Category Archives: Weekly Blog Post

Foreign Culture Cuisine Exhibition

Last week I attended a foreign culture cuisine exhibition in the International Center. As I walked around the exhibition tasting different foods from around the world including Argentina and South Korea, among others, I was encouraged to think about the different cultures around the world. This little exhibition made me think a lot about my International Studies major and the impact that a leader within the international community can make. As small of a gesture as it was, this exhibition had a relatively big impact. Even by making Americans aware of different cultures around the world, we become a more globalized and open world. I think it should be a goal of everyone to live in an open world. Small gestures like this can be made by leaders across the world as a stepping stone to better international relations.

Take Back the Night

Having been unable to attend Take Back the Night last year, I made it a priority of mine to attend this semester. I had heard the event was extremely eye-opening, but in vague terms, so I figured it was simply something I had to experience for myself. I arrived early, and not many people were sitting in the forum, which I thought was strange because I had heard the event was well-attended last year. However, after only a few minutes of waiting, the entire forum was filled. This surprised me in that sexual abuse is a very taboo topic in general, and especially on this campus. Though it is not discussed at length at the university, I found it comforting that so many people came to support friends and strangers alike. Though I think blame can be placed on leadership at UR for the lack of outlets through which students can discuss sexual abuse, I think we as a student body are also somewhat culpable. CAPS provides trained professionals to talk about these issues, but after talking with my best friend from home, who attends Wake Forest University, I think students can take on leadership roles in giving sexual abuse survivors a means by which they can talk to students about their stories, not just older adults. At WFU, my friend is a part of an organization for which members are responsible for holding onto a cell phone that receives anonymous hotline calls from victims of sexual violence for certain shifts during the week. Talking to a student in addition to a CAPS counselor for professional help may be beneficial because peers of similar ages and places in live are likely to have more empathy. Take Back the Night was an experience that made me think about the ways in which students should show more leadership and accountability, and I think those who spoke at the event are perfect examples of admirable and strong leaders.

How do we view Race at UR?

When I attended the Brown Bag entitled “Terms of Racial Justice,”  I had other motives besides scarfing down four pieces of free pizza. As a Bonner Scholar, I’ve been fortunate enough to be a participant in numerous discussions about race in Richmond, but I’ve really always wanted to know how my fellow students (and even some faculty members) view race specifically on UR’s campus. The Brown Bag was an ideal space to talk about this issue because everybody was so open minded and had so many great ideas and suggestions.

This Brown Bag was quite different than ones I’ve attended in the past in that we were broken into groups and talked about issues of race as a whole, rather than having one speaker lecture about the topic. We were asked to draw a map of the positive offices and resources offered at UR that are helpful in spreading racial tolerance (the words written in blue on the map) as well as areas in which UR could improve in terms of racial justice (written in magenta). The most obvious area in need of improvement, in my opinion, is in school leadership. The fact that so many affluent white males on the Board of Trustees are making decisions for the entire student body is very off-putting in my opinion, as they have very little empathy. Although RCSGA and WCGA have been working to add a recent alumnus to the Board in order to more accurately represent the student body, more can be done to racially diversify UR’s leadership.

The faculty member who facilitated the Brown Bag Glyn Hughes, demonstrated excellent leadership skills by relegating the most interesting discussion topics to the students. As a leader, I think it’s important to know when to ask for input from followers. In this case, it made the most sense to have students talk about their personal experiences with race and resources on campus that deal with ethnic diversity rather than having an adult who cannot easily relate to the topic of student life at UR lecture about the subject. Overall, this Brown Bag was organized extremely well and left me thinking about race, as well as all the useful campus resources, such as the EnVision retreat and OMA, at UR long after it was over.

In Organic We Trust

Last week I watched the film In Organic We Trust, a food documentary which takes you on a journey through the inside workings of the organic food movement, which has become a $30 billion industry. The documentary forced me to realize just how little I, as well as most of my friends, really know about the food we eat, and where it comes from. The documentary addresses the problem that many people don;t actually know what the term “organic” means, and just rely on the assumption that it is in some way healthier. After asking people what they think organic means, the documentary goes on to provide the USDA requirements for companies to label their food organic, while explaining that organic farms still use forms of pesticides, but only those containing carbon — where the name organic comes from. While it is comforting to know that organic farmers remove the “most dangerous” toxins from their food, I was extremely surprised when I learned that organic does not mean natural and pesticide free.

While the documentary clearly attempts to provide its viewers with a better understanding of food, farming and nutrition, there are many aspects of the film that we can not believe to be fact. I understand that organic foods are a healthy alternative to pesticide ridden inorganic fruits and vegetables, but the documentary places too much of an emphasis on the negative effects of inorganic foods. The documentary’s radical stance against inorganic products even goes so far as to equate the consumption of inorganic food to higher rates of cancer and autism. While it is safe to say that large quantities of pesticides and herbicides, as well as any other toxin is harmful to someone’s health, there is not evidence linking the consumption of inorganic food to a spike in cancer and autism rates. People introduce toxins into their bodies on a regular basis from breathing in polluted air, so how can one say for sure that eating inorganic foods is causing illness, when it is extremely plausible that there are multiple factors at work.

While it is clear that the documentary is mean to be informative, I think that there are just as many good points as bad points. As a whole I found the documentary to be interesting, but I think viewers must take into account that not everything being presented can be taken seriously. The documentary takes a negatively biased stance against all types of inorganic food, and works hard to convert its viewers into members of the organic food movement.

Settlers of Catan

I found it very interesting how differently the two games of Settlers of Catan ended in class on Tuesday.  Settlers of Catan is a game designed to test the tragedy of the commons and has each group of two set up roads, settlements, and cities, as well as trade resources and interact with other groups.  The tragedy of the commons is the game theory that individuals will always act in their own self interest and ignore the long term goals of a shared group.  Obviously the game is designed so that all players should strive to win, but victory can be successfully achieved through negotiation and cooperation with other groups instead of fighting.

My game consisted of four groups and almost immediately each group realized that they must specialize in collecting a certain resource and trade with other groups to be successful.  My small group had a sheep monopoly and it was awesome.  For the most part, our game defied the tragedy of the commons because every group was able to cooperate and mutually benefit from the trades. Everyone wound up with an even distribution of points but the only reason my group won was because we had the longest road and received bonus points.

The other game, from what I heard, sounded like they had a rough time cooperating and proved the tragedy of the commons.  I could hear arguing and conflict from my table as the other game’s groups fought over resources and acted within their own self interest.  I may be over exaggerating slightly, but their was a clear difference in cooperation among the two games.  Although the cooperation in my game may sound boring and uncompetetive, I actually had a lot of fun and found the experience to be rewarding.


The Laramie Project and The World Of Theater

I found Moises Kaufman’s perspective and attitudes on leadership on stage and beyond fascinating and applicable to most fields. His ability to allow the audience to decide what judgments about the town of Laramie, its citizens, Matthew Sheppard and his abusers are fair was a really beautiful concept.  I think made the play special in a lot of ways, among the most important being the catharsis it brought to the town.  The idea that we, as people, are often better at telling strangers our stories and deepest pains than we are at telling each other is deeply sad, and the play was able to reconcile this problem or at least make a start.  Because the play portrayed the reality of the town in an unaltered and nonjudgmental form it was able to capture the reality and complexity of life in a rare and authentic way.

He also revealed a seemingly inherent flaw in the current journalistic and news system.  Rather than looking at context and the entire story, readers and journalists alike want only the basics.  All too often no one takes the time to get the whole story because of the sheer amount of time that it would take.  Instead, we are willing to settle for, often laughably partisan, slivers of stories that never allow us to understand in any real way.  Perhaps the arts are able to mediate this to an extent, but even they most often approach stories with an intended angle, even when they are nonfictional.

His idea that all we do should advance a movement rather than our own simply ambitions especially resonated with me.  The stagnant nature of theater for the past century and Kaufman’s willingness to change it in light of other options is so admirable, especially given his background and the more guaranteed success or stability he could have enjoyed in a safer environment.

Lastly, I found Kaufman’s closing remarks about the latent potential within my generation wonderfully uplifting and motivating.  His description of us as beautiful and entitled made me think more about the positive and negative connotations of the latter word.  Our willingness to fight for that which we deserve is definitely an asset, but I hope we haven’t lost the determination that characterized the “Golden Generation”.

Ubuntu and Coorporate Culture In Africa

I found the lunch with Dr. Symphorien Ntibagirirwa about the importance of Ubuntu in corporate governance in certain regions of Africa interesting, but overly philosophical and less regionally specific than he was presenting it.  While corporations should certainly work to increase sense of community with both in groups and outgroups in culture, I fail to see the connection between this concept and all other areas of the world.

The later example that Ntibagirirwa used in class that a real Christian would not hurt people in the outgroup because it goes against his morals presents a parallel.  Hitler proclaimed himself to be a believer in Christ, a Jew, but displayed few qualms in regard to end an entire group of people he saw as threatening.  The same is true of Rwanda and Burundi.  Despite the overarching theme of the importance of community in human history, there are instances in which community is completely forsaken in times of limited resources, extreme threat, and bad economic times.  Unfortunately, I don’t believe Africa with it’s Ubuntu culture, or any other geographic region is immune to this tendancy.

While the derivation of the language and the interconnectedness of different culture was interesting, I believe that the larger issues of neocolonialism and the ethical implications of  imperialistic corporations “owning Africa” and robbing it of its resources, which Ntibagirirwa touched upon in his talk could have been a lot more interesting.  Further, more direct suggestions for ways in which coorporations already in Africa (who realistically will not leave any time soon) could incorporate the local culture in order to better serve and work with the people there would also have been fascinating.


Jeopardy Links

Neither class got to round two, but you should feel free to play through either or both as part of your review.


I really enjoyed reading Johnson’s article because I think it’s interesting and beneficial to the reader that he does a good job of arguing both sides. In his article, Johnson illustrates both the similarities and differences in learning based on reading vs. gaming. I agree with Johnson that two of the most rewarding aspects of reading are the information conveyed by the book, and the mental work you have to do in order to understand and retain the information you have just read. I also agree with Johnson that the fundamental cognitive benefits of reading include effort, concentration, attention, the ability to comprehend and make sense of words, follow a narrative, and to sculpt an imagined world out of sentences on a page. However, I think that video games stimulate many of the same effects. I believe that video games also provide valuable lessons to kids, and can be beneficial to learning.

One of the things I found most interesting about the article was his idea of what life would be like if throughout history children had grown up gaming instead of reading, and recently books and reading have become a strange phenomenon. While Johnson states that he does not specifically agree with this idea, he acknowledges that many of his fictional points are actually relevant. He states that reading can be isolating, and teaches children to “follow the plot” as opposed to leading for themselves. Similarly he states that the best thing to come from video games is a “promotion of hand eye coordination”.  While video games have clearly become a large part of our generation, I do not think it is fair for people to condemn video games, and make assumptions that they negatively impact the lives of children. The pros and cons listed in this article have made me think about how our society deems something “good” or “bad”, and how people tend to jump to conclusions about things they do not fully understand. 

Gaming and Reading

It seems a little ridiculous to me that video games and reading need to be compared in terms of creating a binary, one over the other, argument.  While I found the argument that videogames provide important learning skills effective, I see no reason that they need to be placed above reading itself.  Firstly, I don’t find that argument effective.  Reading teaches many things including vocabulary, cause and effect, independent thought, structural and critical thinking and creates a broader view of the world.  Video games provide some of these effects with a higher sense of agency and fault.  Both often provide inaccurate views of the outside wold but one will never replace the other or vice versa.  Comparing reading and Gaming is one thing, but placing one above the other is unnecessary and will have no benefit.  It seems to me that this was done only to seem controversial.