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Stories this week at Wake Forest University


July 16, 2009

Twenty-eight high school students from the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians will spend three and a half days at Wake Forest preparing for college in the context of Cherokee culture, values, history and community during the College Careers and Technology program July 19-22. During the program, the students will learn how to use technology-based research tools and develop problem-solving research skills in the sciences. Case studies will involve researching American Indian role models and how American Indians used plants, among other topics. The program is a collaboration among the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, the Wake Forest University School of Medicine’s Center of Excellence for Research, Teaching and Learning (CERTL) and the Religion and Public Engagement initiative through Wake Forest’s religion department with support from American Ethnic Studies.

Contact: Audrey Fannin, fannin@wfu.edu or (336) 758-5237.

BUILDING FAMILY CONNECTIONS THROUGH A SERVICE LEARNING TRIP TO VIETNAM – Fourteen Wake Forest students will travel to Vietnam and Cambodia July 20-Aug. 15 as part of an annual service learning trip which combines cultural immersion and intensive study with a service project. The students will explore political economics and entrepreneurship within the communist political system of Vietnam. They will spend several days helping refurbish a schoolhouse in Kien Giang, as well as tour historic and cultural sites in Vietnam and Cambodia. Callistus Nguyen, a junior majoring in physics, will meet his Vietnamese extended family for the first time during the trip. His father served in the South Vietnamese navy. Kyle Bridges, a senior majoring in history, will be traveling to Vietnam as a student almost 40 years to the day after  his father went as a there as a soldier. “The Vietnam War has always been a very real thing in our family,” says Bridges, who will be working in the same region where his father served during the war. Peter Siavelis, associate professor of political science, and Betsy Gatewood, director of the University Office of Entrepreneurship, are teaching intensive courses in political economy and foundations of entrepreneurship as part of this service learning trip. Mary Gerardy, dean of campus life and associate vice president for student life, organizes the annual trip through the Pro Humanitate Center at Wake Forest.

Contact: Audrey Fannin, fannin@wfu.edu or (336) 758-5237.

POLITICAL THEATRE OF SUPREME COURT HEARINGS EXPLAINED – Katy Harriger, professor and chair of the political science department at Wake Forest, is available to help decode the political theatre unfolding now that the curtain is raised on the Supreme Court hearings for Judge Sonia Sotomayor. “With each nominee the issues get framed somewhat differently,” she says. “I wouldn’t say that the Democrats have one approach and the Republicans another, it really depends on the political context at the time.” As Sotomayor would be the first Hispanic appointed to the high court, if confirmed, many senators are seeking to determine if she would bring a racial bias to the court. Harriger says the notion of a completely unbiased judge is a strange concept. “Clearly, judges have at the very least an ideological bias one way or the other,” she says. “Presidents know that and they pick them for that reason.” Harriger calls the hearings political theatre because the senators’ speeches are not necessarily aimed at Sotomayor or even the audience in the hearing room, but for their constituents back home. A Senate vote on Sotomayor’s confirmation is expected before the Aug. 7 recess.

Contact: Audrey Fannin, fannin@wfu.edu or (336) 758-5237.

PREDICTING THE EXTINCTION OF PLANTS IN THE AMAZON – As many as 4,550 of the more than 50,000 plant species in the Amazon will likely disappear because of land-use changes and habitat loss within the next 40 years, according to a new study by two Wake Forest researchers.  The study appears in the current issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and is co-authored by Kenneth Feeley, post-doctoral research fellow, and Miles Silman, associate professor of biology at Wake Forest.  “We predict that 5 to 9 percent of the trees and other plant species studied here will become extinct by 2050 as more land is used to raise crops and livestock and habitat is lost,” Feeley says.   The researchers examined several hundred thousand individual plant records to map the distributions of more than 40,000 species found in the Amazon.  Using these maps in conjunction with predictions of future deforestation and land-use change, they estimate habitat loss and extinction risks individually for nearly 80 percent of all Amazonian plant species—something that has never been done.  The current study provides detailed information that can be used to target conservation action toward individual species that are at high risk of extinction or at specific areas that are especially important to preservation of diversity.

Contact:  Cheryl Walker, walkercv@wfu.edu or (336) 758-5237.

PROFESSOR TO RUN IN SOLIDARITY WITH APACHES - Wake Forest has developed an ongoing relationship with the San Carlos Apache Reservation in Arizona through the annual Feather and Stone Exchange. Steve Boyd, professor and chair of Wake Forest’s religion department, organized the exchange and frequently participates in activities with the tribe. On July 23, Boyd will participate in the Mount Graham Sacred Run, which he describes as part spiritual discipline, part political theater, part cultural recovery and part legal action. “Runners go through a purification ritual and sweat lodge prior to running,” he says. “A sacred staff, blessed by tribal medicine men, is carried from the starting point to Mount Graham, where a ceremony takes place and a group climbs to the top of the mountain to obtain water to be used in ceremonies from a spring considered holy.” Mount Graham was originally part of the San Carlos Reservation, but was separated from the reservation and control of the peak has been given to the University of Arizona for an observatory. Boyd says that as a result, the Apache must apply for a permit from the federal government to reach their most sacred site. This will be Boyd’s seventh run. “The Run is powerful, strenuous, fun, healing and magical. Through my experiences in San Carlos, I have learned that each and every one of us— no matter how different we may be— is necessary for the well-being of everyone else.”  Boyd is currently helping the San Carlos Apache in their efforts to prevent the federal government from giving away yet another portion of their traditional lands, this time to a British copper mining company.

Contact: Audrey Fannin, fannin@wfu.edu or (336) 758-5237.

ECONOMIC EXCESS: THE MORAL BASIS FOR FINANCIAL REGULATION ­– When Don Frey, professor of economics at Wake Forest, tells people his research specialty is American economic morality, a common response is, “Isn’t that an oxymoron?”  But while many assume the excesses exposed by the financial crisis are divorced from ethics, Frey says such economic behavior has long been endorsed by a morality of its own.  In his recent book, “America’s Economic Moralists:  A History of Rival Ethics and Economics,” he traces from Colonial times the competition between “autonomy morality,” which makes freedom to pursue individual self-interest its paramount value, and “relational morality,” which places economic rights, as well as obligations, within the context of the common good.  “Economic reforms will certainly come in the aftermath of the current disaster, which began as inevitable excesses in the unregulated financial sector and has now spilled into the real economy,” Frey says. “However, just as many New Deal reforms have been swept away in recent years, any new reforms will eventually be swept away unless the old economic morality of autonomy is confronted, its appalling values exposed, and its dominance among those with economic power replaced by a morality centered on human commonality and responsibility.”  Frey is available to discuss the ideas in his book and their implications for the debate over re-regulating the financial sector.

Contact: Eric Frazier, frazieef@wfu.edu or (336) 758-5237.


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