Thursday, January 27, 2005

Today marks the exact one-year anniversary of the launching of this website. During the first year, I wrote 46 entries, close to my goal of weekly postings (the most recent writings are shown further down on this page, whereas older ones are automatically moved to the archives, which can be accessed via headings over to the right, midway down). This website has helped put me back in contact with several classmates and professors from my Michigan days. I've enjoyed working on the website and I hope you have enjoyed reading it.

I will, of course, continue to post writings. However, to really keep this page fresh and vibrant, I would like to invite all of you out there who have any sort of connection to the Michigan social psych program to supply me with "guest commentator" write-ups.

You can discuss anything, including your favorite research projects, professors, courses, parts of campus, Ann Arbor establishments, etc. If you had to boil down your favorite or most significant UM experience, what would it be?

You can just e-mail me some text (a link to my Texas Tech faculty webpage, which has an e-mail link, is available in the upper right of this page) and I'll put it up. I really want to make this website an historical repository (an electronic yearbook or scrapbook, if you will) and having multiple contributors will help immensely.

I hope to continue with this website for a very long time and, as always, Go Blue!

Thursday, January 20, 2005

One aspect of life at the University of Michigan people who go there know they'll have to put up with is the cold winter weather. In thinking about the coldest days I could remember, I'm highly confident that the most severe weather occurred exactly 20 years ago to this day.

January 20, 1985 was a Sunday, a Super Bowl Sunday, in fact. It was also, of course, a presidential inauguration day, for Reagan's second term (more on that later). The combination of these two major national events makes the date very memorable.

The Ann Arbor weather that day, as I recall, was around -40°F with the wind chill factor. And windy it was! Being out in that weather was literally painful to my exposed skin.

Two grad students hosted a Super Bowl party at their apartment. I lived in the graduate dorms on North Campus that year (my first year) and the party was at an apartment complex south of campus near the Briarwood Mall, so I got a ride from someone.

Other than walking for a few minutes at a time between residences and the car, I was indoors all day, but even the relatively short periods outside were highly memorable.

The bitter cold spell was not limited to the state of Michigan or even the Midwest. In fact, it went as far east and south as Washington, DC, where the inauguration was taking place. As described in a history of the second Reagan inauguration:

"Because January 20, 1985 fell on a Sunday, the public Inauguration ceremony was scheduled for Monday, January 21, 1985. Reagan was sworn in privately on January 20. Owing to record cold temperatures on January 21, 1985, however, the public Inauguration ceremony was moved indoors to the Rotunda, and became a semiprivate ceremony."

For the record, the DC temperature was reported to range from -10°F to -20°F wind chill.

For my remaining years of graduate school (ending in 1989), I lived in apartments in the Central Campus area, where virtually everywhere one would want to go was within short walking distance. During these latter years, I remember two or three other occasions where I thought, "Wow, this is really cold!," but these did not match the intensity of January 20, 1985.

I remember being told once that, ostensibly because such a high percentage of the people who need to be on campus (i.e., faculty, staff, and students) live within walking distance of the university, UM has never once cancelled classes due to inclement weather. That may be an overstatement, but I don't recall any cancellations during my five years.

I just checked the Weather Channel's Ann Arbor data (see link in upper right-hand corner) and for the present January (2005) to date, the average high temperature has been 30°F. This confirms my impression that the Super Bowl/Inauguration weekend 20 years ago was unusually cold.

Lastly, I want to add that while the weather may deter some people from going to UM, I was one of three Californians in my entering social psychology graduate cohort and there were additional Californians in other years (and even one person from Hawaii, Eric Lang).

Friday, January 07, 2005

Within social psychology, most observers would consider the top three empirical research journals to be the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology (JPSP), Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin (PSPB), and the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology (JESP). Unlike medical journals that sometimes have one-word names such as Eye, Pain, and Thorax, social psychology journals have long names that necessitate the use of the aforementioned abbreviations in our conversations.

Just as January marks the start of a new year, it also marks the beginning of a new annual volume for most academic journals, at least those that publish monthly (some journals publish two or more volumes a year, but one of them would often start in January). The beginning of a new publishing year provides a nice opportunity to note the 1980s-era University of Michigan social psych Ph.D.'s serving in editorial roles for these three social/personality journals.

Most journals in the field tend to have the same editorial structure. Each journal has an editor, a small set of associate editors, and a pretty large board of consulting editors. When an author submits a manuscript to a journal to be considered for publication, the editor will either oversee the review process for that manuscript him/herself or transfer it to an associate editor to oversee. The editor/associate editor will generally send the manuscript to around 3-5 reviewers (from among the consulting editors and experts not on the board, the latter being known as "ad hoc reviewers"). The editor/associate editor overseeing the review of a given manuscript will then integrate the reviewers' evaluative comments along with his/her own independent judgment, leading to an editorial decision of accept, revise-and-resubmit, or reject (immediate acceptances are extremely rare).

At this moment, there is at least one UM Ph.D. grad serving as an associate editor at all three of the social/personality journals listed above. JPSP is such a large journal that it is divided into three subsections: Attitudes and Social Cognition, Interpersonal Relations and Group Processes, and Personality Processes and Individual Differences. Monica Biernat serves as an associate editor for the Attitudes and Social Cognition section of JPSP (this latter link takes you to lists of the editorial teams for all three JPSP sections).

PSPB's list of associate editors includes two Michigan grads, Paula Niedenthal and Bill von Hippel.

Finally, Steve Spencer is an associate editor for JESP.

In looking at the larger category of consulting editors for these journals (available via the above links), the Michigan alums (and post docs) listed are too numerous to mention. I particularly applaud the associate editors, however. I have only served as a reviewer (both as a consulting editor for JPSP in previous years and as an ad hoc reviewer for many journals), and simply reviewing a manuscript is a lot of work. I'd imagine that the effort must be magnified considerably for an associate editor or editor.

Saturday, January 01, 2005

Happy new year to everybody! Later today, Michigan will be playing in the Rose Bowl against the University of Texas. As I've noted in previous postings, I've lost considerable interest in football over the years, due to the violence and injuries of the sport. Football is, however, an enormous part of the fabric of the University of Michigan, so I think at least a brief mention of the Wolverines' bowl-game history is warranted. Further, this provides me an opportunity to recommend a major book that came out a few years ago on the role of athletics in university life.

First, regarding today's game, this will be Michigan's 19th appearance in the Rose Bowl, played in Pasadena, California (I found a web document on Michigan's history of bowl appearances, which is up to date through January 1, 2003; the Wolverines have also earned trips to the Rose Bowl on New Year's Day of 2004 and 2005). In fact, dating from when a previous policy forbidding the Big Ten from sending teams to any other bowl besides the Rose Bowl was eliminated in the mid-1970s, Michigan has made it to a bowl game for 30 straight seasons. And these bowl appearances have often been of the prestigious New Year's Day variety.

Based upon an unscientific survey I recently conducted of family members with Michigan ties, there seems to be somewhat less enthusiasm for the Wolverines' Rose Bowl game this year than in previous ones. This probably stems in large part from the fact Michigan lost its traditional regular-season finale to Ohio State and made the Rose Bowl only through losses by key Big Ten rivals.

Further, the Rose Bowl has traditionally pitted the champions of the Big Ten and Pacific Ten conferences. However, this year, Pac Ten champion USC is playing in the Orange Bowl, under a relatively new provision that if a Big Ten or Pac Ten team is ranked in the top two nationally heading into the bowls, then traditional conference linkages to particular bowls can be overridden to let the top two teams play for the national championship. As a result, Michigan is playing a non-Pac Ten opponent, in the Texas Longhorns. Just as a matter of novelty, I would think the Texas team and its fans would be more fired up for the game than their Michigan counterparts. However, once the game starts, Michigan should be fired up, too (if the players weren't already).

As I suggested above, football is a major part of UM's identity, both to the external public and to people associated with the school. What else can be said about a university whose home games consistently draw over 100,000 fans per game? How should we feel, both at Michigan and elsewhere, about the huge role of athletics in university life, with tens of millions of dollars being used to build palatial sports facilities, coaches at big-name schools making salaries perhaps 10 or 20 (or more) times those of faculty members, and schools' lowering their admissions requirements for athletes (relative to students at large at the same institutions)?

As someone who is both a sports fan and one who cares deeply about universities' academic missions, I have been concerned about this issue for a long time and have sought out information on the topic. One source I would highly recommend is the 2001 book The Game of Life: College Sports and Educational Values, by James L. Shulman and William G. Bowen.

Shulman and Bowen begin by reviewing mission statements from some select universities and asking, "How, then, does intercollegiate athletics relate to such missions?" (p. 3). The authors then present an enormous research study of three generations of alumni (some of whom were athletes) at 30 academically selective universities, including the University of Michigan. From admissions to academic performance while in college to post-college achievements, the book provides statistical analyses on virtually every kind of comparison imaginable -- high-profile sport-, low-profile sport-, and non-athletes; participants in men's and women's sports; and alumni from different generations. The appendices have a lot of further information, including athletic budgets from the schools in the study.

Lastly, and tying this all back to Michigan social psychology, two former UM professors are mentioned in the book. Nancy Cantor, who as discussed in my February 20, 2004 entry (February 2004 archives), is now the Chancellor at Syracuse University, gave one of the testimonial blurbs on the back of the book and had some of her research cited inside. Also, the research of Claude Steele, who moved from Michigan to Stanford over a decade ago, is featured in the book.