Feature Stories Campus Events

W&L’s Tyler Lorig Discusses What the Nose Knows with WVTF Public Radio

In an interview with Connie Stevens of WVTF, public radio in Roanoke, Tyler Lorig, the Ruth Parmly Professor and chair of neuroscience at Washington and Lee, explains the ways in which our sense of smell has an impact on all of our senses.

Lorig’s current research on olfaction examines odors and timing as seen in brain images.

As Lorig tells Stevens in her report, “We are interested in how we make sense of that temporal spectrum of odors coming into the nose and how they come to be recognized—we use different processes in our brain to handle odors that unfold very rapidly, as opposed to odors that are unfolding slowly. It looks for all the world like a person listening to words.”

W&L Cited in NPR Morning Edition Story on Dan Rather

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Student’s Photo Snapped Up by National Geographic

“If I had arrived just a minute later I would have missed it,” says W&L student Morgan Harris ’09, who keeps his professional-grade SLR camera on him whenever he can while traveling.

Harris was drawn to the musicians playing in Prague’s main square, but it was the image of them silhouetted against the fine architecture that led him to lift his camera and take two shots. Thirty seconds later the musicians stopped playing. Five minutes later clouds rolled in and it started to snow.

One of those shots proved to be a winning one and has been selected by National Geographic photo editors to be included in their 2009 Glimpse calendar. Glimpse is an organization within National Geographic that exists to promote study abroad and cultural exchange.

When he took the winning shot, Harris was studying abroad during the fall term of 2007 with the Danish Institute for Study Abroad. Their International Business and Economics study tour took the group of students to Berlin and then to Prague.

Kip Brooks, study abroad advisor and program coordinator at W&L’s Center for International Education, calls Harris’s photo busy and colorful and says “Morgan captures the activity of this city and it makes me want to see it for myself!” Brooks told Harris about the photo competition at National Geographic and he submitted his photo in the winter of 2008.

Harris received an e-mail some time later saying that his photo had not been selected for the cover of the calendar, and he assumed that was the end of the story. So it was a surprise when he received a second e-mail congratulating him on the selection of his photo for inclusion in the calendar. Over 200 photos had been submitted. Harris admits that had he read the original e-mail to the end he would have seen that his photo was still in contention.

“I was quite pleased about it,” says Harris, “because I have had photos published in a few other things at W&L and back home in Maine, but this is definitely the biggest. There’s been nothing on this scale.”

mharris_photo Student's Photo Snapped Up by National Geographic
Photo printed with permission of National Geographic Glimpse.

Harris is majoring in politics and sociology/anthropology, and has never taken a photography course. He now plans to do so at W&L this winter.

The National Geographic Glimpse calendar is available online in return for a $10 donation to the Glimpse Foundation.

Brian Richardson Discusses the News Business on NPR affiliate WMRA

Brian Richardson, professor of journalism and mass communications at Washington and Lee University, discussed the news business on NPR affiliate WMRA’s Virginia Insight show on Monday, Dec. 15.

Richardson is a former reporter and bureau chief for the Miami Herald newspaper and is now head of W&L’s department of journalism and mass communications. He appeared on the show with Maria Hileman, managing editor of The Winchester Star, and McGregor McCance, managing editor of the Charlottesville-based Daily Progress.

The wide-ranging conversation, which included calls from listeners, focused on the future of newspapers, the impact of the World Wide Web, and the importance of economic models that will allow traditional newspapers to translate their information to the Web in a cost-effective way. In addition, Richardson discussed the importance of teaching ethics to journalists as part of their training.

Students in International Law Practicum Promote Justice in Liberia

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Making Sense of Holiday Scents

What would the holidays be without those familiar scents — the fresh spruce tree, peppermint candy canes, mulled cider?

The absence of those particular odors in the context of the holidays would create a puzzle for the senses, says Washington and Lee neuroscientist Tyler Lorig, who specializes in the study of the olfactory system.

Our sense of smell is central to our ability to make sense of a particular experience, says Lorig. If, for instance, you walk into a room with a nice, fresh evergreen tree and there is no odor to it, or the odor is not what you expect, that experience will not make as much sense to you.

“You might not be able to put your finger on what’s wrong, but you would know that something about this scene wasn’t quite right,” he says. “There is a whole constellation of stimuli that are part of our sensory world, especially at the holiday season. We put those things together in context automatically.”

But Lorig says that while smell plays a central role in helping us understand our experiences, we are actually trained to ignore odors in most settings. “You can be in a room that is full of books and computers and telephones and all these things that emit odors, but you probably don’t notice,” he says. “Despite the fact that the air around us is full of molecules that we can smell, most of the time we don’t. We tend to smell only those things when specifically ‘looking’ for a smell or when something isn’t quite right.

“So when we do encounter smells, especially those closely associated with emotion like the good times of the holidays, we tend to have very strong feelings about those smells, and we actually seek them out.”

Lorig’s research looks at how the brain responds to smells and, recently, has focused on how the timing of that information can lead to knowledge about what someone has just smelled. Using coffee as an example, Lorig says that the smell is composed of many molecules, some of which bind to receptor sites in the nose very quickly, some more slowly and even others more slowly, up to as long as two seconds. That pattern, that whole matrix of individual receptors being activated at different times, is what allows you to know that you’ve smelled coffee.

One thing that Lorig says is especially misunderstood about olfaction is that smelling is not a passive activity. “We have the illusion that it is quite passive, that the odors just come to us and we smell them,” says Lorig. “The reality is that we are out there seeking them, changing our expectations and even our breathing patterns to put those odors into our nose in a way where we can make more sense of them–where they provide information about the richness of our world.”

Odell S. McGuire, Geology Professor, Dies at 81

Odell S. McGuire, a professor emeritus of geology who taught for 32 years at W&L, died today, Dec. 8, 2008, at Heritage Hall Health and Rehab Center, in Lexington. He was 81.

McGuire was born in Knoxville, Tenn., on April 19, 1927, to Odell S. and Winifred Claxton McGuire. He served in the Navy during World War II and as an infantry officer in the Army during the Korean War, when he received the Purple Heart.

He attended the University of Tennessee from 1946 to 1948, majoring in English. He received a B.S. in geology from the University of Tulsa in 1956; an M.A. in geology from Columbia University in 1958; and a Ph.D. in geology from the University of Illinois in 1962. He worked for Texaco Exploration Co. in Canada from 1957 to 1960.

McGuire joined W&L’s faculty in 1962 as an instructor in geology, became a full professor in 1970 and retired in 1994. From 1964 to 1965, he served as a visiting assistant professor at VMI.

“His devotion to his students and to his field was clear to everyone who knew him,” said President Ken Ruscio. “He was truly one of a kind.”

“As the person who was hired to replace Prof. McGuire, I feel strongly the loss of a man whose shoes I could not possibly have filled,” said David Harbor, professor of geology and department head. “Odell’s life was large, his intellect was gifted and the breadth of his inquiry was simply astounding. The importance of his influence on the hearts and minds of his students remains clear in the interest and care expressed by a generation of our returning geology alums. He will be greatly missed at the next Geology Department reunion.”

“Odell arrived at W&L a conservative, soft-spoken, clean-shaven fellow wearing a three-piece suit, with experience in the oil business and graduate degrees from Illinois and Columbia,” said Ed Spencer, a fellow professor emeritus of geology. “It would have been hard to imagine that he would be one of the first environmentally green faculty members, that he would become renowned for playing clawhammer banjo or that he would teach himself Greek so he could revise translations of the early Greek philosophers. Many students will remember him as a hard taskmaster, one who brought a rare breadth of knowledge to the classroom and one who lived life fully. It is very sad to see one of the most distinctive characters of this community pass from our midst.”

McGuire’s scientific interests and publications covered such topics as paleontology, geologic mapping, environmental impacts and land-use planning, geology of the Appalachians, hydrology, evolutionary theory, geomorphology, geohydrology and stratigraphy.

He was an active member of the Virginia Academy of Sciences and other professional organizations. He held fellowships with the University of Illinois and the National Science Foundation (NSF); twice directed the NSF Geology Institute for High School Teachers; and received a Sloane Grant for a study comparing the Alps with the Appalachians. His name graces an award for students in the W&L Geology Department: the Samuel J. Kozak-Odell S. McGuire-Edgar W. Spencer-Frederick L. Schwab Award.

McGuire and his former wife, Mata Battye McGuire, have three children, Melanie, Forrest and Jesse.

A memorial service will be held on Sunday, Dec. 21, at 4:00 p.m. in Lee Chapel. A reception will follow in the Great Hall of the Science Building.

In lieu of flowers, the family prefers that all memorials be directed to the Rockbridge Area Conservation Council, P.O. Box 564, Lexington, VA 24450.

For more information, contact Burr Datz at bdatz@wlu.edu or 458-4045.

Washington and Lee Receives $17 Million for Faculty Support

Washington and Lee University has received $17 million from Gerry Lenfest, an alumnus and Philadelphia philanthropist, to establish two endowments in support of faculty sabbaticals and summer research.

The current gift, combined with a $33 million challenge gift Lenfest made in 2007, represents a $50 million commitment to Washington and Lee’s faculty. These gifts are an early commitment in Washington and Lee’s new campaign, which is expected to be launched publicly in 2010.

“Washington and Lee’s faculty are known for their dedication and commitment to the highest standards of their profession,” said Lenfest, a member of W&L’s Class of 1953 and of the W&L School of Law Class of 1955. “My life benefited from great W&L teachers, and I am happy to make sure that today’s students have that same benefit.” Lenfest is president and CEO of the Lenfest Group of Huntingdon Valley, Pa.

“Gerry Lenfest’s support of Washington and Lee is simply remarkable,” said W&L President Kenneth P. Ruscio. “These latest gifts permit the University’s faculty to remain current in their fields and make their own scholarly contributions, which will ultimately translate into much richer classroom experiences for our students. We are so grateful to Gerry for his generosity and his foresight.”

Lenfest’s latest gift will establish the H.F. Lenfest Endowment for Faculty Summer Support and the H.F. Lenfest Endowment for Faculty Sabbaticals. In the former, income from the endowment will provide summer support for scholarly endeavors of undergraduate faculty as a means of attracting, retaining and developing excellent professors committed to the educational values of W&L. The income will allow the University to increase the number and amounts of summer grants awarded. Combined with other University funding, the Lenfest Endowment will allow for at least 100 individual grants each year.

The endowment for sabbatical support, in combination with other University resources, will fund year-long salaried sabbaticals for at least 10 faculty members each year. Both of these new programs will be administered by the University’s provost in consultation with the deans of the College and the Williams School of Commerce, Economics, and Politics.

In 2007, Lenfest made the $33 million challenge grant to help W&L pay its professors competitive salaries. The gift requires a 1:1 match by Dec. 31, 2010. As one feature of the challenge, donors can now endow a $2.5 million professorship at W&L in the name of the donor or as the donor designates by providing a $1.25 million gift or pledge, and Lenfest will match the donation by providing the other half.

How to Cope with Exam Week

As college students enter the period of final examinations, their stress level is bound to increase. But there are some common sense ways to limit the stress and avoid the problems it can cause, according to Jane Horton, director of student health and counseling at Washington and Lee University.

“Everything has to be done by a deadline,” she says, “and it can be overwhelming.”

Horton and Jan Kaufman, who runs the office of health promotion, which educates students on taking care of themselves, offer the following tips for students:

  • Eat well. Avoid high-carbohydrate or high-sugar foods because, although they can help you stay awake in the short term, what your body really needs to function well is protein.
  • Exercise. The best thing would be to leave your studies for 45 minutes to an hour and do some aerobic exercise. Even a quick ten-minute break to take a walk around the campus will make you more focused and productive in your studying.
  • Avoid all-nighters. It is not in your best interests to study all night because your body needs sleep in order to focus and concentrate. Go into an exam well rested and you will function at your best.
  • Take quick breaks while studying. For example, taking ten minutes to talk to a friend who may go to another college, will refocus your mind. But don’t let that 10 minute conversation turn into an hour – that’s procrastination.
  • Break your studying up into short blocks. If you are studying something like math or physics you can only concentrate well and effectively for about an hour. Take a break and do something completely different for five or ten minutes. On the other hand, if you are reading or studying for general comprehension, you can maintain studying for two or three hours. You will retain information more effectively if you study in three one-hour blocks spread out over two or three days rather than one three-hour block in one day.
  • Minimize your time on e-mail, Facebook, IM, and all the other electronic communications you use. Being plugged-in 24-7 can be a huge distraction. Set up a dedicated period of time to check electronic media, say once every two hours.
  • Avoid drugs. It is a common mistake to think that study drugs will enhance your ability to study and do well in an exam. Sharing someone else’s drugs prescribed for medical reasons such as ADD or ADHD can result in physical effects such as increased heartbeat, increased blood pressure, insomnia and an increased sense of anxiety. It’s never a good way to go into a final exam.
  • Don’t compromise all your efforts with alcohol. Even lower levels of alcohol have a direct negative impact on learning and memory. It affects the hippocampus, the part of the brain responsible for taking in information and converting it to short term and long term memory.
  • Talk to your professor if you are having problems completing tasks. Many students are reluctant to contact faculty, but professors are very willing to meet and provide feedback and guidance on how to accomplish tasks.
  • Study with someone else from your class. You can share notes, quiz each other and use collaborative studying to learn the material. Obviously, if you’re doing an individual project like writing a paper this won’t work, but there’s a lot of learning that can happen more effectively in a small group or with another person from your class.

Like many other colleges and universities, Washington and Lee offers many resources during the exam period to help ease student stress, especially for first-year students who will be experiencing their first college exams. The following events and resources are available for W&L students.


  • Lee Chapel Meeting to Discuss Finals Week. Friday Dec. 5, at 4: 30 p.m., the Executive Committee of the Student Body meets with the Class of 2012 in Lee Chapel to discuss Finals Week, self-scheduled exams, the freedoms and obligations of W&L students, and the foundation of trust affiliated with the Honor System.
  • Class of 2012 , If You give a General a Cookie… Study Break. Sunday Dec. 7 at 9 p.m., take an hour out from studying and enjoy cookies, brownies and milk in the Marketplace. It’s all courtesy of the First-Year Leadership Council and the Marketplace Staff.
  • Midnight Breakfast. Monday Dec. 8 enjoy being waited on by faculty and staff at the university’s popular annual late-night breakfast from 10 p.m. to midnight in the Commons.
  • Massage Breaks. Every year during exam week, W&L hires two massage therapists to offer ten-minute upper back and neck massages in the Commons. Sign-up sheets are on the Outing Club door in the Commons.


  • Study Tips. On the Study Tips Web site, click on “Tips on How To Study” at the bottom of the page. It gives advice on specific aspects of studying and preparing for exams. For example, “Preparing for Tests” and “Taking Tests” gives you great information on all aspects, such as dealing with test anxiety, things to do before the test, tips for test taking, and then goes into specifics such as the types of test – multiple choice, essays, true/false tests, emergency test preparation, etc.
  • Academic Peer Tutoring. W&L has peer tutors in practically all academic disciplines on campus, so if you need help at any time, not just during exam week, go to the Academic Peer Tutoring Web site. Click on “Request a Peer Tutor” at the top of the page then fill out the Adobe form. It will go directly to a student who operates a database of 100 or so students who peer tutor. Dave Leonard, associate dean of student affairs, and dean of first-year students, says that 85 percent of students using peer tutoring last year gave it a huge thumbs-up, saying it is very effective not only in assisting student learning, but also in improving grades. “The peer tutor program is a great resource in terms of academic assistance,” says Leonard.
  • Study Break Stretches. This is a 30 minute session designed to teach you tension-reducing stretches that can be done while you study. You can also learn breathing and stretching exercises to rejuvenate and relax your mind after studying all day. Contact Patti Colliton in the fitness center to sign up. E-mail her at collitonp@wlu.edu or call ext. 8287.
  • Student Health Center, located in the first-year residence Davis Hall. Nurses staff the center 24-7 and have ten beds where students can pop in and spend the night. The beds are mainly used for physical illness, but are also used for emotional, stressful situations where people are feeling overwhelmed, can’t sleep or are upset. “They can come here, a nurse can put them to bed, take care of them, and they can talk with a counselor or see a doctor. We can help them,” says Jane Horton, director of student health and counseling.
  • Counselors. If you need help dealing with stress or other issues, call ext. 8590 or e-mail counseling@wlu.edu for an appointment with a counselor. Emergency walk-ins are at 11 a.m. Monday to Friday. After hours, the Student Health Center is the point of contact for anyone who needs to speak to a counselor in a crisis situation. It is located on the lower level of Davis Hall, or call ext. 8401.

Justice Donald W. Lemons Receives International Honor

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