Author Archives: mktstu1878

Tiffany Gasbarrini to Join Johns Hopkins University Press

We are pleased to announce that Tiffany Gasbarrini will join Johns Hopkins University Press as senior acquisitions editor for Life Sciences. Ms. Gasbarrini comes to the press with notable publishing experience and an impressive record of book acquisitions in STEM fields.


Tiffany was Senior Acquisitions Editor at Elsevier Science & Technology, Inc., where she founded their Renewable Energy publishing program. After 13 years with Elsevier, she took on the role of Senior Acquisitions Editor, Energy and Sustainability, for Springer Nature Group, where she built a diverse portfolio of trade titles, professional references, textbooks, scientific journals, and research monographs. Her expertise focuses on creating impactful Science and Technology book lists through market research-driven analysis of content assets, the development of strategic business plans, and thoughtful collaborations with world-class authors.

Tiffany will take on the Hopkins list in Life Sciences, with special focus on mammalogy, ornithology, ichthyology, herpetology, paleontology, evolutionary biology, wildlife science, and systems ecology.

Ms. Gasbarrini has a degree in literature from Mount Holyoke College, with coursework in publishing at Emerson College and the Publishing Training Centre in Oxford, UK. In her spare time, she enjoys botany, twentieth-century poetry, fantasy/sci-fi, kayaking, scuba diving, and big dogs.

Established in 1878, Johns Hopkins University Press is America’s oldest university press and one of the world’s largest, publishing 90 scholarly journals and nearly 175 new books each year. The Press also manages Project MUSE, the acclaimed online collection of scholarly journals and books.

Tiffany replaces Vincent Burke, long-time executive editor, who retired from the Press earlier this year. Tiffany resides with her family in Massachusetts.

Johns Hopkins University Press is very pleased to welcome a senior editor with the energy, professionalism, and entrepreneurial spirit that Tiffany Gasbarrini has shown.

Please join us in welcoming Tiffany to the Press and to the wider university community.


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An Equation for Every Occasion: Pi Day

Happy Pi Day, readers! In between celebratory pie samplings, get an inside look at the historical context of this famous Greek letter as told by John M. Henshaw, author of An Equation for Every Occasion: 52 Formulas and Why They Matter, coming in paperback this summer.

Click here for pi goodness.


Looking for more historical context from “Equationland”? Use promo code “HDPD” to receive a 30% discount when you order your copy of An Equation for Every Occasion.

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Killing King Caucus

Guest post by Mark G. Schmeller

In this seemingly endless presidential primary season, each and every candidate has claimed “outsider” status, and attacked nearly every other rival as a creature of the party “establishment.” No title or distinction – Senator, Governor, First Lady, Secretary of State, sibling/brother of former presidents, celebrity billionaire – has been too great to discourage presidential aspirants from presenting their campaigns as bold insurgencies against the complacency and corruption of the powers that be.

While there is nothing especially novel about such populist self-fashioning, the extraordinary volume of groaning about “the establishment” in this campaign cycle has led some political observers to ask if the establishment is in fact in decline. Are the elected officials, elites, big donors, and special interests that have traditionally steered the party nomination process losing their influence? Have new forms of social media and activism trumped (sorry for that) the conventional reliance on grassroots electioneering and penthouse fundraising? Can party structures no longer contain the intensifying anger wrought by “negative partisanship” – in which positive support for the principles and policies of a party weigh less in the mind of the voter than loathing for the other party and its partisans?

Needless to say, these questions will have to wait for answers. But in the meantime, we can entertain some historical analogies. One especially dramatic example of a party establishment defeated comes to us from the presidential election of 1824, when anger over the nomination process shattered the Democratic-Republican Party. During President James Monroe’s two terms in office (1817-1825), national party competition had all but disappeared. The Federalist Party, discredited by its seeming disloyalty during the War of 1812, had been reduced to a small band of New England reactionaries, leaving Democratic-Republicans as the only viable national party. While the absence of partisan competition may have allowed for a brief “era of good feelings,” one-party rule raised a number of thorny political and constitutional questions. A party congressional caucus had traditionally selected party nominees for President and Vice-President. But with only one party caucus remaining, the Democratic-Republican “King Caucus” now appeared to have the uncontested and arguably unconstitutional power to select Monroe’s successor.


James Akin, Caucus curs in full yell, or a war whoop, to saddle on the people, a pappoose president (1824). General Andrew Jackson stands tall amidst a pack of dogs representing newspapers who supported the Congressional Caucus nominee William Crawford. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

King Caucus had been attacked before. When it chose Monroe over William Crawford of Georgia in 1816, Crawford supporters and many northerners complained that Virginians used it to maintain their lock on the White House. But King Caucus had its share of defenders, who maintained that congressmen could best ascertain the preferences of partisans in their districts and states. John Taylor of Caroline, the prolific theorist of Jeffersonian democracy, argued that the caucus discouraged faction. But should it “ever attempt to control public opinion instead of expressing it, their doings would have little influence in the nation other than to embitter party animosity and to sharpen the edge of political strife.”

In 1824, King Caucus appeared to be doing just that. Monroe had identified no clear successor (his Vice-President, Daniel Tompkins of New York, was an insolvent alcoholic). Three eminent national figures – General Andrew Jackson of Tennessee, John Quincy Adams of Massachusetts, and Henry Clay of Kentucky intended to run regardless of what the caucus did, and their supporters assailed King Caucus as a vast conspiracy against the sovereignty of the people. Senator Rufus King, an Adams supporter, called it “a self-created central power … regulated by a sort of freemasonry, the sign and password of each at once placing the initiated in full confidence and communion with each other in all parts of the union.” Publisher Hezekiah Niles of Maryland, a Clay man, declared that “he would rather learn that the halls of Congress were converted into common brothels” than to see King Caucus convene within them.

Not surprisingly, the most intense attacks on King Caucus came from Jackson supporters, who began to organize popular local “conventions” for Old Hickory. Conventioneers carefully distinguished the caucus, a small and exclusive meeting of elites designed to direct public opinion, from the convention, an open meeting of the people designed to concentrate public opinion. The “period has surely arrived,” a Harrisburg, Pennsylvania convention declared, “when a president should be elected from the ranks of the people,” a president like Jackson, who came “pure, untrammeled, and unpledged, from the bosom of the people.” Such rhetoric solidified the outsider image of Jackson, a frontier military hero riding a wave of populist discontent unleashed by the financial panic of 1819.

All of this persuaded the great majority of congressmen to steer clear of the caucus. When it eventually met to nominate William Crawford, only 66 of 216 eligible members attended. King Caucus was dead.

Some observers heralded the killing of King Caucus as a triumph of public opinion over party machinery. But to more discerning political minds, it suggested that there could be no effective public opinion without party mechanisms that involved the ordinary voter, flattered his judgment, and fired his enthusiasm. The election of 1824 – and Jackson’s eventual triumph in 1828 – laid the groundwork for a “second party system” built upon precinct-by-precinct organization, popular conventions, and intense partisan feeling. Party establishments can be defeated; partisanship, not so much.

schmellerMark G. Schmeller is an associate professor of history at Syracuse University. His latest book, Invisible Sovereign: Imagining Public Opinion from the Revolution to Reconstructionexamines the idea of public opinion and its transformation since the Revolutionary War.

Use promo code “HDPD” to receive a 30% discount when you order your copy of Invisible Sovereign.





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On Arbor Day

In honor of Arbor Day, we share two poems from Over the River and Through the Wood: An Anthology of Nineteenth-Century American Children’s Poetry, edited by Karen L. Kilcup and Angela Sorby.



by Lucy Larcom

He who plants a tree,

Plants a hope.
Rootlets up through fibers blindly grope;
Leaves unfold into horizons free.

So man’s life must climb

From the clods of time

Unto heavens sublime.
Canst thou prophesy, thou little tree,
What the glory of thy boughs shall be?

He who plants a tree,—

Plants a joy;
Plants a comfort that will never cloy;
Every day a fresh reality,

Beautiful and strong,

To whose shelter throng

Creatures blithe with song.
If thou couldst but know, thou happy tree,
Of the bliss that shall inhabit thee!

He who plants a tree,—

He plants peace.
Under its green curtains jargons cease.
Leaf and zephyr murmur soothingly;

Shadows soft with sleep

Down tired eyelids creep,

Balm of slumber deep.
Never hast thou dreamed, thou blessèd tree,
Of the benediction thou shalt be.

He who plants a tree,—

He plants youth;
Vigor won for centuries in sooth;
Life of time, that hints eternity!

Boughs their strength uprear;

New shoots, every year

On old growths appear,
Thou shalt teach the ages, sturdy tree,
Youth of soul is immortality.

He who plants a tree,—

He plants love;
Tents of coolness spreading out above
Wayfarers, he may not live to see.

Gifts that grow, are best;

Hands that bless are blest;

Plant! Life does the rest!
Heaven and earth help him who plants

a tree,
And his work its own reward shall be.

Tulp poplar, Liriodendron tulipifera. Photo by R. Noonan

Tulp poplar, Liriodendron tulipifera. Photo by R. Noonan


by Paul Laurence Dunbar

As a quiet little seedling

Lay within its darksome bed,
To itself it fell a-talking,

And this is what it said:

“I am not so very robust,

But I’ll do the best I can;”
And the seedling from that moment

Its work of life began.

So it pushed a little leaflet

Up into the light of day,
To examine the surroundings

And show the rest the way.

The leaflet liked the prospect,

So it called its brother, Stem;
Then two other leaflets heard it,

And quickly followed them.

To be sure, the haste and hurry

Made the seedling sweat and pant;
But almost before it knew it

It found itself a plant.

The sunshine poured upon it,

And the clouds they gave a shower;
And the little plant kept growing

Till it found itself a flower.

Little folks, be like the seedling,

Always do the best you can;
Every child must share life’s labor

Just as well as every man.

And the sun and showers will help you

Through the lonesome, struggling

Till you raise to light and beauty

Virtue’s fair, unfading flowers


Karen L. Kilcup is a professor of American literature at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. Her books include Teaching Nineteenth-Century American Poetry and Fallen Forests: Emotion, Embodiment, and Ethics in American Women’s Environmental Writing, 1781–1924. Angela Sorby is an associate professor at Marquette University in Milwaukee. Her books include Schoolroom Poets: Childhood, Performance, and the Place of American Poetry, 1865–1917, and three poetry collections, most recently The Sleeve Waves.

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Angelina and medical decisions surrounding hereditary cancer risk

Guest post by Sue Friedman

Kudos to Angelina Jolie Pitt for sharing personal information about her increased risk for breast and ovarian cancers due to an inherited BRCA gene mutation. Once again, by bravely writing about her choice to have prophylactic surgeries—a risk-reducing mastectomy two years ago, and her recent decision to remove her ovaries—she has greatly increased awareness of hereditary cancer, making words like “mutation” and “mastectomy” more familiar.

Some reports suggest that Jolie Pitt’s wealth and celebrity status provide access to information and resources that are unavailable to most other people. But her struggle to sort through the confusion of inherited cancer risk and make difficult health decisions is shared by thousands of other men and women who are also at high risk for hereditary breast and ovarian cancer because of a BRCA mutation. Fortunately, Johns Hopkins University Press offers a clear, powerful, and comforting resource for anyone who faces these confusing issues and choices. Confronting Hereditary Breast and Ovarian Cancer explains the challenges of living with BRCA-related risks and outlines the implications of available options. It helps readers understand the choices involved with identifying and reducing their risk and allows them to make informed medical decisions about their options, including many that concerned Jolie Pitt. The book covers the following issues, among others:

  • Genetic testing for BRCA and other cancer-causing genes: Genetic testing isn’t appropriate for everyone, and test results can have different implications for family members.
  • Mastectomy with or without breast reconstruction: Prophylactic mastectomy reduces the risk of breast cancer. Many women who choose this surgery also opt to have their breasts surgically recreated. Another Johns Hopkins publication, The Breast Reconstruction Guidebook, helps readers understand what to expect from different types of mastectomy and options for breast reconstruction.
  • Risk-reducing oophorectomy and hysterectomy: Risk-reducing salpingo-oophorectomy (removal of the ovaries) has been shown to extend the lives of women who have a BRCA mutation. Confronting Hereditary Breast and Ovarian Cancer describes the pros and cons of this procedure and the implications of combining it with hysterectomy.
  • Hormone replacement: Preventive hysterectomy in premenopausal women causes the onset of menopause. Should women in this position take hormones? If so, what type and for how long? Are they safe? Confronting Hereditary Breast and Ovarian Cancer tackles these questions and more.
  • Fertility: Removing the ovaries reduces risk but also ends fertility, creating a very difficult situation for many women who learn that they have a mutation while still in their childbearing years.

You don’t have to be a celebrity to have access to credible information about hereditary cancer, genetic testing, and risk-management options.

Confronting Hereditary Breast and Ovarian Cancer is the official guidebook of Facing Our Risk of Cancer Empowered (FORCE), the only nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the lives of those who have inherited cancer risk. All three of the book’s coauthors will speak at FORCE’s 9th annual conference on June 18–20, 2015 in Philadelphia, PA.

FriedmanSue Friedman, DVM, is the founder and executive director of Facing Our Risk of Cancer Empowered. Her numerous articles on hereditary cancer have appeared in Oncology Times, CURE, Gene Watch, the Boston Globe, and elsewhere. Rebecca Sutphen, MD, is a nationally recognized clinical and research expert in hereditary cancer, a professor of genetics at the University of South Florida, and the chief medical officer of Informed Medical Decisions. Kathy Steligo is a freelance writer specializing in business and health topics and the author of The Breast Reconstruction Guidebook.



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Trees are flowering . . . it must be spring!

Guest Post by Leslie Day

Amelanchier canadensis, or the downy serviceberry tree, is one of the first to bloom in early spring in the northeastern United States. New York City has just gone through a long , brutally cold, and snowy winter. The snow has finally disappeared, but there are new puffs of white dotting the hills and meadows of city parks: the blossoms of the serviceberry tree.

This little tree has many common names: serviceberry, because it blooms when the ground finally thaws, so that burials can take place; shadblow and shadberry, because it blooms when the shad begin their northern migration into the estuaries off the Atlantic Ocean, like the Hudson River; and Juneberry, because the fruit ripens in June.

An understory tree, it only reaches 15-30’ in height, and has many slender trunks. This is a valuable native tree, and though small in stature it is huge in terms of its ecological value to wildlife. The beautiful flowers attract pollinators, the berries provide nutritious food for hungry birds, and the foliage is beautiful in every season, particularly in autumn. As it is one of the first trees to bloom, it attracts all kinds of pollinating animals, when there are few flowers available. The nectar attracts butterflies, and the pollen attracts honeybees, bumblebees, flies, and wasps. The purplish-red berries are sweet and delicious and are among the most favorite fruit of birds. Baltimore orioles, scarlet tanagers, cedar waxwings, song sparrows, cardinals, bluebirds, catbirds, and rose breasted grosbeaks are some of the beautiful birds that come to this tree in droves. Squirrels, chipmunks, and woodchucks also feed on the berries. Humans can eat the berries raw off the tree, cooked into pies and jams, fermented for wine, or eaten dried.

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This little tree has a great botanical and cultural history as the fruit, seeds, leaves, and bark were important sources of food and medicine for native peoples. For many tribes, serviceberries were a common source of food in the summer. They would eat the berries raw as we do today, or mash them and form them into pemmican cakes made of animal fat, dried meat, and dried berries. Other parts of the plant are also edible. The Lakota of the Great Plains, used the flower petals, leaves and stems to make a drink, and the Cheyenne, also of the Great Plains, boiled the dried leaves to make a red tea.

Serviceberry shrubs were used for medicinal purposes by native Americans for the treatment of earaches, toothaches, the common cold, influenza, coughs, and fevers.

Woodworkers and indigenous people used branches, stems, and wood to make baskets, furniture, rope, tools, and harpoons.

In autumn, a blend of pink, orange, gold, and red creates gorgeous, colorful foliage. No two leaves have the same colors. There are times when they are so beautiful that, an inveterate leaf collector since the age of five, I gather each and every one I find on the ground.

Leslie Day is a biology and life science teacher at The Elisabeth Morrow School. She developed the City Naturalists Summer Institute with the Central Park Conservancy and is the author of Field Guide to the Street Trees of New York City and Field Guide to the Natural World of New York City, as well as her forthcoming book, Field Guide to the Neighborhood Birds of New York City.

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What democracy looks like

Guest Post by Jessica Choppin Roney

Jessica Choppin Roney’s Governed by a Spirit of Opposition, recipient of the The Athenaeum of Philadelphia Book Prize for 2014, will be among the new titles on display in JHUP’s exhibit at the Organization of American Historian’s annual meeting taking place in St. Louis from April 16 to 19. 

RoneypostedI’ve always been struck at political rallies by the chant, “This is what democracy looks like!” It moves the march beyond whatever cause the protesters espouse to connect it to the very fundamentals of participatory government. It reminds nay-sayers who might prefer that protesters remain silent that democracy is cacophonous, contested, messy.

In a similar spirit, this is what the origins of democracy look like:

1701: William Penn, his back to the Delaware River. One of the last captains willing to make the Atlantic crossing before the winter waits impatiently for him to board so they can cast off. Faced with a set of uncompromising Quakers, Penn hastily signs a document erecting the Philadelphia Corporation and giving a tiny fraction of its citizens a municipal charter.

1727: A leading Pennsylvania politician worries about a shadowy group of young men meeting in secret. He fears they are plotting against the government. In fact, journeyman printer Benjamin Franklin and his “most . . . ingenious Acquaintances” gather to drink and discuss natural philosophy and civic improvement projects. Their conversations lead them to found first a library, then a fire company. And then one day, a militia.

1747: French privateers are on the Delaware Bay raiding. Philadelphians fear their city will be next, but the pacifist government will do nothing to defend its own citizens. Benjamin Franklin organizes an extralegal militia; half the men of the Quaker City join. It is independent and has no ties to government.

1776: Nineteen days after voters at the polls have rejected independence-minded representatives, a crowd of four thousand meets in the pouring rain and declares this same government invalid. They decide to dissolve it and form a new state, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

1777: Twenty Philadelphia Quakers whose loyalty to the new government is suspect but who have committed no actual crime and who have had no charges brought against them, no trial, no opportunity to defend themselves, are jailed and then deported to Virginia.

I subtitled my book The Origins of American Political Practice in Colonial Philadelphia. In the book, I use the rich, tangled stories of Philadelphia to explore how ordinary white men shaped their communities before the American Revolution. Most histories argue that only with the Revolution did middle- and lower-class men engage meaningfully in politics or governance. Before the Revolution, they talked, voted, and occasionally rioted—and these are all important avenues of participation. But my book argues that in urban, cosmopolitan Philadelphia, ordinary men did more.

They pioneered ongoing, concrete participation through voluntary associations ranging from libraries to militias, hospitals to diplomatic missions—all of them outside the bounds or control of formal government. In 1770, at least one in five adult white men participated in the more than sixty-five organizations active in the city; at mid-century, that number was closer to one in two. These organizations expanded the ways men could shape their community. At the same time they were predicated upon exclusion and ignoring nonmembers who might disagree. They came into direct tension and competed with imperial officials, municipal authorities, and popularly elected representatives. This origins story is far older than the Revolution, and it is rooted in diverse imperatives: public-spirited initiative and self-serving agendas; deliberative democracy and pragmatic shortcuts; inclusion and exclusion. This is what the origins of democracy looked like. It too was cacophonous, contested, messy.

Jessica Choppin Roney is an assistant professor of early American history at Temple University. She is the author of Governed by a Spirit of Opposition: The Origins of American Political Practice in Colonial Philadelphia, now available from Johns Hopkins.

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Designing the New American University

Gregory Britton, JHUP editorial director, notes that the publication of Designing the New American University comes at a time when higher education faces remarkable challenges. “As many states withdraw their support for public higher education and the rising costs of providing quality education is evident in the increase in student debt, Crow and Dabars propose a dramatic rethinking of higher education. What they outline here is nothing short of revolutionary—institutions that are responsive to their students, embedded in their communities, and engaged with the world.”

Preface by Michael M. Crow

crowWhen I became president of Arizona State University in July 2002, I came to the office following more than a decade at Columbia University, where I had served as a professor of science and technology policy as well as an administrator and designer of new initiatives, culminating in an appointment as executive vice provost. The contrast between Columbia, which began as one of the elite colonial colleges that would come to constitute the Ivy League, and Arizona State, a burgeoning but then still largely undifferentiated regional public university, epitomized the heterogeneity and diversity in mission and scale of operation of the roughly two hundred institutions in the United States characterized as research universities. Established prior to the American Revolution as King’s College, Columbia epitomizes the institutional model of the highly successful gold standard in American higher education. Like its institutional peers, public as well as private, the school may boast not only of its achievements but also the rigors of its selectivity. By contrast, ASU is the nation’s youngest major research university and, with an enrollment of undergraduate, graduate, and professional students presently exceeding 76,000, one of the nation’s largest public universities governed by a single administration. Yet, whereas Columbia and its institutional peers deviate little from a familiar trajectory charted in some cases centuries in the past, ASU has deliberately undertaken an exhaustive reconceptualization to emerge as one of the nation’s leading public metropolitan research universities, an institution that combines accessibility to an academic platform underpinned by discovery and knowledge production, inclusiveness to a broad demographic representative of the socioeconomic diversity of the region and nation, and maximum societal impact—a model I have termed the “New American University.”

In this book, my colleague William Dabars and I consider both the scope and complexity of the set of American research universities and the various contexts within which their contributions to society, as well as the dilemmas and challenges these institutions routinely encounter, may be addressed. We concur with Frank Rhodes, president emeritus of Cornell University, in his assessment that “the university is the most significant creation of the second millennium.” More than other institutional types, major research universities leverage the potential of knowledge production, and their significance increases with each passing year as the role of knowledge becomes ever more crucial. Our society depends increasingly on the educated citizens and ideas, products, and processes these institutions produce as their integrated platforms of teaching and research contribute to our economic and global competitiveness as well as standard of living and quality of life. These institutions represent our best hope for the survival of our species. While the reconceptualization of ASU represents the pioneering of a foundational prototype for a New American University, more broadly, the “design process” undertaken during the past decade constitutes a recasting of the American research university as a complex and adaptive comprehensive knowledge enterprise committed to discovery, creativity, and innovation, accessible to the broadest possible demographic, both socioeconomically and intellectually. These commitments together imply scalability at a level previously considered improbable if not undesirable.

An objective assessment of our knowledge enterprises undertaken with sufficient perspective—perhaps from the distance of the Oort Cloud, as once suggested by University of Michigan president emeritus James Duderstadt—discloses any number of fundamental design limitations. We face social and environmental challenges of unimaginable complexity, but rather than restructuring institutional operations to embrace and manage complexity, academic culture perpetuates existing organizational structures and practices and restricts its focus with disciplinary entrenchment and increasing specialization. Our universities sometimes appear hesitant to mount operations to address these challenges in real time and retreat instead to the comfort zone of abstract knowledge. The organizational frameworks we call universities—this thousand-year-old institutional form—have not evolved significantly beyond the configurations assumed in the late nineteenth century, nor have differentiated new designs come to the fore. As the lead architect in the design of a new class of large-scale multidisciplinary and transdisciplinary institutions during the past two decades, both at Columbia and now in Arizona, I recognize that although institutional reconceptualization is not without its pitfalls given inherent sociocultural barriers, new models off er new ways of shaping and examining problems and advancing questions through cooperation among large numbers of teams, programs, and initiatives.

Although the effort to transform a large public university into an adaptive knowledge enterprise in real time and at scale is unusual if not unprecedented, the reconceptualization has allowed the academic community to reassess its priorities. In many instances the design process has offered an opportunity for faculty and researchers to reaffirm their commitment to serve society, spurring efforts to advance innovation commensurate with the scale and complexity of the challenges that confront the global community. And because concern with tackling the grand challenges has become engrained in our institutional culture, the teaching and research enterprise of the university sometimes takes on the characteristics of a moonshot project. “Moonshot thinking starts with picking a big problem: something huge, long existing, or on a global scale,” writes Astro Teller, who directs Google X, which he describes as the corporate “moonshot factory.” “Next it involves articulating a radical solution—one that would actually solve the problem if it existed . . .  Finally, there needs to be some kind of concrete evidence that the proposed solution is not quite as crazy as it first seems; something that justifies at least a close look at whether such a solution could be brought into being if enough creativity, passion, and persistence were brought to bear on it.” The reconceptualization of Arizona State University could in some sense be likened to a moonshot project, as well as some of the initiatives of its teaching and research enterprise, which we delineate in this book. It is therefore to the entire academic community of the past decade, whose commitment to excellence and accessibility and unfailing willingness to innovate have made the design pro cess possible, that I wish to dedicate our book. Creativity, passion, and persistence are hallmarks of the American research university, and to adapt a concept from the thinkers at Google, which through innovation has undertaken a corporate initiative to Solve for X, we might well say that a hallmark of a New American University is the willingness to attempt to solve for X with U.

Advance Praise for Designing the New American University:

Designing the New American University is a brilliant, innovative, lucid, and path-breaking book—arguably the most significant book on higher learning since Clark Kerr’s The Uses of the University, published more than a half-century ago. No one should miss the delight of engaging in the discussion that this extraordinary book will surely engender about the future of American universities.” —JONATHAN R. COLE, provost emeritus, Columbia University; author of The Great American University: Its Rise to Preeminence, Its Indispensable National Role, Why It Must Be Protected

“Instead of dwelling on the past glories of American higher education alone, this book centers on reinvention and the dynamic nature of American universities. At a time when higher education is in flux—some would say in crisis—the clarity of Crow’s vision and proposed solutions make Designing the New American University essential reading.”—VARTAN GREGORIAN, Carnegie Corporation of New York and former president, Brown University

Designing the New American University deserves close reading since it sets the context and need for the design of a new type of research university and then presents the project of ASU as a case study that has already achieved goals that far surpass expectations. While not strictly a model—in fact, Crow and Dabars are very clear that institutional design must honor the parameters and contingencies of individual contexts—it does show us the way to a significantly more optimistic and inclusive future for higher education.”—JOHN SEELY BROWN, former chief scientist, Xerox Corporation, and former head of Xerox Palo Alto Research Center (PARC)

On April 2nd, Michael Crow joins New York Times columnist Frank Bruni, author of Where You Go Is Not Who You’ll Be: An Antidote to the College Admissions Mania, for a Zocalo Public Square event. The discussion, What Are Universities For?, will be moderated by Liz McMillen, editor at The Chronicle of Higher Education.

To read The Economist article which highlights Arizona State University’s innovative management under President Michael Crow, click here.

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Is mental health among college students continuing to decline?

Guest post by Doris Iarovici

Is mental health among college students continuing to decline, as various headlines suggest? This year’s “The American Freshman: National Norms 2014” survey, released at the beginning of February, again found “record” lows. Among the more than 150,000 first-year students from more than two hundred universities, only about half—the lowest number since the survey began—rated their emotional health as “above average or highest 10%.” And nearly 10 percent reported “frequently feeling depressed in the past year,” a 3 percentage-point increase over five years ago. An article in the Chronicle of Higher Education suggested that this is significantly higher than in the general population, where the CDC cites a nearly 5% prevalence rate of depression among 18-to-39-year olds. Are college students really more depressed on average than young adults in general? If so, what will it take to reverse the trend?

Feeling frequently depressed as a college freshman may or may not be equivalent to having depression, an illness that can interfere with both academic and social functioning. The CDC data relies on validated, more extensive depression screening questionnaires, while the freshman survey asks students to bubble in “frequently,” “occasionally,” or “not at all” to the item “felt depressed” (among other items such as “was bored in class,” or “discussed religion”). But the National Norms survey is a powerful snapshot which also captures other concerning trends. For example, fewer students socialized in person with peers, as they spent more time on social media. Research has shown that in the college population, loneliness is a risk factor for depression and for poorer physical health, and that loneliness and relationship difficulties are main contributors to suicidal thinking among students.

In my clinical experience working with the college population, there’s a cultural reluctance to admit vulnerability to, or discuss problems with, one another. Expectations are high that college will be fantastic; when it seems otherwise, students assume the fault lies within them. Difficulties then tend to surface when they’ve grown more severe, as when a classmate cuts herself or someone is taken to the emergency department because of intoxication. And this reinforces the myth  that mental health is an all-or-nothing quality.

In fact, like physical problems, emotional problems occur on a spectrum. Helping young adults understand this—and university administrators plan for this—might help create healthier communities. The American Freshman survey also notes that more students are turning to counseling, and it’s certainly critical to ensure that schools have adequate clinical resources in place to meet student need. But in addition, programs that address the campus community as a whole are essential in addressing—and exposing—the spectrum of emotional issues. Workshop-style sessions on stress management, relationships, and meditation, for example, open to the entire student community and not just to counseling center patients, begin to provide a more realistic view of the universality of some emotional difficulties. Surveying students anonymously about their emotional health allows some assessment of emerging adult mental health, but creating forums were they can share stories of recovery and resilience might begin to more accurately portray student emotional health on campus.


iaroviciDoris Iarovici, MD, is a psychiatrist at Duke University Counseling and Psychological Services and the author of Mental Health Issues and the University Student, published by Johns Hopkins.

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Diagnosis and shades of grey

Guest post by Annemarie Jutel

Diagnoses are by their very nature well-defined categories. That’s what a diagnosis is: a label for grouping things that are more like X than like Y. It’s influenza, not pneumonia, or it’s rheumatoid arthritis, not multiple sclerosis, and so on. If we didn’t group symptoms and give them diagnostic labels, we would be required to treat each case of sickness as idiosyncratic, or specific to the individual. It would limit the progress we could make in recognizing similarity and looking for treatment. Do we treat this case of aching bones, fever, and headache with this remedy, and that case with that remedy? No, we would like to say that the labels we assign to disease profiles point us towards answers. With a diagnosis, we can assign a treatment, predict a prognosis. But diagnoses aren’t always that clear cut. There are “typical” cases and “atypical” cases of all diseases, but diagnostic tests/diagnosticians are supposed to be able to cut through the fluff to find the medical classification which best fits a given presentation.

One case in point that has received some recent airing in the media is ADHD. While the point of this blog post is not to question the increase of ADHD diagnoses, the relationship between the pharmaceutical industry, and the medicalization of childhood, there is much to be said about this particular diagnosis. One Baltimore doctor noted the high incidence of ADHD diagnosis in her low-income patients and questioned whether these patients were demonstrating trauma reactions, instead of ADHD. Was the patients’ impulsivity the result of a stress response instead of ADHD?

Her concerns about where the line should be drawn and what diagnosis the symptoms are in aid of underlines just how fuzzy the boundaries between different diagnoses, between health and illness, normality and deviance, can be.

“Ah,” you might muse. “That’s always the way with behavioural/psychiatric diagnoses!” And you’d be correct. Psychiatric diagnoses often guard the boundary between normal and abnormal, disease and dysfunction. As my respected colleague Phil Brown once said, psychiatric diagnoses are “low-hanging fruit for the sociologist of diagnosis.”

But these same fuzzy boundaries are present even in the most material of physical diagnoses. What we’d like to think of as the cold, hard reality of disease is often nothing more than our attempt to put boundaries around something that would be easier to manage or confront if it fit into a tidier box. Take a look at my article “When Pigs Could Fly: Influenza and the Elusive Nature of Diagnosis”, which was published in Perspectives in Biology and Medicine. In it, I argue that even very material, physical diagnoses like influenza are far less concrete than their taxonomies suggest. This essay presents influenza as a case study in the elusive nature of the diagnosis and in its complicated realities. Using the metaphor of boundary transgression, I reveal the fluidity of diagnosis and the paradoxes presented by the naturalization of diseases.

Influenza is a “real” virus, yet it changes shape and profile. It’s something we’d all recognise if we “caught” it, yet studies show we’re dreadful at self-diagnosing it. We thought we knew what the typical symptoms of influenza were, but when we ask people to describe their cases, there’s not much in common in their descriptions. We even give it a nickname (flu) that doctors use as often as lay people, as if to suggest we know it intimately. We don’t really.

The presumption that diagnoses are tidy and neat and that they can always explain what ails us is risky business. Diagnoses are technical tools of classification, and play a very helpful role in generalizing. Generalize we must in order to improve both public and individual health. However, remembering that diagnoses have porous boundaries, and that by generalizing similarity we necessarily obfuscate difference, is helpful to understanding challenges to both public and individual.

Jutel, Putting a Name to ItjutelAnnemarie Goldstein Jutel is an associate professor at Victoria University of Wellington. She is the author of Putting a Name to It: Diagnosis in Contemporary Society and the coeditor of Social Issues in Diagnosis: An Introduction for Students and Clinicians.

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