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first-year students address identity and values

Patel with students
Dr. Katie Cruger, Eboo Patel and Chatham Student Government President, Sarah Jukovic ’16

As colleges around the country grapple with issues of diversity and tolerance, first-year students at Chatham have been addressing the subject head-on through a new First-Year Communication Seminar—Dialogues: Identity and Values. The course aims to challenge students’ beliefs and facilitate discourse around issues such as gender, faith, race, and how they contribute to identity. An experience shared by all first-year students, it helps establish a sense of class unity that will persevere regardless of their eventual fields of study even as it fosters respect for differences.

According to Katherine Cruger PhD, Assistant Professor of Communications who directs the Seminar, “It was a challenge determining how to help students practice communication skills like writing, engaging in respectful discussion, and giving oral presentations while also grappling with difficult course content about identity and difference. Bringing Patel to campus seemed like putting that last piece of the puzzle into place.”

Cruger is talking about Eboo Patel —founder and president of Interfaith Youth Core, a national nonprofit working to make interfaith cooperation a social norm—whose book Acts of Faith: The Story of an American Muslim, the Struggle for the Soul of a Generation is required reading for the Seminar.

Patel came to Chatham on December 2 to give a lecture entitled Sacred Ground: Interfaith Leadership in the 21st Century. The talk was sponsored by the Karen Lake Buttrey ‘67 Chair in Religion and Society, established to honor the legacy of the late Karen Lake Buttrey, who received her Bachelor of Arts degree from Chatham College in 1967 and served on the Board of Trustees. Patel also met with students and administrators during his visit and instructed an interfaith training session.

“The students were very impressed by Patel, which made the significance of that part of the course more personal and profound,” says Elisabeth Roark, PhD, Associate Professor of Art, one of the professors who teaches the seminar. “His humor and ability to pull in personal anecdotes made his talk very relatable. The students also embraced the feeling that, though the lecture was open to everyone, his purpose there was to connect with them and their work in the course.”

After Patel’s talk, first-year students were asked for feedback about what would improve the Dialogues Seminar. The consensus was that Patel’s book was an essential element to the course, and that having him come to campus really brought the material to life.

Patel was named by US News & World Report as one of America’s Best Leaders of 2009 and served on President Obama’s inaugural Faith Council. For over fifteen years, Eboo has worked with governments, social sector organizations, and college and university campuses to help realize a future where religion is a bridge of cooperation rather than a barrier of division.

 

 

“We Don’t Pick Out Pillows: the Science of Design”

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image from dnainfo.com

In New York City, land is so sought after that development is expanding to one of the most polluted bodies of water in the country—Brooklyn’s Gowanus Canal. That’s why chemistry students at the CUNY College of Technology are examining its water composition. Through a National Science Foundation-funded initiative, Chatham undergraduates have come on board to widen their perspective.

The Chatham students—who have been participating through their enrollment in Assistant Professor of Interior Architecture Greg Galford’s Green and Sustainable Design course—have developed and produced a short video called “We Don’t Pick Out Pillows: the Science of Design.” It aims to teach the chemistry students about building design and its impact on the environment.

Just under seven minutes long, the video introduces the chemistry students to topics ranging from how designers work to techniques for cleaning up contaminated water and land. It features Pittsburgh buildings that exemplify sustainable building techniques, including Phipps Conservancy and the Bayer Material Science Headquarters.

But the goal of the project isn’t just to make the chemistry students more well-rounded; it’s also to help the interior architecture students improve their cross-disciplinary collaboration skills. To that end, the chemistry students have provided feedback on the video, and Galford’s current Green and Sustainable Design course will be using that feedback to improve the video.

Chatham University offers a rigorous three-year Bachelor of Interior Architecture degree that requires no summer study, allowing greater opportunities for internships, study abroad and employment.

Undergraduate Student Christina Austin Awarded Research Fellowship

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“My mom is a Chatham alumna,” says Christina Austin ’17, “but that didn’t factor into my decision to come here. Chatham was actually one of the last schools I looked at. But when I came to visit, I saw that I could connect with people and have a close mentorship with professors in a way that I might not be able to do at a larger university.”

Austin, who is majoring in Biology, had hit the nail on the head. It was an email from one of those professors – Dr. Pierette Appasamy – that would lead to Austin pulling in research dollars, a feat that’s not always easy for faculty members to accomplish, let alone an undergraduate.

It started this spring when Dr. Appasamy learned of a research internship with the Allegheny Health Network Lupus Center for Excellence from the Office of Career Development. Dr. Appasamy forwarded the information to Austin, then a student in her Cellular and Molecular Biology class. “I immediately thought of Christina Austin when I heard about the internship opportunity,” says Dr. Appasamy. “It seemed perfect for her interests in hands-on work in biomedical research.”

Once Austin was accepted into the internship, the program director suggested that she might be a good candidate for the Gina M. Finzi Memorial Student Summer Fellowship Program, which funds students to conduct medical research under the guidance of a mentor. She was.

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For eight weeks, Austin worked in the lab, isolating white blood cells from blood samples that had been collected at West Penn Hospital. She stained the cells with substances that, when run through a machine, turn fluorescent where a certain protein is present. The goal of the study was to compare how this protein appeared in patients with lupus, with other autoimmune diseases, and in a control group of healthy individuals. Austin’s work may one day be used to help diagnose lupus, today an arduous process that often takes years.

Austin’s internship primarily focused on research, but she also worked on the clinical side. “I was trained to obtain consent from study participants,” she says. “I went through the IRB (Institutional Review Board) packet with them, and if they consented, we drew their blood that day. I liked that aspect of the internship a lot.”

In fact, Austin – who plans to go to medical school – liked it so much that she is considering seeking out a clinical internship for next summer. “I’d love to travel abroad and work at a clinic of some sort,” she says. “I’ve talked to classmates who worked in hospitals in Belize or Puerto Rico and had really good experiences.”

Outside of the lab, Austin is a Chatham Scholar, Vice President of Communications for the Black Student Union, a R.I.S.E Mentor, and starting this fall, she will also be a resident assistant. She offers this advice for incoming students: “Make sure you go to recitation and go to all the study groups before a test. They can be a lifesaver when it’s a topic you don’t understand. And get to know your professors and let them get to know you. They’re looking out for you, throughout your time here.”

She knows whereof she speaks.

 

UNDERGRADUATE RESEARCH IN TAIWAN

Chloe Bell ’16 remembers an afternoon in Taiwan. “We pulled over on the highway one afternoon to eat hot peppers that an elderly couple had made and were selling.  The husband cut peppers into a marinating bucket as the wife offered us all of their other specialties. We found people like this everywhere in Taiwan: small time entrepreneurs who were using their skill set to make people happy, to co-exist in a symbiotic way.”

Bell was part of a research team of six undergraduate students (Diana Cabrera ’17, Ashley Henry ’14, Kristina Hruska ’16, Sook Yee Leung ’14, Rachel McNorton ’14) and two Chatham professors (Dr. Karen S. Kingsbury and Dr. Charlotte E. Lott) who spent four weeks in Taiwan over the summer, studying female entrepreneurs in small-scale, regionally-based restaurants and lodging businesses, with a focus on the following questions:

• What gender issues occur in women-owned businesses?
• How do women use relationship networks to start and maintain a business?
• How does family responsibility interplay with business responsibility?
• Do these women business owners consider themselves to be feminists?

The research team interviewed 14 women entrepreneurs in four areas across Taiwan. They also distributed around 30 surveys to other female entrepreneurs.The research is expected to produce a series of analytical profiles of the women entrepreneurs telling their stories and articles in the four areas of interest—gender issues for women business owners, relationship networks, family dynamics, and perception of feminism.

Preliminary findings include:

1) While for the most part, the women were either unfamiliar with or startled by the term “feminism,” associating it with a radical, extremist set of views that they did not share, when asked how they felt about gender equality, the women were very supportive.

2) In Taiwan, written contracts are secondary to verbal agreements and handshakes.

3) “The female entrepreneurs and the academics we talked to were not focused on making the most money or being the most successful in the Western sense,” says Bell.

4) “I formulated a theory in my own mind that Taiwan would be more like mainland China and less like a Westernized Society. I was greatly mistaken, “ said another student. (Dr. Kingsbury notes this as one reason why Taiwan is an excellent entry-point for US students and researchers interested in engaging with East Asian culture).

5.) “I discovered that while much of my thinking around female entrepreneurs centered on the concept of depending on relationship networks, the women showed a lot of agency in building community among their customers and/or employees,” says another.

Of course, there’s learning, and then there’s learning: “The students developed an excellent interview technique, “ noted Professor Lott. The undergraduate team also gained experience through applying for the grant, operating equipment, gathering data, analyzing findings, problem-solving, and adapting to new situations. “Being able to venture out on my own gave me a great deal of confidence and independence that I could not have earned any other way,” adds Kristina Hruska.

The project in Taiwan has benefited not just the participants, but the greater Chatham community. “The project has been a very effective way to boost the development of a fledgling Asian studies program at Chatham University,” says Dr. Kingsbury, noting that it has also spurred enthusiasm for Taiwan-based projects now in preparation, including a short-term faculty-led field experience focusing on green/sustainable architecture and eco-tourism, food studies, and travel writing currently being planned for 2016. The research team is now compiling a set of essays and photos that David Burke’s fall term course on Print Design will use as the basis for a class project.

Two weeks ago, at the ASIANetwork conference in St. Louis, the research was presented by Bell, Sook Yee Leong ’14, and Professor Lott. Learn more on the project blog, and check out the  2014 Chatham Student-Faculty Fellows report.

The study, Creative Entrepreneurialism, Relationship Networks, and Family Dynamics: A Study of Women-Led Hospitality Businesses in Regional Hubs of Taiwan, was funded was funded by the 2014 ASIANetwork Freeman Foundation Student-Faculty Fellows Program for Collaborative Research in Asia and by a Chatham University Grant.

DEAN OF INNOVATION: DR. LENZ PREPARES FOR THE FUTURE

Lenz 960x540Dr. William (Bill) Lenz, Pontious Professor of English, has been at Chatham for 34 years. Bill has served as the Chair of the Humanities and the director of the Chatham Scholars program; traveled with students to Ecuador, the Galapagos Islands, Belize, Guatemala and Haiti; founded and grown the Masters in Professional Writing program from eight students to 100 students and moved it completely online; and written three books and numerous papers and articles on American literature and culture. In September, Pittsburgh Magazine nominated him as one of Pittsburgh’s “Best Professors.”

This June, President Esther Barazzone appointed him to the newly-created position and nation’s first Dean of Undergraduate Innovation. In this role, Dr. Lenz will work with all University constituencies to review institutional practices and curriculum at the undergraduate level to determine ways in which Chatham can best serve students and society in a world in which “disruptive change” has become the norm in higher education.


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