Bringing Families Together, One Conversation—and Super Bowl Commercial—at a Time

JSarrouf_2012_07_18_03_21_51Sunday’s Super Bowl commercials won’t just be featuring the usual chips and beer promotions. This year’s will include a new Cheerios commercial with a family at the breakfast table, part of a national campaign to promote family mealtime conversations that John Sarrouf, adjunct professor of communication arts and sociology, is behind. Sarrouf, director of The Family Dinner Project, a non-profit organization and grass roots movement that promotes “food, fun and conversation about things that matter,” said that the General Mills Company recognized their work and initiated the partnership.

“At The Family Dinner Project, we’ve traveled the country talking with parents about the importance of mealtime in helping families stay connected—and about its many physical, academic and emotional benefits for children,” he said. “When Cheerios reached out in support of our mission to connect families through food, fun and conversation about things that matter, we were thrilled.”

Sarrouf, who teaches screenwriting as well as peace and conflict studies, wrote the script— is featured in—a COMMERCIAL for the Family Dinner Project that is being aired on regional television. National Public Radio also featured Sarrouf and the Family Dinner Project in a story on today’s Morning Edition, which can be heard HERE.

New Frontiers: Faculty Expand Their Influence

Gordon has long recognized the impact and influence of its professors beyond the classroom and into the broader academic landscape. Recently, four professors took on new opportunities.

While on sabbatical this semester, Tim Sherratt, professor of political science, was named as a Fellow at the Center for Public Justice in Washington, D.C. His role there will be to continue writing and creating interactive content about the political values of the CPJ.  According to the CPJ announcement, “The primary project Sherratt will complete as a CPJ Fellow first will engage local congregations—particularly those who say they don’t have a reason to have a Christian perspective on politics—to generate questions.”

Though she’s also on sabbatical, Janis Flint-Ferguson, professor of Education and English, has been invited to speak at the national convention for the National Council of Teachers of English on Nov. 23. Building on the conference theme of “Re-inventing the Future of English,” Flint-Ferguson‘s talk address the integration of ELA and history using genres to teach reading and writing in middle school.

Patricia Anders, part-time instructor in the Department of English Language and Literature, is now an associate editor at Hendrickson Publishers. One of her roles will be acquiring new titles for the Hendrickson list, and she hopes to guide faculty with appropriate book proposal. (A Gordon alumna who works at Hendrickson Publishers wrote the press release on Anders’ new role.)

John Sarrouf, adjunct professor of Peace and Conflict Studies as well as communication arts, directs The Family Dinner Project for The Public Conversations Project, a local non profit grassroots movement of food, fun and conversation. He was recently invited to pen the organization’s most recent family blog post, “Don’t Yuck on my Yam: A Mantra for the Table and Beyond.”

Gordon Scholars Explore: Rejection and Cinema, Values and Mentoring

Around the world and across the Internet, Gordon professors continue to offer their expertise and scholarship for the greater good. Here are more examples of recent contributions from Gordon faculty at the start of a new academic year:

Jonathan Gerber, associate professor of psychology, continues his scholarship on rejection with an article in The Journal of Social Psychology on, “Clarifying the Relationship Between Ostracism and Relational Devaluation,” which recently went online.  In it Gerber and co-author, Ladd Wheeler, examine “how three perspectives on relational devaluation relate to needs that threat following ostracism. In two experiments with 179 first-year psychology students, distress was greatest when participants were ostracized without any prior throws, and distress decreased linearly with increasing prior inclusion.”

In this month’s print and online edition of Texas Monthly Magazine, filmmaker and communication arts assistant professor, Toddy Burton, offered her expertise in an article exploring Christians in cinema. The story is entitled, “Americas Next Top Mogul: Why Rick Santorum Decided to Leave Politics (for now) and Become the CEO of a Texas-based Christian Film Studio,” and Burton is quoted about the growing number of filmmakers who are also Christians who “understand the rigor of doing (film) well.”

Bert Hodges, professor of psychology, just returned from a symposium at the University of Southern Denmark (Odense, DK), entitled “Values and Systems in Interactivity, Language and Cognition,” which brought together scholars from Denmark, Poland, Russia, England, and Sweden,  around his work on values-realizing theory (Hodges, 2007, 2009; Hodges & Baron, 1992). Each speaker described his or her own theoretical or empirical work and related it to values-realizing theory. Hodges also presented a paper, “Breaking the symmetry: Realizing values in remembering, trusting, and learning,” and held a one-day workshop before the symposium on values-realizing theory for faculty and advanced graduate students at the university.

At the Dallas Institute of Humanities and Culture, Dan Russ, academic dean and professor of English, recently gave a key note address at a two day gathering called, “The Education Forum: What is a Teacher?” His talk, “The Gift of Blind Hope: The Teacher as Seer”—which was an excerpt from a book chapter he wrote of the same name and around the same question of what is a teacher—focused on the story of Athena’s guiding young Telemachus in the guise of a king Mentor, the origin of our word mentoring.

Six Faculty + Summer Grants = Interesting Scholarship, Part III

Each summer at Gordon, the Provost’s Office invites applications for small grants that Faculty can use toward ongoing research and scholarship in between academic years. This summer, six were awarded stipends, ranging in projects from screenwriting and data reviews to humanitarian logistics and fiction writing. Here are profiles of the final two recipients: (Read about the others HERE)

In between travel to scout locations and research, Toddy Burton, assistant professor of communication arts, has been completing a feature screenplay for a spring 2014 production that coincides with her sabbatical then.  In addition to her other scholarship and award winning films, Burton’s current project will explore the genres of drama and comedy. Here’s how she described her creative process for the development grant:The undertaking will involve revising different projects I have been developing, resulting in selection of the script that I will then lock into a production-ready draft. Work will include writing, soliciting feedback and launching of pre-production strategies. Additionally, I am overseeing an independent study this semester (with a film student) to shoot a short based on one of the feature ideas. The resulting film will used in fundraising efforts for the feature. Some of the work this summer will involve completing post-production and distribution on that short film.”

Kaye Cook, professor of psychology, has been continuing her scholarship on, “Teaching Integration, and Understanding Alumni Views of God.”  For her two-part summer project, Cook has been preparing an article for a special edition of the Journal of Psychology and Theology on faith-learning integration in developmental psychology, co-authoring it with Kathleen Leonard (University of Massachusetts—Lowell, Gordon graduate). Their goals are to summarize contemporary perspectives, teaching strategies, and scholarly resources, and to develop materials and propose creative pedagogical strategies for use in the field. Some of Cook’s students are helping with the review of current material. 

Here’s what Cook wrote on the second part of her project: “I have the transcriptions of 120 interviews with Gordon alumni, which current students and I will code for alumni views of God. After a review of the data, I believe they will challenge Chris Smiths’ well-respected description of emerging adult religiosity as marked by MTD (moralistic, therapeutic, deism). MTD refers to a belief in God that God is moralistic (i.e., the source of morals), therapeutic i.e., God is primarily a problem-solver), and deistic (i.e., God as distant and uninvolved in everyday lives). I expect to prepare a publishable manuscript of these data for a peer-reviewed journal and/or write it into a chapter I write on ‘Spiritual Formation in Emerging Adulthood’ this fall.”

Six Faculty + Summer Grants = Interesting Scholarship, Part II

Each summer at Gordon, the Provost’s Office invites applications for small grants that Faculty can use toward ongoing research and scholarship in between academic years. This summer, six were awarded stipends, ranging in projects from screenwriting and data reviews to humanitarian logistics and fiction writing. Here are two more recipients, with others to follow:

Mike Veatch, chair and professor of mathematics and computer science, writes about his project entitled: “Airport/Port Congestion During Relief Operations”: “Humanitarian logistics, which concerns the acquisition and delivery of material, is receiving increased attention from aid agencies and academics. Although similar to commercial and military supply chains in their core IT and transportation technologies, humanitarian operations have unique timing, goals, and human factors. This project addresses an aspect of humanitarian logistics that has not received much attention: scheduling an airport or seaport after a disaster. Mathematical models and data from Port-au-Prince airport after the Haiti earthquake are used to test innovative scheduling strategies to allow more aid to be delivered. One or two papers will be submitted to logistics journals.”

Valerie Gin, 2013 distinguished faculty, chair and professor of recreation and leisure studies, and Jo Kadlecek, senior writer and journalist in residence, are co-authoring a novel (tentatively) titled, “When Girls Became Lions.” Here’s their abstract of the story: “A work of contemporary fiction, When Girls Became Lions celebrates the power of women’s friendships against the backdrop of Title IX. Through alternating view points and parallel stories, the novel follows a young woman soccer coach/high school teacher in 2008—herself an ‘entitled’ beneficiary of Title IX—as she discovers the history of her school’s first girls soccer coach, his state championship team, and their corporate legacy. The more she learns what the inaugural team endured just to compete, the more her own perspectives are challenged. The novel’s climax publically honors those first players, who had never received recognition.”

Oscar Season: Talking About the Movies Everyone’s Talking About

Rini Cobbey, one of Gordon’s resident film critics

By Rini Cobbey, associate professor of communication arts

With the Golden Globes over, 2013’s “award show season” is official, culminating in the Oscars on February 24. Entertainment awards matter. The Academy Awards matter in particular, despite the often awkward show itself, because they reflect what our mass entertainers present as “excellent entertainment,” in all the complexities of both those terms. The nominated movies don’t always make the most money, so they don’t reflect the “people’s choice” —although social media certainly brings us critics populous out in force; indeed, here I go.

This year the Academy nominated nine films in the Best Picture category. As of this writing, I’ve seen seven. One of the remaining two (Amour) hasn’t yet been screened near me, and the other I’ll see later this week, but am not afraid to offer my opinion on it pre-viewing! As a film professor, I try to see every nominated film in the top categories by Oscar night. But, should you? With just a few weeks remaining, you may need to make some choices.

After all, movies offer us many different experiences: we’re entertained, persuaded, challenged, and connected. Do you want to see the movie everyone’s going to be talking about? Or a movie that will amuse you, make you—for a while at least—feel more happy or excited than usual? Do you want to see a movie that will teach you something new, or provoke you to think or act in more enlightened ways? Or perhaps you’re looking for something well-crafted, in sound, story, composition, and movement, aesthetically excellent as a whole?

The most flat-out entertaining film of the lot is . . . Continue reading

Film Review: Getting Out the Vote in “Secret Ballot”

Resident film critic Rini Cobbey, associate professor of communication arts, continues her series of reviews for the “Elections and Presidents” Faculty Film Series.

Waiting for the Vote: Secret Ballot

By Rini Cobbey

This whole democracy business can get a little absurd . . . frustrating . . . bureaucratic . . . quixotic . . . but as Prof. Paul Brink noted Monday, Oct. 8 at a Faculty Film Series screening of the 2001 Iranian film Secret Ballot, it beats the alternatives.

Secret Ballot is the second feature film of Iranian Canadian filmmaker Babak Payami. It portrays a day in the life of an election agent collecting votes on a remote Iranian island, accompanied by her assigned military escort. Not unlike in our own culture, some players in this story are eager to participate in the electoral process, some actively resist. Some are informed; most are not. There’s idealism and apathy, progress and, yet, more of the same stuff conserved.

After arriving by boat first thing in the morning, the agent and her army companion roam around the island he’s assigned to guard, in an unreliable old jeep with a map that rarely proves relevant. One of the pair’s first encounters is with a man who runs away from the approaching jeep, and so they take up the chase. Here is a man, and here is the visiting agent. It’s election day. His vote must be collected! Jeep wins out over feet in a chase, and after the man catches his breath and there’s a requisite (!) exchange over why he ran – and why they chased, in an army vehicle, with a gun – he offers his identification card, the agent provides instructions, and his vote is deposited in the ballot box that arrived, that morning, by parachute from a passing plane. He walks away. They drive on, eyes peeled for more people to enfranchise. Continue reading

On Journalism and Being a Neighbor

With so many people coming and going in our culture and lives, what exactly does it mean any more to be a neighbor? Jo Kadlecek, senior writer and journalist in residence, writes in the local Salem News about her New England neighbor, whose personal milestone of turning 95 years old, is newsworthy in itself.

“New England neighborliness and the Lady at Number Nine”

By Jo Kadlecek, Senior Writer and Journalist in Residence

About seven years ago, as my husband and I were preparing to move to the North Shore so I could take a job at Gordon College, we were duly warned: New Englanders are chilly people. Don’t expect to fit right in, folks told us, raising their eyebrows. And do not expect to get to know your neighbors. It won’t happen. There’s a reason, the charges went, that the stereotype of cold Northerners exists.

But stereotypes are almost always based on ignorance or a solitary experience gone bad. They are not to be trusted, I have learned.

Read the rest of this article >>

Film Review: When Women First Got Out the Vote

As today’s presidential candidates work hard to earn the much coveted women’s vote, one recent HBO movie told the story of how women got it in the first place. Here, Rini Cobbey, associate professor of communication arts and one of Gordon’s resident film critics, reviews Iron Jawed Angels, a contemporary dramatization of the final years in the U.S. women’s suffrage movement (starring Hilary Swank), and the first film in the fall Faculty Film Series around the theme, Elections and Presidents. It screened Sept. 10 at 7 p.m. in the Barrington Cinema to a packed house; up next in the series, Secret Ballot, Oct. 8.

“No Delusions”: Iron Jawed Angels

By Rini Cobbey, associate professor of communication arts

“I have no delusions,” Alice Paul claims in Iron Jawed Angels. Women voting will neither perfect politics nor cause chaos – because we are neither detrimentally different intellectually, nor a morally superior sex. We are adult citizens who for the simple sake of self-representation should be allowed to vote.

This seems obvious enough, but the inarguable bears re-presenting in historical context sometimes, against the relief of familiarity and relative ease.

In the Barrington Cinema Monday night Sept. 10, 2012, our Fall 2012 Faculty Film Series panel and a full audience agreed: what the 2004 HBO film Iron Jawed Angels gets right is retelling a forgotten reality, through highlighting the complexity of motivations and costs involved in uniting for a single goal. Representing varied socioeconomic situations, competing perspectives on the roles of women, and diverse political priorities, ultimately thousands of suffragists working for over half a century succeeded in gaining female U.S. citizens the constitutional right to vote.

This singular goal in the midst of a messy mix of people and a painful process is mirrored by the movie itself. The film is a little confused in its style and treatment of historic individuals and situations, but its driving purpose and achievement are undeniable. A contemporary film about an important historical development isn’t necessarily going to be the most cohesive, transformative piece of art and more than a woman voting necessarily redeems government. But it merits attention and is effective in achieving its potential to inform and evoke empathy.

Iron Jawed Angels follows the story of young leaders in the final years of the women’s suffrage movement in the U.S. It begins in 1912, exposing infighting amongst women and democrats, a constituency and political party otherwise perhaps assumed to be consistently aligned with progressive social values. Suffragette Alice Paul (Hilary Swank) leads a surrounding cast of activists in escalating social agitation. Manipulating media and political systems – all while wrestling with relationship drama on every level – our heroes change laws as well as, apparently, hearts and minds, from prison guards to husbands, sons, friends, and the president.

Continue reading

Film Review: “The Campaign” as Election Fodder?

In case the national Republican and Democratic conventions haven’t provided enough entertainment or inspiration lately, the new Will Ferrell movie, The Campaign, opened in theaters last week. But Rini Cobbey, associate professor of communication arts and one of Gordon’s resident film critics, has her doubts about this one. Read her latest movie review below. Next week Cobbey will review Iron Jawed Angels, a contemporary dramatization of the final years in the U.S. women’s suffrage movement, and the first film in the fall Faculty Film Series around the theme, Elections and Presidents. It’ll screen Sept. 10 at 7 p.m. in the Barrington Cinema.

The Campaign: “How’s My Hair?”

By Rini Cobbey, associate professor of communication arts

Love it or hate it.

There. Now that I’m done with my review of the new movie, The Campaign, I shall move on to some more interesting business at hand.

Oh, sorry. You were expecting more? Really, don’t.

The Campaign, in theatres now, is a Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis comedy directed by Jay Roach. If you’ve seen almost any Roach directed (Austin Powers, Meet the Parents), or Ferrell (Anchor Man, Talladega Nights) or Galifianakis (The Hangover, Due Date) acted movies, you have a good idea of what to expect from this over-the-top, crass, stereotype- and cliché-driven story of a couple of sometimes sort of well-meaning doofuses running against each other and the system for congress.

Roach, Ferrell, and Galifianakis are each talented and successful moviemakers and performers, capable of nuanced, thoughtful, and, I would argue, culturally valuable work (see, just for one example apiece, Recount, Stranger Than Fiction, It’s a Funny Kind of Story). The Campaign is not one such product.

The story follows incumbent North Carolinian congressman Cam Brady (Ferrell) as he faces a series of scandals jeopardizing his run for reelection. Enter Marty Huggins (Galifianakis), conservative, naïve, and awkwardly lovable pawn in billionaire businessmen the Motch brothers’ (John Lithgow and Dan Ackroyd) plot to manipulate government regulations. The two campaigns one-up each other with increasing horribleness (and success) in their bids to win. Continue reading