlights how games can help those who struggle with a mental illness. The 21-minute film follows three individuals with mood and anxiety disorders and shows how they use games to cope with their symptoms. Crawford is still working on outreach and crowd-funding for this project even after turning it in.

Crawford said one of the most rewarding parts of the Film and Electronic Media program was the connection she made with faculty and staff. She regularly speaks with her professors and thesis advisors, particularly Larry Kirkman, who has since retired.

Along with her capstone project, Crawford also worked with the Center for Media and Social Impact (CMSI) at AU SOC. She helped create the website, and she also wrote blogs on topics related to the center and helped with a series called “Pull Focus.”

“I was attracted to CMSI because I want to create content that has a social impact,” Crawford said. “I was able to learn a lot from the faculty that worked there and refine my skills in creating content and filmmaking.”

Crawford said she found her passion for documentary filmmaking while she was working as an administrative assistant at PBS headquarters in Crystal City.

Crawford said she fell in love with public television, documentaries and non-fiction storytelling. This job prompted her to go to graduate school at AU SOC to pursue her dream of creating documentaries and content for public television.

Tags: School of Communication,Film and Media Arts,Film Production,Film,Journalism,Investigative Reporting Workshop
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Title: The Future of Capitalism? AU Grad Student Says Look at Honduras
Author: Gregg Sangillo
Subtitle:
Abstract: While earning her PhD in anthropology, Beth Geglia spent a year filming and interviewing Hondurans.
Topic: Research
Publication Date: 10/15/2018
Content:

Honduras is a relatively small country. Yet some powerful interests have converged there, making it a laboratory for transformative—but potentially destructive—policies. Economists marvel at rising behemoths like China, but there are lessons to be learned in Central America. Honduras could be a harbinger for the next phase of global capitalism.

When a military coup rocked Honduras in 2009, Beth Geglia was working for a human rights organization in neighboring Guatemala. In the violent post-coup aftermath, Geglia observed some US-based economists’ radical vision for Honduras, and she hoped to understand the larger implications for the world economy.

Geglia is now an anthropology PhD student at American University, and Honduras has become her research passion. “I wanted to get a better grasp of where capitalism is heading, and what’s at the forefront of globalization and privatization,” she says.

 

Charter Cities, Separate Laws

 

You may have heard about Special Economic Zones (SEZs), areas with unique regulatory regimes meant to spur economic growth. But what’s being proposed in Honduras is much more sweeping, Geglia argues. The Special Development and Employment Zones, or ZEDEs in Spanish, are akin to charter cities—heavily privatized, deregulated territories within the nation state. Geglia is focusing on a prospective ZEDE in the southern part of the country.

Like SEZs, this ZEDE would have weaker labor and environmental standards, and lower taxes, than the Honduran national government that surrounds it. But what really makes the ZEDE different, Geglia says, is an entirely separate judiciary.

“Basically, it provides investors, and the administrators they appoint, the ability to establish independent court systems. So, they’re really operating outside of the Honduran judicial system,” Geglia explains. “In a way, this is unprecedented in Central and Latin America. It is absolutely a way for investors to circumvent national laws.”

This could be a boon for multinational corporations, and Geglia says there’s potential interest from the electronics, tourism, and mining industries. So certain mineral-rich zones could be optimal for companies to mine and extract resources. Notably, with judicial independence from the country at large, the ZEDE would facilitate a favorable investment climate.

“There’s always a legal framework under which any economic activity can take place. So whether it’s mining, banking and finance, or something else, this could be applicable to almost any economic arrangement,” Geglia says.

 

The Startup Society Movement

 

The ZEDE is arguably a neocolonial endeavor, in another era ripe for a Graham Greene novel. It’s driven by a confluence of actors: Silicon Valley disruptors, former Reagan Administration political advisers, global investors, technocrats, and Honduran government officials. These groups are not a monolith, but Geglia saw commonalities under the umbrella of a Startup Society Movement.

“There’s an overarching project to create a competitive market of autonomous jurisdictions in the world. So, their idea being that the nation state has monopoly on sovereignty, and we need to break up that monopoly on sovereignty,” she says. “For them, the democratic process is not the way we create change. The reforms they want to see in governance is, of course, based on a privatize everything, free market model.”

 

Sovereignty and Citizenship

 

But where does that leave the Honduran population, many of whom survive on subsistence fishing and farming? Could this generate jobs? Geglia spent a year in the southern municipality of Amapala, gauging people’s feelings about the planned ZEDE. With limited information, they expressed some ambiguity about how the project will affect them.

“You bring it up with one person, and they might have a completely different idea of what it is than the next person,” she says. “And there is some anxiety about all of a sudden living under a different government or a different regime.”

However, in the Zacate Grande area of Amapala, some communities have organized in opposition to the ZEDE project, noting that it will likely increase land dispossession and threaten their access to the agricultural and coastal lands necessary for their subsistence economies.

Though she didn’t conduct public opinion polls, other surveys revealed conflicting feelings: One poll found about 80 percent supported the ZEDE, and another one showed about 80 percent opposed it.

The process itself has been shrouded in secrecy, beginning with the establishment of a 21-member Committee for the Adoption of Best Practices. Nine Americans initially served on the committee, including former Reagan officials—such as Mark Klugmann and Faith Ryan Whittlesey—who supported controversial US Cold War policies toward Central America in the 1980s. (US-backed Nicaraguan Contras were based in Honduras.)

Information about that committee has been scarce, Geglia says, and she’s been unable to even obtain an updated list of current members. That also raises questions about how much say Honduran citizens will have in their future, she notes.

“I’m interested in looking at issues of sovereignty and democracy and citizenship,” Geglia says. “So the big questions for me are, ‘What does sovereignty and what does citizenship mean in Honduras today? How do people grapple with this kind of a territorial model that’s being proposed?’”

 

Beyond Honduran Borders

 

Geglia grew up right here in the Tenleytown neighborhood of DC, and a volunteer summer program in the Dominican Republic solidified her focus on Latin America. She got her undergraduate degree in Latin American studies, sociology, and international political economy at University of Wisconsin-Madison. She earned a certificate from Duke University’s Center for Documentary Studies, and she’s hoping to incorporate her film-oral history work into her AU dissertation.

While earning her doctorate in anthropology, she’s striving to make her research publicly assessible. This work, she believes, has relevance beyond Honduran borders and into the United States.

“I want to see how logic of the completely privatized territory in Honduras relates to the logic of charter schools, gentrification, or business development projects,” she says. “How is this changing what citizenship means? How is it eroding democracy?”

Tags: Featured News,College of Arts and Sciences,Research,Anthropology
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newsId: BDC98345-E7BC-C690-93C3662F2DE5A9DD
Title: Making Sense of Midterm Madness: SPA Prof Talks Voting and Turnout
Author: Gregg Sangillo
Subtitle:
Abstract: Jan Leighley coauthored the book Who Votes Now? Demographics, Issues, Inequality, and Turnout in the United States.
Topic: Government & Politics
Publication Date: 10/15/2018
Content:

The midterm elections are just weeks away, and much of Washington is abuzz about the possible outcomes. Will Democrats win control of the House, or will Republicans maintain their grip on the legislative branch? Prognostications aside, we can’t know the results until all the votes are tallied. But American University professor Jan Leighley can provide perspective about recent midterms, and she’s closely studied turnout and voting patterns in elections from 1972-2012.

In an interview with University Communications and Marketing—which has been condensed and edited for clarity—Leighley discussed the turnout age gap, a potential “Kavanaugh effect,” and who typically votes in congressional midterms.

Leighley, a professor in the School of Public Affairs, is coauthor of the book Who Votes Now? Demographics, Issues, Inequality, and Turnout in the United States.

UCM: There seems to be a belief that Republican voters are more likely to turn out during midterm elections. Is that true?

Leighley: Well, it’s not exactly correct. I think it’s an inference that’s drawn after looking at who shows up at the polls, and some of that is based on exit polls. But a lot of it is also based on the demographics of who votes. And in the past, we’ve had higher-education, higher-income individuals turn out at higher rates in midterms than lower-education, low-income individuals. And that has tended to favor Republicans. But, that said, the strongest evidence we have for a pattern is that the president’s party is the one that tends to not show up in midterms. If there is a Republican president in office, then it’s the Republicans who tend to stay home. Both of those things can be going on simultaneously, so it’s hard to know if it’s just demographics or a partisan effect.

UCM: You’ve noted that wealthier people are more likely to vote than working-class and poor people. Do we know why that’s the case?

Leighley: There are various explanations. One is that high-income people also have more education, and that means high-income people spend more time learning when to register, where to vote, and just have much more information about the whole process. Some would argue they feel more of a stake in the system. Others would argue that the higher income gives individuals a greater likelihood of being contacted by political organizations. We know there’s a relationship between income and donating to political groups. If you have the income to write out a big check, you might as well go cast your ballot. There’s a general theory that this is a rational, cost-benefit decision.

UCM: There’s also an age gap in turnout, which is relevant for AU students. Why do you think young people have been less likely to vote, especially in midterms?

Leighley: It’s all the reasons that we have explaining who votes. Youth are in some senses at a disadvantage there. They typically have less information than older adults. They are more mobile. One of the things we know is people who move around a lot have more pressing things to do on day one—like unpacking boxes—than registering to vote. In terms of the skills to know how to vote, it’s incredibly complicated for youth to figure out. Where is their legal residence? Each state is different in terms of what students have to do, and that means it takes extra time and extra information. And they might wake up a week before the election when all the campaign activities are in high gear and realize, ‘Hey, I want to vote.’ Not an unrealistic reaction or thought. But if the voter registration deadline was 30 days before the election, it’s simply too late.

UCM: In terms of midterm voters, ideologically and demographically, how are they different from the general population?

Leighley: The same biases we see in presidential elections exist. Compared to the population as a whole, midterm voters are wealthier, they have more education, and they’re older. So they’re not representative of the population. They never have been. The biggest change in representation has actually been with age. Older people are increasingly voting at older ages, and youth turnout continues to be really spotty. Interestingly, the argument is always made that midterms are less representative than presidential elections. That’s not quite true. Are the turnout levels different? Yes. But if you look at voters with higher income and education in midterms, and you compare them to those casting ballots in presidential elections, their share of the vote is actually quite similar. But who really loses are youth in midterm elections.

UCM: So, with young people’s share of the vote, there’s a definite decrease in participation between presidential and midterm elections?

Leighley: Yes. And in part because they don’t have all the other experience, or social connections, or community commitments, that older people have. So if anyone’s going to drop out at a higher rate than others, it’s going to be youth.

UCM: In your book, you show that older people make up a larger share of the vote than they did in 1972. Is that related to the graying of America?

Leighley: I don’t know. People are living longer, they’re healthier, working longer, and maybe more engaged. There’s also this organization called AARP that is inherently political, and it seeks to inform and mobilize its members. And older people certainly report a greater vulnerability or reliance on government benefits and programs with Medicare and Social Security. So there are all sorts of reasons why they would participate more.

UCM: What kinds of issues animate midterm voters? If you had to paint a broad brush, are they generally cultural issues or economic issues?

Leighley: In the past, social issues or cultural issues have not had a huge effect on turnout in midterm elections. Now that’s partly because parties go back to people they know are going to vote, and they try to mobilize them to vote. A lot of those decisions reflect a dominant importance of economics in vote choice. Another point is that we have had an increased nationalization in politics. This isn’t new with Trump. Tip O’Neill, speaker of the House of Representatives, had the famous phrase ‘all politics is local,’ which may have been the case 20, 30, 40 years ago. But one of the big changes that’s happened is the decline of local newspapers and local news sources. And I know the internet affords us a lot of ways we can search for information, but that’s very different than having news or community events in a central news source. And we know that decline simply leads to less information about local politics today, and we’re less likely to participate. Now, there is a footnote to that: We do have some evidence at the state level that when there are initiatives—like gay marriage—on statewide ballots, often times you’ll see a spike in turnout in that election. Why? Because parties or interest groups are spending money. Telling people, ‘If you care about this issue, go and vote.’ And then you have Donald Trump, who has handled his media relations and public information in a new and different way. And, of course, he’s crossed some people’s lines in terms of what’s appropriate to say or believe in politics. So it’s led to this high level of antagonism and conflict. People might not like hearing that stuff, but it’s sort of like a football game. You might be more likely to sit through cold football games if you love those Patriots, right? Or if you hate those Patriots, you’re going to show up and root against them. This is the general take on why the Democrats expect high turnout, because the reaction against him has been so strong. And they’re investing in organizations and communications systems to reach out to a broader group of individuals.

UCM: There’s been a lot of talk about the ‘Brett Kavanaugh factor.’ Pundits are speculating that the Supreme Court fight will energize evangelical voters to come to the polls for Republicans. Conversely, it could possibly bring out more women voters to the polls for Democrats. Do you think the confirmation battle will have any measurable impact on turnout?

Leighley: I think the Kavanaugh hearing, along with other discussions or actions taken by Congress, will likely mobilize more women into politics. One of the principles we know from political psychology is that threat tends to mobilize more than accomplishment. So I think some women feel threatened by various things, and may feel threatened or object to how the hearing was conducted. If you are an extreme partisan, on the Republican side, you probably always vote anyway. The interesting action will be for independents and weak Republicans. So, will weak Republicans, whether male or female, think about voting for another candidate? Will they think about voting for a Democrat instead of a Republican? Or maybe they’ll just stay home, because it’s just confusing or unpleasant or not a game they want to play.

UCM: Could the GOP benefit from a good economy? Doesn’t the party in power usually get credit when there’s low unemployment?

Leighley: Yes, absolutely. Yet this goes back to the nationalization of midterms. We have some pretty good evidence that in the midterms in the 2000s, people who disapproved of George W. Bush’s handling of the Iraq war, even if they were Republican, voted Democratic. And that’s part of nationalization. Bush was a very polarizing president and had a very high disapproval level. So that’s some of the information people are taking in—whether I like or dislike the current president, whether I want to elect another person in the same party.

UCM: Do you think either party has an advantage with organizing and getting out the vote? Or has that varied from election to election?

Leighley: There’s a huge political consulting industry now that takes up a lot of campaign contributions. And they pretty much know how to do this stuff. Along with the consultants, parties are now finally investing more and more money to collect data. Technological advances allow parties to track people. I think this is where the Democrats have done a little better at mobilizing new voters. The belief is that those low-income, lower-education people need more support, more information, more contacts, more touches. Maybe it’s the difference between one phone call or 10 texts, or maybe it’s the difference of people going door-to-door and meeting. That’s what we know is the most powerful thing. That’s a person-power issue. And so both parties have to allocate bodies where they think they can make a difference. That’s a strategic decision, and those are hard calls to make.

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newsId: 188B5EC6-BA52-DB5A-87953284DFB22E2D
Title: CAS Welcomes Eight New Faculty Members
Author: Aneeta Ashton
Subtitle: High-Impact Research, Diverse Perspectives
Abstract: This fall, eight new tenure-line professors have joined the College of Arts and Sciences at American University.
Topic: Announcement
Publication Date: 10/12/2018
Content:

This fall, eight new tenure-line professors have joined the College of Arts and Sciences at American University. With research and teaching expertise ranging from extreme-scale computing to the role of religion in marginalized communities, these new appointments bring diverse perspectives to the College.

"We are excited to welcome our new faculty members," says College of Arts and Sciences Dean Peter Starr. "This impressive group of academics is engaged in high-impact research and scholarship that furthers the College’s commitment to excellence and creates a vibrant learning environment for our students."

Onaje Woodbine

Onaje Woodbine
Onaje Woodbine, Philosophy and Religion

Assistant Professor of Philosophy and Religion

Woodbine earned his BA in philosophy from Yale University, Masters of Theological Studies in theology, philosophy, and ethics from Boston University, and his PhD in religion and religious studies from Boston University.

Prior to his time at American, Woodbine served as a teacher at Phillips Academy, a preparatory school in Andover, Massachusetts. He also served as a visiting research scholar at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Virginia. His book Black Gods of the Asphalt: Religion, Hip-Hop, and Street Basketball has been turned into a play that was performed by his students at Oprah Winfrey’s academy in South Africa. It has also been suggested as a TV series by Moonlight actor André Holland.

“I’m interested in how marginalized communities use religion and spirituality as a mode of survival, and a way to reclaim their humanity,” Woodbine said in a recent interview. “And at AU, there are opportunities to really engage those communities.”

Kareem Rabie

Kareem Rabie
Kareem Rabie, Anthropology

Assistant Professor of Anthropology

Kareem Rabie received his MA and PhD in cultural anthropology at the Graduate Center, City University of New York, and his BA in anthropology from the University of Chicago.

Rabie is currently completing a book manuscript, Palestine is Throwing a Party and the Whole World is Invited: Private Development and State Building in the West Bank (Duke University Press) and beginning new research on the economic geographies of Palestine-China trade. He has held academic positions at the University of Chicago, the University of Oxford, and Hunter College. His writing can be found in publications including The New Left Review, Jacobin, The Arab Studies Journal, and Jadaliyya.

As Rabie settles into life at American University, he says he’s most looking forward to working with (and learning from) his students in the anthropology department.

David Gerard

Portrait of David Gerard
David Gerard, Math and Statistics

Assistant Professor of Math and Statistics

Gerard received his PhD in statistics from the University of Washington, his MS in statistics from Ohio State University, and his BS in mathematics and molecular genetics from Ohio State University.

Gerard works to answer large questions in statistical genetics by applying hierarchical modeling and multivariate analysis. He works with tensor data to apply tensor methods to biological data to answer questions about the importance of specific genes and tissues for groups of people. His most recent research has been published in the latest (September 2018) issue of Genetics.

“I'm excited to improve myself as a teacher-scholar, building up new research collaborations and mentoring new students,” he says. “American University is such a great place to be right now to do this.”

Robert Shand

Robert Shand
Robert Shand, Education

Assistant Professor in the School of Education

Shand earned his PhD in economics and education from Teachers College, Columbia University, his MS in adolescent social studies from Pace University, and his BA in history and Spanish at the State University of New York at Albany.

Shand’s research focuses on how schools and teachers improve over time through the use of research evidence, analysis of data, and learning from one another via collaboration. He is also interested in how the improvement trajectories vary based on leadership, policy context, accountability regimes, and other factors that influence school cultures.

“I'm thrilled to work with a great group of scholars who are committed to integrating research, practice, and policy, and working closely with the communities we serve to improve education locally and nationally,” he says. “The most exciting aspect of my program is the opportunity to work directly with teachers who are aspiring to be policy leaders, as their perspectives are grounded in the real daily work of schools, and their voices are so important in shaping a research and policy agenda that really serves kids' needs.”

Alex Godwin

Alex Godwin
Alex Godwin, Computer Science

Assistant Professor of Computer Science

Godwin earned his PhD in human-centered computing from Georgia Institute of Technology, his MS in computer science from the University of North Carolina, Charlotte, and his BS in computer science from the University of North Carolina, Charlotte.

Godwin’s interests lie in the visual representation of data through computer interfaces, as well as social computing, art, and serious games. His work primarily deals with building and researching information visualization techniques that help people analyze civic data.

“Conversations about the role of computer and data science are becoming increasingly important in areas of public affairs and international service,” he says. “I am excited to work with all of the talented faculty in my own department, but the faculty in other departments provide opportunities for new research in these areas. My hope is to work with these other faculty members to establish interdisciplinary research projects over the coming years.”

Chun-Hsi Huang

Chun-Hsi Huang
Chun-Hsi Huang, Computer Science

Assistant Professor of Computer Science

Huang earned his PhD in computer science and engineering at the State University of New York at Buffalo, his MS in computer science at the University of Southern California, and his BS in computer science at the National Chiao-Tung University, Taiwan.

Huang’s research areas lie in extreme-scale computing and data analytics, computational biology and life-science informatics, and combinatorial algorithms and experimental algorithmics.

“American University is the ideal choice for my pursuit of permanent relocation to the DC area. In addition to its great location and beautiful campus, AU is attractive because of the supportive colleagues, energetic students, and the visionary leaders,” he says. “It’s particularly exciting to join the College of Arts and Sciences as it develops new graduate programs, expands the successful computer science undergraduate program, and the university’s research profile. There could never be a better time to become part of CS@AU.”

Amelia Tseng

Amelia Tseng
Amelia Tseng, World Languages and Cultures

Assistant Professor of World Languages and Cultures

Tseng earned her PhD in linguistics from Georgetown University, her MS in linguistics from Georgetown University, her MA in Spanish linguistics from Arizona State University, and her BA in Spanish and English from Wellesley College.

Tseng’s research addresses how language shapes and is shaped by identity across immigrant generations in Latinx diasporic contexts, focusing on multilingualism, dialect variation, discourse, and ethnocultural identity.

Tseng holds a research appointment at the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage and directed the American University Bilingual Education program from 2014-16. She is principal investigator on “Bilingualism and Latin@s in DC: Exploring Language Use and Cultural Identity, Resource Access, and Metropolitan Mobility. The project looks at language practices, access to resources, and their impact on the social experience of generations of Latino immigrants in Washington, DC. Tseng has also appeared on National Public Radio and WUSA 9.

Laurie Bayet

Laurie Bayet
Laurie Bayet, Psychology

Assistant Professor of Psychology

Bayet earned her PhD in psychology at University of Grenoble, her MS in cognitive science from Ecole Normale Superieure, Pierre-Louis Lions, and her BS in biology from Pierre and Marie Curie University, Paris.

Bayet’s interests lie with early visual, cognitive, and social-emotional development, with a specific focus on facial emotion perception in infancy and early childhood. Her laboratory uses electroencephalography, behavioral methods, and statistical or computational tools to investigate early development of representations involved in the processing of facial emotions and other high-level visual stimuli, and their relation to broader mechanisms of perceptual, social-emotional, or cognitive development.

"I'm excited to launch research projects investigating early brain and behavior development from birth to early childhood, to start new research collaborations, and to teach and mentor graduate and undergraduate students at AU," she said. "I'm excited by AU's commitment to research and education in the sciences, exemplified by its Center for Behaviorial Neuroscience and future Hall of Science." 

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newsId: E57C262B-EF09-1311-A0CCE2FA05FF0B1D
Title: Covering Politics and Culture in Afghanistan
Author: Shanzeh Ahmad
Subtitle:
Abstract: Ali Latifi (MA/SOC '11) built a career in international journalism by learning new skills and covering a variety of subjects.
Topic: Communications
Publication Date: 10/11/2018
Content:

Ali Latifi, SOC/MA '11, currently works as a freelance journalist in Afghanistan covering political and cultural issues for outlets including CNN, the LA Times and the New York Times.

The New York Times story he is most famous for is about Afghan refugees in Iran being sent to fight Syrian armed forces.

“I had just come back to Afghanistan after an unsuccessful attempt at working in Turkey, and this was a story I had wanted to work on for a while,” Latifi said.

Latifi said freelancing in Afghanistan can be difficult, but a person must keep trying.

“That means being willing to write for smaller outlets at times,” Latifi said. “That also means trying to branch out.”

Afghan soldier standing guard
An Afghan soldier stands guard in Achin district of the eastern province of Nangarhar two days after the United States dropped the so-called "mother of all bombs" on a village in the district.

Latifi said in the last year, he started doing live-video reports for CNN and other international media outlets. He said it was difficult at first because he was never trained in video journalism, but he learned by doing it.

Latifi also started doing radio interviews for stations in San Francisco, D.C., New York, South Africa, and Canada.

“It’s a good way to test your ability to analyze the stories you cover and figure out how to convey them to people on the other side of the world in a very short amount of time,” Latifi said. “Again, it’s something that you learn as you do it.”

Latifi said he applied to American University School of Communication’s International Media MA program because it was the only one of its kind that he had come across.

“It seemed perfect,” Latifi said. “They were about real-world practical experience and setting you up to actually being able to work in the field.”

During his time at AU, Latifi began freelancing. He also interned with the Kojo Nnamdi Show on the local NPR affiliate, Voice of America’s Afghan service, and Al Jazeera’s D.C. bureau.

Almost immediately after graduating from AU, Latifi received an email from Al Jazeera English to start working in Doha, Qatar. Latifi applied for a job there after interning in their D.C. bureau. A couple of weeks later, Latifi was at the airport and on his way.

Ali Latifi standing on a hillside above a river
Overlooking the Harirod River in the central province of Ghor.

“There was a definite learning curve there, and the media can be a cutthroat business,” Latifi said. “After a few difficult months, I decided that no matter what people may have thought of me on the inside, I would put in the work and prove to them I belonged there.”

During this time, Latifi began writing and researching his own stories and developing a network of sources. Latifi said that is when he decided to take ownership of the Afghanistan story for AJE.

While working for the LA Times, Latifi traveled across Afghanistan reporting on issues ranging from marriage costs to the 2014 presidential elections to a reality singing competition. During this time, he published the first ever interview with Rula Ghani, the current First Lady of Afghanistan.

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Title: Meet Isabel Wolff, 2018 Recipient of the Alumni Association Scholarship
Author: Mina Kato, SPA/MA ’18
Subtitle:
Abstract: Isabel shares her legacy connection to AU.
Topic: Alumni
Publication Date: 10/11/2018
Content:

“Exactly 25 years after my mother graduated from American University, I will take my first steps as a freshman on the very same campus as she once did,” says incoming student Isabel Wolff, SOC/BA ’22. Isabel remembers an iconic photo of herself, from her first trip to AU in 2004, next to a speckled elephant in front of Hurst Hall.

Years later, Isabel finds herself back on campus for an educational enrichment opportunity, Discover the World of Communication, to study international communication and professional newswriting under School of Communication faculty and communication professionals. “I was really interested in American because of its academic excellence and location in a metropolitan area with a dynamic city as an extended campus,” adds Isabel.

The daughter of Fern Schrager, Kogod/BSBA ’93, and niece of Lisa Wolff, Kogod/BSBA ’89, Isabel is the 2018 recipient of the Alumni Association Scholarship and describes how attending American is a family affair. “AU is in my DNA!” she exclaims.

Valuing education both in and out of the classroom, Isabel is excited to major in public relations and eager to join organizations such as Public Relations Student Society of America, The Eagle, Student Philanthropy Council, and AU Ambassadors – as they will allow her to share her enthusiasm for the university with others.

The Alumni Association Scholarship provides financial support to students whose parent or grandparent holds a degree from American University. Renewable for a maximum of four years, the scholarship offers $5,000 per year toward tuition and is awarded based upon the student’s academic record, demonstrated leadership abilities, connection to American University, and an essay describing how their family members’ experiences at AU influenced their own decision to attend.

In her essay, Isabel described being her mother’s “mini-me” as having similar personalities. “While I have always hoped that I would be able to outgrow this persona, I will never be able to shake it completely because we both will have had the privilege of attending AU. It is an honor to be a legacy student at American University,” says Isabel.

Tags: Alumni Newsletter,Alumni Relations,Alumni Update,Alumni,Scholarship
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newsId: 54FA68FD-C9B6-07B1-04DB24D10C13AE51
Title: Teachers Find Fake News Fighting Game Useful in the Classroom
Author: AJ Springer
Subtitle:
Abstract: A fake news fighting game, Factitious, became an unexpected viral hit and continues to provide teachers with a useful classroom tool to help students spot the real from fake.
Topic: Communications
Publication Date: 10/08/2018
Content:

A fake news fighting game that became an unexpected viral hit continues to provide teachers with a useful classroom tool to help students spot the real from fake.

“Factitious,” was launched with a simple question from American University Adjunct Professor Maggie Farley to Assistant Professor Bob Hone: “What if we could build a game to see if people could tell if an online story was real or fake?” The Tinder-style swipe game quickly went viral, earning 139,000 plays in its first two days and more than 339,000 times in the first month.

As word of the game spread, Hone realized teachers were using the game in their classroom.

“The classroom traffic started last September and ran through the full academic year,” Hone said. “Things got quiet during the summer and came roaring back towards the end of August and then in full bloom this September. It's the repeated and continuing use of Factitious this fall that is the biggest surprise to me.”

The recent flood of traffic has pushed the game close to one million total plays, with a big portion of that coming from educators.

“Factitious has been a fun way to get students to make that connection between fake news stories that are actually out there circulating, and their critical thinking skills,” said Sarah Hood a reference librarian at Santa Fe Community College in New Mexico. “When they actually have to give a verdict yay or nay as to whether a story is fake, it kind of ups the ante in a fun way.”

And with more satire and fake news sites entering social media feeds, the game came at a critical time.

"I've been looking for journalism games for the last 3-4 years," said Scott Truffiash, Language Arts instructor at Avonworth High School in the outer boroughs of Pittsburgh. "I wanted to have a different way to enter the discussion of fake news. Factitious was a nice launching point to get people to learn more about where the news is coming from."

On October 1, The Factitious Team re-launched the game with new articles to be released each Monday and a scoring system for players who want to track their progress and compete against others.

“One of the great results of our success is that we can see players getting better at spotting fake news the more they play” said Bob Hone. “We want to extend this learning to produce an even bigger effect.”

Like its predecessor, “Factitious 2018” won’t be make spotting the real from the fake easy. Players of the original version were fooled by seeing stories from fake sources that appeared to be real, such as “TheMississippiHerald.com.” In the age of fake news and realistic looking, but still fake URL’s, Hone offers the following tips for spotting fake news in “Factitious 2018” and on the Internet.

“Fake news purveyors are upping their game, so people need to adopt a skeptical view of online news. Is this a well-known source? Does the writer use flamboyant language? (real news articles don’t). Is it a singular opinion or a fact-based approach?”

“Factitious 2018” is available for play at: http://factitious.augamestudio.com/#/.

A more detailed history of Factitious can be found here.

Fast Facts About Factitious

  • More than 70,000 people played the game on the first day of release.
  • To date, players have rated nearly 9 million articles.
  • The “Factitious2018 team” consists of Bob Hone (producer/designer), Chas Brown(developer), Joyce Rice (UX/UI designer), and Maggie Farley (co-designer). The team for the original Factitious game included Founding Game Lab Director Lindsay Grace as well as MA Game Lab grads Kelli Dunlap and Cherrise Datu.
  • Games are engaging when they’re “appropriately difficult”–not too easy to be boring and not too hard to be frustrating. In the testing phase, articles that most users guessed correctly were excluded (too easy); if half of the testers got an article wrong, it was also discarded (too hard or confusing). 
Tags: School of Communication,Gamelab,Game Lab,Journalism (SOC),Journalism
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Title: New AU Institute Supports Research in Space Science and Technology
Author: Jennifer Maher
Subtitle:
Abstract: New AU Institute Supports Research in Space Science and Technology
Topic: Research
Publication Date: 10/08/2018
Content:

The Washington DC Metropolitan area is home to world-leading institutions dedicated to Space Science and Technology, including NASA headquarters and the Goddard Space Flight Center, and other government and industry labs and offices located throughout the region. To take advantage of American University’s unique location at the center of all this activity, the AU Institute for Integrated Space Science and Technology (ISSTI) was formed in 2017 and will have its official launch party in the Don Myers Technology and Innovation Building this October 19 as part of the College of Arts and Sciences STEAM Faire activities.

Originally envisioned by former AU physics professor UJ Sofia, ISSTI grew out of the Department of Physics with the goal of attracting and supporting externally funded astronomy and astrophysics research scientists. Over the last year, under the direction of physics professor Phil Johnson, its mission has expanded to create opportunities for students, staff, and faculty. ISSTI is also working together with the Department of Physics to promote STEM education in space-related fields.

CUTTING EDGE PROJECTS

ISSTI has various exciting interdisciplinary projects at the cutting edge of science and technology. For instance, ISSTI member Fred Bruhweiler and his team are studying a new type of nova-like star ("red transients") using data from the Hubble Space Telescope, and are also studying our Sun using data from the NASA solar flare observatory RHESSI which was put into orbit in 2002. ISSTI member Demetrios Poulios is developing laser, fiber optic, and lidar systems for NASA missions, including the Global Ecosystem Dynamic Investigation (GEDI) mission to study the Earth's forests and topography, and subsystems for possible future life-hunting NASA missions to Jupiter's moon Europa and Saturn's moon Titan. Last Spring, ISSTI co-sponsored the symposium “Environments of Terrestrial Planets Under the Young Sun: Seeds of Biomolecules”, help at NASA Goddard and organized by ISSTI research professor Vladimir Airapetian. ISSTI Director Phil Johnson is PI on two cooperative agreements with the Goddard Center for Astrobiology that support 5 full-time research faculty and staff investigating the origins of life in the Early solar system, including research on the composition of comets with the goal of understanding the origins of planetary water and organic molecules, and the remote sensing of planetary atmospheres, including Mars and Earth.

STEM EDUCATION

With the goal of building opportunities that make AU an exciting school for STEM-interested students, the Department of Physics and ISSTI, under the leadership of physics professorial lecturer Cyndee Finkel and ISSTI research faculty Fred Bruhweiler, have recently partnered with Virginia Space, operator of the Mid-Atlantic Space Port, to launch three student-built ThinSats. These satellites are roughly the size of a cell phone and will have a 5-10 days of orbit life before burning up on reentry. They will be built in the Myers Design and Build Lab (DaBL), and the project will include outreach to local middle and high schools. The AU – Virginia Space ThinSats are expected to launch next Fall. 

EXTERNAL AWARDS

There are presently 20 ISSTI members, all appointed in the Department of Physics, with external funding totaling $7.5M, including 8 research faculty, 3 postdocs, 3 staff scientists, 3 programmatic staff, and 3 regular physics department faculty. There are another 6 recently appointed research faculty actively seeking funding. Current ISSTI sponsors include NASA (11 awards), Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab (2 awards), NSF (1 award), JPL (1 award), and the Space Science Telescope Institute (3 awards). Professor Johnson expects to add more externally funded research scientists this coming year, while also strengthening ties to other AU departments where there are overlapping interests in space, technology, innovation, and outreach. In Summary, ISSTI is creating amazing opportunities for AU students, staff, and faculty to work on cutting-edge space science and technology.

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newsId: 51952543-FC21-0CEE-1248FBAD324F8A27
Title: AU Showcases Online Nutrition Degree
Author: Patty Housman
Subtitle: Inaugural Nutrition Education Conference highlights rewarding careers
Abstract: On September 28 and 29, AU kicked off its inaugural Nutrition Education Conference, a two-day event featuring a campus tour and cooking class, career panels, skill-building workshops, and more.
Topic: Science
Publication Date: 10/08/2018
Content:

On September 28 and 29, AU kicked off its inaugural Nutrition Education Conference, a two-day event featuring a campus tour and cooking class, career panels, skill-building workshops, professional development opportunities, and a conversation with New York Times bestselling author Tom Rath, who spoke about the importance of creating meaning in life and work. 

The conference, named “Bridging Passion and Purpose,” gave attendees an in-depth look at the wide world of nutrition education jobs. It also featured hot topics in nutrition and wellness, along with networking opportunities and advice from speakers working across the field of nutrition education.

In all, more than 35 current students and alumni from AU’s online Master of Science (MS) in Nutrition Education attended the conference, which was held at the Don Myers Technology and Innovation Building. “This inaugural conference marked an important milestone for the online Nutrition Education Program as we kick-off our fifth year of educating passionate students to become leaders in the field of nutrition education,” said Stacey Snelling, professor and chair of the Department of Health Studies. “With more than 100 alumni and close to 100 students, we are making a real contribution to changing the food landscape through programs and policies that promote healthful eating practices.”

Online MS Leading to Rewarding Careers

American University’s online Master of Science in Nutrition Education program focuses on the science of nutrition and the educational strategies necessary to impact behavior change at the individual, community, and population level. The advanced degree gives graduates the knowledge and skills to turn their passion into a wide range of rewarding careers.

The need for nutrition education is surging, according to Snelling. Whether it's addressing chronic illness, the obesity epidemic, or the needs of the ever-increasing aging population, highly-credentialed nutritionists are needed across a wide variety of organizations: schools, nonprofits, corporations, government, gyms, food companies, and more. In fact, dietitian and nutritionist jobs are expected to increase 15 percent from 2016 to 2026, much faster than average for all occupations.

The diversity of career options was reflected in the two panels at the conference. The first featured program representatives from a wide range of non-profit organizations including the American Heart Association, the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, DC Greens, and the University of Maryland Extension, Food Supplemental Nutrition Education Program.

People sit in a class room listening to a panel of four professionals. A presentation slide reads

The second panel featured program alumni working across different industries:

  • Lisa Adukia, Manager of Global Benefits Systems Innovation at Gap Inc.
  • Katherine Donnelly, Nutrition Education Coordinator at Capital Area Food Bank
  • Terry LaMonica, Certified Health and Wellness Coach and owner of Blue Birch Wellness
  • Sarah Nelson, Wellness and Volunteer Coordinator at Friendship Village Retirement Community
  • T’ara Smith, Community Health Educator at Amerigroup.

Flexible Format, Real-Life Connections

AU offers the nutrition education degree in a flexible online format for students from all over the country and the world. According to Christina Lunsford, manager of Online Partnership Programs, the degree attracts many working professionals who want to change careers.

“We have an incredibly diverse group of students in our program, both in terms of their educational background as well as their professional experience,” Lunsford says. “The common thread is their passion for nutrition and promoting health and their desire to make a positive impact in their communities. This conference gave them an opportunity to explore all the different paths they can pursue to turn their passion into a real career.”

The participants agreed. “Networking with students, alumni, and established professionals was incredibly valuable and learning how to apply the degree when seeking employment was particularly helpful,” said one student. “In an online program, having the opportunity to meet face to face with our peers and mentors was really enlightening and satisfying.”

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Title: Triadic Coercion
Author: Jennifer Byerly
Subtitle:
Abstract: Professor Boaz Atzili spoke with us about the seldom-examined theory of international relations, including why states often encourage the tactic as a necessary response — even when it's prone to backfire.
Topic: International
Publication Date: 10/08/2018
Content:

WHAT IS TRIADIC COERCION?

When I asked Professor Boaz Atzili for a quick and easy definition of triadic coercion, he chuckled: “Quick and easy? We academics aren’t so good at that…” I wasn’t surprised, because Atzili’s new book, co-authored with Wendy Pearlman, focuses on a seldom-examined strain of International Relations scholarship, so I pressed on.

“Basically, triadic coercion is when one state tries to force another state to prevent non-state actors’ attack against the first state.”

Let’s break that down a bit more.

Atzili continued: “I think it’s actually a pretty common strategy. One example would be how right after 9/11, President Bush said the country would ‘make no distinction between the terrorists who committed these acts and those who harbor them,’ basically threatening states pledging to help or even tolerate the presence of Al Qaeda. And that’s exactly what happened in Afghanistan.”

Atzili and his co-author, Professor Wendy Pearlman of Northwestern University, researched cases all around the world, looking at how different nations use triadic coercion to varying degrees of success. Whether observing the outcomes in Africa or the Middle East, they kept returning to case studies in Israel: “Israel is unique both because of its long history of using triadic coercion and the variety of actors it coerces across a variety of locations around its borders.” With 70 years of data to mine, they started sifting through examples, hoping to eventually discern the conditions that allow triadic coercion’s tactics to work.

"In the last 20 or so years, there’s been less variation in how Israel uses triadic coercion and an overall increase in the use of these tactics. They try to coerce host states because it’s what they’ve always done – and as that flexibility disappeared, we saw a one-size-fits-all approach to triadic coercion take hold, no matter whether it’s likely to succeed or fail,” says Atzili.

Infographic: left-oriented circle labeled coercer state with arrow directly influencing a right-oriented circle labeled host state, with arrow directly influencing the host state’s inner-circle within labeled nonstate actor

DOES TRIADIC COERCION WORK? IF SO, WHEN?

It didn’t take long for a major pattern to reveal itself: triadic coercion is more likely to fail when deployed against states governed by weaker regimes.

That discovery might sound counter-intuitive — which is exactly why it’s so critical.

“Israel, and the world in general, is experiencing increasing threats from non-state actors. And maybe they’re less dangerous in terms of casualties, but they are much harder to fight in a conventional way. We usually say terrorists have no return address, so in order to deter something, you need to hold their value hostage. That’s hard to do when non-state actors are secretly structured and without open military assets. So triadic coercion begins to look like a magic bullet: You shift the game back into the field you know well, so that you avoid playing the game by the non-state’s terms,” says Atzili.

But such a policy could only work if the target state’s regime possesses the institutional capacity and the political legitimacy to confront the non-state actors in their midst. Otherwise triadic coercion is likely to fail, or even backfire. So why would some states choose to use triadic coercion when, in all likelihood, they may only be shooting themselves in the foot? Atzili and Perlman have their own explanation for this disconnect: strategic culture.

“We call it culture because it’s no longer a rational decision to keep using it despite failure – states are no longer weighing the pros and cons of policy,” Atzili says.

There are plenty of examples of states who used triadic coercion without much benefit, but success stories are harder to find – one more reason, Atzili says, why Israel’s history of decades of triadic coercion make for the perfect case study.

“There are some notable success stories in the case of Israel’s relations with its neighbors,” he continues. “If you compare Egypt-Israeli relations before and after the Suez War of the 1950’s, before the war, the Egyptian regime was weak, and Israel’s attempts to retaliate against Palestinian groups working from Egypt had failed. Egypt’s regime was still fragile – they didn’t have enough legitimacy yet to take decisive action against the Palestinians.

That changed after 1956, when the Suez War gave the Egyptian regime the chance to present itself as a savior against imperial forces and created an opportunity to legitimize the regime almost overnight. The regime quickly became a major force in the region, and perhaps most interestingly – in this time, triadic coercion now actually began to work! Israel successfully pressured Egypt to disallow cross-border attacks by non-state actors, and for the next ten years, the border between the two nations was very quiet.”

In other words, when regimes are stable and face credible external threat, they will act in accordance to the interests of the state and prevent non-state actors from breaching their borders. Compare that to fragile states on the edge: with so little power and influence, and with threats to the regime looming larger than those to the state, there is less likelihood of getting the regime to act against the non-state actors you’re really after.

Decision tree of triadic coercion's success and failure outcomes based on host regime strength and inclination to stop violence

WILL THE FUTURE BE THE SAME AS THE PAST?

In the decades since Israel’s formation, we’ve become globally connected in a way previous generations could only have imagined. People are traveling more and making multicultural and transnational connections. We’re seeing increased globalization as the world becomes more digitally connected. So, is strategic culture an endangered attitude? Are we entering a world where triadic coercion could soon become a tactic of the past?

Not so fast, says Atzili: “In theory, if you’re open to other cultures and perceptions, that connectivity could apply…but will it? I’m not so sure. I’m looking at things from one perspective, but seeing the increase of identity politics and the rise of extreme nationalism around the world…I think that connectivity isn’t necessarily creating openness. It seems to me that these connections may sometimes reinforce what’s comfortable to the user, creating bubbles of ideas that reinforce our own perceptions.”

His concerns are valid, but Atzili isn’t without hope. Asked if he hopes that one day his findings might translate into a type of risk analysis program states can run to forecast feasibility, he nods: “In principal, yes. It’s never a straightforward calculation, but what I hope is that our findings might allow people to say, ‘Okay, let’s pause here. Are we considering this policy, this tactic, because it actually makes sense, or because we’re used to responding this way?’

“I hope that, even in one small corner of the world, states think outside their own interests, and consider whether it’s likely to work or not. If they adapt to that way of thinking, they might also consider important things like human rights and the potential end of suffering.”

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newsId: 52380588-A3D8-CE66-96570E5A5C9DAABA
Title: The Art of Establishing Peace Through Business
Author: Maddie Ecker
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Abstract: For over a decade, Professor Robert Sicina has spearheaded a course that aims to elevate entrepreneurs in post-conflict regions and help them find success.
Topic: Professional News
Publication Date: 10/08/2018
Content:

From Washington, DC, to Pakistan, Robert Sicina, an international business professor at the Kogod School of Business, has worked to create partnerships between students and entrepreneurs in post-conflict regions in the name of peace.

Sicina teaches self-created courses like Peace Through Entrepreneurship Practicum and, most recently, was elected Vice Chairman of the Business for Peace (B4P) Working Group. B4P assembles academics dedicated to promoting peace through their research, teaching, and interaction with the business community. The group is part of the Principles for Responsible Management Education (PRiME), which is under the UN Global Compact.

To fully appreciate Sicina’s most recent accomplishment, it’s critical to know where he started. It all began with a volunteer opportunity with the State Department over a decade ago, which has since manifested into a unique course offered at Kogod that has global impact.

When former Kogod Dean Dick Durand approached Sicina about being the volunteer faculty advisor for a State Department program that connected entrepreneurs in post-conflict regions with MBA students, Sicina saw an opportunity for professional growth and his Peace Through Entrepreneurship Practicum class was born.

When the program was discontinued, Sicina had luckily laid a foundation to continue the course on his own. He had established contacts in the Middle East and was able to leverage them to create a source of projects for his students. For the last decade, Sicina has been able to put together four to five projects a semester.

The main focus of Sicina’s course is economic opportunity and how it is vital to the peace and prosperity of regions like Tunisia, Gabon, Palestine, and Pakistan.

“If you have economic opportunity, if you can show people that tomorrow is going to be better than today, and that their kids lives can be better than their lives, then they’re going to put down their guns and go to work,” he said.

This semester, Sicina has five projects in the works and is in the process of developing strategic relationships with a Zambian accelerator called BongoHive and the United States Institute of Peace in DC. Sicina now has the privilege of only teaching courses he has created, which comes with its own set of challenges.

“It’s hard to cobble together reasonably good projects,” Sicina said. “I learned something this semester, that the more front-end work I do with the entrepreneurs before the semester starts, the better the course goes.”

It was through his course that Sicina met Christina Bache, who was connected to The Hollings Center for International Dialogue. And through his connection to Bache, Sicina got to attend a Hollings Center conference in Dubai. It was here that Sicina attended his first B4P meeting and became a member of its steering committee.

As B4P’s vice chairman, Sicina has big plans for the future. The first hurdle: membership. Currently, there are about 60 members, 20 of which are active. He hopes to expand the group’s membership to 400 or 500 by the end of the year. Sicina also wants to see B4P become a 501(c)(3) and begin hosting its own conferences. In two years Sicina will become chairman of the group, and he hopes to accomplish the goals he’s laid out during his term to set the following chairman up for success.

Looking ahead, Sicina plans to capture his professional achievements and experiences in his upcoming book, The Business of Peace. While he spent five challenging years writing his first book, Sicina looks forward to telling the stories of the entrepreneurs he’s worked with over the years.

“It was a [tough] experience, one of those things like working out, but it feels good when it’s over,” he said. “It feels good to have written a book. I think the next time around I’ll write a better [one].”

The art of establishing peace through business is tricky, but Sicina has found a balance.

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newsId: 48BA6E13-A826-C690-C7F0CB5715074D05
Title: Teju Cole Talks Art and Activism at AU
Author: Gregg Sangillo
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Abstract: The prolific writer and photographer made a special two-day appearance on campus.
Topic: On Campus
Publication Date: 10/08/2018
Content:

How do you practice art in the 21st century? That question would likely provoke considerable disagreement. But Teju Cole’s creative depth and talent across platforms make him a contemporary model to behold. Cole has published novels, nonfiction essays, and a photography book. Media outlets have praised his innovative use of social media, and his output includes everything from art installations to Spotify playlists. He’s also a photography critic for the New York Times Magazine.

Cole made a special two-day appearance at American University on Wednesday, October 3, and Thursday, October 4. After his first presentation in the McKinley Building, Cole talked about art and activism as part of the College of Arts and Science’s Bishop McCabe Lecture Series. The sold-out, Thursday evening event took place in the Katzen Arts Center’s Abramson Family Recital Hall.

Numerous partners brought Cole to AU, including CAS, the School of Communication, the Humanities Lab, the MFA Creative Writing Visiting Writers Series, the Studio Art Program, and the Literature Department.

 

Race and Technology

The event was based on his book, Known and Strange Things, with Cole sharing slides of other artists’ photos that he’s analyzed through written essays.

He discussed the built-in racial biases of the photography world, while noting how seminal artists resisted those confines. For example, Roy DeCarava depicted the lives of African Americans, and he often made the shadings of his pictures a bit darker.

Technology “is always limited by the imaginations of the people who make the technology,” Cole said. “[Camera film] was calibrated for white skin. So, if you photographed black skin, you had to make adjustments. And most photographers then made the photographs lighter, and there were all these balance problems. And DeCarava was like, ‘OK, I’ll calibrate it my own way.’”

Cole added, “Even as recently as 2009, HP cameras on your computer could not recognize black people as people.”

 

Depicting Brutality

He wrestled with how to depict conflict, sometimes preferring images of objects instead of the people being brutalized. He showed one photo of the blouse of a school girl who was abducted by Boko Haram in Nigeria.

“Photography can be a real tool of power,” he said. “How do we do right by other people when we photograph them, or their moments of suffering?”

He mentioned the all-too-frequent ritual of seeing black lives taken. Referencing his “Death in the Browser Tab” essay, he recalled watching a video of South Carolinian Walter Scott’s death spontaneously auto-play on the New York Times homepage.

“It’s not just the fact that cops are killing black men, but the fact that we’re having to see so much of that. What does that do to you?”

 

Art and Unknowable Mysteries

He subsequently traveled to that same South Carolina area—not to interview anyone, but to get a feel for where Scott was killed.

In other instances, he displayed a similar curiosity about a photo’s surrounding environment. He showed Swiss photographer René Burri’s indelible “Men on a Rooftop” shot from São Paulo, Brazil, which Cole called “the most James Bond picture ever.”

The photo was taken in 1960, just as the Brazilian city was becoming a major metropolis. Cole became obsessed with where exactly this rooftop was located, and he spent days in São Paulo asking people about it.

“It was just sort of maddening that I couldn’t find it, and also maddening that I cared so much. Why did it matter?” he asked. Through some photo detective work, he eventually found the building before contemplating a more profound discovery.

“There are certain things we can solve about a work of art, but its power is always something that cannot really get solved.”

In dissecting the strange alchemy of the medium, he noted how it can also inspire. He was disillusioned after the 2016 presidential election, but Taryn Simon’s image of a floral arrangement helped revive his passion. Simon inventively isolated flowers that usually remain on a table beneath smiling heads of state during diplomatic summits.

“I’m very grateful to this piece, because it was just a way for me to get back to life. It kind of saved me, in a way,” he said.

 

The Writing Process

Cole delved into the process of writing about these photos. One fascinating anecdote involved the now-classic photo of a Black Lives Matter protestor, standing in near-Zen tranquility, while two Robocop-looking Louisiana State Police officers approach her.

“I wanted to think about it in connection to something like ‘Tank Man,’ and just the way that individual people’s moments of tremendous courage can be captured by photography,” he recounted.

But just after he’d written a draft of the piece, a man shot and killed a few Baton Rouge police officers. The political climate shifted dramatically, and he considered whether he should reframe the piece. After arguing with his editors, he decided to keep his essay as originally written, and he just added another page.

“The duty of critical writing is to listen to the noise of the world, without being deafened by it,” he said.

 

Final Thoughts

Throughout the evening, Cole expressed ambivalence about how we digest daily violence. He argued that news organizations won’t photograph white people getting killed, and he called for more racial and geographic balance when showing victimization.

“If we’re committed to saying, ‘Well, it’s important, it should be seen,’ then it should be important enough that it can be seen regardless of who it is,” Cole said during the question-and-answer session.

In response to a question about a museum on genocide in Cambodia, Cole favored documenting large-scale atrocities.

“We need some of the enormity conveyed to us—viscerally, graphically, obliquely—but we have to have it in some form,” he said. “When we look away, then we sort of lie to ourselves about what happened.”

Even with his discomfort, he leans toward keeping the cameras rolling and active. And near the end of the conversation, he affirmed every artist’s role in the world.

“We’re hunter-gatherers. You go out into the world. You try to figure out what’s yours, what belongs to you,” he said. “You gather it, and then when you get home, you try to figure out whether you can use it.”

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newsId: 509393F5-DD58-4B0B-65A45166C58714EB
Title: How We Spent the Summer
Author: Jennifer Byerly
Subtitle:
Abstract: For many SIS professors and students, the summer months are just as productive as the academic year. Here are a few of their stories.
Topic: International
Publication Date: 10/08/2018
Content:

For many SIS professors and students, the summer months are just as productive as the academic year. Research, practica, and internships took many of them around the US and the world to interview local people, collect and analyze data, participate in social movements, and learn new skills.

Here are few of their stories:

Julie Walton, SIS/MA ‘19
Annelise Straw, SIS/BA ‘18
Professor Robert Kelley
Abrar Rageh, SIS/MA ‘18
Veronica Ferris, SIS/MA ‘19

Julie Walton, SIS/MA ‘19

Julie Walton, a graduate student in the Social Enterprise program, would be the first to tell you she never planned to go to graduate school – but after five trips to Sri Lankan orphanages, she felt compelled to do more. She kept hearing from boots-on-the-ground organizations and officials that there was only so much they could do without broader institutionalized reform, so she decided to pursue lasting change via policy.

Walton spent three weeks in India and four weeks in Sri Lanka traveling to various cities and children’s homes to observe how they support kids in their care. The goal was to replicate the methodology a successful Indian NGO uses to quantify whether a child’s needs are met in Sri Lankan children’s homes, a country with many cultural similarities. But that might sound simpler than it is, according to Walton: “India is more institutionally developed, so they have more childcare professionals and set standards of care for homes supported by this network.”

“The methodology the Indian NGO I observed is based on the Convention on the Rights of the Child. So, the organization has taken the rights that are delineated there and developed a methodology to ensure access to those rights in a way that mirrors what we would presume kids would receive being raised by their biological families.”

These rights include items like nutrition and education as well as rights people in the West may not consider, like the right to be protected from exploitation and access to toilets. By scoring these rights across different countries and cultures, the hope is that the core elements – the essential needs of children – will reveal themselves, and research like Walton’s will provide valuable insight into how we can best care for kids in need all around the globe.

Walton is humble about her research and isn’t sure what the next step will be for its application, but is determined to help however she can: “I just want to see us do better. I want us to prioritize because not all needs are equal. For children without anyone in their corner, they’re living day-to-day without advocacy – and sometimes, even if there’s a care giver, there might not be any oversight into their standards of care. It’s humbling to work with the people tucking these kids into bed each night, and I’m grateful for the opportunity to learn from them.”

Annelise Straw, SIS/BA ‘18

Food city in rural Appalachia

Why, in an area with an abundance of productive land, are residents malnourished, obese, and food insecure? One SIS undergraduate student returned to her grandmother’s home in rural Appalachia last summer to dig deeper into what goes wrong for residents looking to access healthy food.

According to Annelise Straw, to understand today’s food insecurity, you must understand previous generations’ abundance: “These towns were created with the boom of coal, and now, with the bust of coal, locals are having to travel an hour to two hours away to find jobs.”

More time commuting means less time at home to tend a garden or work the family farm – plus decreased job opportunity and lower wages mean that proportionally, there is more upfront cost to plant. Why bother when a box of shelf-stable food is immediately available for two dollars nearby?

Economics certainly play a factor, but Straw also found limited access to fresh produce in the area: “I was shocked at how little variety of produce there was – mostly just corn, potatoes, cucumbers, and iceberg lettuce.”

Despite the region’s high soil quality and available land, most of the area is monopolized for high commodity cash crops like corn and tobacco, produced and exported for out-of-state consumption.

Straw continues, “In an area with so much land, why aren’t people in Central Appalachia growing their own food and hosting farmer’s markets with locally grown fresh produce like they do in high-income areas of nearby cities? Unfortunately, the food, and the farms, and the work just aren’t there. Food insecurity is more than just having an adequate amount of fruit – food procurement, socio-economic circumstances, and historical events all impact our local food economies.”

She hopes her research will be used as a microcosm for the study of food security in other rural areas.

Robert Kelley, faculty

Portrait of Samantha Smith

A recipient of the Dean’s Summer Research Award, Professor Robert Kelley spent his summer researching the life and legacy of Samantha Smith, a Maine schoolgirl who rose to near-overnight fame after exchanging letters with then-Soviet leader Yuri Andropov.

In 1983, Samantha’s correspondence led to an invitation to visit the USSR, and the powerful impression she made became an unexpected cultural diplomacy coup. Later, her sudden death in a 1985 plane crash sent shockwaves around the world, with both Americans and Soviets mourning her loss.

Kelley visited the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library archives in Simi Valley, California and conducted interviews around the US and former Soviet states: “She left a powerful impression in both countries, and the celebrations of her life in each of these societies have taken different paths. The research I conducted over the summer contributed to my reconstruction of her story and will assess the ways in which she is remembered in the decades since.”

His goal is to better understand the human impact of one citizen’s cultural diplomacy.

Abrar Rageh, SIS/MA ‘18

Abrar Rageh

Recent SIS graduate Abrar Rageh spent her summer in Doha, Qatar, interviewing Egyptian activists who were active in the 2010-2011 Arab uprisings commonly known as the Arab Spring. While at AU, Abrar developed a resilience-building framework based on her research with communities of color in the US and Puerto Rico. A student from the Ethics, Peace, and Global Affairs program, she was particularly interested in researching how communities build resilience after collective trauma and disrupt the negative feedback loop that further demoralizes the disenfranchised.

Rageh discovered that Egyptian revolution participants, many of whom witnessed or experienced tragedy first-hand, are increasingly demoralized. The same individuals who once fought for and encouraged a sense of pride in their Egyptian identity are now facing a unique set of challenges that include isolation and the ongoing physical threat against themselves and loved ones remaining inside Egypt.

While post-revolutionary Egypt brought forth a newfound social and political consciousness for its citizens, Rageh found the expatriated activists she spoke with were unanimously hopeless and burnt-out: “The levels of demoralization are high, as proven through other research, but at the end of many conversations, people expressed their gratitude and seemed hopeful at the possibility that things could change for the better. One activist said to me, ‘It is a breath of fresh air to know we are not forgotten, that the revolution isn't forgotten. At least we can speak with someone about this; people who are far removed from the revolution and its values don’t really get it.’”

Rageh argues that resilience is both key to catalyzing a revolution and a tacit form of resistance in the face of repression. Her research builds a framework hoping to encourage and revitalize the community by providing resiliency-building techniques and workshops, and despite the challenges, she remains inspired by the belief that when people take control of their agency, they can reclaim their freedoms.

Veronica Ferris, SIS/MA ‘19

Veronica Ferris at the 2018 Capital Pride Festival

Veronica Ferris spent the summer in Washington, DC, taking summer classes at American University and volunteering at Iona Senior Services under her Returned Peace Corps Volunteer Coverdell Fellowship.

For her course on fundraising and grant-writing, she developed a mock grant proposal using the example of a real solar energy project she previously worked on while volunteering with the Peace Corps in Namibia. Ferris, a graduate student in the International Development program, also enjoyed her monitoring and evaluation course and looks forward to putting her skills to use as she conducts needs evaluations and plans projects in the developing world.

As a volunteer at Iona Senior Services, Ferris participated in the Capital Pride Festival, encouraging LGBTQ+ people to have pride at any age, and promoted local services for older adults in the area. She created a database of older adults in need of volunteer assistance, and coordinated volunteer matches while working hand-in-hand with social workers.

Volunteering at the Capital Pride Festival was a particularly meaningful experience for Ferris: “As someone who has been involved in service in the LGBTQ+ community for over a decade, it was an amazing opportunity to discuss pride with people of all ages. I hadn’t thought a lot about the intersection between pride and aging, and the importance of still finding ways to celebrate as a senior citizen. It was so uplifting to hear people give advice to their former selves, and to help display people's quotes for everyone to read and be inspired by.”

She plans to continue volunteering with Iona Senior Services throughout the fall semester, and is looking forward to learning even more about coordinating volunteers — a skill that will be invaluable in her future work in international nonprofits.

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newsId: AD6CC60F-9E2E-96D4-BEBAC82904129E28
Title: Building Community in DC through Game Design
Author: Shanzeh Ahmad
Subtitle:
Abstract: American University professor Benjamin Stokes empowers neighborhoods and communities to build stronger social connections through digital media.
Topic: Communications
Publication Date: 10/05/2018
Content:

Benjamin Stokes, an assistant professor at American University School of Communication (AU SOC), is currently researching how neighborhoods and communities, such as Washington, DC’s Adams Morgan, can be empowered to build stronger social connections through digital media.

Stokes said the strength of his research is it brings a number of different perspectives together, including: design, technology, communication, and civic engagement.

“All of those things have to come together if you’re trying to design interactive systems for neighborhoods and communities,” Stokes said.

According to Stokes, games provide a different and more powerful way of thinking about a problem than other digital media. He said he feels everyone interested in digital media and interactive systems should push themselves to consider games.

“I think of game design as a liberal art for interactivity in the same way I feel like everyone should take an English class,” Stokes said. “Everyone should know how to write. Anybody who’s designing for interactivity should have thought about games.”

Stokes argues that games are a more interesting and complex interactive system because their meaning is often in the choices they offer and not just the content.

“If you’re like, ‘oh I learned how to make a website,’” Stokes said. “To me that’s somebody who’s like, ‘well I learned how to compose sentences, but I’ve never tried a paragraph.’ Why not try a paragraph? It’s not that crazy, and it’s very interesting.”

Stokes said his current research can be traced to a non-profit that he cofounded in New York called Games for Change, which empowers game creators and social innovators to drive real-world change using games and technology.  

“The annual festival for Games for Change remains one of the most important gathering spaces in the world for civics and games,” Stokes said.

Stokes said although he studies big-scale trends in civic media, his designs are local in focus and impact. Stokes argues that the app store is often a terrible ecosystem for local content.

Earlier this year, Stokes published research showing how Pokémon GO was still a powerful force for cities if they are willing to remix the game for some local campaigns.

"This is a really interesting problem in a global age where local still matters," Stokes said. "We still connect to where we live. We live in communities and neighborhoods, and we don't want them all to look the same."

American University Humanities Truck
American University Humanities Truck

In a recent project, Stokes piloted a storytelling system for neighborhood identity during Adams Morgan Day 2018, in collaboration with the Smithsonian Anacostia Community Museum and the new Humanities Truck at AU. The project brings multiple channels together in a playful way, from paper to exhibit space.

“One of the ways in which games are really different from a lot of raw technology tools, is that they embrace some uncertainty,” Stokes said. “Adams Morgan has a really interesting history but if everyone uses the same history app, it starts to make all history feel the same.”

During Adams Morgan Day, Stokes set up a raffle. When people signed up for the raffle, Stokes said they were sending out historic photos of Adams Morgan straight to people’s cell phones.

“It’s a different distribution channel than your usual social media or email,” Stokes said. “We were sending out hundreds of these text messages. But the interesting thing is that two people wouldn’t get the same one.”

Stokes contrasted this practice to that of museums, which typically use technology more linearly and treat it more as a tool.

“You push a button and always get the same thing,” Stokes said. “Game design teaches us that actually people are much more interested when there is a little bit of unpredictability, and then we give people choices.”

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Title: Computer Science Research Aids in Mitigating Cyberthreats in Vehicles
Author: Rebecca Basu
Subtitle:
Abstract: Using machine learning techniques, American University Computer Science Professor Nathalie Japkowicz and her colleagues designed a way to detect unusual activity in a car’s computer system.
Topic: Research
Publication Date: 10/05/2018
Content:

In acts of terrorism, vehicles have been deployed as killing machines. These incidents involved human operators, but another sinister possibility looms: a vehicle cyber hack intended to cause human harm. While this kind of terrorist attack has not yet occurred, in the realm of security research, it’s been demonstrated how hackers could gain control over car systems like the brakes, steering and engine.

Using machine learning techniques, American University Computer Science Professor Nathalie Japkowicz and her co-authors, Adrian Taylor of Defence R&D Canada and Sylvain Leblanc of the Royal Military College of Canada, designed a way to detect unusual activity in a car’s computer system. Unusual activity could signal a cyberattack, so the findings have implications for the search for tools to respond to cybersecurity threats in vehicles.

“We are catching abnormal activity on the network which needs to be analyzed further. We just know that it is different from usual and may lead to a dangerous situation,” said Japkowicz. At AU, where it concerns cybersecurity research, the current focus of the computer science department is on “vulnerability management,” or detecting attacks during normal system operations. Computer science research into cybersecurity threats and vehicles plays an important role in informing how the automotive industry and national governments will address cyberattacks.  

Car computer network systems have many vulnerabilities. They are made up of many small, linked computer units, (or electronic control units) that communicate with each other. Newer car models can be hacked through wireless and cellular connections. Even USB and iPod ports provide access points for a potential hack. Newer vehicles, especially, are vulnerable because they are constantly connected to the internet.  

A cyberattack will disrupt the normal patterns of a car. Japkowicz and her co-authors’ focused on detecting anomalies on the computer network system and the point at which a car, having been hacked, is made to do things differently from what it’s programmed to do. For example, a change in a message in the computer network system from "steer right" to "steer left," Japkowicz explains.

To detect unusual activity, the researchers experimented with two machine learning techniques, called Long Short-Term Memory and Gated Recurrent Units, to learn normal data patterns in a car, Japkowicz explains. In particular, they used that technology to analyze network data on a 2012 Subaru Impreza for vehicle traffic and driving in various conditions.

Both techniques involved a “neural network” trained on normal traffic patterns so that it could recognize anomalies. A neural network is an important part of machine learning. Neural networks are computer algorithms built on data inputs. Neural networks proceed in a way analogous to how humans learn through neural processes. Japkowicz explains how an artificial neural network works: information gets transmitted from artificial neuron to artificial neuron through highly parallel connections that get stronger and stronger as similar patterns are observed.  

The researchers created an attack framework that allowed them to test a wide range of cyberattacks representative of real ones. They did so by reviewing every example they could find of published cyberattacks in vehicles and integrating these examples and their generalizations into their framework. In doing so, not only did they create a robust framework within which to test their own work, but they believe that the research community involved in the same kind of research can also benefit from it, Japkowicz said.

Although cars are unique, the research findings should apply to other car models because cyberattacks on car models are similar, Japkowicz said. In the future, she will test the detection system in other cars and refine the technique, making the neural network smarter with more varied data inputs.

The research has published in a special issue on data mining and cybersecurity in IEEE Intelligent Systems.

 

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Title: George Hawkins Aims to Inspire Policy Passion at the Local Level
Author:
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Abstract: Whether with water, roads, policing, or affordable housing, new SPA Professor of Practice, George Hawkins, says students interested in public policy can make a difference helping cities deliver services directly to people who need them.
Topic: Government & Politics
Publication Date: 10/04/2018
Content:

Whether with water, roads, policing, or affordable housing, new SPA Professor of Practice, George Hawkins, says students interested in public policy can make a difference helping cities deliver services directly to people who need them.

“In my view, having been at various levels of government over the years, local government is where the action is these days,” says Hawkins.

Hawkins, a Harvard Law School graduate, has worked in senior positions with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). He served former Vice President Al Gore on the National Performance Review, playing an integral role in strengthening environmental protection programs at EPA and OSHA.

Hawkins moved to the municipal level of government and became the head of the District of Columbia Department of the Environment in 2007, where he enjoyed seeing and measuring the outcome of his work. He was general manager of the District of Columbia Water and Sewer Authority from 2009 to 2017.

Prior and during his work in government, altogether Hawkins spent 18 years teaching environmental law and policy at Princeton University. At SPA, he is developing a new course for this spring that will focus on migration to cities and infrastructure policies. Students will explore case studies drawn from recent headlines and will act out the roles of key players to enhance their critical thinking and public speaking skills. Hawkins hopes it will encourage a new generation of young leaders to bring their creativity to local government. He’d also like to create a professional training program for municipal officials to enhance their exposure to the latest technology to solve local problems.

“Coming to AU allows me to force multiply the lessons I’ve learned in 25 years of public service at both ends of the spectrum — to share it with folks coming in with enthusiasm and those grizzled veterans trying to do their best,” says Hawkins, adding how he loves teaching and learning from students.

Improving cities is a matter of leadership, and Hawkins says that’s why he wanted the next step in his career to focus on education.
“All over the United States, cities are coming back,” says Hawkins. “As that happens, we need to make cities greener, affordable, and inclusive … It’s where the jobs are.”

The need to understand how to deliver water to growing cities and manage services in times of drought is growing, says Hawkins, who is writing a book about the story of the transformation of District of Columbia Water into a customer-oriented enterprise. He also runs a company, Moonshot, that consults with utilities nationwide.

Hawkins began his career practicing law in Boston but was drawn to the nonprofit world and public service. “Purpose is everything to me,” Hawkins says. “Whether humankind is going to be able to survive on this planet in a way that’s sustainable is still an open question. Survival of people — and all other species — is well worth our attention.”

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newsId: 80A54899-9A05-35AC-C9EEFE8F7EC7F076
Title: Research Reveals States with Medical Marijuana Laws Have Lower Workplace Fatalities
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Abstract: AU School of Public Affairs professor Erdal Tekin recently completed a study that examined workplace fatalities across the country
Topic: Research
Publication Date: 10/04/2018
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With 29 states and the District of Columbia legalizing the use of medical marijuana, concerns are being raised about the potential impact of the laws on workplace safety.  

AU School of Public Affairs professor Erdal Tekin recently completed a study that examined workplace fatalities in all 50 states and the District of Columbia between 1992 and 2015. He compared the changes in incidents over time among states with and without medical marijuana laws using a technique called difference-in-differences. Tekin, along with coauthors Mark Anderson and Daniel Rees, described the results in the article, “Medical marijuana laws and workforce fatalities in the United States.” The article appeared online in the International Journal of Drug Policy in August and will be in print this fall.

Legalizing marijuana was associated with nearly a 20 percent reduction in the expected number of workplace fatalities among workers age 25 to 44 — and the connection in that age group grew stronger over time. Five years after coming into effect, MMLs were associated with a 33.7 percent reduction in the expected number of workplace fatalities.

“It’s a pretty sizable effect,” says Tekin. “We are confident there is a casual relationship between these laws and workplace fatalities. What is driving this effect is still an open question.”

It could be that marijuana is a substitute for other risky behaviors, such as excessive alcohol use. Studies show that marijuana doesn’t affect memory and motor skills like excessive drinking does. Tekin notes that previous studies show that the legalization of marijuana leads to less alcohol consumption.

In many states, it is unclear how companies can treat medical marijuana users who test positive for the drug and link the substance to workplace injuries or death.

“There are legal gaps. While these laws are progressing, and an increasing number of states are adopting these laws, the landscape doesn’t seem to have caught up,” Tekin says.

“There is a lot of debate about the relative benefit or harms of medical marijuana, but the discussion that takes place in the public discourse is not well informed,” says Tekin. “People often have already made up their mind if they are for or against marijuana legalization. We hope to contribute to this debate with some evidence about one aspect of this.”

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newsId: 814AF574-9B69-5318-4E807A819F87AA12
Title: New Book Explores Whether Democracy Can Handle Climate Change
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Abstract: In his new book, "Can Democracy Handle Climate Change?" published by Polity Books, SPA Distinguished Executive in Residence Dan Fiorino challenges those who are skeptical of democratic countries’ capacity to address climate change.
Topic: Research
Publication Date: 10/04/2018
Content:

From wildfires in California to hurricanes in the Carolinas, the recent extreme weather in the United States highlights the threat of climate change. Yet, the Trump administration has been rolling back policies to protect the environment, raising concerns that democratic governments are incapable of responding to the growing danger to the planet.

In his new book, "Can Democracy Handle Climate Change?" published by Polity Books, SPA Distinguished Executive in Residence Dan Fiorino challenges those who are skeptical of democratic countries’ capacity to address climate change.  

“There is a school of thought that protecting the environment is so difficult in a consumer-oriented society that capitalism and democracy are not up to the task, so more authoritarian, top-down regimes are needed to make the hard choices,” says Fiorino, director of the AU Center for Environmental Policy.

Critics of democracies maintain the system is cumbersome and voters are too short-sighted in their thinking. Also, pressure from special interest groups makes it nearly impossible to make substantive change to energy, agriculture, transportation, and land use policies.

Fiorino criticizes these arguments in his book, which was released this summer. He cites research showing that, despite their failure to mitigate the causes of climate change, democratic countries have made more progress than authoritarian ones on environmental issues, including climate change.

“When you have rapid change and a move away from democracy you actually get less attention to environmental issues,” said Fiorino, who indicates that this is the case in Venezuela, Hungary, Poland – and even in the United States. “Authoritarian regimes don’t tend to pay attention to the environment.”

He maintains that democracies are more innovative when it comes to technology, policy and climate governance than autocracies, and that the transparent nature of democracies means citizens can access environmental data, pressure the government to respond, and hold officials accountable. However, Fiorino says more accountable and responsible politics are needed to ensure strong environmental policies.

“You have to have better democracies with people who participate in decisions,” says Fiorino. “Maybe the failure isn’t democracy per se, but distortions in democracy or a failure of participation.”

Fiorino pushes back on climate authoritarianism solutions such as rationing energy, controlling population, and mandating smaller houses. He suggests democracies can instead make progress by promoting energy efficiency, modernizing the electrical grid, and adopting sensible land use policies.

It may be that no form of government can meet the complex and pressing challenge of climate change. Still, democracies may have the advantage.

“Democracies aren’t inherently incapable of dealing with this issue,” says Fiorino. “I hope this book gets people thinking that this is serious problem, but we shouldn’t jump at what appears to be easy solutions or take draconian measures. You can follow sensible policies so long as you move in right direction.” And do we really want to give up the advantages of democracy for the unproven and unlikely claims about authoritarian regimes possibly doing better?

Fiornio is also the author of 2018's A Good Life on a Finite Earth: The Political Economy of Green Growth.

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