Welcome to Live and Learn, a production of the Honors Program at the University of Connecticut. I’m Danielle Chaloux, and this is episode 1.
This week is Suicide Prevention Week. There are a variety of events happening all over campus, visit suicideprevention.uconn.edu to find out more.
Swing by the Konover Auditorium at the Dodd Center until 2pm on Monday to hear from 2017’s Holster Scholars about their research.
The Fall 2017 STEM Career Fair is Tuesday and Wednesday from 11am to 3pm on the third floor of the Student Union. A list of employers can be found on the Center for Career Development’s website, career.uconn.edu
The Honors Faculty Member of the Year Award recognizes and thanks a teaching faculty or staff member who has made outstanding contributions to the Honors Program and exceeded their job expectations in providing exceptional educational experiences to Honors students.
“My name is Alaina Brenick and I was the Honors Faculty Member of the Year. I’m an assistant professor in Human Development and Family Studies. I’m going to talk about the broad overview of my research. The title of my talk is “Growing Into and Out of Peace and Tolerance: The Need for a Developmental Understanding of Intergroup Relations and Victimization.”
If you couldn’t make it to the Last Lecture on September 13th, here’s what you missed:
“Are four year olds really racist?”
“Adolescents might say something like ‘On Wednesdays we wear pink’ and thus if you’re not wearing pink, you will be excluded. It’s a ‘Mean Girls’ reference for any of you who didn’t catch that.”
Dr. Brenick spoke at length about her research in the Middle East, and the work she’s done with Israeli and Arabic Sesame Street:
“In work that I did in the Mid-East with Arab and Israeli children, I was able to find that by preschool age, children in the Mid-East demonstrate a negativity towards the other that is extreme and polarizing. I don’t know how many of you spend time with three and a half, four year olds, five year olds right now, but if you can think about that, and think about hearing these words come out of their mouth: ‘They’re godless.’ ‘They want to kill us.’ ‘They bomb our streets.’ ‘They’re terrorists.’ So we got some clear indication that there is some parroting going on, right? They learn these words from the adults in their society.”
“But here’s the thing – those young kids, they had these negative attitudes, but we asked those same preschool age children in the Mid-East to evaluate situations of intergroup exclusion. So we’d show them these pictures, right, and we would say: ‘Oh this picture of the girls on the swing. The girl who’s standing off to the right, she comes from a different country.’ Those children who said that those outgroups were ‘godless,’ that they ‘bombed their streets,’ that they’re ‘terrorists’ – they didn’t apply those extreme negative stereotypes. They just parroted them. They hadn’t internalized them. They have a basic understanding of the labels, of the categorizations associated with these groups, but they don’t understand what that’s supposed to mean in terms of how they interact with these groups. They would say things like ‘It doesn’t matter if he’s an Arab, you can get to know him and become his friend because we should be friendly to everyone and not refusing to play with them. It doesn’t matter where she’s from.’ So a few minutes before, they’re talking about these individuals being ‘godless bombers’ and now they’re saying ‘We can all be friends.’ How do we promote this pro-sociality and prevent those negative stereotypes from developing? Because we know when those negative stereotypes develop, that leads to violence, that leads to conflict, that leads to discrimination, that leads to structural inequality.”
“So, we spent some time working with Sesame Street and it was awesome. Sesame Street is amazing. Sesame Street is across the world and there are Muppets and different programs that are specific to the needs of the children in those areas. These are the Muppets like we would have Elmo, and Big Bird, and Snuffleupagus, and Cookie Monster. Instead we have Dafi, and Haneen, and Juljul, and Tantan, who are the Muppets on the Palestinian, Jordanian, and Israeli Sesame Streets. What they decided – the creators of Sesame Street – was that they needed to have some sort of program that promoted positive messages about the groups – about both groups – so that both Arab and Israeli children could see positive representations of themselves in the media. That they weren’t inundated with ‘they’re supposed to be involved in conflict’ or ‘they’re supposed to hate each other.’ But also to promote the understanding of the outgroup.”
“So the first study that we did was with crossover episodes. These crossover episodes were actually bilingual, bicultural episodes where the Muppets from the Palestinian street would come over to the Israeli/Jewish street, and the Muppets from the Israeli/Jewish street would go over to the Palestinian Sesame street, and they would have interactions. And it might be something like – now mind you, the Muppets are the age of the children watching, they’re about four years old. So they only speak their native language so they can’t communicate with each other. But they’re there, they come, and they see an adult, and they see this other Muppet, and they’re making sandwiches. ‘What’s that?’ ‘What’re you eating?’ And the other Muppet says in the other language ‘I’m eating falafel.’ But this Muppet doesn’t understand that. They speak a different language so they’re interacting through this adult, and they find out ‘Oh, that’s what you call falafel? I call falafel this.’ ‘I like falafel. You like falafel. We both like falafel.’ Simple as that, everybody likes falafel.”
So they have these crossover episodes and it’s representing this contact across groups that they might not have in their own lives, but they’re seeing Muppets who they relate to engage with the outgroup. They’re learning about the outgroup, they’re learning about the similarities, and they’re seeing that there can be positive contact between these groups. When we followed up after running these series, we were able to find that the attitudes about the outgroup, relations with the outgroup became more positive after viewing these programs.”
We’re into the swing of the semester now, and homework and midterms are real. Let’s hear from the Academic Achievement Center on some of the resources they offer to help you succeed.
“So hi I’m Leo Lachut, I’m the director of Academic Support and also the Assistant Director of First Year Programs and Learning Communities.”
“Hi I’m Sloane Krauss-Hanley and I’m the Learning Services Coordinator in First Year Programming and Learning Communities, specifically in the Academic Achievement Center.”
“A great way for us to explain it is we don’t teach you Calculus, but we can teach you how to be successful in a Calculus class. We help students put the pieces together. Maybe work with their advisor or their parents and friends and figure out how as an individual to be successful at UConn.”
“There’s also a program “UConn Connects” which any student can sign up for and that’s a great way to be held accountable by someone, whether it’s another student or faculty or staff member on campus, someone like us potentially. It’s a great way to actually be held accountable to see if you’re keeping up with your work. When it comes to procrastination, it’s all about figuring out what time you have to do things and it shouldn’t be left until the night before, so managing your time effectively is really important. You can do it all, you can have fun, you can play an intramural sport, you can be in a club, you can do whatever you want to do and do your academics on time, and we can help you figure that out if you need some help.
So can you speak a little bit to the Connects Program. What is that?
“I often compare it to if you were working here and your niece or nephew were at UConn and they were struggling, what would you do? You would probably meet with them on a weekly basis and help them network across campus. So these – we have about 104 right now volunteers, faculty and staff, who take on a mentor each semester – a mentee rather – and they work one on one over the course of the semester. Maybe they need time management, maybe they just need someone to talk to once a week and check in with. Maybe they need resources, so whatever that person needs.
So how would a student access these resources?
“Yeah, so we’re in the Rowe Building, which if you don’t know what that is, if you’re facing the library, the main entrance, turn around. We’re across the seal, and we’re in Room 217 so you can come in. We have walk-in hours. We’re there for you every weekday, so Monday through Thursday it’s 9:00 am to 7:00pm. And then Fridays it’s 9:00am until 4:00pm to just walk in and sit down with someone.
And so what does, when you walk into that meeting, what does that look like?
“We really try to treat the student as an individual. To say ‘Why aren’t you getting the grades you want?’ ‘Why don’t you feel you’re being successful?’ ‘Why aren’t you feeling like you’re getting what you want out of here out of your UConn experience?’ So, say I’m taking this class, I’m not really getting the grade I want or I want to know how I would best prepare for this class and the coaches can help with that.”
What do you see as the most common issue or concern that students come in with?
“I feel like it varies throughout the year and throughout the semester really. Right now we’re seeing a lot of time management and study skills because first exams are coming up or they’ve already happened. I think it varies, what do you think Leo?”
“It’s seasonal, so after the first round of exams. But then often times we’ll have a student who has a strong GPA but they’re trying to move to one of our professional school, so they have GPA requirements and they’re trying ‘how would I best strategically set myself up to achieve a GPA that would get me to professional school. So we’ll have appointments based on that. Or my ultimate goal is a graduate program or medical school, and we can help students be strategic in helping them lay that out. And we work collaboratively all across campus with advising centers and all the different resources as well to help them network to what they need.”
Of all the resources that are on campus, what are some of the hidden gems that you send students to?
“First of all, it would be our center, number one, in the fact that many people feel that the only reason they would go to our center is if they’re failing. We always tell people if you have a 3.9 or a .9, we probably can help you navigate UConn.”
If you’re interested in learning more, or in becoming a mentor, visit achieve.uconn.edu
That’s all for this week. To enter to win Honors Program swag, visit honors.uconn.edu/podcast, where the code word is popsicle. We’ll be talking with Dr. Brenick in the studio next week, so if you have questions, please send them in at honors.uconn.edu/podcast. Until then, I’ll leave you with these words from Nelson Mandela.
“No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin or his background or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love. For love comes more naturally to the human heart than it’s opposite.”