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U.Va. Study: A Third of U.S. Low-Wage Workers Are Only Earners in Household

Wed, 2014-07-23 14:17
Meredith Gunter

Among all employees nationally, 56 percent are hourly workers, and 32 percent of these, or more than 21 million, earn less than $10.10 per hour, according to University of Virginia researchers in the Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service’s Demographics Research Group.

This finding and others related to low-wage workers are detailed in a Census Brief released today, the fourth in a series of short publications depicting trends in census and other data pertinent to contemporary debate.

In the 2014 State of the Union address, President Obama said it was time to “give America a raise” by increasing the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour. The Census Brief examines the income of workers making less than that figure and the potential of low wages to affect the lives of others in the households of low-wage workers.

“As we consider the impact of raising the minimum wage, it is important to realize this is complicated territory,” said Megan Juelfs-Swanson, who prepared the brief. “While an hourly worker can be a contractor in Northern Virginia, working 60 hours per week earning very high hourly wages, nearly one-third of hourly workers nationwide earn less than $10.10 an hour.” 

“We developed this brief to inform public opinion and debate about the minimum wage in the context of family and household income of low-wage workers,” said Qian Cai, director of the Demographics Research Group. “The diversity in economic circumstances for low-wage workers illustrates that a minimum wage increase will have differential impacts across households and individuals. Any increase in the minimum wage provides essential protection against economic distress, particularly for the one-half who are the only or primary earners in the household.”

The Census Brief is available here.

Lilly Endowment Grants $2.1 Million to U.Va.’s Project on Lived Theology

Wed, 2014-07-23 13:48
H. Brevy Cannon

The University of Virginia’s Project on Lived Theology has received a $2.1 million grant from the Lilly Endowment to extend the project for five more years, from 2015 through 2019. This is the Lilly Endowment’s fifth major grant to the project, a long-term theological research program exploring the relation between Christian spiritual beliefs and social practice.

Including the new grant, the Lilly Endowment has provided the project a total of $6.7 million covering 19 years. Four previous Lilly grants, totaling more than $4.6 million, have funded the project since its creation in 2000.

“The Project on Lived Theology is breaking new ground in encouraging theologians and religion scholars to attend more intentionally to the everyday experiences of ordinary Christians,” said Chris Coble, vice president for religion at the Lilly Endowment, an Indianapolis-based philanthropic foundation that supports education, religion and community development. “This theological work is pivotal in helping individuals and communities understand and claim the practices that carry forward the deep wisdom of the Christian tradition.”

The Project on Lived Theology seeks to forge a closer connection between the study of theology and the experiences of people and groups who are putting their beliefs into action. The project is based on the rationale that “the living energy of faith-shaped communities is a promising and untapped source for theological inquiry,” said Charles Marsh, project director and religious studies professor.

Expressing the University’s gratitude, U.Va. President Teresa Sullivan said, “This long-term investment from the Lilly Endowment is a testament to the importance of the work being done by Charles Marsh and his colleagues. We are very grateful for the Endowment’s continued support.”

The project regularly brings together theologians, students and religion scholars in partnership with practitioners to understand the social implications of religious beliefs. The meetings are often held in congregations and faith communities. Past locations have included East Los Angeles, Atlanta, Baltimore and Harlem. More than 3,000 people have participated in such programs since the project’s founding in 2000.

“The project has tapped into a national hunger for opportunities to bridge the gap between classroom and faith communities, and create spaces to bring together practitioners and academics,” Marsh said. “On the University side, there is a hunger to make a difference and be a part of promoting the common good. On the practitioners’ side, there is a hunger to have these conversations and put their work in the trenches everyday in a larger historical and theological perspective.”

Marsh is the author of eight books, including “God’s Long Summer: Stories of Faith and Civil Rights,” which won the 1998 Grawemeyer Award in Religion. His latest book, “Strange Glory: A Life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer,” was published in April by Random House. The Wall Street Journal called it “truly beautiful and heartbreaking. ... A splendid book.”

Marsh was a recipient of a Guggenheim fellowship in 2009 and the 2010 Ellen Maria Gorrissen Berlin Prize fellowship at the American Academy in Berlin.

For NICU Parents, Skype Provides the ‘Next Best Thing’

Tue, 2014-07-22 16:18
Christine Phelan Kueter

When Greg Callahan’s son, Alex, was born prematurely at 29 weeks, the 3-pound infant stretched from his father’s palm to just past his wrist. Greg and his wife KaDe, who live in Bedford – about 100 miles west of Richmond, just southwest of Lynchburg – spent six months in the neonatal intensive care unit at the University of Virginia Medical Center with Alex, who endured a series of intestinal surgeries, tracheal and stomach tubes and, after he developed pneumonia, a ventilator.

“The strongest emotion you feel is complete helplessness,” KaDe said. “There’s this little life, and it didn’t go the way you’d planned, and you’re completely exhausted – even though you’re sitting for 12 hours a day – and there’s not a thing you can do but pray.”

It was a wrenching ordeal. KaDe, a teacher, remained with Alex at U.Va., but Greg had to return to work, visiting Charlottesville only on weekends. So when the Callahans heard about U.Va. nursing professor Beth Epstein’s pilot project that uses Skype to keep parents in touch even when they are away from the hospital, their answer was unequivocal.

“I said, ‘Sign us up – please,’” Greg said.

Epstein, a long-time NICU nurse herself who teaches ethics and studies trust and communication, said that while the NICU environment attempts to be family-friendly, it is inevitably a restless, surreal place of bleating monitors, plastic tubes and constant harried footsteps and hushed voices. There are few opportunities for sleeping over, the chairs are uncomfortable, and parents – who often position themselves next to the incubators’ portholes for the best view of their tiny infants – feel constantly in the way in an environment as foreign as the moon.

“It takes a significant amount of trust to get through a stay in the NICU,” Epstein said. “You’re seeing your baby for the first time, and they’re beautiful and perfect and full of hope, but the very sick ones have tubes going in and coming out, they’re surrounded by machines, IV poles, and they’ve sometimes been through very painful procedures. It’s a hard, bitter pill for a parent. And there is a lot of despair” – particularly when the parents can’t be there.

Epstein’s pilot takes aim at that despair. Using an iPad set atop a tripod, hospital caretakers introduce themselves to absent families, who can ask questions, make observations and see their baby in blessed close-up – the next best thing to being there.

“When you have an extended stay in the NICU, it gets harder and harder to be apart, and to be able to see one another on Skype, be able to talk – it made such a huge difference in our NICU experience,” KaDe said. “It was so emotionally helpful for us as a family, and it gave Alex a chance to get used to our family noise, what we all sound like at home.”

Other hospitals employ webcams in the NICU into which parents can tap, but those often get knocked about, provide awkward views of the babies and stir concern in parents who can’t quickly communicate with those caring for their babies. Epstein’s pilot – a calmer, more organized approach – offers parents a predictable time and method to see their baby’s nurse and doctors, ask questions and see their baby. All in real time.

Of course, there are kinks to be ironed out – among them picture quality images, Internet speed and storage of the devices in the NICU.

Getting staff used to the additional equipment is taking some time, said Epstein, who hopes to expand the program beyond its current two iPads and tripods, but she believes the project will benefit NICU providers, as well as parents and babies.

“Increasing parents’ trust and sense of involvement in their baby’s care will ultimately benefit not just babies and their parents, but NICU providers as well,” Epstein said. “A number of nurses are really championing this technology, and I believe this small-but-important program will earn others’ warmth too.”

The Callahans – who took now year-old, 23-pound Alex home earlier this year – concur.

 “You know the kids’ game ‘Operator,’ where somebody tells somebody something and then the meaning is lost?” Greg asked. “That’s how it can feel sometimes. It was great being able to put eyes on Alex before the weekend, hearing from the nurses firsthand.”

“It was important for Greg to feel a part of Alex’s medical team, by being able to talk to doctors and nurses face-to-face at night,” KaDe added. “It made him a real part in their minds, and made him feel emotionally like he was not stuck at home. He didn’t have to just get my version of what’d happened, but got a first-person account. We have to believe in our hearts that it made a difference for Alex to get to hear his daddy’s voice each day. I know it made a difference for his daddy.”

“For six months, it let my family look at one another while we talked,” Greg said. “They should have these for every patient, at every isolette. It’s not the same as being there, but it’s the next best thing.”


U.Va. Media Advisory: Sorensen Institute’s High School Leaders Present Solutions to Issues Facing Policymakers

Tue, 2014-07-22 15:27
Lauren Gilbert

Students in the High School Leaders Program at the University of Virginia’s Sorensen Institute for Political Leadership have been grappling with issues now facing policymakers, including preventing texting while driving, eliminating non-biodegradable plastic microbeads from cosmetics, adding a concussion baseline evaluation to student athletes’ annual sports physicals, changing the protocol for deciding elections that end in a tie and allowing the use of medicinal marijuana.

Students in the program – a total of 28 from all parts of the commonwealth – will give presentations on their solutions to some of these issues on Friday, from 10 a.m. until noon, in the Great Hall in Garrett Hall on the U.Va. Grounds. Reporters are invited to attend. State Del. David Toscano will be present, as well as Carrie Chenery, senior assistant for policy for Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe; Billy Cannaday, U.Va.’s vice provost for academic outreach and dean of the School of Continuing and Professional Studies; and R. Marc Johnson, executive director of the Center for Global Initiatives at U.Va.’s Darden School.

High school leaders have been instrumental in providing research to members of the General Assembly on ongoing areas of public interest and policy issues, according to Bob Gibson, Sorensen’s executive director.

The individual student groups identified and began their research on policy problems July 15. Last year, students presented projects on the ethical reporting of gifts, bike helmet safety laws, making voting easier for those serving overseas in the military and bipartisan redistricting.

The High School Leaders Program is sponsored in part by State Farm Insurance Company.

Through a variety of programs – for everyone from high school and college leaders to first-time political candidates and influential business and community leaders – the Sorensen Institute has established itself as an effective force for restoring public confidence in our political system. At the heart of its programs are three central themes: ethics in public service, the power of bipartisanship and a concentrated study of public policy issues. Each program provides an opportunity for leaders to develop meaningful relationships with Virginians of differing political viewpoints who hail from every region of the commonwealth. 

The 2014 U.Va. Sorensen Institute High School Leaders Program participants are:

      •    Melissa Alberto, Robert E. Lee High School; Lorton

  • Maddie Albertson, Fredericksburg Academy; Stafford
  • Jordan Arnold, Rockbridge County High School; Lexington
  • Brittany Beckwith, Midlothian High School; Midlothian
  • Rob Braislford Jr., Patrick Henry High School; Roanoke
  • Peter Brodzik, Douglas S Freeman High School; Richmond
  • John Campbell, George Washington High School; Danville
  • Sophie Crowell, Halifax County High School; South Boston
  • Rachel DePalma, Granby High School; Norfolk
  • Ose Djan, Episcopal High School; Falls Church
  • Galen Green, Maggie L. Walker Governor's School; Glen Allen
  • Kiran Hampton, South Lakes High School; Great Falls
  • Nikki Kothari, Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology; Herndon
  • Devin MacGoy, Potomac Falls High School; Potomac Falls
  • William Marker, Central High School; Kenbridge
  • Debbie Mayo, Maggie L. Walker Governor's School; Richmond
  • John Metz, Maggie L. Walker Governor's School; Richmond
  • Robin Owens, Godwin High School; Henrico
  • Haden Parrish, Fluvanna County High School; Palmyra
  • Reshini Premaratne, Maggie L. Walker Governor's School; Glen Allen
  • Sahana Ramani, Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology; Herndon
  • Sam Rossi, Middleburg Academy; Leesburg
  • Saajan Sappal, Glen Allen High School; Glen Allen
  • Kathleen Warner, home educated; Warrenton
  • Mason Wheeler, Patrick Henry High School; Roanoke
  • Alex Workman, Fredericksburg Academy; Fredericksburg
  • Katie Zalegowski, James Monroe High School; Fredericksburg
  • Connell Zelazny, James Monroe High School; Fredericksburg

Meet Kim Dylla ’05, Heavy Metal Seamstress

Tue, 2014-07-22 11:03

Since graduating from the University of Virginia in 2005, Kim Dylla has done a lot of things: played music, helped build a digital re-creation of ancient Rome and, most recently, launched a business creating custom-made clothing for rock and metal bands ranging from Journey to Machine Head.

She recently answered a few questions about her time at U.Va. and her clothing venture, Kylla Custom Rock Wear.

Q: What was your major and when did you graduate from U.Va.?

A. I majored in studio art with a minor in computer science. I was an Echols Scholar. I graduated in 2005, but I did a year post-baccalaureate fellowship with the Aunspaugh program in the art department.

Q: After graduation you also worked in digital humanities at U.Va.’s Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities, or IATH. Are there any creative similarities between what you did then and what you do now?

Dylla uses vintage and modern materials to craft her stage-wear. (Photos by Sanjay Suchak, University of Virginia)

A. I think the creative similarities between my two careers lie in the ability to integrate skillsets from multiple seemingly juxtaposed fields. At IATH, we merged the worlds of computer science and classical archaeology. With Kylla Custom Rock Wear, I tie in skills from the fashion industry and the music industry. I still use the Web design and Web programming skills directly in my business now as well.

Q: Tell us about the Rome project you worked on at IATH. 

A. “Rome Reborn” is a large 3-D scholarly model of the entire city of ancient Rome at the period of Constantine, the height of its civic development. Its purpose was to be a visual knowledge representation for all of the archaeological data present. It was a challenge technically because of the sheer amount of 3-D data we were dealing with and trying to render all of that in real time and securely to protect intellectual property.

I worked mainly with integrating the entire model and developing the various real-time display interfaces we used, from OpenSceneGraph at the beginning to IBM iRT, to Mental Images's Reality Server, to Unity.

Q: Now you make custom clothing for rock and metal bands at Kylla Custom Rock Wear. What’s your favorite place in Charlottesville to find materials?

See more of Dylla's work at kyllacustomrockwear.com. 

A. Goodwill and Salvation Army, I hoard salvaged leather and denim from thrift stores!

Q: What advice would you give to a current U.Va. student interested in this kind of career? 

A. Make yourself a Renaissance person – learn lots about technology, business, art, manufacturing skills, languages, etc. Most importantly, teach yourself to focus, work hard, manage your time and network with other humans. Always be open to new ideas, partnerships and possibilities.

Q: Favorite building on Grounds?

Each piece is custom-made for clients. 

A. I spent most of my time at the Digital Media Lab at Clemons Library and the basement labs in Olsson Hall. The art department was in temporary trailers for most of my time there. I think my favorite place on Grounds to study, though, was the old graveyard near old dorms. How Goth of me.

Q: What’s next for you?

A. I’m in Europe all summer networking at the big music festivals to try to see what new clients we can dress! I hope that by next year we can have a manufacturing operation off the ground to provide some high-end merchandise for our bands and partner festivals.

Incoming Students Learn the Basics of U.Va. Life at Summer Orientation

Mon, 2014-07-21 17:19

The 50 student summer orientation leaders at the University of Virginia showed tons of Wahoo spirit as they gathered groups of incoming first-year students for activities on the Lawn Thursday morning. They easily switched to serious academic-advising mode in the afternoon as they fielded a range of questions from slightly anxious incoming first-years learning how to register for classes.

“If I placed out of Chemistry 1140, can I take ‘Organic Chemistry’?” one young woman asked.

“Well, it’s not recommended,” replied orientation leader Kristian Robinson, a rising fourth-year double majoring in environmental sciences and biology.

“Can I major in two different schools, say the Commerce School and College of Arts & Sciences?” asked another student.

Leslie Smith, a rising third-year orientation leader majoring in English, answered in the affirmative, adding that students don’t apply to the McIntire School of Commerce until the end of their second year.

Summer orientation leaders gather incoming students on the Lawn after the welcoming session. (Photo by Dan Addison, University Communications)

After opening the two-day session with a meeting in Old Cabell Hall auditorium – which concluded with singing the “Good Ol’ Song” together for the first of many, many times during their college careers – the orientation leaders headed outdoors and fanned out around the statue of Homer on the lower Lawn, holding aloft colorful signs bearing their names so the new students could find them. The leaders then led their assigned groups of students in a few rounds of ice-breaker games before and after lunch in Newcomb Hall.

About 700 first-year students in the College of Arts & Sciences, the School of Engineering and Applied Science and the Curry School of Education attended the summer orientation session, the fourth of seven held in July. One more will be offered Aug. 20-22 – just before the fall semester’s move-in day – for international and some transfer students.

Students participated in several more activities to get to know their classmates and the orientation leaders better that evening. The second day, they registered for U.Va. emergency text messaging and picked up student ID cards. There were optional tours of the Grounds, visits to libraries, browsing a resource fair and more.

Meanwhile, parents and guests attended a parallel program that provides information and discussion about various University resources.

Back on the Lawn, orientation leader Elizabeth Surratt, heading into her second year, stood in the middle of a circle of new students, said her name and something about herself. If any other students shared the same thing, they had to switch places in the circle, but one would be left out, as in musical chairs. That person went into the middle next to start another round.

Surratt said when she attended her summer orientation last year, the leaders looked like they were having so much fun, she wanted to join the crew. She hasn’t been disappointed this summer.

“The orientation leaders continue to serve the University well in the way they help to ease in the transition of the incoming class,” said Tabitha A. Enoch, director of orientation and new student programs. “They demonstrate a terrific blend of likability and capability which makes them so relatable to the first-year students who are soon to be their peers. The days are long, the mornings are early, but the work is certainly rewarding.”

Many students already had some familiarity with U.Va. before applying and being accepted. Peter, from Midlothian, said his sister graduated last year. An Echols Scholar, he said the Commerce School was a big draw for him.

“I always wanted to come here,” he said. “When I visited, I liked the atmosphere – it’s really friendly and also academic. At some schools, it’s either-or.”

Some were drawn to the Curry School’s new kinesiology major. A student named Kassandra said she’d had sports injuries in high school and became interested in how she could help others who go through that.

Priyanka, from Atlanta, was drawn to the pre-med program and Health Sciences Center here, she said. Besides her introductory chemistry and biology courses, she said she’s particularly looking forward to an “Ethics of Medicine” course.

Thursday afternoon was devoted to workshops on course selection in advance of individual registration on Friday. Academic deans Sandra Seidel, who teaches biology, and Kirt von Daacke, who teaches history, explained the enrollment process and encouraged the students to seek help from different people – to “collect as many advisers as you can,” von Daacke said.

In addition to their assigned association deans and faculty advisers, students can also turn to departmental directors of undergraduate studies when they’re considering their choice of a major, and can find others for assistance, as well, such as resident advisers, professors teaching their classes and administrators in offices such as the Dean of StudentsUniversity Career Services or the International Studies Office.

Von Daacke urged the students to remember course enrollment is really a two-month process and asked the students to choose as many as 25 courses, four of which they would register for to get a head start on enrolling for the normal load of 15 credits. They tried out different combinations to come up with a course schedule where the days and times of the classes would fit. Like all students, the first-years will have from Aug. 1 until Sept. 9 and 10 to add and drop classes as they settle into the semester.

“Relax. Be flexible. Have fun,” Seidel said.

“The orientation leaders were really helpful,” said Kyle from Williamsburg, who plans to pursue a B.A. in computer science. Working on his schedule, he juggled courses to avoid time conflicts. “It helped having picked the extra courses. I’ve got a good schedule so far.”