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Name That Course: In Plain Language, Please

March 10, 2014

In a recent Los Angeles Times op-ed, Rob Stephenson, an associate professor at the Rollins School of Public Health, lamented what he calls “the increasingly bizarre course names listed on transcripts” that he encounters when reviewing graduate school applications. “What, exactly, does someone learn in a course called Finding Myself,” he wonders, and what would a low grade mean in such a course?

He finds that most class names are self-explanatory (Organic Chemistry, Calculus) and the attached grades impart useful information about a student’s academic strengths or struggles. “But what if a student earned a B in Racism, what exactly did they study? And is getting a B in Racism a good or a bad thing?” Stephenson writes. “At least 20 percent of the transcripts I read have a course that leaves me scratching my head.”

Among the categories into which these courses fall include Vague One-Word Titles (example: Stupidity), and Too Clever to Be Useful (example: Those Sexy Victorians).

“Professors,” Stephenson pleads, “give your course a title indicative of its content. It can still be fun, but please spare me from guessing what the student who took Nuthin' but a "G" Thang may be expected to know.
To read the entire article and more examples of mysterious course names, click here.

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Economist: The other pill that started the sexual revolution

Jan. 7, 2014

Andrew FrancisAndrew Francis, an associate professor of economics, recently won one of five Senior Superlative prizes handed out by the National Public Radio Show The Academic Minute. Francis topped the “Most Likely to Blow Your Mind” category for his evaluation of exactly which pill started the sexual revolution.

“Traditional explanations for this sexual revolution have focused on the spread of the birth control pill, increasingly permissive attitudes toward sex, and shifting moral values during the 1960s and 1970s,” Francis said in an interview broadcast on NPR. “Many interrelated factors undoubtedly played a role in shaping modern sexuality. Nevertheless, in a recently published study, I explored a rather surprising explanation: the discovery of penicillin.”

Penicillin led to a drastic reduction in the number of syphilis cases and deaths from 1947-1957, and Francis found that risky sexual behavior began to rise during the mid to late 1950s, a period coinciding with the drop in syphilis cases. He continued: “I also discovered that risky sexual behavior was inversely associated with syphilis deaths…. these results had fascinating implications. For one, they cast the sexual revolution in a new light. Also, they implied that the emergence of HIV/AIDS in the early 1980s was facilitated by the collapse of syphilis in the 1950s.”

Francis published his findings in a 2013 issue of the Archives of Sexual Behavior

To hear the entire interview, click here.


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Business Professor: Recession Graduates Happier

Dec. 11, 2013

Emily BianchiAccording to recently published research by Emily Bianchi, assistant professor of organization and management, well-educated college graduates who earned their degrees in a recession are more satisfied with their jobs.

The findings appear in her paper “The Bright Side of Bad Times: The Affective Advantages of Entering the Workforce in a Recession,” published in the most recent issue of Administrative Science Quarterly.

Bianchi analyzed data from two large government-run surveys that have been active since the 1970s, and a third cross-sectional study. She found that they showed that people who earned their degrees during economic downturns were more satisfied with their current jobs than those who first looked for work during more prosperous economic times. In the paper, she concluded that “while past research on job satisfaction has focused largely on situational and dispositional antecedents, these results suggest that early workforce conditions also can have lasting implications for how people affectively evaluate their jobs.”

An article about the study on the Emory News Center website stated that the findings are surprising given the well-documented negative financial aspects of graduating in a recession. Recession graduates earn less money and often hold less prestigious jobs. Bianchi argues that this conclusion is consistent with recent research in psychology that reveals that some adversity is associated with greater happiness than either too much or too little. “Too much adversity can be emotionally debilitating,” Bianchi said. “Too little can weaken resilience, allowing people to magnify and exaggerate the bumps of everyday life.”

Yahoo News also picked up the story.  

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