Monday, December 28, 2009

Global Citizenship

Welcome to the winter term!

It is central to our institution's mission, values and goals to encourage students, faculty and associates to be responsible and constructive members of the global community. One of the first steps in becoming global citizens is learning the various ways in which we are interconnected and interdependent. Part of this learning process is examining the intersection of culture, economics, politics, technology, geography, history and the environment.

This term I will be teaching SOC 415 Global Social Change online. The students and I will explore the nature, extent, causes and potential solutions to selected social problems at the international level, including poverty, consumerism, population problems, human rights, violence and terrorism and threats to the environment.

Virtual Field Study

For this course, students will join me in a "virtual field study" project. Each student will create a multimedia presentation about one developing country (its unique history, geography, culture, language, etc.), one global social problem in that country and how it intersects with other problems, and how that problem is being solved (through a non-profit organization or social enterprise). At the end of the term, each student will guide classmates and professor on a "virtual field study" of their chosen country.

I wish everyone a very Happy New Year! Find videos on's Good Global Citizen

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Exploring Identities

"All paths lead to the same goal. To convey to others what we are." --Pablo Neruda

This is our last week of the fall quarter and my students in SOC 320 Online, Gender, Race & Class, have been presenting their final Identity Power Point Projects on the Week 11 discussion board. This is the culmination of our exploration of our cultural, religious, gender, class and other group identities. Students asked themselves "Who am I? What do I value? How did I learn my values, beliefs, etc.? What are the components that make up my identity, including the varied roles I play.

Berkeley College students are highly diverse and this multicultural mosaic is reflected in the student projects. Here are some observations:

* One student is from Sweden and identifies with two cultures -- Italian culture from his father and Swedish culture from his mother and from growing up in Swedish society.

* A student who came to the U.S. from Haiti in 1997 shared aspects of her Haitian identity including how to say some common English words and phrases in Creole.

* Another of my online students came to this country from St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands. A mother of two daughters and living in Georgia, she shared her childrens' experiences with prejudice.

* A young man in our class explained that his ancestors were from a region known as Circassia before the Russian conquest of Caucasus. He educated all of us about the history of Circassia and included a map in his power point. He also shared photos and descriptions of traditional Circassian foods and values from this culture with which his family identifies.

Empirical studies have demonstrated the many benefits of a diverse student population. I agree with one researcher in diversity education who has written "instructors need to give a voice to every student, to point out differences, similarities, universal and not-so-universal ideas, all of which enrich everyone's store of knowledge" (Buckelew 1991).

Works cited: Buckelew, Mary (1991) "Group Discussion Strategies for a Diverse Student Population" Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the Conference on College Composition and Communication (42nd, Boston, MA, March 21-23, 1991)

Identity Map Image from Brainstorm Communication (

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Does A College Education Increase Life Expectancy?

A college education can help increase one's income, but can it also increase one's life span?

While life expectancy in the U.S. has increased over the past several decades, not all demographic groups have benefited. According to a 2008 study conducted by Harvard Medical School and Harvard University, individuals with more than 12 years of education tend to live longer than those with only a high school education or less (Science Daily).

"comparing the 1980s to the 1990s, better educated individuals experienced nearly a year and a half of increased life expectancy, while the less educated experienced only half a year. For 1990-2000, life expectancy rose an additional 1.6 years for better educated, while remaining fixed for the less educated.
In addition, when the data was broken down by gender, the researchers found that women fared worse than men. Less educated women, regardless of race, experienced a slight decline in life expectancy at age 25.
Overall in the groups studied, as of 2000, better educated at age 25 could expect to live to age 82; for less educated, 75" (Science Daily).
Another study examined specific diseases linked to the disparity between life expectancy among both racial and educational groups. According to researchers at University of California-Los Angeles, "the top six contributors of mortality differences between education levels are all smoking-related diseases" (Science Blog).

"Deaths from diseases strongly linked to smoking -- lung cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder -- accounted for one-fifth of the life-expectancy gap between the groups with different levels of education. That fits with other research that shows people with less education are less likely to quit smoking" (White Coat Notes).

The UCLA study also shows that four diseases -- hypertension, HIV, homicide and diabetes -- are the greatest contributors to the life-expectancy gap between blacks and whites in the U.S.

Science Blog (
Science Daily 12 March 2008 (
White Coat Notes 11 March 2008 (