Jackie Alvarez: How Hobbies Help You At Work

Submitted on Friday, 12/6/2019, at 1:48 PM

With social media and other forms of screen time eating up our schedules more and more, developing a hobby is a skill that needs to be cultivated, argued Hope Reese in a recent article in Vox. She spoke with Amherst’s Jackie Alvarez, associate dean of students and director of the Counseling Center, about the benefits of having a hobby that is totally disconnected from your career.

“Jackie Alvarez advises students on how to manage a healthy work-life balance,” Reese wrote. “She sees hobbies as a way to not only bring a sense of engagement to the leisure task, but to contribute to a more productive and engaged work life. By practicing deep focus … we are learning how to become better at focusing.”

“When you’re working, can you be engaged?” Alvarez asked. “When you’re away from work, can you not have work on your mind?”

“When you’re working full time with a family, and have a hobby or two, the structure actually helps you,” Alvarez added. Reese continued, “Scheduling your time around a hobby can show you that you may have more time than you think, and help you prioritize.”

The Making of Dictionaries, With Ilan Stavans and Webster's Sokolowski

Submitted on Friday, 12/6/2019, at 1:45 PM

Ilan Stavans, Lewis-Sebring Professor of Humanities and Latin American and Latino Culture, and Peter Sokolowski, editor at large of the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, will co-teach a seminar on the making of dictionaries this spring. The Daily Hampshire Gazette recently spoke with them about the course.

“Rather than operating as a standard course, a group capped at six students will work on a collaborative project with their professors, which will likely take the form of a book about the history of dictionaries in various cultures,” Gazette writer Jacquelyn Voghel wrote. “Students will receive a stipend and room and board for time spent outside of the semester working on the project, and they’ll be credited as co-authors of the book.”

“The course will also investigate various roles played by dictionaries today and throughout history, including how dictionaries have come to exert linguistic authority, how they reflect changing aspects of society, and differences in dictionaries across cultures and historical periods,” she wrote.

The course was borne from reaching “a certain point where I have moved from being a collector and user and maker of dictionaries to thinking that it’s time to build a new generation that is going to be interested in lexicography, and dictionaries in particular,” Stavans said.

On the History of Leftovers, and Thanksgiving Without Politics

Submitted on Thursday, 12/5/2019, at 1:05 PM

Amherst experts recently weighed in on two of the biggest topics that surround Thanksgiving: uncomfortable conversation and leftovers.

Lawrence Douglas, James J. Grosfeld Professor of Law, Jurisprudence and Social Thought, penned a satirical piece for The Guardian, advising Thanksgiving celebrants on how to avoid politics over dinner. He ruled against serving “peach-mint” jelly,  urging “maybe for just this year, to stick with the cranberry sauce. Similarly, under no circumstances should you consider swapping the traditional turkey main course for chicken Kiev.”

Meanwhile, The Conversation published an essay by Samantha Presnal ’11, Center for Humanistic Inquiry fellow and visiting lecturer in French, about how leftovers became the culinary rage in France at the turn of the 20th Century.

“In 19th-century France, leftovers were a way of life for the lower classes … but by the turn of the 20th century, it had become hip to whip something up with the remains from last night’s meal,” she wrote. “In 1882, France’s new republican government passed legislation mandating education for all children ages 6 to 13. Many public schoolchildren came from the lower and lower-middle classes, and educators designed home economics lessons with this in mind … the publishing industry pounced on this potential market.”

“By turning leftovers into an art form, early home cooking magazines inspired a modern generation of home cooks to be creative and think critically about cooking. And they left their legacy to us and our leftovers,” she wrote.

A Pirate's Life for Ben Cherington '96

Submitted on Friday, 11/22/2019, at 3:53 PM

“The amount of ties Amherst has to Major League Baseball is sort of strange, until you consider that it’s the opposite of a school for dummies,” the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette quipped recently, pondering the factors that resulted in the Pittsburgh Pirates hiring Ben Cherington ’96 as their new general manager. He replaces another alum, Neal Huntington ’91.

“The philosophy of Neal and Ben is very much alike,” said Bill Thurston, who spent 44 years at Amherst, coaching until he was 74. “Both are very detailed guys. Both are really focused.”

“Number 1, you’ve got to be a great student to get in,” Thurston said, about why Amherst has been such a great proving ground for futures in baseball. “You’re working with smart guys. I tried to recruit guys who loved the game. They became students of the game — not just playing but understanding it.”

Amherst is also the alma mater of Dan Duquette ’80, former GM of the Baltimore Orioles, the Montreal Expos and the Boston Red Sox. He hired Cherington as an area scout for the Red Sox in 1999. Jared Banner ' 07 serves as vice president of Player Personnel for the Red Sox.

They've Come Undone: Documenting Quantum Knots

Submitted on Friday, 11/22/2019, at 3:51 PM

A scientific team led by Amherst Physics Professor David S. Hall ’91 and Aalto University (Finland) Professor Mikko Möttönen is again making news in scientific journals and beyond, for its research in quantum mechanics.

“The same team who tied the first ‘quantum knots’ in a superfluid several years ago have now discovered that the knots decay, or ‘untie’ themselves, fairly soon after forming, before turning into a vortex,” Ars Technica recently reported. “The researchers also produced the first ‘movie’ of the decay process in action, and they described their work in a recent paper in Physical Review Letters.”

“We hadn’t been able to study the dynamics of these sorts of three-dimensional structures experimentally before, so this is the first step to this direction,” Tuomas Ollikainen, a Ph.D. student at Aalto University who conducted the experiments at the Amherst lab, told SciTech Daily. “The fact that the knot decays is surprising, since topological structures like quantum knots are typically exceptionally stable. It’s also exciting for the field because our observation that a three-dimensional quantum defect decays into a one-dimensional defect hasn’t been seen before in these quantum gas systems.”

Coming Out To The Team

Submitted on Friday, 11/22/2019, at 3:49 PM

WGBY’s program Connecting Point recently devoted a segment to the experience of Avery Saffold ’20, captain of the Amherst Mammoths football team, who came out in the spring.

“Gay and bisexual players have only recently started coming out within the last five years. This season, there are seven out players on rosters across the US,” the program noted.

Saffold joined the ranks of the out athletes after penning an open letter to Outsports.

“I wasn’t worried at all about how our team would respond,” E.J. Mills, head football coach, told Connecting Point’s Ross Lippman in the segment. The piece featured interviews with Saffold and his mother, Rhonda Brown.

Diversity on the Playing Field

Submitted on Thursday, 11/21/2019, at 4:30 PM

Amherst College was recently the subject of an in-depth piece in the New York Times sports section, detailing groundbreaking efforts at increasing diversity in athletics.

Since getting a mandate from President Biddy Martin about three years ago, Amherst coaches “have since looked beyond the most popular, suburban-based youth sports tournaments and frequently taken the less-traveled path to far-flung locales, small urban gyms and foreign countries,” Bill Pennington wrote for the Times. Youth sports in America “radically skews college athletic opportunities toward high-income families,” resulting in teams that are, in the majority, white. The piece told the story of how Amherst has worked to have teams as diverse as the student body.

“You have to turn over every stone to uncover players in places where other people are not looking,” Justin Serpone, the Amherst men’s soccer coach, told the Times. “There are thousands of kids on nobody’s radar who are good enough to play college soccer … If diversity matters to you, you’ll find kids and take a chance.”

Serpone added, “The most important step is having the college’s leadership tell its coaches point blank that being diverse is an overwhelming priority.”

“And that is something that can be done anywhere.”

When We Talk About Money: Chloe McKenzie '14

Submitted on Thursday, 11/21/2019, at 4:29 PM

“A lot of people in [the financial industry] continue to think that wealth is just something that you put on a balance sheet, but there is [a] much deeper, more humanistic meaning,” Chloe McKenzie '14 said in a recent profile by Ozy about her financial consulting work and BlackFem, the nonprofit she founded to teach financial literacy to disadvantaged students.

“I want people to think critically about the narratives we tell ourselves about money,” she said, “because who is the person making those rules?”

“BlackFem offers a multifaceted curriculum for pre-K to sixth grade: In the classroom, lessons about wealth are taught five days a week, using games, discussion and simulation as teaching tools. A summer academy helps BlackFem-affiliated teachers become certified wealth educators, better trained to integrate financial literacy curricula into their classrooms. And parent-focused workshops map what’s being taught to students, which allows the learning to continue at home,” Ozy reported.

“Her message to the students she meets is blunt: ‘Listen, because you come from a certain area or because you look the way that you look, you’re going to be exploited. Here’s how — and here’s how you can respond. Now go practice.’”

Structure and Light at the Science Center

Submitted on Friday, 11/15/2019, at 1:02 PM

Structure Magazine, the magazine “exclusively published for the practicing structural engineer,” recently published a piece on Amherst College’s new Science Center, in which the project’s architects and engineers got down to nuts-and-bolts detail on how glass and steel came together.

“Faced with an aging science center unable to accommodate today’s technologies, equipment, and pedagogies, Amherst sought a new, forward-looking building that would create an open learning environment for the entire campus community for the next 100 years,” wrote  Adam P. Blanchard, principal at LeMessurier, and Jeffrey Abramson, senior associate at Payette.

The Value of Herman Melville

Submitted on Thursday, 11/7/2019, at 9:45 PM

“With more than 100 scholarly and popular tomes on Melville now available, what new—and what more—is there to say about him and Moby-Dick?” Daniel Ross Goodman asked recently in The National Review.

As an answer, he discusses English Professor Geoffrey Sanborn's "eminently insightful" The Value of Herman Melville (2018, Cambridge University Press).

“Sanborn reads Moby-Dick through the lenses of philosophy, literary criticism, and psychoanalytic theory, and brings the author and his work alive in ways that few have done before,” Goodman wrote.

Goodman continued, “With the generosity of a patient teacher and the enthusiasm of a wise and knowledgeable tour guide eager to show travelers the hidden wonders of a quaint old city he knows well, Sanborn allows us, and invites us, to read Melville’s great novel in ways that illuminate its meaning for us in our lives today, giving us the tools to approach Moby-Dick not only as a monumental, occasionally intimidating work of art but as a text which is invaluable in the life-wisdom it contains and in its ability, if we read it carefully, to help us better cope with the existential dilemmas of our existence.”