RU News Briefs

March 20, 2003

Gender, like race, can be a difficult topic for students, says criminal justice professor Mary Atwell. In her first book, Equal Protection Under the Law? Gender and Justice in the United States, published recently by Peter Lang, Atwell takes a historical approach to examining the topic, an approach she had found useful in books on race and justice. The historical approach helps, she says, because "if students see the evolution of attitudes, the subject is more accessible and not as threatening, and they are more willing to talk."

For example, she says, in classroom discussions of violence against women, young men often feel they are being personally blamed. "It's a systemic problem," says Atwell. "Over a long period of time, women and African American victims have been taken less seriously in the justice system. Once we can look at it that way, we can look for solutions in a structural sort of way."

Although Atwell wrote the book primarily for student use, her style and her approach to the topic render it accessible to others. Her next project is a book about popular culture's influence on attitudes toward the death penalty. Both books are on subjects she cares deeply about.

"Young women need to understand that discrimination can be subtle. They need to realize that their rights have come about because of activism by women and that they can be lost if women don't stay engaged."

The Faculty Development Center is partnering with Project C.A.R.E.E.R. and the Social Equity Office to present the cultural awareness workshop series for faculty, staff and administrators.

Current Workshop Opportunity:
Workshop III: Sexism
Date: Monday, March 24, 2003
Time: 8:30am-11:30am
Place: Commonwealth Room, Heth Hall

For workshop specific information and registration information please go to

Faculty and staff members from various departments are in training to facilitate cultural awareness workshops at RU.  The workshops allow participants to explore their own cultural identity, to discuss how cultural variables affect the workplace, and to set an action plan for enhancing inclusion in their own work and learning environment. For more information contact Jennifer Bailey at or 540-831-5425.

Event: 2003 RU Faculty Lecture Series
Date: Monday, March 24, 2003
Time:  7 p.m. - 9 p.m.
Location: Cook Hall, Room 107
All lectures will begin at this time.

"African-American History Comes Alive from a Skeletal Study of the Terre Haute Cemetery, Virginia"
Presented by professor of sociology and anthropology Donna Boyd, with students Aubrey Meehan, Kathryn Ward, Kylie Williamson

"Creating a System for Receiving and Processing Weather/Environmental Data from Earth-orbiting Satellites"
Presented by chemistry and physics professor Rhett Herman, with student Dan Blake

"Regulation of Crystal Idioblast Cells in Dieffenbachia"
Presented by biology professor Gary Cote and student Chris Gowdy

The Faculty Lecture Series recognizes faculty members who are currently involved in collaborative scholarly or creative activity with students. This activity engages students in their own learning, contributes to the faculty member's academic discipline and enriches the university community. The lecture series provides the opportunity for the faculty member and student to present current and original scholarly work to the university community. Scholarly work is inclusive of all academic disciplines and may take the form of scientific research, research projects, artistic, musical, literary or other creations. Faculty whose works are selected for presentation will receive faculty development grants.

For more information, call the Faculty Development Center at 831-6510 or view their webpage (

NOTEWORTHY ITEMS - for more information go to

*** Music professor Bruce Mahin recently performed his composition Skye Lines in Glasgow, Scotland.  The composition will also be performed at the Contemporary Music Forum, Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.

*** Nursing professor Ellen Birx was invited to attend the annual Center for Nursing Leadership's weeklong Journey Toward Mastery retreat in Batesville, Ind.  She led participants in daily meditations and discussions about Zen and healing. Her article, Nurse, Heal Thyself, was in the January 2003 issue of RN magazine. Her book, Healing Zen, was reviewed in the March 2003 issue of the Journal of Holistic Nursing.

Birx also gave presentations about her book and the art of Zen at the Zen Retreat in Elberon, N.J., Living Buddhism Group at Virginia Tech, The Chinese New Year Festival at RU, Relay for Life at RU and the 25th Annual Conference of the International Association for Human Caring at Chautauqua Park, Boulder, Colo.

Birx was interviewed on several radio stations about her book and Zen including KXIC-AM, Iowa City, Iowa, WGCH-AM, Greenwich, Conn., and WLPO Radio, LaSalle, Ill. Host Chuck Englund on Inside Books also interviewed her.  To hear the interview visit

*** Two professors and a student will present a symposium on "Teaching and Learning, Technology, and the Self," at the Southeastern Women's Studies Association Conference in Blacksburg.  As part of the symposium, psychology department chair Hilary Lips will present a paper titled "University Students' Self-Views and Their Choices to Pursue or Avoid Studies in Science and Technology." Lips and psychology major Jacquinlan Quinlan will present a paper titled "Encounters that Matter: Students' Reports of Interactions and Events that Changed Their Sense of Possibility." Sociology professor Jeanne Mekolichik will present a paper, co-authored with Denzel Benson of Kent State University, titled "Conceptions of Self, Sex, and the Use of Digital Technologies in a Teaching and Learning Environment."

*** Chemistry and physics professors Robert Boggess and Cindy Burkhardt and biology professor Gary Cote recently served as invited reviewers for the Course, Curriculum, and Laboratory Improvement Program-Adaptation and Implementation Track sponsored by the National Science Foundation.  They joined over 350 faculty members from two- and four-year colleges and universities to evaluate in excess of 700 proposals requesting more than $90 million dollars to support undergraduate programs in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics disciplines.

Boggess and Burkhardt also organized the 16th Annual National Science Foundation Catalyzed Innovations in the Undergraduate Curriculum Symposium held in conjunction with the 224th National Meeting of the American Chemical Society. The Symposium featured talks by 18 faculty members from two- and four-year colleges and universities from across the US.  Each speaker outlined the changes and innovations to their curriculum that were possible due to receiving an award from the National Science Foundation. Boggess and Burkhart are currently receiving abstracts for the 17th Annual Symposium to be held in New York City in September 2003.

*** Three geology faculty - Parvinder Sethi, Phyllis Newbill and Robert Whisonant - presented a research paper titled "Images of Virginia's Geology: From A (absolute dating) to Z (zone of saturation)" at the Annual Virginia Association of Science Teachers Conference in Richmond, Virginia.

Newbill and Sethi also presented a research paper titled "Everyday Decisions Affect Groundwater Quality: A Multimedia Teaching Tool" at the 2002 Virginia Water Research Symposium held in Richmond, Virginia.  The paper presented a teaching-learning multimedia tool designed for heightening relevance of groundwater issues especially targeting the large numbers of non-science majors at the college level who enroll in the introductory geology courses within and beyond Virginia.

*** Music instructor Ed Mikenas presented a paper and a workshop at the International Conference for the Arts and Humanities, in Honolulu, Hawaii.  The paper, titled "Drumming on the Edge of Leadership", has just been published in PERCUSSIVE NOTES, Vol. 41, NO. 1, and can be viewed online at

Produced by the Office of Public Relations, RU News Briefs features news and information of interest to faculty and staff. To submit items or provide feedback, contact Jeff Crooke at 831-5324, FAX 831-5036, or e-mail: For the latest RU-related news and information, visit:

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