Voting and Coolness, Lectures and Leadership

Faculty contributions beyond the classroom have been many during the past few weeks. Here’s a sampling:

On election day, Paul Brink, associate professor of political science, was a featured guest on the “John Hall and Kathy Eamons Show” at 5 o’clock p.m. for the Salem Network Radio affiliate in Pittsburgh, PA, to discuss a Christian approach to voting.

Jonathan Gerber, assistant professor of psychology, published the results of his study, “Measuring the existence of cool using an extended Social Relations Model” in the current edition of peer reviewed online journal Psychnology. Gerber was also recently interviewed about his study by a reporter for the Boston Globe for a story that was published in the print and online editions, Thursday, Nov. 8.

Judith Oleson, associate professor of social work, has been asked to lead a pre-conference session at the American Academy of Religion’s Annual meeting Nov. 16th in Chicago for evangelical theologians/scholars involved in the Postcolonial Theological Network. The session entitled, “Enhancing and Equalizing the Roundtable in Postcolonial Theological Dialogue” will explore themes such as the power of dialogue, and power dynamics within dialogue across culture, traditions and historical contexts.

Dwight Tshudy, associate professor of chemistry, was the invited speaker for the Fourth Annual Sigma Xi (Northshore chapter) Lecture in October. Dwight’s lecture on green chemistry and sustainability was delivered to an audience of students and faculty from Endicott College, Gordon College and Salem State University.

Peter Iltis, professor of kinesiology and horn, gave a talk entitled, “Musician’s Dystonia: What do we know, and what can be done?” on October 24th at the New England Conservatory. Attendees included students, faculty, several clinicians and medical people who work with dystonia patients, and at least one patient suffering from dystonia as a violinist.

During the last weekend of October, Joel Boyd, associate professor of chemistry, lead a group of nine students to Boston’s Museum of Science where they facilitated the museum’s outreach activities. The Museum’s annual event during National Chemistry Week brings hundreds of visitors to participate in hands-on activities.

Sean Clark, associate professor of  kinesiology, gave a lecture entitled, “Exercises for Balance and Mobility: From Fitness to Fall-Prevention” at the Massachusetts Clinical Exercise Physiologist 2012 fall meeting. Clark’s talk included a practical, learning by doing component where attendees performed various progressive exercises similar to those in our program at the Center for Balance, Mobility and Wellness.

Center for Balance, Mobility and Wellness Strengthens the Community . . . in More Ways than One

Sean Clark, far right, with a member and students at the Center for Balance, Mobility and Wellness.

What began ten years ago as a great idea to restore and maintain health for older adults has grown into an effective clinic that reaches the North Shore and merges scholarship with practice. Directed by Sean Clark, associate professor of kinesiology and chair of the department, the Center for Balance,Mobility and Wellness is located adjacent to Gordon’s Brigham Athletic Complex, and “offers clinical, academic and research expertise in treating individuals with neurological, vestibular (inner ear) and gait and balance disorders” as well as promoting healthy, active aging.

Clark’s research interests include balance assessment tools in athletes and older adults as well as effective treatment strategies to improve functional balance performance in older adults. Working with the community at the Center, he said, provides great opportunities both for students interested in kinesiology and for members who want to maintain or improve their physical condition.  Here’s some of the most recent data from Clark about the Center:

Scholarship in Action: The Center for Balance, Mobility and Wellness

By Sean Clark

The Center is a busy place. In terms of outpatient physical therapy, just in the 2011 calendar year, we’ve had over 750 new evaluations and over 5,000 patient visits. From January 2009 through May 2012, we gave 2,500 new evaluations and saw over 17,000 patient visits.  The word’s getting out within the medical community—over 400 physicians have referred and 150 regularly refer their patients to the Center. We’ve also seen a growing number of physicians from Boston, including MGH and MEEI (Mass Eye and Ear) who regard the Center as the preferred place to send their North Shore patients. This is especially true for neurologists and some PCPs, and even BU’s Medical Center views the Center as the preferred site for individuals with Parkinson’s disease.

Most patients are from towns throughout the North Shore, but they also come from as far away as Chelsea, Revere, Saugus to our south, Reading, Lynnfield, Woburn to our west, and Haverhill, Amesbury, Andover to our north, with occasional visitors from Maine and New Hampshire. And we’re beginning an exciting partnership right now with a local family physician who is also a Gordon alumni and a board certified sports & exercise medicine specialist to develop a post-concussion rehabilitation protocol.  (Details to come!)

The Center, though, also helps older adults maintain their health and wellness. Continue reading

Summer Scholar: The Muscles of Music Performance

Peter Iltis, second from left, with Jeff Nelson, second from right, and colleagues at the Fearless Performance Advisory Group in July.

Editor’s note: This is part of a series of stories exploring what Gordon professors are up to in between semesters.

Most people might not think about the intricate muscles around a musician’s mouth as he or she plays the trumpet or French horn. But when those muscles—known as the embouchure—aren’t working the way they’re supposed to, well, suddenly music takes on a scientific and medical dimension.

Enter Peter W. Iltis, professor of kinesiology and horn, who in February 2012 published an article on music performance anxiety for the journal of the International Horn Society (IHS). Based on research he’s done over the past several years around movement and muscle disorders in musicians, Iltis (who is also the medical and scientific editor for IHS’s The Horn Call) connected his findings to the level of anxiety musicians often face when they perform. The result?  Iltis got a call from world renowned horn player and ‘fearless’ performance coach, Jeff Nelsen, who is also a full professor at the prestigious Jacob School of Music at Indiana University and speaker at the TED Talks in July 2011.

Nelson read  Iltis‘s article, invited him to Indiana for a week in July, and the two—along with a select group of colleagues—discussed how they might work together, bringing science to the art of musical performance. Now  Iltis will serve as a consultant to Nelson for future coaching sessions, a video series and possible workshops. Below is the article he wrote for the February 2012 edition of The Horn Call:

Music Performance Anxiety: The Science behind the Problem”

By Peter W. Iltis

Many musicians struggle with music performance anxiety (MPA), including horn players.  Through the years in The Horn Call, we have heard from many professionals about their own individual approaches to dealing with it.  However, a review of the scientific literature on this topic has not been published in our journal to date. In her recent review of psychological approaches for treating MPA, Dr. Julie Nagel [1]observes that organic medical conditions and the symptoms they evoke may be exacerbated by psychological factors, complicating both treatment and recovery.  She suggests that therapeutic strategies for treating many disorders require acknowledging this, and developing a more holistic approach that includes psychological approaches.  While my focus in this article is on MPA itself, in a recent article on embouchure dystonia, I commented on its apparent association with anxiety.  Though the scientific community is reticent to attribute anxiety as a cause for dystonia, the association has been made [2, 3], and an understanding of factors related to and methods for dealing with MPA is warranted.  It is beyond the scope of this article to fully explore the anxiety/dystonia connection.  However, examining MPA separately has application for all musicians.  This article describes the nature of MPA, and examines samplings from the current literature to provide some general principles for understanding and coping with this condition.

The sympathetic nervous system and music performance anxiety

When we are placed in circumstances we perceive as threatening, we have a built-in mechanism for coping.  It is a branch of our autonomic (automatic) nervous system known as the sympathetic nervous system.  This is that part of our body’s automatic control system that prepares us to “fight or flee”.  Our heart beats faster and stronger, the pupils of our eyes dilate, our airways become more open, our muscles tense, and even our salivary glands begin to secrete more viscous saliva that can give us that dreaded dry mouth feeling.  While these are changes that prepare us to deal effectively with physical threats, they are counter-productive to the performing artist attempting to play a musical instrument.  The fact is, our sympathetic nervous system has responded to something that poses no real physical threat to us with physiologic adaptations that are not helpful.  Why? Continue reading

Preparing Students to Go Global = A Winning Strategy

NEWS UPDATE: Since posting the below story (on April 12, 2012), Jessica Ventura went on to win a first place award in the Best Professional Paper category at the Northeast ASEE conference, which included a cash prize as well. To read her paper in its entirety, click here. Congratulations, Jessica.

When Jessica Ventura, assistant professor of kinesiology, extended her research by teaching a class in Honduras through Gordon’s Global Education Office (GEO), she discovered more than the mechanical and physiological bases of human movement. She also realized the importance of preparing students for cultural experiences before they embark on overseas programs and to solidify those experiences once they return. As a result, she will be presenting the work Gordon’s GEO does as an example during the American Society of Engineering Education 2012 North East Conference, April 27-28 at U-Mass Lowell. Her paper “Developing Intercultural Sensitivity through Directed Global Education Programming,” will be published with their final conference proceedings. Here’s Ventura’s abstract of her paper:

“In view of the impact globalization has on engineering, many colleges and universities have made global experiences part of their undergraduate programs. When developing a global engineering program, educators should start by assessing where students are on the spectrum of intercultural sensitivity when they enter and thereby determine how the program can best succeed in increasing their sensitivity. If engineers have not been exposed to worldviews that differ from their own, they will assume that everyone holds to similar views. Thus, the first step in attaining intercultural sensitivity is to understand the dimensions of culture. From a different angle, educators should also present students with the stages of intercultural sensitivity, which range from experiences of ethno-centralism to ethno-relativism. Directed programming that brings students into discussions about these points prior to and following global experiences adds significant value to those experiences and can easily be implemented alongside overseas opportunities.”