Sports Medicine, or What to Do (Before and) after You Hit the Wall

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Dr. Marnie Vanden Noven of the Department of Sport Science at Belmont began last night’s Seminar by asking this hard-working group of Scholars “What do you play?” Some answered with sports and some with music, but whatever the activity, Dr. Vanden Noven emphasized that “play will make everything easier,” from academic work to relationships.

Of course, play among children can lead to injuries (especially when adults get involved!), and Dr. Vanden Noven discussed the most likely scenarios that produce injuries.  She then gave the Scholars a definition of Sports Medicine: “a multi-disciplinary approach to health management including physiological, biomechanical, psychological, and pathological phenomena associated with exercise and sports” which “generally focuses on areas of performance enhancement, injury care, prevention, and management.”

Dr. Vanden Noven then showed some videos that explained how sport science research can help with the prevention of injuries. One video demonstrated the difference between a baseball player hitting a padded wall vs. hitting a part of the wall without padding. Another discussed the prevalence of injuries of both football and soccer players when competing on artificial turf. She then asked the Scholars to think about a case study in which a high school basketball player had been injured on an improperly prepared court, and then was injured further when, dazed from her head injury, she fell off a training table. Who had been most responsible–the athlete? the coaches? the athletic trainer? her teammates? the school?

For the final portion of the Seminar, Dr. Vanden Noven divided students into groups and had them practice applying elastic wrap in spiral and figure-eight patterns to each others’ forearms and hands (click on images to enlarge). The Scholars found it challenging to get the correct tension while wrapping in a pattern that would provide the most support.

Then, for the “shocking” finale, she broke out a small Neuromuscular Electric Stimulator, which she used to cause her volunteer to (involuntarily) raise and lower her arm and turn her wrist. These tools and many more help athletic trainers and physical therapists restore movement and confidence for people who have suffered losses from illness or injury.

Dr. Vanden Noven closed by encouraging interested Scholars to find out more by doing research as well as just by observing what athletic trainers do. “Whatever you end up doing for a living,” she told the scholars, “pick something that feels like play to you. It will make all the difference.”

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Who’s Playing Whom?

by Dr. Joel Overall, special to the CLASS Seminars Blog

Sound and PersuasionOn Thursday, September 28th, Dr. Joel Overall from the Department of English began his Seminar titled “Sound and Persuasion” by describing the chaos involved at the Paris premiere of Igor Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring, a ballet that sparked controversy among audience members for its discordant opening notes, audacious costumes, and unorthodox dancing. Some audience members at the 1913 ballet responded “with a storm of hissing” while others “began to hit each other over the head with fists, canes, or whatever came to hand.” With this historical scene set, Dr. Overall asked Scholars to ponder the question “How does music persuade?”
 Throughout the evening, Scholars had opportunities to investigate their ownjoel2 experiences with music, keeping this question in mind. As Dr. Overall introduced several analytical terms from the field of rhetoric such as “rhetorical form,” “identification,” and “the graded series” to serve as a lens for analysis of these experiences, he expanded into examples from modernist musicians using the twelve-tone technique to a German musician composing a symphony for the Nazi music organization  Reichsmusikkammer. As a result, Scholars examined their own music listening (and in some cases, composing) practices critically.

Finding Your Place in History

On Thursday, September 7, Dr. Daniel Schafer from the Department of History encouraged the Scholars to think about their connectedness to history through the story of his great grandmother, Eudora Schafer. He showed the image of a photograph taken when she was a baby sitting on the lap of her great-grandfather, who had himself been a baby when Thomas Jefferson was still alive. The message? We’re not as disconnected from the past–even the seemingly distant past–as we might think.

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Dr. Schafer began by differentiating the past itself from history, which he defined as a process by which you come to understand the past. Historians look for patterns of continuities as one means for understanding, but are also aware of the contingent nature of their study–there is always a chance some new fact will come to light.

He then engaged the Scholars in a consideration of history as a series of circles out from their earliest memory of some public event–for the Scholars, it mostly centered on the 2008 election of Barack Obama, while the professors in the room cited their first memory of a public event, which was a bit more ancient: the 1969 Apollo moon landing!

Dr. Schafer illustrated the fascinating historical difficulties that can arise when a passed-down story is tested by documentary evidence, as he traced competing narratives about a traffic accident involving some of his ancestors from family stories and from contemporary newspaper accounts.

He concluded the evening by encouraging the Scholars to think about the histories of every thing around them: a favorite symphony or a book, or even commodities like coffee, sugar, and milk. As Dr. Schafer pointed out, “Everything has a history.”

Making a Case for Communication

by Ashley Sanders

On December 1st, forensics team sponsor, Jason Stahl, and students from the Belmont forensics team came to give performances for CLASS scholars. Mr. Stahl began the seminar by explaining what a forensics team does. Forensics, he explained, stems from the idea “to build a case.” So the forensics team works to argue and persuade using a wide variety of communication methods. He explained that there are many different ways to make an argument. One less commonly known way is through performance.

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Forensics Team Director Jason Stahl

Madison Kendrick demonstrated this with her performance combining all different kinds of literature to make an argument regarding the way society treats older women. Madison “built her case” by showing various stories that all spoke to the same theme. She used poetry, drama, prose, and even news headlines to demonstrate that women are frequently mistreated in the last third of their lives.

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Allison Mahal also used performance to make a point. Allison’s performance, however, came from a single source. Allison performed a scene from a play that spoke to the nature of grief and how people cope.

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Next, Janvi Shukla and Laura Durr gave speeches they wrote for public address.

Janvi gave an informative speech on the Sikh religion attempting to inform her audience about the religion’s history, beliefs, and the discrimination they are facing in post-9/11 America.

Laura gave a persuasive speech on dishonorable discharge from the military due to sexuality. She built her argument providing evidence of real cases and personal anecdotes. At the end of her speech, she gave her audience some action steps they could take and had a petition the students could (and many did) sign.

Finally, Finley Sehorn and Justice Sloan debated Blake Simmons and Noah Miller. They debated whether or not the United State should fund germ line editing. The persuasive tactics used by both sides included poking holes in the other side’s argument attempting to discredit them before launching into their own argument.

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Each of the students on the team demonstrated different ways you can build a case and make an argument. They all used different persuasive tactics: evoking emotion, providing solid evidence, and attempting to discredit the opposition.

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Scholars and speakers talk after the presentation.

Election Questions Answered

by Ashley Sanders

Two days after the election, political science professor Nathan Griffith came to answer questions about this insane election season. The seminar began with a (half) joking question: “Is there any way to reverse this?”

Griffith explained the Electoral College, explaining that it is highly unlikely that the electors would vote against their party. He said these electors are selected because they have shown they are incredibly loyal.

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Dr. Nathan Griffith

He then explained that although it may be flawed, this system is the most efficient. Direct democracy, by contrast, is incredibly inefficient. Limits were initially put on democracy so the people do not have too much power. Direct democracy requires putting a lot of trust in every citizen and we are afraid of “the tyranny of the masses.”

Griffith went on to discuss the post-election atmosphere that we are living in. He said, “right now it’s about fear.” People are afraid because they aren’t sure what to expect. The biggest issue with the election we just witness was “once you start dealing in fear, that’s all there is left.”

He assured the scholars that there is no need to be afraid – the president has a very small impact on our day-to-day lives. Griffith said, “The only thing they [the president] directly effect is what we talk about.”

Though this election seemed unlike anything we have seen before, Griffith suggested this is nothing new. He explained that candidates starting playing the “good vs. evil game” to get voters to the booths long ago. To get voters to show up on the Election Day, they had to incite some kind of passion. This manifested as a good vs. evil mentality. Candidates try to suggest that you have to vote for them not only because they are right but also because the other candidate is so wrong that they may actually be evil. This naturally breeds the kind of animosity we saw throughout the election season and in the events following the election.

Griffith promised that everything would calm down. He said that what is important now is how we handle this. Something is broken is our country. The question Griffith left the scholars with was “Will we listen to the people who can tell us how to fix it?”

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.

The Power of Politics

by Anna Sharp

Why do we need each other? Why do we need politics? What happens in a society without democracy? These are all questions Belmont Political Science professor Dr. Nathan Griffith answered in his seminar, “P for Politics: Words That Scream for Your Submission.”

Dr. Griffith began by posing the question ‘what is politics?’ He explained that the root of the word, ‘polis,’ means community in Greek. Therefore the heart of politics is that it brings people together. People do not do well on their own, Dr. Griffith reminded the scholars. However, he continued, “the problem with communities is they’re full of people.”

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The Prisoners’ Dilemma

To illustrate his claims Dr. Griffith introduced the idea of ‘the prisoners’ dilemma,’ a strategic game that examines the logic of choices made by two prisoners who are arrested for the same crime and isolated from each other. The game reveals that if both prisoners betray each other, their sentences will actually be greater than if they both keep silent. Therefore it is always the better option for each prisoner to keep his word to his partner and not talk. Dr. Griffith suggested that this is the reason criminals form communities; they can coerce their members to keep silent, since betrayal will mean the other members are there to retaliate. In a similar way, he joked, “government is the mafia for honest people. It makes us keep our promises.”

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Václav Havel

He went on to explain the role of control, conformity, and fear in keeping authoritarian governments in power, listing several examples from history. Václav Havel, a Czech playwright who became president after the country’s revolution against communism, used the example of a green grocer who must choose whether or nor to display a sign in his shop that supports the communist regime. If he displays it, he is revealing his submission to the government. Yet if he alone refuses to conform, his dissent means nothing, and he will be punished. Dr. Griffith’s next example was a bit closer to home: internments camps the U.S. government forced Japanese residents into in the atmosphere of fear following the Pearl Harbor bombing. He also noted the chilling fact that some Americans called for similar treatment of citizens with Arab heritage over fifty years later, after September 11. “Fear makes us do stupid things,” Dr. Griffith acknowledged.

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Tocqueville published his observations in Democracy in America in 1838

He then took the scholars back in time to the 1830s when the Frenchman Alexis de Tocqueville came to our country to study what made democracy work in America and bring his ideas back to France. Tocqueville found that what made our country’s democracy effective included our laws separating powers, federal programs done through state governments, customs of self-sufficiency within communities, and religion because it teaches people to restrain their impulses and make room for others. In short, he suggested that the more community there was, the better the politics were. Therefore the way to avoid or defeat an authoritarian government is to build relationships with our neighbors. “It’s no longer us and them—it’s us,” Dr. Griffith said. He returned to Václav Havel’s story of the green grocer; if the green grocer alone refuses to put up the sign, he fails. Yet if he talks to his neighbors and they rebel together, the despotic government is suddenly threatened. The scholars got the chance to see this theory in action in the final scene of V for Vendetta, wherein everyone in London joins together to overthrow their tyrannical government. This dramatic conclusion to the seminar left everyone empowered to go forth and take Dr. Griffith’s advice to “be government”—even if it might look more like doing jury duty than starting a revolution.