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Hot Topics from 2013

Reinventing the modern university: Challenges in the coming decade

Dr. M. David Rudd, Provost

Today's universities grapple with a range of issues including: real-world application, affordability, access, the influence of emerging technologies on learning, reductions in federal grant funding, the role of the residential campus, along with the defining issue of our time - the employability of our graduates. The pace of change is unparalleled, demanding a flexible and responsive vision. M. David Rudd, Provost, will lead the discussion on how the University of Memphis will respond to these challenges and work to shape and implement a vision enriched by partnerships well beyond the boundaries of campus.

The American Political Party - Friend or Foe to Democracy?

Dr. Eric Groenendyk, Assistant Professor, Political Science

When do parties help versus hurt democracy? Given high levels of political polarization and legislative gridlock, many people are frustrated with parties and partisanship. On the other hand, parties have always been a part of American politics, and the system would be quite dysfunctional without them. We will discuss the nature and evolution of political parties and the psychology of party identification as we consider how to make parties work for American democracy.

Deluge to Drought: A Historical Perspective of Recent Extreme Weather

Dr. Dorian Burnette, Assistant Professor, Earth Sciences

Dr. Burnette worked as a TV meteorologist for KSNW-TV and was a lead storm warnings meteorologist for WeatherData, Inc. in Wichita, Kansas prior to going to the University of Arkansas for a Ph.D., where he focused on historical climatology and climates of the past derived from tree rings. He studies extreme weather and climate events, and will lead a discussion that places recent extreme events such as the drought of 2012, Superstorm Sandy, and the tornado outbreaks of 2011 into a broader historical perspective

The Myth of Absolute Safety: When Governments or Corporations Put Our Health at Risk

Dr. Kristen Iversen, Associate Professor, English

People in small towns and big cities across the country - including Memphis - are constantly and unknowingly faced with environmental hazards that can lead to serious health issues, including contamination from former nuclear weapons sites and nuclear power plants, hydraulic fracturing (fracking), and coal mining. How we can work toward stronger safety measures and greater transparency regarding the risks of these activities? How can citizens learn the facts about local environmental hazards and effectively work toward a healthier environment and reduced risk to human health?

One Mouth, Two Ears, Ten Fingers: Telling, Hearing and Writing a Story

Courtney Miller Santo, Author of Roots of the Olive Tree and Creative Writing Program Administrator

Scientifically, humans are predisposed to storytelling. Most of us are comfortable with the narrative form that is turning the random bits of our life into beginnings, middles, and end. What we are not comfortable with is content. Join Courtney, who pieced together all of her family stories and turned them into a novel, for a discussion about making good stories. We'll work on finding out how to tell a better story, how to know a good story when you hear one and, most importantly, how to write a good story.

Territorial Disputes and Instability in East Asia.

Dr. Catherine Phipps, Assistant Professor, East Asian History

Why is Japan in territorial disputes with three of its closest neighbors? Would Japan and China go to war over a handful of uninhabited islands? Why is the dispute with Russia over the Kuril Islands, which has been simmering since WWII, heating up now? Why are Korean and Japanese citizens alike holding nationalistic rallies over a remote outcrop of rocky islands? We will discuss whether these disputes are about the territories themselves or whether they are proxies for other, more sensitive, issues. Either way, they tell us a lot about current political and economic tensions in the region, many of which are rooted in the historical past. Further, we'll talk about how the U.S. has played, and continues to play, an integral role in East Asia.

Tennessee: A History of Innovation in Education

Dr. Alistair Windsor, Assistant Professor, Mathematical Sciences and Co Director of Tigers Teach

Tennessee has a long tradition of being at the forefront of educational innovation. In 1985 the TN Legislature funded an experiment called Project STAR (Student/Teacher Achievement Ratio) that eclipsed all previous studies of class size, spawned several replications, and affected educational policy nationwide. The current nationwide trend of adopting Value Added Assessment models for teachers and schools began with data from Tennessee in 1993. I hope to discuss some of the hot topics in educational reform in Tennessee, and nationwide, including Value-Added Assessment, Charter Schools, and the Common Core Curriculum.

Gun Violence in Memphis: Can Anything Be Done?

Dr. Richard Janikowski, Associate Professor, Criminal Justice

Gun violence once again is at the center of a national debate. At the same time, some commentators have observed that an epidemic of gun violence seems to be plaguing our city. Unfortunately, discussions on the issue are often shrouded in myth, rumor, and misunderstanding. We will explore the research on violent, particularly gun, crime with an emphasis on local findings and consider strategies being adopted by city leaders and stakeholders to address violence in our city.

Policy Tactical Urbanism in Memphis- New Approaches to Urban Revitalization in Memphis Neighborhoods

Leah Dawkins, Community Redevelopment Liaison, University of Memphis and Dr. Stan Hyland, Professor and Head, School of Urban Affairs and Public

Throughout the country, cash-strapped cities are taking on innovative approaches to neighborhood revitalization focusing on low-cost high-impact catalyst events to bring new interest and new private investment. While the newest iteration of this trend is called - Tactical Urbanism, - such efforts reflect a history of grassroots revitalization efforts taken on by high-need urban communities with few resources. Memphis has seen three such initiatives - Broad Street, Cleveland Street and now Highland/Walker Streets. Our discussion will explore the history of this type of revitalization and how university students, staff, faculty, local merchants and University area residents have come together to transform Highland Street. Our discussion of what has worked in each of these tactical urbanism initiatives will have implications for future neighborhood revitalization efforts.

The French Presence in the Mid-South

Dr. Will Thompson, Assistant Dean, College of Arts & Sciences and Associate Professor, French

Did you know that the French, long before the establishment of a place called Memphis, were exploring and settling the Mid-South? We will discuss this rich, but largely ignored, part of American history, with a particular emphasis on those communities that continue to have a lasting French cultural heritage today.

Science and the Bible

Dr. Joan Schmelz, Professor, Physics

Georgia Rep. Paul Broun, a physician who sits on the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee, says evolution, embryology, and the Big Bang theory are - lies straight from the pit of hell. Should we leave science in his not-so-capable hands? What does the Bible have to say? Let's talk. We will start with the Earth. Is it flat? Is it the center of the universe? Is it 10,000 years old?

Preserving our Privacy - Does it Matter?

Dr. Sajjan Shiva, Chair and Professor, Computer Science

Computers and the internet have become integral parts of our daily lives. We do not hesitate to post our pictures and intimate details on the Facebook. Our smart phones remember all the places we have been and allow the phone company to keep track of it and share it. Amazon sends us messages when a book they have matches what we looked for earlier on their site or elsewhere. Our lives have become open books. 'Privacy' is usually defined as - do what you need to do, but do not get recorded. So where is the privacy? Does it matter if we have lost it? Discuss with Dr. Shiva how easily the private information gets away without our knowledge and how we can strive to maintain privacy despite the constant intrusion from all the technology around us.

Launching The Green Machine Mobile Food Market: The U of M's Role in Promoting Urban Food Security

Dr. Kenneth M. Reardon, Professor, City and Regional Planning

When residents of the city's poorest neighborhood described the problems they were having trying to purchase fresh, affordable, and culturally appropriate foods, U of M graduate planning students began studying the issue. After investigating various mobile food markets, they convinced the Memphis Area Transit Authority to lease them a retired city bus for $1 a year. Join Ken Reardon for a discussion of how U of M anthropology and city planning students are working with Saint Patrick Community Outreach Inc. in bringing fresh foods and the best available nutritional health information to fifteen low-income neighborhoods where residents do not have access to a full-service grocery store.

Stress Out: What it Does to Us and How it Impacts Health Care Policy

Dr. Kathryn Hicks, Assistant Professor, Anthropology

Stress is notoriously difficult to define and measure. Recent studies using biological measures of stress, like blood pressure or levels of stress hormones, provide new insights into why some people are more stressed out than others, and how this influences their overall health. Some people are particularly sensitive so social stressors like isolation, and having supportive social relationships seems to buffer our physiological response to negative events. There is also considerable evidence that the most stressful jobs are not the ones associated with the most responsibility, but the ones that offer the lowest levels of control or autonomy. People who experience stressful situations more often, tend to develop conditions like high blood pressure. Dr. Hicks will lead a conversation on the implications of stress research for disease prevention and public health policy.

Five Worthwhile Cancer Screenings

Dr. Reed Baskin, Alumnus, Oncologist

This could just be the conversation that saves your life. Dr. Baskin is a founding member of the Boston Baskin Cancer Foundation and a practicing Oncologist/Hematologist with more than 35 years of experience. Though the goals and outcomes of cancer screening are controversial, Dr. Baskin will discuss tests available for five common tumors, as well as who should be screened and when screening is appropriate.

Tiny PepperIn 2002, the College of Arts and Sciences' Dean and his Advisory Board initiated the annual Great Conversations dinner in order to bring community guests together with award-winning research and teaching faculty for an evening of dining and conversation.

Tiny PepperOver the last ten years, the event has gained popularity and prominence in the community among our alumni and friends. We invite you to join us and learn about the extraordinary research being conducted on campus in the College of Arts & Sciences.

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