Thursday, December 23, 2004

As December and the holiday season got underway, I began to think about traditions in the UM/Ann Arbor community at this time of year. Given that most people probably leave Ann Arbor for the holidays (often for warmer climes), I could not come up with a lot. One tradition that quickly came to mind, however, was the Galens Tag Days. This event is conducted by UM medical students every December to raise money for children's groups generally, with an historic focus on children in medical settings. Then, several days into December when my Ann Arbor Observer magazine arrived, the cover illustration featured a Galens volunteer, so I knew I was on the right track.

The campaign is named after Galen, an ancient Greek physician. The Tag Days date back to 1927. According to an article in the publication Medicine at Michigan:

"Funds from the first drive were used for a December party for the children in University Hospital, and a portion was saved to found the Galens Workshop the next spring.

The Workshop, which still exists, offers pediatric patients the opportunity to be more 'kid' than patient. Held on the eighth floor of Mott Hospital since the mid-1960s, the Workshop offers events ranging from art projects to Halloween costumes, from parades to parties, from face painting to visits by Michigan collegiate athletes."

As described in the same article:

"The appearance of Galens members in their red ponchos, standing on Ann Arbor street corners with their buckets on the first weekend in December, is a familiar sight to local residents. 'It’s Galens time again,' people say, either preparing to drop coins or paper bills into the buckets or flashing a tag to show they already did. The trademark red and green tags can be seen on almost every winter coat in town that weekend, proud symbols of wanting to help the children of Washtenaw County."

I can't remember if I used to put my tags on my winter jacket or on my backpack.

According to an article in the Michigan Daily (student newspaper):

"The funds granted to Mott are used toward the Child Life Program, which provides activities for children in the hospital and helps them cope with their illness. 'We do it during holiday time because it's a giving time, but it is not holiday-oriented. The money funds activities throughout the year for the children,' said [medical student Paul] Pfeiffer."

As I've mentioned in some of my earlier postings, I'm a faculty member in the Department of Human Development and Family Studies at Texas Tech University. I remember from a few years back that an undergraduate I had in class wanted to become a child life specialist.

In concluding, I just want to wish everyone inside (and outside) the UM community a happy holiday season!

Sunday, December 19, 2004

Yesterday was Texas Tech University's commencement ceremony for the fall semester. As a faculty member at the university, I regularly attend the graduations. The commencement speaker was writer Thomas Mallon, a former English professor at Texas Tech and at Vassar and currently a presidential appointee to a panel within the National Endowment for the Humanities.

The message I extracted from Mallon's talk involved the importance and value of preserving artifacts of one's past, so that one could look back on these items and interpret the memories associated with them from new perspectives. Two examples given by Mallon were his old Little League jersey his mother had saved for 30 years (which made him reflect upon how different the times were when he was a child, as opposed to the present) and a box of hundreds of cancelled checks written decades earlier by his deceased father (which drove home all that his father had done for the family).

Preservation of the past, both of individuals and of communities, has been a steady theme in Mallon's career. Roughly 20 years ago, as I learned from some web research I just did, he wrote a book entitled A Book of One's Own, examining diary writing and famous historical practitioners of it. Currently, his work within NEH involves a major project to digitize newspapers (not just, as he pointed out, those from big cities, but from small- and medium-sized ones, as well) going far back in history, thus increasing their availability to citizens. As Mallon noted, it is communities, as well as families, that say a lot about the fabric of our lives.

Naturally, I view this retrospective Michigan social psychology website in a similar light. I sometimes refer to it as an "electronic scrapbook." As I've alluded to in some of my earlier postings, however, I also have retained physical artifacts of my Michigan education, primarily my course notebooks.

I certainly do not believe people should live their lives exclusively in the past. I nevertheless found it validating to hear a speaker encourage the young, newly minted college graduates (and faculty, administrators, and parents) to preserve their personal histories. Who knows? Maybe 20 years from now, one of the Texas Tech graduates from this past weekend will create a website similar to mine, looking back on his or her years as a Red Raider.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Bonnie Barber, whom I've known since we were both undergraduates at UCLA (and then later both graduate students at Michigan), is now at Murdoch University in Australia. Her new faculty webpage can be accessed by clicking here. A developmental psychologist, Bonnie previously served on the faculty at Penn State and University of Arizona. To Bonnie's friends and colleagues in the United States, this gives a whole new meaning to the song lyric, "My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean."

Monday, December 06, 2004

Gretchen Lopez, a Michigan social psych Ph.D. who was at UM in the late 1980s and early 90s, has just been named as a Faculty Associate for Diversity at Syracuse University. As described in a Syracuse news release, it appears that Gretchen will be participating in a number of campus initiatives.

Gretchen has been studying intergroup relations for many years and, as noted in her profile on the Social Psychology Network, has continued to publish extensively in this area. Gretchen also co-edited a 2004 issue of the Journal of Social Issues (along with fellow UM Ph.D.'s Sabrina Zirkel and Lisa Brown) on the 50th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education.