Feature Stories Campus Events

Road Trip to the Future

For 19 of the Washington and Lee undergraduates who are spending their summer in the University’s science laboratories, the road trip that the Career Services Office organized last week was an opportunity to peer into their future.

At 6:30 a.m., the students left in vans for Bethesda, Md., where they joined students from Washington-area colleges at the National Institutes of Health Graduate and Professional School Fair. There, they participated in workshops on interviewing, getting into graduate and professional school, M.D./Ph.D. programs, and careers in public health, psychology and pharmacy. In addition, almost 120 colleges and universities from across the U.S. sent representatives of their graduate schools, medical and dental schools, schools of public health and other biomedical programs, permitting the W&L students to learn more about these areas.

Not only did the road trip give the participating students a preview of what might await them once they leave W&L, but it was also a valuable experience for the Career Services office, according to Beverly Lorig, its director. “I came away with ideas for building career-related programs linked to the existing W&L summer programs,” she said.

Washington and Lee Names New Hillel Director

Washington and Lee University has named Brett M. Schwartz as director of its Hillel,

effective July 15. As only the second person to hold the post, he succeeds Joan Robins, who retired this past June.

Brett Schwartz, Director of Hillel at Washington and Lee University

“We are delighted to have Brett join Washington and Lee,” said Tamara Y. Futrell, associate dean of students in the W&L Office of Diversity and Inclusion, who oversees student religious life. “He brings a wealth of energy and experience to the position of Hillel director. I’m sure he will do a fantastic job.”

Schwartz comes to W&L from Wilmington, Del., where he spent two years as the director of youth and family programming for the Congregation Beth Emeth. He oversaw community programming and developed leadership opportunities for lay leaders and teenagers.

Before Beth Emeth, he spent two months as the site director for the Mitzvah Corps in New Orleans, which engaged teenagers in volunteer projects. From 2007 to 2009, Schwartz directed youth and family programs at the Adath Israel Congregation, Cincinnati, Ohio.

Schwartz holds a B.S. in exercise science from Ithaca College and an M.S. in organizational development and leadership from the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine. While at Ithaca, Schwartz worked as a student intern at the college’s Hillel, for which he still serves on the board as president, webmaster and program chair.

W&L Hillel is a member of Hillel International: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life, the largest Jewish campus organization in the world. Hillel seeks to create a vibrant Jewish life on campus for students of all backgrounds. Its mission is to enrich the lives of Jewish students so that they may make an enduring contribution to the Jewish people and the world.

W&L’s Hillel House opened in the fall of 2010. It contains the kosher E Café and a multipurpose room that is available for community use. Hillel sponsors First Fridays at 5, a monthly Shabbat service and potluck dinner for all students, faculty and staff, as well as members of the local community. On other Friday evenings, it hosts a Shabbat Shalom service for students.

In addition to religious life, the Office of Diversity and Inclusion at W&L encompasses multicultural, international and GLBQT student life on campus.

Examining Empathy

When a contributor to the Miller-McCune magazine needed an expert, he knew who to call: Suzanne Keen, the Thomas H. Broadus Professor of English and chair of the Department of English at Washington and Lee University.

Suzanne is quoted at length in an article titled “Teaching Empathy to the ‘Me’ Generation,” by Eric Leake, a Ph.D. candidate in composition and rhetoric at the University of Louisville. Suzanne, of course, is well known for her scholarship on empathy. Her 2007 book, Empathy and the Novel, examines the topic in depth.

The article discusses the so-called Empathy Experiment at Capital University, in Columbus, Ohio. Suzanne tells Leake, “I think when teachers in real life are interacting with students — all real people — the empathy-and-moral-education relation can be much more robust if the teachers can make a direct correlation.”

You can read the entire article here. And you can read more about Suzanne and her scholarship here, in this article about her 2008 Outstanding Faculty Award from the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia.

Miller-McCune is available in print and online. It bills itself as containing “polished, in-depth reports on research and solutions across the policy spectrum — from health care, education and energy to international affairs, poverty and the global economy.”

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New Coaching Post for Dannelly

Former Washington and Lee women’s basketball captain Bethany Dannelly, of the Class of 2005, has just been named an assistant coach at Colby College, in Maine. Bethany still holds the career records for assists (459) and steals (197) as the Generals’ point guard. She never had fewer than 84 assists and 42 steals in a season.

Bethany got some valuable coaching experience at the University of Virginia, where she earned her master’s degree in physiology from the Curry School of Education. Last year she served as assistant director of operations/video coordinator for the Cavaliers after previously serving two seasons as a graduate assistant. She handled daily operations of the women’s program plus all game film and scouting video work.

At the same time she was working with the U.Va. intercollegiate program, Bethany was also coaching the university’s club basketball team. There she compiled a career record of 87-3 in three years, guiding her team to national semifinals berths two years in a row.

At Colby, Bethany joins first-year head coach Julie Veilleux on the Mules’ staff.

W&L's Kahn Keynotes International Conference

James R. Kahn, the John F. Hendon Professor of Economics and director of Environmental Studies at Washington and Lee, has been invited to provide one of the keynote addresses at the 2011 LOICZ Open Science Conference in Yantei, China, in September 2011. LOICZ, the Land-Ocean Interactions in the Coastal Zone, is an international research institute, based in Germany

The title of Kahn’s presentation is “Think Globally but Model Locally: The Use of Panel Data in Estimating Behavioral Models of the Relationships Between Human Behavior and Environmental Change.”

According to the organizers, the aim of the LOICZ OSC 2011 on “Coastal Systems, Global Change and Sustainability” is to bring together the international research community working on land-ocean issues, show-case the width and scope of ongoing research, help to build a community in this highly interdisciplinary field, and to inspire new research, theory building and applied science.

Jane Judges the Royals

If you are a royal watcher, this has been a few months to savor, what with Prince William marrying Kate Middleton and Prince Albert of Monaco marrying Charlene Wittstock. Washington and Lee alumna Jane Lee, a 2009 graduate, has it all covered with her video report for Forbes Lifestyle.

Jane is an associate editor and producer of Forbes Lifestyle, where she covers luxury fashion, property and culture with what she describes as “a dash of biting social commentary—think Jane Austen with a MacBook Air.”

After receiving her degree in journalism from W&L, Jane earned an M.S. at Columbia’s Graduate School of Journalism. She’s been with Forbes for almost a year now, moving to her current position in March. She manages online content, multimedia and video. You can read her Forbes profile here. When she hasn’t been paying attention to the royals, Jane has done stories ranging from a feature on a Lego artist to how Oscars jewelry makes it to the red carpet.

Watch her feature “Best Royal Style Down the Aisle” below:

Fit to a T: Honoring Cy Twombly

Two young alumni of Washington and Lee recently paid their respects to the late Cy Twombly ’53 in a most appropriate way — by seeing his art in person at two of the world’s great museums.

Two days after Cy’s July 5 death, siblings Matt Null (Class of 2006) and Andrea Null (Class of 2010) began a family trip to European museums. The first stop was the Tate Modern, in London, which remembered the Lexington-born artist in front of his three paintings titled Bacchus, Psilax, Mainomenos” with what Matt calls “an elegant memorial to the artist: a simple bowl of white roses. The Tate was busy with people coming to pay tribute. Pretty good for a boy from Lexington.”

Next stop was Paris and the Louvre, which houses Cy’s “The Ceiling” in the Salle des Bronzes. We blogged about that historic installation in March 2010. “The blue composition is a stunning complement to the room,” says Matt.

Let Matt explain the photo of the siblings, which his mother snapped: “I know you usually aren’t supposed to take pictures in museums, but the Louvre allows non-flash photography (for private, noncommercial purposes) in their permanent collections.”

We’re glad the Nulls didn’t break any rules, and we’re glad they shared their pilgrimage to the art of a fellow alum.

Traditional Journalism Critical to Understanding Debt Crisis

Although social media seem to dominate conversations about the future of journalism, the current debt-ceiling impasse underscores the value and importance of traditional journalism, according to Pamela Luecke, a journalism professor at Washington and Lee University.

“I don’t mean to dismiss the power and potential of new forms of journalism,” said Luecke, the Donald W. Reynolds Professor of Business Journalism at W&L. “But this isn’t an easy subject – the debt ceiling, the national debt, the deficit, budget issues. These are not topics that can be condensed to 140 characters on Twitter. This is where mature, seasoned journalists who understand economics, who understand the political process, really come into the spotlight.

“There has been a trend toward news websites and organizations aggregating information and thinking that is sufficient for the journalism we need to have a free and democratic society,” she continued. “This is a prime example of where you need people who understand complexity and can translate that to the general public.”


In Luecke’s view, the national print media, especially The New York Times, Washington Post and Wall Street Journal, have been doing an excellent and exhaustive job of covering the story for many months. The story is not as easy for much of television news, she added, because it does not lend itself to short sound bites, and television’s use of pundits and partisans simply adds to the polarization.

But Luecke also said that citizens have a responsibility to educate themselves on the issues, and that means both investing time and seeking out different perspectives.

“You can’t just say, ‘I want to understand this topic, and I’ve got one minute to do it.’ Not all stories can be reduced to a 15-second sound bite, so it’s going to take a little work to understand this issue. We’re citizens in a democracy. We have a responsibility to be informed about this issue,” Luecke said. “There are different points of view and legitimate differences of opinion about what ought to be done and what would happen if nothing is done. I think we need to seek out opinions and points of view that differ from ours, even though it’s not always comfortable.”

If someone is accustomed to getting his or her news from one specific source, say CNN or MSNBC, Luecke said, then he or she should take time to see what is being said at Fox News, and vice versa. Luecke thinks that citizens have a responsibility to understand the differences in the way the issue is being presented

“I think journalists have a responsibility to present all sides as well, and I think many are doing that,” she added. “But if you feel that your news source is not doing that, there are many ways that you can get other perspectives on this issue.”

One place to get other perspectives on the debt ceiling, Luecke noted, are the numerous blogs written by economists – the so-called “econoblogs.”

“Someone who wants an unfiltered perspective on what economists are thinking can tap into this,” she said. “Economists are not a monolith. They have very, very different perspectives on this issue and on most issues. By reading these blogs, you feel as if you have a front-row seat on this high-level debate.”

W&L Alum Did Something

When the devastating tornado tore apart his hometown of Joplin, Mo. in May, Washington and Lee alumnus Brent Beshore, of the Class of 2005, felt helpless. He was miles away in Columbia, Mo., but he wanted to do something.

And he did.

Brent created a Facebook page, Joplin, MO Tornado Recovery, that was designed, in part, to raise funds for the Heart of Missouri United Way. That page attracted 170,000 fans and helped raise $1.7 million, which, Brent told the Columbia Daily Tribune, all goes to Joplin with no overhead or fees removed.

Now Brent’s decision to do something has been recognized by DoSomething.org, a website that offers a variety of causes that people can join. The Joplin Facebook page is one of five such efforts that have been nominated for the 2011 Do Something Facebook award. He’s already received a $10,000 grant but voting is currently underway on the Do Something Awards page. The contest is sponsored by VH1, and the grand prize winner will receive a $100,000 prize, to be presented at a ceremony on Aug. 18 on VH1.

Brent’s business, AdVentures, provides  equity investments, marketing resources, strategic planning, and operations management for communications companies. According to the AdVentures website, it has founded seven companies, acquired two and exited from two since 2007.

Remember to vote for Brent’s Joplin Facebook page in the Do Something Awards.

W&L Journalism Wizards Report on Harry Potter

As the Harry Potter saga draws to a close with the July 15 opening of the final movie, stories abound in the media about what the event means for faithful readers and viewers. Many of them focus on college students in their late teens and early 20s who have literally grown up with Harry Potter, Hermione Granger and Ron Weasley.

At least two of those newspaper stories emerged from the keyboards of Washington and Lee journalism students who are also members of that cohort: Becky Mickel, a rising junior, and Eleanor Kennedy, a rising senior.

Eleanor, from Munster, Ind., is interning this summer with the Charlotte (N.C.) Observer. She did a preview of the movie’s arrival on July 14 and then,  in her July 15 piece, the Pi Beta Phi president interviewed the self-dubbed “Charlotte Geeks” and others who’d been waiting in line for hours to catch the midnight premiere.

Becky, who’s from Monroe, La., is spending her summer at the Roanoke Times. She put together a quiz on Harry Potter for July 14 and also wrote about a Roanoke man in his 30s who read every Potter book and watched every Potter movie. That’s not unusual — except he did it all in the last four months.

As Pam Luecke, head of the department of journalism and mass communications at W&L, observes, there is one story each summer that the W&L journalism interns are asked to “localize” no matter where in the country they are working. Last summer, several W&L interns provided perspective for local readers on the Gulf Oil Spill. This summer it was Harry Potter.

The movie broke all records by earning $168.6 million in the U.S. and Canada in just three days and earning the biggest international debut ever, with $307 million overseas in 59 foreign countries. Lexington did its part. The R/C State Cinema 3 sold out of its midnight showing.

If you, too, spent your childhood at Hogwarts or if you’re a Potter fan whose age is closer to that of Severus Snape and Sybill Trelawney, share your thoughts about the end of an era in the comments section of this blog (below).