Hunter College

Birds, Dolphins and Mimicry

December 28, 2010 | City College, CUNY Lecture Series, Hunter College

The ability to learn and mimic vocal sounds is rare in nature but found in certain birds and in dolphins says Diana Reiss, professor of psychology at Hunter College. “There’s been a lot of anecdotal reporting over the years that dolphins are highly mimetic,” says Reiss, an expert on dolphin cognition. City College associate professor of biology, Ofer Tchernichovski, who studies brains and vocal learning in birds, says birds, which are capable of vocal learning, even “dedicate” part of their brain to produce and learn bird songs. In a lecture, “Bird Culture and Dolphin Intelligence: How we learn from animal behavior,” part of the Serving Science Cafe Series, Reiss and Tchernichovski discuss their own research, and their collaborative study at the Baltimore National Aquarium to decode dolphin vocalization.
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Fewer School Cooks, More Student Pounds

October 26, 2010 | Hunter College, Newsmakers

Sharp budget cuts to the National School Lunch Program in the 1980s contributed to our current epidemic of overweight and obese children, according to Hunter College sociologist Janet Poppendieck. “They cut labor and replaced school cooks with bulk convenience foods — the precooked, defrost and reheat pizzas and chicken nuggets,” says Poppendieck, author of “Free For All: Fixing School Food in America,” adding that unhealthy food choices were part of the wider culture, as well. “In the 80s, people saw taking their kids to fast food restaurants as a treat and increasingly these were the foods that young people wanted.”
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Reimagining Tocqueville

July 14, 2010 | CUNY Lecture Series, Hunter College

In his 11th novel, “Parrot and Oliver in America,” Peter Carey reimagines Alexis de Tocqueville’s “Democracy in America,” and his famous journey to the United States in the 19th century using the dichotomy of a French aristocrat and his servant. ”Being able to write about a French aristocrat was probably helped a little by my early consciousness of class and the ability to survive in different worlds,” said Carey, a two-time winner of the Booker Prize and executive director of the MFA Creative Writing Program at Hunter College. Carey explained how his own experiences as a young boy, coming from the country in Australia and traveling to a fancy boarding school in the large city of Victoria, had influenced his writing. “The culture shock between where I’d been and where I arrived was immense,” said Carey, who spoke and read from his new novel at a Book Talk hosted by Hunter College’s Roosevelt House.
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Dalai Lama’s Message of Peace

May 26, 2010 | CUNY Lecture Series, Hunter College

Stressing the commonality of mankind, the Dalai Lama delivered the keynote speech at The Bridge Conference, a Tibetan and Chinese youth dialogue project hosted by Hunter College. “We are all the same human beings, mentally, physically and emotionally,” said the Tibetan spiritual leader, who was in New York for a four-day appearance at Radio City Music Hall in May. “Everybody wants a happy life. That’s a basic human right.” The 14th Dalai Lama and Nobel Peace Prize winner has lived in exile in Dharamsala, India, since an uprising against Chinese authorities failed in 1959. “Openness and freedom of speech are essential,” he explained. “With fear and police watching, how can harmony develop? Harmony by gun is impossible.”
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Childhood Obesity and Cities

May 17, 2010 | Hunter College, Newsmakers

Solutions to the growing epidemic of childhood obesity must be linked to the urban areas in which the children live, according to Nicholas Freudenberg, director of the Doctor of Public Health Program at the CUNY School of Public Health at Hunter College. “Increasingly, more of the world’s population live in cities and, last year, for the first time, more than half the world’s population lived in a city,” a number expected to rise to more than 70 percent by 2030, he said. In an interview discussing a CUNY-London Metropolitan University joint study on childhood obesity, which he co-authored, Prof. Freudenberg said childhood obesity cases, and resulting chronic diseases like diabetes, have more than doubled in the U.S. in the past 25 years. “If we could figure out both the causes and the solutions of the problem in the world’s wealthiest cities (New York and London), then we might learn things that would benefit other cities as well.”
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Health Care Insider John E. McDonough

April 29, 2010 | Hunter College, Newsmakers

A leading architect of Massachusetts’ health insurance overhaul, John E. McDonough was tapped by the late Sen. Edward M. Kennedy to help write the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act signed by President Obama in March. It’s still a work in progress, he says. “This new law is, in itself, not the end,” said McDonough, who for the spring semester is the inaugural Joan H. Tisch Distinguished Fellow in Public Health at the Roosevelt House Public Policy Institute at Hunter College. “It will be corrected, fixed, improved on, repeatedly, over the next coming decades.” In an interview, McDonough, who until January served as senior advisor to the U.S. Senate Committee of Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, discussed his role in enacting this new legislation and what it will mean for all Americans.
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Verse-ifying Brooklyn

March 23, 2010 | Hunter College, Newsmakers

Brooklynites, watch out. Poetry is on its way to your parks, street fairs, the public consciousness. So says Tina Chang, Brooklyn’s new poet laureate, who wants to put poetry center stage. “We might just have to confront them, the same way that Poetry in Motion does in the subway, so they’re actually surprised to be reading a poem,” Chang said of the public. Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz named Chang, a Park Slope resident and Hunter College adjunct professor, to the post in February and already a few of her ideas are in the works, including Adopt-a-Poet Day for Ronald Edmonds Middle School and a collaborative arts project for the Brooklyn Book Festival. She discussed her job and why she feels poetry is for everyone: It’s “an embodiment of every kind of creative thought you’ve ever had. …. It questions your self-expression and your sense of self in the world.”
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Protecting Dolphins

March 3, 2010 | Hunter College, Newsmakers

Dolphins may be the second smartest creatures on the planet, but as the Oscar-winning documentary film “The Cove” depicts, Japanese fisherman kill them for food and haul them from the wild for aquariums. Hunter psychologist Diane Reiss, the documentary’s technical advisor, helps lead a global campaign to stop the roundup and slaughter. Meanwhile, she works in the ocean and in the Baltimore aquarium to expand our knowledge of how intelligent they are. Can you believe dolphins can use a special underwater computer to say what they want?
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It’s All About Teaching

February 17, 2010 | Hunter College, Newsmakers

As New York State’s education commissioner David Steiner heads a department that employs more than 3,000 people and oversees every level of education in the state. Before taking on his current position, Steiner served as dean of education at Hunter College, where he helped create a highly successful program known as Teacher U, a certification program for graduates seeking master’s degrees that requires students to teach full time and spend Saturdays on campus being taught by a faculty of teachers and principals from top-performing high schools. “We’re very gratified to see that it’s received national attention,” Steiner said of Teacher U at Hunter. “Now we hope to build on that model, both here and elsewhere, because it focuses on those critical skills that we know make a difference in the classroom.” Steiner, who took the Albany post in October, discusses his role as a teacher-trainer innovator and the challenges he faces as the state’s top educator.
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Hold the Fries

February 16, 2010 | CUNY Lecture Series, Hunter College

Fed by a leap in calories consumed and lack of physical activity, childhood obesity is a growing epidemic, and school lunches are one culprit, says Nicholas Freudenberg, director of the Doctor of Public Health Program at CUNY School of Public Health at Hunter College. It’s up to the public — individually and by pressuring government to turn the heat up on schools — to control the problem, Prof. Freudenberg says. “Human decisions” are responsible,” he said. “People can unmake those decisions, but it’s not going to happen on its own.” In his lecture, “A Tale of Two Obes-Cities: Comparing London and New York City’s Responses to Childhood Obesity,” part of the Serving Science Cafe Series, he discussed a CUNY-London Metropolitan University study of efforts to improve opportunities for children to consume healthy food and increase activity. Both cities had difficulty implementing changes because of the large number of schools; most continued to dish out pizza, burgers and fries.
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