Author Talk: Sarah Sobieraj

On February 28, Professor Sarah Sobieraj gave a talk at Tufts about her book, Soundbitten, which focuses on the relationship between news and activist organizations.

In 2000, Sobieraj started collecting information for the book.  She interviewed more than 120 individuals and highlighted 50 diverse activist groups who focused on a range of issues from war opposition to the environment. When she started interviewing the groups around election time, she assumed that most would want to influence a candidate. She found out that only a few did but what all the groups were really trying to get was mainstream media attention.

Soundbitten dives into not only the tactics various groups used to get media coverage, but also how the media deals with these cries for attention as well as what movements have and have not been successful. Some of the tactics used by various groups include protests, drama, comedy, irony, wit,  recruiting political celebrities, dancing and singing. Most of these groups rarely get any attention for these actions and often the coverage they do get is not about their goals or message. These groups practice media literacy with talking points to give to reporters, however the problem is that journalists prefer unscripted sounding individuals. Some of the groups spend hours practicing for the reporters, when it truth this is what makes the reporters uninterested.

An example of a movement that got a lot of media coverage was the Occupy movement. As Occupy was unorganized and was not as actively seeking media coverage, this made the protests come off as extremely authentic. That authenticity was what attracted media attention. They avoided the trap of seeing media as the goal but were able to see it for what it should be: a strategy.

Professor Sobieraj has been an associate professor at Tufts since 2005. In 2010 she received the Tufts Undergraduate Teaching Award for displaying compassion to her students and passion about her work.

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Tufts University Beelzebubs 50th Anniversary: The Welcome Home Concert

On Thursday, February 7, Tufts University welcomed back to the hill some of its most musically talented alumni: The Beelzebubs. ‘Bubs from every graduating class, from 1963 to 2003, flocked to the hill to honor  nine of their fellow ‘Bubs who pursued their passion for music and the performing arts and have excelled in their field.

Honorees ranged from opera singers to Guster (yes, one of their members was a ‘Bub!) and everything in between. They were presented by ‘Bubs who knew them best and wowed the audience with their performances. Throughout the night, both presenters and honorees fondly looked back on their time singing on the hill and expressed that the Beelzebubs will always have a special place in their hearts and lives.

If you missed it or want to relive the nostalgia, check out some performance footage below!

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Election Aftermath: Why Should I Believe What I See on the News?

Last Friday, Marin Porges, A82, came back to the hill to discuss news coverage of the 2012 election with students. Porges has more than 25 years of experience in journalism and is currently a senior producer of news standards and practices at NBC News and previously worked at ABC News. She was the 2012 recipient of the Tufts P.T. Barnum Award for Excellence in Entertainment.

Marin Porges discussing election night coverage with students

Porges began her discussion by describing her experience in journalism and her current role as senior producer of news standards and practices. She specifically detailed how her role took a part in the 2012 election: for the first time in her career, Porges took a seat at the “Decision Desk,” an secluded area where only senior producers and political science statisticians deal with data coming in from each state. Her job as senior producer was to approve the conclusions the statisticians came to from the data for reporting, a job she described as scary. Throughout her discussion, Porges stressed that it’s “better to be right than first,” even though NBC was the first network to call Obama’s victory on election night at 11:12pm.

Porges also made attendees aware of journalistic and ethical standards and processes. For example, she discussed how NBC makes sure to include the context of any piece of news they report that was given to them by any political party or candidate in order to have complete control of the messages they are sending to their audience. This, Porges stressed, keeps audiences informed and trusting the network since, “once our viewers don’t trust us, we’ve lost it all.”

Porges also taught her audience that every news organization uses the same exit polls. Since these news organizations don’t have enough money to each have an exit poll, they pool their resources. She also discussed that a special group at NBC reports and checks voting irregularities. She went into detail about the things that complicate election coverage like early voting. By election night, 50%+ of the battle ground states will have already voted so the exit polls aren’t as reliable as they used to be. In order to solve this problem, news stations have resorted to new tactics like calling voters in battle ground states to add to their exit poll data.

Another complication for Porges and her team is social media. Today her journalists have to be trained on everything: camera work, editing, writing, and this has made their work “a lot easier and a lot harder.” In the past, journalists could get help from experts on their team, but today, there is no time to fully train journalists one-on-one on the skills they must know. Also, on election night, journalists are given sensitive material, which they must not disseminate through their social media channels prior to the news being reported as stated by NBC policy. Yet during this election, NBC dealt with two instances of people on their team tweeting information before it was reported. Porges advised students to be careful of their social media presence claiming that, “It’ll come back to haunt you,” and asking them to check the social media policies of the news organization they work for and to make sure students don’t send anything on email that they wouldn’t want to be public.

The discussion ended with a Q&A session and the chance for students to meet and network with Porges.



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Global Land Art by Andrew Rogers

Through December 16, the Tufts Art Gallery at the Aidekman Arts Center is featuring an exhibit called “Global Land Art.” The exhibit showcases photographs of land art created by Australian sculptor Andrew Rogers.

For several years, Rogers has traveled the globe to create art in deserts, on glaciers, and in parks using a variety of natural materials, including rock, clay, granite, and sandstone, among other things. His large-scale art is then photographed from aerial perspectives for a stunning look at the vastness and scale of his impressive projects. Check out some of the photos below, and be sure to stop by the exhibit to see the entire collection!

"Ancient Language" in Chile's Atacama Desert is a two-headed llama made of rock and clay

"Labyrinth" in Nepal features the universal motif of a maze, made entirely of granite

"To Life" in Israel's Arava Desert uses sandstone to create the Hebrew word Chai ("life")

"Rhythms of Life," on the Dakshin Gangotri Glacier in Antartica, was constructed entirely of moraine gravel. The art was only visible for a few hours, as the ice melted quickly, and it stood to symbolize the transient nature of life.


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TIE Talks: Mary Davis

Since its founding in 1998, the Tufts Institute of Environment (TIE) has created many opportunities to promote environmental issues. The TIE Talks are a lecture series designed to be a causal, comfortable setting for faculty, staff, students and alumni to learn and share.

On Mar. 7,  speaker Mary Davis, assistant professor in the department of Urban and Environmental Policy and Planning, will present on her research involving the relationship between economics and public health. When asked about her inspiration for this connection, Davis responded:

“I started working on a large epidemiologic study at Harvard investigating the connection between exposure to diesel exhaust and lung cancer. Since cancer takes a long time to develop, we needed to understand what exposures looked like in the past before environmental monitoring data were available. So I started looking into filling in the gaps with economic data, with the hypothesis that greater levels of economic activity generate air pollution.”

The theme of this semesters TIE Talks is Environmental Justice. Davis offered her own perspective on this semesters theme:

“For me, the term environmental justice broadly encompasses any group that is disproportionately exposed to environmental harm, especially those without the political clout to effect change.”

Moreover, the TIE Talks create another arena for environment-related discussion. Davis commented on the significance of the TIE Talks:

“I think that the TIE Talks provide an excellent opportunity to bring visibility to environmental issues on campus.”

TIE was started as a result of a growing need for more environmental programs and activities at Tufts. Since then, it has supported numerous research projects and events.Today, TIE continues to build more awareness and attention for environmental research, teaching and leadership.

Mary Davis’ lecture will be held Wednesday Mar. 7, 4:30 to 6:30pm, TIE Conference Room, Miller Hall.

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A Taste of Tufts: A Sampling of Faculty Research

Every year the Experimental College at Tufts provides students with a number of unique classes meant to enrich their undergraduate experience. This year, with their new lecture series, A Taste of Tufts, proposed by senior Sara Harari, E12, students have the opportunity to expand their studies beyond their individual disciplines.

Each Friday, in room 155 in the Granoff Music Building, a professor or administrator from one of Tufts varying disciplines presents their work, giving students a special opportunity to learn about research that may not have otherwise been able to experience.

Now in it’s fifth week, President Anthony Monaco will be stepping up to the podium to discuss his research experience, which spans from his days as a doctoral candidate at Harvard to his work as senior scientist and head of the Human Genetics Laboratory at Oxford. President Monaco was kind enough to answer some questions about his upcoming appearance.

Why is it important for you to give the students at Tufts a chance to see you as a researcher in addition to being the university’s president?

I have spent the past 30 years of my career being an active researcher in the field of human genetics and neuroscience. It is only in the last five years that I have pursued my interests in university administration, in addition to my research. Therefore, it is important for students to understand that their president has made significant contributions to the field of human genetics and understands the importance of interdisciplinary research in trying to find solutions to the world’s greatest challenges.

Can you discuss how you decided on your research concentration that led to the two discoveries you are presenting on?

The first major discovery was the identification of the gene for Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD) during my Ph.D. studies in 1986. I was enrolled in Harvard Medical School’s program in neuroscience, which offered projects and faculty supervisors from all the Harvard departments and affiliated hospitals. It was through this program that I was introduced to Louis Kunkel at Children’s Hospital where he proposed to identify the gene for DMD and I immediately wanted to work with him. Several years later we were successful and many insights into the disease followed from this discovery. The second major discovery was the identification of the gene, FOXP2, in 2001 as mutated in severe speech and language disorders. This interest stemmed from my neuroscience background together with my expertise in human genetics. The identification of the FOXP2 gene was the first evidence for the involvement of genes in human speech and provided insights into the evolution and function of genes in language development.

Why do you think interdisciplinary research at Tufts is important for the university?

Many of the world’s greatest challenges will not be sufficiently addressed through the research of single disciplines. In most cases, breakthroughs in solving societies biggest problems will come at the cross-roads between disciplines and when researchers from different disciplines collaborate. Therefore, I think Tufts is well placed to leverage its disciplinary strengths across its various schools and campuses to better integrate our activities to provide innovative and more complete solutions.

President Monaco’s lecture will be held Friday March 2, Noon to 1pm, Room 155 in the Granoff Music Building. A light lunch will be  provided after the presentation.

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LeVar Burton Recieves Eliot-Pearson Award for Excellence in Children’s Media

On February 3rd, Tufts University’s sixth Eliot-Pearson Awards for Excellence in Children’s Media was held. This year’s award recipient was actor, entertainer and the host and executive producer of the PBS children’s television series “Reading Rainbow,” LeVar Burton.

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Promote Your Events on the New Tufts Events Calendar

Have an event you would like to promote? Be sure to submit it to the new and improved Tufts events calendar.  This new calendar makes it easier for users to share events with their friends, sign up for reminders via email or text message and even create QR codes.  Additionally, users can now add events to their own calendars (such as Outlook or Google), filter events and view upcoming events in specific buildings.

One of the biggest benefits of the new calendar is the ability to embed customizable event widgets on other websites.  Tufts Now will be the first website to use these widgets, including a Featured Events widget on the homepage and in the sidebars of article pages.

Please help us populate the calendar with the best Tufts has to offer by submitting and sharing your events.

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Chefs on the Hill

World-renowned chefs Wolfgang Puck, Daniel Boulud and Dan Barber were on campus May 3 to participate in a panel discussion, moderated by Corby Kummer of The Atlantic.

Dan Barber talking about going into food from a life at Tufts on Twitpic

The discussion touched on their backgrounds, their careers and making names for themselves before social media. Junior Joshua Kapelmen commented via twitter:

This talk with @tuftsculinary is one of the best I’ve been to at Tufts. Puck, Boulud and Barber talking about entrepreneurship and life

Following the discussion, those lucky enough to get tickets enjoyed a brunch in the Coolidge Room of Ballou Hall. Chef Daniel Boulud snapped a few photos at the brunch, including this one of his daughter Alix, a current Tufts undergrad.

If you missed the event, our tweeted recap is right here.

Sponsored by: Experimental College, Tufts Dining Services, Tufts Culinary Society, and Programming Board.

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Eat Your Way to Better Health

On Wednesday, April 20, Tufts Dining welcomed nutrition expert and author Keri Glassman, A95, for dinner and a talk on how to “Eat Your Way to Better Health.” (Earlier in the day, she also spoke at the Friedman School.)

If you missed her talk, we’ve got the recap here.

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