Teamwork Just Might Make the Dream Work

By Ashley Sanders

Belmont Professor Dr. Nathan Webb began his talk on teamwork by addressing an unfortunate reality: group work, particularly in an academic setting, is pretty unpopular. He had the scholars take a quiz to gauge their feelings about group work. Not surprisingly, most feelings were negative. Because of the popularity of this opinion, it has been given a name: grouphate. These inherently negative feelings about group work are just one of the obstacles against group work. The others he listed include, social loafing, which means that people are lazier in social settings because they assume someone else will pick up the slack. Other issues surrounding group work are difference in personality and goals.

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Even with all of this working against it, Forbes ranked the ability to work in a team as the number one skill you can bring to the workplace. So, Dr. Webb argued, there must be some real benefits to teamwork. One of which is synergy. “Synergy makes 1 +1 = 3” Dr. Webb said. Synergy is what occurs when people mesh together so well that they become more than just a sum of their parts. Another benefit is that working in a group allows you to compliment each other strengths and weaknesses. It also encourages accountability and provides opportunities for diverse perspectives.

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Dr. Nathan Webb

Dr. Webb had the students free write for two minutes (one minute on their strengths and one minute on their weaknesses) to demonstrate that everyone brings something different to the table, and if a group is put together and managed well, working in a group can be both efficient and enjoyable.

Dr. Webb went on to discuss what we do in groups: communicate, lead, make decisions and solve problems, run meetings, and facilitate discussion. Then, he put this into practice. Dr. Webb split the students into two groups.

“We are going to the moon,” Dr. Webb said. He then explained the scenario: they were a NASA space crew that crashed 200 miles from their meeting point. They had 15 items but could only bring 8 with them for the journey. Their mission: to rank their eight items.

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Dr. Webb gave the students time to discuss their options before bringing everyone back together to compare lists. The first three were the same: oxygen, water and food. After this, their lists varied. Dr. Webb told the students that these kind of activities help to recognize all the parts of the decision making process. He asked questions about involvement in the discussion, leadership, and how the students came to decisions.

Finally, he returned to his original question: does teamwork really make the dream work? And his answer: “it depends.” If teams are put together and managed well, then yes it does. But if they aren’t, then maybe not. However, Dr. Webb said, group work is unavoidable so you might as well learn how to do it well.

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Student Spotlight – Cammie

CLASS Scholars attend high schools all across Nashville and bring to the Seminars a variety of interests and experiences. In the Student Spotlight feature, we’ll be letting you know a little more about who the CLASS Scholars are and what they do besides attend Seminars.

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Cammie – Class of 2017 – Harpeth Hall School

Cammie is torn between two favorite classes: American Government and Contemporary Issues. Her favorite CLASS Seminar was Dr. John’s Feminism – Who Needs It? because she thought it was both empowering and interesting. Outside of school, Cammie volunteers as a tutor for elementary school children at Preston Taylor Ministries and is a part of the school yearbook.

Cammie wants to work with children someday as a teacher or working with a nonprofit and she loves her dogs.

Student Spotlight – Lem

CLASS Scholars attend high schools all across Nashville and bring to the Seminars a variety of interests and experiences. In the Student Spotlight feature, we’ll be letting you know a little more about who the CLASS Scholars are and what they do besides attend Seminars!

Lem is a senior at East Nashville Magnet High. His favorite subject is science because “it just makes sense and it applies to my future goals.” Lem has his sights set on one day becoming a neuropathological surgeon. He likes to makes connections which is why he is interested in neuropathology because of the way it allows you to connect the disease to the physical brain. That’s also why the Philosophy and Superheroes was his favorite seminar: “it was all about connections.”

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Lem – East Nashville Magnet- Class of 2017

Outside of school, Lem likes to write and produce music, particularly hip hop and r&b, as well as write spoken word poetry. If you could only know three things about Lem he would tell you: “I love music. I love God. And you should get to know me. I promise I’ll surprise you.”

Feminism: Who Needs It?

by Ashley Sanders

Belmont English Professor Caresse John began her seminar, “Feminism: Who Needs It?” with a couple of questions – the first question, “Do you believe that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities?” drew every hand in the room up into the air. The second question, “Do you believe that men and women are equal in our society?” was met with silence. These answers confirmed the progress that has been made by the feminist movement and highlighted the fact that there is still work to be done.

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Dr. Caresse John

Dr. John did a brief history of the feminist movement as a whole, beginning with pre-first wave women. There is a lot we don’t know about the lives of women in this time because their stories have been erased or were never told. We do know that they were allowed very little education; they could not have a job, they had no legal or civil identity, or authority. They were at the total mercy of the men in their lives.

The first wave of feminism began with the Seneca Falls Convention in 1848 where 300 people gathered and signed the Declaration of Sentiments: where every “he” in the Declaration of Independence was replaced with “she.” The goals of this convention were women’s invisibility in law and government and the right to vote. There were a few things standing in the way of progress after the convention. The first, there was no national organization in place to keep up communication after the convention. During the civil war, women worked for abolition. After helping to earn black men the right to vote, women’s own right to vote became the main fight of the movement. Every year beginning in 1878, Congress denied women’s proposal for suffrage until finally granting women the right to vote in 1920.

In the time between earning the right to vote and the second wave, America went through the Great Depression, fought in WWII and saw the beginnings of the Cold War. The second wave of feminism began with the Women’s Strike for Equality in 1970 led by Betty Friedan. After achieving the goals of the first wave, the second wave focused on women’s issues big and small dealing with standards of beauty, multiplicity of female experience, reproductive rights and sexual violence. During this wave, the phrase: “The Personal is Political” was coined.

Finally, Dr. John discussed where we are today. The feminist movement has made great strides. We are now living in a time when it’s cool to be a woman; She showed videos of famous feminists, Beyoncé, Taylor Swift and Emma Watson. These days, “feminism is the fluoride in the water”: it’s everywhere and it’s good for you. We have grown up in that. But there is still a ways to go. We still live in a culture where women are slut-shamed, men cannot cry and BIC makes pens for women. Now to be a feminist means more than just believing that men and women should be equal, it means doing something about it. It means caring enough about the experience of both women and men to try to make it better. Because as Dr. John said, “At its core, feminism is about compassion, all of us being human beings.”