Category Archives: UNCG

News at UNCG; faculty and alumni profiles

A Day at the Museum

By Ann Millett-Gallant

The renovated NC Art Museum

Last weekend, my husband and I visited the North Carolina Museum of Art in Raleigh.  Over the past few years the museum has undergone major renovations, as the main East Building was reorganized and expanded with an education wing was built, and a new, state of the art exhibition building was erected.  This 127,000-square-foot West Building, designed by Thomas Phifer and Partners, allows for natural light to enhance the color and detail of the works in the space and enhance the ambiance of the environment for the museum viewer.  Most of the museum’s permanent collection resides in the West Building, including the museum’s vast collection of Rodin sculptures, many of were acquired after renovations were completed.  The building contains both the Rodin court and the Rodin garden, where the expressive, early modern figurative sculptures embrace, stretch, and coil in moments of intense thought or meditation.  I have explored all the rooms and collections in the Museum’s new spaces, but for this visit, we concentrated on two exhibits in the East Building, Presence/Absence, a collection of photographs from the museum’s permanent collection, and Reflections: Portraits by Beverly McIver.

The idea that “presence” and “absence” are  important characteristics in the essence of photography has long, theoretic and poetic origins, yet here the exhibit chose to focus on landscapes and domestic spaces in which the human body was physically absent, yet where life forces were profuse.  Dimly lit houses glow in the moonlight of a rural vista, spilled milk expands on the floor in front of densely stacked convenience store goods, and stains on the wallpaper in front of an antique headboard hint of ghostly inhabitation.  I was drawn to the works by photographers whom I know; Jeff Whetstone is a professor at UNC at Chapel Hill and Pamela Pecchio, who is now a professor at the University of Virginia, also taught at UNC-CH when I was in graduate school there (I graduated in 2005).  The exhibition was small, but very intriguing for me.  I write about photography in my work and teach an online class about the diverse contexts in which photography is found, as well as some of the theories surrounding the role of the photograph as evidence and as illusion: BLS 345: Photography: Contexts and Illusions.

The museum also featured an exhibition of the portraits and self-portraits of North Carolina artist Beverly McIver.  Many examples of her work can be viewed here.  McIver was born in Greensboro and now lives with her developmentally disabled sister in Durham, where she is currently the Suntrust Endowed Chair Professor of Art at North Carolina Central University.  Many of McIver’s works are about roles for African-American women according to racial, gender, social and occupational identities, and they therefore directly to relate to my class Representing Women, in which we study roles for women in society and representations of women in diverse forms of visual culture.

Reminiscing (Beverly McIver, 2005)

This collection on view currently at the NCMA focuses on McIver’s portraits of her family, especially her mother and sister.  Captions on the museum walls present bits on McIver’s biography, including how her mother was such a strong role model, who lovingly cared for McIver’s sister, Rene, who had developmental impairments that, according to the text, caused her to behave as a child.  From my background in Disability Studies, I was at first critical of the museum’s texts that described Rene as “mentally disabled,” but was fascinated by McIver’s numerous portraits of Rene.  McIver’s characteristic, expressionist use of color and bold, thick paint strokes highlight Rene’s colorful and multi-dimensional personality.  Portraits of Rene show a range of intense facial expressions, as well as Rene’s love of expressive costumes.  McIver’s self-portraits also exhibit ranges of emotion and identity.  For example, Reminiscing, 2005, shows McIver’s vibrant and dramatic face in three different facial expressions, created with bold brush strokes of reds, oranges, yellows, and, with smaller flashes of blue and green.  Reminiscing suggests that the artist is musing over her personal and professional history, as an African-American woman and artist, yet the title also signifies a long history of the works’ form.  The selection of three canvases is reminiscent of a triptych, an artistic form that originated in Greek art, consisting of three panels that could be closed.  Later Christian altarpieces adopted this triptych form for depicting saints and Biblical stories.  It is in these sacred traditions that McIver paints her ranges of identities.

McIver’s work is included in the permanent collections of the North Carolina Museum of Art, the Baltimore Museum of Art, the NCCU Museum of Art, the Asheville Museum of Art, The Crocker Art Museum, the Nelson Fine Arts Museum on the campus of Arizona State University, the in Weatherspoon Art Museum on the campus of UNCG.  I would recommend anyone to see for themselves.

Thank You, Al. You Will Be Missed.

Al Briscoe, vacationing in Italy last summer.

We are very sad to announce that Al Briscoe, Jr. passed away late Sunday night, after a long illness. Al’s name may not be familiar to students in the BLS Program, but as an instructional technology consultant for the College of Arts and Sciences, he has given vital assistance to our faculty and staff since our program’s beginning. Al came to UNCG in 2002, after completing his M.Ed. in instructional technology at Wayne State University in Detroit. His many involvements with BLS Program courses include course website design, online multimedia and video hosting, course Blackboard design and maintenance, routine updates to online courses between one session and the next, and the management of end-of-session student course ratings. He also helped faculty in the College employ technology in the classroom by providing software support, training and resources.

Al spent his youth as the oldest child of a large, poor family in Baltimore, and overcame many hardships and obstacles to successfully complete a graduate-school education and become a vital member of the academic community. He was 58 years old. He is survived in the UNCG community by his partner of 20 years, Dr. John Tomkiel, Associate Professor of Biology.

My Experience in the BLS Program at UNCG

By Julia Burns, BLS Class of 2012

I woke up this morning and went into the bathroom to do my daily ritual as usual. The only problem that I have is looking in the mirror at a very scary soon to be 52 year old! Thinking, I realized today is 11th of December and it is 4 more days until I will officially be graduated. I did it! I worked hard to get my Bachelor of Arts degree while I worked making money in a reputable job. It took me 2 years in person and a year online to complete in 3 ½ years what normally have taken in 4 to 5 years. How did I do it?  The Bachelor of Arts in Liberal Studies program at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.

When I first enrolled, I thought this was going to be a breeze – a piece of cake. I couldn’t have been more wrong. I never worked so hard in my life. A traditional student can walk to class, take notes, study, test, and interact readily with other students; an online student does not have that luxury. An online article by Terence Loose points out the following seven myths about  online learning:

  • Online courses are easier than in-class courses.
  • You have to be tech-savvy to take an online class.
  • You don’t receive personal attention in online education.
  • You can “hide” in an online course and never participate.
  • You don’t learn as much when you pursue an online degree.
  • Respected schools don’t offer online degrees.
  • Networking opportunities aren’t available through online education.

I compared these seven myths to my experience with online classes. I am technologically illiterate. I received a lot of personal attention in online education. I couldn’t hide in an online course and not participate if I expected to receive a grade and keep my financial aid. I learned more from studying on line than I did from attending in person. The University of North Carolina at Greensboro is a well-respected, fully accredited, state university. I made some wonderful contacts online–not just on the North Carolina campus but from all across the country as well as all over the world.  Through online classes, I have learned the art of self discipline, how to prioritize better, how to write for specific disciplines, developed a stronger interest in all types of literature, and a gained great appreciation for all types of anthropology.

Many classes featured heated debates, such as the mock trials in “Great Trials in American History.” This was done live online and all students had to participate. It was a difficult night because in some parts of the country there were terrible thunderstorms and a lot of tornado activity going on. The thrill of the storms and the debate combined was really exciting!

What do I intend to do with this online degree in Bachelor of Arts? I would like to be a lawyer or a teacher. But in the meanwhile, I have chosen neither. I am currently refreshing my algebra skills to take the GRE and get my Master Arts in Liberal Studies. The law has always fascinated me, teaching would be a great challenge, but to become better educated is where I am headed. Who knows–maybe I will get my PhD?

Bah! Humbug!

By Matt McKinnon

ImageIt’s that time of the year again: the hectic, hair-pulling, hand-wrenching, fast-paced, rat-race that ensues around the time the Thanksgiving turkey is finally dispensed with and any leftover family begrudgingly go home.  But I’m not talking about the sales frenzy of Black Friday—the pepper-spraying, Best Buy-occupying, pushing and shoving crowds excitedly clawing and scratching for that thousand-inch television or the latest tickle-me-furry thing.  No, I write of something far darker, far more sinister, far more imposing than sale-grabbers run amuck.

It’s time for end-of-term grading.

Let me reiterate: Bah! Humbug!

I often remark (usually while engaged in grading or putting it off) that it is the worst part of my job.  While I love to teach, lecture, discuss, research, and yes read the many assignments my students turn in, the part I have come to like the least—oh, let’s be honest: the part I hate—is grading.

“Who am I,” I quarry with feigned humility and attempted justification, “to arbitrarily assign a grade—a degree, an amount, a (dare I say it?) value to someone’s written (or spoken) word, dripping with the blood, sweat, and tears of countless hours of preparation and study?”

“What manner of mortal am I,” waxing almost poetic, “to take on the god-like visage of Nietzsche’s Übermensch and attempt to quantify the unquantifiable?”

“It’s your job.”  Is usually the response of my wife, herself an educator (a real one with actual degrees and certifications in education).  “What else is your PhD good for?”

Deep in my heart I know she’s right: it’s ultimately what I am paid to do.  After all, most of my knowledge is contained in inanimate things like books and libraries, data bases, and the internet, and perhaps a paid actor could replace my antics in the classroom or online discussions.  But education, at least as we currently practice it, is more than the communication of knowledge: it is also a goal-oriented pursuit: a destination, a degree, a ticket to the middle-class workforce, and to make all of this possible—it is a grade.

I used to claim that we in the academy were the only ones who cared about grades.  After all, we are the ones for whom high school seniors show off their grades, and we are the ones who require the same of college seniors—if they want to go to graduate school.  And while this is true, The National Association of Colleges and Employers suggests that more companies than ever are screening applicants according to GPA, which is not surprising given the trend of the past decade to put more emphasis on quantifiable assessment in education, especially where public dollars are concerned.

But there is another group seemingly if not surprisingly wedded to the grading system: students.

One might think students would be solidly against grades, as they are the bane of many a young scholar’s existence.   But in my experience at least, students are heavily vested in grades, both as a metric of their performance as well as a quantifiable prize or award, the equivalent of a blue ribbon for “best in show.”

In addition to my BLS courses this semester (where students are more “seasoned”), I have been teaching first-semester freshmen, whose major gripe about professors (other than being too hard) is that they don’t post enough grades.  Never mind the idea that papers are “works in progress” that won’t receive a traditional mark until the final product is submitted, presumably after editing and re-editing.  No, these folks want more grades more often.  It’s almost like they don’t know how they are doing unless they have a quantifiable value attached to their performance.

I had a professor in my last year of college who made it a practice in his seminar classes to offer students the chance to opt-out of the grading process, either by taking a “Pass” or submitting to one grade for the entire class.  (He never gave us grades on papers, just comments.)  I had him for three courses, and none of us ever took him up on the offer.  After all, I was trying to get into graduate school—and needed grades, not an underwhelming “Pass” on my transcript.

In the rare instances when I have made the same offer to students, it has been summarily turned down, often without real consideration. And while I sympathize with my professor’s point, and even join him in his distaste for the commodification of education that grades have arguably contributed to, I can understand my students and their desire, their need for a grade to help them know their worth—even if I don’t like it.

Luckily, however, I teach mostly in the BLS program, where there seems to be more of an awareness by students that education is the journey, not the destination.  I have even had a few lament that many of their grades were too easily got and many more who readily acknowledge the self-assessed value of what they have learned as opposed to the grades they received.

And that makes the challenging process of assigning calculated values to their intellectual development bearable.

But I’ve procrastinated long enough; there are papers to grade.

Bah! Humbug!

That’s Entertainment!?

By Ann Millett-Gallant

I will admit, I like to watch TV. I study and teach about mass media representations, for example in my BLS course, Representing Women, so it is partially a professional interest, but also, I enjoy the entertainment. I have been watching all the new shows this Fall and can say I like “Two Broke Girls” and “Pan Am” the best so far. I have also appreciated the new episodes of “The Closer” and “Grey’s Anatomy.” I am a little confused by “Once Upon a Time.” It is a fairy tale show, but somehow, the plot seems more fitting to a movie.

But perhaps this is the direction television is taking – towards fantasy, or overly dramatic crime dramas. Shows based on mid 20th century are also popular, such as “Pan Am” or “Mad Men.” Basically, viewers desire to be transported to another time or place. Or perhaps fictional television is trying to distinguish itself from “Reality” TV. This morning, I was disgusted to hear about Kim Kardashian’s upcoming divorce, after a huge, media spectacle wedding and 72 days of marriage. I was not surprised and would not have taken such offense, except the story was profiled on NBC’s “Today Show” as important national news. They then featured a panel of legal “experts” to analyze whether it was legitimate or rather a huge media ploy. One of these “experts” was Star Jones, who after her scandalous exit from “The View,” dramatic weight loss, and own short marriage, redeemed her media status by appearing on “The Apprentice.” But I am getting off topic. Apparently, the Kardashian wedding cost $10 million and the couple has accrued up to $20 million since for appearances and publicity projects. And THIS is “reality” TV? The obvious irony is that all the “reality” TV on today is the farthest thing from the reality of the viewers. We are in an economic depression and unemployment is higher than it’s ever been. Reality TV seems less realistic and much more voyeuristic. Viewers watch so they can ridicule the “cast” of “Jersey Shore” (I use the term “cast” cautiously) or revel in the gluttony and triviality of the wealthy Kardashians, Hiltons, or the bevy of Playboy bunnies. On the other hand, many “reality” shows are about competitions, specifically ones in which the struggling artist has a chance at stardom (“The X Factor,” “American Idol,” and even “Project Runway”).

Other competition shows, like the aforementioned “Apprentice” and “Dancing with the Stars” seem like platforms for so-called “stars” to rehabilitate their reputations. It should then seem no coincidence that Dancing with the “Stars” is actually dancing with the cast offs of other “reality” TV shows. As television fiction, reality, and competition overlap, so does “news” and “entertainment.” Let’s be honest, real “reality” is depressing. The other news stories on “Today” were about the war, political debates, the failing economy, and random horror stories like medical mistakes. Maybe the news is just responding to their target audiences, everyday people who feel powerless and economically, and perhaps personally depressed. Maybe we prefer the “Reality” of TV to our own realities.

Act 2: Jabberbox Puppet Theater!

By Deborah Seabrooke

I started teaching at UNCG in my late twenties.  I’ve been here a long time. I’ve always been a part-time teacher and that has given me a lot of freedom to pursue other things.  I love teaching, but on the side have kept a studio in my house for all my art projects—painting, quilting, book-making, fiction writing.  Until two years ago, that was the extent of it, but then I began thinking that I needed to try something new.  A friend of mine who runs Greensboro’s only independent bookstore, Glenwood Coffee and Books, was hearing me out one day as I blathered on about getting older, but feeling like there was still a lot left to do.  I’d loved acting way back in high school, but had had no experience on stage since then.  My friend, Alan Brilliant, told me about an adult puppet theater that he’d attended in the Village in New York back in the 50s, done in a living room with a hand- made stage and puppets.  The puppeteers were two aspiring actors who needed an outlet, and started to invite their friends to their salon-style shows.  The puppets acted out Noel Coward comedies, the concept took off, and soon people had to jump on the tickets as soon as they could or they would be out of luck.  Adult puppet theater?   I began to mull this over.

Gingher and Seabrooke (right) take bows at Mack and Mack in downtown Greensboro.

Long story short, a new puppet theater for adults, the Jabberbox Puppet Theater, is already launched in Greensboro, with myself and my dear old friend Marianne Gingher.  We met back in the early 70s in the MFA program in creative Writing right here at UNCG.  Marianne is now a tenured professor in the Creative Writing program at UNC, and is plenty busy, but when I mentioned doing an adult puppet theater, she hesitated about two seconds before wanting to come on board.  We write the plays ourselves and make all the puppets.   Every year, we give 20% of our proceeds to a village school in Lumpampa, Zambia where we had traveled together and where the seed sprouted for the plot of our first play, “African Queens.” A neighbor of mine made our portable stage.  Did I say that we give you wine and home-made dessert with the ticket price?

We’ll enter our third season in May, 2012.  In 2010, “African Queens” ran for 15 performances in May and June, and all of them sold out.  Our second play, “Little Town, Big Stars,” ran for 17 performances in 2011 and they sold out, too. While our specialty is doing the shows in our living rooms, we are now expanding. In October 2011, during 17 Days, the United Arts Council’s downtown arts festival, we performed at Mack and Mack on Elm St to bigger audiences.  We have a new gig this coming June 2012 at The Garage in Winston-Salem.  In addition, we’ll travel, as we’ve done from the beginning, to living rooms and garages of friends in Chapel Hill and Wilmington.  We now even have an old van with a bumper sticker: “Puppets in Trunk.”

Jabberbox puppeteers in action during a performance in Seabrooke's livingroom.

I’m also happy to say that our grown children have helped us. Marianne’s son guided us around Zambia while he was in the Peace Corps there, introducing us to some memorable characters. Our other kids helped us by making a beautiful website, providing original music, being savvy critics, and traveling from afar to attend our shows and cheer us on.  Charlie Headington, my husband and a UNCG teacher, emcees our shows sporting a green polka-dot tie.

Before I end, I’m going to put in a plug for home-grown art—there is so much to do and see right here in Greensboro, on campus, or just a little bit off-campus. You need to support your friends, fellow teachers, and fellow students as we make our entrepreneurial and spirited way in this world of sour economic news.  Take a walk on the wild side.  Buy local. Put a few bucks down on something different.  When the show’s over, stroll the sidewalk home, contemplate the stars and think about what you’d like to do next.

A Window onto a Confucian Society

By Claude Tate

Movies are great tools for those of us who tell the stories of humanity’s past and present. Consequently, throughout my career I have constantly been on the prowl for movies I could use in my classes. I first became acquainted with “Raise the Red Lantern” in a MALS class I took here at UNC-G under Professor Tony Fragola. Besides being an excellent movie in and of itself, I’ve found it to be a valuable addition to units I’ve taught on both China and on Confucianism.  When I taught World History, I used it on numerous occasions to introduce my unit on China. I do not use it in any of my BLS classes.  But when we do our lesson on the Confucian approach to organizing the state in my “Self, Society, and Salvation” course, students sometimes want to know what a society built on Confucian principles would actually look like in practice.  I haven’t hesitated to recommend this movie.  I can think of no other resource that bring those age old principles to life to the degree that this movie can.   Zhang Yimou portrays not only the force and oppressiveness of the culture that evolved in China in which everyone has a clearly defined role, but also how people cope within this highly structured society, and what happens to those who rebel.

One note…Many people avoid movies that are subtitled, but Zhang Yimou is so effective in telling his story with the lens of his camera that one can understand the movie completely without reading a single subtitle.

Click here to read a 1996 review of this movie by James Berardinelli, and the trailer is below:

One more thing…I love this movie. It is well worth your time even if you are not viewing it for academic purposes.

Online Learning: Accidentally Green

This is where I admit I’m a little bit of a green freak. I use an electric lawn mower, an electric weed eater, and an electric leaf blower at my house, partly because they’re less expensive to fuel and maintain, but mostly because it allows me to avoid the wasted fossil fuels and absurd emissions of small gasoline engines. I can’t afford an electric car on an academic’s salary, but I did manage to find an electric scooter that I could afford, and I ride it to work any time the weather’s not too horrible…and as an old motorcycle lover and bicycle nut, I have a ridiculously liberal definition of “not too horrible” for riding. So yeah. Green freak. That’s me. But that’s not what I’m here to talk about.When I first started working with the BLS Program in 2004, our primary goal was not to provide a green method of delivering our classes. In fact, it was the least of our considerations. We were mostly concerned with meeting the needs of the nontraditional students who wanted to complete a bachelor’s degree, but didn’t have the leisure to make it to regularly-scheduled classes on campus. The people we thought about were working 8-to-5 and weren’t served by the evening offerings on campus. Or they were working parents and couldn’t afford childcare to go to class. Or maybe they worked in some field with unpredictable hours, such as emergency services, or the medical field, or the airline industry, or even the good old restaurant business (and we have since had students in all of those fields). Whatever they were doing to pay the mortgage and support their children, we wanted to make classes that they could complete from home, in the hours they could manage to carve out of their schedules. From what I hear from our students, I think we’ve been pretty successful at that goal.

What we didn’t plan was the myriad ways in which our online classes are so much more resource-conserving than their brick-and-mortar counterparts. Here are a few that come to mind.

No Driving — Instead of having each of our students burn a few gallons of gasoline getting to class (a lot of them are pretty far from campus), we use a few watts of electricity to deliver their classes electronically. They can participate in their classes anywhere they can get online, whether that’s at home, at work on a quiet night shift, at their favorite coffee shop, or from their hotel room while they’re traveling on business. It goes even further than that, because many of our faculty also teach their classes from home. Given that we have faculty who live in the Triangle, in Charlotte, and even out of state, that adds up to a lot of driving avoided by teaching and taking classes online.

No Buildings — We don’t need big spaces to gather faculty and students in the same room, so we don’t have to spend a bunch of money and resources building, heating, cooling, and lighting classroom buildings. That means fewer buildings and more green space for everyone, and it adds up to a substantial savings in terms of resource usage. Even with smart climate-control systems, classroom buildings take a vast amount of energy to heat and cool, and because of their scale, they have to be heated and cooled around the clock, even at night when no one’s around. By delivering our classes online to our students, we help reduce the pressure to build and maintain more resource-hogging classroom space. In fact, an online class full of students using their laptops at home, even if they leave them on all the time, still uses less electricity than it takes just to run the nighttime security lighting in a classroom building.

No Paper — Using online discussion boards, and writing, receiving, critiquing, and grading essays online saves reams of paper (literally) for each online class. My writing-intensive class has ten discussion boards, a prospectus, an essay, and a final revision. With twenty-five students in that class, assuming one full page each for the discussion boards, two pages for the prospectus, and ten pages each for the essay and revision, that’s (*does some math*) eight hundred pages that aren’t getting printed. Add in a syllabus that doesn’t have to get printed and handed out to the class, and that one 25-student online class has saved two whole reams of paper. Multiply that by the twenty-four classes we are offering this semester, and that’s a nice, heavy case of paper that isn’t getting deforested, pulped, packaged, shipped, and most likely ending up in a landfill somewhere at the end of it all.

So, less driving, less construction, less heating and cooling, and less paper. As a green freak, I gotta say that’s not too shabby as an accidental side effect. And here we were just trying to make it easier for you to go to class in your pajamas!

Why I Chose an Online Degree at UNCG – The Asynchronous Advantage of the BLS Program

By Catherine Kahn
(Class of December 2012)

I began my college education as many people do:  fresh out of  high school, living in a dorm, attending a top tier institution.  As many of you know, life has a way of changing your plans.  After three years of working towards my degree, I met and married a Naval Officer.  My education took a backseat to supporting him and his career especially in the aftermath of September 11th, when he was more likely to be flying missions over Afghanistan and Iraq than to be home.  Life eventually settled down, and I thought it time to complete my educational goals, but by then there were a myriad of options− so many online programs− private, public, for-profit, not-for-profit, etc in addition to classes in a traditional setting.

Online courses definitely appealed to me.  I live just minutes from another public university in North Carolina, but the asynchronous nature of the online environment definitely fits into my schedule as a mother of three far better than traditional classes.  It seems that almost all schools offer online classes these days, but the BLS program and UNCG stood out to me for several reasons.  I am not merely an online student in a degree completion program; I have the opportunity to connect with other students and attend traditional classes should I so choose.  I have all the resources of UNCG as a state-supported institution behind me.  The school’s full accreditation and low tuition made it an easy choice for me to complete my degree here.

I’ll admit I really wasn’t sure what to expect from the classes or the BLS program, but I received a thorough well-rounded education.  The BLS program is a traditional liberal arts education that teaches critical thinking skills by exposing students to a variety of topics in the humanities.  In today’s society, which often places job training over critical thinking skills, programs like this are becoming extinct, yet I believe that these sort of classes truly make for better students and better people.

Professor Claude Tate’s “Visions of Creation” class was perhaps the most intense of the eleven courses I took within the BLS program.  By reading and analyzing creation myths from various cultures, the class was able to see patterns emerge and challenge our own views towards creation and learn what influences such beliefs.  This course was more than a religious survey, because it really forced the students to view the studied societies through the lenses of their respective creation myths, and in doing so we saw how these creation myths can shape an individual culture, including our own.

“Women, War, and Terror” taught by Professor Carrie Levesque opened my eyes to how women have been brutalized by war utilizing first-person narratives written by women who had lived through 20th century atrocities such as the Holocaust, Stalin’s post-WWII Soviet Union, and the Bosnian War.  As a student, I had often wondered why we never heard the women’s stories.  Surely, they were just as horrific as the men’s.  Surely they were beaten, starved, raped, tortured, and treated like no human being every should be treated.  Professor Levesque’s class delved into these topics, and while the readings and discussions were often painful, they were nothing compared to what the authors experienced.  The authors were marginalized in their own societies, but our society needs classes like this to remind us that women have voices and sometimes they scream out in pain, and we need to listen.

I could go on and on about the classes I have taken, because save just one or two I have enjoyed them immensely and learned so much.  While studying the plays of Shakespeare, the history of the theatre, writing my own memoirs, discussing ethics, reviewing some of the great trials that have shaped America, or studying one of countless other topics, all the courses in the BLS program forced me to make connections.  I learned to connect whatever I was studying to my experiences and to this culture.  And, that is what critical thinking is all about.  I feel my education at UNCG has prepared me for my next step in life.
I’m graduating next month from UNCG with my BA summa cum laude, because of the BLS program, and next fall I’ll be attending a top ten law school to which I have already been accepted.  The UNCG BLS program has made it possible for me to succeed and fulfill my dreams by both fitting into my demanding schedule and providing me with a world class education.

Remembering Lenora Speller

By Carrie Levesque

BLS 385: American Motherhood is a pretty unique class in that some terms it is as much a support group as an academic exercise. While there is still ample acknowledgement of the warm fuzzies of parenthood, much of our time is focused on the social and economic challenges (above and beyond the exhausting physical and emotional challenges) that can make motherhood such a difficult institution. In our discussions of these challenges, we learn as much from each others’ shared experiences as we do from the scholarship we study. Among all the insights shared, the wisdom of our late student Lenora Speller (gleaned from raising 5 children who were an enormous source of pride for her) has sharply stood out to me these past two years.

Two major themes that reappear throughout the course are the question of choice (why should we care about the frustrations of the stay-at-home mother or the overburdening of the working mother when they’ve “chosen” these roles?

Lenora Speller

See http://www.anncrittenden.com/about.htm) and the importance of self-care (what kind of support do mothers need, from their families and from society, to stay healthy and sane, and how do we go about getting it?). On the first topic, Lenora’s contributions were inspiring; on the second, her ideas and actions were pretty revolutionary.

I think anyone who is juggling school with some other role (working and/or parenting) can relate to the desire to just be done, to be free to not have to focus one’s energies in so many places at once. This is something many mothers of young children can sometimes relate to as they find themselves putting aside other goals and desires (like enjoying a professional identity outside the home or maintaining interests they had before becoming parents) in order to manage the all-absorbing tasks of parenting. These postponed desires frustrate us when their fulfillment is blocked by the ‘choices’ we’ve made- for example, to give up careers due to the exorbitant cost of childcare or the lack of flexible work options. It can be hard to enjoy the place where we are when we are constantly struggling toward the place where we want to be or where we think we should be.

But the calm that characterized Lenora’s posts on this subject clearly came from a woman who, though she juggled many roles and ambitions, had made her peace with these desires and did not let their as-yet-unfulfilled status discourage her. She wrote, “I had always told my family/community that I saw my own life in ‘seasons’, and that when the ‘season’ of rearing the children to kindergarten age was over, I would begin to do other things outside of the home.“ It is possible to ‘have it all,’ she counseled her classmates, maybe just not to have it all at once. Appreciate this season, where you are and what you have now; all of these experiences are meaningful and critical to our growth as human beings, too. That may sound obvious, but it is something frazzled parents (and especially parents who are also students) frequently lose sight of.

This kind of clear-eyed vision is best achieved, though, when we have some way of finding balance in our lives and managing the physical and emotional stress that comes with juggling so many roles and often neglecting our own needs. Lenora’s radical solution?

“I decided to start taking a personal vacation. ALONE. Once I even stayed in the same city, but in a hotel for a night, and it didn’t take a whole lot of money. I began to look forward to these times and began to feel refreshed, little by little… Then I got a great deal and began to take cruise vacations!…[She took some criticism outside her immediate family for this, but] I ignored everyone else’s opinions and now I am a healthy, happy, whole and “not too tired” Momma.”

A mother of young children taking a vacation alone, without her children- who does that? Someone who values her health and sanity, that’s who. Someone with the sense of self-worth to say, “I can do this for me.” Someone who had let go of the guilt we often feel when we try to take time just for ourselves.

Now, practically speaking, in these times, I’m not advocating A Cruise for Every Mother, but the lesson is clear: do whatever you can to make time for yourself, to take care of yourself. It’s the only way to make it as a “healthy, happy, whole and ‘not too tired” parent and/or working student.

At another point in the course, Lenora wrote that “becoming a mother meant to me – creating a nurturing environment of peace and stability in a very uncertain world.” I’m very grateful Lenora chose to share some of her peace and stability with all of us in the American Motherhood course. The words and example of this exceptional mother and student will not be forgotten.