Yesterday, more than 600 people gathered at the College of General Studies to hear Dr. Paul Farmer speak as part of the 25th annual Stanley P. Stone Distinguished Lecture Series. The auditorium started filling in as early as 2:15 p.m., buzzing in anticipation to hear Dr. Paul Farmer speak at 4 p.m. Even Dean Natalie McKnight confessed, “I’m a bit in awe, as you are one of my personal heroes,” as she welcomed Farmer to the stage. The event attracted BU undergraduate and graduate students, faculty, alumni, and even those from other universities and locals.
Charged to speak about the current state of global health, Farmer framed the conversation by citing one of BU’s most famous alumns, Martin Luther King Jr.: “Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhumane.” Farmer went on to contrast the healthcare expectations between a developed and developing world, advocating to close that gap with an example from a trip just last year to Sierra Leonne. His Partners in Health team found an infant alone in a home where the adults had died from Ebola. Her veins had shrunk from dehydration and were too tiny to insert a needle for the medicine. Fortunately, the team was able to hydrate the infant and administer medication, and a volunteer commented that it was a “miracle.” “It’s not a miracle,” reflected Farmer. “It’s how medical care should be. A baby who falls sick in the United States can expect an IV bag, if that’s what’s needed. Adequate health care is a right, not a miracle.”
One of the biggest figures in the global public health arena, Farmer used years of experience treating infectious diseases to suggest the “six pitfalls in global public health.” Using the most recent epidemic, Ebola, Farmer illustrated each point: prevention versus care, absence of specialists, weak infrastructure, fixed costs, cost of inaction, and lack of sustainability. One could feel the thoughts stirring in the 600 attendees– be it current medical-related students, graduates, researchers; or those working for organizations that help fund or mobilize relief– of what actions could be taken to help improve the situation.
Even though he discussed painful subjects, Farmer charmed the audience by peppering in personal anecdotes and jokes. He also projected a positive outlook to the audience. Reflecting on the progress that has been made over the past two decades in Rwanada, Farmer summed up, “That gives me hope.” With a dismal life expectancy in the wake of the 1994 genocide and as one of the world’s poorest countries, Rwanda has seen significant improvement since building high-quality health care systems.
Truly a man committed to others, Farmer didn’t leave the building until nearly 11 p.m. Nearly 350 people lined up for the book signing, and Farmer not only signed each copy, but also held a substantive conversation with every single person. “That is truly remarkable and in my experience unprecedented,” commented McKnight.
The Lecture Series was instituted in 1980 through the generosity of Stanley Stone (CGS 64, Questrom 66), “This [donor opportunity] immediately appealed to me since it would be a gift to all the students at the College, the faculty and alumns, and would be given annually in perpetuity,” comments Stone. “The two years at CGS were the most stimulating and meaningful of my entire education. I believe in the value of the integrated core curriculum and team teaching approach at CGS. It meant a lot to me, and I trust it has and will be to many others.” The College of General Studies aims to equip students with key skills and foundational knowledge to help be forces of change in the world.
For those who were unable to attend, the lecture is posted on the Stanley P. Stone Distinguished Lecture Series page.
CGS is thrilled to share that Professors Sam Hammer and Meg Tyler have been awarded Fulbright scholarships for next year. One of the most prestigious awards programs world-wide, the Fulbright Scholarship Program sponsors U.S. and foreign participants for international educational exchanges across disciplines (e.g., the sciences, business, academia, public service, government, and the arts), with the goal to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries. Only 800 faculty nationwide receive this highly coveted award.
Sam Hammer, a professor in the Division of Natural Sciences and Mathematics at CGS, will be going to Sri Lanka to assist with development efforts, specifically intensive landscape planning, as part of the country’s peace and reconciliation process. Hammer will focus on landscapes in transition: contemporary urban landscapes and rural sustainable landscapes dating back to antiquity. He will be working with colleagues and students at the University of Moratuwa, located in the Sri Lanka’s capital, Colombo.
Prof. Meg Tyler, a professor in the Division of Humanities and chair of the Institute for Irish Studies, will be a Fulbright Professor of Anglophone IrishLiterature and Writing at the Seamus Heaney Centre for Poetry at Queen’s University in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Tyler will teach two poetry courses, one undergraduate and one postgraduate. One of Tyler’s course will be called “American Influences on Contemporary Irish Poetry.” Tyler will also be conducting research, specifically completing a collection of essays, on Belfast Poet Michael Longley. Tyler will be in Northern Ireland from January to June 2016.
Eye color. Muscle performance. Height. We make note of these traits daily, yet don’t think about the underlying genes from which they stem. Unless of course, you’re a CGS sophomore taking biology with either Professor Andy Andres, Millard Baublitz or Peter Busher.
Andres, Baublitz, and Busher, who all teach sophomore biology sections, collaborate during the genetics portion of the course. The professors created a project termed the “Personal Human Genome Project,” which is inspired by the Human Genome Project and pushes students to apply their understanding of the course material by exploring their own genetics. Andres, Baublitz, and Busher ask students to select an observable genetic trait and work in groups to explore the genetic variations among team members. Students take samples of their own cells, isolate their DNA, and amplify it using polymerase chain reaction (PCR) here at CGS. Their amplified DNA is then sent to a lab to be sequenced, which allows students to visualize the nucleotide sequence for their specific polymorphisms. Genetic traits studied include muscle performance (e.g., short, powerful bursts vs. endurance, resting heart rate), pigment genes (e.g., eye color), height genes, genes that influence one’s ability to taste bitter substances, and the gene that influences if people can smell the asparagus metabolite in urine.
Students from both sections came together last week to share the results. The charge in the room was palpable– students were exchanging findings and eagerly awaiting their chance to discuss it with the professors. “We have students create a scientific poster, which brings a creative aspect to the project. It also is a model of how scientists actually communicate their work to research colleagues at professional meetings,” shares Andres. “I’m really thankful they didn’t just turn in a report. Students were excited to present in this conversational format, and to see their classmates’ work.”
CGS sophomore Brigitte Dardashty recounts her experience: “Our group focused on the gene ACTN3, which deals with muscle performance. Based on each person’s individual SNP (Single Nucleotide Polymorphism), we identified our individual athletic abilities. I found that my SNP was homozygous CC, which means that I am a power athlete (TT codes for an endurance athlete). It now makes sense that I succeeded in the sports I played growing up- soccer, basketball, volleyball, track (sprinting), and dance- as all require bursts of energy. This was a great way to incorporate science into our own personal lives.”
Staying true to CGS’s collaborative ethos, Professors Busher and Andres have teamed up for five years now on the project. “We have a lot of non-science majors in the class, and it’s really rewarding to see those students especially become excited about the course material. The research aspect provides a hands-on experience, and working with their own DNA makes it personally relevant,” explains Busher.
“I enjoyed the Genome Project a lot,” shares CGS sophomore Dan Stone. “It gave me the opportunity to work with my own DNA, which I had never done before. It was particularly awesome because it made our findings unique to me, personally. Through my research, I learned just how immensely important our genes are. It’s crazy to think that from the moment I was born, my future phenotypic expressions or the way I appear physically was already predetermined in part by my genes.”
Given the success to-date, rising and future CGS sophomores can be assured that they’ll have the same chance to explore human genetics in a rewarding, personalized way.
On September 19, CGS faculty and alumni gathered to recognize Peter Shankman (CGS ’92, COM ’94) in the Distinguished Alumni Award ceremony. Each year, the College recognizes an alumni for his or her outstanding professional success and continued involvement at CGS. Shankman not only meets, but exceeds, both criteria.
A marketing and customer service futurist, Shankman has been a leader in the marketing and public relations field. He started his career at America Online, and then founded two companies (both of which were acquired): a public relations and marketing firm called The Geek Factory, and resource for journalists looking for sources called Help a Reporter Out. Most recently, Shankman writes, speaks and consults for clients in a variety of industries, often being quoted by top-tier outlets such as The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and Associated Press. Additionally, Shankman has four books published and regularly contributes to his blog- all witty, engaging, and insightful.
Amidst all of this success, Shankman leads a robust personal life, spending time with his family and pursuing hobbies such as skydiving and Ironman Triathalons. The College is especially grateful for Shankman’s time and dedication to further the work of CGS, specifically with his contributions as a member of the Dean’s Advisory Board and his continued generous financial support.
Shankman was very honored and humbled Friday afternoon. Upon receiving the award, Shankman shared that his academic career was indeed a journey- he was different; and while he quickly found success in the business world, it was a much more enduring process to find success as a college student. The size, structure, and nature of CGS offered Shankman strong relationships with professors and the encouragement to continue pursuing his goals. Drawing parallels between his personal journey and the College, Shankman encouraged the audience: “Be different. The world needs different. You remember different. I recall being a student at BU, but I remember being a student at CGS.”
You can read more about Peter Shankman here: http://shankman.com/
Professor Chris Fahy gives this advice to his students. Even though his advice is for humanities classes, these insights are apt for all courses.
1) Read all poetry more than once. Read plays and fiction more than once if possible; at least note important sections for rereading. Remember that you’re dealing with rich and complex texts that only begin to reveal their secrets and delights upon review. These works are meant to be read more than once. Because of this, it makes no sense to insist that you already know a text because you read it once a few years ago in high school. A first reading is just a start.
2) Rewrite. Typically, writers only discover what they want to say after a first draft. They begin to make their discoveries clear to themselves and others after a second draft. Third drafts tighten the prose and make everything more precise.
3) Be sure to take notes as your read. Write in the margins. Ask questions to bring up in class. Talk back to the writer. These works demand your active response, not passivity.
4) Take advantage of your professor’s office hours, tutorials, and review sessions. He or she is a great resource and a possible friend and ally. You’ll at once enjoy the class more and be more challenged by it.
5) Don’t take grades and comments too personally (this is easier said than done). Remember that expectations are higher in college than high school. You’ll probably need some time to adjust to that fact. If so, join the crowd—it’s normal. Focus less on grades and more on doing better work. If you focus on the work first, the grades will (sooner or later) improve.
6) Bring your book to class. Always. (Even if it’s heavy.) Nothing bespeaks a lack of academic seriousness more than not bringing your book (particularly if you make a habit of it).
7) Be sure to edit your work. Set aside time for it. Pay attention to commas and quotation marks. In particular, learn how to introduce quotations properly with a lead-in phrase. (Things like, “According to Joe Jones…”)
8) Be sure to look up grammatical, mechanical issues in your Handbook. I know I still look up things, and I have a PhD.
9) Look up words you don’t know. It’s unpleasant to have the teacher scowl at you because you didn’t bother to look up a word in a short poem. If you looked it up you’d be able to understand the poem. Since you didn’t look it up, you appear to be waiting for someone to explain the poem for you.
10) When you write a paper, make an original argument. Don’t just repeat what you heard in class. At best, this shows that you understood the class discussion (a start), but it doesn’t show that you’re actively wrestling with the material.
11) Remember that originality is always a virtue, even in exams. Here though, originality is less expected than in papers and understanding of texts, class discussion, etc. where it’s more appreciated.
12) Don’t just sit there in class discussion taking down every word the teacher says like he’s God Almighty dictating the Ten Commandments. Think about what he’s saying; you may or may not agree. Provided you’ve evidence to back up what you’re saying, feel free to disagree. Not to speak up is to deprive the teacher and your peers of a viewpoint that may advance everyone closer to the truth(s) of the text.
13) By the same token, don’t always expect the teacher to agree with you. Sometimes he will, sometimes he won’t. Don’t take it personally. The important thing is to have the courage to participate in the dialogue, and the discipline to provide evidence for your assertions.
14) On papers, it is less important that the teacher agree with you than that you make a real argument and back it up with evidence. Typically, teachers will give higher grades to thoughtful papers with positions contrary to their beliefs than dull, unsupported prose that echoes their own value system. Is it best of all to write surprising, insightful papers that the professor agrees with? Well, sure, but you can’t predict their opinions; all you can do is your best work.
15) If you don’t understand the professor’s comments on your work, be sure to see him or her during office hours. Don’t stew about it in private. Understanding the comments is extremely important in doing better work for the next paper (whether you agree with the comments or not).
16) If you’re having troubles that prevent you from attending class or completing a paper, be sure to see your professor and talk about it. Communication is important. Above all, if you’re having a problem completing a paper (i.e. it’s late), don’t become ashamed of yourself and stop coming to class. Instead, try to schedule an appointment to talk through your concerns. Here, teachers can be important advisors.
17) Review the week’s material—the lecture and class notes particularly, at the end of the week so that you can consolidate what you’ve learned (a half hour will probably do). Don’t wait till the exam to try to do it all at once. This approach gets only middling results.
18) Remember—Humanities is not a BS subject. Gassing on in vague generalities (even with a refined vocabulary) will not impress me. I expect you to know specific facts from the lectures, understand the plots of the literature, etc. When you write, use clear, concise prose.