October 2011 Archives

Celebrating Native American Heritage

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NativeAmerican_260px.jpgThere's a beautiful photograph in the president's office at IUP, taken by retired Communications Media professor Richard Lamberski.

The photo, titled "We Have Survived," is of a dance at the 2009 Tipton Powwow.

On November 12, it will be formally presented to IUP by Clifton Pembleton, chair of the IUP Native American Awareness Council, as a "cultural trust to the president of IUP with grateful appreciation from the IUP Native American Awareness Council."

The presentation begins the fifth annual celebration of American Indian Heritage Month on campus, scheduled from noon to 5:00 p.m. in the Hadley Union Building Delaware Room. It's free and open to the community and will feature a variety of performers, including Mathew White Eagle Clair, Bill Crouse, Drums of Native Sisters and Michael Jacobs.

Anyone who has had a longtime affiliation with IUP knows Clifton Pembleton and his wife, Sandy, who both recently retired from IUP, and how active they have been with the council and the work of creating more awareness about Native American culture.

Clif and Sandy are joined by several IUP faculty members on the Native American Awareness Council: Sarah Neusius, Anthropology, vice chair; Holly Boda-Sutton, Theater and Dance; James Dougherty and Melanie Hildebrandt, Sociology; Robert Millward and Monte Tidwell, Professional Studies in Education; Theresa Smith, Religious Studies; student Germaine McArdle (Oglala, Lakota Sioux); and Jennifer Soliday, Dan Mock, and Kinorea Tigris (Cherokee, Creek, Oglala, Lakota and Sioux).

IUP's celebration of Native American Awareness Month came after Ms. Soliday, then an undergraduate, wrote to the IUP president, "I feel that it would be in the university's best interest to demonstrate IUP's sensitivity to American Indian culture and formally recognize this November, and every November, as American Indian Heritage Month."

The president agreed, as did the IUP Council of Trustees. Talk about a great legacy and how one voice can truly make a difference.

Five years later, not only is the event gaining in popularity, but the NAAC is continuing its efforts to build awareness about Native American culture and to enhance and build Native American programs at IUP, including exchanges and educational events.

Sands of Compassion...Take a Peek

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monkcam_260px.jpgImagine millions of grains of sand from Indiana, Pa., traveling throughout the world, with the mission of creating compassion wherever the streams, rivers, and oceans take them.

Stuart Chandler, a professor of Religious Studies and chairperson of the department, is responsible for the visit this week of ten Buddhist monks from the Drepung Loseling Monastery. The monks are creating a mandala of compassion in the Hadley Union Building. It's fascinating to watch, and visitors also get a chance to build a community sand art project, using the same tools used by the monks.

And just in case you think it's simple, or casual, think about this. The monks go through two years of training, memorizing hundreds of mandala designs, and must be chosen for this work. I wish I had a better word than "work"; it is not work in the way that we think of the term in America--it's a way of life. Dr. Chandler told me that the head monk was born in Tibet and smuggled out of the country as a child, becoming a monk at the age of five. He never saw his family again. The monks all have a special role to play: some chant, some dance, some are the mandala creators.

I strongly encourage you to visit the program. During the mandala creation, the monks are silent unto themselves (for the seven hours per day that they work). They are in the HUB working from 11:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. today, Thursday, and Friday; from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Saturday; and from noon to 5:00 p.m. Sunday.

But if you can't get to the HUB, you can still be part of the project. There is a live webcam capturing the work being done on the mandala. The intensity of their concentration is evident, even over the Internet. (We are showing the live webcam on this entry, too. Refresh to update the picture.)

On Monday, the mandala will be completed--just for an hour, from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.--and then will be swept up, with bags of sand being distributed to visitors. The rest of the sand will be carried in a vase by the monks down Philadelphia Street and put into a stream, to find its way into the ocean.

"It's about filling the world with compassion," Dr. Chandler explains.

The monks travel for two years and then return to the monastery in India. They have been to many colleges and universities throughout the United States and have been at the Smithsonian. IUP hosted the monks for a mandala construction in 2003 and 2006. These appearances also were arranged by Dr. Chandler, who has been at IUP since 2000. His area of concentration is the religions of China and Japan, especially Buddhism, and he has also conducted research closer to home. His "Eastern Religions Come to Western Pennsylvania" exhibition in 2005 at the University Museum reflected his study on the evolving religious landscape of Pennsylvania. His current project is the translation of the memoirs of Oishi Junkyo, a geisha, artist, and Buddhist nun in early twentieth century Japan.

When I think of the term "renaissance man," Dr. Chandler comes to mind. In addition to his "day job," in summer 2006, he bicycled 2,000 miles across the northern United States and Canada with his son Evan, and he also is a musician in the Indiana-famous Dad Band.

On Saturday evening, the monks will be at the Performing Arts Center's Fisher Auditorium as part of the Lively Arts programming. "The Mystical Arts of Tibet: Sacred Song Sacred Dance" is a mixture of traditional dances, Tibetan multiphonic chanting, and other music to channel inner spirituality and enlightenment.

A pretty amazing week at IUP.

Lack of Motivation? Maybe It's Really Immobilization

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iStock_000005688706XSmall_2.jpgIUP's Nursing and Allied Health programs are known to be VERY challenging.

They take a very limited number of students, and students must have a high grade-point average to be accepted. There are very intensive practicums and internships in addition to classroom study.

Frankly, I'm completely okay with that. If one of these students is, someday, somewhere, going to be at the control of my ventilator or dosing out my meds, I WANT the program to be hard. I don't want these students to be "good enough." I want them to be excellent.

So, that said, there is a shortage of nurses, not just in Pennsylvania, but in the nation. Some of our nursing students have a great potential to be amazing nurses, but they may be struggling in a course. Wash them out? Not so fast, Susan Poorman, Nursing and Allied Health faculty member, says.

Educators need to rethink attitudes about struggling students.

"As educators, we often believe that struggling students are not really motivated. They don't care about learning; they don't come to the teacher for help or attend test reviews. But one thing we have learned from listening to our students' stories is that, often, they are not unconcerned but are immobilized. They just don't know what to do to fix the problem," Dr. Poorman wrote in a recent issue of Nursing Education Perspectives.

"Knowing this, I do not wait for students to come to me. I try to reach out to them. I send them e-mails to make appointments for special study sessions, to help them prepare for upcoming exams. When I am able to empower students to believe that they can attack their academic problems and successfully resolve them, it is a magical and uplifting experience."

Hoping to understand more about students who are academically at risk, Dr. Poorman and colleagues then conducted studies on the experiences of students who struggle academically and the experiences of teachers who work with these students.

They found that, while evaluation is a challenge, it's essential when working with at-risk students.

"I have seen that sometimes, the student's struggle is greater when we, as educators, are not effective evaluators. Unfortunately, teachers are often pressed for time. We devote most of our time to preparing for class, which leaves little time to prepare high-quality assessments of learning."

Promising work for struggling students and, certainly, promising news for the needs of the health care industry.

Dr. Poorman is just one example of IUP's outstanding faculty members, who truly go the extra mile to help students succeed. She is among the inaugural fellows in the National League for Nursing and owns a small educational consulting firm, STAT Nursing Consultants, Inc., which employs five master's and doctorally prepared nurse educators. The group helps students to reduce their anxiety and enhance their thinking skills on tests. She also has served as the advisor to IUP's chapter of the Student Nurses' Association of Pennsylvania.

Celebrating Chemistry at Carnegie Science Center

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Chemistry student at workFor many years, IUP students and employees have enjoyed Wiener Wednesday in Weyandt Hall.

However, hot dog lovers might not have realized that the sales of hot dogs and related items by the IUP American Chemical Society student chapter is creating great opportunities for chemistry education.

Each year, the IUP student chapter--which was recently recognized by the national American Chemical Society as an Outstanding Student Chapter--donates $1,000 to area high school chemistry programs to promote science education and to interest students in studying chemistry. And, not only do the students and their advisor, Nathan McElroy, make the donation on site, they do "cool" chemistry experiments--complete with goggles, beakers, and foamy or "steaming" liquids.

Want to see them in action?

Seven IUP students and faculty member Justin Fair will be continuing their outreach efforts at the Carnegie Science Center in Pittsburgh on Saturday, October 22, from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. The program is free to those who pay admission to the center and open to all. So, if you've wondered what fluoride REALLY does to tooth enamel or how breakfast cereals are fortified with iron, here's your chance to find out.

In addition to the fund-raising efforts, the students do free chemistry tutoring four nights a week for IUP students and do demonstrations throughout the community at local science fairs and recruiting events. All of these efforts have resulted in four national awards for excellence, counting this last recognition.

On Monday, the students will celebrate Mole Day. No, not the little squinty-eyed rodent, the basic measuring unit in chemistry, Avogadro's number (6.02 x 1023), with a bake sale at Weyandt Hall. Not to ruin the surprise, but I hear there will be cupcakes with atomic symbols. I won't have a clue about the symbols, but a cupcake with icing can NEVER be wrong.

Dr. McElroy has an unusual understanding of the IUP Department of Chemistry--he is a very proud IUP Chemistry graduate!

But, he gives all the credit for the chapter's success to the students.

"The Outstanding Chapter Award by the national ACS is a great honor for the club. I couldn't be more proud of these students and of the exceptional work that they do for the department, the university, and the local community."

Borrowed Babies, Revisited

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Home Economics House 1953.jpgI was delighted to receive this photo from Theresa McDevitt, a Libraries faculty member, a few weeks ago. She sent it as a homecoming greeting, but she also knows that in 1995 I wrote a story for IUP Magazine about the Home Management House.

The story was called "Borrowed Babies," and you can read it, thanks to an effort by the Libraries'  Special Collections and Archives Department. Harrison Wick and colleagues have made a decent effort to scan IUP publications of the past and make them accessible through Archive.org.

But, you probably chose to open this post because of its title, so let me explain. From the early 1910s to the 1960s, Home Economics majors at IUP had a semester-long immersion experience in Home Management House, which was located on a street that no long exists near Cogswell Hall. In addition to keeping the house in operation in the spirit of any modern-day domestic engineer, the students also cared for a baby lent to them by a nearby orphanage. Hence, the reference in the photo to Rodger--the baby who resided in Home Management House in fall, 1953 (Rodger says, "It's time for a change. Beat California"). After the story ran in the magazine, we received many letters to the editor from alumnae who had nothing but wonderful things to say about the experience, who wondered what had happened to the babies they cared for, and who wanted to share their memories with others. Still, isn't it difficult to believe?

Fast forward to 2011, and we all know things are quite different today. We no longer have a Home Economics Education major, per se, but instead several majors entailing Family and Child Studies and Family and Consumer Sciences Education, both housed in the Human Development and Environmental Studies Department. All you have to do is take a look at that website to know we focus on modern issues, employ modern techniques, and that we're a long way from Home Management House.

If You Can't Think of Something to Say, Just Offer Support

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I like Facebook.

I enjoy seeing photos of my friends and my daughter away at college. And like it or not, Facebook has become a valuable tool for communications professionals. We use it here at IUP, my Quota club uses it, and it's helpful.

I like checking my personal page, and I try VERY hard not to post things of the "Who cares?" variety. So, because my life is fairly uneventful, I don't post all that often.

But I have wondered what to do when I see those posts that present information reflecting a lot of personal emotion: Passing of a parent. A fire. Loss of a job. Worry over the stock market and a 401K plunge postponing retirement FOREVER (oh wait--that's me). Should I comment? What should I say?

Krys KaniastyIUP Psychology professor Krys Kaniasty to the rescue.

Even if you don't know what to say, say something simple and direct, he advises.

And he should know.

Dr. Kaniasty has done extensive study on social support after natural disasters and trauma.

In fact, he was honored by the Stress and Anxiety Research Society with the Lifetime Career Award for his work. And, he just returned from the Australian Psychological Society Annual Conference in Canberra, where he was an invited keynote presenter on the topic of support for victims of natural disasters.

Earlier this year, he was asked by web editors from Gizmodo to offer advice on how people should respond to comments on social media to people affected by disasters--most recently, the Japanese tsunami.

For example, let's say a Facebook friend and trauma survivor posts feelings that are of concern

"Don't stay silent," Kaniasty recommends in a posting titled "An Etiquette Guide to Tsunamis and Other Disasters."

"Send a private message that says something to the effect of, 'I just read your post. If you need to talk, I'm here for you.' Make sure to include a phone number--sometimes people need to talk."

Dr. Kaniasty is one of my favorite Psychology professors. He's very active in his field, respected internationally for his work, and recently co-authored a review titled "Weighing the Costs of Disaster: Consequences, Risks, and Resilience in Individuals, Families, and Communities" in the journal Psychological Science in the Public Interest.

He's a native of Poland, and is the author of a book about the 1997 Polish flood. (That publication is worthy of several blog entries alone. Check it out on his website.)

In terms of offering support, Dr. Kaniasty says in the posting that "you don't have to be a talented clinician to be helpful. Most people aren't looking for you to provide a solution; they're looking for someone to listen."

Good advice, both for Facebook and life.

The Golden Rule in the Workplace? Really?

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Jan Wachter teaching graduate safety sciences classOkay, back again, talking about one of my favorite professors and programs.

Jan Watcher, associate professor of Safety Sciences, who is currently researching how management needs to engage workers if they want them to follow safety guidelines, is a busy guy.

In addition to this work, a full load of classes, and advising students, one of his articles was selected for one of the most prestigious national safety journals, Professional Safety. His article is titled "Ethics--the Absurd Yet Preferred Approach to Safety Management."

Any academic article that has the word "absurd" in it captures my attention.

As I've noted in a previous post, Dr. Watcher is a very articulate, well-rounded guy, who puts doing the right thing first. So I guess I'm not surprised by his topic. He is trying to tell management that yes, "the Golden Rule" (you know, we learned it in Sunday school, "Do Unto Others as You Would Have Them Do Unto You" ) can be used as the basis for developing and implementing safety programs in the workplace without negatively affecting the bottom line.

 But Dr. Watcher goes a step further. He puts this responsibility on the safety professional. "Safety professionals need to have the moral courage to embrace ethical, not just regulatory, standards," he says.

Let's face it. Big companies are not always known for caring about the "little guy," and sometimes, Dr. Watcher says, unethical managers try to enlist safety professionals as advocates for cutting corners when it comes to safety. If this happens, he says, safety professionals need to stand their ground and show their bosses how safety programs based on the more ethical basis of doing the right thing is a better and sustaining basis for managing safety programs in the long run.

I really liked this particular idea from the article: Laws and regulations are all about what people CAN'T  do, but ethics are about what people (and companies) SHOULD do.

Or, more simply put, ethics are about doing the right thing.

Dr. Wachter supports a "safety management systems approach" in the workplace: that is, recognizing the unsafe acts, unsafe conditions, and accidents are all symptoms of problems in the organizational management system. Safety should not be a "sunk cost," but an integral function of doing business, just like quality.

But why would management adopt this approach, especially in light of challenging economic times?

"Perhaps the greatest economic reason to support an ethics-based approach to safety management within a capitalistic system is that prosperity generates an environment where continuing improvement and reduced risk are affordable," Dr. Wachter says.

Pretty smart thinking.

But Dr. Watcher is a pretty smart guy. Here's his professional training: a bachelor's degree in biology, master's degree in environmental health, Master of Business Administration, a doctoral degree in hygiene from the University of Pittsburgh, a Master of Divinity degree from Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, and a Master of Applied Theology from Wheeling Jesuit University. Before his academic career, he was employed by Fortune 100 companies and the federal government as an environmental safety and health administrator and researcher. His safety science accreditations include certified safety professional, certified industrial hygienist, certified hazardous materials manager, certified quality engineer, and certified reliability engineer.

I really like the idea of a Dr. Jan Wachter training the next generation of safety professionals. I feel a lot safer already!

Welcome, Citizens!

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I always enjoy the annual International Education Week events and presentations, especially the panel of students talking about how study abroad has made an impact on their lives. It's very gratifying to hear from IUP students--many from tiny little towns here in Pennsylvania--who have had entire new worlds opened up to them due to study abroad opportunities.

But this year, we will be hosting something REALLY special and different.

On Friday, October 14, at 11:00 a.m. at the Kovalchick Convention and Athletic Complex's Toretti Auditorium, 102 people from forty different countries will officially begin their lives as American citizens.

Last month, Michele Petrucci, director of IUP's Office of International Education, was contacted by the Pittsburgh field office of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

"Would IUP be interested in hosting a naturalization ceremony?" they asked. "We are thinking about Friday, October 14," (which just happened to be the final day of International Education Week. So perfect).

Dr. Petrucci checked with university leadership, and the answer was an enthusiastic "yes!" 

In fact, David Werner, IUP's interim president, agreed to welcome the candidates and offer remarks during the ceremony.

This particular ceremony will also have a very special meaning to one of our own. Pooja Rishi, originally from Madras, India, and a faculty member in the IUP Department of Political Science, will be naturalized Friday. She also will take part in the ceremony as a candidate speaker.

"It's a sense of permanency," she said of her upcoming citizenship. She and her husband are the parents of a young son, and she said that she also wanted to be a citizen for family reasons. "I'm here, in this community, raising my child. I have a stake in this community, and being a citizen is important to me."

Becoming a citizen is not as easy as it seems. You cannot become a citizen simply by marrying an American citizen (I had that one wrong), and it takes years to complete the process. For Dr. Rishi, it took four years from the beginning of the process until the ceremony tomorrow, and she considers herself "very, very lucky" to have completed the process that quickly.

I've not been to a naturalization ceremony before--only seen them on television shows and in movies. I know how proud I am of my citizenship, which I way too often take for granted, so I can only imagine what it means to internationals who have worked hard to complete paperwork and pass the citizenship exams. (I understand that a lot of "born here in America" Americans would have some trouble passing that exam!)

The ceremony is open to the public and to media. If you have the time, come join us in welcoming some of American's newest citizens. What a great end to IUP's International Education Week.

Lost in Translation

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IUP Department of Foreign Languages Spanish associate professor Marjorie Zambrano-Paff presented a paper titled "Mediated Humor in the Legal Setting: The Construction of New Identities," at the 2011 International Society for Language Studies conference.

Marjorie Zambrano-PaffOkay, kind of an esoteric title. But a lot of times, the actual content of these academic papers is really intriguing and thought-provoking. When I read more on the Spanish Department's website, I realized that her research and conclusions needed to be told.

My translation of her work? Well-credentialed Spanish professor + study of the fairness of immigration hearings = media interest. Especially in those states that are dealing with so many of those issues (Texas, Arizona, California).

I contacted her for a copy of the paper. Long story short, I sent out information to media with my own title (a little more casual and less academic): "Humor in Immigration Courtroom Not So Funny to Defendants."

Here's the general idea of what she found--my words, not hers--when judges try to be funny, even with good intentions of relaxing the defendant, it doesn't really translate. I get that. I'm reading a book by Kelly McDonald, a marketing expert in Texas, who keeps stressing that you can't just word-for-word translate colloquialisms from one language to another. For example, "Got Milk?" in English does not mean the same thing as "Got Milk?" in Spanish. I don't remember the Spanish words for it, but in Spanish, this phrase means, "Are you a nursing mother?" Yikes.

Not long after I sent out the information on her research, a reporter from the Chicago Sun-Times e-mailed me, asking for more from Dr. Zambrano-Paff. Not sure when the story will run, but when it does, it means that 317,274 subscribers will know how interesting IUP faculty are!

Being an Ally Can Be a Lifesaver

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GLBT History MonthTomorrow, we celebrate National Coming Out Day. It's part of a national observance in October, which is National Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender History Month. It's been observed in America since 1994.

Tonight, the IUP Six O'Clock Series will host a presentation by Faisal Alam."Hidden Voices: The Lives of LGBT Muslims," which will be offered in the Hadley Union Building Ohio Room and is cosponsored by IUP's GLBT Commission, the Office of International Education, Pride Alliance, and the Department of Religious Studies. This program is designed to highlight the struggles and challenges facing sexual and gender minorities within the Muslim world. Tonight's program is also part of IUP's celebration of International Education Week, October 10-14.

IUP is vocal in its support and acceptance of GLBT lifestyles. We have joined our colleages across the nation to encourage acceptance of GLBT students at colleges, and we all mourn for the families of those students who have suffered and who have lost their lives as a result of harassment and bullying.

IUP has several groups that address GLBT issues. Recently, I asked Todd Cogar, chair of the GLBT Commission at IUP, to offer information for parents whose children are members of the GLBT community as a release for media to use in back-to-school publications. IUP's GLBT Commission is an advisory group to the Office of the President that works to improve the climate for diversity within IUP.

"One of the most important things parents and families can do for their students--and other family members--is to never assume that anyone is heterosexual," he said.

Cogar is an assistant director in the Center for Student Life and Office of Student Conduct and an advisor to Pride Alliance, the LGBT student group at IUP.

"One doesn't have to agree with those who identify as LGBT, but it is so important for individuals who do identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, or questioning, to hear that they are supported by their loved ones. Parents and families can impact harassment and bullying in simple ways by addressing inappropriate jokes, by supporting students when incidents occur, and by helping students appropriately address bullying and harassment.

"Students are always looking for those individuals who identify with the community as allies. An ally is someone who is not LGBT, but who is a supportive individual who accepts the person. Being an ally can be a life-saving role for people in the LGBT community. Allies can work with the community for equal rights and fair treatment; they can assist in the coming-out process, and are huge voices of acceptance and respect."

Cogar also advised students to "get involved" at their college.

"College students are always encouraged to get involved in campus life. Students who are involved on campus gain great leadership skills, make the most of their college experience, meet new friends, and often do better academically," he said.

For LGBT students at IUP, for example, there is Pride Alliance, a student organization that has as its goals fostering a safe and supportive academic and social environment for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, and ally community of IUP.

IUP also has an active Safe Zone program. This group strives to improve the campus climate for LGBT individuals by providing a visible sign on campus to indicate a safe place for students to go for support. The program provides training to members of the IUP community so that members are knowledgeable and sensitive to LGBT issues. Members pledge to challenge homophobic and heterosexist comments or behaviors in an educational and informative manner.

As part of efforts to raise awareness of issues, last October, the IUP GLBT Commission sponsored an "Anti-Bullying, Anti-Homophobia Vigil of Remembrance" in the Oak Grove on campus, drawing more than two hundred people.

In addition, for the past two years, IUP students, staff, and faculty have participated in the "Only Love" photography awareness program. This event was created by R.C. Stabile, a graduate student in the Student Affairs in Higher Education program.

Here's what Stabile says on the "Only Love" website: "There is so much hate spread through bullying, bashing, and violence. ... We, as college students, the future of America, believe that everyone deserves a chance to love and be loved."

Hard to argue with a message promoting acceptance and love.

I grew up in Indiana. I loved my childhood, and I love my hometown then and now, but I certainly realize that it is a pretty homogeneous community. I believe that Indiana does offer more diversity (in the interest of full disclosure, this is NOT scientifically or statistically proven) over other towns of its size because of places like IUP and Indiana Regional Medical Center, which tend to draw individuals from a variety of ethnic backgrounds.

I also appreciate that the university truly values diversity and has a dynamic and active Office of International Education that does extensive outreach throughout the year, including International Education Week (October 10-14 this year). I'll be talking more about the week, which includes a naturalization ceremony, a first for IUP, in a future blog.

But with diversity comes challenges. The tragedy of September 11, 2001, changed the way that we look at the world (that's not news to anyone) and placed the Islamic culture and religion in the spotlight in ways that it had never been before.

Parveen AliThat's why I felt that the results of a study by Parveen Ali, an assistant professor in IUP's Department of Developmental Studies, on "Perception of Islam and Muslims among College Students" would be both interesting and important to reporters.

The good news? Dr. Ali found that most students have an overall satisfactory attitude toward Muslims and Islam.

The not so good news? Most students have a misperception about where the majority of Muslims live, and some still associate Muslim with "terrorist."

Any guesses about what was top-of-mind for students when they were asked for reactions to the word "Muslim"?

Forty-four percent responded with "normal people." Twenty-one percent responded with "terrorist"; forty-four percent with "Arabs." (They could choose more than one answer.)

And clearly, IUP students need to bone up on their geography. Eighty-four percent of surveyed students believed that the region where most Muslims lived is the Middle East.

Wrong answer.

Indonesia has the largest Muslim population of all of the world's countries (15.6 percent), and Asia and the Pacific have 61.9 percent of the Muslim population, compared to 20.1 percent in the Middle East.

There is an increasing presence of Muslims on U.S. college campuses. That's just a fact, Dr. Ali says.

That said, what's the take away from this study?

"It is crucial to create awareness about Islam in college campuses in order to prevent discrimination, intolerance, false myths, and prejudice toward its believers."

Well said.

Eating Less in the Presence of Men

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thesalt-banner-4622.gifOver morning coffee, NPR listeners recently learned about eating habits that were discovered right here in Indiana, Pennsylvania. You can see the full story in The Salt, NPR's food blog, which describes research by two former students and two faculty members. It suggests the gender of your dining company can influence what you eat.

Molly Allen-O'Donnell '04, M'06, Marci Cottingham M'09, Kay Snyder, and Tom Nowak of the IUP Sociology Department collaborated on "Impact of Group Composition and Gender on Meals Purchased by College Students," which was published in September in the Journal of Applied Social Psychology.

The research shows that men and women both eat less when in the presence of men. Read or listen to NPR's coverage. UPDATE: ABC News also has covered the issue and has cited the research done by Allen-O'Donnell, Cottingham, Snyder, and Nowak.

Nowak and Snyder retired in the summer. Currently, Allen-O'Donnell, whose bachelor's degree is in Nutrition, is a social worker at Helpmates, Inc., in Ridgway, Pa. Cottingham is a graduate student at the University of Akron.

Don't Believe Everything You Hear about Greek Life

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A sorority rides in the Homecoming parade October 1, 2011There are certain words that come to mind when you say "fraternity" or "sorority."

You know them. I know them.

Parties. Wild behavior. Animal House.

However, if you're not aware of this by now, I need to tell you this: you really CAN'T believe all that you see on television and the movies about university students.

Let me suggest some other words, and these are ones that I can absolutely prove to be fact about IUP's Greek organizations:

  • Community service
  • National philanthrophy
  • Networking
  • Study hours
  • Academic standards
  • And this past week, pomps and pickup--garbage pickup, that is

While you were on your way home to dry out after this year's wonderful (albeit wet!) Homecoming parade, after enjoying the amazing floats built by members of IUP's fraternities and sororities, some three hundred fraternity and sorority members were busy VOLUNTEERING to clean up the Indiana Borough streets. Not quite the Homecoming "party" most expect of our Greeks.

Betsy Sarneso, assistant director for Student Life, oversees Greek life on campus. It's a big job--there are about eight hundred students at IUP in one of thirty social sororities or fraternities. She coordinated the cleanup, among many, many other projects and programs.

"Every Greek organization is required to do service or contribute to a philanthropy, local or national, and sometimes they do both," she explained. The Homecoming cleanup is just an extra.

Often, these students get excited about projects and move forward to DO THEM without notifying her office, so we don't always get the word out. I can't really fault them for that--the commitment to a good cause isn't, for them, about getting credit or being in the newspaper. That's kind of a refreshing thing in a world where it's too often about people doing things for the recognition.

For example, we just learned of a project happening today and Wednesday--the annual "Rocking the Grove" fund-raising event, sponsored by the Panhellenic Association. Members of the Greek community will be in rocking chairs in the Oak Grove today from 4:30 to 11:30 p.m. and from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Wednesday. Funds raised go to the Alice Paul House, a shelter for survivors of domestic violence and their children here in Indiana County.

Then, on Friday and Saturday of this week, sororities and fraternities will be doing a food drive at the Fourth Street Bi-Lo for the Indiana County Community Kitchen. This event, done in conjunction with the Office of Service Learning, will involve students from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. both days.

The Community Kitchen, the recent beneficiary of a special fund-raising event sponsored by the Bridge Corps, works to fight hunger in Indiana County. Since its creation in 1994, the Community Kitchen has served more than 150,000 meals. They get no government or state funding--it all comes from donations.

For some fraternities and sororities, this is a "been there, done that" kind of thing, as they've already done food drives for the community. We just don't always hear about it.

In addition to rocking, members of Zeta Tau Alpha sorority are part of a breast cancer awareness event, Bras for a Cause, organized by the Indiana Business and Professional Women's Club. (This project I know about...I was a celebrity bartender last year, complete with pink sweater, scarf, and hair!) The decorated bras are on display in front of Stapleton Library until tomorrow, so come out and vote for your favorite (that's how the project raises money). All proceeds go to Birdie's Closet at Indiana Regional Medical Center, a place for women diagnosed with cancer.

And those are things being done just THIS WEEK by our fraternity and sororities THAT WE KNOW ABOUT. I am certain there are many more things that we'll never hear about, and that will never make the news.

However, the recipients of the funds raised or service offered will know.

Maybe that's all that matters.

I keep coming back to the IUP Criminology Department for feature stories and experts.

First of all, these professors are so accessible. They are busy teachers and researchers, but they are willing to talk with me and to talk with the media when reporters have questions about current issues in criminology.

Second, the work they do is just plain interesting. They ask questions that I might never have thought to ask, and these studies almost always have relevance to reporters and writers.

Jennifer RobertsCriminology professor Jennifer Roberts (who recently was promoted to the rank of professor--congratulations, Dr. Roberts!) did research with one of her doctoral students, Laura King, to try and determine if hometown types have an impact on how people think about rape. She surveyed a sample of IUP undergraduate and graduate students for her study.

You'd think that urbanites, who probably have more exposure to news about crimes like sexual assault, would have a different opinion about these crimes than people from small towns, where the crime rate is lower and there are fewer media reports on sexual assault.

Not so, they found. It's not about the hometown, but it is about gender. Men were still more likely to accept rape myths than women.

Dr. Roberts and Ms. King's "Traditional Gender Role and Rape Myth Acceptance: From the Countryside to the Big City" was published in the 2011 Women and Criminal Justice Journal, showing that hometowns have little to do with the acceptance of "rape myths." Rape myths are stereotypical beliefs about rape.

Dr. Roberts and Ms. King explain that rape myths traditionally blame the victim, excuse the perpetrator, and minimize the severity of the attack based on a number of situational and background characteristics.

Okay. Interesting, but it begs the question: Why does this study matter to the media (which means you and me)?

Here's why: Accepting these myths influences how survivors are treated AND contributes to the underreporting of this crime, Dr. Roberts says.

That's the big headline for this story.

But there is some good news in this research to add to the headline. The overall rape myth acceptance within the pool of students she surveyed was lower than in similar studies conducted decades ago.

There is still much more to be done, Dr. Roberts stresses. Unfortunately, the acceptance of rape myth is still prevalent enough to warrant additional attention through things such as educational programs focusing on myths about rape and dating violence.

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