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Study Abroad Builds Skills, Understanding, Confidence

Posted on April 24, 2014 7:40 am by dlleeder

International Studies major Tara Di Cassio.

International Studies major Tara Di Cassio.

Studying abroad allows students to apply their learning to the real world, as they gain first-hand experience with other cultures, languages, traditions and people. It also teaches students a lot about themselves, as they navigate new, unfamiliar environments.  This Q&A highlights how CHASS students have incorporated study abroad into their undergraduate career.

Tara Di Cassio is a senior who is majoring in international studies. She spent two months studying in Amman, Jordan, expanding both her Arabic language skills and her knowledge of the Middle East. 

What or who sparked your interest in study abroad?

Jodi Khater, my NC State Arabic professor. She constantly reiterates to her students how important being on the ground in the Middle East and speaking with native speakers is to expanding your linguistic and cultural knowledge.

Please describe your experience.

I studied abroad in Amman, Jordan at the Qasid Arabic Institute for two months in the summer of 2013. I was enrolled in an intensive Arabic language course taught by native speaking professors for four hours, five days a week, throughout my stay. I lived in the city of Amman along with two fellow NC State students in a small apartment, a cab ride away from class.

How did studying abroad relate to your major, career goals, and personal interests?  

Studying abroad in Amman directly related to my International Studies major as I focus specifically in the Middle East region. I was also able to put four semesters of Arabic training to use getting around the city and interacting with local Jordanians. My trip significantly impacted my career goals as I was sure upon my return that I would begin to apply to graduate programs to continue studying this region of the world.

What are some things you learned?

Being in Amman was such a wonderful experience for me and one of the best memories of my undergraduate career. I learned that the people of Jordan are incredibly warm and I will never forget the kindness and help they gave me. Studying abroad taught me to jump right in to my experiences because they are unique and once in a lifetime opportunities.

What were some of the challenges?

A challenge I faced while studying abroad was definitely difficulty adapting to the month of Ramadan. Shops and restaurants are closed, the days are long and hot, and many people are agitated from fasting all day long. For those not observing the religious event, finding food and water can be difficult and it is rude to have water bottles or food showing in public. So finding the right time and place to do shopping and to eat were challenging at first, but you get used to it. I fasted one day and it was extremely difficult but rewarding.

What were some of the rewards?

Recognizing my own independence and strength was one of the greatest rewards that studying abroad afforded me. After a few weeks in Amman, I began taking cabs by myself successfully to class, the grocery store, and friends’ homes using the language and cultural skills I learned at NC State. I began to recognize that I am capable of navigating well in new environments and that I do not shy away from new cultural experiences.

Domestic Abuse Linked to Mental Health Problems in New Moms

Posted on April 23, 2014 12:01 pm by Lauren Kirkpatrick

Sarah Desmarais, Assistant Professor of Psychology, NC State

Sarah Desmarais, Assistant Professor of Psychology, NC State

A new study shows that domestic abuse is closely linked to postpartum mental health problems, including depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), in mothers. The research also found that specific types of abuse are associated with specific mental health problems. The work was done by researchers at NC State University, Simon Fraser University and the University of British Columbia. Sarah Desmarais, an assistant professor of psychology at NC State, is the lead author of a paper on the work.

“We wanted to see whether and how intimate partner abuse – physical, psychological and sexual – influenced postpartum mental health in women, including problems such as depression, stress, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and PTSD,” says Desmarais.

The researchers interviewed 100 women from British Columbia who were largely from higher socioeconomic backgrounds and were not considered at high risk of postpartum mental health problems. The study participants were recruited to participate in a broad health and wellness study, which was not specifically focused on domestic abuse.

Sixty-one percent of the study participants reported symptoms of postpartum mental health problems within the first three months after childbirth. And 47 percent of the 100 women reported symptoms at “clinical” levels, meaning the symptoms were of at least moderate severity.

Eighty-four percent of the participants reported experiencing physical, psychological or sexual abuse at the hands of a partner prior to becoming pregnant. Seventy percent of the 100 participants reported some form of abuse by their romantic partner during pregnancy. These forms of abuse ranged from name-calling to rape and physical assault with a weapon.

“We found that women who had experienced abuse were more likely to suffer from postpartum mental health problems, and were much more likely to suffer from those problems if the abuse occurred during pregnancy,” Desmarais says. “In addition, the more types of abuse they experienced, the more severe the mental health symptoms they reported. We also found that specific types of abuse were associated with specific problems.”

The researchers found that psychological abuse – verbal and emotional abuse – was associated with stress and PTSD. Physical abuse was associated with depression, OCD and PTSD. Sexual abuse was associated with stress, depression and PTSD.

This means that some mental health problems could stem from any of the forms of abuse. For example, PTSD is associated with all three forms of abuse, but could be caused by any one of them; psychological abuse alone could lead to PTSD.

“This highlights the need for increased awareness of the prevalence of these issues, and the need for increased screening for abuse and mental health problems for pregnant women and new mothers,” Desmarais says.

“The sheer scope of the mental health problems and types of abuse that we found tells us that we need to take a broader approach to tackling these issues,” Desmarais adds. “And this is clearly not a ‘lower class’ problem – medical professionals everywhere need to pay attention.

“But to do this effectively, we need to train doctors, nurses, and hospital staff in how to identify and respond to potential problems in this area.”

The paper, “Intimate partner abuse before and during pregnancy as risk factors for postpartum mental health problems,” is published online in the open-access journal BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth. The paper was co-authored by Ashley Pritchard of Simon Fraser University; Evan Lowder, a graduate student at NC State; and Dr. Patricia Janssen of UBC. This research was supported by the British Columbia Mental Health and Addictions Research Network, the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, and the Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research.

By Matt Shipman, NC State News Services

Internships Help Student Explore Career Options

Posted on April 17, 2014 7:07 am by dlleeder

Kirstin Henning

Kirstin Henning

The College of Humanities and Social Sciences encourages students to participate in internships that help them explore career options and gain real-world experiences. In this Q & A, a student shares how she is taking what she learns in the classroom and applying it in professional settings.

Kirsten Henning is a junior who is majoring in Communication.

How did you locate your internships?

I found my current internship in the promotions and marketing department of Clear Channel Communications, Inc, (a mass media company) through a friend. She had interned for Clear Channel last semester as a “Bob and the Showgram” radio program intern. I emailed my resume to the head of the marketing department and about a week later I was asked to come in for an interview.

I began interning for Valentine Commons, a private student housing company, after hearing about it from a friend as well.

As for College Lifestyles, which is an online magazine, I found that internship on, which is a great resource if you are interested in working for a magazine or doing editorial work.

What do you do in your internships?

 For Clear Channel, I have office hours twice a week, from 10:00 - 2:00. My usual office work consists of creating and filing prize sheets, calling contest winners, creating spreadsheets for upcoming events and promotions, finding blog content, and managing social media accounts. In addition to my work in the office, I attend remote and promotional events such as the Krispy Kreme Challenge and Triangle Beach Music Festival that Clear Channel is hired to promote or oversee.

At Valentine Commons, my primary duties included managing the front desk, making calls to prospective tenants, updating social media platforms, strategizing ideas for special offers and promotions, and creating leasing contracts with new residents.

At College Lifestyles, I was responsible for creating original content for the fashion and lifestyles sections of the magazine. I was expected to market my work as well as the work of my colleagues on social media accounts, and to design layouts for my articles.

How do your internships relate to your major, career goals and personal interests?  

All my internships have been different, yet they all relate to communication. Though I’m unsure of exactly what career path I want to take after graduation, I have dreamed of working for a fashion magazine. My internship with College Lifestyles gave me a sneak peek into the work of editorials, which was an awesome first step towards achieving my goal of working for a magazine. With Clear Channel, I have learned a lot about the ins and outs of radio, something I was pretty unfamiliar with before I started interning there. For my Media concentration, I wanted to get my feet wet in an area of entertainment and Clear Channel was my outlet of opportunity. I feel as though all of my intern experience will make me a more well-rounded candidate when I enter the job market next year. At least that’s my hope!

What are some things you have learned so far in your internships?

The most important lesson is to ask a lot of questions. The people I work with have always been eager to help and to further educate me about their responsibilities. I have found it extremely beneficial to pick the brains of my supervisors because they have years of experience and they can guide me in my future endeavors.  I have also learned a number of marketable skills, such as planning events, reaching out to the community, copy-editing, creating marketing ideas and managing office work. Of all of these useful skills, communication is a key factor. If you are a successful communicator, you are golden.

What have some of the challenges been?

The greatest challenge of my internship experiences has been finding a healthy balance between interning, school and my part-time job. My plate is definitely full, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. Interning gives me the opportunity to gain real work experience while building valuable connections with business professionals.

I have also found it challenging at times to work as an unpaid intern. Without monetary incentive it can be difficult to motivate myself. However, since my experiences have been so rewarding in many other ways, I consider that my compensation for a hard day’s work.

What have some of the rewards been?

My internship experiences have been filled with rewards! With Clear Channel, I get to attend fun events, like concerts, Listener Lounges, festivals, etc. This past weekend, I met American Authors at a Listener Lounge, which was so exciting! Working for the radio gives me the opportunity to do a lot of cool things that I wouldn’t otherwise be exposed to. At College Lifestyles, I always found it extremely rewarding to be acknowledged by my boss, my colleagues and the readers when I wrote something that was highly acclaimed. It was gratifying to be praised for my hard work and efforts.

It’s also rewarding to work with well-established professionals because I have learned a lot from their experiences. I have definitely built upon my knowledge of journalism, marketing and sales during my time as an intern. It’s been beneficial to intern for a number of different companies because it allows me to try new things and gives me the chance to find something that I really enjoy.

Exhibit Explores Raleigh's Public Memory

Posted on April 15, 2014 6:49 am by Lauren Kirkpatrick

History Exhibit Raleigh City MuseumApril is Raleigh History Month. To mark it, the City of Raleigh Museum turned to graduate students in NC State's Public History program. Museum director Ernest Dollar, a 2006 NC State Public History alum, invited grad students in Judy Kertész's Material Culture class to submit proposals that would use materials held at the museum to create an exhibit. He reviewed their three proposals and chose Communicating Communities.

The exhibit explores the power of memory and technology, and the ways both have been used to forge identities and connections to the many communities that make up the city of Raleigh.

"Over time, Raleigh's communication technologies have allowed for public memory that is both local and global in its connections," Kertész explains. "The exhibit reveals the many ways by which 20th century Raleighites connected, from hand-written letters, postcards, and yearbooks, to social media."

Kertész says the project was a first for the university's public history students, who researched, designed and executed the exhibit. "We had two previous student cohorts that did considerable research and exhibit work for the Lebanese in North Carolina exhibit on display at the North Carolina Museum of History," she says, "but this project gave students complete ownership, from concept through execution."

History Exhibit at Raleigh City Museum 2Kertész and her students had roughly nine weeks to design and execute the exhibit -- a timeframe that Kertész says is no time at all, in museum exhibit speak. "The challenges were enormous for nine graduate students who needed to grope their way through lots of primary and secondary source material, complete other course work, and learn to work cooperatively to come up with an exhibit idea based on the small, rather quirky body of materials housed at the City of Raleigh Museum," she says.

She and her students hope the results of their labors "will enable viewers to consider the importance of local as well as global memory, and the ways in which advances in technology both foster as well as trouble our abilities to communicate with people within Raleigh as well as throughout the world."

"The partnership between NC State and the City of Raleigh Museum gave the students a place where they can demonstrate the skills they learn in the classroom in a real museum setting," Dollar says. "The students involved in the Communicating Communities exhibit worked hard to develop an idea and bring it to life."

The exhibit opened during the city's First Friday celebration April 4 and will run until April 20. For hours, admission information, and directions, check the City of Raleigh Museum website.

Where Credit is Due: How Acknowledging Expertise Can Help Conservation Efforts

Posted on April 14, 2014 7:33 am by Lauren Kirkpatrick

Photo courtesy of Nora Haenn.

Photo courtesy of Nora Haenn.

Scientists know that tapping into local expertise is key to conservation efforts aimed at protecting biodiversity – but researchers rarely give credit to these local experts. Now some scientists are saying that’s a problem, both for the local experts and for the science itself.

To address the problem, a group of scientists is calling for conservation researchers to do a better job of publicly acknowledging the role of local experts and other non-scientists in conservation biology.

“For example, in the rainforests of the Yucatán, scientists couldn’t even begin to do any conservation research without local guides – between snakebites and getting lost, it would be too dangerous for outsiders to venture in alone,” says NC State anthropologist Nora Haenn, lead author of a paper in Conservation Biology on the subject. “In fact, biologists doing fieldwork there entrust part of their graduate students’ training to guides who understand the region and its wildlife.”

According to the paper, the Mexican government itself relies on local guides to collect information on biodiversity in the region of the Calakmul Biosphere Reserve, the country’s largest protected area for tropical ecosystems.

“Even if they’re referring to academic literature, reserve officials are looking at papers that were written by scientists who relied on guides,” says Haenn, an associate professor of anthropology and international studies at NC State. “The guides are essential to this work.”

However, academic papers and other scientific publications rarely give local guides full credit for their expertise. For example, guides are almost never listed as co-authors, even when they played a primary role in data collection, and often are not listed in a paper’s acknowledgements.

“This is because local experts are campesinos, not members of the middle class,” Haenn says. “To protect the perceived value of their research findings, and their related status in the field, scientists are hesitant to highlight the important role of local experts, because local experts don’t have the social and educational pedigrees that are expected in the scientific community. Ultimately, this hurts everybody.”

By failing to highlight the role of local people in conservation research, Haenn and her co-authors argue, outside observers get a skewed perspective on the relationship between local people and conservation efforts. Because locals are not acknowledged as being part of the conservation effort, they are perceived as obstacles to conservation. This makes it more difficult to identify local partners for conservation efforts, since outsiders are often unaware that locals already play a crucial role in conservation.

By the same token, if a scientist hasn’t acknowledged the role of local guides in collecting data on a specific subject, it is much more difficult for other researchers to find relevant information to assist in future research endeavors. Certain kinds of conservation challenges, especially involving large geographical areas or poorly documented species, require significant amounts of data collection. Because local experts interact with their environments in a more long-term way than visiting researchers, they often have the kind of detailed knowledge needed for this kind of work.

But failure to fully acknowledge the role of expert guides also has serious repercussions for the guides themselves.

“A lack of formal credit in the science community means that these guides don’t get the status – or the salary – that comes with being a recognized expert ,” Haenn says. “And campesinos make about $10 a day, or half of what would be a middle-class salary in the region, so this has a significant impact on their quality of life.

“And while our focus was on tropical Mexico, we think our conclusions are likely relevant for conservation biologists doing fieldwork around the world,” Haenn says.

By Matt Shipman, NC State News Services.

The paper, “Improving Conservation Outcomes with Insights from Local Experts and Bureaucracies,” is a peer-reviewed essay, published online in the journal Conservation Biology. The paper was co-authored by Birgit Schmook and Yol Reyes of El Colegio de la Frontera Sur (ECOSUR) in Mexico, and Sophie Calmé of the Université de Sherbrooke in Canada. The research was supported, in part, by Mexico’s Consejo Nacional de Ciencia y Tecnología.