Wednesday, April 20, 2011

International Service-Learning Partner Wins Community Service Award

Congratulations to our service-learning partner, Donna Quathamer, who recently received the De La Salle Award for community service from Lewis University in Romeoville, Illinois. This prestigious award is presented each year to individuals who provide extraordinary service and leadership for the benefit of the community and region. As founder of Casa de los Angeles, a day care center that serves the poorest families in San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato, Mexico, Donna and her staff have helped improve the lives of so many children and struggling single moms.

It has been a privilege to have Casa de los Angeles as our international service-learning partner during the past year. So far, Berkeley College students have completed two service projects. During the spring quarter 2010, students in SOC 205 World Cultures online designed a blog prototype to be incorporated into the non-profit's social media strategy. Students from SOC 415 Global Social Change online spent the winter quarter 2011 researching and creating a grants database for Casa de los Angeles.

We look forward to partnering with Donna and Casa de los Angeles this coming summer quarter 2011. Philosophy professor, Dr. Yesudas Choondassery, and students in his HUM 225 Ethics class will hold an educational fundraiser as part of their academic service-learning project. Details will be posted on this blog in early June, and the event will be held in August.

For more information on Donna Quathamer and Casa de los Angeles, visit their website  You can also friend them on FaceBook at

Monday, April 18, 2011

Musical Diversity with Moroccan Jazz Singer, Malika Zarra

Today, while driving to the Garret Mt. campus, I was introduced to the incredibly beautiful voice of "Morocco's jazz jewel", Malika Zarra, on NPR's Soundcheck.  According to CNN, Zarra, who sings in Berber, Moroccan, French and English, "is redefining the term fusion and is adding her own unique sound to the world" (

"Malika was born in Southern Morocco, in a little village called Ouled Teima. Her father's family was originally from Tata, a city on the Sahara plain, while her mother was a Berber from the High Atlas. During her early childhood, there was always music and dancing in the house. After her family emigrated to a suburb of Paris, she found herself straddling two very different societies. I had to be French at school yet retain my Moroccan cultural heritage at home, she recalls, Like many immigrant children, I learned to switch quickly between the two. It was hard but brought me a lot of good things too."

Zarra was influenced by musicians such as fellow Moroccan Hajja Hamdaouia, Rais Mohand, the Lebanese-born, Egyptian-based ud virtuoso/composer Farid el Atrache, Um Kalthoum and Algerian singer Warda (Al-Jazairia), as well as American musicians, Ella Fitzgerald, Bobby McFerrin, Thelonious Monk, Stevie Wonder and Aretha Franklin. 

To hear Zarra's new CD, Berber Taxi, go to   Malika Zarra also has a FaceBook page at   View a You Tube video of a recent performance below.

Why Do We Kiss?

Over the years there have been numerous biological, anthropological, and psychological theories about kissing -- why we kiss, how we kiss, the evolutionary origins of kissing, cross-cultural patterns of kissing, etc. Now the Mind and Brain section of Discover Magazine Online (March 19, 2011) has posted its definitive list of 20 Things You Didn't Know About.... Kissing. 

1 Only you: Human lips are different from those of all other animals because they are everted, meaning that they purse outward.

2 But we are not the only species to engage in kissing-like behaviors. Great apes press their lips together to express excitement, affection, or reconciliation.
3 Scientists are not sure why humans kiss, but some think the answer lies in early feeding experiences. Through nursing and (in some cultures) receiving pre-chewed food from a parent's mouth, infants may learn to associate lip pressure with a loving act.

4 Another possibility: Smelling a loved one's cheek has long served as a means of recognition in cultures around the world, from New Zealand to Alaska. Over time, a brush of the lips may have become a traditional accompaniment.

5 And yet kissing is not universal, leading some experts, like anthropologist Vaughn Bryant of Texas A&M, to think it might actually be a learned behavior.

6 The Roman military introduced kissing to many non-kissing cultures (after its conquests were over, presumably); later it was European explorers who carried the torch.

7 Being close enough to kiss helps our noses assess compatibility. In a landmark study, evolutionary biologist Claus Wedekind of the University of Lausanne in Switzerland reported that women prefer the scents of men whose immunity-coding genes are different from their own. Mixing genes that way may produce offspring with a stronger immune system.

8 Wedekind's experiment, widely known as the sweaty T-shirt study, involved very little sweat. Male participants were asked to shower beforehand so their scent would be faint.

9 The earliest literary evidence for kissing comes from northern Indias Vedic Sanskrit texts, written 1,000 to 2,000 years ago. A portion of the Satapatha Brahmana mentions lovers setting mouth to mouth.

10 Love Is the Drug: Dopamine, a neurotransmitter associated with feelings of desire and reward, spikes in response to novel experiences, which explains why a kiss with someone new can feel so special.

11 In some people, a jolt of dopamine can cause a loss of appetite and an inability to sleep, symptoms commonly associated with falling in love.

12 Can't Get Enough of Your Love: Dopamine is produced in the ventral tegmental area of the brain, the same region affected by addictive drugs like cocaine.

13 In men, a passionate kiss can also promote the hormone oxytocin (video), which fosters bonding and attachment, according to behavioral neuroscientist Wendy Hill of Lafayette College in Pennsylvania.

14 Holding hands and kissing reduces levels of the stress hormone cortisol, thereby lowering blood pressure and optimizing immune response.

15 And a passionate kiss has the same effect as belladonna in making our pupils dilate.

16 Prelude to a Kiss: Two-thirds of all people turn their head to the right when kissing, according to psychologist Onur Gntrkn of Ruhr-University Bochum in Germany. This behavior may mirror the head-turning preference observed in babies and even in fetuses.

17 Evolutionary psychologists have discovered that men are far more likely to prefer sloppy tongue kisses than women.

18 The exchange of saliva could provide a reproductive advantage for males. During an open-mouthed kiss, a man passes a bit of testosterone to his partner. Over weeks and months, repeated kissing could enhance a female's libido, making her more receptive to sex.

19 Always brush and floss, boys. Evolutionary psychologist Gordon Gallup of the State University of New York at Albany found that when deciding whether to kiss someone, women pay much closer attention than men do to the breath and teeth of their partner.

20 You Give Love a Bad Name: One milliliter of saliva contains about 100,000,000 bacteria.