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.


GFP: Lighting Up Life

Last week I was in Gottwald, and I noticed there was a speaker scheduled. After further investigation, I found out this speaker was Marty Chalfie, a professor and chair of the department of biological sciences at Columbia University, and a winner of the 2008 Nobel Prize in Chemistry. The sign said Chalfie’s speech was titled GFP: Lighting Up Life, and he was going to be speaking about the scientific impact of the discovery and use of the green fluorescent protein. I was nervous that his speech would be full of science vocabulary that I didn’t under stand, but thankfully I was wrong.

Chalfie started his speech by recapping preconceived notions, usually taught in high school, about experiments and the scientific method. He then went on to share the series of events that occurred that lead to the discovery of green florescent protein (GFP). He ended his speech by saying he hoped that from his speech we gathered that scientific success comes in many different way, many discoveries are accidental, ignorance, stubborness, and a willingness to try help, and that scientific progress is cumulative.

After reflecting on his speech, I noticed the strongest connection to leadership I saw was in Chalfie’s ideology. Chalfie made a point through out his presentation to explain that science and science experiences are never only one person working alone. I really enjoyed that, even though he was a Nobel Prize winner, he gave recognition to all individuals who had a part in the discovery of GFP. He could have very easily made a speech giving himself recognition and explaining his accomplishments, but he did not. Chalfie is a great leader in the field of science in my opinion. By teaching and speaking to young science students in the modest way he does, he is encouraging students (followers) to strive for success. He goes out of his way to relate to students who may feel weaker than others by explaining that he had horrible grades in school and now he has a Nobel Prize. He also encourages students to challenge preconceived notions and accepted “facts,” look at problems from other points of view, and to look for inspiration in unlikely places. From his speech I would label Chalfie as a charismatic and innovative leader.


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.

Millenials Rising

While sitting in a conference discussing the unique aspects of my generation and how our skills correlate with entrepreneurship, I was struck by the differences in the way different generations think. Millennials want to do things directly, do things themselves and do things efficiently. Many of us want to be in charge, take credit and be our own bosses. As one of the few jobs that includes all of these traits is entrepreneurship, the field has seen a flood of newcomers. This is a surprising and fantastic development in terms of counteracting globalization and the homogenization of the world, as most of the new organizations being founded are somewhat small and local. Even so, this does present a problem. If everyone wants to lead, no one can be followed. Many redundant and competing organizations have been created by well-meaning people who wish to have something attributed to their name. Although competition creates innovation and progress, too much of a good thing is not good.

While it is easy to see this narcissistic trait as a negative, there are many positive opportunities it presents. Organizations who recognize the overarching will of millennial to be in charge, act with autonomy and receive credit and change of pace can use it to their advantage if they are structured accordingly. Creating leadership opportunities and opportunities for quick changes in projects and jobs will keep this generation productive and interested in the work. These types of management tactics are being underutilized currently and are part of the millennial drive to create something of their own. One would think that those in charge of organizations would keep this drive in mind, and work to increase millennial productivity and satisfaction. However, I think this is one key difference between leadership and management of organizations. A leader understands what his followers want and is good for the organization, while a manager allocates decision-making in a more authoritarian, self-interested or “productive on paper” way. While both are important, more leadership within organizations will likely increase their productivity.

Geography Senior Projects Lecture Post

This morning I attended the presentations of many senior geography projects.  Topics ranged from emissions and study abroad, including basic recycling and environmentally friendly transportation techniques in FYS seminars, and collecting rainwater off of Booker Hall’s roof to use in irrigation across campus.  It was great to see this kind of imagination and creativity to tackle problems that I had never even considered myself.

After attending the presentations, I am excited to take part in those projects two years from now.  There are so many cool things that I am interested in studying!

These presentations not only made me more aware of the complex and varied problems this campus faces, but gave me confidence in the ingenuity of the students in this school.  Looking toward the future to how we can better the planet, but also our school or community is a skill required by leaders.  Maybe we really do have some great leaders among us that will keep the world from crumbling on top of us.

I feel lucky to be able to attend this school that has so many promising students.  I am excited to see what everyone ends up doing with their potential!

Games and Books

I think that the Games article did a great job illustrating the similarities, differences, pros, and cons of gaming compared to other activities.  As someone who has never “gamed”, it is a completely unfamiliar world for me.  Like many of you, I’m sure, I was encouraged as a child to read by going to the library and having reading time each day.  My school required children to log their reading (pages and time) each day.  This made reading a chore for me, and while I still love learning about topics that I find interesting, reading for pleasure is not one of my favorite activities.  What if, instead, my parents took me to the gaming store over every weekend, and part of my academic success was based upon my performance in games?  It seems strange, but I believe that it is also strange to stress the advantages of reading so heavily.  Some people may enjoy reading, but every person works differently.

I know that I am a kinesthetic learner.  I fidget all the time in class, and especially when I read, because staying in one place simply looking at a page does not keep my mind occupied or interested.  I can’t help but think that I may have done better in an environment where something that involved movement and more excitement, like gaming, would have benefitted my learning style more.

I am interested to see how the stigma attached to gaming may change in the future.  Education is now beginning to catch up with studies being done on learning differences and variation, and finding mediums that help more people take in information and succeed could be a great next step.


Gaming vs. reading

I think that the author made some interesting points about gaming and reading, but I disagree with much of his premise about finding which one is “better”. Why does one have to be better, and how could you even really ever prove that on a global scale? I think which one is better truly depends on the person.
For some people, it could absolutely be books. Reading a book helps you imagine different scenarios and worlds, and allows your mind to construct the story in your head as you read. The reader is able to clearly imagine the situation, and whether it is moral or not. Creating the characters can also give you a certain attachment to the characters, which is why I have been far more upset with the death of a character in a book than the death of a character in a video game. For people who like to learn and think about things using imagination, I can absolutely see books being a good tool to use.
Video games can also be a great tool for people to use. With video games, the actions that transpire often happen as a direct result of the choices by the gamer — making them feel more responsible for their actions. This type of thinking has often been used to justify the idea that video games train kids to be violent — as they get used to intentionally killing on the game stations. That argument is asinine. Kids, especially males, having been pretending to kill since we first came up with specific gender roles. Boys will make guns out of anything, and pretend to go to war or kill each other from a very early age. I would instead argue that there is a difference between causation and correlation, and that is what is happening in this case. Do the angrier and more aggressive teens purchase more violent games? Probably — but that doesn’t mean that the games turn them violent. Instead, they are usually a coping mechanism — and most angry and aggressive people get their anger out from killing virtual people. The problems occur when mentally unstable individuals take guns from unlocked containers and kill people — which video games have nothing to do with. If society learns to better take care of the mentally unstable people in the country who need help, put something resembling intelligent gun control laws in place, and mandates and enforces properly locking your weapons — the homicide numbers would plummit. There is a reason that all the countries with intelligent gun control laws have these games, and yet magically there are significantly less shootings in these places.
I also think that this negative press about video games has to do with the demographics who play video games and who doesn’t. Specifically the young and relatively powerless play video games, while the old people with power do not. As a result, it is easy for the older people to look and scapegoat video games as the problem — as it reinforces the zeitgeist about how young people today are crazy, the worst generation ever, and do crazy things. Rarely historically do groups who have almost no experience with an issue make good decisions about it.
I think both methods offer a useful tool for people, and their doesn’t have to be a “right one”. If someone learns through thinking out a situation in their head, books are probably the way to go for them. If a person learns through doing an activity themselves, video games are probably for them.

In Organic We Trust

Last week, I attended the “In Organic We Trust” documentary screening.  While I had not given the content of the documentary much thought before attending, I naively assumed the title indicated a documentary about the importance or value of organic food.  Contrarily, “In Organic We Trust” critically examined the organic food industry and system.   In one of the first scenes, after showing several interviews, the film revealed that many people are unaware of what “organic” actually entails, even if they eat strictly organic foods.  People generally accept that organic is good, healthy, and better than nonorganic foods without question.  The authenticity of this point stood out to me because I recognized myself as one of these individuals.  It led me to ask, how much of societal norms or beliefs do we accept without question?  Perhaps it would do us better to be more socratic.

The other aspect of the film that stood out to me was the somewhat corrupt nature of the USDA and food industry when it comes to organic foods.  The USDA refused to meet with the makers of this documentary, making any pretenses of transparency unjustified.  Furthermore, USDA certifiers charge farmers/companies/corporations extra money to be labeled “organic.”  In my opinion, it seems more logical (and moral) to put extra costs on those who use extra pesticides and are not organic, as opposed to charging those who are.  As one person in the film said, “The philosophy is sound, but the system is flawed.”  I took note of this quote because I think it is applicable to numerous systems that are part of the American culture and everyday life.