Brian O. Hemphill, Ph.D. is inaugurated as Radford University's seventh president.
For Radford University, this fall meant the beginning of a new era of leadership under Dr. Brian O. Hemphill.
Jennifer McDonel's mission to spread the importance of music education abroad.
Dan Farhart, assistant economics professor, studies vampires via sophisticated computer simulations.
COBE provides personal financial decision-making training for high school educators.
Debate about the value of arts education in the U.S. has raged for years. In some districts, music and arts have been long-shuttered to save costs.
What’s undeniable is that Americans are at least familiar with the concept of an arts education. Halfway around the world, in Kathmandu, Nepal, Sumit Pokhrel is fighting to even introduce that idea to his homeland.
Jennifer McDonel, assistant professor of music education at Radford University, has followed Pokhrel’s work for several years. When she got the chance earlier this year to join him in Nepal, she took it.
“Sumit has been trying to get people to support his mission to bring better music education for the children of Nepal,” McDonel said, “and he’s been looking for people to support him outside of Nepal. That’s something I was fortunate to be able to do.”
So McDonel flew to Kathmandu and received a joyous welcome from Pokhrel’s family.
“They really took me in while I was there,” McDonel said.
While there were opportunities for McDonel to act as a tourist — she was particularly taken with the Himalayan views seen from Kathmandu — the trip was about learning the musical landscape of a new country and helping augment it.
“In Nepal, and many countries in that part of the world, music isn’t offered as part of an overall curriculum,” she said. “It is taught in a master-apprentice model. If you want to learn, you need to find someone to teach you.”
Pokhrel’s MusicArt Society hopes to change that. Pokhrel and other teachers maintain a space where children can take lessons after school or during their free time. There are instruments they can borrow during their lessons, and Pokhrel and staff make sure as many get the chance to study as possible.
“He’s interested in bringing music education to students who can’t afford to pay for lessons,” McDonel said. “He works with orphans. That struck a note in my heart to help him with that mission.”
In addition to teaching some children herself, McDonel gifted the society with a number of recorders — a simple instrument, but one from which children can learn the fundamentals of music.
McDonel also ran workshops for music educators, teaching some of the basics of western music pedagogy and allowing these teachers to then use those lessons with their students.
McDonel’s trip was made possible with a McGlothlin Faculty Travel Grant. These grants, for up to $2,500, are awarded to supplement international travel with the hope that faculty can bring back new ideas for a more globalized curriculum.
Faculty members often use these grants to enhance international dimensions of their classes or to investigate sites and do preliminary planning for potential study abroad or exchange programs.
Indeed, McDonel hopes to continue her relationship with MusicArt Society and hopes to rally others to the cause.
“I learned as much as I taught over there,” she said. “Hopefully, we can continue this and make this a bigger experience. I want to continue to support the mission of bringing music education to Nepal, which in turn brings joy and happiness — all good ideals.”
Vampires want to eat you. They want to bite your neck and suck out your blood.
We know all about these monsters; this is how they work. Just like you, they need your blood to thrive.
But we humans can fight back. We have the technology to defend ourselves.
The question is: how much of our resources should we devote to manufacturing stakes, producing garlic and other means necessary to hold off the vampires when those resources could be used for other things that keep us alive? We need food. Shelter. Clothing. Education.
We have to make wise decisions about deploying our resources to put up a good defense.
Vampires have their own choices to make. They need to eat, but they can’t eat us all. That would cause food shortages. They also need to choose their dinner wisely. A meal that puts up a fight might end in disaster.
Let’s back up. Yes, we all know vampires are fictional and their characteristics vary from story to story, from Dracula to “True Blood” and “Twilight.” However, studying such scenarios, even though they are derived from fantasy books and movies, can teach us a lot about how to approach economic decisionmaking.
That’s what Dan Farhat does. Yes, the Radford University assistant economics professor studies vampires. And he uses sophisticated computer simulations to do it.
“I create hundreds, sometimes millions, of artificial people and vampires inside a virtual landscape. Each one is unique,” Farhat said. “I give them reasonable rules to follow, usually based on assumptions about how they respond to their environment.”
He then sets loose the vampires and humans to “see what happens,” he explained. “I look at the population demographics and spending patterns in the artificial economic ecosystem and see if it reflects the real economy we see around us.” This is a research method called “agentbased modeling,” and it is growing in popularity among social scientists.
Farhat is often asked about the real-world applications of his vampire research. There are many. His research creates avenues to study such topics as social revolution, crime and government corruption, and even free-loader roommates.
“It can be used for any application or any situation where one person or group feeds off others,” Farhat said.
Those studies are beneficial, but Farhat has another purpose: inspiring more students to study economics.
“We economists are trying to help people, students included, get past the math and data normally associated with economics and to work on interesting research,” Farhat said. “I’m trying to pass on the passion of economics through what I like to call scien-tainment, or entertaining science.”
That’s where the vampires come into play.
In conducting research, individuals “should express themselves,” Farhat said. “I’m dark and twisty, so vampire research was good for me.”
And, sure, Farhat knows vampires are so 2010, and zombies are all the rage now. So, he plans to work with interested students on economics research projects that will involve those. Or super heroes and super villains. Or werewolves. Or space aliens. Or soldiers. Or rap stars. Or dance moms.
“I want to leave it up to the students,” Farhat said. “I want to help them understand what it’s like to do actual economics research and produce an output, such as a paper in an undergraduate journal or a poster at a conference. I want students to know that culture, even pop culture, is important to economics. I want students to explore their own interests and how they tie into economics; they’ll find that they have more to contribute to economic research than they might think.”
Most of all, he said, “I want students to know that, unlike vampires, economics doesn’t bite.”
Making the right personal finance decisions can be difficult for people of all ages — and it can be extremely tough for young individuals just starting out, including high school and college graduates.
To address these challenges, the Commonwealth of Virginia requires all future high school graduates to complete at least one standard of credit in economics and/or personal finance in order to graduate with a standard or advanced-degree diploma.
To assist high school educators who are or will be expected to teach personal finance to high school students, Clarence Rose, a finance professor at Radford University and the director of the newly developed Center for Financial Education, began offering online financial education courses and workshops.
“Introduction to the Financial Planning Process for Educators” was introduced as an online course by Rose in the summer of 2015. “This introductory course addresses personal financial decision-making that high school students are going to be faced with right out of high school, during and after their college years and throughout their entire lifetimes,” the professor said.
This continuing education course examines the financial planning process and personal financial statements, including personal financial ratio analysis and basic time value of money applications used in financial decisions.
“The course gives teachers hands-on tools, PowerPoint presentations and examples they can use in the classroom when teaching their high school students,” Rose said.
Each of the sections can be completed in about one hour, and there are separate downloadable PowerPoint presentations for each session. Review questions accompany each session, and participants receive a certificate upon completion.
The course can be finished at each individual’s pace. “The course takes about two to four weeks to finish, but we’re flexible with educators,” Rose said.
Teachers gain 20 contact hours and continuing education credits for completing the course.
“Since the course was introduced, we have had approximately 90 high school educators and administrators from across Virginia enroll and complete the course,” Rose said.
A second online course, “Helping Young Individuals Become Financially Responsible Adults,” became available to Virginia educators in late October.