Category Archives: women

presidential scholars in Princeton

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Winona Guo and Priya Vulchi 

On May 5 the U.S. Department of Education released the names of the Presidential Scholars, two students from each state plus winners from the arts and career/technology. This year’s Presidential Scholar List include a student from Princeton High School, Winona Guo, and one from Mercer County’s Health Science Academy, Sanjana Duggirala, of East Windsor.

Established in 1964 the program was expanded to include those who excel in the arts, as well as in academe, and it was expanded again in 2015 to add those in career and technical fields. I remember how excited I was when, in 1979, dancers were included in this prestigious program. Some years, the arts scholars performed at the Kennedy Center. 

Here is how the scholars are selected. Under the original plan, the first cut is by SAT or ACT scores — the top 20 men and women from each state.  For New Jersey, more than 350 were selected. This includes those who were selected by different criteria — for their achievement in the arts or in career technology fields. Then that group submits materials: essays, self-assessments, secondary school reports, and transcripts.  That winnowed it down to 16, plus four arts students and two career/technology students.

Here’s where the essays and extra-curricular activities really count. Duggirali was  named a Public Health Leadership scholar and state president of the New Jersey Association of Student Councils. 

Surely what helped Winona Guo to win was her amazing work, along with Priya Vulchi, as co-founders of Princeton CHOOSE.  Together, they worked to overcome racism and inspire harmony through exposure, education, and empowerment. Together, they wrote a much acclaimed textbook about race.  I came to know Guo and Vulchi as  board members of Not in Our Town Princeton,  Both made invaluable contributions and modeled how to work together as a team of two . Working in tandem – always together – they muster support from peers and adults to accomplish what many thought impossible.

Congratulations all-round!

 

Sexism on the Hill

Subtle sexism is so precarious because it is thought-provoking — for the targets. Management and psychology researchers Dr. Eden King and Dr. Kristen Jones have found that implicit biases can actually be more harmful than outright discrimination for several reasons, including: the higher frequency with which they occur, the lack of clear legal recourse, and the amount of time women spend analyzing these perceived slights.

A former Congressional staffer writes about sexism in the Athena Talks blog on Medium. 

This quote has interesting parallels to racism.

To be clear, this concern over sexism in the workplace was not part of my experience.

Reports and Antidotes

 

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“Reconciliation by Vasoncellos. Photo by Martinvl, couresty Wikimedia Commons

 

On the way to the dentist, outside the Princeton Ballet School studio, I encountered a distraught dancer. She said she can’t stand to listen to the news but needs to know what’s happening. So — Susan — this is for you.

Keep up with what’s happening without depressing yourself.  By limiting your news to weekly reports,.you can safely plug your ears to most of the noise, for the sake of mental stability, and still not miss everything.

Think Progress.org promises to summarize all actions taken in the White House every Friday. The snark content is milder than my Twitter feed. It ends with a delicious segment from Samantha Bee.

Politico also offers weekly emails, for the White House and for New Jersey.  They are a roundup of this digital news organization’s  reported stories — more information but more overwhelming.

Online, Washington Week, even without Gwen Ifill, helps me see the big picture without triggering stress.

Mental stability?  Here is a “how to” article on how to achieve it, “Finding Healing and Peace in a Polarized Political Climate.”  It’s from the national organization of the United Methodist Church to which I belong. 

Many of the same hints come from a just-published blog on Medium, by Mirah Curzer, titled “How to Stay Outraged Without Losing Your Mind: Self Care Lessons for the Resistance.

  • Spend a significant amount of time not thinking about Trump and all the work that has to be done. Do not get used to Trump — get away from him.
  • If you want to be effective on anything, pick an issue or two that matter most to you and fight for them. Let the others go.
  • Resolve to do something small every day, without fail. Play to your strengths. Make activism fun.
  • Take care of yourself: exercise, sleep, time with friends, get outside. “Make your bed. Seriously, it takes like two minutes max and makes such a difference.
  • Oh, and call your mother, if you can.”

All this said, it’s hard not to check my Twitter feed.

 

Living in Trump World

The cover story for this week’s U.S. 1 Newspap1-4 Cover & Front (1-11).indder offers four suggestions for “Living in Trump World.”

Cybersecurity aka soon-to-be-Princeton-resident-again Ed Felten 

Obamacare re  Uwe Reinhardt and Heather Howard

Climate change, re Palmer Square based Climate Central, which also had some pertinent and dismaying comments about Trump’s cabinet picks.

Influencing Congress, re Sam Wang’s views on redistrcting.

Richard K. Rein, in this column entitled Trump Won, You Lost, There’s Still Lots to Do, offers more suggestions for ‘how to fight back.” What struck me was his suggestions  that the organizers of the January woman’s march come up with a particular cause. Because it is a grassroots effort, joined by many different organizations, one clear message is not coming through.

Rein hopes for that clear message:

 What’s the point of this protest? Without one, the Trumpian response will be a Tweet to the effect that “a million women gather in Washington because they lost and don’t know what to do.

He suggests:  increasing the federal minimum wage to $12.50 an hour (it’s been stuck at $7.25 since 2009). What particular cause do YOU suggest? 

A book only teens could write

Two Princeton high schoolers — Winona Guo and Priya Vulchi — have published an important book that helps classroom teachers engage students  in the often difficult to discuss subjects of race and ethnicity. They had help from experts in the field, but because it is chock full of personal stories of children, teenagers, and young adults, it’s a book that only teens could write. The Classroom Index, on sale for $20, will be discussed on Wednesday, December 14 at 6 p.mlabyrinthpanelat Labyrinth Books (122 Nassau St, Princeton)

The 220 pages, with color illustrations, are organized beautifully for teachers — with intros on how to initiate discussion and clever indexes by tags. You can look for stories by identity (Latina,   Asian, African American) or by topic (economic, interpersonal, aesthetic, residential, familial). Teachers can use this trove of stories to bring new layers of meaning for any subject from physics to phys ed.

I found it fascinating for a different reason.With so many different stories from so many different kinds of people, I can be a voyeur. I can find answers to the hard questions that I might be afraid to ask.

If I were to live in a place where everyone looks like me, it would be hard to be friends with someone different. And even those of us who live in a diverse community — maybe we can’t get up the nerve to talk about sensitive topics with someone of a different background.

Some of these stories are raw and pungent. Some poignant. Some funny. The authors put each story in a useful educational context. As here:

“My substitute teacher caught two girls talking to one another. He automatically thought the Hispanic girl was asking for help from the White girl, but it was actually the other way round.” The comment: “Racial stereotypes and prejudice go hand in hand. Disregarding the dimensionality of members of one race and placing them into constrained boxes can cause harmful psychological effects….the number of Hispanics enrolled in two- or four-year college has more than tripled since 1993.” 

The panel will be moderated by the authors,  Winona Guo and Priya Vulchi, co-founders of  CHOOSE.  They are also members of the Not in Our Town Princeton boardDr. Ruha Benjamin, Not in Our Town’s lead racial literacy presenter will be on the panel, and she wrote the introduction. The panel also includes Superintendent of Schools Steve Cochrane, who supported the project. Also former Princeton High School English, History  Supervisor John Anagbo, and Princeton University Associate Dean Khristina Gonzalez

If you can’t go, buy the book to read and then give to a classroom teacher. The Princeton school have purchased many, but I’m betting there aren’t enough to go round. And then ask –is it being used?

Nancy Duff: adding her Christian voice

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Nancy J. Duff, associate professor of Christian Ethics at Princeton Theological Seminary, speaks at the United Methodist Men’s breakfast at the Princeton United Methodist Church Fellowship Hall on November 13, 2016 on “Called by God”

Nancy J. Duff quoted Leonard Cohen’s Anthem yesterday.

I can’t run no more/with that lawless crowd/ while the killers in high places
say their prayers out loud/ But they’ve summoned, they’ve summoned up a thundercloud/ and they’re going to hear from me.

2016-november-umm-duffDuff, the Stephen Colwell Associate Professor of Christian Ethics at Princeton Theological Seminary, had a warm reception from old and new friends at Princeton United Methodist Church. (Her husband, David Mertz, had been the assistant pastor here.)

She talked about how Christians are ‘called by God to glorify God in all that we do,” quoting the well-known saying about how a shoemaker can make shoes to glorify God. “We are called into being for a divine important purpose — and we are called to make a space where others can glorify God.”

But, she cautions, if we go to far in claiming a divine calling, ‘this could keep us from being self-critical.”

Her response to the election turmoil — her call —  is to establish her own public voice.

She writes: I know that lots of Christians who are afraid of the policies that are about to hurt people – and are already hurting people – are going to find their voice. But we need to speak individually as well as collectively.

Here is the link to her very first post on her brand new blog, Speaking Up. 

Christians who disagree with those  radically conservative evangelicals who support Trump need to speak up. This blog will be my effort to add my Christian voice to the public realm.

Some write, some discuss publicly, some engage privately, some protect, some  demonstrate — each of us, no matter what our faith, can find a way. We all crave a community.   .

Grinding ideas to powder?

 

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“There are few sectors as resistant to change as government and health care,” says Susannah Fox, CTO of the Department of Health and Human Services. Her interview with Laura Landro is in the Wall Street Journal today. “We count on their stability. But I have seen those two millstones grind a great idea down to powder. I’ve also seen initiatives flourish and grow, nurtured on the strong platform that this agency provides.” 

Here is the interview.

My take: In this election season, the image of government-as-inexorably-slow-millstone actually offers a modicum of comfort.

Disclosure: She is my daughter.

Above: Millstones from Evans Pharmaceutical Laboratories, Fleet Street, Liverpool. Used for grinding drugs from c.1846-1948. Catalyst Science Discovery Centre.

Photo by Mike Peel (www.mikepeel.net)., CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=42180642

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‘She can make you a dancer…

. . . even if you never danced before. ‘

That’s a quote from the “Rate my professor’ page for Janell Byrne, who quietly retires as director of Mercer Dance Ensemble after, by my count, 36 years at Mer2016 5 toxiccer County Community College. (Her 30th anniversary concert was in 2010).

I’ve attended almost all of these concerts and this stands top of the list. Perhaps I’ll have time to explain why later, but I’m sending this out now because the final performance is today, Sunday, May 22 at 2 p.m. at Kelsey Theatre.

Here is the list of MCCC dancers: Amy Annucci of Ewing, Kayla Johnson of Wrightstown, Caitlin Kazanski of Robbinsville, Diego Montealegre of Lawrence, Terrell Moody of East Windsor, Sabrina Rahman of Lawrenceville, Brianna Rapp of East Windsor, Victoria Smalls of Hamilton Township, and Kourtney Tremaine of Trenton. Alumni and community dancers include Rebecca Brodowski, Nicole Colossi, Maleek Colvin, Jennifer Gladney, Delany Hoffman, Maria Laurenti, Stephanie Maher, Danielle Marchant, Ashley Miller and Taylor Miler.

Few choreographers have had Byrne’s opportunity — and burden — to produce, every year, handfuls of imaginative works on dancers of various body types and abilities. I love to see how she does it, how she makes dancers out of people who never danced before.