Category: Of Special Interest

A Trip to Afghanistan’s Taliban Valley: A CGS Alumn’s Perspective

November 21st, 2014 in Alumni, News and Events, Of Special Interest, Spotlight 0 comments

Update since post publishing date: Trevithick recently released a book, An Undesirable Element: An Afghan Memoir, co-authored with book subject and relentless educator Sharif Fayez. The book recounts Fayez’s upbringing in Afghanistan, bearing witness to turbulent events like the Communist invasion of 1979 and Iranian revolution of 1979, ultimately driving him out of the country. He becomes a prominent voice of resistance against the Taliban and extremism in the 1990s, and eventually returns to Afghanistan in 2002 as the Minister of Higher Education. Many attribute Fayez as the driving force behind the Afghan education system overhaul, and the many strides it has made since. Foreward by former U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Ryan Crocker.


Matt Trevithick (CGS ’06, CAS 08′) received the University Alumni Award this past fall for his work in Afghanistan, specifically for bringing his passion for rowing to Kabul. However, that’s certainly not the only thing he’s been up to in Afghanistan. Trevithick recently co-authored an article in The Daily Beast, bringing readers to one of the deadliest and most infamous valleys in the Middle East, Korengal Valley. He and his partner, Daniel Seekman, were the first Westerners granted permission to enter the valley in more than three decades. As U.S. presence dwindles, Trevithick and Seckman share this rare experience and offer unique perspective into the current state of Afghanistan.

Full text may be found here: “Heart of Darkness: Into Afghanistan’s Taliban Valley” (The Daily Beast) 

Korengal Valley has seen more American bloodshed and lives lost in the past 13 years than any other part of Afghanistan

Korengal Valley has seen more American bloodshed and lives lost in the past 13 years than any other part of Afghanistan.
Photo courtesy of The Daily Beast. Original source: Robert Nickelsberg/Getty




Student Profile: Portia Amofa

November 20th, 2014 in Of Special Interest 0 comments

Portia-Amofa-2Like many prospective students on the college hunt, Portia Amofa (CGS ’13, CAS ’15, SHA ’15) wasn’t sure what or even where she wanted to study. So she started with a visit to BU.

Portia came to campus to shadow a CGS Admissions Ambassador for the day, getting a glimpse of the classroom experience and a taste of BU Dining; and she left with a vision of seeing herself here. Fast forward several years later, Portia enjoyed her studies at CGS, and will be graduating with a double major from the School of Hospitality and College of Arts and Sciences this coming May. To hear more about her invaluable experience at CGS, where she found a strong sense of community and discovered her passion for hospitality, click here.

To schedule a visit at CGS, click here.

Professor R. Sam Deese releases “We Are Amphibians”

November 13th, 2014 in Of Special Interest 0 comments

The College of General Studies congratulates Professor R. Sam Deese on the release of his book, We Are Amphibians.We Are Amphibians Deese tells the fascinating story of two brothers, Julian and Aldous Huxley, who changed the way we think about the future of our species.

As a pioneering biologist and conservationist, Julian Huxley helped advance the “modern synthesis” in evolutionary biology and played a pivotal role in founding UNESCO and the World Wildlife Fund. His argument that we must accept responsibility for our future evolution as a species has attracted a growing number of scientists and intellectuals who embrace the concept of Transhumanism that he first outlined in the 1950s. Although Aldous Huxley is most widely known for his dystopian novel Brave New World, his writings on religion, ecology, and human consciousness were powerful catalysts for the environmental and human potential movements that grew rapidly in the second half of the twentieth century. While they often disagreed about the role of science and technology in human progress, Julian and Aldous Huxley both believed that the future of our species depends on a saner set of relations with each other and with our environment. Their common concern for ecology has given their ideas about the future of Homo sapiens an enduring resonance in the twenty-first century. The amphibian metaphor that both brothers used to describe humanity highlights not only the complexity and mutability of our species but also our ecologically precarious situation.

The book, published by the University of California Press, is available both in hardcover and as an eBook. Radiant reviews and purchase details can be found on either Amazon or the University of California Press website.

Behavioral ecologist sheds light on altruism during the Stanley Stone Distringuished Lecture Series

November 10th, 2014 in News and Events, Of Special Interest, Spotlight 0 comments

The annual Stanley Stone Distinguished Lecture Series took place last week, drawing in a crowd of current BU students, faculty, local alumni, and members from the public for an engaging conversation around altruism. The lecture, titled “The Evolution of Goodness,” was presented by Dr. Lee Dugatkin, a behavioral ecologist, evolutionary biologist and historian of science. Dugatkin provided an evolutionary perspective as to why both humans and other species are altruistic, or as Dugatkin explained, “exhibit goodness.”

Looking at specific behaviors from a variety of species- ranging from bees to humans- Dr. Dugatkin summarized the current understanding of altruistic behavior. He shared questions explored by some of the best-known contributors in the field, such as Charles Darwin and William Hamilton; and let the audience know what the answers turned out to be. For example, Darwin was puzzled by why bees sacrifice themselves in defense of the hive. As it turns out, this behavior can be attributed to genetic relatedness (also known as kin selection). Dugatkin illustrated other models of goodness, including empathy in rats, a sense of injustice in monkeys, and kind gestures exhibited by toddlers. The audience found these powerful and illustrative examples, and others, to be both informative and engaging. Rather than humans evolving to be selfish, perhaps as a species we have involved instead to be altruistic.

The Stanley Stone Distinguished Lecture Series has been running since 1989, bringing an outside guest speaker to campus each year. Lecture topics vary from year-to-year, but always align with one of the four academic divisions at CGS: natural sciences, social sciences, humanities, and rhetoric. Made possible by CGS alumni Stanley Stone, the Series seeks to bring top experts in the field to campus, enriching the student learning experience and providing perspective on a subject that might not yet be in textbooks. Next year is the 25th anniversary, and we hope to see you there!

Not your average CGS class: Eighth grade students visit for a day to learn about the college experience

November 3rd, 2014 in Of Special Interest 0 comments

A special “class” took place at the College of General Studies (CGS) on Friday, October 31, as a group of eighth grade students journeyed to Boston University to learn more about the college experience. About thirty students from the Arthur D. Healey school in Somerville met with CGS Dean Natalie McKnight, Dean Megan Sullivan, and Professor Adam Sweeting for an engaging Q&A session. This is the fifth year that students have come to CGS for this type of session, largely coordinated by Professor and Humanities Chair Adam Sweeting, who serves as the Vice Chair of the Somerville Public Schools School Committee. As a member of the Committee (and father of two students in the Somerville system), Sweeting has been pushing for discussions of college readiness among the district’s students, and this opportunity certainly exposes students at an early and critical point of their educational careers.

CGS faculty answered the student’s eager and thoughtful questions about BU, providing a flavor of the virtually boundless student activities opportunities, sharing more details about the majors and courses of study offered. Students also had a lot of questions about college in general- conversation included the distinction between a college and university, and the shift in class schedules and classroom experience between high school and college. Recognizing there’s more than one way to a secondary degree, students left CGS with a better understanding of the associated pros and cons of a community college experience and four-year institution. No matter where that degree is pursued, CGS faculty shared that perseverance and communication with professors are the secrets to a student’s success.

After the Q&A session at CGS, the students ventured over to the George Sherman Union for lunch, and then attended the annual Pumpkin Drop. We hope to see some of the students in the class of 2023!

Dean Megan Sullivan, Dean Natalie McKnight, and Professor Adam Sweeting talk to eighth grade students about life a BU

Dean Megan Sullivan, Dean Natalie McKnight, and Professor Adam Sweeting talk to eighth grade students about life a BU


Dean Natalie McKnight answers a question from a student.


Stanley Stone Lecture Series presents The Evolution of Goodness

November 3rd, 2014 in Of Special Interest 0 comments


Join us for the annual Stanley Stone Lecture Series:

We humans often display acts of kindness and generosity, but we’re not alone- animals are also good to one another, sacrificing to help those around them. But… why? Why do both humans and animals show such altruistic, self-sacrificial behavior? Scientists and philosophers have long pondered this subject.

In a fast-moving, action-packed talk, Dr. Lee Alan Dugatkin (University of Louisville) will share the roots of goodness by focusing on both the fascinating history of this subject and the latest findings- the cutting-edge research in the field of evolution and behavior, including Dugatkin’s own work on altruism. Dugatkin will look at studies on alarm calls in squirrels, reciprocal acts of goodness in blood-sucking vampire bats, empathy in rats, responses to injustice and inequality in monkeys, and what brain scans tell us about the evolution of goodness in our own species.Stanley Stone Final Flyer

Welcoming People with Disabilities at Universities: Dean Megan Sullivan’s POV

October 30th, 2014 in Faculty, News and Events, Of Special Interest, Spotlight 0 comments

BU Today featured an opinion piece written by College of General Studies Dean Megan Sullivan, focused on welcoming people with disabilities. While universities around the nation provide accommodations, Sullivan provokes the question on if universities truly welcome people with disabilities. She shares illustrative, relatable examples of how universities could better welcome this population, both inside and outside of the classroom. With her helpful list of the first steps universities can take, one cannot help but think through the many other places, activities, and events that could be improved for a better experience.

This article channels into a broader conversation, as October is National Diversity Awareness Month and National Disability and Employment Awareness Month. You can find the article here:

Capstone Award Ceremony celebrates Exemplerary Work of CGS ’14 Students

October 21st, 2014 in News and Events, Of Special Interest, Spotlight, Students 0 comments

This past weekend, CGS had the pleasure of not only greeting the parents of its current students, but also of seeing the parents of those who graduated from CGS this past May to continue onto junior year. Friday night, students from the CGS class of 2014 gathered with their proud families in the Katzenberg Center for the Capstone Award Ceremony.

Capstone is an intensive project that challenges CGS sophomores to work in a small group to research a real-world, timely issue, and propose a comprehensive solution. It was conceived and designed as an interdisciplinary experience, as CGS’s pedagogical mission centers around the Liberal Arts, which are, by definition, interdisciplinary. After students put in countless hours of hard work- including desk research, field research, writing the 50-page paper, and preparing for and completing a group oral defense- each team of professors is challenged to select the strongest cases presented.

The 2014 theme, Think Globally, Act Locally, asked students to act as a panel of experts with the responsibility of surveying the history and scope of a particular problem in the Boston metropolitan area and proposing a policy recommendation. The projects explored targeted issues within the following “broader” topics: urban climate; urban resiliency in the face of hazards and crises; the value of urban biodiversity; transportation; urban waste; urban waterways and drainage; fisheries; human health and welfare in the city; and energy use and development in Massachusetts. With competition tough, each CGS team had to identify one winning group; the summaries of the winning projects can be found in the event program.

The Capstone project exemplifies CGS’s belief that a well-rounded education best prepares students to meet the challenges of today’s world; enabling them to think critically, understand and communicate effectively, bring together multiple perspectives to solve real-world problems. Congratulations to all!

Team S Winners: Ten-Year Proposal for Boston
Students include: Julia Budde, Michelle Grbic, Kathryn Lezynski, Michael Montesi, Katelyn Richerts, Teah Welsch-Rainek.
Faculty include: Millard Baublitz, Mary Catherine McDonald, and William Tilchin.


Team T Winners: Boston Transportation Improvement Agency- A Proposed Solution to Boston’s Transportation-Related Air Pollution
Students include: Tara De Rosa, Brienna Gould, Michael Moran, Marisa Shocket, and Dakota Woodworth.
Faculty include: Neal Leavitt, John Mackey, and Sally Sommers Smith.


Team U Winners: Building Resiliency in East Boston: A Proposal for Logan Airport and Residents Facing Sea Level Rise
Students include: Allison Brennan, Meghan Kelliher, Cecilia Ramierz, Tali Sandel, Dani Segelbaum, and Isabel Vera.
Faculty include: Christopher Fahy, June Grasso, and Samuel Hammer.
Team V Winners: Proposal for the Seafood Awareness Safeguard: Tackling Seafood Fraud in Boston
Students include: Marissa Brown, Ryan Guizano, Jayne Lee, Kyle Liberti, Alanna Raskin, and Daniel Rollins.
Faculty include: Sam Deese, Robert Schoch, and Robert Wexelblatt.
Team W Winners: Cycling Our Way to Safety, Recommendations for Safe Cycling in Boston
Students include: Kerem Kamisli, Sumer Kotwal, Genevieve Lane, Manuel Perello Fernandez, Daniella Seidl, and Max Soloshchanskiy.
Faculty include: Michael Kort, Kari Lavalli, and Jeffery Vail.
Team X Winners: BPA- A Global Issue Warranting Local Action
Students include: Jonathan Brooks, Lindsey Constantine, Megan Ebner, Julia Katzman, Carley Lemay, and Lilian Liang.
Faculty include: Peter Busher, John McGrath, and Meg Tyler
Team Y Winner: Eutrophication of Coastal Waters- The Problem and the BEST Solutions.
Students include: Emily fuller, Catherine Gatto, Lee Ginton, Maria Henning, Andrew Miller, and Lavinia Wihtol.
Faculty include: Sandra Buerger, Joshua Pederson, and Tom Whalen.


Interdisciplinary Baseball Course to Debut Spring 2015

October 3rd, 2014 in News and Events, Of Special Interest, Spotlight 0 comments

CGS is excited to announce that it will be offering a new, interdisciplinary elective this spring: The History, Literature, Film and Science of Baseball.

Baseball occupies a special place in American society and memory. As the distinguished historian Geoffrey C. Ward once pointed out, the two hundred year-old national pastime is “an odyssey that links sons and daughters to fathers and grandfathers. And it reflects a host of age-old American tensions: between workers and owners, scandal and reform, the individual and the collective.” The History, Science, and Literature of Baseball: An Interdisciplinary Course seeks to explore these vital links while offering a comprehensive overview of the sport from a multi-disciplinary perspective.

Taking advantage of our Boston location, students can expect a hands-on, experiential approach to the course material. With plans to tour Fenway Park and Nickerson Field (formerly Braves Field), the course will demonstrate what important roles these venues have played in the history and development of the game.

Cross-listed between CGS and CAS (CGS HU 500, CAS AM 502), The History, Literature, Film and Science of Baseball will be taught by Professors Andy Andres, Christopher Fahy, and Thomas Whalen.

CGS HU 500 CAS AM 502 Baseball Course Flyer

Leavitt and Hallstein Awarded for Oustanding Work

September 26th, 2014 in Faculty, News and Events, Of Special Interest 0 comments

Last Friday, CGS announced the recipients of this year’s annual faculty awards: Neal Leavitt and Lynn Hallstein.

Dr. Lynn Hallstein (L), Dean Natalie McKnight (C), and Prof. Neal Levitt (R) pose for a photo after receiving the Peyon Richter and Dr. Ismael Sensel awards, respectively.

Dr. Lynn Hallstein (L), Dean Natalie McKnight (C), and Prof. Neal Leavitt (R) pose for a photo after receiving the Peyon Richter and Dr. Ismael Sensel awards, respectively.

Leavitt was honored with the Dr. Ismail Sensel Award, which funded by the Estate of Dr. Ismael Sensel and is traditionally given to a faculty member who has had a particularly outstanding year in terms of publication and teaching.

Leavitt published a book last year, The Foreign Policy of John Rawls and Amartya Sen, that applies the philosophies of Rawls and Sen to current pressing global issues involving human rights, health care, and nuclear proliferation. A recent review declares that the book offers “valuable insights into how the ideas of Rawls and Sen might make the foreign policy of democratic regimes ‘a little better.’”  In addition to his book publication, Leavitt had another highly successful year as a professor, earning outstanding teaching evaluations and a Metcalf nomination from a former student. His students appreciate the clarity of his lectures, his ability to connect philosophy to contemporary issues, and the productive atmosphere he creates in the classroom.

Hallstein received the Peyton Richter Award, funded by alumnus Gary Kraut in honor of a long-serving CGS Humanities professor, Peyton Richter. Each year, the award goes to a professor who has demonstrated outstanding interdisciplinary teaching.

Hallstein’s students not only like her, they also learn from her. Students give praise Hallstein teaching them how to think more critically than they ever have before, and for strengthening their writing skills: “I have become not only a better writer, but also a better thinker. My vocabulary has improved in daily conversations and I find myself making connections between more and more things . . .” In addition to her success in the classroom, Hallstein has three books published and is working on her fourth, Bikini Ready Moms: Contemporary Motherhood, Celebrity Mom Profiles, and the Maternal Body.