Artificial Intelligence causes shift toward software and computing knowledge in future of job skills

Multimedia reporting by Mariah Posey | May 11, 2017

ROGERS

photo by @ImaginingInternet Twitter

Artificial intelligence is far from being a science-fiction concern. It’s real and according to a May 3, 2017 report put out Pew Research Center, is “eating humans’ jobs talent.” Global consultancy McKinsey reports that as much as 50 percent of the world economy could be affected by automation technologies currently available. That translates to 1.2 billion employees and $14.6 trillion in wages. But, by assessing the future of job skills and job training, more time can be spent prepping for the future of the job market rather than worrying.

“Every job will be affected by artificial intelligence,” said Janna Anderson, director of Imagining the Internet. She added that, “Everybody needs to be a jack of all trades. You need to be able to understand a wide variety of things. It’s not enough to be able to count on Siri or Alexa to answer your questions. You have to be able to synthesize information in a way that provides value for your organization.”

In conducting a survey of more than 1,400 technologies, Pew Research and Elon University’s Imaging the Internet Center found several skills which respondents predicted to be “of most future value.” Of those included adaptability, resilience, empathy and conflict resolution.

Freshman Steven Klausner, an international business and policy studies double major, says that he can see artificial intelligence potentially being a threat to him personally as he intends to work with geopolitical analysis and consultancy.

“AI or any sort of advanced technology, if it gets to the point where it’s advanced enough, will diminish the need for a middle man in between firms trying to decide if it’s safe or advisable to enter a market and the market itself,” Klausner said.

Klausner recognizes that certain skills such as coding and management information may have to be added into core curriculums, but doesn’t feel like anything will ever fully replace human interaction.

“I definitely feel like the ability to be a leader and have leadership qualities and be charismatic are skills that will never go away,” he said. “Even if you do have computers, there’s always going to need to be someone in charge. The ability to relate to a person whether it be personally, intellectually or professionally, that’s just something that’s essential in the work place and in human interaction.”

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Sean Walker

Sean Walker, Media Services Lead, also believes that neither computers or machines will ever fully replace human-to-human interaction. The ability to be creative, think in real time, and problem solve are area he believes human will continue to dominate, and says that those currently in school should do fine in the job market.

“I think your generation will be fine because in your lifetime, you’ll probably see artificial intelligence doing things for you. I don’t think you’ll see artificial intelligence really replacing humans in the work force. That might take 100 years.”

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Timothy Williams

Timothy Williams, a resident of Roxboro, North Carolina, works at LabCorp and is currently studying mechatronics engineering in school and considers himself a “robotic fanatic.” He thinks basics electrical knowledge will serve anyone will in the future job market.

“Of course you would have to know electronics, at least the basics of electrical circuits and components, period,” Williams said. “On a more advanced note: programming, wiring, manufacturing — all of that plays a part in robotics. But you have to remember that artificial intelligence and robotics in itself are nothing but programs. That program is only going to do what you program it to do. If you program it to do something stupid, it’s going to do something stupid.”

Although Williams hasn’t experienced artificial intelligence replacement personally, he said the possibility does concern him.

“Everything can be a complement, I mean look at computers — they’re complements to our lives because they make things easier,” Williams said. “Technology is here to make life easier, but it still depends on how you use that technology. If a job doesn’t necessarily qualify a human as being adequate for a job, then they should not be in business in my personal opinion. Because if you have nothing monitoring that robot, you’re asking for problems.”

He added that, “Nothing’s better than a human because we learn from our mistakes, robots don’t. They do what they’re programmed to do and that’s it. After that, you can’t expect no more out of it. If they start making mistakes, then where’s the human to fix that?”

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North Carolina support for President Trump declines as first 100 days in office comes to a close

by Mariah Posey | April 28, 2017

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Graphic by Elon University.

With President Donald Trump’s first 100 days coming to a close, North Carolina support for the president and his administration has seen a considerable decline according to a recent Elon Poll conducted April 18-21. By conducting a live-caller, dual frame survey of 506 registered North Carolina voters, the poll found that 51 percent of people disapprove of the president’s current handling of his presidency despite 56 percent believing his actions match up with his campaign promises.

42 percent approve of Trump’s handling of the presidency and seven percent remain in the middle ground. Despite initial widespread usNorth Carolina support during the election period, now 49 percent say Trump is doing “a worse job as president than President Obama.”

Jason Husser, director of Elon Poll, said that although presidents usually experience strong support during the beginning of their terms, Trump’s presidency is different. He added that the level of support Trump has seen in his first 100 days both for himself and in his key policies is “as low as we’ve seen in the history of opinion polling.”

“Trump’s difficulty in presidential approval likely comes from two sources: his rhetorical and policy decisions, which he has control over, and a divisive polarized and dysfunctional political environment that makes it hard for any incoming president to function,” Husser said.

Emily Mitch, assistant director of fraternity and sorority life at Elon University, said that she’s not surprised by the decline in support based on the president’s inability to follow through on his promises.

“As someone who works in education, that’s where I tend to gravitate more to education myself about what’s been going on in that sphere,” Mitch said. “I think some of the work with Betsy Devos and that department is particularly disappointing to me, like the student loan stuff that’s been going on. I’m not wishing that things would happen particularly, but wishing that things that have happened did not happen.”

Like Mitch, senior Darius Moore also sees disparity in the Trump administration’s handling of education policies as well as other huge issues his team has promised to tackle.

“There’s been a lot of lack of attention to detail and a lot of big ideas about what he and his team want to change in regard to the Affordable Care Act, yesterday net neutrality, the public education system,” Moore said. “There’s a lot of big ideas thrown out but no sort of plan of action. I think people have very little trust in him because it’s a lot of talk right now. In these past 100 days, it’s been a lot of impulsive, ‘I just want to get a rise out of people and see what happens,’ instead of letting things pan out slowly and see what happens.”

Sheyenne Michelizzi, program assistant at the Provost Office, said that although she has never been favorable of the president, she is more devastated than before he took office and can’t tell whether he has a strong stance either for or against any particular issue.

“What I would like to see from him is more humility and any kind of thought towards the greater good of the citizens,” Michelizzi said.

 

‘We Make It Our Own’: BSU 2017 Fashion Show reminds audience to live happily and unafraid in their own skin

Multimedia reporting by Mariah Posey | April 23, 2017

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Since 1986, the Black Student Union (BSU) — previously known as the Black Cultural Society — has been putting on a fashion show that places Elon University students of color at the forefront. This year on Saturday April 22 at 7:30p.m. in McKinnon, sophomore Kenneth Brown, special events coordinator for the Center for Race Ethnicity Diversity Education, wanted the show to deliver a message beyond fashion. He wanted both the models and the audience to feel empowered in their skin, and chose to base the stylings off of the popular 1987 black sitcom “A Different World.”

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Models stand together at the end of the show and receive a standing ovation.

“I wanted to allow them to see a different world,” Brown said. “A world in which we make it our own despite the things that make it seem like it’s not for us. I hope people learn that black people, we’re here. We’re trying to make a difference because this is our world, too.”

Aside from the fun elements of preppy clothing and dynamic struts across the stage, the show included several powerful segments. One in particular featured a song by Vince Staples entitled “Hands Up.” As the song repeated, “Put your hands in the air,” the models each lined up fighting the urge of their hands to give in to the requests. By the end of the struggle, their hands succeeded in their position of surrender.

Another powerful segment — which focused on business and business casual attire — devoted a portion to “black girl magic” and showed the models making confident strides down the stage, each making sure to give supportive high fives to one another as they crossed paths.

“My favorite part was the black girl magic,” said sophomore Kristin Wiggins. “No one ever talks about black girls, only about black men.”

 

For Wiggins and others in the crowd, it was refreshing to see support from multiple perspectives.

But the show didn’t stop at powerful statements. BSU staff sophomores Janay Tyson and Lana Logan also presented a $250 check to the Positive Attitude Youth Center in Burlington, North Carolina for their meaningful work with children and young adults. Tyson said that after having volunteered there and seeing the impact the center had, she realized their work was “amazing” wanted to help give back.

“Sometimes you do this work and it doesn’t get noticed,” she said.

For Brown, amongst the different things he hoped the show would accomplish, he most wanted for it to be a presentation of resilience.

“The largest portion of our history was dark and we weren’t very happy,” Brown said. “I wanted to showcase our happiness. I want people to take away that this our world and we make it our own.”

Elon University faculty engage in panel discussing the implications of President Trump’s missile strike on Syria

Multimedia journalism by Mariah Posey | April 12, 2017

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Panel members left to right: Kaye Usry, Jason Kirk, Baris Kesgin, Haya Ajjan.

U.S. media coverage took an unexpected turn last week when news broke that President Donald Trump authorized a missile strike against the Assad-regime airbase. Trump said his actions were in response to the chemical weapons attack on the Syrian people, but some feel the strike was a policy reversal for the president who campaigned on staying out of conflict.

To initiate discussion and clear up lingering questions regarding the strike and its implications, members of Elon University faculty engaged in a panel Wednesday, April 11 at 4:15p.m. in Moseley 215. Safia Swimelar, associate professor of political science and policy studies, said as unfortunate as the events going on in Syria are, they need to be talked about. In moderating the panel, she aimed to provide context on the situation by discussing the humanitarian aspect as well as geopolitics and strategy, foreign policy and domestic relations under the Trump administration.

Ajjan pull“My family and I were actually glued to the TV,” said Haya Ajjan, associate professor of management information systems, speaking of when news broke last Thursday night. Just two days before on Tuesday, news coverage focused on the chemical weapons attack in Syria that killed more than 100 people. Many blamed President Bashar al-Assad and his government, considering it a war crime against his own people.

“I looked over at my husband and actually he was crying,” Ajjan said, recalling the night she first heard about the chemical attack. “We both had tears in our eyes. We cried for the more than 5,000 soles that had died. I wondered, how many babies would be orphaned today?”

Although Ajjan is unsure of the impact Trump’s strike will have on war, she said she thinks it sent an important message.

“In the past three years, we Syrians have witnessed a lot of loss,” she said. “Assad and Putin are under the belief that they could do whatever they want, as they have for years, and no one can stop them.”

What the Trump administration proved with the missile strike she said, though controversial, is that these “atrocities are no longer tolerated.”

But the problem arises in analyzing how suddenly the decision to authorize the strike was made, leaving room for uncertainty in regard to the future direction of the president’s administration.

“As faculty, as Americans, as non-Americans, we’d all be forgiven for being pretty confused,” said Jason Kirk, associate professor of political science and policy studies. “It is an extraordinary shift in the vision of Trump’s presidency, in his goals for the world.”

Kirk added, “It feels like Trump made [what he considered to be] a good decision based off what looked good to him, and those who approved based it on last week. Period.”

Kirk said it’s important to keep in mind that there is often disorganization in the early days of any administration, but feels that what the Trump administration has demonstrated so far is “extraordinary disorganization in the White House.” Part of that, he says, is due to Trump’s shortcomings with staffing members of his team.

“It’s very difficult to conduct foreign policy when you’re missing layers of bureaucracy,” he said. “People who know things about places. Government and leadership requires that.”

Later, he added, “I don’t know how much to ascribe strategy to it versus just they didn’t expect to win the presidency. And they didn’t really plan for a lot of this. They didn’t plan for the White House Easter egg hunt. They didn’t do a lot of things and I think time will tell.”

According to Baris Kesgin, associate professor of political science, the Trump administration has failed at giving consistent signaling as to their course of action.

“Even the congress at this point is not knowledgeable of the Syrian game plan,” he said. “That is unfortunate.”

Though it’s clear that Trump was trying to send a message, it’s unclear of what that message is for certain. Trump felt that Assad crossed the line by waging a chemical attack on his people, but Kirk wonders if that “line” has been definitely laid out enough for the U.S. strike to have accomplished its goal. He says that confusion may only lead to more strife.

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This map shows how populated different parts of Syria are with individual forces of power.

“The stakes are too high,” Kirk said. “There’s an international audience to this. If people are confused by what Trump means by this, if Assad doesn’t know what lines not to transgress going forward, then he’ll either decide it doesn’t matter or he’s left in a position to continue to test the U.S. to figure out where these lines might lie.”

As foreign involvement in the Syrian conflict continues to grow, discussion around it becomes fuzzier. According to Ajjan, as the years have progressed, the plan for finding a military solution to ending war in Syria has become less and less clear.

“We used to have a plan in 2012 and in 2013, but now there are too many players on the ground,” she said.

Though Trump has taken an action he believes will prove that the U.S. won’t stand for abuse and suffering, his questionable long-term motives and haste in decision-making leaves much to be speculated.

Kirk acknowledged that there’s really no way for Americans to fully grasp how the president plans to handle foreign policy going forward, but is confident that it will one day come out.

“Part of the nice quality of having such a chaotic early administration is people are eventually going to write books about this stuff,” Kirk said. “They’re going to be tripping over each other to tell us what’s going on. We’ll just have to wait a few years.”

Pursuit of fitness: 22-year-old Mark Harris’ journey to developing a passion for health and inspiring others

by Mariah Posey | April 2, 2017

Mark Harris is a 22-year-old self-taught fitness motivator from Chapel Hill, North Carolina with more than 4,500 Instagram followers. He shares videos of his workout transformations as well as words of encouragement with his followers.

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Photo courtesy of Mark Harris

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Photo courtesy of Mark Harris

There’s one golden key to life whether pursuing happiness or any other achievable fulfillment and Will Smith said it best in the movie “Pursuit of Happyness”: if you want something, go get it. Period. At just 22-years-old, fitness motivator Mark Harris has become the champion of his own career by making his goals a priority and checking things off the list as he goes.

With a current Instagram following of more than 4,500 people with whom he shares motivational posts tracking his fitness journey, Harris aims to show people that failure is essential to any success story and that anyone willing to work is capable of succeeding.

“I’m a huge believer in if you want it, you’ll make time for it,” Harris said. “If it’s truly your passion, without any busts or doubts, you will make time for it at the end of the day.”

From skinny to built: figuring out what works

Harris began making time for what he wanted two years ago when he decided to start living a healthier lifestyle. Being the only one in his family to take a strong interest in fitness at the time, he was left to figure out the specifics on his own which he described as a “nerve-wracking” process.

Harris Pull 2“It didn’t take me til’ recently to figure things out, like eight months ago, when I really started to conduct my own studies and research what workouts work best, what benefits what muscle groups and whatever,” he said. “That’s when I really started to crack it down. I guess from failure, from trying this workout and that workout, that’s what kept me going.”

Knowing that everyone’s body performed differently, it was important for Harris to learn what worked best for him. He said although genetics play a role, strong work ethic can also yield results.

“Some people have great genetics so therefore, they work a certain muscle group,” he said. “Of course, they’re going to be able to grow faster, develop faster, get better results. And then there’s the other people who really have to work twice, even 10 times as hard, as the other person who has great genetics.

“That’s why I kept doing the transformations. It’s to show people that I basically came from nothing — skinny guy running track — to I guess a bodybuilding motivator now.”

Finding a balance between work and play

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Photo by Caroline Brehman | Mark Harris at Elon University.

Harris says true passions require sacrifice, and as a member of the U.S. Air Force deployed in the Middle East, he is no stranger to the practice.

“Even though you have to sacrifice other things that are less important to you, you’re still going to do what your passion is at the end of the day,” Harris said. “Of course I run into lack of sleep, oh I miss this meal, that meal, but I’m so prioritized on what I want to do. People call it selfish, but it’s my passion so I don’t think that’s selfish whatsoever.”

Harris believes in the value of working hard and said slacking is not one of his cups of tea.

“I’m not a believer in kind of wanting things,” he said. “You either want it or you don’t.”

He says the best way to stay positive about what you’re doing is to not sweat the small things.

“There’s somebody out there that’s in a way worse situation than you’re in and I always think about that all the time,” he said. “Especially me being on this deployment, I’ve seen some really interesting things that’s just made me value my place in life. Valuing my opportunities, valuing my blessings. It’s really a humbling feeling.”

Although Harris has run into days where he doesn’t feel the most motivated, he makes it a point to remind himself of his purpose.

“I just consistently remind myself of what I am doing this for, how far I’ve came,” he said. “If I stop now and make excuses, how far is it going to set me up in the future? If I stop now, then I’ve basically settled. Settling is always not good, no matter which way you look at it.”

Using social media as a tool

Once Harris began seeing progress he was comfortable with, he realized he could use his results to inspire others through his Instagram account. He says the response he got was shocking.

“I had no clue that I had this many people supporting me,” he said. “You can scroll through all the comments and people are always telling me, ‘Keep pushing, keep going.’ They have my back if I need any help. And these people don’t even work out at all, and they see me posting these transformations and they want to go out and get it themselves.”

Harris pullOne supporter left a comment saying:

You’ve come such a long way and you are one of my very few sources of positivity and motivation. I do hope you always keep progressing in your journey and don’t ever lose that animal ambition of yours.

“I think that was my best comment,” Harris said. “Really caught me by surprise.”

With the support of his followers, Harris knew he couldn’t quit.

“People that don’t even work out keep telling me to keep going, keep pushing and that’s what makes me feel like I’m actually doing it for more of a purpose,” he said. “Because people have my back, I don’t really want to let them down.”

The opportunities Harris’s Instagram has provided him with allowed him to recognize its power along with that of other social platforms.

“People do not realize how much social media helps out and benefits you in the long run,” he said. “So many people shun social media, but social media actually helps you out tremendously.”

Working towards building a brand

Besides reaching his weight goal of 180 pounds and competing in the near future for natural bodybuilding, Harris wants to begin developing a brand within the next couple of years. Along with creating a clothing line, he hopes to someday own a gym of his own.

Larger than fitness, Harris wants his brand to promote messages of positivity. He encourages others to never quit, to hurdle their obstacles and above all, to know that “failing is acceptable, but settling isn’t.”

While uncertain of where exactly his passion will lead him next, Harris assures one thing:

“I’m just getting started.”

For fitness tips and more from Mark, visit his YouTube here.

‘WORK HARD NOW AND PLAY LATER’: PHOTOJOURNALIST AL DRAGO VISITS ELON TO SPEAK ON NETWORKING UP THE LADDER

Multimedia journalism by Mariah Posey | March 31, 2017

Al Drago is a photojournalist and class of ’15 Elon alumni. He is based in Washington, D.C. covering all things politics and currently works for the NYT as a contract press photographer for President Donald Trump. He visited journalism professor Janna Anderson’s class this Friday to talk about his experience at Elon and networking.

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Al Drago in Philadelphia at a Hillary Clinton event in 2015 taken by one of his friends that he shared on Facebook.

Al Drago has been working since he was 16-years-old and by the age of 17, had daily bylines. It was a family trip to Boston more than 10 years ago that provided the 2015 Elon University journalism alumni with his first photography experience. Now, after delving into photography and journalism in high school as well at Elon, he works as a contract press photographer for The New York Times covering all things politics.

During the final months of Barack Obama’s presidency, he traveled with the then-president as a pool photographer covering the transition, the inauguration and first 100 days of President Donald Trump’s term. Currently, he and two other selected photographers are responsible for following the president everywhere he goes.

This Friday March 31, Drago revisited Elon to speak and share his wisdom on branding and networking to other journalism students.

Drago's Top 8When Drago was a student at Elon, he knew that internships were key. To remain focused on them, he made a piece of paper listing the different publications he could potentially work at ranking them on the level of achievability. He knew that he could work at The Burlington Times-News easily, but at the top level he listed the ones that were his dream jobs: The New York Times and the Washington Post.

“I knew I was going to work there someday,” Drago said. “And now I am.”

He didn’t know how it would happen, but something he had learned from journalism professor Janna Anderson stuck with him: if you want to be at the top, start out on top.

“You can advance your career in the first five years out of college more than you can in the 15 years after college,” he said. “Then, when you’re 30 you can have your cushion job and relax and go to Ibiza.”

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Al Drago speaking during his presentation.

Drago kept his career goals at the forefront of his college career spending most days outside of class and in the community shooting real stories with real people.

“My Elon experience was based around the journalism I did, the journalism I committed,” he said. “And it was great because I got a four-year archive.”

He hit the ground running joining on-campus news organizations such as The Pendulum and Elon Local News, but knew outside experience was everything.

Some advice an editor gave him was, “You’re not going to get hired off of shooting on campus because it’s a bunch of 18 to 20-year-olds and that’s not what the real world looks like.”

“I started networking day one and cold-emailed editors,” Drago said. “Of course I said I want to work for you but also, ‘I love your photos. What camera settings did you use? Hey, these are the photos I took this month.’”

Eventually, editors took notice of his work and noticed that he was improving.

“I ferociously worked,” he said. “I knew what I wanted so I worked non-stop.”

Ultimately, his drive to work and ability to put himself out there got him hired at The New Times doing what he loves for a living at the age of 24. His multiple internships at the Durham Herald-Sun, Burlington Times-News, Raleigh News & Observer and the Baltimore Sun set him apart and gave him the opportunity to continue developing new skills.

His biggest piece of advice for aspiring journalists is to put yourself out there and “know your worth.”

Find his Twitter and Instagram here.

 

Live Blog: Daniel Gilbert speaks on the science of happiness at Elon University’s Spring Convocation

Multimedia journalism by Mariah Posey | March 30, 2017

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2017 Spring Convocation program

Social psychologist and writer Daniel Gilbert has achieved multiple successes throughout his career: a TED Talk which remains one of the 15 most-popular of all time, his book  “Stumbling on Happiness” that spent six months on The New York Times bestseller list, and the 2010 award-winning PBS television series “This Emotional Life” that he co-wrote which was watched by more than 10 million people. He is currently a contributor to The New York Times and NPR’s “All Things Considered.”

Gilbert has guested on a number of popular shows including “20/20” and “The Colbert Report,” but today he’s the popular guest at Elon University for its March 30 Spring Convocation at 3:30 p.m. in Alumni Memorial Gym.

Stay tuned below for live updates from the event with the most recent updates  appearing at the top.


4:29 p.m. President Lambert thanks Gilbert for speaking.

“Class of 2017, I don’t want this talk to prevent you from creating class of 2047, however.”

4:28 p.m. “What makes humans happy is a scientific fact. Instead of turning to our mothers, we should be turning to science.”

4:26 p.m. “Marriage, money and children. That’s what my mom told me was the recipe to happiness. Was she lying?”

Gilbert says she was basically correct, but happiness for everyone is different because no one is average.

4:23 p.m. “The view of human happiness that I have presented is the view from outer space . . . It might not apply to you.”

4:17 p.m. Gilbert says children have been shown to reduce happiness, especially within mothers because they do most of the work.

4:14 p.m. Gilbert recommends two of the best ways to spend money:

  • Experiences, because you can’t compare personal experiences to other people’s experiences like you can with material items.
  • On other people

“The people who bought something for mom or sis or maybe your favorite professor are happier.”

4:12 p.m. “When people are resting, people are about as happy as they are at their miserable jobs. People aren’t happy when they’re resting because their mind wanders to things they’d rather be doing.”

4:11 p.m. “It turns out that the way people spend money is incorrect.”

4:10 p.m. Gilbert says money does lead to happiness, but not sustainably.

“The first dollar you earn improves your happiness a lot,” he says, but the “amount of happiness money can buy levels off” over time.

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A chart shown during Gilbert’s presentation showing the difference between men and women in happiness response to divorce.

4:07 p.m. Gilbert explains how men do better than women after divorce. He offers some advice: “If your husband says he’s leaving you, kill him.”

4:05 p.m. Gilbert says marriage is great investment for your happiness, as it ensures at least 15-25 more years of happiness.

4:01 p.m. “Marriage causes happiness. Married people are happier than single people.”

4:00 p.m. Gilbert asks the audience how many believe marriage causes happiness.

“Okay, so none of the young people. That’s basically 0%. And I think I saw someone raise her husband’s hand.”

3:58 p.m. Gilbert’s mother, Doris Gilbert, gave him three steps to happiness when he was younger:

  1. Find a nice girl to settle down with.
  2. Make money. “‘It would be good if you were comfortable,'” she told him. “She didn’t mean my shoes. She meant move out of the house and not be on our dime.”
  3. Have children.

“In every human culture, moms basically tell their kids some version of this.”

3:56 p.m. There are scientific measures of happiness such as electromyography or EMG which analyzes human facial reactions, but Gilbert says that best approach is the “AP-Q” method — asking people questions.

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One of the ads shown during Gilbert’s childhood promoting happiness.

3:53 p.m. Gilbert speaks on how the many theories of happiness are wrong.

“None of their theories are based on evidence. Luckily, scientists have gotten into the happiness business. Can we use the rules of science to figure out what makes people happy?”

3:50 p.m. Gilbert speaks on the unrealistic idea of happiness our ancestors had: “Happiness is what happens when you get what you want and that never happens in this lifetime on Earth.”

He continued, “Guess what? People who have everything they want aren’t any happier than the rest of us.”

3:49 p.m. “I’ve come here today to answer the world’s oldest questions: what is the secret to happiness? It’s not a secret and it’s not the world’s oldest question. It’s actually the world’s newest question.”

3:48 p.m. Gilbert responds to his introduction.

“I don’t want to stop there,” he said. “In fact I want to hear it again and then we can all go have drinks. That was the nicest introduction I’ve had.”

3:45 p.m Associate Professor of Psychology India Johnson introduces Gilbert. She thanks Gilbert for providing her the inspiration to start her journey to social psychology for his unconventional path.

3:44 p.m. “Dr. Gilbert welcome to Elon University. Your research on happiness relays two of our main points here . . . no matter our age we always have more to learn.” – President Lambert

3:39 p.m. “Higher education matters in terms of jobs, overall wellbeing, and joy in your life.” – President Lambert.

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President Leo Lambert speaking at the beginning of spring convocation.

3:35 p.m. Joel Harter, associate chaplain for Protestant Life; Jessica Waldman, director of Jewish Life at Hillell;  President Leo Lambert; India Johnson, assistant professor of psychology and Daniel Gilbert, Edgar Pierce professor of psychology at Harvard University, take the stage.

3:29 p.m. Michel Delalande’s “Festival Prelude” plays to initiate the Academic Procession while Elon University faculty and staff along with students to be honored begin filing in.

 

‘The History of Stepping’ shows how using the body as an instrument is a powerful tool in uniting a culture

Multimedia journalism by Mariah Posey | March 27, 2017

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Panel members left to right: Janaé Williams, Anthony Chatman, William Henderson, Delaney Hinnant, Jessica Womak, Chris Blair.

Behind the powerful style of dance linked to African American culture and the nine National Pan-Hellenic Council Greek organizations is a powerful history that transcends centuries. What began as a means of survival for South African gold miners during the 19th century has become a unifying art form for an entire culture.

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Photo by therealafrican.com

In the 1880s during the Apartheid in South Africa, oppressive laws and harsh working conditions restricted the freedoms miners had. With dark work environments and forbiddance to speak with one other, the miners were left to find an alternative. Their solution involved the few things they could actually rely on: their bodies, gumboots and rhythm. Through slapping their boots, stomping their feet and rattling their shackles, they created beats and a strong form of communication called “Gumboot dancing.”

Eventually, the style of communication morphed into a style of dance called “stepping” that landed on Howard University’s campus in the 1920s. Through the decades, it continued to evolve incorporating vocal expressions. It has since weaved its way into the proud histories of NPHC Greek organizations.

In order to educate the students of Elon University on how stepping became a signature of black Greek organizations, NPHC hosted “The History of Stepping” this Monday March 27 in Moseley 215 at 5:30 p.m.

According to junior Janaé Williams, one of the panelists and member of the Xi Omicron chapter of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, both stepping and strolling are linked to NPHC organizations but differ in their purposes.

“In stepping you use your body as the instrument in which you communicate a message whereas in strolling, you’re not so much an instrument but you’re moving in ways that are the same as the other members of your organization,” Williams said. “That’s why strolling is usually done in a line to perform unity between the brotherhood of sisterhood of your organization. Stepping doesn’t necessarily have to be in a line as long as your synchronized and making the same beats also making one sound.”

But although the organizations are known for their precise steps, it is not the forefront of their brotherhoods and sisterhoods according to senior Chris Blair, a member of the Sigma Mu chapter of Omega Psi Phi. He said servicing the community is what they most take pride in.

“We service the community and the people around us,” Blair said. “Each and every organization prides themselves off of service. It’s not about just looking good within each other, it’s about trying to help build the community. That’s what all of the fraternities and sororities were built off of. That’s how they were founded and that’s what they strive to do.”

Creating a home away from home: Sylvia Muñoz’s journey from life in Costa Rica to leadership at Elon

Multimedia journalism by Mariah Posey | March 17, 2017

Sylvia Muñoz sits at her desk in her C.R.E.D.E. office.

Sylvia Muñoz hadn’t encountered “space” until she first came to the United States in 1994.  Back in San José, Costa Rica — her native country — she lived with her family of seven in a house adjacent to all of her closest friends: her cousins. At any given moment, her home was guaranteed to be full of excitement with either the noise of her sister and three brothers, her parents or her extended family members.

“When I say I am one of five, those are my siblings-siblings,” Muñoz said. “But I also grew up with all my cousins, especially on my mom’s side. We all lived next to each other. I think more than first cousins, we were also raised as sibling. I always say that I was raised with 25.”

The family model Muñoz grew up with was one that established an unbreakable bond. There were no days spent avoiding conversation over small arguments, or wasted locked behind a closed room door. The idea of having personal space, to her, is an odd and very American concept. Her best and worst days were spent surrounded by the people she loved, and she wouldn’t have had it any other way.

“Home is where the family is,” Muñoz said.

Now nearly 20 years later since first leaving home, the same values hold true and have carried over to Elon University. In her roles as interim director for the C.R.E.D.E. and director of the Spanish Center, her large family has extended even more, expanding to include faculty, staff and students.


Dirty hands and childhood fun

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Sylvia with her parents and siblings in Costa Rica for her grandparents’ 60th anniversary.

“You’re crazy! I mean we’re going to get stuck in the middle the river,” or at least that’s what Muñoz thought her mom should have said when her often too-adventurous father spontaneously decided to cross a river in their small car.

“My dad just said, ‘Okay, we’re going to cross the river,’” but as a young girl, she figured he was only joking. To her surprise, her father meant in all seriousness what he had wildly proclaimed.

“We never did get stuck,” she said.

It was important to her parents that Muñoz and her siblings always had many experiences. Her mother, a school teacher and her father, an accountant, somehow balanced their strict and expecting nature with loving fun.

During summers, Muñoz and her siblings would spend time helping out at her father’s small coffee farm with their grandfather. The work was tough, but provided more opportunities for her siblings to create fun. Their summer days were spent playing outside and unafraid of getting dirty. Fresh fruit was everywhere — mangos, avocados, bananas — and always available to grab for a quick snack.

“This thing about washing them, that didn’t exist,” she said. “We had our hands dirty and we ate with our hands dirty. And we all made it.”

Before moving to the U.S., Muñoz never had a store-bought banana. Not having to buy fruit is one of the things she misses most about her home.


A different path than her siblings

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Sylvia with her extended family at her home in Costa Rica.

Muñoz isn’t sure why her mother decided to enroll her fifth-grade self in a German private school. The opportunity had not been presented to her sister or any of her three brothers. But she credits the experience for helping form her strong passions in language as well as playing a role in how she’d eventually end up at Elon.

The process to get in was difficult. After submitting her application and exam, she was one of 20 students gifted a scholarship to study at the school. The process to get there was even harder. The trip took nearly an hour, and while her parents dropped her off whenever they could, the distance often called for her to rely on her own two feet and public transportation. She’d take two buses and walk through San Jose’s red light district just to make it there.

In her eyes, the education was worth it.

In two years, her and her small class of 20 were responsible for learning enough German to understand both math and chemistry in the language. By the seventh grade, her class was mixed with both native and fluent German speaking students. Being exposed to a European education as well as the many different social economic classes and types of people broadened Muñoz’s worldview. Although she has since lost the German language, the character she built as a result of the school has stayed.

“People say Germans are cold, but I don’t think they’re cold,” she said. “I love German people. They’re very direct and that made me very direct in a lot of ways and more assertive.”

Over time, Muñoz began noticing differences between her and her sister who attended an all-girls Catholic school. After eighth grade, she decided she wanted a change and transferred to an all-girls Catholic high school as well. Though the change was drastic, she thinks it shaped her willingness to take risks.

Randy pullAt the Catholic school, she quickly linked up with a group of about 14 girls who in many ways became the leaders of the ninth grade.

“If we were going to get in trouble, it was us,” she said. “It was a group of like 15 of us that made a big noise. We were always in trouble, but in good trouble. And the nuns knew that if they wanted something done to give it to us and we would get it done. It was a good experience.”

By the end of her high school career, she was set in her pursuit of language and became an English major in college. Within the major were many exchange students from the U.S., England, and other English-speaking countries. That exposure furthered her comfortability around different groups of people.


Road to North Carolina

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Different groups of faculty and staff that Sylvia has brought to Costa Rica with her.

After graduating college, Muñoz came to the U.S. as part of her exchange program that worked with teaching students in the public school system. She spent two years in the mountains of North Carolina before transferring to a middle school in Burlington where she became acquainted with Fred Young, the 7th president of the university at the time, who she stayed with for six weeks.

She began coming to Elon to teach some of the Board of Trustees members Spanish, which planted the seed in Young’s head for the need of a Spanish center.

“I honestly don’t know how this man knew,” Muñoz said. “He started talking about the importance of learning Spanish and during that time, the Hispanic population wasn’t as big here at all. There were none. But somehow he knew that the demographics were going to change.

“He said if a student comes to this place half an hour every day, by their fourth year they’ll be able to hold a conversation. That’s going to open a lot of doors for them.”

Muñoz agreed that the thought in Young’s head was ideal, but it was the last year of her program and she was ready to return home. After selling everything, she arrived back in Costa Rica without a thought of a Spanish center at Elon ever coming to life.

Then she received the call that would permanently land her back in the U.S.

Young had surprising news: the Board of Trustees had approved the center and were ready to get to work on it with her leading the development. Feeling compelled to take the job, she was back in the U.S. within nine months.

What Young cleverly left out was that he was also in the midst of retiring.

“He said, ‘If I had told you this, would you have come?’” Muñoz recounted.  “And I said no. I would’ve said never mind, find somebody else.”

Knowing she wouldn’t have come back, she understood why he had originally withheld the
information. But fortunately, she had a supportive administrative team behind her. She only had a couple of months to figure something out. She decided on a pilot program of conversation classes. Faculty and staff from every department were hand-picked to participate in the classes during the summer.

“In the beginning that was interesting, especially with faculty,” Muñoz said. “They were like, ‘Mmm, I don’t know.’ But after a while they loved it. It was actually presented with a couple of faculty Munoz quotemembers in a conference about El Centro and the faculty as they were presenting said:

We have been faculty for such a long period of time that sometimes we forget what it’s like to be a student. And this experience has taught us that people learn in different ways.  It’s been a humbling experience for us as faculty. And we walk into a classroom now in a completely different way just because we also have the experience of a student in an environment where we have students next to us, and most of the time they’re better than us.

“I thought that was really nice and it created a different sense of community,” she continued. “At times I could have the Provost — at the time Dr. Francis — in the same class with the vice president of admissions and then have somebody from the physical in the same classroom. In the classroom, everybody was the same. There were no titles, there was no age. Everybody was just trying to learn.”

Because of the success of the pilot program, Sylvia and her team decided that the actual center would work with a mix of faculty, staff and students. According to her, it created a model that was not yet in existence and is still nonexistent anywhere else today.

The rest happened quickly with many students joining right away. Once they established a name for themselves, they began working with more world languages. Not long after, Elon added a language requirement for students which only added to the center’s success because more students were asking for help.

“The place has a lot of potential now,” she said. “In terms of growing it, I think it has grown to its capacity in the language area because there’s only one person that teaches the language. But I think there’s a lot of potential in growing in different ways, especially now being a part of the C.R.E.D.E. The place also became a home for the international Latino students who I took on as my kids. I think being from a different place made me very aware. It’s hard to be away from home. I adopt all the students.”


A mother, leader, and support system on campus

June Shuler was lost her first day on Elon’s campus. An international student from Switzerland, she hadn’t been able to visit the school prior to attending. Her knowledge of Elon relied on what she had read and saw in photos.

“I’ve never been to North Carolina, never visited Elon before,” Shuler said. “I was completely lost and I was walking around trying to find my way because I had somehow gotten the wrong schedule. I was walking around Elon aimlessly. I didn’t even go up to her.  She noticed that I didn’t know I was doing.”

“She” happened to be Sylvia Muñoz, someone who would become important Shuler throughout her next four years at the university. That day, Muñoz asked Shuler if she was alright and after realizing that she was lost, brought her back to El Centro to figure out where she needed to be.

“I came in late,” Shuler said. “But just the fact that she was willing to stop whatever she was doing that day to talk to me to make sure I was okay, I felt like that really impacted me to feel like there was someone that really cared about students on campus.”

Now a senior, Shuler has taken an active role in the international society and formed a closer relationship with Muñoz. She has sought Muñoz out for advice and has even worked with her to organize events targeted at international students.

“I think it just goes back to Sylvia’s character,” Shuler said. “She’s just really welcoming and open, so when she asks you how you’re doing, you’re almost compelled to share and be completely honest. She has an international perspective as well so we kind of share stories and have a bonding experience over that. I always talk about lived experiences. You can’t understand someone else’s experience unless you’ve gone through that yourself.”

Another student, junior Kara Rollock, has also come to appreciate Muñoz’s support. Her initial transition to Elon had been rough. As a minority student, she felt out of place at Elon. By the end of her first year, she was ready to try another school, but after some convincing from her mom, decided to give it another semester. During that time, she involved herself in more organizations to push herself to find comfort.

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Elon junior Kara Rollock

One of the tasks she took on was becoming a mentor for the S.M.A.R.T. program which connects incoming minority students to upperclassmen. That’s where she met Muñoz, who became her adviser after training in the spring.

“Honestly I would say that she treats me, and I think I can say for some of the other student coordinators as well, as though we’re her children,” Rollock said. “She’s just very motherly in the things that she does.”

She added that what Muñoz brings to the campus is connection. As they continued to bond, Rollock began to see her as more than a regular Elon faculty member.

“She just really, for me, has made Elon feel like home,” she said. “When I think of Sylvia, I think, ‘Okay I’m comfortable again.’ I don’t feel as if I don’t belong. I feel this is where I belong.”

Randy Williams, associate vice professor for campus engagement, said Muñoz has a natural knack for student affairs. Since joining the C.R.E.D.E., he has only seen her get better.

“When Sylvia came over here she was able to not only have more of Hispanic-Latino students come to the C.R.E.D.E., but she also brokered relationships with the black student as well and the black students sought her for support and advocacy,” Williams said. “That was really impressive. It shows that she’s able to cross cultures and races to help students and their development.”

According to him, her genuine care for her students is what makes her an asset to Elon’s campus.

“In these times of difficulty and unrest when it comes to marginalized students, people like Sylvia really emerged to the forefront,” Williams said. “We can’t pay her enough for what she brings.”

The many meaningful relationships Muñoz has been able to develop at Elon is what keeps her going. As much as she misses her family in Costa Rica, she said she knows she wouldn’t be able to find a job she likes as much back home.

“I love what I do in the Spanish center and even now what I do here in the C.R.E.D.E. as well,” she said. “You spend a lot of time at work so if you find something that you really, really love, you might as well stick to it.”

Journalist and New York Times’ best-selling author Kevin Maurer speaks on the thrill of war reporting

by Mariah Posey | March 15, 2017

kevin-maurerReporting on war is risky and rewarding, but not every journalist is able or willing to do it. But for Kevin Maurer, a freelance journalist and co-author of New York Times’ best-seller, “No Easy Day,” the opportunity to report on war felt like something he was meant to do.

After landing a job at the Fayetteville Observer in January 2003, a little over a year after the September 11 attacks, the chance to report overseas quickly fell into place. By early March the same year, he was reporting in Iraq.

“As a young reporter, the war was the story,” Maurer said. “It was the one story I felt like I had to cover somehow.”

He spent the next eight years between Iraq and Afghanistan working on numerous stories. He realized that he enjoyed being in the midst of all the chaos, always anxious to return after getting back to the states.

“It’s weird in that you go a couple times and there’s a romance to it,” he said. “There’s something to being over there in that situation. I only find that it gets stressful after the fact.”

Maurer found that living as an embed, he gradually became a part of the unit. But that connection made it nearly impossible for him to get the full story. So according to him, he never tried to.

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Graphic by Mariah Posey

Instead, he said his reporting “tries to put a human face” to the soldiers he was writing about.

“That’s the other dangerous side of being an embed,” he explained. “You’ve gotta continue to make sure you’re doing your job even though you’re starting to like these guys.”

Though that relationship can be easily blurred, Maurer stressed the importance of transparency between a reporter and his sources.

“Sources aren’t your friends,” he said. “They’re your eyes and ears. You do everything you can not to burn them, but they’re not your buddies and you can’t treat them as such.”