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Students Join ‘Up to Us’ Campaign to Address National Debt


Pictured are Paul Shaw, Sordum Ndam, faculty adviser Dr. Colin Cannonier, Lindsay Bond-Harris and Jawon Taylor.

Five Belmont sophomores are working hard this month to build a movement to address the national debt, a figure that currently stands at over $17 trillion. Belmont “Up to Us”  formed last fall when the five students–Paul Shaw (international business), Jawon Taylor (political science), Sordum Ndam (political science), Olivia Nishi (corporate communications) and Lindsay Bond-Harris (music business)–applied to participate in the national Up to Us competition, which is sponsored by the Peter G. Peterson Foundation, Clinton Global Initiative University (CGI U) and Net Impact. The Belmont team was selected as one of 25 teams nationwide and is competing against teams from Duke, Cal State-Fullerton, Northwestern, Oklahoma State, Rice, George Washington and New York University, among others, with the contest set to end this Friday, Feb. 21.

The group was first interested in the competition as a means to have hands-on experience in a campaign that would benefit their diverse studies in political science, business and communications. However, this campaign has hit a nerve for all of them. Noting that $17 trillion is a difficult figure to grasp and contextualize, Ndam said, “You start telling people how serious this is, and the more you repeat these facts, the more you begin to realize how truly serious an issue it is… I’m afraid of the uncertainty of it all.”

“We want people to be thinking about the national debt and get discussion going,” said Bond-Harris. “We’re not asking for answers, but we do want people to get involved in finding answers.”


Belmont Delegates ‘Live Beyond’ Campus in Haiti


(left to right) Robin Cobb, Cathy Taylor and Phil Johnston in  Thomazeau, Haiti.

During his recent visit to Thomazeau, Haiti, College of Pharmacy Dean Phil Johnston visited villages with LiveBeyond workers and a Belmont delegation to aid and dispense medications to a woman in postpartum, a father with high blood pressure, a small boy with worms and a man with a hip injury. The most powerful experience of them all was when a man who received medical attention sang a Christian hymn in Creole as his Voodoo-practicing neighbors gathered around and listened.

“It was like watching a Bible story about caring for the least of these,” Johnston said.

He, along with College of Health Sciences & Nursing Dean Cathy Taylor and Nursing Assistant Professor Robin Cobb, visited LiveBeyond’s base in Haiti last week to identify areas of student mission participation and to flush out unique partnerships between the University and the nonprofit organization that would allow Belmont students to provide medical and educational resources as well as business development to the ailing Caribbean country. Founded by retired trauma surgeon David Vanderpool, LiveBeyond moved its headquarters in May into Belmont’s Facilities Management Services building at the corner of 15th and Delmar avenues. The organization’s 64-acre Haitian base encompasses medical care, nutrition, maternal health, orphan care, education development, community development and infrastructure, agriculture and demonstration farms, clean water projects and community outreach visits to those with special needs and disabilities in a region 25 miles northeast of Port Au Prince, Haiti.

“We certainly were able to get a great flavor for the compound and the vision for what is there now and the vision for what is planned,” said Taylor, who co-hosted a convocation-credit forum to share more about the team’s experiences at noon Feb. 19 in McWhorter Hall room 114. (more…)

Lott Advocates for Story Over Genre

The author of Oprah Book Club selection, Jewel, Bret Lott visited Belmont on Wednesday for a Christian Faith Development convocation sponsored by the School of Religion, the English department and the Office of Spiritual Development.

Bret LottAfter noting “I only understand what I mean if I write it out,” Lott read to the audience his thoughts on the roles of story, genres and faith in a person’s life. “Why do people buy the same novel again and again and again” he asked, noting his belief that in those tales readers find a glimpse of the light and meaning they seek. Alluding to C.S. Lewis, he continued, “Those books have delivered a story that has brought them to the brink of their own far-off country.”

But Lott argued that genre is not the same as story; rather, genre is but a shadow of the real story everyone seeks, a story that is found in the person of Christ. “I ask you not ‘what is your story’ but who is your story?”


Students, Alumni Get ‘Jumpstart’ for Poliana

Poliana began beta testing in November.

Poliana began beta testing in November.

A group of Belmont students and alumni are working to increase civic responsibility through a web application that explains United States government and politics. Funded through a $15,000 investment, the app, Poliana, aggregates millions of data points on a wide range of government activity, including voting records, financial contributions, lobbying, bills and industry influence.

Nashville business incubator Jumpstart Foundry awarded Poliana founders with the start-up cash during a 14-week process. Throughout the process the founders–Belmont students David Gilmore and Patrick Cason along with alumni Grayson Carroll, Kenny House and Seth Whiting– were guided and mentored by Nashville’s most influential business people, designers, developers, lawyers, marketers and entrepreneurs.  Their entrepreneurial jumpstart culminated with “investor day,” where Poliana presented a 10-minute business pitch to hundreds of potential investors from all over the country.

“I was pushed to learn and produce results at an extremely accelerated rate, and the progress I made was clear. Overall, the experience more than prepared me for the trials of running a successful business, and I’m extremely thankful for the opportunity to learn from the brightest minds of the Nashville business community,” said Carroll (’13), Poliana’s chief executive officer.


Faculty Present at 2013 Lilly Conference

Faculty members from the College of Arts and Sciences, the School of Religion and associated with the Teaching Center and the Office of General Education recently contributed four presentations at the 33rd Annual International Lilly Conference on College Teaching.  Each of the four presentations is associated with research that flows from ongoing Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL) projects and collaborations.

Computer Science Professor Joyce Crowell, Psychological Science Professor Pete Giordano and Religion Professor Steve Simpler presented “Taming the Professor: How Students Manage Professors.”  They are members of the Belmont Faculty Improvement Group (FIG) that has worked on a variety of SoTL projects for more than two decades and has presented at several other Lilly conferences. Their 2013 presentation focused on how students try to manipulate such things as course assignments, grading, or due dates. Participants discussed ways to create hospitable classrooms that diminish adversarial relationships while upholding academic standards.

In an interactive panel presentation entitled “Getting Students to Care in the Common Core Classroom: Service Learning as an Engagement Strategy,”  English Department faculty members Jason Lovvorn, Linda Holt and Charmion Gustke examined how service learning can be an effective student engagement strategy, particularly for core-curriculum classes. All three faculty members have multi-year scholarly research experiences with service learning pedagogy. As a conference panel, they each offered reflections on how service learning promotes student engagement in the classroom. The presentation provided conclusions and evidence regarding how service-learning outcomes square well with the goals of most core curricula.

Alison Moore and Rachel Rigsby, both chemistry faculty members and general education leaders, presented “How the BELL Core Does Multi-Disciplinary Learning Communities as the First Part of a Sophomore Year Experience.” Their presentation included recent observations from collaborative research that combined administrative and teaching experiences for both faculty members. In addition to laying out the basic framework and signature courses of the BELL Core at Belmont, they identified how learning communities have been incorporated as part of Belmont’s larger Sophomore Year Experience. This session explored both the logistical details of including learning communities in the core curriculum and the pedagogical pieces that make them successful academic experiences.

“Some Effective Activities and Strategies for Ending a Course,” presented by Mathematics and Teaching Center Professor Mike Pinter and Giordano, was designed so that participants would be able to implement ideas immediately as they conclude their fall semester courses. As output from their collaboration on SoTL topics that developed during service for each as Belmont’s Teaching Center director, they have presented regularly at the Lilly Conference over the last decade. To outline the significance of a good course ending, their 2013 presentation included pedagogical, cognitive, emotional and practical considerations for ending a course in ways that promote student learning. After hearing about approaches and activities used in some Belmont mathematics and psychology courses, participants had time to generate their specific course-ending ideas.

At the Lilly Conference, faculty scholars of teaching and learning from across the United States and several international educational institutions share innovative pedagogies and have vibrant discussions about questions and challenges associated with teaching and learning. The theme for the 2013 conference, held Nov. 21-24 at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, was “Evidence-Based Teaching and Learning.”

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