Feature Stories Campus Events

Graybeal-Gowen Poetry Contest for Virginia Writers

The annual Graybeal-Gowen Prize will be awarded by Shenandoah: The Washington and Lee Review for a single poem by a writer born in Virginia or with current established residence of more than a year in Virginia. The prize is for $500.

Entrants are invited to submit up to three previously unpublished poems. Send two copies of each poem (one with name and address and one without), a self-addressed stamped envelope and brief biographical note, which should confirm the basis for eligibility to:

The Graybeal-Gowen Prize
Shenandoah
17 Courthouse Square
Washington and Lee University
Lexington, VA  24450-2116

No entry fee is required. Entries should be postmarked between Oct. 1 and Nov. 15, 2012 and the winner will be published in Shenandoah, Sept. 2013.

Past winners have been Jennifer Key, currently of Dallas, Texas, for “Jefferson’s Daughters;” Elisabeth Murawski of Arlington, Va., for “Emma Hardy Speaks from the Grave” and Margaret Mackinnon of Falls Church, Va., for “Writing on the Window” which will appear in the next issue of Shenandoah. Past judges have included Betty Adcock (winner of The Poet’s Prize), Brendan Galvin (finalist for the National Book Award) and Kelly Cherry (former Poet Laureate of Virginia).

The Graybeal-Gowen Prize is dedicated to the memory of Mrs. Priscilla Gowen-Graybeal’s father, Howerton Gowen (W&L ’30), a lifelong lover of poetry. The prize is donated by Mrs. Graybeal and her husband James (W&L ’49).

For more information, contact http://shenandoahliterary.org/graybeal-gowen or the magazine’s editor R.T. Smith at rodsmith@wlu.edu.

News Contact:
Julie Cline
News Writer
jcline@wlu.edu
540-458-8954


R.E. Lee Research Scholar Turns Art Detective

The intriguing question for Teresa Soley, a senior art history major at Washington and Lee University, was how an indigenous native of Brazil could appear as one of the magi adoring the Christ child in a painting in Portugal, complete with feathered headdress and holding an arrow.

The painting in question dates between 1502 and 1506, and, though debated by experts, it is thought to be by famous Portuguese artist “Grão” Vasco Fernandes. What is certain is that the painter had never been to Brazil, since the Portuguese had discovered the country only a few years earlier in 1500.

Soley received a R. E. Lee Undergraduate Research Grant this summer to work with Andrea Lepage, assistant professor of art history at W&L, to research the painting. Soley will use the research in her senior honors thesis. They also plan to co-author a paper on why the figure is in the painting, what it means and what kind of statement the artist was trying to make by including it.

Lepage explained that while many art history scholars focus on the impact of European art, ideas and beliefs on the indigenous populations of the Americas, she recently decided to focus on the conversation flowing in the opposite direction—how indigenous art and ideas in the Americas impacted Europe. So she asked Soley to see if she could find any evidence of European painters incorporating indigenous people from the Americas.

“Originally, we expected to encounter many examples of this sort of thing,” said Lepage. “But in fact there are very few, and almost nothing has been published about them in English. Also, the painting that Teresa is researching is a rare example of a sympathetic representation of an indigenous person in Europe.

The painting was interesting not only because of the extraordinary twist of adding the Brazilian native to the very traditional subject of the adoration of the magi, but also because Soley could find relatively little written about it. “Considering how important you’d assume this painting would be, there’s almost nothing written about it in English,” said Soley, who has Portuguese language skills.

The painting is part of a large altar piece called the “Viseu Altarpiece,” which was painted in oil on 18 chestnut wood panels. Only 14 of the panels currently survive and are now located in a local museum in the city of Viseu.

In addition to conducting an online search for primary source material from the John Carter Brown Library at Brown University, Soley took a trip to Portugal to see the real painting and gained permission from the director of the museum to spend time studying it and taking photographs. She used an IR-modified camera to collect images enabling the examination of possible underdrawings in the painting. “Professor Erich Uffelman in the chemistry department was very helpful,” said Soley. “He outfitted me with the infrared camera and suggested exploring the possibility of an underdrawing so that I could see any changes the artist made at the compositional stage.”

She was also able to access the conservation records of the painting and works that had been written about it that have never been published outside Portugal.

“It was a tremendous experience,” said Soley. “Most students don’t have the opportunity to spend a whole summer working with a professor doing this kind of original research. Professor Lepage was a great mentor. I’m a minor in mass communications so I understand both fields of research—the academic part and the more investigative side. I felt like an art detective and I loved it.”

News Contact:
Sarah Tschiggfrie
News Director
stschiggfrie@wlu.edu
540-458-8235

Mike Allen '86, One of the Powers That Be

Mike Allen got a raise. While we don’t know what that member of the Washington and Lee Class of 1986 pulls down as the reporter who writes Politico’s “Playbook” (the “must-read briefing on what’s driving the day in Washington,” according to Politico itself), we do know that Vanity Fair magazine boosted him to #19 in its list of 25 “Powers That Be” from #39 on last year’s “New Establishment.” The magazine publishes its list of influential figures each year.

“Allen’s audience is relatively small but extremely influential,” writes the magazine. The profile, which appears in the October issue, also mentions Mike’s friend Tom Brokaw and his first day off in 990 days.

“Having earned their place in the firmament,” writes VF, “the top 25 mandarins include titans of industry and media moguls—not to mention a smattering of comedians.” Keeping Mike company in “Powers That Be” are such luminaries as Rupert Murdoch (mega-publisher), Jon Stewart (TV satirist), Jill Abramson (New York Times editor), Arianna Huffington (Huffington Post founder) and Peter Jackson (director of “The Lord of the Rings.”). We blogged about Mike’s earlier “New Establishment” ranking exactly a year ago today.

In February, Mike took time from his hectic schedule to attend Mock Con on campus, co-moderating with CNBC’s Kelly Evans ’07 a debate between pundits Ann Coulter and James Carville. Wait, didn’t that count as a day off?


Theodore J. Sjoerdsma, First Professor of Computer Science at W&L, Dies at 83

Theodore J. Sjoerdsma, professor of computer science at Washington and Lee University from 1984 to 1995, died on Sept. 22 in Grand Rapids, Mich. He was 83.

Sjoerdsma served as the first head of the then brand-new Computer Science Department, and his arrival heralded the establishment of computer science as W&L’s 31st undergraduate major.

He received his introduction to computers in 1963, during a summer course at Oregon State University that didn’t have an actual computer. “We simply wrote programs as if the computers were there,” he told the W&L alumni magazine in 1985. “It was purely an intellectual exercise.”

At the time of his arrival at W&L, Sjoerdsma didn’t think that students needed their own computers and could instead use the banks of PCs available around campus. He did, however, believe “there is no end to the use of computers . . . in a liberal arts setting.”

He also offered advice for alumni who were feeling intimidated by using PCs, which in 1985 were just starting to permeate offices and homes. “Borrow a friend’s machine, take it into an empty room, and close the door. Most of the time, the phobia is primarily a matter of having someone looking over your shoulder as you make mistakes. No one wants to be made to appear foolish or stupid—especially by a dumb machine.”

Sjoerdsma was born in Grand Rapids on Jan. 5, 1929. He received an A.B. in mathematics from Calvin College in 1954, an M.A.T. in mathematics from Michigan State in 1961, and a Ph.D. in computer science from the University of Iowa in 1975.

He taught math at high schools in Michigan and in Guam from 1952 to 1957, and at Dordt College from 1957 to 1967.  At the University of Iowa, he chaired its computer science department from 1967 until 1984, when he came to W&L. He retired in 1995 after 11 years.

In addition to his teaching, Sjoerdsma obtained several grants from the National Science Foundation, advised many colleges and universities about academic computing, published numerous papers and presented at conferences. He served such national organizations as the National Educational Computing Conference, the Conference on Computers in the Undergraduate Curriculum and the World Conference on Computers in Education.

In retirement, Sjoerdsma built homes for Habit for Humanity. He served his church as a deacon and an elder, and in Grand Rapids belonged to the Forest Hills Presbyterian Church.

Sjoerdsma is survived by his wife of 61 years, Barb De Zeeuw Sjoerdsma; four children, Ron Sjoerdsma, Gregg Sjoerdsma, Joel Sjoerdsma and Lisa Vande Lune; a daughter-in-law, Kate Sjoerdsma; sisters Ann VandenBerg and JoAnn DeKoekkoek; sisters-in-law Hilda DeVries and Lillian Entingh; thirteen grandchildren; four great-grandchildren; numerous nieces and nephews; many cousins; and many friends. His son Doug Sjoerdsma preceded him in death.

The family suggests that remembrance donations be made to the Hauenstein Neuroscience Center at St. Mary’s, 220 Cherry St., Grand Rapids, MI 49503, or to your local chapter of Habitat for Humanity.

News Contact:
Julie Campbell
Associate Director of Communications and Public Affairs
jcampbell@wlu.edu
540-458-8956


W&L's Bower on “Virginia Insight”

Amanda Bower, professor of business administration at Washington and Lee University, discussed the mistakes that marketers make on NPR affiliate WMRA’s “Virginia Insight” show on Thursday, Sept. 27.

Bower studies what works, and what doesn’t, in commercial marketing strategies. She discussed the approaches that succeed, and the ones that don’t, when it comes to people trying to sell to consumers.

Bower is the lead author of a new report examining the influence of online retailer shipping policies on customer satisfaction, repeat business and profitability.

“Virginia Insight,” hosted by Tom Graham, is a live call-in show.

Listen to the program below:


W&L's Kolman Publishes Book on How to Read, Write Music

One of the challenges that has always faced Barry Kolman, professor of music at Washington and Lee University, is teaching the fundamentals of music theory to students who know nothing about music and often find it a very dry subject.

His solution? He’s written his own book on the subject. “The Language of Music Revealed,” Kolman’s first book, was published earlier this year by Universal Publishers.

“Quite honestly, music theory can be drier than the Sahara desert,” said Kolman. “It’s not like music history where you can play a Beethoven symphony, an excerpt from an opera, or jazz and rock and roll. Even with the excitement I try to bring to the class I was finding the subject boring myself.”

Six years ago, when Kolman couldn’t find a textbook he liked and that engaged the students, he decided to write the book himself. Initially aimed at his students, he also wanted the volume to be useful to any intelligent reader who wants to learn to read and write music.

“You would be surprised at how many amateur composers there are who like to write songs,” he said. “Maybe they can plunk out a melody with one hand on the piano. This book will teach them how to play harmony with their left hand, and which chord goes better with a certain part of the melody and why.”

Kolman included a lot of graphics, cartoon characters and a few jokes here and there to guide the reader through music theory. “I introduce a cartoon character to act as a guide, and he appears throughout the book in many manifestations,” he said. “Sometimes he’s stern, sometimes he’s a jokester and sometimes he introduces a brand new concept in an unusual way. But each time he appears, he’s really helpful. It’s an approach to learning music theory you won’t find anywhere else.”

Kolman introduced the book to his Music 100 class last year in manuscript form, receiving positive feedback from the students along with some suggestions that he incorporated into the final version.

Undeterred by the hard work of writing this book, Kolman already has a publisher interested in a second volume, “The Origins of American Wind Music,’ which explores the origins of wind bands.

Kolman conducts the University-Shenandoah Symphony Orchestra (USSO), along with teaching music fundamentals, introduction to music, applied clarinet, and conducting. He is a frequent guest conductor of orchestras around the world.

He received his B.Mus. in music education from the Crane School of Music, his M. Mus. in clarinet performance from Illinois State University and his Doctor of Arts degree in conducting from the University of Northern Colorado and was awarded the Dean’s Citation for Excellence for his graduate research.

“The Language of Music Revealed” is available at bookstores and online, as well as at W&L’s University Store (http://bookstore.wlu.edu).

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Winners of W&L Law Negotiations Competition Announced

The 2012 Robert J. Grey, Jr. Negotiations Competition at Washington and Lee University School of Law concluded Friday evening, September 21, with the team of Dominik Taylor and O’Dane Williamson taking first place.  Also competing in the finals were Justin Feinman and Po Lutken (second place), Jim Bailey and Emerald Berg, and Stephen Donaldson and Katie Reese.

Sponsored by the American Bar Association Law Student Division, the Negotiations Competition helps students develop practical legal skills and emphasizes teamwork and the ability to resolve disputes in a negotiation setting.  During the competition, teams of students acting as lawyers for opposing parties receive confidential information about how they can best represent their clients’ interests.  The teams work together in a limited time frame to find a compromise that is acceptable to both of their clients.

The problem for this year’s finals involved a contract dispute between a the Lexington Bricks, a team in the Law School Football League, and its newly drafted, rookie running back, Mo Allen.

Christopher Bou Saeed, Misha Daha, and Garrett Greiner administered the competition.  David S. Eggert, former Partner at Arnold & Porter, The Honorable Robert S. Ballou, United States Magistrate Judge for the Western District of Virginia, and Mr. Robert J. Grey, Jr., ’76L, Partner at Hunton & Williams, judged the final round of the competition.

The Moot Court Board named the competition in honor of Grey, past president of the American Bar Association and a member of the Washington and Lee University Board of Trustees, because of his extensive experience in dispute resolution.  Grey’s practice has focused on administrative matters before state and federal agencies, mediation and dispute resolution, and legislative representation of clients.

The Moot Court Executive Board administers all competitions for the Moot Court Program, which includes the John W. Davis Appellate Advocacy Moot Court Competition, Mock Trial, Client Counseling, and Representation in Mediation Competition.  For more information about the Moot Court Board and upcoming competitions, please visit http://law.wlu.edu/mootcourt.


W&L Alum Heads Alabama Chamber

Kirk Mancer, a member of Washington and Lee’s Class of 1984, has recently been named president and CEO of the Greater Shelby County (Ala.) Chamber of Commerce.

Formerly president of the Cullman Area Chamber of Commerce, Kirk started with the Shelby County chamber in July. The organization encompasses 16 different municipalities plus parts of Birmingham.

Although he came to W&L from Philadelphia, Kirk told the Birmingham News that because he has lived below the Mason-Dixon Line since he was 18, even his family recognizes his Southernness.

“They quickly point out how much slower I talk and how I have incorporated ‘y’all’ into my vocabulary,” he told the newspaper. “But when I’m down here, people don’t think I speak like a Southerner at all.”

A goalkeeper for the Generals soccer team, Kirk still holds the save percentage records for both a single season (89.7 percent in 1980) and a career (85.9 percent).


Statewide Language Workshops from W&L

Dick Kuettner, the director of W&L’s Tucker Multimedia Center, has a new assignment. He is running the Foreign Language Teachers Workshop Series, a statewide program that will originate at W&L and be streamed live on the Internet to host schools and divisions all over Virginia. Registration starts today, Sept. 25, and the workshops begin next month.

This program follows on the heels of Dick’s involvement this past summer with Washington and Lee’s Languages for Rockbridge program and with the on-campus Virginia Governor’s Language Academies.

The workshops provide professional development for the state’s teachers of foreign languages. This particular series, developed with the Foreign Language Association of Virginia, derives from teachers’ self-assessments. Teachers can use the workshops to earn points toward recertification.

Dick is also an adjunct professor in W&L’s Romance Languages Department and Teacher Education program.


Generals of the Month for September Named

Washington and Lee University students Rachel Pityk, Joni Deutsch and Taylor Gilfillan will be recognized as Generals of the Month for September during a presentation on Thursday, Sept. 27, at 11:45 a.m. in the Marketplace in Elrod Commons.

Pityk, a senior from Lebanon, PA, is a double mathematics and politics major. She has served as General Co-Chair of the First Year Orientation Committee for the past two years, and is currently serving as Director of Career and Personal Development for Chi Omega sorority.

Pityk also is a member of Chamber Singers, General Admission, Premier Co-Ed Acapella Group, College Republicans, and Reformed University Fellowship. During Mock Convention 2012, she served on the Speakers Committee and the Pennsylvania State Delegation.  She has competed in the Charlottesville Ten Miler, Philadephia Half Marathon, and will compete in the Philadelphia Marathon in November 2012.  She has been named an ODAC Scholar-Athlete and has been on the Dean’s List.

Deutsch, a junior from Charleston, W.Va., is an English major. She has been associate music director, music director and board operator for WLUR FM, W&L’s radio station; co-chair of First Book, a non-profit organization that seeks to give children from low-income families the opportunity to read and own their first new books and music director/intern for Fratmusic.com.

Deutsch also is a co-chair of the First Year Orientation Committee; a member of Pi Beta Phi sorority; SPEAK, a group of women who serve to raise awareness about sexual misconduct at W&L; a volunteer for W&L’s Campus Kitchens; and a member of the Tennis Club, the Dean’s List and the Honor Roll.

Gilfillan, a senior from Raleigh, N.C., is a physics major and a member of Sigma Pi Sigma National Physics Honor Society. He is a student-to-student mentor, spending a few hours a week with a child in the community (age 5-17) and is an announcer for the volleyball games.

Gilfillan is a driver for the Traveller Safe Ride Program, is beginning his third year on the ResLife Leadership Staff serving first-years, is on the first-year orientation committee and is a member of Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity.

Generals of the Month is coordinated by the Celebrating Student Success (CSS) initiative and sponsored by the Division of Student Affairs to inspire engaged citizenship at Washington and Lee University. CSS seeks to recognize students who are not typically or sufficiently touted for the depth and breadth they add to our campus community.

Pityk, Deutsch and Gilfillan were selected by the CSS Committee, which is composed of students, faculty and staff. Any member of the campus community can nominate a W&L student at any time with the online form at go.wlu.edu/css.

Future CSS presentations during the 2012-2013 academic year will be held during lunch in the Marketplace in the Elrod Commons on Nov. 1 (for October), Nov. 15, Dec. 6, and dates in Jan., Feb., March, April and May yet to be determined.

News Contact:
Julie Cline
News Writer
jcline@wlu.edu
540-458-8954

Studio 11 Event Features W&L Authors Brodie, Wheeler

The debut of Writers at Studio 11 reading series event for the 2012-2013 academic year will be Monday, Sept. 24, from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at Studio 11 Gallery. Featured authors will be Laura Brodie and Lesley Wheeler.

The readings are free and open to the public and refreshments will be served. Books by the authors will be available for sale.

Brodie will read from her novel, All the Truth, and Wheeler will read from her poetry collection, The Receptionist and Other Tales. The event will include brief readings by student writers from Dabney S. Lancaster Community College plus senior Isabella Martin from Washington and Lee University and junior Heather Haag from Virginia Military Institute. The SubTerra writing workshop also will be represented.

Brodie is the author of four books—fiction, non-fiction and memoir—that have been featured on The Diane Rehm Show and CNN,  and reviewed in publications ranging from The Washington Post to The Los Angeles Times. Her debut novel, The Widow’s Season, won the 2005 Faulkner-Wisdom Prize for Best Novel-in-Progress, and became a bestseller in Germany, where it is currently in production as a feature film. Brodie’s latest novel, All the Truth, was also on Germany’s bestseller list for eight weeks. She teaches English at Washington and Lee University.

Wheeler is the author of the newly-published The Receptionist and Other Tales, Heterotopia, winner of the 2010 Barrow Street Press Poetry Prize and a finalist for a Library of Virginia Book Award. Her other books include the poetry collection Heathen and Voicing American Poetry: Sound and Performance from the 1920s to the Present. Wheeler is currently at work on a scholarly study of an exploration of place and community in 21st century poetry with the working title Poetry’s Possible Worlds. She is the Henry S. Fox Jr. Professor of English at W&L.

Studio 11 is located at 11 S. Jefferson St. in downtown Lexington. The works of Judith Trott Guy will be on display through Oct. 27. The series is coordinated by Mattie Quesenberry Smith of DSLCC and Lesley Wheeler with help from both schools. This event is sponsored by the Glasgow Endowment at W&L.

W&L Entering Students Continue Trend Toward Apple

An annual survey of the entering students at Washington and Lee University has shown that the shift from Windows-based computers to Apple Macintosh has continued to grow.

The survey, conducted the W&L Office of Institutional Effectiveness and Information Technology Services, found that 70 percent of the respondents brought Macintosh computers with them as opposed to 30 percent who are using Windows-based machines. That represents a 10 percent increase in the number of first-years with Macintosh computers in the past four years.

More than 98 percent of the entering class completed the survey, which identified the types of electronics the students brought to campus with them when they arrived earlier this month.

When it came to telephones, all but one of the 471 respondents to the survey brought a cell phone to campus, and the vast majority of those (89 percent) were smartphones. That is up by just less than 13 percent from a year ago.

IPhones were the dominant choice among smartphones with almost 70 percent. By comparison, three years ago only 43.7 percent of the cell phones that the entering students brought with them were smartphones.

“These data confirm trends we’ve seen regarding increasing use of mobile devices,” said Jeff Overholtzer, manager of strategic planning and communication with Information Technology Services.
”We’re committed to supporting students’ use of these devices through  continuing to expand and enhance our wireless infrastructure and providing services that are accessible and easy to use by mobile devices.”

Tablet computers and e-readers like Kindle and Nook also increased in usage among the first-year class this year. More than 16 percent of the class brought a tablet computer, and the overwhelming majority of those were Apple’s iPad. Most tablet owners also had a laptop computer and are not relying on tablets as their sole computing device.

The percentage of students who brought televisions, personal printers and digital cameras continued a steady decline from four years ago.

Asked how they were using their smartphones, the variety of ways in which the phones are used has increased dramatically. While phone calls and text messages are the most prevalent ways in which the devices are used, more than 70 percent of the respondents reported that they used the phones to take photos, send and receive email, check Facebook, check sports scores and weather, and shoot video.

News Contact:
Jeffery G. Hanna
Executive Director of Communications and Public Affairs
jhanna@wlu.edu
(540) 458-8459


New IQ Center Will Enhance Science at W&L

The first phase of the new Integrative and Quantitative (IQ) Center at Washington and Lee University is underway, with a projected opening date of June 2013.  The center will be located on the second floor of the Telford Science Library and is supported by a $1 million grant from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) as well as funds from the university and individual donors.

Featuring the latest technology and instruments, the IQ Center will be devoted to data acquisition, data storage, computation, visual imaging and innovative teaching methods.

“The IQ Center will be a state-of-the-art teaching and learning space where interdisciplinary questions can be tackled and answers sought through collaboration,” said Suzanne Keen, interim dean of the college and the Thomas H. Broadus Professor of English. “Not just science majors but all science students at W&L will now have the opportunity to manipulate and visualize information acquired through the scientific method.”

“This generation is one of the most technologically savvy of all generations,” said Helen I’Anson, professor of biology and head of the biology department, who is directing the program. “So we want to use technology to get students excited about science and see that it isn’t scary, that it’s obtainable for them and how important it will be for their future.”

For science majors, exposing them to new technologies that are already available at large companies will increase their competitiveness, according to Jamie Small, a 1981 graduate of W&L and a geology major from Midland, Tex. He is a former president of the W&L alumni board and a current member of the scientific advisory board. Small and his wife, Alison, a geophysicist, are supporters of the sciences at W&L and are enthusiastic investors in the IQ Center.

“We’re in the oil and gas business, and we know that the imaging and technology that will be in the IQ Center are extraordinarily important for our line of work. The quicker students learn how to use this technology, the better off they’ll be moving forward through their advanced degrees and into the work force,” said Small.

According to I’Anson, although other liberal arts colleges have some of the new technology, W&L will be the first to have new technology that covers so many different areas in one space. “We’re hoping that this will be phase one for the technology and that later we can expand and upgrade the abilities of the center,” she said. “For example, we’re raising funds right now to add 3D imaging, which can do so much across all the majors, making W&L the first liberal arts college to have something like that,” she said.

I’Anson, representatives from the science departments, the mathematics department, the library and information technology will meet soon with architects to finalize plans for the IQ Center. Flexibility is a key element. “You could have one class wanting one configuration for one lab period and then the next minute another group could want something else. So it’s really important that we’re able to be flexible with the technology,” said I’Anson.

The 4,841 square feet of the IQ Center will incorporate a suite of five different spaces:

Analytical Instruments Suite

Five separate rooms will be dedicated to imaging and analysis. Equipment will include fluorescent microscopes, upright light, phase contrast and polarized microscopes, a scanning electron microscope, and a confocal laser microscope.

“We already have all of the microscopes, including the scanning electron microscope and the confocal laser microscope, the two largest and most expensive items which were funded through two National Science Foundation grants. They will have dedicated rooms of their own,” said I’Anson.

“Traditional” Computer Visualization Lab

Located next to the analytical instruments suite, this will be a high-end computational suite that can be used independently or in combination with the analytical instruments suite. For example, a student working on an organism under a microscope in one of the analytical instrument rooms will have the ability to transmit a live feed of the image to the rest of the class in the adjacent lab.

3D High-Performance Visualization Lab

This exceptional modern imaging lab is the largest space in the IQ Center and will potentially have space for 42 students, but can be divided in half to allow for two classes at the same time. It is student-centered, and the design allows for various configurations of the tables so that students can collaborate in groups more easily. Students will be able to share data and information when working on their lap tops. They will also be able project their work onto the main large screens to share with the whole class.

Plans call for the addition of 3D imaging, which would allow students to project images in 3D. “I particularly like the 3D imaging classroom,” said Small. “That’s what we use in our business, and that’s where the technology is heading in all of the sciences.”

Physical/Mechanical Experimentation Lab   

According to I’Anson, this space is expected to be heavily used by the physics, engineering, computer science, mathematics and geology departments. It will be a physical and virtual sandbox for courses and research that integrate real-world components with high-speed recording capabilities. “For example, models can be built and tested, they can be videoed and then the data can be analyzed,” said I’Anson.

Items can also be attached to the retractable scaffolding on the ceiling, and large segmented tables will allow for quick reconfiguration of the space. It will also have 3D inputs from laser scanners, and floor and ceiling video feeds.

Large Format and 3D Printing Room

This space will feature a large scale printer, a laser printer and a 3D fabrication machine. “We produce a lot of posters in science that are presented either in-house or at scientific meetings,” said I’Anson, “so it will be a real bonus for us to be able to print publication-quality images and posters right here in the science center.

“The 3D fabrication machine uses a soft plastic and allows designs that have been produced in 3D to be extruded as a 3D model and actually produced for real,” she added.

In addition to the five suites, the IQ Center will extend into the Great Hall outside the Telford Science Library to create an informal meeting and study space. It will include tables for small study groups and a wall unit for charging lap tops. Digital signage will display student projects, publications, presentations, what’s happening in the IQ Center and the Science Center in general.

An office will be included for a coordinator/manager who will organize the use of the spaces in the IQ Center. “Because there are so many constituents who will want to use these rooms, we’re not scheduling the rooms for a whole class for a whole semester,” said I’Anson. “We’ll ask people to sign up for short blocks of time so everybody can take advantage of this opportunity. We expect it to be in constant use.”

Plans also include hiring W&L students as IQ Center Leaders and training them in the use of the equipment so they can help other students with the technology as needed.

I’Anson will also encourage other groups to use the IQ Center, such as the various science honor societies, WITS (Women in Technology and Science), WIMS (Women in Math and Science) as well as other groups on campus. “For example, the education programs will most likely want to use the student-centered learning space for practicing their practicums that they take to local schools,” said I’Anson. “I think there will be a lot of interest across campus in using that particular space.”

News Contact:
Sarah Tschiggfrie
News Director
stschiggfrie@wlu.edu
540-458-8235

Declan Kiberd Presents Shannon Clark Lecture at W&L

Declan Kiberd, the Keough Professor of Irish Studies at the University of Notre Dame, will give the Shannon Clark lecture at Washington and Lee University on Thursday, Sept. 27, at 8 p.m. in Northen Auditorium, Leyburn Library.

The title of Kiberd’s talk, which is free and open to the public, is “Samuel Beckett: Mystic.”

Long-time chair of Anglo-Irish Literature and Drama at University College, Dublin, Kiberd is one of the foremost scholars in the field of Irish Studies. After teaching at the University of Kent and Trinity, Kiberd taught at University College, Dublin from 1979 to 2012.  A legendary teacher and lecturer, he has served as director of the Yeats International Summer School, has taught and lectured on Irish studies in over 30 countries, and is a regular contributor to The Irish Times, The Times Literary Supplement, the London Review of Books and the New York Times.

Kiberd has authored scores of articles and many books taking on the full range of Irish literary studies. Ulysses and Us: The Art of Everyday Living (2009) approaches Joyce’s classic epic as a book not meant for the rarified elite, but rather as a book that offers a vision of humane living that applies to all of us in the modern world. Irish Classics (2001) takes up the entire history of Irish literature, ranging from Gaelic and Bardic poetry through the Anglo-Irish writers of the 18th and 19th centuries and into the high modernists and late 20th-century writers. Inventing Ireland: The Literature of the Modern Nation (1995) is a discussion of the emergence of the Irish nation in the 20th century and the relation of that nation to its great writers. Synge and the Irish Language (1979) examines the playwright’s engagement with the Irish language in every facet of his work.

Kiberd received his undergraduate degree from Trinity College, Dublin and his doctorate from Oxford University.

News Contact:
Julie Cline
News Writer
jcline@wlu.edu
540-458-8954

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Crochet a Coral Reef

The Hyperbolic Crochet Coral Reef is a project of the Institute for Figuring in Los Angeles that combines mathematics, art, crafts, marine biology and environmental science in creating crocheted reproductions of coral reefs. A satellite reef is now being locally constructed, sponsored by Roanoke College. Students and faculty at Washington and Lee University and members of the community will now have the opportunity to learn about the project and to add their own contributions

“It mixes all the disciplines and seems perfect for a liberal arts college,” said Elizabeth Denne, assistant professor of mathematics at W&L. Denne has invited organizers of the Roanoke Valley Reef to give a talk at W&L on Tuesday, Sept. 25, in Robinson Hall 6 at 4:40 p.m. Refreshments will be available in Robinson Hall 2 at 4:20 p.m.

Contributors to the coral reef will use basic crochet stitches to produce reproductions of corals that mirror natural coral. The many individual contributions will then be combined to create a coral reef which will be exhibited at the Olin Gallery at Roanoke College in January 2013.

“We need to do this project this semester,” said Denne, “because there’s a January deadline for contributions for the exhibit. I’ve already started crocheting some pieces of my own and I’m hoping that we’ll meet once a week to work on this.

“It’s just meant to be something fun. People can learn about the project and if they want to take part I will teach them how to crochet if they don’t already know. It’s one of the easier crafts to pick up. People also don’t need to know any math because I’ll explain that as well.

The Mathematical Association of America will be holding a meeting at Virginia Military Institute in the last weekend of October and Denne hopes to create a small exhibit of the coral creations at that meeting.

According to Denne, the crochet technique that causes the yarn to curve so interestingly was invented by the mathematician Daina Taimioa. It is the geometry of a hyperbolic plane that allows for the creation of a variety of coral-like shapes.

The Hyperbolic Crochet Coral Reef has been exhibited at museums and art galleries around the world, including the Natural History Museum of the Smithsonian, and is one of the largest participatory science and arts projects in the world. Its Satellite Reef program now has a global network of more than 5,000 active participants.

Further information about the Roanoke Valley Reef can be found at http://roanoke.edu/A-Z_Index/Coral_Reef.htm and information about the national project can be found at http://crochetcoralreef.org/

Fantastic Poetry: W&L's Wheeler Uses Terza Rime to Spin a Sci-Fi Story

From vampires and zombies to direwolves and mockingjays, fantastical creatures have invaded film, TV and literary classics – not to mention the New York Times bestseller list. Lesley Wheeler, the Henry S. Fox Professor of English at Washington and Lee University, brings that fantastic to the world of poetry in her new book, “The Receptionist and Other Tales.” She drops her reluctant heroine into a collegiate setting infused with gothic intrigue, where receptionists, deans and other university denizens are more than they seem.

“I would say, more than any other book that I’ve ever written, that this one was written entirely to please myself. I’ve always loved fantasy and science fiction. I’ve been reading them since I was a little kid,” said Wheeler.

Wheeler, who headed the W&L English Department while writing the book, was also interested in setting her story on a college campus. “There’s a long tradition of academic novels. There are a lot of really great ones,” said Wheeler. “It’s a little incestuous but also fun. Combining the academic novel with a kind of fantasy story appealed to me.”

A novella written in verse, her book falls into a category of literature known as speculative fiction, an umbrella term for genre fiction encompassing fantasy, science fiction and horror. The publisher, Aqueduct Press, is a feminist science-fiction press.

In “The Receptionist and Other Tales,” Wheeler sets a mysterious but playful tone, releasing her characters into a setting both familiar and fantastic. Computers are called “oracles,” townies are “random villagers” and English professors are dragons, hermits and bards. The receptionist, Edna, battles a manipulative, powerful dean.

To propel the title story, Wheeler used a verse form known as “terza rima.” “That’s a form that was used by Dante, so it’s got a history of working for narrative. I think because of the way the rhyme scheme works, it has a really propulsive energy,” said Wheeler. “It’s ABA, BCB, CDC, so the next rhyme is always sending you on to the next stanza.”

Although Wheeler’s characters are completely fictional, the poem’s details about academia are informed by her experiences. “Anyone who knows me well is going to see resonances, and that’s true with any fiction writer. You’re patching together bits and pieces that you’ve seen and heard,” said Wheeler.

For the book’s other tales, Wheeler selected nine short poems with elements of fantasy or science fiction from her catalog of work. One standout is “Zombie Thanksgiving,” a poem she wrote about a dysfunctional family’s holiday gathering.

“At the time, ‘The Walking Dead’ (TV show) had just started, and I was watching that. As a Christmas present, I got the graphic novels and so I started reading those,” said Wheeler. “I was steeped in all things zombie.” The poem also echoes T.S. Eliot’s poem “The Waste Land.” “ all about the dead coming back to life, and there are these Dracula references. I just started thinking of it as a zombie poem.”

Fantasy and science fiction don’t garner the same respect as literary fiction in academic circles, noted Wheeler, but that perception may change as speculative elements seep into the modern canon. “All these metaphors and situations from speculative fiction have really filtered into contemporary poetry,” said Wheeler, “but it just doesn’t go under that name. I’m obviously leaping out fully in that direction.”

The book earned kudos from science fiction writer Ursula K. Le Guin, one of Wheeler’s literary idols. For the cover, Le Guin blurbed, “Where can an evil Dean meet his doom more fitly than in terza rima? Lesley Wheeler’s brief novel of misbehaviour in academia, subtle and funny, rashly inventive and perfectly realistic, uses all the forgotten powers of metaphor and poetry to make the mundane luminous.”

Gwyneth Jones, the Welsh science fiction and fantasy novelist, wrote, “In the bonus package of shorter poems, ‘Zombie Thanksgiving’ (T.S. Eliot’s ‘The Waste Land’ retold) is stunning, an absolute tour de force.”

Artist and writer Rosemary Starace painted the portraits on the book’s cover. Called “Studies of Angela,” Starace completed them after the death of her mother. “Those studies come from a deep place in her,” said Wheeler. “They fit the poem so beautifully.”

Wheeler hopes to draw a variety of readers, including those who are attracted to good storytelling but might hesitate to read poetry. “I’d really like to appeal to those readers,” said Wheeler. “I’m hoping that it’s a fairly accessible book and a good read.”

Wheeler’s last book of poetry, “Heterotopia,” won the 2010 Barrow Street Press Poetry Prize and was a finalist for the Library of Virginia’s 2011 Literary Award for Poetry.

— by Amy Balfour ’87, 91L

News Contact:
Jeffery G. Hanna
Executive Director of Communications and Public Affairs
jhanna@wlu.edu
(540) 458-8459


President Ruscio on the Liberal Arts and Job Preparation

In an opinion piece published on Wednesday (Sept. 19) in the Christian Science Monitor, Washington and Lee President Kenneth P. Ruscio writes that the liberal arts is the best preparation for a career.

The essay begins: “Questions about the value and future of an American liberal arts education are hardly a new phenomenon. But the Great Recession has led to a cottage industry in books and articles that pit the need to educate students for lives of virtue, which is the traditional focus of the liberal arts, against the increasing need to prepare students for careers and jobs.”

Adds President Ruscio: “If ever there was a time to emphasize a classic liberal arts education – more than distributing information or training for specific jobs – this is it. Students today can easily find information. The challenge is making sense of the whole, finding connections, dealing with complexity.”

The entire piece can be read on the Monitor’s website.


W&L Law Prof Joan Shaughnessy to Deliver Inaugural Groot Lecture

On Sept. 28, Washington and Lee law professor Joan Shaughnessy will deliver the inaugural lecture for the Roger D. Groot Professorship in Law.

The title of Prof. Shaughnessy’s talk is “Two Hunters: Reflections on Mentoring and the Formation of Professional Identity.” The lecture will begin at 4:00 pm in the Millhiser Moot Court Room, Sydney Lewis Hall on the campus of Washington and Lee University. The event is free and open to the public.

Prof. Shaughnessy was named to the Groot chair earlier this year. The Groot Professorship is a new chair created by the generosity and cumulative effort of almost 400 alumni, faculty, staff and friends of the Law School to honor Professor Roger D. Groot, who died in 2005. Groot taught Criminal Law and Procedure and Property to thousands of students during his 32 years at the School and was a much beloved and respected member of the faculty.

In describing the inspiration for her upcoming talk, Shaughnessy notes that Roger Groot had many roles, including that of academic, practitioner and public servant, and that he was an outstanding mentor in all of these roles.

“The best mentors serve not only as role models and guides but also help shape future professionals by personalizing their advice,” says Shaughnessy. “The opportunities to be a fine mentor have been challenged by the changes in the legal profession, and in particular the changes in the scale of law firm environments. Nevertheless, mentoring remains critical to professional success.”

Shaughnessy has been a member of the law school faculty since 1983. She is also a member of the core faculty of the Shepherd Program for the Interdisciplinary Study of Poverty and Human Capability. She teaches Civil Procedure, Federal Jurisdiction and Jurisprudence, among other courses. She has written in the areas of Federal Procedure and Complex Civil Litigation, as well as Child Welfare and Jurisprudence. She is a founding member of the Association of American Law Schools Section on Children and the Law.

Shaughnessy has been honored numerous times for her teaching, including by Phi Delta Phi, the Student Bar Association, and the Women Law Students Association, and was twice named the John W. Elrod Fellow in Teaching Excellence. From 1996 to 1999, she served as associate dean for academic affairs, and has chaired many major Law School and University committees.


What to Do About Student Cheating?

Steele Burrow, a Washington and Lee University senior from Dallas and president of the Executive Committee, wrote the following letter to the New York Times in response to an article about cheating in colleges. It is reprinted here by permission:

To the Editor:

“Studies Find More Students Cheating, With High Achievers No Exception” highlights a broad perception about academic misconduct — that it is difficult to trace and increasingly inconsequential. But when cheating, plagiarism and academic dishonesty are raised to the same plane as nonacademic issues of integrity, the results can be strikingly positive.

The honor system at Washington and Lee University is an example of one that works. Inside and outside the classroom, students are expected to maintain the same standards of honesty, and there is a single sanction for a student who violates the system: permanent dismissal. As a result of the system’s expectations and strength, students are granted, among others, a privilege that is increasingly rare — an understanding that professors and peers will always take them at their word.

As with any conduct system, it’s not perfect. Some who have not seen it may even call it naïve. But firsthand experience suggests otherwise. Our honor system is enforced — each year, students who violate it are dismissed — and when asked to describe our system in a single word, students and faculty alike often use “liberating.” Not liberated to cheat but liberated by trust.

When we see it in this context, students take academic integrity far more seriously, and everyone benefits.

STEELE BURROW
Lexington, Va., Sept. 8, 2012

The writer is president of the student body at Washington and Lee University.


Property Rights Topic of Hendricks Law and History Lecture

On Thursday, September 27, Lauren Benton, professor of law and history and dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences at New York University, will deliver the 2012 Hendricks Lecture in Law and History.

The lecture will begin at 3 p.m. in the Stackhouse Theater, Elrod Commons on the campus of Washington and Lee University. The event is free and open to the public.

The title of Dean Benton’s lecture is “’To secure the Rights of Owners’:  Planter Crimes, Prize Courts, and the British Empire of Law.”

Dean Benton’s research focuses on the legal history of European empires. She has been especially interested in understanding how imperial legal conflicts helped to form and shape a global legal order. This broad topic has encompassed research on legal pluralism in empires; maritime law (including piracy); the formation of imperial sovereignty; and the interactions of indigenous law and the law of colonizers.

She has examined case studies from South Asia, Latin America, Africa, North America, and Australia, though she concentrates especially on the legal history of the Atlantic world. She is currently working on two projects: a legal history of abolition and a reassessment of the imperial content of Latin American constitutionalism.

Dean Benton’s publications include numerous scholarly articles and several books, including A Search for Sovereignty: Law and Geography in European Empires, 1400-1900 and Law and Colonial Cultures: Legal Regimes in World History, 1400-1900, both published by Cambridge University Press. The latter work was the winner of the 2003 World History Association Book Award and the 2003 James Willard Hurst Prize.

The Law and History lecture series was endowed by alumnus Pete Hendricks (’66A, ’69L), who has a private practice in Atlanta specializing in land use zoning and government permitting. A history major himself, Hendricks also endowed the Ollie Crenshaw Prize in History at the University several years ago in honor of his favorite professor.

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IBM Magazine Singles Out Kirsten Craft '94

Kirsten Craft, a member of Washington and Lee’s Class of 1994, is one of six women profiled in a special Women in Technology section of IBM Systems Magazine this month.

Kirsten is executive vice president of software and consulting for Software Information Systems (SIS), a technology company headquartered in Lexington, Ky. She started with SIS in 2000 as a project manager and, under her leadership, SIS has become recognized as one of the top software partners in the region by both IBM and Microsoft. She also serves on IBM’s North American Advisory Council for software.

A journalism and mass communications major, Kirsten had intended to pursue a career in broadcast journalism. But, as she told the IBM Systems Magazine, she didn’t feel challenged as a reporter and gravitated toward IT, pursuing sales jobs with some small software companies. “I’m a logical thinker, very process-focused, and good at managing projects that focus on efficiency, so from that perspective, IT is a natural fit for me.”

Asked what advice she would give to young girls considering IT-related careers, Kirsten said: “Be open-minded…I’ve found that you really don’t know what you want to do until you start doing something….”


W&L Faculty Explore Possibilities for Students in Greenland

With Washington and Lee University exploring ways to reimagine international education, three members of the W&L faculty recently traveled to Greenland to investigate possible connections there for internships, student projects and spring term abroad courses.

Chris Connors, the William E. Prichard III ’80 Professor of Geology, joined Elizabeth Oliver, the Lewis Whitaker Adams Professor of Accounting, and Robert (Rob) Straughan, associate dean of the Williams School of Commerce, Economics, and Politics and professor of business administration on the exploratory trip.

Their interest stemmed from conversations with Anne Mette Christiansen, who came to W&L for one semester from Denmark as the Robert A. Mosbacher Visiting Scholar in Business Administration in 2009. Since that time, she has worked in Greenland, building a strong network in both business and government. She provided Oliver, Straughan and Connors with introductions to the Greenland Department of Business and Enterprise, the Katuaq Cultural Center, Visit Greenland and other business and government officials.

All three faculty were exploring the potential for student internships in Greenland, with Connors focusing on geology students and Oliver and Straughan focusing on business and not-for-profit interests. “We believe we may have two to four internship opportunities for W&L students maybe as early as next summer,” said Straughan.

One potential internship would place a geology student and a business student with the same entity—the Ilulissat Icefjord, one of a small number of UNESCO World Heritage sites around the world.  The geology student would help build a website by putting technical information into layman’s terms, while the business student would research the value of the World Heritage designation to the tourism market in that locale.

“We think that wherever we place students, there need to be two students in each place,” said Oliver. “And they have to be the right students who really want this kind of unusual experience because of the challenges they will face. Nuuk, the capital of Greenland, has 15,000 residents, and towns have no connecting roads.  As a result, mobility and communication are more limited than our students experience here in the United States.”

“A few students have expressed an interest in these internships, and I like to think that some of our more ambitious students would find this to be a unique opportunity,” said Straughan.

Straughan and Oliver also identified four or five W&L Student Consulting projects during their trip, and have students working on some of them already this term.

“One of the things we’ve learned from our student consulting projects in Brazil is that the students get very excited about working on international projects that are much broader,” said Oliver. “We even talked this year about making the majority of the projects international and keeping just a few local projects.”

Straughan described Greenland as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for students. “It’s not often that you can get in at exactly this sort of moment in a country’s history,” he said.

Significant offshore oil exploration is occurring now in Greenland, and projects have progressed considerably to develop mining of rare earth and other minerals that are known to exist there, although the country is concerned about the potential environmental consequences. According to Straughan, decisions Greenland makes in the next five or ten years could have an impact all the way from rapid economic growth to independence from Denmark.

Greenland is both developed and undeveloped. The infrastructure, government and Greenlanders’ sophisticated sense of social responsibility can be attributed, in part, to the influence of Denmark, which heavily subsidizes the country.  It is much like other European countries, but it also has indigenous people whose lives are very different. Because of the climate and geography, almost nothing can be grown so, apart from what can be hunted or fished, most items need to be shipped in from Denmark or elsewhere.

“When we went to the smaller communities in Greenland it was like stepping back in time,” said Oliver. “We saw infrastructure such as electricity and the public bath houses where everybody can go and bathe, and stores stocked with items from Denmark. And then there were sled dogs chained among the rocks. So the contrast of developed and undeveloped was amazing. It’s a really odd and wonderful mix.”

While the clients that the student consultants are working with may be based in larger towns like Nuuk and Ilulissat (population 4,500), the impact may reach to the many small communities, such as Oqaatsut (population 50) and Qeqertarsuaq (population 900).  “We traveled by boat to Oqaatsut and Qeqertarsuaq,” said Straughan.  “There are potential opportunities for adventure and cultural tourism and traditional arts and crafts in these and other small communities, which could provide a broader range of economic opportunities for the residents.”

As a geologist, Connors was interested in the possibility of accessing data associated with Greenland’s offshore oil exploration to help his students in their honors theses. But he ruled out a spring term course in Greenland, citing the challenges the weather presents in April and May. He will consider taking students on summer research trips either to Greenland or to Iceland in the summer, which the three visited en route to Greenland.

Oliver and Straughan were supported by the Crawford Endowment Fund, established in 2007 by Andrew D. “Drew” Crawford ’96. “The other indirect fund that impacted this was the Robert A. Mosbacher Fund for International Lecturers and Visitors which brought our Danish colleague to Washington and Lee four years ago, and which has continued to pay off for us and our students” said Straughan.

News Contact:
Sarah Tschiggfrie
News Director
stschiggfrie@wlu.edu
540-458-8235

W&L Team Uses Latest Technology to Study the Optic Nerve Regeneration

As baby boomers age over the next 10 years, the number of cases of blindness in the United States is expected to jump dramatically. According to the National Eye Institute, glaucoma alone will account for 3.6 million cases in 2020, up from about 2.2 million today.

Blindness occurs in glaucoma patients because the optic nerve has been damaged, typically from built-up pressure within the eye. In humans and other mammals, retinal ganglion cells (RGCs) in the optic nerve cannot regenerate and heal after an injury. In frogs, fish and cold-blooded invertebrates, they can.

“The question is, why can they do it but we can’t? What have we lost or gained over the course of evolution so that we can no longer do this?” asked Fiona Watson, assistant professor of biology and neuroscience at Washington and Lee University.

Watson and two Washington and Lee undergraduate research scholars from the Class of 2015,  Andrew Watson of Great Falls, Va. and Bayan Misaghi of Charleston, W.Va., have tackled these questions this summer.

“Our ultimate goal is to generate a profile, a list of genes that are turned on or off specifically in response to this injury,” said Watson. Once a gene profile is complete, scientists can compare it with the profile of a mouse to determine which genes are reacting differently after damage to the optic nerve. The goal is then to determine the functional role of these genes in the regenerative process. This knowledge could help to develop treatments for a range of eye diseases.

Watson’s team is studying retinal ganglion cells (RGCs), one of seven major eye cell types.  Visual perception begins when millions of visual stimuli hit rod and cone photoreceptor cells.  These visual signals are ultimately transmitted to the RGCs before being transmitted to the area of the brain where these signals are integrated and vision occurs.  The RGCs extend their axons from the retina in the eye to the optic tectum, the area in the frog brain where visual input is integrated. These RGC axons are contained in one large bundle that connect the eye to the brain. “You’ve got one set of cells that are carrying all the information from the eye to the brain. You knock out this set of cells, any kind of injury to these cells, you lose your vision,” said Watson. “It’s a very fragile system.”

To prepare, Andrew Watson, a Levy Neuroscience Fellow, and Misaghi, a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Fellow, reviewed literature about optic nerve regeneration in amphibians as well as in mice. Watson and Misaghi also took a spring term course ‘Research Preparation in the Biosciences’ (Bio 200) to prepare them for the rigors of scientific research.

In June, the students began developing eye surgery techniques on tadpoles. Tadpoles were their initial test subjects because their axons regenerate more quickly than a frog’s. Tadpoles are also transparent, making it easier to conduct surgeries; they can also be used in surgeries only 14 days after breeding.

“We would penetrate the skin of the tadpole near the eye with fine-tipped capillary needles using micro-manipulators in order to move in tiny increments, just iota movements until we were able to cut the optic nerve sandwiched between two glass capillary needles” said Misaghi.

“It was quite challenging if you can imagine using 0.5 mm thick chop sticks,” said Misaghi. “Our vitality rate was pretty low. The surgeries took at least 20 minutes each, only about 30% of the tadpoles survived and since we needed several dozen tadpoles to collect sufficient tissue for a single time point, this strategy was going to be too labor intensive.” The students also experimented with electrolytic lesions, a method that  ‘zaps’ the tadpoles’ optic nerve instead of cutting it. Zapping the optic nerve was faster but the method still needed to be optimized.

The team ultimately decided that it would be more efficient to operate on post-metamorphic frogs as the retinas were larger and easier to manipulate. Using frogs that express the green fluorescent protein (GFP) so the RGCs and their axons appear green under fluorescent light microscopy, students were able to visualize the optic nerve crush, the subsequent degeneration of the RGC axons and finally, its recovery.

To generate a gene profile, Watson and her research assistants plan to use a method of cellular analysis called Translating Ribosome Affinity Purification, or TRAP. The students will implement the TRAP method by crushing the frogs’ optic nerves, removing the eyes and grinding up these tissues for analysis.  For the study, Watson created a line of transgenic tadpoles and frogs whose retinal ganglion cells express the GFP gene fused to a ribosomal gene (rpl10a), a protein that is part of the cell machinery used to convert genes into proteins.   An antibody against GFP can then be used to isolate messenger RNAs (mRNAs) that are actively being translated into proteins.

The next step? The team will use GFP to isolate ribosomal proteins and by association the mRNAs that actively transcribes signals from the eye to the brain. These mRNA proteins will then be sequenced to generate a list of genes referred to as a transcriptome, that are active during during the process of nerve regeneration.  As a control, the team will compare mRNAs from eyes removed from frogs whose optic nerves have not been damaged.

“I’ve really liked doing the surgeries, actually getting experience doing dissections, taking out eyes. It’s interesting,” said Andrew Watson. “I’m thinking about med school and going into medicine. It’s good to get a sense of what that might be like.”

The project has also prepared the students for graduate level study. “I’ve gained a huge amount of respect for people who are pursuing a PhD,” said Misaghi. “We’ve only been here 10 weeks, but I think I have a flavor of the triumphs and setbacks that PhD students must face.”

— by Amy Balfour ’87, ’91L

News Contact:
Jeffery G. Hanna
Executive Director of Communications and Public Affairs
jhanna@wlu.edu
(540) 458-8459

Rhodes College Professor to be W&L's Constitution Day Speaker

Michael Nelson, professor of political science at Rhodes College in Memphis, Tenn., will be Washington and Lee University’s Constitutional Day speaker this year.

His talk, titled “The Constitution and the Race for the Presidency,” will be held on Monday, Sept. 17, at 5:30 p.m. in the Stackhouse Theater in the University Commons. The event is free and open to the public.

Nelson is the Fulmer Professor of Political Science at Rhodes and also a nonresident senior fellow at Miller Center of Public Affairs at the University of Virginia.

Nelson has published 25 books on the presidency, elections, the bureaucracy, public policy and liberal education. He also has written nearly 200 articles on a wide range of political, religious, literary and cultural topics, more than 50 of which have been reprinted in books of political science, history, sociology, sports, music and English composition.

Included in these publications are The President’s Words: Speeches and Speechwriting in the Modern White House, co-editor, (2010); Debating the Presidency: Conflicting Perspectives on the American Executive, co-editor, (2006); The American Presidency: Origins and Development, co-author, (5th ed., 2008); and The Elections of 2008, editor (2010).

Nelson was honored by the Southern Political Science Association with the V.O. Key Award for Outstanding Book on Southern Politics Published in Previous Year for How the South Joined the Gambling Nation: The Politics of State Policy Innovation (2009). He also won the Benjamin Franklin Award in the category of history, politics and philosophy for The American Presidency: Origins and Development, 1776-1990 (1991), among other awards.

Nelson received his B.A. from the College of William and Mary and his M.A. and Ph.D. in political science from Johns Hopkins University.

News Contact:
Julie Cline
News Writer
jcline@wlu.edu
540-458-8954

W&L Senior Named Youth Ambassador

Kathryn Marsh-Soloway, a Washington and Lee senior from New Haven, Conn., has been selected to serve as a National Child Awareness Month Youth Ambassador.

Kathryn is one of 51 Youth Ambassadors selected from 50 states plus Washington, D.C.

In her role as a Youth Ambassador, Kathryn will receive funding and training to lead a campaign to match Washington and Lee students with Rockbridge County youth in the Students to Students: Mentoring in Rockbridge program. Students to Students offers positive role models through one-on-one matches with W&L students. The programs stated mission is “to build a closer community bond between students at Washington and Lee University and youth in the Rockbridge area. Our goal is to empower children and give them the drive to succeed by providing them with a positive adult figure in their life.”

Kathryn will participate in a leadership training and networking event in Washington, D.C., this month. National Child Awareness Month, now in its fifth year, is an initiative spearheaded by Festival of Children Foundation to raise awareness about issues affecting children and to encourage the nation’s youth to take action. The Youth Ambassador program is a newly created initiative of Youth Service America.

A double major in art history and journalism and mass communications, Kathryn is a Bonner Scholar and has been active in numerous community service activities while at W&L. She has been a member of the Campus Kitchen Student Leadership Team, Girl Talk, and Big Brother/Big Sister. Earlier this year she was named the Stephen J. Brady STOP Hunger Regional Honoree by the Sodexo Foundation for her work on hunger issues at Washington and Lee.


Robert Strong: Advice on Lighting Fires

by Robert Strong
Interim Provost
(This piece first appeared on the Huffington Post and is reprinted here with permission.)

A few summers ago the keynote speaker at a conference on curriculum issues in the liberal arts quoted Irish poet William Butler Yeats, “Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.” It’s a good quote; I wrote it down.

The keynote speaker went on to say that college instruction should not be dribbling out drops of knowledge that students are expected to collect in a pail and carry around with them for the next four years; it should be about gathering kindling, encouraging students to take risks, letting them play with matches, and hoping that for some of them the materials at hand burst into flame and become life-long intellectual interests. This won’t happen to every student in every class; it won’t necessarily happen when students expect it to, or when professors do. But if it happens occasionally, it makes a liberal education worthwhile.

When the day of conferencing was over I went back to my hotel room and Googled the quote. All kinds of web pages popped up. It’s a very popular quotation. Some of the links took me to commencement addresses. One link was to a book titled something like What To Say If You Have to Give a Commencement Address.

Another link caught my eye. It was a blog entry from someone who asked: Does anyone out there know the source for the quote from Yeats about education and starting fires? The blogger had been looking for a source, but couldn’t find one. There were a number of responses. One was from a classics scholar who suggested the quote was a paraphrase of Plutarch who once wrote “The mind is not a vessel to be filled…”  Another came from a self-proclaimed Yeats expert who said the quote had no source because Yeats never said or wrote it.

That made me curious. I consulted the Oxford Dictionary of Quotations. Lots of entries about education; plenty of citations to Yeats. No pail, no fire. Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations, same result. I went to Google Book and make a list of all the scanned volumes that contained the quote. There were lots, but when I clicked on some of them I couldn’t find a footnote with any information about where the quote had come from.

When I got back to my campus, I was still curious. I asked a colleague in the English department if he had ever heard of the Yeats quote. The answer was “No, and it doesn’t even sound like Yeats.” I went to the library where we have a multi-volume set of The Collected Works of William Butler Yeats and looked up education in the index. No pail, no fire. On a nearby shelf I found The Collected Letters of W. B. Yeats. That set also has an index with listings for education, but — you guessed it — no pail, no fire.

I began to think that the blogger I had found in my first Google search was right and the quote was a fraud. Maybe someone thought of something clever to say about education and then assumed that it would get more attention if it was attributed to someone famous. Yeats was dead; he wouldn’t mind.

Of course, my own conclusion that the quote is misattributed to Yeats could also be wrong. Proving a negative is nearly impossible.

If and when I address a convocation or a commencement, I plan to use the quote and follow it with my own account of its problematic attribution. Then I can offer some words of advice — advice that is becoming ever more important when information is so readily available and seems so authoritative:

  • Don’t believe everything you hear from someone speaking at a podium.
  • Don’t believe everything you read in books.
  • Always be suspicious of information you find on the internet.
  • Never hesitate to do your own research about something that strikes your fancy.
  • Take some joy in finding things out for yourself even if what you find is complicated, confusing and incomplete.
  • Pursue the truth wherever it takes you.  And if what you find makes some people uncomfortable, that may be a sign that your research has come across something that is true.

“Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.” A famous poet may not have said it. I may not know who did say it. But it is true.

At all levels of education, what we as teachers hope for our students is that they’ll get out their matches, that they’ll look for the issues, ideas, authors, experiments, projects and problems they find exciting. We do want them to light those fires.

Robert Strong is interim provost and William Lyne Wilson Professor of Politics at Washington and Lee University. These remarks are adapted from a talk he gave to the Class of 2016 during its orientation this month.

Album No. 2 for Eric Reitz '09

Eric Reitz, a singer-songwriter and a member of the Washington and Lee Class of 2009, has just released his second album. It’s called “Sinister Love,” and you can get it either from Eric’s website as a CD or mp3, Amazon or iTunes.

Eric’s first album, “12 (South),” was released in January 2010.

Last weekend Eric performed songs from the new album in two free concerts at the Renaissance Hotel in New York’s Time Square. He’ll be playing in Kitty Hawk, N.C., later this month, and you can follow his schedule on his Facebook page.

On his website, Eric describes his musical background, which includes “wearily” studying piano but never able to master “The Entertainer.” Years later he started playing his older brother’s acoustic guitar and began developing his own style.

To get a taste of his new album, have a look at the music video for one of the tracks, “City Lights,” below:


Price Named to Head Institutional Effectiveness at W&L

Bryan Price, formerly the head of Virginia Wesleyan College’s institutional research and strategic planning operations, has been named the new assistant provost for institutional effectiveness at Washington and Lee University.

Robert Strong, interim provost at Washington and Lee, announced Price’s appointment, which is effective Sept. 17.

“We are pleased that Bryan will be joining the University in this important position,” said Strong. “Bryan brings a wealth of experience in institutional research and assessment, and he will continue to strengthen W&L’s program.”

Price succeeds Debbie Dailey, who left to become the associate vice president for planning, accreditation, and research at Delaware Valley College in Doylestown, Pa.

A graduate of Christopher Newport University where he majored in history, Price received a master’s of education from The College of William and Mary.

Prior to joining Virginia Wesleyan in 2007, he had served in various capacities in institutional research at Eastern University in Pennsylvania, West Liberty University in West Virginia and Salisbury State University in Maryland.

At Virginia Wesleyan, he has coordinated the institution’s assessment and institutional effective efforts, including serving as co-chair of the Academic Effectiveness Committee. He has overseen a variety of peer data studies and surveys that Virginia Wesleyan has conducted for students and alumni. In addition, he has chaired Virginia Wesleyan’s Strategic Planning Steering Committee

Washington and Lee’s Office of Institutional Effectiveness provides education and facilitates an ongoing, systematic, integrated assessment process and supports that process with analytical information for all areas of the Washington and Lee academic and administrative communities.

News Contact:
Jeffery G. Hanna
Executive Director of Communications and Public Affairs
jhanna@wlu.edu
(540) 458-8459


W&L's Blue Bikes Are Back

The Blue Bikes are back at Washington and Lee — and they’ve multiplied.

The Blue Bike Program, sponsored by Campus Recreation, makes bicycles available on either a short-term or long-term basis, to get to a class on time or to use as transportation around town or campus for a week.

This week 15 new Blue Bikes have appeared outside Elrod Commons and are ready to be  signed out, for use.

James Dick, director of student programming and recreation, notes that the Blue Bike program is being funded through the generous donation of a W&L alum and that there are two types of bikes from which to choose.

“Blue cruiser-type single speed bikes, locks and helmets are available for week-long checkout through Leyburn Library,” James explains. “Free, first-come, first-served, unlocked Blue Bikes will be placed at various bike racks around campus for single day use.”

According to James, the bikes’ locations will be Wilson Hall, Lewis Hall, the Science Center and near Kappa Sigma in Davidson Park. The bikes are maintained weekly by student employees of the Outing Club.  Future plans include adding additional bikes, installing fix-it stations around campus and having more “Bike to School/Work” initiatives throughout the year.  Any used, working bikes are also wanted for the program. Please send any comments or questions to bluebiker@wlu.edu.

According to Chris Wise, environmental management coordinator in Facilities Management,  the bikes provide an environmental-friendly alternative to motor vehicles, “resulting in clearer air and better health, less traffic and more open parking spaces, less oil consumed and fewer greenhouse gases emitted.”

All the details on how students, faculty and staff can participate are available at the Blue Bike Program website.


W&L Law Professor Assesses German Court Decision

The much-anticipated ruling by the German Constitutional Court on whether Germany’s ratification of the financial recovery plan known as the European Stability Mechanism (ESM) was predictable on two levels, according to Russell Miller, professor of law at Washington and Lee University and co-author of a new book about German constitutional law and co-founder of the German Law Journal.

Ruling on a request for a temporary injunction against Germany’s participation in the European bailout on Wednesday, the court determined that ESM was not in conflict with German law.

“Despite the reputation that the court in Karlsruhe has for operating as a brake on European integration, Europe consistently wins in the court,” said Miller. “As a consequence, the ESM will take effect, to the great relief of the markets.”


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Though it was, in Miller’s view, predictable that the ESM would survive, it was equally predictable that the court would use the occasion to reaffirm German constitutional limitations on future participation.

Miller said that those limitations draw largely from a decision that the court issued a year ago in a case involving provisional measures to rescue Greece.

“The analysis in that case was reasserted today, namely the court’s insistence that, as a matter of national sovereignty, the German parliament has to retain its final and exclusive authority over budgetary matters,” Miller said. “That was implicated by the case because it’s possible to read the European Stability Mechanism treaty as calling upon Germany to make a range of commitments now but the language does not necessarily cap Germany’s contributions. There was a risk that ESM could create demands on the budget that would strip the Germany parliament of its authority over the budget.”

The court, Miller said, made clear that that the German parliament gets to choose the extent of Germany’s commitment to this kind of permanent rescue fund.

Read Miller’s commentary and comments in the news media on this issue:

Commentary (ConstitutionMaking.org)

Los Angeles Times

Reuters

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Campus Kitchen at W&L Receives Grant to Educate Local Youths about Hunger

The Weekend Backpack Snack Program at Campus Kitchen at Washington and Lee University (CKWL) has received a grant for $2,000 from the Sodexo Foundation, supported by Youth Service America.

The grant will enable CKWL to educate 600 local youths (ages five to 25) about the issues of childhood hunger before they volunteer to fill backpacks with food to ensure local elementary school children don’t go hungry.

“We’re hoping for a wide variety of groups,” said Jenny Davidson, coordinator of student service-learning at W&L. “We’re expecting W&L and VMI students to volunteer, of course, and some of our resident advisors are already signing up their halls for this. But we want local Girl Scouts, Cub Scouts and youth groups from churches as well.”

The backpack program started in 2009 as a partnership between CKWL and Natural Bridge Elementary School and this year has expanded to cover all seven elementary schools in the Rockbridge area. Throughout the program, CKWL delivers backpacks filled with non-perishable food to the schools and targets children who are eligible for free or reduced lunches. “While the children are guaranteed lunch Monday through Friday, by sending food home with them in backpacks on Friday nights, we can ensure that they have food over the weekend,” said Davidson.

“We want people to come with open minds and ready to listen for about 10 to 15 minutes about childhood hunger in this area and then to spend the rest of the hour helping to pack the backpacks,” she added. “So it will be a one-time service opportunity for one hour on a Wednesday afternoon.”

Students who receive the backpacks, as a percentage of the student body, are: 64.21 percent at Natural Bridge Elementary; 58.04 percent at Fairfield Elementary; 51.56 percent at Mountain View Elementary; 42.79 percent at Central Elementary; 41.94 percent at Enderly Heights Elementary; 38.98 percent at F.W. Kling Elementary and 20.12 percent at Harrington Waddell Elementary.

“We’re really excited,” said Davidson, “because $2,000 is huge for the Campus Kitchen budget. The money will cover some of the educational materials on hunger awareness but also some of the food items for the backpacks. It’s very exciting to know that there are corporations and foundations willing to support education on hunger issues and to make a difference in our local community.”

Any group wishing to volunteer should contact Jenny Davidson at jdavidson@wlu.edu or call (540) 458-4669.

News Contact:
Sarah Tschiggfrie
News Director
stschiggfrie@wlu.edu
540-458-8235

Tax, Intellectual Property Experts Join W&L Law Faculty

Two new law professors have joined the permanent faculty at Washington and Lee University School of year this fall.

Brant Hellwig, professor of law, joins W&L from the University of South Carolina School of Law, where he taught from 2002-2012. Hellwig previously visited at W&L in fall 2011. An expert in the field of federal taxation, Hellwig will teach a variety of tax courses, including basic income tax, corporation taxation, partnership taxation and estates and gift taxation.

Hellwig’s scholarship also is focused on federal taxation, including the tax treatment of deferred compensation and the estate tax treatment of closely held business entities. He says that the scheduled expiration of the Bush-era tax cuts is likely to have a big impact on his field.

“The expiration of the Bush tax cuts at the end of 2012 will significantly expand the reach of the federal estate and gift tax,” says Hellwig. “Additionally, the focus on the tax system brought about by the scheduled tax changes increases the likelihood of fundamental reform of the federal income tax and transfer tax regime.”

Hellwig recently completed a casebook on estate and gift taxation with fellow W&L law professor Bob Danforth. He is currently working on a major project for the United States Tax Court. Congress has significantly expanded the jurisdiction of the U.S. Tax Court in recent years as Congress has sought to provide judicial review of a host of newly created taxpayer rights.  Hellwig is drafting a text detailing the evolution of the Tax Court’s jurisdiction and describing the increasing influence of the Tax Court in the larger tax administration regime.

Hellwig holds a J.D. from Wake Forest University and an LL.M. in taxation from New York University School of Law, where he was awarded the Harry J. Rudick Memorial Award and served as an editor of the Tax Law Review. He earned his B.S. in Mathematical Economics from Wake Forest, graduating summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa.

Prior to entering academia, Hellwig was an associate with Bell, Davis & Pitt in Winston-Salem, NC and a clerk to the Hon. Juan Vasquez of the U.S. Tax Court in Washington, DC.

Chris Seaman, asst. professor of law, joins W&L from Chicago-Kent College of Law, where he served as a visiting assistant professor from 2009-2012. Seaman’s research and teaching interests lie at the intersection of intellectual property (IP) and procedure and remedies in civil litigation, interests born out of his prior experience as a judicial clerk and an IP litigator.

Seaman’s forthcoming scholarly pieces include an article in the Yale Journal of Law & Technology exploring recent patent reform legislation and an article in the Harvard Journal of Law & Technology examining how juries apply instructions from the court regarding the burden of proof for finding patents invalid. In addition, he is currently conducting an empirical study of attorney fee awards in copyright litigation.

In addition, Seaman writes on the issue of voting rights and election law, and he has critiqued recent efforts to expand voter identification rules in his scholarship.

“I am an avid student and reader of American History,” says Seaman. “The civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s is a great example of how the law can be used to implement social change. The passage of the historic 1965 Voting Rights Act, and its implementation by federal officials and courts, resulted in a sea change; more African-American voters were registered to vote in the half-decade following the Act than in the previous century. It is dismaying now to see some states attempting to dismantle some of the most important parts of the Voting Rights Act.”

Seaman holds a J.D. from the University of Pennsylvania Law School, where he was executive editor of the University Pennsylvania Law Review. He received his B.A. from Swarthmore College, where he studied history and public policy.

Prior to entering academia, Seaman worked from 2005-09 as an associate in the IP Litigation Practice Group at Sidley Austin LLP in Chicago. In addition, he served as a law clerk to the Hon. R. Barclay Surrick in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.

News Contact:
Peter Jetton
School of Law Director of Communications
pjetton@wlu.edu
(540) 458-8782


W&L Alumna Honored by Pi Beta Phi

Shiri Yadlin, who graduated from Washington and Lee this past June, has received Pi Beta Phi Fraternity for Women’s prestigious Amy Burnham Onken Award.

The award honors a Pi Phi in her senior year of college who has best lived the organization’s qualities of excellent scholarship and outstanding campus participation and community service during her collegiate career. The award honors past Pi Beta Phi Grand President Amy Burnham Onken.

Shiri, of Irvine, Calif., received a U.S. teaching assistantship to Austria following graduation. She majored in politics and religion and minored in poverty and human capability studies.

The Pi Beta Phi award recognized, among other activities, the time that Shiri devoted to the Campus Kitchen at Washington and Lee. Altogether, she completed more than 1,300 hours of community service.

“Pi Beta Phi is privileged to be able to recognize collegiate members who do such remarkable work in their local community,” said Grand President Mary Loy Tatum. “We applaud Shiri for her commitment to the Washington and Lee community. Her four years of selfless service are a true reflection of her passion for philanthropic service to others.”

Founded at Monmouth College, in Illinois, in 1867, Pi Beta Phi has 135 chapters and more than 300 alumnae organizations worldwide.


MOOCs' Contradictions

by
David Touve
Assistant Professor of Business Administration
(This essay first appeared in Inside Higher Education and is reprinted here with permission. )

In recent months, many of the most prominent research universities announced forays into free online courses. As a greater number of these universities go online with such free education platforms, the nature of the market for — and even the meaning of — a college degree could change in both subtle and significant ways.

Behind the screens, beyond the more collaborative desire to educate the world, a rather complex sort of competition may be playing out. Aside from the question of competition, however, is the question of what the classification of these online programs signals in terms of our beliefs about the purpose and value of a college degree, as well as the qualifications for such a degree.

On the one hand, universities or their partnered courseware platforms describe these MOOC experiences as analogous to classroom-based course experiences, in terms of either the academic rigor or at least the capacity to assess mastery of the course material. For example, edX describes the rigor of its online courses as the same as that of the partnering institutions. Coursera, citing a 2010 meta-analysis conducted by the Department of Education, claims that online learning is at least as effective as learning in face-to-face classroom settings.

On the other hand, those universities now experimenting with MOOC offerings are quick to clarify that they will grant course credit or college degrees only to those students who first pass through the highly selective admissions process, which occurs before these students ever register for a course — online or on-campus.

As a result, the nature of these recent experiments in massive and open online courses risks triggering a paradox in certain galaxies of the higher education universe: evidence of mastery in university coursework will warrant only a certificate, while evidence of mastery in work prior to university coursework will determine the degree. Simply stated, the line between an online certificate and a degree from any particular institution shall be drawn by the admissions office.

This paradox was expressed in point-blank terms by MIT’s news office, in December 2011, within the original FAQ for the MITx program:

“Credentials will be granted only to students who earn them by demonstrating mastery of the material…. MIT awards MIT degrees only to those admitted to MIT through a highly selective admissions process.”

Expressing, in mathematical terms, the degree-does-not-equal-certificate logic:

Course + Admissions Selection + Mastery = Degree.
Course – Admissions Selection + Mastery = Certificate.
“Course” and “Mastery” cancel each other out, and so:
(+) Admission Selection = Degree, while
(-) Admission Selection = Certificate

Perhaps as evidence of the danger presented by this paradox, the edX FAQ now makes no explicit reference to the qualifications — such as a lack of equivalence in subject mastery — that distinguish a degree from a certificate. Frankly, however, the resolution of this paradox cannot be resolved by simply not mentioning it.

Unfortunately, the engineered distinction between certificates and degrees mimics a much deeper and unsightly impression for which the market for these same prestigious universities is widely criticized: the inputs to education trump the outputs of education. We rank, and even respect, universities according to the relative metrics of standardized test scores and dollars spent on research (inputs) rather than measures of classroom experience or subject mastery (outputs).

As larger populations of students in the higher education universe complete increasing proportions of their coursework online, however, some resolution to the certificate versus degree paradox becomes unavoidable. The line that could previously be drawn between wholly online degree programs and wholly offline programs fades.

Furthermore, as larger populations of students complete increasing proportions of their coursework through the same, or extremely similar courseware platforms, our ability to ignore these MOOCs as the means to measure at least one dimension of the outputs of higher education fades as well. In other words, we will have to come to terms with the implications of our measures of mastery (e.g., when the only students who aced a Stanford University course in artificial intelligence were students who were not attending the university).

Just as our initial characterizations of the Internet as seemingly antisocial transitioned to an awareness that this online space was social in its own ways, so to might this distinction between online and offline education transition to a recognition that these two environments simply provide different venues for learning, each venue leading to certain subject mastery in its own ways.

Frankly, it’s time to resolve this paradox, and the sooner the better.

If a well-attended and open online course offered by a prominent university is somehow different from the associated on-campus education in terms of the level or type of mastery that can be achieved, then we should just say so and treat this difference as such. Subject mastery in a MOOC environment may be a necessary but not yet sufficient condition for “mastery,” at least in certain galaxies of higher education.

In fact, perhaps the mastery we are ultimately hoping for from the range of galaxies in the higher education universe is more than the ability to answer 50 questions correctly. Instead, our ultimate goal is to develop a capacity to convert the implications of those answers to new questions, new ideas, and new inventions — dynamic sources of impact. Developing and supporting this dynamic capacity may not scale in the same way that MOOC education can.

If, however, there is no difference between the level and type of mastery that can be reached online versus that which might be attained on campus, then we should speak and act as if these two venues are indeed equivalent — if not in experience then at least in terms of the outputs, regardless of inputs.

Most importantly, however, we should resolve the paradox that emerges from this debate over MOOCs, wherein the substance — whether chunks of matter or ideas or right answers or genuine insights — that determines whether a student earns a university degree rather than a course certificate would be in the selection of that student through admissions standards rather than in the content and quality of the education or the impact of that education as measured through the student’s experience, accomplishments, or dynamic capacity to act upon and even develop new knowledge.

David Touve is assistant professor of business administration at Washington and Lee University.


W&L Alum Joins SNL Writing Team

When “Saturday Night Live” opens its 38th season this weekend, some of the jokes you’ll hear will have been written by a Washington and Lee alumnus.

Josh Patten, of the Class of 2003, has joined the show’s stable of writers. A politics major at W&L, Josh may call upon some of that background, since he’ll be writing for the show’s Weekend Update segment.

Josh started his improv career with Washington Improv Theater in 2005. He moved to New York in 2007 and began training with the Upright Citizens Brigade, a sketch comedy troupe that began in Chicago with four comedians, including Amy Poehler, an SNL alum.

Since 2008, Josh has been performing with a number of improv groups, and you can see his work on some videos at UCBcomedy.com.

You can also follow Josh on his tumblr page or, for a steady stream of one-liners, check out The Josh Patten on Twitter. His Twitter feed was featured earlier this year on the Follow Friday feature of the Splitsider website.

To show you what you’ll get by following Josh, here are a few of our recent favorite tweets:

  • The special skills portion of my resumé includes coming within two tacos of ordering the right amount of Mexican food.
  • A great place to stash a shirtless corpse is on a sun-dappled park lawn.
  • I am currently strangers with everyone who ever told me not to be a stranger.

Knight Poverty Journalism Conference at W&L Challenges, Aids Reporters on Poverty Coverage

Instead of a ladder that people can use to climb out of poverty, a greased chute keeps people sliding further and further down into poverty.

That is how Barbara Ehrenreich, author and political activist, described the current situation at the first Knight Poverty Journalism Conference, held at Washington and Lee University this weekend.

Ehrenreich presented the keynote address for the conference, which drew 40 national journalists and journalism professors to Lexington for three days of sessions on writing about poverty and issues of economic justice.


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Edward Wasserman, the Knight Professor of Journalism Ethics at W&L and the conference organizer, said the goal of the event was to build competence and community among this group of journalists with the hope that they will create a nationwide support system to improve the quality and quantity of these issues.

Wasserman called poverty journalism “a miserably neglected area of journalistic coverage and an area where social awareness is very poor.”

Throughout the weekend, participants heard panels of academic experts discuss the underlying economic issues at play today. They also participated in workshops to learn what kind of stories others had been able to pursue effectively.

In her keynote address, Ehrenreich acknowledged that “it is not easy to be a journalist who focuses on poverty and economic hardship. Believe me, I know this because I’ve been trying to do this before some of the journalists here today got their first rejection slips.”

Ehrenreich is probably best known for her 2001 memoir, “Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting by in America,” in which she wrote about the three months that she spent working at minimum wage jobs.

“What I have learned over the years is that most editors and other media gatekeepers aren’t interested in poverty,” she said.

Ehrenreich is founding editor of the Economic Hardship Writing Project. It supports journalists who write on these issues and who may themselves be struggling with poverty.

“We have one of the biggest economic stories in my lifetime — the story of the huge and rapid growth of poverty and inequality in this country,” she said. “And this story is not getting out as it should, because poverty itself is silencing the people who are in the best position to tell it.”

Ehrenreich told the journalists that they need to work together “to get out the stories that need to get out, and to tell them so compellingly that they can no longer be ignored.”

The Economic Hardship Writing Project was one of the resources cited during the conference. Another was a new tool kit for journalists, CoveringPoverty.org, that was presented by the University of Georgia’s Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communications. It offers reporters new ways to cover local stories about the impact of the recession.

In addition, OnPoverty.org, a website created by Washington and Lee University students, released its newest version. OnPoverty.org not only collects stories and research data about poverty but also serves as a site for journalists to discuss the issues.

Wasserman noted that while the current economic climate may have resulted in increased numbers of stories about economic hardship, the recession has inspired coverage that focuses on people who had been in the middle class and have fallen into difficulty.

“These kinds of stories have become the focus of media attention,” said Wasserman. “They have gotten a disproportionate amount of attention. The people who have not gotten the attention they deserve are the people who were poor before the recession and will be poor after the recession.”

Poverty, he added, is generally not a very attractive subject, nor is it one that advertisers are keen to support.

“Coverage of the poor has rested on the belief that there is a civic purpose to this reporting, that it illuminates conditions that we all ought to know about even if we’re not personally implicated in them,” he said. “To some degree, this civic trust has eroded, and it’s harder to sell these stories.”

Washington and Lee has pioneered the development of poverty studies through its interdisciplinary Shepherd Program for the Interdisciplinary Study of Poverty and Human Capability. The University’s Department of Journalism and Mass Communications offers courses as part of that program.

W&L's Marsh Receives NSF Grant for Undergraduate Collaboration in Research

David Marsh, professor of biology at Washington and Lee University, has received a grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) for a new project that will link networks of undergraduate classes to carry out collaborative scientific research.

The project is titled “Toads, Roads and Nodes: Collaborative Course-Based Research on the Landscape Ecology of Amphibian Populations” and will recruit ecology and conservation biology classes to research how habitats affect amphibian populations.

Marsh will work in collaboration with the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis at the University of California, Santa Barbara. The total amount of the NSF grant is $242,000 (W&L’s component is $113,000) and was received through the Transforming Undergraduate Education in Science program.

Several years ago, Marsh created the model of using networks of undergraduate students to advance science by using existing data. He will use his sabbatical during the 2012-13 academic year to set up the project, and W&L students in his biology class will participate during the 2013-14 academic year.

“The NSF really likes this model because it’s very interested in knowing how students’ involvement in research, and particularly highly collaborative research like this project, enhances their interest in science,” explained Marsh. “A lot of students have this perception that science is for people who like spending days alone in their lab. But in fact science is becoming increasingly collaborative with large teams breaking up projects into smaller pieces and then all working together.”

The project will involve a range of schools, including community colleges, public research universities and historically minority-serving universities, and will take place during W&L’s winter term. “That’s the time when it’s very difficult for conservation biology classes to get outside and do hands-on field projects,” said Marsh. “So these data-based projects provide a really nice way for classes to get involved in actual research during a time when they can’t go outside and count things.”

Marsh said that the project will use a database from the United States Geological Survey on where amphibians are found. The database contains 10 years of data from a volunteer initiative to find amphibians using night-time call surveys. The data will be divided among different regions of the country and classes will sign up to be assigned several wetlands to research. W&L classes will partner with about 10 other classes to analyze data on amphibian populations throughout the eastern United States.

Students will match the data on where certain types of amphibians are found to various changes in the landscape using Google Earth. Their aim will be to understand how loss of forest, loss of wetlands or increased road traffic, for example, explain where amphibians are still doing well and where they are disappearing.

“We can also see historical photos of the sites and how the landscape has changed in the last several decades,” Marsh noted. “We’ll get a nice understanding on a very large geographic scale about what major factors affect where amphibians live in the United States. So we’re augmenting the main database of the National Geological Survey by adding all the landscape data, and we’re also going to get some real scientific research out of it.”

Marsh explained that amphibians are considered valuable ecological indicators because they are found in both aquatic and terrestrial habitats. “A lot of times, when you start seeing negative things happening in the landscape you might see it first with amphibians,” he said. “On the positive side, where you see improvements in environmental quality, that’s often associated with amphibians returning to sites. In eastern North America, we’ve had many areas with increased forest cover in the last 100 years and we have some species of amphibians coming back as a consequence.”

Each class will carry out the research during a six-week period. Then an instructor and two students from each class will attend a workshop in Santa Barbara where they will put all the data together and analyze it as a group.

On the educational research side, the project will carry out surveys before and after the project to gauge the students’ attitudes towards science and will also track the students throughout their majors. “We’ll also compare groups of students who were interested in the project but didn’t take part, versus groups of students who did get involved in the project,” said Marsh. “That way we can look at how their attitudes have changed as a consequence of their involvement in collaborative scientific research as opposed to just a regular classroom experience.”

The project is jointly funded by the NSF’s Directorate for Biological Sciences: Division of Biological Infrastructure, and the Directorate for Education and Human Resources: Division of Undergraduate Education, as part of their efforts toward the program Vision and Change in Undergraduate Biology Education.

Marsh, a member of the Washington and Lee faculty since 2000, received his B.A. from the University of Virginia and his Ph.D. from the University of California, Davis.

News Contact:
Sarah Tschiggfrie
News Director
stschiggfrie@wlu.edu
540-458-8235

Carol Graham Opens W&L Seminar Series on Happiness

The first visiting speaker in Washington and Lee’s year-long “Questioning the Good Life” interdisciplinary seminar series is Carol Graham, College Park Professor at the University of Maryland School of Public Policy. Her talk will be Thursday, Sept. 13, at 5:30 p.m. in Stackhouse Theater, Elrod Commons.

The title of the speech, which is open to the public, is “Happiness around the World: Happy Peasants, Miserable Millionaires, and Questions for Policy.”  The series will examine our national obsession with happiness during the 2012-13 academic year.

Graham is also senior fellow at the Brookings Institute and Research Fellow at the Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA). She is the author of The Pursuit of Happiness (Brookings Press, 2011), which considered happiness as a national performance indicator.

Graham has written more than five books including Happiness around the World: The Paradox of Happy Peasants and Miserable Millionaires and Safety Nets, Politics and the Poor: Transitions to Market Economies, among others. She has co-written Happiness and Hardship: Opportunity and Insecurity in New Market Economies, among others.

She is the author of articles in journals including The Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization, Health Affairs, World Economics and the Journal of Happiness Studies. Graham offers a wide-ranging and thorough overview of what researchers in economies and psychology know about happiness.

Graham, born in Lima, Peru, has an A.B. from Princeton University, an M.A. from The Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies and a Ph.D. from Oxford.

“Questioning the Good Life” will feature six visiting speakers during the year, each of whom is recognized as a leader in the respective discipline (economics, literature, philosophy, psychology/sociology, neuroscience and business). The speakers will bring their considerable insight and expertise to bear on the topic of happiness. Five W&L faculty members teamed up to plan the series.

W&L Law Symposium Explores Legacy of German Free Law Movement

Washington and Lee University School of Law will host a symposium next month exploring the legacy of Hermann Kantorowicz’s 1906 essay “The Battle for Legal Science” and its impact on the emergence of legal-realism movements in Germany and abroad.

The symposium, titled “Smashing the Machine: The Troubled Legacy of Kantorozicz’s kampf,” will take place on Sept. 9-10 in Sydney Lewis Hall and the Elrod Commons on the grounds of Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Virginia. This event is free and open to the public.

Prof. Russell Miller of the W&L School of Law, who is co-organizing the symposium, explains that Kantorowicz’s essay is one of the most important and incendiary works in Germany’s rich history of legal scholarship. Kantorowicz, who at the time was a post-doctoral researcher, called on German jurists to break free of the country’s tradition of suffocating formalism and blind positivism.

“Kantorozicz’s proposal, what he called the ‘free law movement,’ aimed to set the German jurist free of the ‘logic machine’ of Germany’s strictly formalist conceptual jurisprudence,” says Miller.  “Instead, Kantorowicz wanted judges to resort to life’s full spectrum of values, knowledge, and experience in making legal decisions.”

At the time, the essay generated a great deal of critical commentary and judicial reaction, but it did not seem to redirect—to free—German jurisprudence in its day. Still, Miller argues that the text has a significant legacy, perhaps having stimulated America’s legal-realism movement, playing an uncertain and unwitting role in Nazi-era jurisprudence, and as a foundation for post-war Germany’s turn towards natural law.  Above all, explains Miller, Kantorowicz’s work is an important mile-marker in the perpetual struggle between formalist and sociological approaches to the law.

Legal scholars will explore these and other issues during the two-days of the symposium proceedings. Keynote addresses will be delivered by James Whitman, the Ford Foundation Professor of Comparative and Foreign Law at Yale Law School, and Vivian Curran, Professor of Law at University of Pittsburg Law School.

A list of panelists and additional information is available online at http://law.wlu.edu/kampf. Kantorowicz’s essay is available in its first-ever English translation (Cory Merrill) at the German Law Journal website.

The program is an interdisciplinary collaboration between the law school and the W&L German and Russian Languages Department.  Prof. Paul Youngman of that department is a co-convener. The symposium is sponsored by the German Law Journal, the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), the W&L Frances Lewis Law Center, and the W&L Transnational Law Institute.

News Contact:
Peter Jetton
School of Law Director of Communications
pjetton@wlu.edu
(540) 458-8782


Alums Brewing Up Business

In Norfolk and Nashville, two Washington and Lee graduates are the latest alumni getting into the craft-beer business.

We’ve mentioned here before the Lexington microbrewery, Blue Lab, which is owned and operated by Tom Lovell, of the Class of 1991, and Bill Hamilton, associate professor of biology.

Joining Blue Lab as W&L-connected microbreweries are Honky Tonk Brewing Co., in Nashville, and Smartmouth Brewing Co., in Norfolk, Va.

Honky Tonk’s founder is Scott Swygert, of the Class of 1992. Scott’s Honky Tonk Facebook page features his business plan and highlights his fund-raising efforts, some of which have involved his use of LinkedIn. He’s been making beer for lots of private events in the Nashville area. One of his more interesting Facebook posts is this one from June: “Brew day today with my 97 yr old grandmother looking over my shoulder. It was her idea to have a lil’ taste of pilsner while we are working.”

By late August, Scott had raised more than $500,000 for the brewery. His goal is to begin remodeling an existing facility to include an on-premise taproom later this year, and then to begin producing beer in the second quarter of 2013, with canned beer for distribution by 2014.

Meanwhile, down in Tidewater Virginia, the Virginian-Pilot wrote a feature story about Smartmouth Brewing Co. and its founder, Porter Hardy IV, of the Law Class of 2004. Porter, who began as a home brewer, started brewing in his new facility — a  9,500-square-foot warehouse in West Ghent — earlier this month.

According to a piece in Inside Business last month, Porter did not precipitately decide to leave his job as in-house lawyer at Titan America, a concrete and building supply provider. He spent five years in preparation, writing his business plan, conducting research, taking a brewing class at Siebel Institute of Chicago, finding investors and hiring a head brewer.

No doubt all three of the alumni enterprises have experienced how Scott described his fund-raising paradox on the Honky Tonk Facebook page: “Too serious = no fun. Too funny = no money.”

So far, it appears they’ve all managed to find the right mix.


Legendary Virginia Lawyer William Poff, 1955 Law Grad, Dies at 79

William B. Poff, of the Washington and Lee Law Class of 1955, died on Sept. 5, in Roanoke. He had worked at the Roanoke law firm of Woods Rogers for 53 years. When the firm signed him in 1959, it actually “preferred to hire lawyers who attended the University of Virginia,” according to the front-page story in today’s (Sept. 6) Roanoke Times. But at the recommendation of James Turk (W&L Law Class of 1952), now a U.S. District Court judge, “Woods Rogers overcame its reluctance and hired the man who would rise to the top of the firm.” A good call.

Bill Poff attended W&L Law after earning a B.S. from Virginia Tech. He graduated from W&L summa cum laude and was inducted into the Order of the Coif and Phi Beta Kappa.

He specialized in commercial and civil litigation, trying cases before the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals, the Virginia Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court. In 1976, when he was active in Republican politics, President Gerald Ford nominated him for a federal judgeship, but a senator stopped the appointment.

According to his profile on the Woods Rogers website, he garnered the Virginia Association of Defense Attorneys (VADA) Award for Excellence in Civil Litigation in 2004, for “the highest quality of ability and leadership in the legal profession.” In the 1960s, he also won acclaim as an Outstanding Young Man from the Roanoke and Virginia Jaycees.

Read the Roanoke Times article for more laudatory comments by his friends, including John Fishwick (Law Class of 1983), as well as a telling anecdote about the amazing work ethic of Bill and his late first wife, Magdalen Poff (and their cats).


W&L Dance Program Moves into New Downtown Lexington Studio

To accommodate the expanding needs of the dance program at Washington and Lee University, a new dance studio has been created at 109 South Jefferson Avenue, the former print shop for the Lexington News-Gazette.

Since its inauguration six years ago, the dance program at W&L has grown to include a dance minor and expanded academic course offerings. It has won prestigious awards for “outstanding creative works” from the American College Dance Festival and has received national attention for its work in aerial dance.

Jenefer Davies, assistant professor of dance, described the new location as ideal for a dance studio. The building’s structure has enabled it to be rigged permanently for aerial dance, making silk ropes, harnesses and bungees available to the dancers at any time. A special sprung floor has been installed to make it safer for dancers to move on and jump repetitively without being hurt.

Previously, the W&L dance studio was on the third floor of DuPont Hall on campus, which is slated to be transformed into the Center for Global Learning. The new studio is more than twice the size of the old one, and Davies was able to purchase double-sided mirrors to split the room in half so that two dance classes can be held at the same time.

“One amazing attribute of this new studio is its size, because it’s larger than the Keller Theatre, our home performance space,” said Davies. “We plan to mark off the stage and wings in the studio for rehearsal to create an exact duplicate of the Keller stage. This means that when we move from the studio to the stage we won’t have to make adjustments in the choreography or staging. It’s a huge improvement.”

Noel Price, a senior major in Spanish and politics at W&L, said she was shocked at how large the new studio is. “It’s absolutely beautiful and it’s going to be wonderful to have all this space instead of having to move around different small dance studios,” she said. “I’ve been in love with the dance program since my first year at Washington and Lee. and I have loved watching it grow and change.”

Wendy Price, assistant dean of the college, was instrumental in the move to downtown Lexington. “The new dance studio makes it possible to meet the demand for more teaching and rehearsal space while also housing faculty offices,” she said. “We are thrilled with the result and excited about the future of W&L’s dance program in this new space.”

W&L Professor Challenges Class of 2016 in Convocation Address

Addressing Washington and Lee University’s annual Fall Convocation, Arthur H. Goldsmith, the Jackson T. Stephens Professor of Economics, issued a sobering challenge to the entering Class of 2016, while also wishing them joy and satisfaction in their college careers.

His challenge: that no member of the class would engage in an act of violence, including sexual assault, during the four years at W&L.

The title of Goldsmith’s address was “Finding Your Path to a Life Well Lived,” and he began by referring to the upcoming year-long interdisciplinary seminar on happiness, “Questioning the Good Life,” that the University is sponsoring. Everyone, Goldsmith noted, “is jumping on the happiness bandwagon.”


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A conventional view in the field of happiness studies, he said, is that individuals all have a “happiness set point” established by genetics or personality. “Set-point advocates or theorists believe that following impactful events that advance or harm happiness, we tend to naturally gravitate back to our set point,” he said. “Thus, given enough time, those who were victims of traumatic events early in life should be just as happy later in life as they were prior to being victimized.”

Referring to research that he and colleague Tim Diette, assistant professor of economics at W&L, have recently done, Goldsmith argued this pattern does not hold in cases of “traumatic victimization,” and such events may have long-term effects on individuals’ happiness.

College-age students are at an especially critical juncture in this regard, Goldsmith noted. “In light of our findings indicating that exposure to violence — no matter when it occurs in the life cycle — damages mental health, happiness and life satisfaction, it is … clear that college-aged individuals everywhere have tremendous potential to harm others, derailing them as they are traveling their path to a good life.”

That data is what led Goldsmith to challenge the Class of 2016 “to do something historic and in line with the principles and values espoused by our community at Washington and Lee … I ask each of you to take a moment to reflect on why this is sensible to embrace, and then to pledge that you will never engage in an act of violence while at Washington and Lee.  In addition, I ask that you pledge that you will become an active bystander and will speak up or act if a troubling situation arises — no matter who the potential perpetrator might be.”

Aside from that challenge, Goldsmith told the students that the important decision they would make at Washington and Lee would be what path they choose to take. “The overriding question is, ‘What will you commit your energies and talents to?’ ” he said. “Many of the achievements and accomplishments you can visualize looking forward will entail extensive effort and absorption in the near term that will crowd out some simple pleasures. On a fundamental level, you will be asking yourself, what is the good life, and how do I derive it or position myself to experience this?”

He concluded with his wish for the students to flourish at Washington and Lee and to nurture “habits of mind and soul” that contribute to the sense that their lives are “fulfilling and meaningful.”

The convocation, forced indoors because of threatening weather, opened W&L’s 264th academic year and the 164th year of the School of Law. Classes in the Law School began on Aug. 27, while undergraduate classes begin Thursday, Sept. 6.

News Contact:
Jeffery G. Hanna
Executive Director of Communications and Public Affairs
jhanna@wlu.edu
(540) 458-8459


W&L Law Profs Involved in Landmark Mine Company Dissolution Case

A Fairfax County judge issued a stunning decision last Thursday, ordering the dissolution of the Buckingham County holding company that operates Kyanite Mining Corp. Circuit Judge Jane Roush found for the plaintiffs in the case, in which minority shareholders accused the majority shareholders of unfair treatment and misuse of corporate assets.

The law firm of LeCLairRyan represented the plaintiffs in the case. The trial team included W&L professors of practice John Craddock and Michele Burke, as well as alumna Massie Payne Cooper ’11L. In addition, W&L law professor Lyman Johnson served as an expert witness in the case for the plaintiffs.

Started in 1945, the mine is the leading international producer of Kyanite, a mineral used extensively in heat-resistant manufacturing processes. The mine is one of the largest employers in Buckingham County, but the judge’s decision is not expected to affect the mine’s day-to-day operations.

In her decision, Judge Roush rejected the defendant’s argument that it is common practice in Virginia, and thus permissible under Virginia law, for controlling shareholders to reap virtually all of the benefits of ownership of a Virginia closely held corporation while insuring there would be little or no return on investment for the minority shareholders.

“The decision will help bolster minority share investment in Virginia companies because of the protections the decision carries for minority stockholders,” Prof. Johnson told the Richmond Times-Dispatch in an interview following the ruling.

At W&L, Craddock and Burke teach a practicum class on corporate governance and shareholder derivative litigation as part of the law school’s innovative third-year curriculum. During the class, students are immersed in a shareholder derivative litigation as counsel for the shareholder plaintiffs or the officer and director defendants. The students experience the life cycle of the litigation from filing the derivative demand notice and complaint to the resolution of the dispute through mediation.

The third-year curriculum at W&L Law is unique in legal education. The course of study consists entirely of practice-based simulations, real client experiences, and advanced explorations into legal ethics and professionalism. Learn more at law.wlu.edu/thirdyear.

News Contact:
Peter Jetton
School of Law Director of Communications
pjetton@wlu.edu
(540) 458-8782


Oldest Practicing Lawyer in New Mexico Dies at 97

Two years ago this month, we published a blog item about Lynell Skarda, a 1941 graduate of the Washington and Lee School of Law who was then, at 95, the oldest practicing lawyer in New Mexico.

We received word this week that Lynell died at his home in Clovis, N.M., on Sunday night, about a week after his 97th birthday.

The story about Lynell’s life and death in the Clovis News Journal includes some terrific anecdotes. For example, he tried a case before the U.S. Supreme Court in 1954, and he happened to witness the detonation of the first atomic bomb in 1945.

The paper also noted that he had a habit of offering short answers to most questions. The following Q&A appeared in a 2010 Clovis News Journal story, when he was 95:

• What would you be doing if you weren’t doing your job? “Looking for work.”

• In an alternative life I would have been an … “Ape.”

• Tell us about a happy time. “All the time.”

• What do you envision your life being like in 10 years? “Dead.”

Lynell’s long life made us wonder about the oldest living alumni at Washington and Lee, so we consulted alumni records and discovered that we boast two alumni who are 100 — Paul E. Holbrook, of the Class of 1933, and Herbert Rudlin, of the Class of 1943. Less than two weeks from now, Paul will become the oldest when he turns 101.

The late Dr. Harry Neel of Albert Lea, Minn., had been W&L’s oldest living alumnus when he died in October 2009 at 103.


W&L Sophomore Makes a New Friend Through Little League

His long-term dedication to the Challenger League Program of the Southwest Forsyth Little League in his hometown of Clemmons, N.C., garnered Robert DeLuca, a Washington and Lee sophomore, an invitation to volunteer as an assistant/buddy at this year’s Little League World Series Challenger Exhibition Game in Williamsport, Pa.

Little League Baseball established the Challenger Division in 1989 to allow boys and girls with developmental and physical challenges to enjoy the sport. During the Little League World Series, the Challenger team from Southwest Forsyth played a team from Portsmouth, R.I., representing the more than 30,000 Challenger players and 900 leagues worldwide.

Robert, who has not yet declared a major, is a graduate of Forsyth Country Day. He and his buddy at the August tournament, Challenger player Craig Nelson, met ESPN analyst and former Major League All-Star Nomar Garciaparra during the festivities.


W&L Law Profs Involved in Landmark Mine Company Dissolution Case

A Fairfax County judge issued a stunning decision last Thursday, ordering the dissolution of the Buckingham County holding company that operates Kyanite Mining Corp. Circuit Judge Jane Roush found for the plaintiffs in the case, in which minority shareholders accused the majority shareholders of unfair treatment and misuse of corporate assets.

The law firm of LeCLairRyan represented the plaintiffs in the case. The trial team included W&L professors of practice John Craddock and Michele Burke, as well as alumna Massie Payne Cooper ’11L. In addition, W&L law professor Lyman Johnson served as an expert witness in the case for the plaintiffs.

Started in 1945, the mine is the leading international producer of Kyanite, a mineral used extensively in heat-resistant manufacturing processes. The mine is one of the largest employers in Buckingham County, but the judge’s decision is not expected to affect the mine’s day-to-day operations.

In her decision, Judge Roush rejected the defendant’s argument that it is common practice in Virginia, and thus permissible under Virginia law, for controlling shareholders to reap virtually all of the benefits of ownership of a Virginia closely held corporation while insuring there would be little or no return on investment for the minority shareholders.

“The decision will help bolster minority share investment in Virginia companies because of the protections the decision carries for minority stockholders,” Prof. Johnson told the Richmond Times-Dispatch in an interview following the ruling.

At W&L, Craddock and Burke teach a practicum class on corporate governance and shareholder derivative litigation as part of the law school’s innovative third-year curriculum. During the class, students are immersed in a shareholder derivative litigation as counsel for the shareholder plaintiffs or the officer and director defendants. The students experience the life cycle of the litigation from filing the derivative demand notice and complaint to the resolution of the dispute through mediation.

The third-year curriculum at W&L Law is unique in legal education. The course of study consists entirely of practice-based simulations, real client experiences, and advanced explorations into legal ethics and professionalism. Learn more at law.wlu.edu/thirdyear.


W&L's Kuehner Receives NSF Grant to Research Combustion at Supersonic Speeds

Joel Kuehner, associate professor of physics and engineering at Washington and Lee University, has received a $300,000 grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to continue his research into how two different fluid streams—fuel and air, for example—mix at supersonic speeds.

Kuehner’s research uses a laser technique to measure how the temperature varies as the fluids go through the mixing region, from which he can infer how fuel might mix at supersonic speeds.

Unlike automobile engines where fuel is injected into a stream of stagnant air to achieve combustion, problems arise when the air moving is at supersonic speeds. “Once you get the flow going faster than the speed of sound, it’s not very receptive anymore to being measured,” Kuehner said. “But if we can understand how the two different fluid streams mix, then other people can take that information and maybe make better jet engines that run at supersonic speeds, or make better controls over sound generation in jet engines.”

Kuehner hopes to do for the jet engine what researchers did for the basic internal combustion engine in the 1950s and 1960s. “Car engines were horribly inefficient at that time and a lot of that inefficiency came from not understanding the mixing process. Some of the fuel was going out of the tail pipe because it never mixed, it never burned. So the hope is we can do something similar and make supersonic combustion more efficient. The military and aircraft manufacturers such as Boeing and Airbus would love a better understanding of this,” he said.

He described the current process for fuel combustion in jet engines as both inefficient and ineffective. “As soon as you try to bring air into a jet engine faster than the speed of sound, you have to slow it down to subsonic speed so that you can mix it with the fuel, burn it, and then get it out the back of the engine. Then you have to reaccelerate to supersonic speeds again,” he said. A better understanding of how this mixing works at supersonic speeds could mean that air would not need to be slowed down before it mixes with and burns the fuel.

Another potential application for Kuehner’s research is a reduction in the noise of jet engines on takeoff, since much of that noise is generated by the stream coming out of the back of the jet engine and mixing with the surrounding air. While that would help reduce noise at civilian airports, it would also be of interest to the military. “Once it’s in flight, a jet plane creates a lot of noise and the military is concerned that if someone knows the type of noise a certain plane makes, it’s very easy to track that plane,” said Kuehner.

While there is great interest in the potential of this type of research, Kuehner said that the U.S. military and the NSF had given up trying. “They didn’t want to hear about it anymore,” he said. “So we had to go a non-traditional route to get funding.”

So Kuehner applied for and received a grant from the Thomas F. Jeffress and Kate Miller Jeffress Memorial Trust a few years ago which enabled him to prove that his technique works.

“We made several measurements that indicated how the temperature varied significantly with large fluctuations as the fluids go through the mixing region.” he said. “The Jeffress Memorial Trust grant really set us up to go after the NSF grant. Hopefully, now we’ll be able to say not just that we can make these measurements, but to actually make them, and once we can show our research is reliable it will be easier to get funding.”

With the NSF grant, Kuehner aims to improve the laser technique and apply it to a wider range of conditions, showing how temperature fluctuates in the flow over a range from subsonic to faster than the speed of sound.

The NSF grant will fund three W&L students each summer for the next three years to work with Kuehner on the research. “It will have a great impact,” he said, “and will allow us to expand experiments in the fluids lab as well as the fluids course. We’ll have new equipment that will permit us to do a lot of different research, not just for this project but for other projects as well.”

Kuehner joined Washington and Lee in 2004. He received his B.S. in mechanical engineering from Pennsylvania State University. He received his M.S. and Ph.D. in mechanical engineering from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

News Contact:
Sarah Tschiggfrie
News Director
stschiggfrie@wlu.edu
540-458-8235

C. Westbrook Barritt, Longtime W&L Professor, Dies at 91

Carlyle Westbrook Barritt, Professor of Romance Languages Emeritus at Washington and Lee University, where he taught from 1952 to 1991, died on Sept. 2 in Spartanburg, S.C. He was 91.

A Celebration of the Resurrection will be held at 11:00 a.m. on Friday, Sept. 7, at the Lexington Presbyterian Church, conducted by Dr. William Klein. The family will receive friends after the service in Dunlap Auditorium. Burial in Stonewall Jackson Cemetery will be private.

A native of West Pittston, Pa., Barritt was born on March 31, 1921, to parents who were artists. Belonging to the Boy Scouts and growing up on the Susquehanna River kindled his lifelong love of the outdoors. He was a 1943 alumnus of W&L, where he majored in French and English literature and belonged to Phi Beta Kappa. He volunteered for the Army and received his W&L degree in absentia after being called up in February 1943. He received five Bronze Stars for his military service in Europe.

Barritt taught at his alma mater for a year following the war; he also taught briefly at Emory University and Muhlenberg College. He pursued graduate studies first at Harvard University and then at the University of Virginia, where he earned an M.A. and a Ph.D. in linguistics and belonged to the Raven Society.

Barritt joined the Washington and Lee faculty in 1952 and taught for 39 years. He served as head of the Romance Languages Department during the 1980s and taught Spanish language and literature with a concentration in medieval and Renaissance poetry, fiction and drama. He also served as the University marshal for many years.

“Many of us will remember Westbrook carrying the mace at the head of our academic processions. We also recall his trademark black beret,” said Washington and Lee President Kenneth P. Ruscio. “As a faculty member for nearly four decades, he was highly regarded not only by his students but also by his colleagues and by his many friends in the Lexington community. We send our heartfelt condolences to his family and friends.”

Upon his retirement in 1991, Barritt’s colleagues in Romance Languages recalled his “infectious sense of humor” and his accessibility to students and, indeed, everyone at W&L.  “His door is always open to students, colleagues and to any person within or without the Washington and Lee community who seeks his counsel or help,” the colleagues wrote. “Indeed, his office is not limited to the campus, as those of us who occasionally find him in residence at the Lexington Hardware can testify.”

In addition to numerous book reviews and scholarly papers on language teaching and linguistics, Barritt published a book of poetry, “Scrimshaw and Other Poems,” in 1973. He dedicated the book to his daughter Julie, who died in 1968 at the age of 12 from cystic fibrosis.

Barritt was honored recently when an anonymous donor established at W&L the Carlyle Westbrook Barritt and Sidney J. Williams Jr. Spanish Prize Endowment, a permanently endowed fund to recognize an outstanding rising senior in Spanish.

Barritt and his late wife, Mabel, were devoted to community activities. He was a deacon and elder at the Lexington Presbyterian Church, and active in the Rockbridge Area Habitat for Humanity and Total Action Against Poverty, among other organizations.

Barritt is survived by his daughter Winifred Barritt Walsh, of Spartanburg, S.C., and her husband, William E. Walsh, a 1974 graduate of the W&L School of Law; two grandsons, Westbrook Walsh, and his wife, Elizabeth, of Alexandria, Va., and C. Barritt Walsh, and his wife, Kannika, of Greenville, S.C.;  a great-grandson, William Russell Walsh; a sister, Joan Barritt McDougall, of Tallahassee, Fla.; two nieces; and many, many friends.

In lieu of flowers, the family suggests memorials may be made to the Mabel Barritt Fund, Lexington Presbyterian Church, 120 S. Main St., Lexington, VA 24450.

W&L's Class of 2016 Dives into College Life

Dodging intermittent rain showers courtesy of the remnants of Tropical Storm Isaac, Washington and Lee University’s Class of 2016 officially arrived in Lexington for the annual ritual of unpacking cars and vans, moving into residence hall rooms and adjusting to their new status as college students.

The entering class numbers 479, divided almost equally between men (238) and women (241). They will spend the next five days in an intensive orientation before classes begin on Thursday, Sept. 6.

The orientation is filled with mandatory and voluntary sessions that acquaint the students with their new surroundings. In addition to meeting with the upper-class students who will serve as their resident advisers and with their faculty advisers, they will attend a mandatory, student-led session on the Honor System, a central feature of the University, and learn about W&L’s emphasis on student self-governance. The Academic Fair will acquaint them with different courses, subject disciplines, majors and minors.


• Watch a video with members of the Class of 2016
• See @wlunews Instagram photos.


The Study Abroad session will show students the wide array of opportunities for overseas travel. The Campus Activities Fair will tout the many campus organizations and other extracurricular activities. During a physical education orientation, the students will take the University’s required swim test. There is also a team-building program, Soladis, run by upper-class students to welcome the incoming students.

A Common Book Event will engage the entering students in small-group discussions about the concepts and implications of the book “Stumbling on Happiness,” which W&L asked them to read prior to arriving on campus. Those sessions will be co-led by faculty and staff and resident advisers.

W&L selected the Class of 2016 from a pool of almost 6,000 applicants. The University offered only 19 percent of those applicants a place in this year’s class.

“This class, like others before it, will bring a great deal of energy to the campus,” said William Hartog, dean of admissions and financial aid at Washington and Lee. “We have the kind of geographic diversity to which we’ve become accustomed. We also have the kind of personal diversity that we’ve been hoping to achieve. And we have a class with outstanding academic credentials. We want extraordinary students who provide rich experiences outside the classroom, and I’m confident that this class will be the equal to any class we’ve had at Washington and Lee.”

Members of the class come from 39 states, plus Guam and the District of Columbia, and 14 countries. The top states are Virginia (59), Pennsylvania (37), Texas and New York (31 each), Georgia (27), New Jersey (26), Florida (25), North Carolina (23) and California (22). The top countries are China (5) and Costa Rica (3).

In terms of their academic credentials, 81 percent of the entering class ranks in the top 10 percent of their high school graduating classes, while the average SAT score was just under 1390 on critical reading and math sections.

Almost half of the first-year class (48 percent) has received more than $9.1 million in grant assistance from the University; the average grant for students receiving an institutional award is $39,931. That group includes 41 recipients of a Johnson Scholarship, the University’s prestigious program that recognizes students with exceptional leadership potential, personal promise and academic achievement regardless of their ability to afford tuition and other expenses. This is the fifth class of Johnson Scholars to enroll at W&L since the University received the $100 million gift that established the Johnson Program in Leadership and Integrity.

Children of W&L alumni compose just more than eight percent of the class. More than 22 percent of the class are members of American ethnic or racial minorities, first-generation college students or recipients of Pell Grants.

About half of the students participated in a week-long pre-orientation program, The Leading Edge. Twelve groups backpacked on the Appalachian Trail; six other groups worked on volunteer programs in six different cities; and 12 students were selected for a new Leadership Venture that included on-campus sessions plus a visit to Washington, D.C., where they met with W&L alumni who work in key leadership positions.

The University will celebrate its Fall Convocation on Wednesday, Sept. 5, at 5:30 p.m. when Arthur H. Goldsmith, the Jackson T. Stephens Professor of Economics at W&L, will present the opening address, “Finding Your Path to a Life Well Lived.”

News Contact:
Jeffery G. Hanna
Executive Director of Communications and Public Affairs
jhanna@wlu.edu
(540) 458-8459