Tamera and Habitat for Humanity, Steve Krahnke’s ‘Zines, Intellectual Circuit: Cog Sci, and Steve Krahnke’s Brown Bag

Tamera and Women Build 2011

Habitat for Humanity of Monroe County works to build homes for those in need.  For the past 10 years, one of their most successful building projects has been the Annual Women Build.  Every year in May, all-women volunteer teams come together for nine days to construct a home for a local family.  Graduate Program Administrator Tamera Theodore is now gearing up for her fifth one.  Habitat for Humanity’s Women Build program promotes the involvement of women in the construction process, providing them the opportunity to learn about home construction in a supportive environment.  Building a simple, healthy, and affordable home for a local family in need takes 225 volunteers, 1600 hours, and $65,000. This year the Women Build will be completing two homes.

Most Habitat for Humanity projects have major corporate sponsors, but the Women Build relies on each builder to raise funds to secure a volunteer spot for one day of the build.  On Tamera’s build day, along with 34 other members of her team, she will work on the construction of a new home.  One reason Tamera loves to work with Habitat for Humanity is that they accept anyone who wants to participate, no matter what their skill level.  “It is a humbling and rewarding experience.  You really do learn about yourself and others.  I believe I take away more from the experience than I give.”

This year, Tamera’s volunteer work for Habitat for Humanity is taking another form.  She is now volunteering as a t-shirt designer as well.  This all came about when Habitat for Humanity’s County Executive Director Kerry Thomson found out about Tamera’s passion for drawing and painting.  While a graphic designer usually volunteers to design Habitat for Humanity t-shirts, this time, Kerry approached Tamera to come up with some design ideas for their latest t-shirt.  After presenting several designs, one was chosen, printed on t-shirts, and given to volunteers at their annual Just Desserts reception.  Also, Tamera just received word that another one of her designs will be used for the Women Build t-shirt.  “It was really cool to see my design.  I am better at drawing than building, so it was rewarding to be able to volunteer my services in another way.”

Tamera is currently in the process of raising funds for the upcoming build.  While each builder’s fundrasing goal is $250, Tamera’s personal goal is $500.  “Since most of my friends already participate in the build, it is sometimes a challenge to meet my fundraising goal so I truly appreciate the support of faculty and staff from the department.”  So, what happens after all of this hard work?  It doesn’t end there.  After Tamera’s build day, she hosts a party for her team with plenty of good food and drink.

For more information on the 2011 Women Build and Habitat for Humanity of Monroe County, go here: Habitat for Humanity of Monroe County

Steve Krahnke’s Magazine Collection

If you walk past Steve Krahnke’s office on the second floor, you may notice something.  The table outside of his office is covered with magazines.  Steve’s interest in quality writing draws him to intellectually engaging magazines.  Also, as Director of National Program Development for WTIU, he is always looking for new ideas for documentary projects.  Describing  himself as relentlessly curious, his collection includes magazines like The New Yorker, Harper’s, The Atlantic, American Heritage, and Discover.

Steve encourages anyone who wishes to borrow a magazine to help themselves as long as they return them.  He reports that awhile back someone was stealing the National Geographics.  As for who it was and what happened to them; the mystery remains unsolved.  Another secret?  The magazines – US Weekly, Entertainment Weekly, and TV Guide – in the waiting area near the administration office also belong to him.  “I’ve got to keep up with the times.  It’s important to know what shows students are talking about.”

Intellectual Circuits, Part One: Cognitive Science

Our graduate programs have an unusual degree of openness. The students are encouraged to use the entire university as their intellectual playground, as long as there is an intellectual coherence in the course selection, which has to be articulated in the rationale for the overall program of study. Correspondingly, Telecom students have treaded diverse and interesting pathways across the campus, which we call intellectual circuits. This movement of grad students brings new perspectives into our department. This is the first in a series of interviews with students on each of these circuits. To kick off the series, we asked some of the graduate students with minors in cognitive science about the ways in which their minor added to their Telecom studies.


What is cognitive science? For many of us, it’s an abstract label applied to the study of the brain. Telecom PhD students Rachel Bailey, Travis Ross, Matt Kobach, and Soyoung Bae, who have taken cog sci courses, provide a more nuanced understanding, especially on how it relates to our own field.

Rachel says, for her, cog sci is “a broader study of thinking, the brain and the mind, and what I do is apply those kinds of philosophical standpoints and theories to how people interact with media.” Coming from a very practical master’s program in marketing, Rachel looked to cognitive science as a new way of thinking about what she had already learned. She takes delight in the depth of her new understandings.

Travis, who is completing a dual degree in both the cognitive science and telecommunications departments, also values cognitive science for its new perspectives, but for him, the math and logic related to cognitive science are the big attraction. “In cognitive science I am exposed to a lot of very quantitative, somewhat math-heavy concepts that we just don’t cover in T-com,” he explains. “It’s helped me get a good grasp of the strengths and weaknesses of mathematical modeling and simulation in combination with the more verbal conceptually driven communication theory.” Soyoung finds that her cognitive science courses help her and others at the cutting edge of research on information processing by the brain. “Things progress faster over there. We borrow a lot from them – so it’s good to keep up with the new advancements and methods happening in cognitive science,” she says. For Matt, who uses what he has learned from cognitive science to better understand the relationship between media and evolutionary psychology, says cognitive science critical to his research. “It’s impossible to study the process of media without thinking of a cognitive component,” he explains. “Our brains develop adaptively, and they haven’t evolved to catch up with technology.”

As a complement to process-based courses within Telecom, Travis thinks cognitive science is for anyone looking to exercise what they’ve learned and become more flexible thinkers. “I would recommend it to anyone who is interested in social science and wants to work in a field that is doing really interesting and groundbreaking things with behavioral theory,” he says. For Rachel, courses in cognitive science can cater to all kinds of interests. “As I said before, it is a really broad field. So many things can be considered cognitive science –psychology, communication, informatics, robotics, AI . . . the list goes on. Your learning benefits from those varied perspectives, and if you think you’re interested in anything related to thinking and what influences thinking and what thinking influences, you can find a home.”

Brown Bag

Steve Krahnke gave last week’s brown bag presentation.

Creating and Using Dense Rubrics in Student Work Evaluation

Abstract:  As classes become larger and “multiple choice” evaluation becomes less useful, instructors can be faced with hours and hours of grading work in order to provide adequate feedback to students. This workshop will provide direction in the construction of and practical use of an evaluation too I have come to call a “dense rubric.” This is a tool which I learned in education school, and which has served me well in the evaluation of students over the years. It is superior in many cases because it provides maximum feedback to students while requiring minimal extra work from instructors.

“Dense” rubrics differ from standard grading rubrics in that they include precise, detailed descriptions of expectations for superior student work, as well as indications of areas of improvement (as opposed to simple grading criteria) . Dense Rubrics are particularly useful in evaluating papers and projects, because they offer large amounts of detailed feedback without requiring extra work from the instructor.

There are several other advantages. First, because comments are written prior to projects and papers being completed, students can have no question of what is expected of them. Second, instructors can provide feedback which is consistent among students, leading to a perception of “fairness” within a class. Third, grading projects and papers can either be analog or digital in nature, remaining consistent throughout the grading process. Finally, if multiple projects are assigned, students and instructors can use successive dense rubrics as “data” which can be used to determine progress.

This workshop will provide an introduction (or refresher) in the creation and use of “dense” rubrics. I will provide examples of my own dense rubrics, and good examples from other faculty at other institutions. Time permitting; we will attempt to create our own dense rubrics as a “class exercise.”

Click here to access Steve Krahnke’s Brown Bag Audio

Random Email of the Week

Harmeet,

The office here has a free pinball machine — and it does wonders to reset
your focus when you need a break from something. It reminded me of our
misbegotten idea to get a foosball table so I thought I would mention
it. Next to the machine is a whiteboard where everyone who plays,
records their high scores. So there’s actually some incentive to play.
I’m the fifth highest out of about 15 or 20 at the moment, yet to break
the 20 million mark… but nipping at their heels.

Definitely conducive to a creative environment.
Erik

(Prof. Bucy, on leave from IU, is currently serving as Vice President – Research for SmithGeiger LLC in Los Angeles and handling research for clients in local and national news, digital media, and the non-profit sector.)

Credits

Nicky Lewis: Tamera and Habitat for Humanity, Steve Krahnke’s ‘Zines, Intellectual Circuits

Katie Birge: Intellectual Circuits, Brown Bag

Special Thanks

Mary LaVenture:  For seeding the idea of a series on intellectual circuits

Rob Potter: Photo and audio of brown bag

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