Dolphins may look like big fish, but with large and complex brains the marine mammals’ behavior is more like primates and elephants, according to Diana Reiss, professor of psychology at Hunter College. “We used to think that many of our cognitive and communicative abilities were uniquely human,” says Reiss, who co-chaired the first annual CUNY Animal Behavior Initiative Conference at the Roosevelt House Public Policy Institute at Hunter College, “but now we’re discovering that many of the abilities we possess — like the ability to recognize ourselves in a mirror — are found in other animals.” Reiss, who also serves as director of dolphin research at the National Aquarium in Baltimore, spoke at the all-day conference of panelists from around the country sharing their work in animal behavior.
The author of Churchill Defiant: Fighting On, 1945-1955, claims that the British prime minister’s influence on John F. Kenney’s intellectual thinking and political strategies is indisputable. “I don’t think Jack Kennedy would have been half the man he was if it wasn’t for Winston Churchill,” says Barbara Leaming, the author of Jack Kennedy: The Education of a Statesman (2006), in which she detailed her research. Leaming, who spoke at the Tina Santi Flaherty Irish Voices Literary Series at Hunter College, discussed how Kennedy “looked to his idol for inspiration, in almost all his decisions, including the (1963 Limited Nuclear) Test Ban Treaty which put an end to the Cold War.”
For New York Times columnist Dan Barry, it was the confluence of two critical events — a personal battle with cancer, followed by the heartbreak of 9/11 — that changed him both personally and professionally. “I came to understand, more acutely, the preciousness of life, not only as a person but as a reporter,” Barry said to audience at Hunter College as part of the Tina Santi Flaherty Irish Voices Literary Series. “I also found myself less interested in investigative journalism and more interested in bearing witness.” Barry recalled the impact of his Irish-American, working class roots and how writing the “This Land” column has given him the opportunity to “seek out the small moments that reveal the larger truths.”
How will today’s green initiatives to combat worldwide climate change alter the world for future generations? For an answer, Thomas McGovern, anthropology professor at Hunter College and the Graduate Center, has spent more than a decade studying how Viking settlers in Greenland managed to avoid destroying the land for centuries. “In Greenland they [the Vikings] got it right, but the environment changed on them again,” says McGovern in his lecture, “Sustainability and Collapse: Lessons from the Vikings,” part of the CUNY Science Cafe lecture series. “Their robustness to deal with one problem made them vulnerable to another.”
Each year an estimated 30,000 people in 36 sub-Saharan countries are infected by a tsetse fly-borne disease — Human African trypanosomiasis, also know as sleeping sickness — that hosts in cattle and, if left untreated, is fatal. “Cows are used by women to help plow fields,” said Jayne Raper, professor of biological sciences at Hunter College, explaining the integral part the animals have in the daily life. “They eat grass, don’t drink a lot of water, and the manure is used in the fields and as fire bricks,” Raper said in her CUNY Science Cafe lecture, “Saying ‘Good Night’ to Sleeping Sickness.” Raper recently received funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to use for the development of a trypanosome-resistant breed of cattle.
Like the private sector, public universities are facing major budget constraints, and student services, among other departments, are forced to do more with a lot less. “Student affairs and student service systems must be designed to enhance the quality but also the relevancy of today’s college degree,” said Frank D. Sanchez, Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs in a lecture, “An Evolving Vision for Student Affairs at CUNY,” at Hunter College. Sanchez, who joined CUNY eight months ago, also discussed the challenges ahead. “We have to become much more entrepreneurial and nimble to be responsive to the needs of our nation.”
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Journalist Pete Hamill believes that the craft of writing is an act of self-discovery. “By the time I went to the New York Post, I actually knew more about writing than any formal education had taught me,” says Hamill, whose prominent career as a newspaperman spans five decades. “You educate yourself by reading the greatest books ever written.” Hamill, the author of 11 novels including his latest, “Tabloid City,” was speaking at the Tina Santi Flaherty Irish Voices Literary Series, sponsored by the Writing Center at Hunter College, about his early life in Brooklyn and how his local library played such a vital role. “The library is where I began my life — it promised magic and delivered it.”
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A report by two Hunter College professors, William Milczarski and Peter Tuckel, found that 1,000 pedestrians are hospitalized every year after colliding with bicyclists statewide – and more than 500 of those injured are in New York City. “We were surprised just by the sheer number,” said Milczarski, who discussed the study and its potential impact on the bike-share program which is scheduled to launch next summer. “More bike lanes are going to continue to happen and the bike-sharing plan is going to happen because more people want to bike,” added Milczarski, “But what we need is more education on how to cycle safely.”
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“Memoir is the most radical act anyone can undertake because you are refusing to be silent,” says Louise DeSalvo, author of the critically acclaimed 2002 work, “Vertigo,” a candid account of growing up in a dysfunctional, Italian-American immigrant family in Hoboken after World War II. In a City College Center for Worker Education Book Lecture Series talk, “Finding Our Life’s Story,” DeSalvo, who teaches memoir in Hunter College’s MFA Creative Writing program as the Jenny Hunter Endowed Scholar, encouraged her audience to write their own memoirs, “It’s not about what happened,” DeSalvo says, “it’s about what we remember and how we remember it.”
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When the sun runs out of hydrogen — about 5 billion years from now — it will become a planetary nebulae, an expanding shell of thin, ionized gas. “It’s going to be pretty for a distant observer, says Kelle Cruz, professor of physics and astronomy at Hunter College, “but the outcome will not be pretty for us.” In a Serving Science Cafe Series lecture, “Using the Solar Neighborhood as a Petri Dish for the Universe,” Cruz describes how the sun will puff out its outer layers and expand, exposing its hot stellar core and, as a result, the Earth will most likely evaporate. “One of the reasons I study the solar neighborhood,” says Cruz, “is because the sun is going to shine for another 5 billion years, but at its end we’re going to need to go some place else.”
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