Tag Archives: Pamplin College

More Cubans migrate to the U.S.

Cuban migrants are flocking to the U.S., a trend experts attribute to fears that changing relations between the two countries could end America’s policy that permits residents of the island nation who reach the U.S. to remain here permanently.

Dr. Paolo Spadoni, a Cuba expert and assistant professor in the Department of Political Science at Georgia Regents University, was quoted in a Sept. 20 article in the Wall Street Journal on the subject.

“There is sense of urgency to beat any change in U.S. immigration policy toward Cuba,” he said.

Read More: More Cubans migrate to the U.S.

Karin Gillespie writes and writes… and writes

Karin GillespieKarin Gillespie has quite a few writing achievements to her name.

For one thing, she writes a popular book column, “By the Book,” for the Augusta Chronicle. If that wasn’t enough local exposure, she’s also a humor columnist for Augusta Magazine. She writes book reviews for the Washington Post, and in 2014, her essay, “A Master’s in Chick Lit,” was featured in the New York Times. She’s even published a book or two of her own.

Actually, scratch that. She’s written five.

But it’s that last accolade that’s truly noteworthy. Not because Gillespie has published five books – a feat that would be incredible on its own– but because in September, she’ll have published six.

Needless to say, Gillespie knows a thing or two about putting pen to paper.

But she also knows a thing or two about living. That’s the focus of her latest novel, “Girl Meets Class.”

Prior to writing, Gillespie had another challenging career. Now a part-time instructor in the Department of English and Foreign Languages, she previously spent 10 years teaching at an inner-city high school. She said the experience was “the hardest challenge” of her life.

“I taught slow learners and children with behavioral disorders,” she said. “It was hard, seeing all those social problems on a daily basis. You know, a good day there was a day when someone wasn’t throwing a chair at me.”

Flashing her signature smile, she added, “Thankfully, nobody here throws chairs.”

She said “Girl Meets Class” is partially based on her experiences as a high school teacher.

“It isn’t autobiographical, though,” she cautions. “It isn’t about me.”

That’s probably a good thing. The story poses a unique question: What happens when a spoiled Southern belle takes a job teaching at an inner-city high school? The answer is both hilarious and insightful, but, again, 100 percent nonbiographical. In fact, there are very few – if any – similarities between Gillespie and Toni Lee Wells, the alcoholic socialite-turned-teacher around whom her novel revolves. Other than their shared teaching misadventures, of course.

Gillespie said she decided to write “Girl Meets Class” precisely because teaching underprivileged children was one of the hardest experiences of her life. Also, she added, because her friends hounded her relentlessly to do so.

“When are you going to write about that?” she said. “That’s all I ever heard.”

Though the stories she tells are almost entirely fictional, Gillespie’s career actually began with nonfiction. She said the switch was an easy one to make, though she continues to produce book reviews and columns on a regular basis.

“I’d always loved fiction, though,” she said. “I always wanted to try it, so I made the transition.”

And that transition came faster than she thought.

While attending the Sandhills Writers Conference in the early 1980s, she met Robert Bosch, the Conference’s visiting writer. After reading her first fiction manuscript, Bosch made her an offer she couldn’t refuse.

“He read my manuscript and liked it,” she said. “In fact, he liked it so much he said if I finished it within a year, he’d put me in touch with his agent.”

She did, and Bosch did. Unfortunately, though, his agent rejected her work.

“They specialized in different stuff,” she explained. “But I was still published within a year. I realize I was very, very lucky.”

It’s worth noting that Gillespie attended the Sandhills Writers Conference as an undergraduate, because in addition to being a national best-selling author, she is also a GRU alumna. Gillespie graduated with her B.A. in Psychology in 1982 from then-Augusta College and has been an avowed lover of writing and academia ever since.

Ultimately, Gillespie said she’s enjoyed the move from teaching high school to being a college professor. But like all meaningful journeys, it, too, had its own set of challenges.

Gillespie had written and published five novels by the time Simon & Schuster declined renewing her option in 2008. Faced with a lull of publishing activity during one of the worst recessions in American history, Gillespie did what any sensible writer would do.

She went back to school.

The experience taught her a great deal about writing, but also a great deal about herself and her style. Her essay, “A Master’s in Chick Lit,” details her journey from unashamed first-year student to confident writer. [Read the full essay here].

“I went back to get my M.F.A. because I loved teaching and because I missed it,” she said. “Writing and teaching are two aspects I love, and when you’re passionate about something, you just want to infect people with it, you know?”

That’s what she says she strives to do in her classes: infect students with a love of writing.

Her students seem receptive to it, too. They are determined, something Gillespie said she both admires and respects about them. They take their writing very seriously and understand the chances of publication are slim. Still, they carry on strong.

“About 90 percent of them want to tackle the novel, which is laudable,” she said. “The window of publication gets smaller ever year, but it’s doable. And you don’t have to know anyone to make it. Take it from me.”

“Girl Meets Class” is Gillespie’s first novel published by Henery Press, an up-and-coming publisher based out of Dallas. Fans and new readers alike can expect the new title to drop on Sept. 8.

‘The Fantasticks’ sprints to Maxwell stage

Just two weeks into the 2015-16 school year, the Georgia Regents University Department of Music and the American Opera and Musical Theater Institute present “The Fantasticks,” a staple of musical theater for more than 50 years.

“It’s a very small show,” said Patti Myers, a lecturer in music. “We’re using the original instrumentation – just a piano and a harp – which is why we thought that if we’re going to do something in a rush, then we’re going to do something like this.”

While the term rush might imply poor planning, starting so early in the school year was actually a deliberate, calculated decision.

“By doing it this early – and we’ve never done it like this before – we’re jumping way ahead of everyone else in the art community,” said Tonya Currier, director of the American Opera Institute. “There’s no symphony, there’s no Harry Jacobs, there’s no conflict.”

Performances are August 28 and 29 at 8 p.m. at the Maxwell Theatre, and tickets are still available for both shows.

The show, billed as the “World’s Longest Running Musical,” debuted in the 1960s and produced a couple of well-known songs, including “Try to Remember,” which has become a standard for vocalists of several generations.

“It’s actually kind of poetic, even a little Shakespearean sometimes,” Myers said of the show. “It’s kind of a fable about growing up.”

The cast, made up of students, community members, an alumnus and a retired professor, started rehearsing about three weeks before school started.

Next semester, the Institute will mount a production of Mozart’s opera, “The Marriage of Figaro,” which will take place over Valentine’s Day weekend.

“We actually have two love stories this season, which is part of what we want to stress,” Currier said. “Come fall in love with us.”

The American Opera and Musical Theater Institute is an educational training program designed to prepare young vocal talent for professional careers in musical theater and opera performance.

“We’re hopefully bringing professionals together with our students and creating beautiful music and theater that they can learn from,” Currier said. “We want them to experience what it’s like to be in the real world while at the same time protect them.”

Protecting young voices is something that’s actually built into the program. Besides the music department, the Institute includes professors from the Department of Kinesiology and Health Science as well as physicians from the Department of Otolaryngology.

Tickets for “The Fantasticks” can be purchased online here or at the Maxwell Theatre box office, which is open Monday-Thursday from 1-5 p.m. and Friday through the start of the show. The box office will be open an hour before the Saturday performance.

Tickets are free for students with a valid JagCard, $5 for faculty, staff, non-GRU students and children, $8 for GRU alumni, seniors and military and $10 for the general public.


A Study in Terror: Lance Hunter’s examination of civil liberties under fire

At face value, there’s nothing outwardly menacing about the number 13,463. In fact, in a world obsessed with billions, it seems like an almost paltry sum. Petite. Quaint.

Last year, the U.S. State Department reported there were at least 13, 463 terrorist attacks worldwide in 2014. The report also claimed that the number of fatalities as a result of terrorism had risen more than 80 percent from 2013. Does the number still seem small?

As both political parties gear up for yet another election cycle, the spirit of democracy is once again fresh in the minds of many Americans. Unfortunately, that same spirit comes under threat from violent agents, both foreign and domestic, far too often in the new millennium.

Dr. Lance Hunter, an assistant professor in the Department of Political Science, is something of an expert on the subject of organized terrorism.

Recently, his article “Terrorism, Civil Liberties, and Political Rights: A Cross-National Analysis” was accepted for publication in the Jan. 2016 edition of Studies in Conflict and Terrorism, a leading journal in the field of terrorism study and analysis.

Hunter’s article will focus on how terrorist activity threatens the civil liberties of modern democracies, and the answers, while surprising, are still frightening.

“I found that consolidated democracies tended to have a less drastic response to terrorist attacks in the form of infringing on civil liberties than did less consolidated democracies,” Hunter said. “That surprised me. I was expecting to see a fairly uniform drop in civil liberties across the board, but that wasn’t the case.”

The term “consolidated” in reference to Hunter’s research refers to democracies that are more “whole.” Countries like Spain, which contain regions that enjoy only a moderate level of democratic governance compared to others, are considered less consolidated, whereas countries like the United States – where all regions are subject to uniform central governance – are considered consolidated.

“More consolidated democracies tend to rally around a constitution,” Hunter explained. “They tended to show a stronger dedication to maintaining civil liberties than less consolidated states.”

In fact, Hunter said the freest nations tended to see an increase in civil liberties in the wake of terrorist attacks.

“I think after an attack, people in those nations realize their civil liberties are under attack,” he said. “In a sense, because of their awareness, that attack has the opposite effect, and they end up with an even greater level of freedom.”

But not all nations are so lucky.

Safety and security rank as two of the highest qualities in an individual’s life. That’s no secret: People yearn to feel protected. Unfortunately, that protection often comes at a terrible price.

“Less consolidated democracies tended to have a more reactive response to terrorist attacks,” Hunter said. “In those places, there was a definite hit to civil liberties.”

Some of the most prominent civil liberties affected by terrorism are the right to due process and freedom of speech, aspects of a democracy that many consider crucial to its success.

“In the wake of a major terrorist attack, you might see certain rights disappear for a time,” said Hunter. “One of the first is the right to see a judge. Sometimes, opportunistic political leaders see attacks as ways of solidifying their power, and in those cases, the entire power structure of a democracy suffers for it.”

But in the end, though civil liberties suffer in certain countries, Hunter believes the institution of democracy as a whole will carry on.

“Democracy is crucial because it provides more stability,” he said. “Especially in times of change. Authoritarian governments might provide short-term safety, but in the long run, when it comes time for power to change hands, it almost never happens without violence. ”

Hunter believes debate and conversation are invaluable to the process of preserving democracy.

“People mention the Patriot Act as a lessening of civil liberties in the United States,” he said. “But as we saw in the Republican Primary, in the debate between Sen. Rand Paul and Gov. Chris Christie, we’re still having that conversation. We’re still debating its merits.. That’s an undeniably good thing.”

Dr. Craig Albert, also an assistant professor in Hunter’s department, said Hunter’s research was timely and utterly unique.

“With the rise of ISIS, this paper could not have been more timely,” said Albert. “It is an age old question: how to balance the concepts of security and liberty. Dr. Hunter’s is a piece that answers this both theoretically and practically, and will contribute to Security Studies for decades to come.”

In terms of credibility in the field of political science and security studies, Albert said Hunter’s achievement was beyond noteworthy.

“It is rare to have a publication that merits respect from both theorists and policy makers,” he said. “This does both.”

GRU professor explores cultural science fiction addiction

“More human than human is our motto,” Eldon Tyrell famously expresses in the 1982 cult classic film “Blade Runner.” That’s also the focus of Dr. Jared Hegwood’s 1102 and 1114 English classes, “More Human than Human: Science Fiction and the Human Condition.”

The class poses a couple of complex questions: What makes a person human, and what about humanity do we uncover through the exploration of science fiction?

Hegwood is no stranger to fiction. Nor, for that matter, is he a stranger to self-exploration.

A prolific writer, Hegwood earned his doctorate in English with a primary specialization in creative writing from the University of Southern Mississippi in 2007. There, having learned and written in the school’s prestigious Center for Writers, he produced a short collection of self-reflective works titled “Somewhere I Have Never Travelled,” which also served as his dissertation. The collection features stories that were, Hegwood admits in his introduction, both “therapeutic” and deeply introspective.

To some degree, it’s that same level of introspection Hegwood wants his students to experience when they explore science fiction.

“I think it’s necessary for adults to engage in that sort of thinking,” he said. “Exploration is at the core of the thing we call a soul.”

Having only taught the class once thus far, in the spring of 2014, Hegwood said he’s excited to teach it again. Especially, he said, because of the types of students it draws in.

“It got quite a mix,” he said. “Of course, you have the geeky sci-fi guys, and you know, bring them in, we’re glad to have them. But it also gets a lot of young women, too.”

According to Hegwood, many of the young women drawn to the class weren’t naturally inclined toward science fiction. They did, however, take profound interest in anther portion of the class: philosophy and how science fiction reflects the human condition.

“We talk robots and space travel, and they just sort of roll their eyes,” said Hegwood. “But when we start bringing in women’s studies topics, when we start talking about Simone de Beauvoir and feminism and existentialism, they suddenly see it all in a different light.”

That link is crucial, claims Hegwood, because existentialism is at the core of science fiction.

Existentialism is the term used to describe the works of various 19th– and 20th-century philosophers who claimed that all philosophical thought begins with acting, feeling human beings. Søren Kierkegaard, a Danish theologian who extolled the virtues of separating perceived reality from the truth of the senses, is generally accepted as the father of modern existentialism. He, alongside Beauvoir, a famous feminist and existentialist, and Karl Jaspers, a German psychiatrist and philosopher, are half the scope of Hegwood’s class.

There’s little doubt that the concept of existentialism is important in this day and age, when notions of bettering the “individual self” have become the focus of a generation. There’s also a strong argument for increasing society’s emphasis on science education, given that the first off-Earth settlement is tentatively scheduled to begin in 2026 with the launch of the Mars One program.

But why is a science fiction class necessary?

Because we’re obsessed with it.

In 2015 alone, two of the top three highest grossing movies have been science-fiction themed. Of the highest grossing franchises of all time, three of the top five are labeled science fiction.

While you won’t find Hollywood complaining any time soon, that obsession isn’t necessarily a good thing, some “nerd culture” icons say.

Simon Pegg, who reprised his role as Engineer Montgomery “Scotty” Scott in 2013’s “Star Trek: Into Darkness,” said in May of 2015 that Western society’s love affair with science fiction was a “kind of dumbing down” because it takes away cultural focus from more important world issues.

Alan Moore, author of the famous superhero graphic novel Watchmen, said similarly of caped crusaders that he believed society’s “embracing of what were unambiguously children’s characters at their mid-20th-century inception seems to indicate a retreat from the admittedly overwhelming complexities of modern existence.”

But that obsession, despite the claims of Pegg and Moore, has also led to undeniably good things. “Star Wars” and “Star Trek” (of which, Hegwood is an avowed fan) – both staples of modern storytelling – are also exemplars of the reasons why we love science fiction. Sci-fi can be fantastic, it can be unimaginable, but it can also teach us by setting the stage for future innovations.

“I strongly disagree with Pegg’s and Moore’s claims,” said Hegwood. “Adults have to be able to think in those terms as well. Just think about the innovations we’ve taken from things like ‘Star Trek.’”

Holding his smart phone aloft, Hegwood smiled. “I never thought as a kid that I’d be holding a tricorder in my hand,” he said, making reference to a famous piece of “Star Trek” communications tech. “This is better than a tricorder. It does so much more. Where did those ideas originate?”

In Hegwood’s mind, there’s nothing wrong with people getting into the minds of superheroes and space captains. On the contrary, he argues that people need science fiction for that very reason – because they see themselves in it. Especially in the darkest times.

“Today, you see the prevalence of dystopian, post-apocalyptic science fiction,” he said. “The world is a dark place, but even in a grim future, people see themselves, and they see themselves alive. There’s a sort of faint hope to that, I think.”

That’s why the other half of Hegwood’s class belongs to true science fiction masters: Mary Shelly, H.G. Wells and Warren Ellis, among others. Because at its core, science fiction – like the human condition – is all about hope. As for its prevalence in Western culture, Hegwood said he isn’t worried about sci-fi disappearing anytime soon.

“I don’t think it’ll ever end,” he said. “I don’t foresee there ever being a time when we stop imagining the future and our place in it, or when we stop questioning who and what we are. The day we stop being challenged, the day we lose the ability to hope in that way, is the day we die.”

As long as we hold on to that hope, to that need for exploration, Hegwood believes our species will most definitely live long and prosper.

Sexton to lead GRU Cyber Institute

Joanne Sexton has been named Director of the Georgia Regents University Cyber Institute. Sexton, a former information technology expert for the U.S. Navy, previously served as GRU’s director of Cyber Education Initiatives.

“Joanne’s commitment to the university and her students, as well as her knowledge of cyber will certainly help take our cyber research, education and curriculum to the next level,” said Gretchen Caughman, provost and executive vice president for academic affairs.

“Hundreds of millions of records have been involved in data breaches across the globe, and new attack methods are being launched continuously,” said Dr. Brooks Keel, GRU president. “Through our partnership with the U.S. Army Cyber Command, GRU is poised to take a national leadership role in one of the fastest-growing and most needed areas of professional development. We are confident that Joanne can help us get there.”

GRU launched the Cyber Institute in June to develop research, new curriculum and outreach opportunities in cybersecurity. The creation of the institute is a step toward gaining recognition as a Department of Homeland Security and National Security Agency National Center of Academic Excellence in Information Assurance/Cyber Defense.

Before joining GRU, Sexton served as the first commanding officer of what is known today as Navy Information Operations Command Georgia. She has more than 20 years of information technology experience in the Navy, spanning hardware maintenance, software development and support, telecommunications services, computer center operations, software quality assurance, space operations management, project management and information security practice.

Sexton holds master’s degrees in computer science and in national and strategic studies. She is a Certified Information Systems Security Professional and has earned Global Information Assurance Certifications in several areas of cyberdefense, including security essentials, incident handling, intrusion analysis and penetration testing.

The GRU Cyber Institute provides the framework for all things cyber at the university. Current cybersecurity courses and degrees include advanced information assurance through the Hull College of Business,  medical informatics program, focused on protection of health information, through the College of Allied Health Sciences, and courses on cyberterrorism through the Pamplin College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences.

Davies uses Love of Learning grant to learn more about homicide

While the ABC television show “How to Get Away with Murder” may have racked up an impressive audience during its first season last year, Dr. Kim Davies’ Sociology of Murder class does a pretty good job of packing them in as well.

“Last time, it had around 100 students,” Davies said. “It’s the first time I let it get that big.”

It’s so popular, she said, because homicide is all around us. On the news. In the movies. On television.

“It’s everywhere in entertainment these days,” she said. “Students flock to that class.”

Recently, Davies received a $500 Love of Learning Award from Phi Kappa Phi honor society which, combined with the in-house Pamplin Professional Impact Fund, allowed her to go to the Homicide Research Working Group conference in Clearwater Beach, Florida. There, she presented a literature review on homicide survivors, who are family members of homicide victims.

“It’s the conference I prefer to go to over any other,” she said. “It’s a group of about 50 of us, and every session it’s everybody in the room. You can’t sneak out. We are all there weighing in on each other’s work and really helping each other.”

The feedback she received at the conference is helping her decide whether to pursue what is, for her, a new line of research.

“I thought I’d be gung-ho to get into this, but as I worked with it more, I began to wonder,” she said. “We always have to be careful about our subjects, but I just want to be really careful with these particular subjects. They’ve gone through a lot, and though I think I’m a kind human being and careful not to hurt anyone, I’m a sociologist, not a psychologist.”

In fact, one of the suggestions made at the conference was to add a psychologist to her research team to monitor the effects of her questioning, which is something she says actually meshes with the overall mission of the school.

“Any time we can mix whatever we’re studying with the health sciences campus, that’s logical for the university.”

Her interest in homicide stems from her master’s thesis, where she began by studying pornography from a women’s studies perspective. When the faculty member she was working with retired, she moved to studying homicide, and now she’s become an expert in the field, someone who is not only a department chair, but a leader in research.

She’s not just a leader in research, she’s an advocate for it.

“I think good teachers need to be good researchers, or at least need to be active in researching,” she said. “I think one of the things I bring to my teaching is my research. I think students find it fascinating when you bring up something you’ve done.”

And she speaks from experience. Davies has been here since 1996.

“I didn’t think I’d stay,” she admitted. “Like lots of people, you get a job and figure you’ll move around. But for me, one of the things that’s happened is that we have changed, and that’s allowed this job to continue to stay challenging and interesting. I’m in another institution, a more challenging institution, and I’m smiling. I think it’s great.”


GRU Explains the Confederate Flag debate

AUGUSTA, Ga. – The South Carolina legislature convened Monday to debate proposals to remove the Confederate flag from Statehouse grounds.

Dr. John Hayes, an assistant professor of History at Georgia Regents University, teaches courses on the American South. In a new video, he discusses history’s role in the current controversy.

“The removal of the flag from Statehouse grounds in South Carolina would be symbolically very powerful,” Hayes said. “It’s a way of saying we’re coming to terms with a certain commemoration of the past that spoke for only half – maybe not even half – of the people of South Carolina and, as we confront that commemoration, this has no place going forward. Does that mean South Carolina has all of a sudden turned a corner and become a radically different state? By no means. But I think it’s an important small step in charting a better future, a future that includes all South Carolinians rather than only some.”

A rising scholar in Southern history, Hayes’ research focuses on religion in the late 19th and 20th century South. He has published chapters in edited collections, including Big River: Johnny Cash and the Currents of History; The Christ-Haunted South: Contextualizing Flannery O’Connor, and journal articles, such as The Evangelical Ethos and the Spirit of Capitalism; Recovering the Class-Conscious New South; From Christ-Haunted Region to Anomic Anyplace.

Kellman to present Tuk Verse at poetry reading

Anthony Kellman press photo 012609Anthony Kellman, retiring Professor of English and Creative Writing at Georgia Regents University, will present at a poetry reading at the Edgefield Discovery Center on Saturday, June 27.

There, Kellman will discuss and demonstrate “Tuk Verse,” a self-invented form of verse based on traditional Barbadian rhythms.

Tuk Verse is written in three movements, and its rhythmic patterns are largely derived from the Barbadian “Tuk,” a type of indigenous folk music. In addition to developing Tuk Verse, Kellman also wrote Barbados’s only published epic poem, titled “Limestone: An Epic Poem of Barbados.”

A multigenre writer and musician, Kellman has taught at Georgia Regents University since 1989. During that time, he has served as the Director of the Sandhills Writers Conference and Series, facilitating readings and visits from authors such as Ray Bradbury and Rick Bragg.

In 1982, he published his first poetry chapbook, titled “In Depths of Burning Light.” His second, “The Broken Sun,” was published in 1984. In 1993, he became the first English-speaking Caribbean writer to win a U.S. National Endowment for the Arts award, and in 2011, he won the Barbados Prime Minister’s Award for a manuscript of his poetry titled “South Eastern Stages.”

Malaika Favorite, an award-winning visual artist and Fulbright scholar, will join Kellman at the reading. Favorite specializes in painting, primarily in oil, acrylic, and watercolor, and has shown her work in dozens of cities.

For more information about this event, contact Laurel Blossom, Poet Laureate of Edgefield, at 803-637-2291.

Mayor declared June 19 Philip Morsberger Day

Augusta Mayor Hardie Davis honored former Morris Eminent Scholar Philip Morsberger for his contributions to the local art community by proclaiming Friday, June 19, Philip Morsberger Day.

“It is not just his gifts as a great painter and fine teacher that have benefited Augusta so greatly, it was his decision to remain here after his term as the William S. Morris Eminent Scholar in Art at Augusta State University (now Georgia Regents University) ended, working among us and representing Augusta brilliantly elsewhere, that has really identified him as a favorite son,” Davis said. “Whether adopted or not, he is a great Augustan and a wonderful ambassador for our city. We take great pride in his continuing presence here.”

Morsberger was named the Morris Eminent Scholar in 1996, holding the endowed professorship until 2001. Since then, he’s remained in Augusta, exhibiting both nationally and internationally.

According to Morris Museum director Kevin Grogan, the museum celebrated Philip Morsberger Day by offering free admission.

“No public institution anywhere has enjoyed the support of such a staunch and abiding friend as the Morris Museum has had in Philip Morsberger,” Grogan said. “We share the mayor’s salute and wish him all the best.”