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 A Guide to Arts and Sciences' News, Events and People

December 2011

Combating Childhood Obesity

Chair, Alumnus Coauthor Book on Eisenhower

Origins of a Spider's Web

Gift Funds Portuguese Teaching and Research

SMPA-Pew Release Twitter Study

Entman Wins Humboldt Prize

Advising Recognized for Service

Snake Family Tree and Biodiversity

Hahn Moo-Sook Colloquium on the Korean Humanities

New Books

Awards and Recognition

Selected Published Articles

Columbian College Video

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Upcoming Events
Revolution 2.0: The Power of the People
Jan. 18, 7:00 pm
Lisner Auditorium

MEMSI Lunch Seminar: "The Enigmatic Nature of Things"
Jan. 27, 12:00 pm
Rome Hall, Room 771

The American Tribal Love-Rock Musical HAIR
Feb. 23, 24, 25, 7:30 pm; Feb. 26, 2:00 pm
Dorothy Betts Marvin Theatre

Alumni Events
Online East Coast Alumni Only Career Expo
Jan. 19, 11:00 am

Department News
Africana Studies

American Studies


Art Therapy

East Asian Languages and Literature

Eleanor Roosevelt Papers


Fine Arts and Art History

Judaic Studies

Media and Public Affairs

Medieval and Early Modern Studies

Museum Studies




Political Science


Public Policy and Public Administration


Romance, German, and Slavic Languages and Literature

Science and Engineering Hall

Speech and Hearing Sciences


Theatre and Dance

Combating Childhood Obesity
Did you know that 79% of obesity prevention programs for children and adolescents report no significant long term impact on participants? Most of these programs focus on diet, exercise, and behavior, but Associate Professor of Psychology Jody Ganiban is investigating  other factors-genetic history, prenatal environment, and postnatal environment-that may be the root cause of childhood obesity, an epidemic that affects 12.5 million U.S. children and adolescents.  Funded by a five-year $2.8 million grant from the National Institutes of Health, findings have the potential to change the way we tackle the growing waistlines of our nation's youth. Read more.

Chair, Alumnus Coauthor New Book on 34th President
In a collaboration between a professor and his former student, William H. Becker, chair of the Department of History, and William "Mac" McClenahan, Jr., PhD '93, explore the macro- and microeconomic policies of the Eisenhower administration in their new book Eisenhower and the Cold War Economy (Johns Hopkins University Press). How do the foreign and domestic policies put in place by our nation's 34th president during the 1950s resonate today? We asked Bill Becker that and other questions during a recent interview about the book and his work with McClenahan. Read more.

Origins of a Spider's Web, Unspun
Spiders that spin the engineering marvels known as orb webs evolved from a single ancestor, according to a new study by an international team led by Ruth Weintraub Professor of Biology Gustavo Hormiga. Orb weavers make up nearly one-third of the 42,000 described spider species, and their complex, silken snares are regarded as "pinnacles of animal design" for their strength and flexibility, noted Hormiga. For this study, the research team analyzed a trove of genetic data for 291 species that represented 50 spider families, amounting to the largest genetic study to-date of spider evolution. Through their findings, the team was also able to create the first timeline for the emergence and diversification of the orb weavers. Read more.

Gift Funds Teaching and Research of Portuguese Language, Cultures
The Autonomous Region of the Azores in Portugal, through the Regional Bureau of the Communities, recently provided $54,000 in funds to promote and support the teaching and research of Portuguese language and Lusophone cultures at Columbian College. Dean Peg Barratt welcomed Maria da Graca Borges Castanho (in photo, at left), the Azores regional director, and other dignitaries from the Azores community to campus to sign the Memorandum of Understanding establishing the new initiative. Read more.

Media's Use of Twitter is Limited, Says SMPA-Pew Research Study
While news outlets make frequent use of Twitter, they do so primarily to disseminate their own content, according to a new study by Columbian College's School of Media and Public Affairs (SMPA) and the Pew Research Center. The study examined 3,600 tweets over the course of a week from 13 major news outlets, including the Washington Post, New York Times, CNN, and ABC News. Ninety-three percent of tweets examined included links to an organization's own site, while only two percent of the tweets were information gathering and one percent were "retweets" from outside the organization. The study involved 30 undergraduate SMPA students (including Colby Anderson, BA '11, pictured above) who analyzed and coded the tweets last spring as part of their senior seminar.  Read more.

Entman First Political Communications Scholar to Win Humboldt
J.B. and M.C. Shapiro Professor of Media and Public Affairs Robert Entman won the prestigious international Alexander von Humboldt Research Award for his field-changing contributions to political communication. He is the world's first political communication scholar and the first from GW to receive this award, which will take him to the Free University of Berlin for ten months.  While in Germany, he will conduct comparative research in order to better understand how inequality in media framing and bias has grown faster in the United States than in Western Europe. Read more.

Advising Office Receives Service Excellence Award
Columbian College's Advising Office was recently honored by GW with a Service Excellence Award for its work in scaling up the advising program, adding nine new advisors, and creating a pre-professional advising center. Serving more than half of the university's 9,800 undergraduates, Columbian College advising was one of the first recipients of Innovation Task Force funds, which enabled the office to grow in size and scope. The staff now boasts 18 advisors and offers counseling on internship opportunities and preparation for advanced degrees, including those in medicine, law, and allied health. The office also has received kudos for its use of the new DegreeMAP, an online advising tool for tracking progress for degree completion. 

Snake Family Tree Exposes New Knowledge about Biodiversity Patterns
Biology professor and snake scholar, Alex Pyron, has developed a scientific model that could change the way researchers study the biodiversity of living creatures. The model suggests that large-scale extinction, not just speciation (species growth) as previously believed, can be a dominating process driving diversity patterns among snakes and other organisms.

"This is one of the first models to suggest that extinction over long periods of time accounts for ebbs and flows of species richness in a diverse group," said Pyron. Read more.

Hahn Moo-Sook Colloquium on the Korean Humanities
Last month, more than 150 people gathered on campus for the 19th Annual Hahn Moo-Sook Colloquium in the Korean Humanities. Funded by an endowment established by the estate of one of Korea's most honored writers, Hahn Moo-Sook (1918-1993), the colloquium provided a forum for academic discussion of Korean arts, history, language, literature, thought and religious systems in the context of East Asia and the world. The two-day event included a film screening of renowned Korean director and playwright Oh Tae Suk's production of The Tempest and featured discussions by scholars from Seoul and universities from across the U.S. Read more.

New Books
Paul Binkley, director of the Trachtenberg School of Public Policy and Public Administration Career Development Services, co-authored Student's Federal Career Guide, Second Edition.

Yvette Neisser Moreno, poet and part-time faculty member in the English Department, co-translated South Pole/Polo Sur by Venezuelan poet María Teresa Ogliastri.

Rabbi James Rudin, BA '55, authored the book Cushing, Spellman, O'Connor: The Surprising Story of How Three American Cardinals Transformed Catholic-Jewish Relations.

Awards and Recognition
Assistant Professor of Anthropology Robin Bernstein received a Grand Challenges and Explorations $100,000 grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to support her project "Breastmilk Bioactives and the Defense of Gut and Growth".

Elizabeth Chacko, chair of the Department of Geography, is the new representative of the Association of American Geographers to the Board of Directors of the Consortium of Social Science Associations, an advocacy group for the social sciences.

Gabriella Demczuk won second place in the Associate College Press Multimedia Feature Competition for her video report in GW Hatchet on the Department of Theatre and Dance production of Spring DanceWorks.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation awarded Assistant Professor of Sociology Antwan Jones a 24-month grant through the New Connections program. The grant will allow Jones to examine how access to physical activity resources for young people is critical in understanding the role that residential instability plays in determining childhood obesity.

Physics doctoral student Michael Lujan attended the annual Super Computing Conference in Seattle where he made two presentations: "Particle physics with high-performance computing" and "The physics program in IMPACT at GWU".

Director of the Trachtenberg School of Public Policy and Public Administration Kathryn Newcomer was named the Non-resident Senior Fellow in the Government Studies Program at the Brookings Institution.

Assistant Professor of Media and Public Affairs Jason Osder was awarded a $30,000 production grant from the Sundance Institute Documentary Film Program for his in-progress feature documentary titled Let the Fire Burn.

Associate Professor of Psychology John Philbeck received a four-year, $944,253 research grant from the National Eye Institute for his project "Role of the Ground Plane in Judging Absolute Distance after Brief Glimpses of Real Environments."

Grantmakers for Effective Organizations established the Kathleen P. Enright Scholarship to support a student in the Trachtenberg School of Public Policy and Public Administration concentrating in nonprofit management.

Alan Wade, professor of theatre, gave an invitational lecture on American Theatre and conducted an acting class at the Meishi Film Academy of Chongqing University, Chongqing, China.

Elizabeth Warson, assistant professor of art therapy, won the North American Association of Summer Sessions Creative and Innovative Award for the Overall Most Outstanding Program of 2011 for her summer institute Native American Art Therapy with the Oglala tribe on the Pine Ridge Indian reservation in South Dakota.

Selected Published Articles
Steven Balla, associate professor of political science, published "Institutional Design and the Management of Regulatory Governance" in the Handbook on the Politics of Regulation.

Associate Professor of Spanish Yvonne Captain-Hidalgo authored the article "The Legacy of Manuel Zapata Olivella" in the journal Estudios colombianos.

Christopher Deering, professor of political science, and the late Lee Sigelman, Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Political Science, published "Who Makes the News? Cabinet Visibility from 1897 to 2006" in the Brookings Institution's Issues in Governance Studies

Elizabeth Field, part-time faculty member in the Department of Music, and renowned pianist Malcolm Bilson released a new DVD "Performing the Score" with lessons on how to achieve more passionate and expressive performances.

Henry Hale, associate professor of political science and international affairs, published "Can the Machine Come to Life? Prospects for Russia's Party System in 2020" in Russia in 2020: Scenarios for the Future.

Incoming Deputy Director of the Professional Psychology Graduate Program Jim Hansell and first-year doctoral student Victoria Harley co-authored "Conceptually Sound Thinking about Depression" in Professional Psychology: Research and Practice.

Peter Rollberg, professor of Slavic languages, film studies, and international affairs, made two presentations in Tbilisi, Republic of Georgia: "Goderdzi Chokheli and the Search for Georgian Cultural Identity" at the Giorgi Chubinashvili National Research Center for Georgian Art History and Heritage Preservation, and "Aesthetic Peculiarities of Goderdzi Chokheli's Early Short Films" at the Georgian University of St. Andrews.
Jay Sher, a graduate student in the Trachtenberg School of Public Policy and Public Administration, is one of fifteen finalists in the GovLoop and National Association of Schools of Public Affairs and Administration Public Service Scholarship Contest.

Professor of Statistics Nozer Singpurwalla, Professor of Physics Frank X. Lee, and doctoral student Joshua Landon collaborated on a cross-disciplinary project entitled "A Problem in Particle Physics and Its Bayesian Analysis" published in the Journal of Statistical Science.



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