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2010 August

Music moves the community

The latest U.S. News and World Report rankings of “America’s Best Colleges” list Wake Forest as 12th among schools where the faculty has an unusual commitment to undergraduate teaching.

borwickMusic professor Susan Borwick is one example of this commitment to teaching and learning. Last year, Borwick re-imagined her course in American music—jettisoning some of the more traditional classroom elements to make room for public-engagement projects. Her students worked to bring music and art to the Winston-Salem community. Some examples: designing games for children and families at The Special Children’s School, providing music workshops at Brookridge Retirement Center, and teaching music at the Children’s Home.

Borwick, who was awarded the Wake Forest Teaching Innovation Award for 2009-2010 and the Donald O. Schoonmaker Faculty Award for Community Service, says the arts are a direct link between Wake Forest and the community, and that faculty are not only encouraged to include outside-the-classroom learning into their courses, but provided with resources to make it happen. “For students to experience how music builds human connections is to make the class relevant to life today,” Borwick says.

How long will you look at this painting?

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Three seconds? Fifteen? In the mid-19th century, tens of thousands of people entered darkened galleries to view this work, and others like it, by Frederic Church—sometimes spending up to an hour examining one painting using opera glasses to immerse themselves in the foreign landscape.

“The Andes of Ecuador,” painted in 1855, is the focus of the freshmen academic project this year. The painting hangs in Reynolda House, and new students will be touring the museum and viewing the work on Sunday, August 22 from 3:30 through 6 p.m.

This summer, using videos and readings on the academic project website, students learned about…

  • 19th-century theology, psychology and the historic debates about evolution
  • Andean ecology and climate change
  • the economics of art patronage
  • the literary world of the period with works by Thoreau and Emerson
  • how to look at, think about and discuss visual images

…and how to bring all these seemingly diverse ideas to bear on one 4 x 6 foot landscape painting.

“How and what we see and why we see things the way we do is an historic phenomenon,” says Reynolda House Postdoctoral Fellow Jennifer Raab. While incoming students are getting their first taste of a liberal arts approach to education, they may be learning how to focus on one image from a variety of perspectives rather than a variety of images from one perspective—and taking more than a few seconds to enjoy the experience.

Media is invited to cover move-in and orientation events, which begin Thursday, August 19th.

Professor says teaching will never be the same

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A group of 11 students who traveled to India for a summer study abroad experience have returned. While in India, students visited the sites most tour groups visit, but it was the personal connections that made this trip unique. The group was led by communication professor Ananda Mitra and his wife, Swati Basu, who is a research professor in the physics department. While in India, students met Mitra’s mother and cousin’s family, and Basu’s parents. They learned about daily life in India from mentors who are both from Wake Forest and from India.

“I cannot believe that two years of planning, all the anxiety and all the great times are over. I will miss these kids and the constant vigilance over the past few weeks,” wrote Mitra in a posting to the India Summer Study Abroad Facebook page. “Teaching will never be the same for me again.”

The trip was part of a summer class on communication, culture and sustainability taught by Mitra—an expert in social media, cultural sustainability and job outsourcing to India.

Mitra and Basu are available for media interviews. Student interviews can also be arranged.


Artist’s collages join paper and sound

220.20100730.brightDo you see the world as a collage of sights, sounds and sensations, bits and pieces that join and overlap to make a whole? Artist Paul Bright does. He combines bits of paper—ticket stubs, poster fragments, foreign newspapers, labels—with cardboard, window screen and other materials for his “physical” works. For his sound collages, he collects everyday noises from around the world with a small digital voice recorder.

Bright, who is also the assistant director of the Charlotte and Philip Hanes Art Gallery, teaches a summer class on collage. He says his students haven’t worked with their hands a lot and sometimes find it intimidating.

“But once they get their heads and hands into it, it’s really hard to get them out of it,” he says.

Bright is exhibiting his works of collage in a historic space in Italy. “Suono e Carta” (“Sound and Paper”) will be on display later this month and in September at Belriguardo, the Renaissance estate of the Este family outside of Ferrara, between Venice and Bologna.

Research aids rainforest conservation

Castanero pushing roof

Brazil nut harvesting is a critical, sustainable livelihood in Peru. Two Wake Forest seniors, Cate Berenato and Katherine Sinacore, spent four weeks there working with the Amazon Conservation Association (ACA) to determine which ACA programs are helping sustain both families and the ecosystem. The ACA provides Brazil nut harvesters with information on how to care for their trees and increase yield. Sinacore, a biology major, conducted research related to juvenile trees. An increase in juvenile Brazil nut trees is a good indication that the forest is rejuvenating and that the programs are succeeding. Berenato, an English major and environmental studies minor, conducted a survey on the sociological aspects of programs and whether programs that were good for the environment were also good for families. Their research has far-reaching implications for how to best manage forested areas at risk of being destroyed due to over logging and land clearing.

Call media relations to set up a time to interview Berenato or Sinacore by phone. The students return to campus August 20.