Tag Archive | "college of arts and sciences"

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The Lowe Dedicates New Art Research Center to Hands-On Learning


Special to UM News

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UM alumna Stella Holmes, third from left, is honored at the dedication ceremony for the new Art Research Center made possible by her generosity. Standing with her are, from left, Senior Director of Development Adriana F. Verdeja, UM President Donna E. Shalala, and Lowe Art Museum Director Jill Deupi.

CORAL GABLES, Fla. (February 19, 2015)—The new Stella M. Holmes Art Research Center (ARC) was officially dedicated in the heart of the College of Arts and Sciences’ Lowe Art Museum last Thursday, giving UM students even more unique opportunities for hands-on learning about the museum’s world-class collection.

“The Art Research Center will allow student curators in ArtLab to see and feel artifacts from the cultures they are studying more intimately than ever before,” said Holmes, a UM alumna and supporter whose generosity launched the museum’s innovative ArtLab series in 2009. “First-hand experience is a very valuable tool in museum studies programs, because it helps students to understand the soul of the art through investigation of its origins.”

The ARC’s walls are lined with built-in, museum-grade display cases that showcase a variety of objects, while smart technology makes the most of electronic resources and the Internet. More cases line the corridor adjacent to a classroom, engaging visitors before they enter the ARC. The area also has been redesigned to allow a direct view into the Lowe’s object storage, allowing guests to see a large number of pieces that are not currently on display. Designed for active learning, the ARC will host enhanced programming for all of the Lowe’s visitors.

“It’s a new capstone in our educational offerings,” said Jill Deupi, Beaux Arts director and chief curator. “We are thrilled with the ARC, which allows us to continue to expand and enhance our capacity to engage directly with our audiences.”

Home to a world-class collection of nearly 19,000 objects spanning 5,000 years of human history, the Lowe has long been committed to providing opportunities for the firsthand experience of works of art and enrichment of the community through education about arts and culture.

The phenomenal success of ArtLab, which touches the students involved, the Lowe’s 40,000 visitors each year, and countless others who access digital copies of the catalogs online, inspired the Lowe and Holmes to create the ARC, allowing even greater interaction and experience with the museum’s remarkable cultural and educational assets.

Led by a UM faculty member, ArtLab participants spend a full academic year delving into designated themes, which have included Spanish Colonial Art, the art of indigenous Panama, the convergence of Eastern and Western ideas in contemporary Japanese art, differing points of view in Islamic art, and the history of printmaking.

In addition to the direct study of objects in the Lowe’s collections, ArtLab students enjoy off-site immersive experiences, which in the past have included field research in Panama and Peru.

ArtLab culminates each spring with the curation and installation of a focus exhibition and a companion catalog authored by the students. This show remains on view in a prominent gallery in the Lowe (the Richard B. Bermont Family Focus Gallery) for a full year, allowing museum visitors to learn from participants’ investigative efforts.

In addition to Holmes’ generosity, support for the ARC was provided by Beaux Arts, the Rubin – Ladd Foundation, the Jensen Endowment, and the Coleman Foundation.

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Minds at Attention: UM Study Shows Soldiers Benefit from Pre-Deployment Mindfulness Training


Special to UM News

CORAL GABLES, Fla. (February 11, 2015) – Rather than the calm before the storm, the period before soldiers are deployed to a conflict zone can be a time of intense stress. Soldiers receive intensive training for their missions and prepare themselves psychologically to leave loved ones behind to face dangerous, high-stress situations. Although the goal of the predeployment period is to ensure that soldiers are prepared for the mission, studies have shown the presence of impaired cognitive functioning and psychological health during this critical interval.

Amid continuing deployments of U.S. soldiers to the world hotspots to assist in missions related to fighting terrorism or the Ebola virus, a University of Miami study led by neuroscientist Amishi Jha has made a significant discovery that expands increasing scientific evidence that one of the best ways to protect soldiers may be by training their minds.

The success of military operations requires that a high volume of information, arriving at a fast pace under potentially ambiguous circumstances, be used to make quick decisions and take decisive action. Yet, access to the best intelligence or equipment is of little use if a soldier’s mind is distracted. Errors resulting from a soldier’s own attentional lapses may lead to lifelong suffering due to physical, psychological, or moral injury.

“Soldiers are experts at standing at attention,” said Jha, associate professor in the Department of Psychology in UM’s College of Arts and Sciences and principal investigator of the study. “However, maintaining a mind at attention under the intense physical, emotional, and cognitive demands they face is a more difficult task.”

Attentional lapses and mind wandering (or off-task thinking) signal a distracted mind that is prone to errors. Jha’s study demonstrated a positive link between mindfulness training (MT) and protection against attentional lapses and mind wandering. Mindfulness is the ability to be aware and attentive of the present moment without emotional reactivity or volatility.

Jha’s prior research found that military service members who received 24 hours of MT benefited in their mood and cognitive performance based on how much time they spent engaging in mindfulness practices daily. The current study went a step further, seeking to investigate which aspects of MT programs work best to curb attentional lapses and mind wandering when training is shortened to eight hours over eight weeks.

The results of the study, funded by the U.S. Army, are significant because during the stress-filled and high-demand predeployment period, soldiers do not have the time to devote to a lengthier MT regimen. However, this is a time period in which they may need it most.

Likewise, the findings are important for civilians in high-stress, high-performance jobs in which time is extremely limited. “Moment-to-moment information from the environment is necessary to ensure quick, decisive action. In addition to soldiers, police officers, firefighters, trauma surgeons, day traders, pilots, and athletes may all benefit from short-form mindfulness training to curb attentional lapses and mind wandering,” added Jha.

“With the continued deployment of our soldiers to face complex threats around the world, these results are a critical addition to our ever-evolving readiness and resiliency toolkit,” said MG Walter Piatt, Deputy Commanding General of the U.S. Army in Europe. “Ensuring our men and women are both mentally and physically prepared is essential to mission success,” he said. “This study provides important information to help us do that.”

The researchers studied three groups of military service members, offering MT to two of the groups, comprising a total of 75 soldiers at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, eight to ten months before deployment to Afghanistan. The study measured attention and performance by looking at the impact of short-form MT on soldiers’ results on a Sustained Attention to Response Task (SART), a test designed to measure attentional lapses and mind wandering.

One of the two groups receiving MT received a type of mindfulness-based Mind Fitness Training (MMFT), which emphasized engagement in MT exercises during each of the class meetings. The second group received a version of MMFT primarily comprising didactic information and discussions focused on stress and resilience. The third group of 17 U.S. Marine reservists tested during their predeployment training interval received no training and served as a military control group. The study also included a civilian group that also received no training.

While the SART scores in civilians remained stable over eight weeks of typical civilian life, scores significantly declined in the military control group, underscoring the deleterious effects of the demands of predeployment interval on attention. After the eight-week course, the MT group with training emphasis outperformed the group with the didactic emphasis as well as the no-training military control group.

Soldiers in both groups who received MT reported being more aware of their attention compared to the military control group at the end of the eight weeks.

In sum, scientists found that training-focused MT promotes cognitive resilience by protecting against degradation of attention during high-stress periods.

The study, “Minds ‘at Attention’: Mindfulness Training Curbs Attentional Lapses in Military Cohorts,” is published online ahead of print by PLOS ONE. Additional authors who contributed to the study are: Alexandra B. Morrison, Ph.D., Suzanne Parker, and Nina Rostrup, of the University of Miami, Justin Dainer-Best, of the University of Texas at Austin, and Elizabeth A. Stanley, Ph.D., of the Walsh School of Foreign Service and Department of Government, Georgetown University. She is the creator of MMFT and a member of the board of directors of the Mind Fitness Training Institute, a nonprofit 501(c)(3) established to support the delivery of MMFT.

 

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SEEDS Launches New Mentoring Initiative to Help Students and Early-Career Professionals Thrive


UM News

CORAL GABLES, Fla. (January 28, 2015) – A new leadership and mentoring program aimed at helping undergraduate students and early-career professionals to flourish in their academic and career endeavors is being launched by the University of Miami Women’s Commission and SEEDS (Scientists and Engineers Expanding Diversity and Success).

“It Takes a Mentor” will match students and junior faculty and staff members with senior University professors, researchers, and staff, with the goal of forging relationships that enhance the former group’s personal, academic, and career development.

The UM Women’s Commission and SEEDS are encouraging senior faculty and staff members to volunteer as mentors in the initiative.

“Having a mentor is a vital component of success for undergraduate students and early-career professionals both within the university setting and after they have moved on to the next stage of their careers,” said Catherine L. Newell, assistant professor of religious studies, who, along with Jennifer Spangenberg, assistant director in Housing and Residence Life, received a SEEDS You Choose Leadership Award that made the new initiative possible. The College of Arts and Sciences is also sponsoring the new “It Takes a Mentor” program.

Spangenberg noted a recent Gallup-Purdue University study that polled more than 30,000 college graduates on their university experience and how they were affected by it. Among the findings: 22 percent of the graduates who indicated they had a faculty mentor were three times more likely to report they were “thriving” in both their career and personal life, and twice as likely to have found a career in which they felt “engaged by their work.”

“We believe facilitating these connections to a mentor is a vital step towards success,” said Spangenberg. “With this in mind, students, their mentors, and all members of the UM community are invited to participate in three leadership seminars—Leadership and Strengths, Reflection on U, and the Power of Networking—throughout the spring semester and to continue their mentor/mentee relationships long into the future.”

All students searching for a mentor and all faculty and staff who feel they have the energy and knowledge to share with students or junior faculty/staff are encouraged to apply. Applications for mentors can be found here, while applications for those seeking a mentor can be found here.

Applications are due no later than Friday, February 6.

For more information, please contact Newell (clnewell@miami.edu) or Spangenberg (jenni@miami.edu).

 

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Nation’s Top Zebrafish Experts Gather at UM

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Nation’s Top Zebrafish Experts Gather at UM


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The symposium included guided tours of UM’s state-of-the-art zebrafish facility.

Special to UM News

CORAL GABLES, FLA. (January 14, 2015 — Zebrafish are only about one inch long – but these tiny fish are helping scientists answer big questions about genetics and how diseases emerge.

Zebrafish embryos are clear, and they grow outside of the mother’s body, allowing researchers to observe their development from the moment an egg is fertilized. In just two days, cells differentiate into separate organs, and the fish are capable of many actions – all available to view in real time under a microscope.

Some of the nation’s top zebrafish researchers gathered at the University of Miami College of Arts and Sciences this week for the Tales of Discovery Symposium: Answering Cutting-Edge Research Questions with Zebrafish. It was organized by Julia Dallman and Isaac Skromne, both assistant professors of biology in the College, and Marisa Hightower, senior program manager for SEEDS (a UM-wide program aimed at fostering diversity across all three campuses).

Eight leading scientists presented their work with zebrafish during the event. Participants also had a chance to attend a poster session where undergraduate and graduate students working with these distinguished faculty members shared their work. Fourteen projects showed the promise of future research using zebrafish, such as identifying genes that cause hereditary deafness in humans.

Dallman called zebrafish “the model organism,” sharing her studies to determine how mutated genes that cause diseases differ from normal genes. She described a study on Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease, which affects neurons with long axons – particularly the foot and lower leg muscles. It affects about 1 in 2,500 people in America. Watching the neurons develop in zebrafish is yielding some clues as to how this inherited neurological disorder progresses in humans.

Lisa Ganser is an assistant professor at Georgia’s Kennesaw State University. She worked with Dallman and Associate Professor John Lu while earning her Ph.D. at UM, and incorporates zebrafish in her studies on how chemicals affect the development of neural behaviors.

“Zebrafish can respond to stimuli within 24 hours,” she explained, discussing her research on the effects of Adderall – a drug that helps children with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder focus. Ganser and her colleagues have found that the drug “prevents zebrafish from responding to stimuli appropriately,” and they are looking to determine: “How does it disrupt communication within the brain?”

Harvard Professor of Molecular and Cellular Biology Florian Engert presented one of the keynote addresses, describing his work mapping neural activity in zebrafish. He and two students devised a novel experiment, using a laser to expose five- to seven-day-old zebrafish embryos to an unpleasant (but not dangerous) amount of heat. The fish “learned” to flick their tails in a designated direction in order to turn off the heat. The whole time, Engert and the team monitored their brain, watching as the neurons fired and the tiny subjects figured out how to achieve their desired result.

The second keynote speaker was Cecilia B. Moens, a professor at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, Washington, who spoke about neuron cell migration. Both she and Engert gave longer presentations at the Miller School of Medicine while on campus.

Other presenters were Lu and Skromne, and Jeffrey Plunkett, associate professor at St. Thomas University.

The event concluded with guided tours of UM’s state-of-the-art zebrafish facility.

The symposium was sponsored by a SEEDS You Choose Award to Dallman and Skromne; the UM College of Arts & Sciences and its Department of Biology, and the Miller School of Medicine’s Neuroscience Program; the Society for Developmental Biology; and Pentair Aquatic Eco-Systems, which sells equipment for planning and maintaining zebrafish colonies in labs.

Attendees included researchers and faculty from local universities and Miami-Dade high schools.

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Ibis Literary Reading and Performance Series Opens with Three Poets


Special to UM News

CORAL GABLES, Fla. (January 5, 2015)–Poets Michael Burkard, Staceyann Chin, and Mary Ruefle will share a stage at the first major event in the 2015 Ibis Literary Reading & Performance Series at 7 p.m. on Thursday, January 15, at the College of Arts and Sciences Gallery at the Wesley Foundation House, 1210 Stanford Drive, Coral Gables.

Burkard’s books of poetry include My Secret Boat (W. W. Norton), Entire Dilemma, and Unsleeping (Sarabande Books). His poems appear in many journals and magazines, including The American Poetry Review, Chicago Review, Verse, Fence, and Black Clock. He has twice received fellowships from both the National Endowment for the Arts and the New York State Foundation for the Arts, and in 2008, he was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship. He also received the Alice diFay di Castagmola Award from the Poetry Society of America, and a Whiting Writer’s Prize. His poetry has appeared in four separate Best Anthologies. He is associate professor of English at Syracuse University, where he teaches in the M.F.A. Program in Creative Writing.

A fulltime artist, Chin is a resident of New York City and a Jamaican national who has been an “out poet and political activist” since 1998. From the Nuyorican Poets’ Cafe to one-woman shows Off- Broadway to acting in Julie Taymor’s Across the Universe and performing in both the stage and film versions of Howard Zinn’s Voices of a People’s History of the United States, to starring in the Tony-nominated Russell Simmons Def Poetry Jam on Broadway, Chin credits the long list of “things she has done” to her grandmother’s history of hard work and the pain of her mother’s absence.

Ruefle is the author of Trances of the Blast (Wave Books, 2013), Madness, Rack, and Honey: Collected Lectures (Wave Books, 2012), a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award in Criticism, and Selected Poems (Wave Books, 2010), winner of the William Carlos Williams Award from the Poetry Society of America. She has published ten books of poetry, a book of prose (The Most of It, Wave Books, 2008), and a comic book, Go Home and Go to Bed!, (Pilot Books/Orange Table Comics, 2007). She is also an erasure artist, whose treatments of 19th century texts have been exhibited in museums and galleries and published in A Little White Shadow (Wave Books, 2006). She is the recipient of numerous honors, including the Robert Creeley Award, an Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, a Guggenheim fellowship, a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship, and a Whiting Award. She lives in Bennington, Vermont, and teaches in the M.F.A. program at Vermont College.

The IBIS Literary Reading Series, sponsored in part by the University of Miami’s College of Arts and Sciences, the English Department’s Creative Writing Program, and Women’s and Gender Studies, is free and open to the public. For more information, contact UM Creative Writing Director M. Evelina Galang at mgalang@miami.edu or Melissa Burley, creative writing events and community outreach coordinator, at m.burley1@umiami.edu.

For information about parking, please see UM Parking Information.

 

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