Feed aggregator

Subscribe to UVa Feed feed
Updated: 1 hour 1 min ago

Media Advisory: International Experts Gather at U.Va. to Respond to ISIS Violence Against Women and Girls

3 hours 56 min ago

The United Nations reports that as part of the campaign of violence being waged by the self-styled Islamic State, terrorists have kidnapped thousands of women and young girls, handing them over to “fighters as reward or sold as sex slaves.”

On Monday, a top British official and two Iraqi frontline service providers will join U.S government officials, United Nations personnel, NGOs and University of Virginia faculty members for “Responding to ISIS Violence against Women and Girls,” a daylong conference designed to deliver results at its conclusion. The invitation-only event will be held from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. in the Newcomb Hall Ballroom.

The conference aims to raise awareness of ISIS’ brutal and persistent violations against women and girls in Iraq and Syria and to develop practical tools for providing victims with immediate and effective assistance, said Stewart Gamage, program director  at U.Va.’s Morven, which is organizing the conference with AMAR, the Presidential Precinct and U.Va.’s Maxine Platzer Lynn Women’s Center.

One of Britain’s best-known politicians and an expert on Iraq, Baroness Emma Nicholson of Winterbourne, will speak at the event. Nicholson is a frequent visitor to Iraq and has been active there for the last 23 years. In addition to carrying out her political duties in Britain’s House of Lords, she chairs AMAR U.S., a Washington, D.C.-based humanitarian charity. She founded the AMAR Foundation in 1991 to support underserved populations in the Middle East.

Nicholson recently returned from her latest trip to oversee AMAR’s work on the ground in the refugee camps of the Kurdistan region in the north of Iraq. Two women from AMAR’s senior Iraqi emergency humanitarian team will accompany her to U.Va.: Behar Ali, AMAR’s top representative in the Kurdistan region; and Dr. Bayan Kader Rasul, a physician with more than 32 years’ experience who specializes in women’s health.

Ali met a young woman earlier this month who had been raped by many ISIS fighters.

“She was 23 years old and in very bad health. She was terrified she was pregnant. We offer what help we can, both physically and psychologically, to these poor girls. There are so many of these stories,” said Ali, herself a refugee from the village of Halabja, where 5,000 people died in 1988 after a poison gas attack by Saddam Hussein’s forces.

On Monday, following morning panel discussions that will provide an overview of the situation and the U.S government’s response to date, working groups will address several aspects of the crisis, including the legal response and potential health, psycho-social and economic support for the victims. Resolutions for action by the conference participants will be delivered at the conclusion of the conference.

Supreme Court to Hear U.Va. Law Clinic Case Involving Gun, Property Rights

Tue, 2014-10-21 16:46
Mary Wood

The U.S. Supreme Court agreed Monday to hear a case championed by a University of Virginia School of Law clinic that will weigh individual property rights against government limits on firearms possession.

Henderson v. U.S., which likely will be argued in late February, marks the 12th case U.Va.’s Supreme Court Litigation Clinic has taken to Washington. Working in teams, students handle actual cases, from the seeking of Supreme Court review to briefing on the merits.

The case involves former U.S. Border Patrol agent Tony Henderson, a Florida man charged with selling marijuana in 2006.

“While he was being prosecuted, the judge encouraged him to give all his firearms to the government for safekeeping, and he did,” said U.Va. law professor Dan Ortiz, the clinic instructor, who will argue the case. 

Henderson gave the FBI his 19 guns and served six months for felony drug offenses.

“Knowing that his conviction barred him from ever possessing firearms himself, he later tried to arrange for the government to transfer the guns to someone who would pay him for them,” Ortiz said. “The government refused, saying that to do so would somehow attach constructive possession of the guns to our client.”

Ortiz said the case involves an interesting property rights issue: Can the government effectively deny a criminal defendant the value of his property, even when the property has no connection to the crime?

Former clinic student Gillian Giannetti, a 2014 U.Va. Law graduate, found the case last year while researching opinions from the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

“It’s incredibly satisfying to see all of the clinic’s work pay off. It’s a fascinating case,” Giannetti said. “I was intrigued by the clear circuit split, as well as the uniqueness of the question. I have never read a case before in which a convicted felon was seeking to transfer firearms he had legally owned prior to his conviction, when the firearms were completely unrelated to the offense committed.”

Though the case had potential, it was not a sure thing, she added.

“While many of the cases that make their way to the Supreme Court also stood out at the appellate level, Henderson was a very short non-precedential opinion, which on its face would make it an unlikely candidate for Supreme Court review,” she said. “Additionally, Mr. Henderson had represented himself in the court below. I think the fact that the court granted certiorari speaks to the talent and ingenuity of the clinic’s participants.”

U.Va. Students, Corner Merchants Plan Week of Bystander Intervention Efforts

Tue, 2014-10-21 16:24
Virginia Carter

With the launch of the fall semester at the University of Virginia, business owners on the Corner have gotten behind “Hoos Got Your Back,” a student-led campaign focusing on bystander intervention as a means of ending sexual assault.

This week, as merchants prepare for what promises to be a lucrative Homecomings Weekend, they also are preparing to promote the campaign’s central message about stepping in when someone needs assistance or is on the brink of a potentially dangerous situation. The merchants’ efforts will complement student-led Hoos Got Your Back activities this week on Grounds.

“Students find their way into the rhythms of every business on the Corner,” said Tom Bowe, owner of the Take It Away sandwich shop on Elliewood Avenue, in a note earlier this semester to fellow merchants that encouraged them to participate in the campaign. “This call to action is an opportunity to more fully find mission in our livelihoods, and to make a difference in our community.”

Since August, 23 merchants located on the Corner – the popular shopping, dining and entertainment district adjacent to many student apartments – have agreed to partner with the University in the campaign. Ragged Mountain Running Shop, Trinity Irish Pub, Coupe de Ville’s, The Virginian and The Biltmore were among the first businesses to get involved, holding staff meetings with University representatives to discuss the issues of sexual assault and bystander intervention.

Once employees of participating businesses view two videos about bystander intervention, they receive a Hoos Got Your Back T-shirt to wear on the job as often as possible, especially on weekends. Window and door stickers imprinted with the Hoos Got Your Back logo also identify participating merchants and let patrons know that the business has made a commitment to bystander intervention.

One Corner business is going even further in its support this week. Order Up, an online ordering and delivery service, planned to donate $2 to Not on Our Grounds, the University’s overarching campaign to end sexual assault, for every order placed today. In addition, 50 customers were to receive a Hoos Got Your Back T-shirt delivered along with their food.

Nicole Thomas, who came to U.Va. from Duke University in August to serve as the new program coordinator for prevention in the Office of the Dean of Students, has quickly become familiar with business owners on the Corner.

“Our partners on the Corner are so eager to help and collaborate when it comes to ending sexual violence at U.Va.,” Thomas said. “I truly appreciate their support of our initiatives. The scope of our outreach wouldn’t be possible without them.”

As the weekend approaches, Corner restaurants and bars will set out drink coasters that offer quick advice on how to be an effective bystander. The coasters highlight “the three Ds,” a straightforward set of strategies that can avert potentially harmful behavior: being direct and confronting the person(s) who appear to be causing harm to someone else; delegating the job of confrontation to another person or to someone in authority; and distracting the individual or individuals to avert them from potentially harmful behavior.

These strategies are part of a larger outreach and educational program led by Green Dot etc., a national organization that works with colleges, universities and other organizations to prevent gender-based violence. Green Dot founder Dorothy Edwards has spoken on Grounds on several occasions, and over the next few months, she and her colleagues plan to return to Grounds to train students, faculty and staff in the key principles of bystander intervention.

In addition to activities on the Corner this week, students will be involved in several initiatives on Grounds. On Thursday, student leaders will host a table on the lower Lawn and ask students to sign the pledge to take personal responsibility for ending sexual misconduct. That same day on the North Grounds, Darden School of Business student Joshua Francis will lead a similar effort encouraging students to sign the pledge, which is posted on the Not on Our Grounds website.

As Homecomings Weekend concludes, a new student performance series sponsored by the Virginia Players, Find Your Voice, will present a dramatic interpretation of Hoos Got Your Back through personal bystander intervention stories related to sexual violence. The performance, which organizers promise will be “funny, emotional, moving,” will take place Sunday at 2 p.m. in Helms Theatre.

“Alumni are a critical part of the U.Va. family, and we are excited for an opportunity to engage them this weekend in some of the work we are doing around prevention of sexual violence here on Grounds,” Nicole Eramo, associate dean of students, said. “We are thrilled that so many students, faculty, staff, merchants and others have embraced ‘Not on Our Grounds’ and ‘Hoos Got Your Back’ in just a few short months and made them their own. We are looking forward to the work we will do as a community, together with Green Dot, to continue to establish a community of trust and care here on Grounds.”


Flip for a Cure: Going Behind the Scenes at U.Va.’s Annual ‘Pancakes for Parkinson’s’

Tue, 2014-10-21 16:09
Lauren Jones

What does it take to make 10,000 pancakes? Try 60 10-pound bags of pancake batter, 3,250 individual packets of syrup, 30 pounds of blueberries, eight 72-ounce bags of chocolate chips, 100 gallons of orange juice, eight griddles and hundreds of student volunteers from across the University of Virginia.

Pancakes for Parkinson’s, an annual pancake breakfast held on the Lawn during U.Va Homecomings Weekend, has grown to become the largest student-run fundraising event at the University. It’s also the largest college-based fundraiser for the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research, raking in upwards of $60,000 in donations in past years and inspiring a national movement at other universities.

And, as many U.Va alumni would be unsurprised to learn, the massive cake-flippin’ event was founded and is fully organized by students. At the helm of this year’s event, to be held Saturday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on the south end of the Lawn, are fourth-year co-chairs Charlie Hill and Kylie Philbin, who lead a 35-student executive board that coordinates every aspect of organizing the event, from vying for corporate donations to transporting those 100 gallons of OJ.

“It’s been a crash course in team management,” said Hill, an economics major who has been flipping pancakes and raising awareness since his first year. “Our executive board draws from all different majors and schools across U.Va., and we’re pretty evenly split between second-, third- and fourth-years.”

The students apply to join the board during the spring and begin holding organizational meetings once school starts in the fall. Teams execute a massive letter-writing campaign to find sponsors, design T-shirts to sell up to the day of the event, rent and transport the griddles and other supplies needed to serve 6,000 people, and organize day-of events, from a capella group performances to booths and activities promoting Parkinson’s awareness.

At 4 a.m. on the morning of the event, Hill, Philbin and the core executive board members arrive on the Lawn to unload and set up griddles, tents and booths, and start mixing the pancake batter. They prepare coffee and donuts for the rest of the volunteers as they arrive to help set up, and usually by 7:30 a.m. they’re ready to rock and roll. “But there’s always something we forget,” Hill said.

“I’ll get up around 3 in the morning – though last year I stayed up for 24 hours. For the last two years, it’s been the most fun day I’ve had at college,” Hill said.

“It’s what you’ve been working for for months, and once the sun rises it turns into a really fun time. I think it makes it better that it’s during Homecomings and the football games; there’s just an energy of this place on game day, and we like to tap into that.”

The first wave of volunteers from other U.Va. student groups who have signed up to sponsor a grill usually show up around 8:30 to 8:45, and after the grills have been fired up and last-minute coffee runs have been made, pancakes are ready to serve at 9 a.m. Last year, volunteers even got a little help from U.Va. alumna Katie Couric, who stopped by and joined in the pancake flipping.

By mid-morning, the Lawn is packed with thousands of members of the University community who have flocked to the heart of the University to huddle around hot griddles, piling high plates of warm flapjacks smeared with butter and slopped with syrup before they head out to grab their seats in Scott Stadium.

The event has a personal meaning for Hill, whose grandmother battled Parkinson’s disease. “It’s pretty incredible to have the support of my whole family on Pancakes for Parkinson’s, and during the event we really work to educate people on the Parkinson’s awareness side,” he said. 

“Part of our executive board is a Parkinson’s awareness team, and during the morning they’re handing out brochures about the Fox Foundation, running a handprint wall and a booth with education about the disease. We also invite people in the community with Parkinson’s to the event, and they have a lot of interest in coming.”

All of the proceeds from the event benefit the Fox Foundation, the world’s largest nonprofit funder of Parkinson’s disease research. The U.Va. Pancakes for Parkinson’s team’s official fundraising goal this year is $65,000; they hope to raise $10,000 from donations during the day of the event, with the rest coming from corporate sponsorships, online donations, support from the U.Va. community and a letter-writing campaign.

“Last year we were invited to the Annual Team Fox MVP Awards Dinner, and my co-chair and I flew up and got to meet Michael,” Hill said. “A lot of other top fundraisers from around the country came, too, and it was really powerful – they give you updates on research and let you know exactly where your money is going.”

Pancakes for Parkinson’s was founded in 2004 by U.Va. student Mary McNaught, fulfilling a promise she made in her admission essay to start a pancake-based fundraising event if she was accepted. In 2007, Team Fox, the Michael J. Fox Foundation’s community fundraising program, adopted “Pancakes” as one of its signature events. Since then, successful Pancakes events have been started on dozens of college campuses and in communities around the country.

“As much fun as it is, anytime you have a moment and can really see a glimpse of the effect you’re making, it makes it all worth it,” Hill said.

This year, Pancakes for Parkinson’s is partnering with Relay For Life at UVA, a group that backs cancer research, to form U.Va. Homecomings’ first official FIGHT + FLIP philanthropy weekend.

Halloween Trick-or-Treating Tradition Continues Despite Rotunda Renovation

Tue, 2014-10-21 15:17
Stephanie DeVeaux

The University of Virginia will host its annual “Trick-or-Treating on the Lawn” on Halloween, Oct. 31, from 4 to 6 p.m. This year, Halloween falls during U.Va.’s Family Weekend.

U.Va.’s trick-or-treating tradition, established by students in the late 1980s, is open to the local community. Children are invited to wear costumes and participate in trick-or-treating at each of the 54 Lawn rooms. All candy is donated and distributed by 70 student groups and other organizations.

The event is hosted by the Lawn residents and receives additional support from the offices of Housing and Residence Life, Emergency Preparedness, Facilities Management, Parking & Transportation and the University Police Department. EMTs from Charlottesville-Albemarle Rescue Squad will be available during the event, and a lost child station, marked by balloons and signage, will be located on the south steps of Old Cabell Hall.

Due to renovations at the Rotunda, the entry and exit point for this year’s event is the South Lawn by Old Cabell Hall. Volunteers will direct families to the South Lawn.

Allergen-free treats will be available for children and students with severe allergies in Room 1 West, said Schuyler “Sky” Miller, head Lawn resident and a fourth-year student in the College of Arts & Sciences.

In addition to trick-or-treating, families will have the opportunity to enjoy a Trick-or-Treat Festival in the McIntire Amphitheater, also running from 4 to 6 p.m. The festival will feature a mix of recreational activities, students stationed at tables providing information related to their organizations, and performances by U.Va. student groups.

Public restrooms will be available at Old Cabell Hall, Alderman Library and Newcomb Hall.

Free parking for families attending the event will be available beginning at 3:30 p.m. in the E3, T4 and S6 lots at Scott Stadium and at University Hall, and beginning at 4 p.m. in the garage on Culbreth Road. Paid hourly parking is available in the Central Grounds Parking Garage on Emmet Street.

Lawn residents look forward to hundreds of children participating in the festivities and encourage University students to attend, too. “Trick-or-Treating on the Lawn is not only a unique tradition of the University, it is a special Halloween experience,” Miller said. “Every year, residents are thrilled to welcome families to this beautiful and communal space for an evening of fun, smiles and costumes.”

New U.Va. Study Upends Current Theories of How Mitochondria Began

Mon, 2014-10-20 17:20
Fariss Samarrai

Parasitic bacteria were the first cousins of the mitochondria that power cells in animals and plants – and first acted as energy parasites in those cells before becoming beneficial, according to a new University of Virginia study that used next-generation DNA sequencing technologies to decode the genomes of 18 bacteria that are close relatives of mitochondria.

The study appears this week in the online journal PLOS One, published by the Public Library of Science. It provides an alternative theory to two current theories of how simple bacterial cells were swallowed up by host cells and ultimately became mitochondria, the “powerhouse” organelles within virtually all eukaryotic cells – animal and plant cells that contain a nucleus and other features. Mitochondria power the cells by providing them with adenosine triphosphate, or ATP, considered by biologists to be the energy currency of life.

The origin of mitochondria began about 2 billion years ago and is one of the seminal events in the evolutionary history of life. However, little is known about the circumstances surrounding its origin, and that question is considered an enigma in modern biology.

“We believe this study has the potential to change the way we think about the event that led to mitochondria,” said U.Va. biologist Martin Wu, the study’s lead author. “We are saying that the current theories – all claiming that the relationship between the bacteria and the host cell at the very beginning of the symbiosis was mutually beneficial – are likely wrong.

“Instead, we believe the relationship likely was antagonistic – that the bacteria were parasitic and only later became beneficial to the host cell by switching the direction of the ATP transport.”

The finding, Wu said, is a new insight into an event in the early history of life on Earth that ultimately led to the diverse eukaryotic life we see today. Without mitochondria to provide energy to the rest of a cell, there could not have evolved such amazing biodiversity, he said.

“We reconstructed the gene content of mitochondrial ancestors, by sequencing DNAs of its close relatives, and we predict it to be a parasite that actually stole energy in the form of ATP from its host – completely opposite to the current role of mitochondria,” Wu said.

In his study, Wu also identified many human genes that are derived from mitochondria – identification of which has the potential to help understand the genetic basis of human mitochondrial dysfunction that may contribute to several diseases, including Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and diabetes, as well as aging-related diseases.

In addition to the basic essential role of mitochondria in the functioning of cells, the DNA of mitochondria is used by scientists for DNA forensics, genealogy and tracing human evolutionary history.

Unique Voices: VQR Editor Talks About What Makes the Journal Stand Out

Mon, 2014-10-20 16:13
Anne E. Bromley

The award-winning Virginia Quarterly Review, published at the University of Virginia since 1925, has in recent years adapted its traditional features of current affairs, literature, history and criticism for the digital age.

Over the past 12 months, the VQR website has attracted almost a million page views from more than 500,000 readers in 206 countries and territories, according to publisher Jon Parrish Peede. In social media, Twitter shows that nearly 13,000 users follow VQR, making it among the most popular accounts on Grounds, he said. 

Recently, journalist Jason Motlagh won the South Asian Journalism Association’s Daniel Pearl Award for Outstanding Reporting about South Asia for his multimedia report examining of the collapse of the Rana Plaza garment factory, “Ghosts of Rana Plaza,” which appeared in Virginia Quarterly Review’s spring 2014 issue. for his in-depth.

As VQR celebrates its 90th anniversary, its editor, W. Ralph Eubanks, the former director of publishing at the Library of Congress who joined the staff last year, talks about what makes the journal distinctive, as well as a little bit about his own work and interests – including Southern food.

Q: What interested you in taking the job of VQR editor?

A: Coming to VQR presented a great opportunity to work with a magazine that’s been around for a long time, as well as to work on the content side of the publishing equation. In my work at the Library of Congress, I toggled between content and business, but the business side had come to keep me more occupied.

My job as editor is to be the person who works to keep the fires stoked that bring in new material for the magazine. That means I need to think several issues out, as well as focus on the next one we’ve got coming. Here, I get to be a lead editor and actually do a lot of the hands-on editing work rather than delegating it. It’s really getting back to the reason I wanted to be in the business, which is to acquire, shape and publish content that matters.  

Q: What does “acquiring content” involve?

A: Finding authors – poetry, fiction and nonfiction – essayists and reviewers who have something unique to say. Recently, I was doing some solicitations of people for a future issue, and the attraction that a lot of people have in working with VQR is knowing, “I’m going to get to say something on the page and work with you editorially in a way that in very few places these days I can actually do that. You’re going to be generous in the amount of space you’ll give me. You’re going to give me a lot of room to explore things without too much constraint.” That is what keeps my job interesting.

And the reach we have with our website – all of these things are really important to people who come to us.

Q. What are the challenges in producing a literary journal, maybe the top two or three?

A. We haven’t been doing as many themed issues, but very often you’ve got a sense that “Here are the people who would be the best to write on a particular topic,” and I think the real challenge is finding them at the right point where they can actually deliver something to you. I’m at a point where I don’t want to take “no” for an answer – someone might say, “I can’t do something now,” but if it’s someone I know that I want to write for us, I always say, “Well, if you can’t do it now, in another year? Let me get on your dance card.”

Another challenge is making sure you have content that is going to stand out and bring readers to you, and at the same time, stand the test of time. VQR has always been looking for unique voices over the years. There are people that VQR has published that at the time, they weren’t really well-known writers, but eventually they became a writer of some stature. I think it’s finding those voices – there are a lot of people out there – but it’s finding someone who’s got the right voice and the level of sophistication in their prose that’s something you want to publish. It’s getting the top tier – not necessarily the superstars, although I want them, too – but it’s also the talent that’s rising up, identifying them and finding the right platform for that person.

Q. Can you give an example?

A. I think a great example of someone we brought in is Leslie Jamison, whose essay, “Grand Unified Theory of Female Pain,” we published in the spring 2014 issue. Associate editor Allison Wright had been following Leslie’s work and brought the essay to me. When I read it, I thought she had one of the most unique voices as an essayist that I’d seen in a long time. Plus, she wrote on a topic that often goes unspoken: how women deal with the dimension of pain in their lives. And then as her book came out, lots of other people saw the piece and connected with her voice and her message, so that attracted a lot of people to our site.

As an editor, you want to find people when they are at the right moment in their career. Leslie Jamison was really just starting to break through in her career. And also someone who over time will have some loyalty. As inevitably or sometimes happens in this business, they might have something that they want to write about that another publication wouldn’t want to take on, but we would.

Q. What about the challenges with readership and digital publishing?

A. One of the challenges there is the idea that all content wants to be free. We do have the porous paywall for VQR now, so that after 10 free articles, then you have to pay.

The great thing is our online readership is way up – and not just readership, but the level of reader engagement, so people are spending time on the site reading the pieces. It’s not that people are just going through a link and spending 30 seconds there. We have on the site how much time it takes to read each piece. So with Leslie Jamison’s, people actually read it.

We designed our website so it works well to read on any device, and not every site works that way. That’s one of the things we were thinking about, that’s why we’ve seen the level of engagement is so high – because the way the site works, it’s easy to read on any device.

The challenge is getting people to pay for it. It’s not in attracting them. Through social media channels we have lots of ways of bringing readers to us. What I hope is that there are going to be people who read so much for free, but then eventually will want to buy the print magazine.

(Note: Anyone with a U.Va. IP Web address can view all of VQR’s content for free.)

Q. How does VQR collaborate with the U.Va. community?

A. The conference (VQR’s inaugural writers’ conference, held in August) was a big thing for us. There were several U.Va. faculty members who were part of our writer’s conference, so that’s one way of bringing in the U.Va. community.

I think it’s important for VQR and our editorial staff to have a presence and a connection with the faculty. Very often what I hear is, “I’m working on a piece, but I don’t want to do it for a professional journal – I really want to do this without the layer of academic prose on it.” There are limited places to do that, but there are also things that I know about and can actually advise them on. It may be something that would work for another publisher or another journal. Since I know that world, I’ve met with several faculty members to talk through an idea or to say, “If you were to pitch an idea to me, here’s what I would be looking for. I’m looking for this type of voice. If you can give me this type of voice, I would want to publish that.”

Q. How about working with students?

A. We always have student interns, so that’s another way we’re connected with the University. We get people both from undergraduate and M.F.A. programs.

We teach our interns all about how the magazine actually runs. We make sure they can be here on Tuesdays for editorial meetings, so they get to see how the “sausage” is made. They get to do some proofreading, learn the basics of fact checking, do some research in the archives for us. Maybe doing some photo research – we may need a photograph to accompany a piece, or a piece of artwork – trying to find out where we can get that piece of artwork, or what permissions are required for using something. They are actually doing some of the routine tasks that go into putting out a magazine.

Q. Are you able to keep up with your own writing?

A. I’m just starting to get back to my own writing. I was giving myself a year here to do that. I’ve begun to do some book reviewing, and I’m back working on a book proposal I started about a year ago.

I’m also doing a couple of speaking engagements, both at the Southern Foodways Alliance. It all relates to the topic of food and the South, topics that are close to my heart. One of the outgrowths of that is I’m looking at doing a food issue for VQR, but one that’s a little bit different – not about connoisseurship, but more about ideas and food, and the way that ideas about food are changing and evolving in American culture.

Q. Tell me more about that, your upbringing and why you’re interested in food.

A. Food’s a really big part of Southern culture, and it’s a big part of when I go home. Going back to Mississippi, I have my food rituals that are part of that trip. I’m writing about what it is like to come home, thinking about the foods that call me home and why that place in particular calls me back.

What I see as a homecoming – for me, it’s not about nostalgia, it’s about learning and experiencing something new each time I go home. So it’s really not as much a focus on the past as it is on the present; it’s really living in the moment. The idea that “you can’t go home again” I think is very true, because the place you go back to will never be the way you remembered it. It’s always going to change. But if you live in the present, going home is not as painful of an experience as if you’re looking for that place to be exactly as it was when you were a child, because it never can be.

Q. You must read a lot. What are you currently reading that you don’t necessarily have to read?

A. From one of our contributors – he does a lot of criticism for us – I’m really loving “Hold the Dark” by William Giraldi. He’s a fine novelist. I also just finished reading “The Great Glass Sea” by Josh Weil, who contributed a short story to our summer issue.

And I’m also reading this book, “The Americans,” a book of poetry by David Roderick. As you can imagine, we get lots of books here, so I’m also going through them, and I started reading these poems and I got completely caught up in them.

I’m reading very often for pleasure but I’m also reading, thinking, “I should go to this person. I’d love to maybe publish some of their work.”

I’m reading a book that I started working on before I left the Library of Congress that’s just been published, “Mark Twain’s America.” One of the former curators wanted to do a visual timeline of Mark Twain’s life, and I said, “Well, it’s really not his life that is important. It’s what he read that shaped what he wrote,” and we started going into the library’s collections and went in and found the first newspaper piece he ever published, and we’re thinking, what else was in the paper that day? What else would he have been reading about? What other historical events would’ve shaped him? Only a couple of chapters were done when I left, and now it’s fun sitting down and looking at the whole book and seeing what actually happened in the end.

U.Va. Center Offers New International Research Opportunity for Minority Students

Mon, 2014-10-20 16:01

The University of Virginia is offering new, international research opportunities to students from underrepresented minorities through a five-year, $1.25 million grant from the National Institute of Minority Health and Health Disparities.

The Minority Health International Research Training program at U.Va. will offer eight students – six undergraduates and two graduates – the opportunity to participate in an intensive, international, mentored research experience. They will work for eight weeks next summer at partner sites in South Africa, Uganda and St. Kitts and Nevis on issues identified by those partners.

“The program will provide us with an incredible opportunity to collaborate across schools, disciplines and national boundaries to implement a training program that centers on innovative, rigorous, mentored research projects that address rural health issues,” said Center for Global Health Director Rebecca Dillingham, one of the principal investigators. “This program has tremendous potential to produce positive change in our partner communities and right here at home through the development of future leaders for rural health and through the translation and application of research findings.”

Jeanita Richardson, an associate professor in the School of Medicine’s Department of Public Health Sciences and Susan Kools, a professor in the School of Nursing’s Department of Family, Community and Mental Health Systems, are co-investigators.

Students are encouraged to apply by Jan. 16. Awardees will be announced Feb. 13 and individualized mentoring will begin. Each awardee will participate in a one-week, pre-departure workshop and cultural orientation training session May 26-30.

On their return to U.Va in August, they will participate in a weeklong post-research workshop and debriefing. Next October, they will present their work at the Center for Global Health Student Research Symposium.

The grant targets students who are members of a health-disparity population. This includes:

• Racial and ethnic minorities (African-Americans/Blacks, Asian Americans, Hispanic Americans/Latinos, American Indians, Alaska Natives, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders);

• Individuals from socioeconomically disadvantaged backgrounds; and

• Individuals from rural areas.

Research topics may include HIV management, water-borne disease prevention or new models for asthma care.

“This is just the type of thing a public university should be aspiring to – providing opportunities for students of merit to learn how to do cutting-edge global health research,” said Jeffrey W. Legro, vice provost for global affairs. “My hat is off to Becca Dillingham and her team for tenaciously landing this competitive grant for U.Va.”

U.Va. Spine Surgeons Deemed Among Best in North America

Mon, 2014-10-20 15:12

University of Virginia neurosurgeons Dr. Chris Shaffrey and Dr. Justin Smith have been named among the 18 best spine surgeons in North America.

The distinction comes from Orthopedics This Week, and is based on a survey of what the publication calls “thought leaders in the field.”

Shaffrey and Smith were the only spine surgeons in Virginia honored by the publication. The report declares the 18 are “arguably the finest spine physicians, teachers, investigators or administrators in the country.”

Calling him an “internationally regarded spine surgeon,” one survey respondent said that Shaffrey had “particular expertise in complex deformity surgery and is known for handling the tough cases.”

In 2013, Orthopedics This Week called Shaffrey one of the North America’s top 28 spine surgeons, as well.

“It is always a great honor to be recognized by our peers,” Shaffrey said. “Considering that two surgeons from U.Va. were recognized, I feel it is really a reflection of the great spine care and research efforts by all the providers at the U.Va. Spine Center.”

Shaffrey is board-certified in both neurological surgery and orthopedic surgery and serves as the Harrison Distinguished Teaching Professor of Neurological and Orthopedic Surgery at U.Va. He is also the director of U.Va.’s neurosurgery spine division.

Smith, co-director of the U.Va. Spine Center, was lauded as a rising star by his peers.

“He is one of the top young spinal researchers in the U.S.,” said one survey respondent. “He is a prolific writer who is widely published and making an impact in spine. At the rate he is going, he is destined to become one of the top leaders in spine surgery in five to 10 years.”

Smith is also an associate professor of neurosurgery and co-director of the neurosurgery spine division at U.Va.

“I am truly honored to be recognized by my peers and to be listed among many of the giants in spine surgery,” Smith said. “I look forward to continuing to advance the care of patients with spinal disorders through practice and research.”

Shaffrey and Smith are both part of the multidisciplinary team at the U.Va. Spine Center. The specialists at the center provide patients with comprehensive treatment options, including physical therapy, braces and a full range of surgical procedures. The care team includes neurosurgeons, orthopedic surgeons, pain management specialists, physical medicine and rehabilitation specialists and radiologists.

Spacey Offers U.Va. Students ‘Frank Underwood’s Guide to Surviving College’

Sun, 2014-10-19 20:12
Ashley Patterson

Despite jokingly claiming that he was the third-choice speaker for this year’s installment of the President’s Speaker Series for the Arts at the University of Virginia – after the Charlottesville-based Dave Mathews Band and basketball superstar Joe Harris – Kevin Spacey captured the John Paul Jones Arena audience with stories of his career, life advice for students and impressions of celebrities.

The award-winning American film and stage actor, director, screenwriter and producer was the second annual speaker in the series, which is supported by the offices of the President and the Executive Vice President and Provost,
the Vice Provost for the Arts and The Joseph & Robert Cornell Memorial Foundation. U.Va. alumna Tina Fey gave last year’s inaugural address.

Spacey connected with students with references to U.Va. pastimes. He even joined in on traditions, high-fiving Dean of Students Allen Groves, offering to streak the Lawn with U.Va. President Teresa A. Sullivan and highlighting his knowledge of the Corner.

The speech was intended to highlight the importance of the arts; Spacey chose to do so through what he called “Frank Underwood’s Guide to Surviving College.” Underwood is the character he plays in the Netflix series, “House of Cards.”

“Underwood’s” six tips resonated with the students. 

The first: “Success is a mixture of preparation and luck.”

“This is a time when we’re all students and we’re not sure what we want to do,” said Laura Elliott, a fourth-year student majoring in economics and drama. “I think his ability to speak to taking risk and following your passion is something everyone can relate to.”

Spacey advised the audience, “Don’t be afraid to shake things up. No one ever breaks new ground by playing it safe. In the end it’s the risk-takers who are rewarded.”

For fourth-year student Sarah Hill, who has found academic homes in the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences and the McIntire Department of Art, the speech affirmed that taking risks provides the opportunity for both success and happiness. “Some of the experiences I have are very different from typical engineers. [The arts] is something that I’m passionate about, but trying to relate it back [to engineering]. Spacey made it clear that it’s more rewarding to do that.”

Underwood’s guide also included tips on the importance of generosity, networking and ambition.

Spacey joked that he could keep the audience engaged with juicy Hollywood gossip or his next big Broadway production, but instead kept the audience laughing with spot-on impressions of Bill Clinton, Johnny Carson and his infamous character, Underwood.

Later, during a question-and-answer segment with U.Va. Vice Provost for the Arts Jody Kielbasa, Spacey shared the story of how he mastered impressions.

“I discovered when I was really young that if I could do impressions, I could make my mom laugh,” Spacey said. “Her laugh was the greatest sound I ever heard. That’s how it all started.”

The Speaker Series highlights the array of arts that the University offers. “U.Va. stands on the front lines of this effort [of commitment to the arts,] ” Spacey said.

“The University’s arts curriculum inspires creativity, innovation and discovery, while giving our students across all disciplines opportunities to integrate the arts into their U.Va. experience,” Sullivan said. 

Spacey agreed that arts can be a valuable addition to any curriculum.

“We have this system that we call STEM, to teach sciences and technologies. Now there are a lot of schools who are adding an ‘A’ and calling it ‘STEAM.’ ‘A’ is for arts,” Spacey said. “I think it’s incredibly important because while math, science and technology are hugely important, if we leave behind a young person’s imagination or creativity, I think they won’t have as full a life,” he said.

Kielbasa hailed a new Arts Trust endowment intended to enhance arts opportunities at U.Va.

“Donations to the arts endowment will build a sustainable means of funding for new and signature programs and initiatives,” Kielbasa said. “We look forward to building this endowment over time and sharing its impact and efforts to further enhance U.Va’s profile as a leader in creativity, learning, teaching and service in our community of Charlottesville, the commonwealth and beyond.”

The evening, with a variety of student performances, including the University Singers Flagship Chorus.

It was anticipated that 5,000 people would attend Spacey’s speech, with all of the tickets for the event claimed. Spacey – perhaps referring to the arena’s capacity – wrote in a pre-event Twitter post, “If I have an impact on just 1 student in the arts at tonight’s UVA event, it will be worth it. 12,500 will be there. I like those odds @UVA.”

His chances of reaching just one were great with an audience of students, faculty members and community members. “I expect the audience is 50-50,” fourth-year student Victoria Tran said. “Half the people want to see him because he’s Kevin Spacey from ‘House of Cards,’ and the other people want to take away those stories and lessons he tells of how he came up and he struggled to become an actor.”

Elliott, the economics and drama student, said she was lured by both Spacey’s fame and his experience. “I’m excited to hear him as Kevin Spacey, but I’m also excited to hear all he’s done with the arts. He hasn’t just acted – he’s produced, he’s an artistic director, he’s grown up in the hierarchy but maintained his creative freedom.”

Ending his speech in character, Spacey left students with a final piece of advice from “House of Cards”: “For those of you climbing to the top of the food chain, there can be no mercy. There is but one rule: hunt or be hunted.”