February 19, 2020

Richardson Column in The Free Lance-Star

UMW College of Business Dean Lynne Richardson

UMW College of Business Dean Lynne Richardson

College of Business Dean Lynne Richardson’s weekly column in The Free Lance-Star discusses ETHICS IN THE WORKPLACE.

I recently had one of the most energizing and challenging experiences I have had in my 30-plus years in higher education. Two of my colleagues and I taught—or perhaps the more appropriate word is facilitated—a business ethics course.

Our backgrounds were similar, yet very different. One of my colleagues is a philosophy professor and the other is an accountant. My expertise is marketing. So we brought quite a variety of experiences and perspectives to the classroom.

The philosophy professor shared the ethical theories of utilitarianism, deontology, and virtue ethics with us, giving us an excellent foundation from which to talk about business ethics. Her challenge to the students was to figure out for themselves what they valued by the end of the class. I’m not sure most of them understand what she meant by that at first, but they figured it out as the course unfolded. Read more.

Farmer Legacy 2020 Co-Chairs Johnson & Landphair Speak with WVTF Radio IQ

A wreath on the James Farmer bust on UMW’s Campus Walk recognizes Farmer’s 100th birthday and UMW’s Farmer Legacy 2020 celebration. Photo by Tom Rothenberg.

A wreath on the James Farmer bust on UMW’s Campus Walk recognizes Farmer’s 100th birthday and UMW’s Farmer Legacy 2020 celebration. Photo by Tom Rothenberg.

Farmer Legacy 2020 co-chairs Sabrina Johnson, Vice President for Equity and Access and Chief Diversity Officer, and Juliette Landphair, Vice President for Student Affairs, were recently interviewed on WVTF Radio IQ, an NPR affiliate, about civil rights icon and late Mary Washington professor Dr. James L. Farmer Jr. and UMW’s yearlong celebration of his life and legacy that launched in January, on the day after the 100th anniversary of his birth.

Johnson spoke of the impact Farmer had as a professor. “He touched the lives of so many students,” she says.  “It was the most popular class on campus.  It brought in historic numbers.”

Landphair spoke of Farmer’s concern that those who led the civil rights movement would someday be forgotten. “There’s a danger sometimes or a risk when you just reflect and celebrate as if the story is over. We have to hold on and protect and not backslide when it comes to the progress that’s been made.” Read more.

Bales Interviewed about Cubs, Research and Impending Retirement

Jack Bales at the celebration held by the University of Mary Washington in honor of his new book. Photo Credit: Erin Wysong.

Jack Bales at the celebration held by the University of Mary Washington in honor of his new book. Photo Credit: Erin Wysong.

Reference and Humanities Librarian Jack Bales was recently interviewed by his alma mater, the University of Illinois’ School of Information Sciences, about his research, impending retirement and his lifelong passion for the Chicago Cubs.

As baseball teams gear up for spring training this month, Jack Bales (MS ’74) will begin another season of following—and researching—the Chicago Cubs, a team whose history he knows well. Bales, a reference and humanities librarian, combined his expert research skills and interest in the Cubs to author a book on the team’s early history. His book, Before They Were Cubs: The Early Years of Chicago’s First Professional Team, was published last spring by McFarland & Company.

“It took years of research and writing (I have a full-time job), and since some of the newspapers I needed to consult are not available online, I spent several years going through microfilm page by page and year by year,” Bales said. “I would spend every Christmas vacation camped out by the library’s microfilm reader-printers. One of my colleagues still remembers how she came in one day when I wasn’t there and noticed my CD player, sweater, water bottle, snacks—and even my bedroom slippers—all neatly arranged beside reels of microfilm.” Read more.

Foss Publishes Book Review

Professor of English Chris Foss

Professor of English Chris Foss

Professor of English Chris Foss has published an approximately 1600-word book review of Chris Gabbard’s A Life Beyond Reason in the most recent number of the journal Eighteenth Century Studies. Gabbard was hired out of Stanford by the University of North Florida because of his expertise in the literature of the British Enlightenment. His book, however, is no scholarly monograph on the Age of Reason, but rather a moving personal memoir chronicling his family’s life and times in their own very different Augustan Age, a period which commenced with the birth of his son August. This amazing boy lived for 14 years facing a litany of diagnoses stemming from the complications of an obstructed labor: “cerebral palsy, spastic quadriplegia, profound mental retardation, cortical visual impairment, microcephaly, seizure disorder, osteopenia—and the list went on” (35). There is pain and suffering aplenty in this narrative, along with understandable doses of anger and frustration, but above all this is a story about love and joy, and long before one reaches the final page it is abundantly clear that Gabbard’s Augustan Age has not ended with an untimely death from pneumonia; the child lives on not only in the author’s memory, but through this book in the hearts and minds of every reader who meets him and comes to appreciate the many lessons a life beyond reason holds for all.

A Life Beyond Reason book cover

Socrates’s dictum that “the unexamined life is not worth living” (11) serves as the pivot upon which Gabbard transforms his whole understanding of what matters in life, for August’s cognitive capacity prevents him from ever being able to examine his life in this way, and yet Gabbard finds plenty of worth in the pleasure August not merely experiences but expresses through shrieks of glee and squawks of delight, through his contagious laughter. Gabbard credits disability rights activist Harriet McBryde Johnson, and her public debates with philosopher Peter Singer, as crystalizing his new position on what exactly constitutes a life worth living. Singer’s position on decriminalizing child euthanasia is based on a belief that disabled lives “will be permeated with suffering and therefore will not be worth living” is informed by a belief that equates personhood with “characteristics like rationality, autonomy and self-consciousness” (100). The accomplished and articulate Johnson not only embodied how an individual’s life with a severe disability is anything but “intrinsically suboptimal” (100), but she further revealed how relationships with such persons, far from being worthless, can in fact be “profoundly beautiful” (103).

Gabbard offers Coleridge likely would judge him (as he did Wordsworth’s Betty Foy from “The Idiot Boy”) as an “impersonation of an instinct abandoned by judgment,” for “what is love,” he continues, “if not ‘instinct abandoned by judgment’?” (104). With this epiphany, life beyond reason in his own Age of Johnson/Augustan Age clarifies “it is not the unexamined life that is not worth living but the life without love” (104). Drawing on the “land of interdependence” he finds in Donne’s “Meditation 17” (85), Gabbard posits his shared experiences with his son constitute “a mutually beneficial ethics of care” (108). Attuned to “August’s little ways”—“the twitch of his lips, the shift of an eyebrow,” his grins and grimaces, his fussing and laughing—Gabbard views their connection not as “adhering to a so—called custodial care model” but instead as “characterized neither by his dependence on me not by my surrender of independence to him” (108). That is, while they “depended upon one another in radically different ways,” the father’s caregiving was anything but “selfless”: “I needed him as much as he needed me. If I didn’t love him, all of this effort would have been a grudging sacrifice. But he made me happy, and, so, in our peculiar way, we split everything down the middle” (109).

Blevins Speaks to Virginia Farm Bureau Growing Leaders

Assistant Professor of English Brenta Blevins

Assistant Professor of English Brenta Blevins

Brenta Blevins, Assistant Professor of English, recently delivered a presentation and workshop to the Virginia Farm Bureau’s Growing Leaders Academy on “Digital Identity and Social Media” in Blacksburg, VA. Blevins spoke about how agricultural businesses can use social media to promote rural and farm-based agricultural endeavors.

Larus Comments on Romney Impeachment Vote

Professor of Political Science and International Affairs Elizabeth Larus

Professor of Political Science and International Affairs Elizabeth Larus

Elizabeth Larus, Professor of Political Science and International Affairs, offered comments to MEAWW news on Senator Mitt Romney’s historic impeachment vote. Professor Larus believes that the Utah senator will run in the upcoming polls, and although there are some voters in Utah who will come out to vote against Romney, he need not worry about his political standing in the state.

“Romney is likely to run in 2024,” she said. “The 2024 poll is far enough out that his vote to convict and remove President Trump will not likely make a difference in the election outcome. Some voters in Utah will come out against him because of his vote, but Romney is not in a vulnerable seat,” the professor said. Read more.


Liss Discusses Social Media Addiction in Gizmodo Article

Professor of Psychological Science Miriam Liss

Professor of Psychological Science Miriam Liss was recently interviewed by a reporter for Gizmodo in an article entitled, “Why is Social Media So Addictive?”

Social media is so addictive because it plays on one of the most fundamental aspects of what it means to be human—our need for social connection with others. We post and wait for other people to like or comment on our posts. We like and comment on other people’s posts as an act of social reciprocity, and it feels as though we are connecting to others.

The rewards are intermittent and unpredictable—we never know when we log on whether we have gotten more likes, comments, or followers. It is well known that intermittent and unpredictable rewards are the most addictive—think about slot machines. The anticipation while the app loads heightens the excitement and addictive nature. Features like streaks in Snapchat play on our desire not to let other people down (and break a streak) as well as the idea that the more time and investment we have put into something (known as sunk costs) the more investment we have in keeping it going.

Interestingly, our desire for social rewards can make us act in ways that undermine the value of those rewards. We often present only the partial truth about ourselves and manipulate our stories or photos in order to make ourselves look better to increase our likes and positive comments. When we do that, however, the likes and positive feedback can seem hollow and make us feel bad. I recently published a study with my colleague and students that linked photo manipulation on Instagram to feelings of depression through a sense that one was being disingenuous about what was posted. 

Read more.

Wilson Discusses How Rape Survivors Process Trauma with Huffington Post

Laura Wilson, associate professor of psychology

Laura Wilson, associate professor of psychology

Associate Professor of Psychological Science and Safe Zone Director Laura Wilson discussed how rape survivors process trauma with The Huffington Post, in an article entitled, “Rape is Still Rape, Even When Consensual Sex Happens Later.” The article highlights the testimony of rape survivor Jessica Mann, an actress who testified that she was raped by disgraced film mogul Harvey Weinstein, and later had a consensual relationship with him.

“I certainly understand that it seems bizarre,” Dr. Laura Wilson, a clinical psychologist and associate professor at the University of Mary Washington told HuffPost by phone on Thursday. “But in actuality, when you think about how people respond to victimization it makes a lot of sense.” Wilson, whose research focuses on post-trauma functioning in sexual assault survivors, explained that most survivors don’t initially use the terms “assault” or “rape” to describe what they’ve experienced. Instead, they might conceptualize the assault as “bad sex” or “a miscommunication.” 

Often times, the survivor in this scenario is in an ongoing relationship with an abusive partner, Wilson said. People tend to believe rape is perpetrated by a stranger ― not someone known to the victim like a partner, classmate or colleague. So when sexual violence is perpetrated by someone the survivor knows (which is 80% of the time, according to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network), they often don’t have the correct language to describe the encounter. 

“What we know through research is that people have, what we call, a ‘stereotyped rape script,’” Wilson explained. “What most people assume rape looks like is a strange man raping a woman in a dark alley, there’s typically a weapon involved, and she normally fights back. Anything that doesn’t fit that script, we don’t know what to do with it. We don’t know how to conceptualize it.” Read more.

Grothe Discusses El Nino Study with WVTF Radio IQ

Assistant Professor of Earth and Environmental Sciences Pamela Grothe

Assistant Professor of Earth and Environmental Sciences Pamela Grothe

Pamela Grothe, Assistant Professor of Earth and Environmental Science, discussed the results of her recent study on how El Ninos and La Ninas have intensified in a story on WVTF Radio IQ entitled “VA Scientist Finds Another Reason for Extreme Weather.”

In a study led by Kim Cobb, principal investigator and a professor in the Georgia Institute of Technology’s School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, Grothe, the study’s first author, compared temperature-dependent chemical deposits on recently extracted coral to older coral records showing relevant sea surface temperatures from the past 7,000 years. The researchers discovered that El Ninos and La Ninas have intensified since the beginning of the Industrial Age, becoming 25 percent stronger around the time that people began burning coal and oil.

“The industrial record really sticks out like a sore thumb,” Grothe said. “If you look at the last twenty years – at the intensity of these swings — they are stronger than any 20-year period from the pre-industrial record.”

Read more.

Farnsworth Delivers Lecture on Virginia Politics

Stephen Farnsworth, professor of political science and director of the University’s Center for Leadership and Media Studies

Stephen Farnsworth, professor of political science and director of the University’s Center for Leadership and Media Studies

Stephen Farnsworth, professor of political science and director of the University’s Center for Leadership and Media Studies, delivered an invited lecture entitled, “The 2020 Virginia Legislative Session and the 2019 Virginia Midterm Election,” at the Fredericksburg Regional Alliance.

Dr. Farnsworth has also been quoted in several regional and national news stories:

Virginia Democrats push progressive agenda — with a dose of caution (The Washington Post)

Ghost of Harry Byrd Haunts Virginia Assembly (Alexandria Gazette)

At the Halfway Point, What Has the New Democratic Majority Focused on in Richmond? (WVTF)

‘The real winner is Klobuchar’ — reaction to the surging candidate and more after Sanders edges Buttigieg in New Hampshire (Market Watch)

Virginia Democrats See Long-Awaited Returns at 2020 Midpoint (Courthouse News Service)

General Assembly at Half-Way (WRVA)

Romney’s Impeachment Vote Unlikely to Spoil his 2024 Utah Dreams Despite Trump’s Popularity Surge: Experts (MEAWW.com)

Is Biden Finished? (CP24 TV Toronto)

New Hampshire Primary (CP24 Toronto Today)