Sustained Dialogue Brings Change & Recognition

JSarrouf_2012_07_18_03_21_51Thanks to the leadership of John Sarrouf, adjunct professor of peace and conflict studies and communication arts, Gordon has been chosen to attend this summer’s inaugural PULSE Institute at Bucknell University sponsored by The International Institute for Sustained Dialogue in Washington, D.C.  Only 14 colleges or universities from across the country were accepted to participate in the five day conference, including American University, University of Virginia, Wake Forest University, College of William & Mary, Hoftra University and Case Western Reserve University. Sarrouf and other faculty, administrators and three students from Gordon’s Dialogue Club hope to attend the all expenses paid program in July.  Student Dialogue Club leaders Jessica Hunkler ’14 and Kerstin Pallo ’14—both social work majors—were also instrumental in submitting this application.

The Sustained Dialogue Campus Network (SDCN) engages 27 campuses (in the U.S .and six countries worldwide), 4,500 students, and 4,000 alumni annually. SDCN participants meet weekly for results-oriented dialogue, building relationships around topics such as race, class, gender, and faith, while simultaneously addressing pressing needs in their communities.  Its PULSE program is a “new campus retreat designed to explore identity, leadership, and inclusion through experiential activity and immersive dialogue. The model aligns with current research demonstrating that an intense, immersive experience followed by sustained engagement is the best way to create attitudinal and behavioral change.”

Unexpected Encounters “Beyond Disabilities”

Last week, during Gordon’s Beyond Disabilities Week, students and faculty alike engaged in dialogue around a variety of issues. Those conversations spilled over into classes as well, bringing some unexpected opportunities for discovery and reflection. Ivy George, distinguished professor of sociology, writes about one such encounter that occurred in her class, “Social Change and Development in Industrializing Societies,” and offered the following letter to her fellow professors:

Screen Shot 2014-02-23 at 7.11.33 PM
Dear Colleagues,

Please indulge me for wanting to share an amazing experience I had in one of my classes during Beyond Disabilities week, one so unique, I felt compelled to write about it to you.

A student of mine wanted to bring her brother—who is a quad amputee—to class.  This young man is a graduate student in public policy in the D.C. area, and has an aide with him as he travels.  So they came.  The aide was a woman with a scarf around her head and at first, I thought she wore it because of all the snow outside.

My lecture that day was on the poststructuralist and post-colonialist theories of development, and the discussion was lively. But after class, when the other students had left, the aide came to me and introduced herself.  She was “Shabana,” a Muslim from Pakistan whose mother was from India and father from Pakistan.

Shabana hugged me tight, kissed me on both my cheeks twice and said, “You are a brilliant woman.” But then she started to weep.  She looked about my age, or maybe a little younger, and told me some of her story: divorced with two children, an 18-year old son who is married (“better to marry than to commit adultery,” she said), and a 15-year old daughter living at home with Shabana’s nearly-blind mother.  When Shabana finished, she asked to take several photos with me. She also told me that she was proud of me and kept holding my hands, not wanting to let me go.

I knew, however, that the “brilliance” she referred to is a stolen item.   Continue reading

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.

When Art Meets Sociological History

In the 1970s, residential institutions for intellectually disabled children and adults throughout the country were common place. They were also often overcrowded and understaffed. In fact, one contemporary artist, Randall Deihl, captured in his paintings one such institution known as the Belchertown State School for the Feeble-Minded in Belchertown, MA, a institution that became known for its inhumane treatment of its patients.

Based on that history and because of his scholarship on such institutions, James Trent, professor of sociology, has been invited to speak at The Smith College Museum of Art during a two-day symposium, “Excavating the Image: The Belchertown State School by Randall Deihl.” Trent’s talk entitled, “A Season in Hell’s Palace,” explores his own experiences of working at a residential institution for intellectually disabled children and adults, along with an examination of Randall Deihl’s painting.  The lecture takes place on January 9, 2014, at the Museum of Art in Northampton, Massachusetts.

Trent said the talk includes stories he has not discussed before in public, some based on his own experiences several years ago while studying at Duke University when he was asked to teach Sunday School at  the Murdoch Center. The Center, he later learned, was a public residential facility that housed 2,500 children and adults who in those days would have been called “mentally retarded.”  The experience shaped the course of his work and interests.

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.”

Sculpting a Better Self Image in Families

Body sculpting pedagogy can be effective in illustrating family dynamics. At least, that’s one area that Professor of Social Work Sybil Coleman has been exploring in her scholarship this fall while on sabbatical. Coleman even presented on the topic at the 63rd Annual Convention of the North American Association of Christians in Social Work held in Atlanta Oct. 17-20, 2013. Her talk,”The Past Matters: Body Sculpting” used the concept to explore the generational dynamics of two unhealthy families and discuss the impact on personal relationships, emotional well-being and spiritual health of the family members and possible intervention strategies.

Here’s how Coleman described her interactive presentation:

“Growing up in an unhealthy/dysfunctional family distorts who a child becomes and what he/she thinks about themselves, others and possibly God. They often believe the wrong things about love, trust, respect, personal value, responsibility, anger, fairness, acceptable behavior and proper discipline to name a few possible distortions. When they believe the wrong things about God they will most certainly believe the wrong things about themselves.

“When problems and circumstances such as parental alcoholism, child abuse, or extreme parental rigidity and control interfere with family functioning, the effects on children can sometimes linger long after these children have grown up and left their problem families. Adults raised in dysfunctional families frequently report difficulties forming and maintaining intimate relationships, maintaining positive self-esteem, and trusting others; they fear a loss of control, and deny their feelings and reality So, the needs of children in dysfunctional families are not consistently met. While it is generally understood that children are valuable, vulnerable, dependent, immature and imperfect, negative patterns of inappropriate parental behavior become the focus rather than the nurturing of the child. The child often becomes externally focused and develops an inadequate sense of self.

“The purpose of my presentation is to look at two of the many types of dysfunction in families. These are the addicted parents (who may also be deficient) and the controlling parents. Both types of parents and subsequent family dynamics will be sculpted and the unmet needs of the child will be illustrated through looking at the generational, interconnected dynamics. I also looked at three questions: What does scripture have to say about parenting, caring for children, impact of addictive and controlling behaviors? On what basis do we determine intervention strategies? What might a healthy outcome look like?”

Practicing Peace in Urgent Times

With so many recent headlines pointing to global, corporate or personal conflicts, it seems particularly appropriate to be thinking more about peace and how to promote it. In preparation for the International Day of Peace on Sept. 21, 20013, representatives from Gordon’s faculty and staff have planned a week of conversations, vigils and discussions. Special guests will be on campus to talk about peace efforts and the role of faith in promoting peace. The Week of Peace is a combined effort of the Gordon College Initiative for the Study and Practice of Peace led by Daniel Johnson, professor of sociology; the Balkans Semester; the Peace and Conflict Studies program; and the U.S. Institute of Peace Public Education for Peacebuilding.

“At a time when the world is looking at the crisis in Syria, it is crucial that our  students are prepared to consider alternative strategies that can deter war, and create opportunities for peace,” said Judith Oleson, professor of social work and director of the Peace and Conflict Studies minor. “With our mission to prepare students to be global leaders and our unique ethical frame as a Christian college, we’re in a unique position to explore issues of peacemaking in this urgent time.”

The Week of Peace events include the following:

Monday, Sept. 16, 12:00-1:30: “Philosophy, Faith, and the Practice of Peace”— Why this is important to Gordon College?   A Lunch Conversation with Richard Kearney, the Charles B. Seelig Chair of Philosophy at Boston College.  President’s Dining Room, Lane Student Center.

Monday, Sept. 16, 7:00: “The Small Work of Peace”—A Panel Discussion with Richard Kearney;  Padraig O’Malley, the John Joseph Moakley Professor of International Peace and Reconciliation, McCormack Graduate School of Policy Studies, University of Massachusetts; and Aida Vidan,  Lecturer, Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures, Harvard University.

Thursday, Sept. 19, 7:30: “Seeking Peace in Film: Halima’s Path”—A Film Screening and Conversation with the Director, Moderated by Aida Vidan  8:00-10:00 BCA 138

Saturday, Sept. 21,7:00: “Peacemaking and the Spiritual Disciplines”—A Walking Peace Vigil, Chapel Steps.


Witnessing the Power of Truth and Reconciliation

Dr. Judith Oleson

Throughout Canada’s history, generations of Aboriginal children in Quebec were taken from their families and communities and sent to Indian Residential Schools funded by the federal government and run by churches. They were denied use of their language, cultural identity and traditions, and the devastating impact of that tragic policy is still seen throughout the culture today. That’s why the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC) has begun holding community hearings throughout Quebec with its culminating national event in Montreal, Canada.

From April 24-27, Dr. Judith Oleson, associate professor of social work and director of Gordon’s  peace and conflict studies program whose scholarship includes public apologies and racial justice, will travel with four of her students enrolled in PCS 375 Conflict Transformation and Reconciliation to Montreal. Together, they’ll participate in Canada’s National Truth and Reconciliation Event.  

Here’s what Oleson said before the trip: “By going to the TRC, we’ll have the unique privilege of witnessing testimonies of First Nation survivors of cultural genocide due to government policies. We will be able to interview both survivors and church representatives while exploring the relationship between the TRC event, public apology and meaningful reconciliation processes.  Then during the second week of May, our students will present their initial findings for the Gordon community.  It really is an unprecedented experience for those of us interested in conflict and peace studies to engage in such primary research and to hear first hand the stories of those who endured such tragedies. I have no doubt that our students—Serene King, Alex Clark, Ronesha WIlliams and Anna Soukenik—attending this important historical event with me will be deeply affected by this exchange, as I have been every time I participate in these reconciliation efforts.  We are grateful and humbled for the opportunity.”  GCSA Student Conference Fund and The Initiative for the Study and Practice of Peace provided traveling funding for Oleson and her students.

Faculty Kudos: Essays, Books and Professional Contributions

As the fall 2012 semester came to a close, there was much to celebrate with our faculty’s many recent contributions in their respective fields. Here’s a very brief overview:

Provost Curry

The Chronicle of Higher Education published an essay by Provost Janel Curry this week in its careers section. The essay entitled, The Education of a Provost” chronicles Dr. Curry‘s path to her position at Gordon and reminds readers that no part of their journey is wasted. 

Craig Story

Craig Story, associate professor of biology and advisor for Gordon’s health professions, and Justin Topp, associate professor of biology, recently received news of a generous grant from the BioLogos Foundation to “build an international network of pastors committed to increasing their scientific literacy.” (A formal announcement will be forthcoming.)

Assistant professor of English Chad Stutz just signed a contract for a book published by British house Paternoster Press as part of their Studies in Evangelical History and Thought series. With a tentative title, Evangelicals and Aesthetics from the 1750s to the 1930s, the book provides an intellectual history of a largely forgotten tradition of aesthetic discourse among British and American evangelicals between the time of the first awakenings of a modern aesthetic consciousness in the eighteenth century to the fundamentalist-modernist controversy of the early twentieth century.

Gordon education students with students from Lynn Classical High

Gordon education students in the course, Understanding the Context of the Urban School and ESL students from Lynn Classical High collaborated on an interactive field trip exploring the benefits of higher education, thanks to adjunct professor of education and alumna Melissa Winchell who organized the event.

Judith Oleson, professor of social work, supervised nine social work students in field placements in Romania, San Francisco, and throughout Boston’s North and South Shores. Students served in various councils on aging, youth and family services agencies, Catholic Charities, and specific intervention programs.

In an essay entitled, “More Powerful Than Words” and published in the Huffington Post, Brian Glenney, assistant professor of philosophy, explored the impact of symbols through his Accessibility Icon Project

Professor of history Jennifer Hevelone-Harper wrote an editorial entitled, “How St. Francis Made Christmas New and Smelly” that appeared on the opinion page of the Salem News, a regional newspaper that reaches several thousand in circulation across the North Shore of Boston.

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.