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Stories this week at Wake Forest University

February 25, 2009

CONVOCATION ADDRESS TRACES BLACK HISTORY AT WFU – Anthony Parent, professor of history at Wake Forest, will examine black history at Wake Forest since the 1960s at Wake Forest’s 2009 Founders’ Day Convocation ceremony at 4 p.m. Feb. 26 in Wait Chapel.  The event marks the 175th anniversary of the university’s founding.  In his talk titled “Weathering Wake, The African American Experience,” Parent will highlight prominent individuals, pivotal moments, major events and social trends as Wake Forest addressed desegregation.  He will also discuss the success of black students and graduates and their contributions to the university.  The event is free and open to the public.  During convocation, the Medallion of Merit, Wake Forest’s highest award for service to the university, will be presented to Dr. Richard H. Dean and Marvin D. Gentry.  Several annual teaching, research and service awards will also be presented.  New students of national honor societies will be recognized, and special recognitions will pay tribute to Wake Forest’s successful fall athletic programs.

Contact: Pam Barrett, or (336) 758-5237.


WORKSHOP FOCUSES ON STUDENTS’ CULTURAL INTERACTIONS ABROAD According to Steven Duke, director of International Studies at Wake Forest University, in more cases than not, students are unprepared for cultural interactions in overseas study.  “Most students do well with the basic logistical and academic requirements, but they tend to be overconfident in their cultural preparation, including their understanding of local cultures and cultural differences,” said Duke.  In response to this need, Wake Forest’s Center for International Studies will hold its inaugural Workshop on Intercultural Skills Enhancement (WISE) for faculty who teach students abroad on Feb. 27-28 at Graylyn International Conference Center.  Titled “Navigating Study Abroad: Preparing Students Beyond the Classroom,” the workshop is the first of its kind in the nation and will feature 10 sessions with nine experts in international study who will address skills necessary to better prepare students for successful study abroad experiences.  “The need is only growing,” said Duke.  “According to the Institute of International Education’s annual Open Doors surveys, the number of U.S. students studying abroad has increased by over 150 percent in the last decade, and despite the economic downturn, many institutions, including Wake Forest, are seeing strong numbers in study abroad applications.”  Interest in the workshop was so strong that it filled before registration deadline.  More than 55 faculty from schools in Florida, Indiana, New York, North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia are registered.  Session topics are available at  Interviews may be arranged.  Media are welcome to cover portions of the conference. 

Contact: Pam Barrett, or (336) 758-5237.


SCANDALOUS WOMEN AND RELIGIOUS TRADITIONS – The seventh annual Phyllis Trible Lecture Series at Wake Forest will examine the role of women in world religions March 3 - 4 in Brendle Recital Hall at the Scales Fine Arts Center. The lecture series honors Phyllis Trible, an internationally known biblical scholar and member of the founding faculty of the Wake Forest School of Divinity. “This year we’re looking at the history of women in religious traditions, focusing primarily on Christianity, but reaching out to the ancient world, the Middle Ages, the modern and contemporary world,” says Trible. “We hope that it will deepen people’s understanding of the role of women in the world’s religions.” Trible has published groundbreaking feminist works, including “God and the Rhetoric of Sexuality” and “Texts of Terror: Literary-Feminist Readings of Biblical Narrative.” She provided expert commentary for Bill Moyers’ public television series, “Genesis: A Living Conversation.” A full schedule, with information about other presenters at the series, is available online at Trible and other panelists are available for advance interviews.

Contact: Audrey Fannin, or (336) 758-5237.

CLINIC HOSTS ‘ASK A LAWYER’ DAYS – The Wake Forest University Community Law and Business Clinic will host “Ask a Lawyer” days from noon to 3 p.m. March 4 and March 18.  Entrepreneurs, whether nonprofit or for-profit, who lack access to other professional services and are located in the Triad can receive assistance free of charge.  Participants can speak to a third-year Wake Forest School of Law student and receive business consulting.  To schedule an appointment, contact the CL&BC at(336) 631-1953.  For more information, visit

Contact: Lisa Snedeker, or (336)758-5719.

FIZZ AND PHYSICS:  PUB TALK PEERS INSIDE THE HUMAN BODY – Jed Macosko, assistant professor of physics at Wake Forest, will present “The Cell Story:  Take a Virtual Voyage to Discover the Secret World Inside Your Cells” at 6 p.m. March 10 at Foothills Brewing Co., 638 W. Fourth St., in Winston-Salem.  The free presentation features 3-D computer animations depicting what goes on inside the 10 trillion cells in the human body and simple explanations of the work performed by molecular “robots that march along nanoscopic “highways.”  “When people see what’s inside a cell, they can understand what’s going on,” Macosko says.  “In much the same way that Jacques Cousteau showed audiences rarely seen places beneath the sea, computer animations based on accurate scientific data allow us to explore the microscopic world inside our bodies.”  Macosko will also explain how his research in biophysics is helping in the fight against cancer, Alzheimer’s and Lou Gehrig’s disease.  The event is part of the Science Café series, co-sponsored by Reynolda Gardens of Wake Forest University; Sigma Xi, the Scientific Research Society; and SciWorks, the Science Center and Environmental Park of Forsyth County.

Contact: Eric Frazier, or (336) 758-5237.


ARTS AND SCIENCES GET COZY AT CREATIVITY SYMPOSIUM – Leading visionaries and practitioners in the arts, humanities, sciences and business will gather March 18-20 at Wake Forest University for “Creativity: Worlds in the Making.”  Part symposium, part festival of the imagination, the conference combines traditional individual and panel presentations with innovative performances, a gallery exhibition and participatory working sessions, all with an emphasis on crossing disciplinary boundaries to spark innovation.  Featured guests include author and social entrepreneurship advocate David Bornstein; interdisciplinary performance pioneer Meredith Monk; acclaimed scientist, writer and entrepreneur David Edwards; award-winning filmmaker Abigail Child; world-renowned astrophysicist Josh Frieman; and “creative campus” leader Emil Kang.  Individual story ideas abound within the schedule of more than 50 short sessions packed into the conference.  Examples of sessions with direct relevance to the Piedmont Triad include “The Arts as a Tool for Community Involvement,” featuring four Piedmont Triad community arts professionals; “The Piedmont Triad Creative Economy:  A Center of Excellence in Design,” featuring Margaret Collins, director of creative enterprises and the arts for the Piedmont Triad Partnership; and “Building Blocks:  Four Anxious and Undisciplined Hybrids Consider Creativity,” featuring academic professionals and practicing artists from the University of North Carolina School of the Arts.

Contact: Eric Frazier, or (336) 758-5237.


IDENTIFYING SPACE DEBRIS FROM SATELLITE COLLISION – The challenge of getting a clear image of objects in space in order to identify them and understand their origin has been a lifelong interest for Robert Plemmons, Z. Smith Reynolds Professor of Computer Science and Mathematics at Wake Forest University. Plemmons has been pursuing this challenge since 1983 with funding from the Air Force Office of Scientific Research. One big problem, he says, is getting a clear image of space objects through the turbulence of the Earth’s atmosphere. Using a variety of imaging systems and computer algorithms, Plemmons is able to identify the composition of a tiny piece of debris in space and what it came from using information as small as a single pixel of information. His ongoing work is also funded by U.S. intelligence agencies, and is being used by Air Force and NASA specialists following the debris clouds caused by the recent collision of two satellites. Plemmons is available to discuss how his research fits into the larger picture of identifying space objects, how his work is helping the specialists identify and track space objects and the computational methods he uses to identify individual space objects.

Contact: Audrey Fannin, or (336) 758-5237.


HISTORIAN CHALLENGES POPULAR VIEW OF LINCOLN – Is the popular notion of Abraham Lincoln as the Great Emancipator—a civil rights champion 200 years ahead of his time—historically accurate, or was the real man inextricably a product of the culture, politics and realities of his day?  Paul Escott, Reynolds Professor of American History at Wake Forest University, challenges romanticized, out-of-context views of Lincoln in his new book, “‘What Shall We Do with the Negro?’ Lincoln, White Racism, and Civil War America.”  The book, which takes its title from a headline that appeared in The New York Times in 1862, is published by the University of Virginia Press.  “A more accurate portrait shows a president who placed a higher priority on reunion than emancipation, who showed an enduring respect for states’ rights, who assumed that the social status of African Americans would change very slowly, and who offered major incentives to white Southerners at the expense of blacks,” Escott says.  “He was progressive in his day, but not a 21st century egalitarian.  One of the things I try to show by analyzing his policies is that he was more concerned about preserving the Union and being conciliatory toward Southern whites than about improving the social status of black Americans.”  Escott has taught Civil War and Reconstruction history for 34 years and is the author or editor of 13 books.  He is available to discuss the ideas in his book, as well as the frequent references to Lincoln that have appeared in the popular media during Barack Obama’s presidential campaign and the run-up to the 200th anniversary of Lincoln’s birthday.

Contact: Eric Frazier, or (336) 758-5237.


WFU PROFESSOR APPOINTED PRESIDENTIAL ADVISOR – Melissa Rogers, director of the Center for Religious and Public Affairs at the Wake Forest University School of Divinity, has been appointed to the President’s Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. Rogers has spent many years working on constitutional issues surrounding the separation of church and state, and has been active in discussions about religion’s role in policy and public life. “The government should not subsidize or promote religious activities,” she says, “but it should subsidize and promote programs that feed the hungry and help people move from welfare to work, for example.” In December, Rogers and E.J. Dionne, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, issued a report calling on the new president to welcome partnerships with religious as well as secular organizations and to increase funding for programs that work, but listed many recommendations for reforming these partnerships. Rogers is available for interviews. She is based in Washington, D.C.

Contact: Audrey Fannin, or (336) 758-5237.


WHAT MAKES TEENAGERS MORE RESPONSIBLE? – Programs for youth that include boring or difficult tasks are more likely to develop responsibility in teenagers than those that are all fun and games, according to a study of youth programs and responsibility by Dustin Wood, assistant professor of psychology.  The study appears in the January/February issue of the journal Child Development.  “Some programs for young people probably focus so much on entertaining members that they shy away from the activities that are most likely to help members become more responsible,” Wood said. “Our research is a reminder that getting youth to do hard work for a purpose is a key to moving them toward becoming responsible adults.”  He and his colleagues surveyed 107 high school students in 11 extracurricular programs. The programs included 4-H and FFA chapters, a high school production of “Les Miserables,” a community-based youth activist group, a school-based media arts training program and a variety of other school and community groups.

Contact:  Cheryl Walker, or (336) 758-5237.

EXPERT SAYS ‘SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE’ BORROWS FROM BOLLYWOOD Ananda Mitra, professor and chair of communication at Wake Forest, can comment on the Academy Award-winning film “Slumdog Millionaire” and how it has visualized India.  Mitra, the author of the book “India Through the Western Lens,” which explores how Indians have been represented in more than 60 films during the past several decades.  In the book, he also examines how Indian immigrants are viewed in the West today and looks at the role films play in shaping public attitudes. “In keeping with the tradition of telling tales about India, from the days of ‘Gunga Din’ to the ‘City of Joy,’ Danny Boyle and Loveleen Tandon have again successfully mythologized the brown-skinned child as the source of inspiration for people sitting in plush multiplexes of America and lamenting the condition of the downtrodden on the other side of the world,” said Mitra. “The directors have updated the surface content of the movie to include the changes that have happened in India since the making of the very similar ‘City of Joy,’ but it falls into the same genre of movies that have exemplified Hollywood’s look at India.”  Originally from India, Mitra has written extensively about Indian culture and is the author of several articles on Bollywood.  “The booming Bollywood film industry has directly influenced the aesthetics of ‘Slumdog’.  The famous Bollywood movies of the 1970s almost always included the ‘running children trying to get away from evil by jumping on a train, getting separated, and then living their life trying to find the lost one’ theme.  Films like ‘Yadon Ki Barat’ (1973) exemplified this theme that ‘Slumdog’ packages for the 2009 audience.”

Contact: Cheryl Walker, or (336) 758-5237.

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