Counselors Reach Out Across Virginia Tech and Other Campuses
05/03/2007 - Chronicle of Higher Education, The (cir. 100,000)
Turmoil in Turkey Imperils U.S. Efforts to Promote Middle East Democracies
05/02/2007 - Bloomberg News - Washington DC Bureau (cir. 300,000)
Matters of Faith Find a New Prominence on Campus
05/02/2007 - New York Times (cir. 1,142,464)
The End of Alliances
04/26/2007 - Foreign Affairs (cir. 135,174)
Students win sustainable design awards
04/26/2007 - MSNBC (cir. )
Counselors Reach Out Across Virginia Tech and Other Campuses
05/03/2007 - Chronicle of Higher Education, The (cir. 100,000) Return to Top
By ELYSE ASHBURN and SARA LIPKA
Students finishing the semester at Virginia Tech this spring have many places to turn for help with their grief. This week they could drop by the Thomas E. Cook Counseling Center from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m., read tips on the university's Web site about coping with tragedy, and talk to counselors via an 800 number throughout the night.
Virginia Tech set up crisis counseling stations in the Squires Student Center and dispatched individual counselors, wearing purple armbands or "May I help?" stickers, to other high-traffic areas of the campus.
Many students whose classmates or professors were killed or injured in the shootings on April 16 returned to class on Monday, and certified counselors were there, too. They led discussion sessions, sat in on the classes, or waited outside, depending on what faculty members preferred.
During this week, counselors planned to go to the classes of all of the victims, to help students return to a normal schedule, said Chris Flynn, director of the Cook center. "The counselors have had a tremendous impact on how students have reacted," he said on Monday. "They have had a calming effect."
Virginia Tech has been able to post so many counselors around the campus by collaborating with local mental-health agencies and volunteers from other colleges. Immediately after the shootings, nearby chapters of the American Red Cross organized counselors in the region. Early this week, directors of the counseling centers at Lehigh University
and West Virginia University were here with Mr. Flynn. Many former predoctoral interns in psychology at Virginia Tech had also shown up.
'Highly Credentialed People'
Coordinating all of those counselors was a daunting task. When Mr. Flynn interrupted a telephone interview with The Chronicle to take care of something urgent, Lehigh's counseling director, Ian Birky, stepped in. He explained how Virginia Tech's counselors were using volunteers, depending on their qualifications.
"There is an effort to make sure that highly credentialed people with a lot of experience are in more-critical areas, and less credentialed people can accompany them," Mr. Birky said. For example, third- and fourth-year students at the Edward Via Virginia College of Osteopathic Medicine, on the Virginia Tech campus, were standing by at first-aid tents to look for physical symptoms of grief.
Ideally, all therapists who come to a grief-stricken campus should check in with the counseling center, present their credentials, wait for instructions, and work under the university's supervision, said Wayne D. Griffin, associate director of the counseling center at the University of Florida.
But that can hardly happen in the chaotic aftermath of a tragedy, he said, and so university officials cannot be sure who is reaching out to their students.
"In some cases," said Mr. Griffin, an expert on crisis counseling, "there's some negative convergence of people who come to help but perhaps are not as well prepared or willing to collaborate with the institution." Not all volunteers will have experience in grief counseling, or with young adults.
Virginia Tech's Mr. Flynn declined to comment on the presence of Brinkley, a specially trained golden retriever who had been brought from Atlanta by his owners, who work for a group called Hope Animal-Assisted Crisis Response. As for the many religious-ministry groups that have shown up on the campus, Mr. Flynn said: "I'm sure some people welcome that, and others, well, that may not be part of their faith tradition."
Making sure that students have different ways to get help is a good idea, said Jeffrey W. Pollard, director of the counseling center at George Mason University. Many students on that campus, in Fairfax, Va., with personal connections to those at Virginia Tech were also grieving.
Counselors at George Mason and at Virginia Commonwealth University, in Richmond, held meetings in their residence halls the day of the shootings. Later last week, they organized drop-in group sessions for students and posted counselors at tables in the dining halls or student centers. George Mason's tables were marked "Friends of Virginia Tech"; Virginia Commonwealth's said "Talk About It."
Mr. Pollard extended part-time staff members' hours and pulled in some social-work professors, but the waiting list for individual appointments, at 15 students, was the longest he could remember.
"We don't have enough bodies to take care of all of this," he said. "To be honest, we don't have enough staff to take care of the kind of demand we have without this kind of a tragedy."
Counselors at the University of Virginia saw a different response: They held two walk-in sessions last week, and not a single student showed up, said Russ Federman, director of the Harrison Bowne "Tersh" Smith Jr. Memorial Center for Counseling and Psychological Services.
Many students were probably nurturing each other, he said: "Because you're in a context where everyone is experiencing similar feelings, the sense of empathy and group support ... is readily accessible."
In the aftermath of a tragedy, said Mr. Federman, colleges' expectations of students' psychological needs may be too high. "Something happens, and the helping button gets pushed," he said. "I think often it's an overreaction."
But for students, seeing that support, even if they do not take advantage of it, can still help, he said.
Maggie Gartner, director of the student-counseling service at Texas A&M University at College Station, likens the visibility of mental-health services in the wake of a tragedy to Linus's famous blue blanket, in the Peanuts comic strip.
When things start to return to normal, Mr. Pollard said, "people are going to start feeling more isolated. There's going to be less natural group support." And at that point, he said, they are more likely to seek professional help.
Mr. Flynn, the counseling director at Virginia Tech, has the same expectation. He is working to provide students with contacts for counseling services over the summer. If they are in the Northern Virginia area, for example, they can go to George Mason. In Richmond they may be able to visit a Virginia Tech clinic.
But some effects of trauma emerge in the long term, he said. Virginia Tech plans to have more counselors than normal on the campus when students return this fall.
Nearly half of the freshmen said they were seeking opportunities to grow spiritually, according to the survey by the Higher Education Research Institute at the University of California at Los Angeles.
Compared with 10 or 15 years ago, "There is a greater interest in religion on campus, both intellectually and spiritually," said Charles Cohen, a professor of history and religious studies at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, who for a number of years ran an interdisciplinary major in religious studies. The program was created seven years ago and has 70 to 75 majors each year.
University officials explained the surge of interest in religion as partly a result of the rise of the religious right in politics, which they said has made questions of faith more talked about generally. In addition, they said, the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, by Islamic zealots underscored for many the influence of religion on world affairs.
And an influx of evangelical students at secular universities, along with an increasing number of international students, has meant that students arrive with a broader array of religious experiences.
Gomes said a more diverse student body at Harvard had meant that "the place is more representative of mainstream America."
"That provides a group of people who don't leave their religion at home," he said.
At Berkeley, a vast number of undergraduates are Asian-American, with many coming from observant Christian homes, said the Reverend Randy Bare, the Presbyterian campus pastor. "That's new, and it's a remarkable shift," Bare said.
There are 50 to 60 Christian groups on campus, and student attendance at Roman Catholic and Presbyterian churches near campus has picked up significantly, he said. On many other campuses, though, the renewed interest in faith and spirituality has not necessarily translated into increased attendance at religious services.
The Reverend Lloyd Steffen, the chaplain at Lehigh University
, is among those who think the war in Iraq has contributed to the interest in religion among students. "I suspect a lot of that has to do with uncertainty over the war," Steffen said. "My theory is that the baby boomers decided they weren't going to impose their religious life on their children the way their parents imposed it on them," Steffen continued. "The idea was to let them come to it themselves.
"And then they get to campus and things happen; someone dies, a suicide occurs. Real issues arise for them, and they sometimes feel that they don't have resources to deal with them. And sometimes they turn to religion and courses in religion."
Increased participation in community service may also reflect spiritual yearning of students. "We don't use that kind of spiritual language anymore," said Rebecca Chopp, the Colgate president. "But if you look at the students, they do."
Some sociologists who study religion are skeptical that students' attitudes have changed significantly, citing a lack of data to compare current students with those of previous generations. But even some of those concerned about the data say something has shifted.
"All I hear from everybody is yes, there is growing interest in religion and spirituality and an openness on college campuses," said Christian Smith, a professor of sociology at Notre Dame. "Everybody who is talking about it says something seems to be going on."
David Burhans, who retired after 33 years as chaplain at the University of Richmond, said many students "are really exploring, they are really interested in trying things out, in attending one another's services."
Lesleigh Cushing, an assistant professor of religion and Jewish studies at Colgate, said: "I can fill basically any class on the Bible. I wasn't expecting that."
When Benjamin Wright, chairman of the department of religion studies at Lehigh, arrived 17 years ago, two students chose to major in religion. This year there are 18 religion majors and there were 30 two and three years ago.
At Harvard, more students are enrolling in religion courses and regularly attending religious services, Gomes said.
Presbyterian ministries at Berkeley and Wisconsin have built dormitories to offer spiritual services to students and encourage discussion among different faiths. The seven-story building on the Wisconsin campus, which will house 280 students, is to open in August.
The number of student religious organizations at Colgate has grown to 11 from 5 in recent years. The university's Catholic, Protestant and Jewish chaplains oversee an array of programs and events. Many involve providing food to students, a phenomenon that the university chaplain, Mark Shiner, jokingly calls "gastro-evangelism."
Among the new clubs is one established last year to encourage students to hold wide-ranging dialogues about spirituality and faith. Meeting over lunch on Thursdays, the students talk about what happens after life or the nature of Catholic spirituality.
Gabe Conant, a junior, said he wanted to contemplate personal questions about his own faith. He described them this way: "What are these things I was raised in and do I want to keep them?"
The End of Alliances
04/26/2007 - Foreign Affairs (cir. 135,174) Return to Top
The End of Alliances. Rajan Menon. : Oxford University Press, 2007, 280$25.00
Alliances have been the cornerstone of U.S. foreign relations since the 1940s. Even now, they remain the foundation for global security cooperation. But in this provocative book, Menon asserts that such formal military ties are destined to fade away. It is not a return to isolationism that will drive the dissolution of alliances but rather a slow -- and, to Menon's mind, welcome -- strategic reorientation of the United States' global position, with more informal and shifting alignments of states. Menon's thesis is based partly on his reading of the past: the United States has always been ambivalent about security commitments and maintaining a long-term overseas military presence, a national orientation only temporarily overcome by the Cold War. The new security environment, Menon goes on to argue, marked by the rise of terrorism and the absence of threatening great powers, makes alliances dispensable. Moreover, Washington's European and Asian allies are now economically revived and able to provide for their own security. In the end, Menon offers a clear picture of the global shifts that have thrown the role of alliances into question, but his argument that the costs of alliances are rising relative to their benefits is less convincing. Nor does he explore the role of the U.S. alliance system in facilitating cooperation among the advanced democracies. Today's alliances may have outlived their historical causes, but their usefulness remains.
Students win sustainable design awards
04/26/2007 - MSNBC (cir. ) Return to Top
Biomethane car and learning barge among the projects on National Mall
Six university teams — one of which drove its entry from Washington state on biodiesel fuel made from recovered landfill methane — won top honors at a sustainable design contest hosted by the Environmental Protection Agency on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.
The "biomethane" car was entered by Western Washington University. Northwestern University students built a solar-powered electricity system that will eventually power an isolated town in Panama. The University of Virginia team designed and built a floating "learning barge" that cleans up river areas while teaching others about the process.
The EPA said the criteria for its third "People, Prosperity and the Planet" competition was that solutions "must be environmentally friendly, efficiently use natural resources and be economically competitive."
Each winning team award will get funding up to $75,000 to further design and market their technology.
"The Bush Administration believes that American innovation is the key to solving our nation's — and our world's — environmental challenges," EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson said in a statement. "Not only are these students unleashing the power of the possible to meet tomorrow's challenges, they are proving that doing what's good for our planet can also be good for the bottom line."
Winners of this year's awards and their projects are:
--Appalachian State University, Boone, N.C., for The Affordable Bioshelters Project: Testing Technologies for Affordable Bioshelters.
, Bethlehem, Pa., for Containment of Highly Concentrated Arsenic-laden Spent Regenerant on the Indian Subcontinent.
--Northwestern University, Evanston, Ill., for Solar Photovoltaic System Design for a Remote Community in Panama.
--University of Illinois at Urbana, Champaign, Ill., for An Innovative System for Bioremediation of Agricultural Chemicals for Environmental Sustainability.
--University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Va., for The Learning Barge: Environmental Cultural Ecologies on the Elizabeth River.
--Western Washington University, Bellingham, Wash., for Bio-Methane for Transportation.
Background on the winners and their projects is online at: www.epa.gov/p3/07winners.
© 2007 MSNBC Interactive
Posted on Thursday, May 03, 2007