Student Spotlight – Amy

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!

Amy – St. Cecilia Academy – Class of 2017

Amy’s favorite subject in school is English, and she would like to pursue Pharmacy as a profession. Her favorite CLASS Seminar was Dr. John’s “Feminism: Who Needs It?” because it reminded her of her equality and to stand up for what she believes in.

Amy likes “being in charge,” and describes herself as “responsible, dependable, and ambitious.” When not in school, she to give back to the community through volunteering and to spend time with her brother.

Student Spotlight – Olivia

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!

Olivia is a senior at Hillsboro High School. Her favorite subject in school is English because she loves to read, write, and spend time discussing books. Olivia’s favorite CLASS seminar was Dr. Sybril Brown’s talk on media studies because ties into what she wants to do in the future. Olivia hopes to study communications or public relations and “hopefully write books somewhere in there.”

Olivia – Hillsboro High School – Class of 2017

Outside of school, Olivia likes to paint, to write, to read, (particularly anything by Jeanette Winterson), and to hang out with friends. Three things that Olivia would like you to know about her: “I am constantly on the verge of an anxiety attack, I will be your best friend if you make pop culture references, and I will edit your grammar mistakes in texts.”

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.


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.

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.


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.

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.

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.”

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.

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.”

What Does It Mean To Be Human?

by Ashley Sanders

On September 22nd, the CLASS scholars went to Michael Bess’s talk entitled “Technology, Ethics and the Quest to Build a Better Human” as a part of Belmont’s 15th annual Humanities Symposium, Machines Made of Words. Bess, Chancellor’s Professor of History at Vanderbilt University, began his talk by addressing what he calls the “Jetsons fallacy” which describes science fiction movies that depict a futuristic society where technology has massively evolved but humans have remained the same. Bess argues that this picture of unchanged humans with really cool gadgets is an incorrect depiction of our future. Instead, he believes that humans will evolve with new technologies.

He spent the bulk of his time discussing bio-enhancements: how humans are manipulating biology to create superhumans. He addressed in what ways we are already manipulating biology and in what direction he believes we are headed. Right now, we are able to influence our physical traits, abilities and emotions through drugs– using chemicals to fine-tune our own emotional states. In the future, Bess believes that we will be able to override our current physical limitations and slow down the aging process.

Dr. Michael Bess

Bess went on to discuss the possibilities of bioelectronics and the way that neuroscience is intersecting with medical technology. As our understanding of the brain has deepened, so has our ability to intervene and control its processes. Skull cap research has allowed people to pin point exact places in the brain that control emotions enabling intervention on a nuclear level with less side effects than drugs. In 2002, William H. Dobelle was able to give a blind man partial sight through bioelectronics. It occurred him that it was only a short step to adding in new technology like infrared sensors or a telescope feature. We have the capability to make ourselves “better than well.”

Finally, Dr. Bess discussed how we are taking control of our identity and abilities through genetics and particularly epigenetics. Epigenetics, he explained, are molecular mechanisms that change the expression of DNA (what is activated and what is deactivated at a certain time) without changing the code itself. Parents could design their children and people could, in a sense, re-wire themselves. This would allow people to be genetics works in progress.

He suggested that we are moving toward a future where people live longer and have a significant amount of control over their abilities and their emotional states. These technologies would mean creating a new generation of superhumans, with abilities that far surpass anything we are capable of now. But if we are manipulating our abilities, our emotions and even our genetics, what is left of who we are? He finished his talk raising some important and mostly unanswerable questions: Will these new technologies only be accessible to the chosen few? What will it do to the gap between the haves and the have-nots? How will we know what emotional states are real? What is it that makes a good life? And finally, what does it mean to be human?