Friday, August 9, 2013

Meet Gavin F. Hurley: Instructor in Department of Writing and Rhetoric

Welcome, Class of 2017!

Overall, the historical novel Caleb’s Crossing resonated with me on several levels. Especially, I enjoyed the perspectives into early American college life at Harvard, which primarily surfaces in the second half of the novel. I teach at URI, so this area of interest isn’t too much of a surprise, is it? This portion of the novel seems to speak to all of you who are incoming freshmen as well. I’m interested to hear how you react to Brooks’ depiction of college life at Harvard during the seventeenth century. Surely, you anticipate the upcoming college life experiences, anxieties, and desires, and that is enough to interest you in Brooks’ historical perspective of collegiate life.

Personally, I’m not sure how I would have reacted to Caleb’s Crossing when I was an incoming freshman thirteen years ago (And, no, I didn’t go to Harvard.). Back then my impressions about college came from my older friends’ and relatives’ experiences—and, of course, films such as PCU starring Jeremy Piven. If I had read Caleb’s Crossing back then, a part of me would probably be scared that I’d be required to learn fluent Greek and Latin in college, and/or that the faculty would be intimidating, and/or that college would be too much for me. I wonder if I’d give up the endeavor like Bethia Mayfield’s brother Makepeace did in the novel.

In short, Brooks’ novel can give you a different perspective into American college life: one that is outside of popular contemporary impressions of college that are found in films such as Old School, Pitch Perfect, Van Wilder, and TV shows such as Blue Mountain State. I would think that Brooks’ serious historical account may highlight a fresh perspective because of the productive contrast with typical contemporary depictions of college life. So I posit this question for the Freshman Class of 2017: since you will be entering university life in the fall, how did the second half of the novel that focused on Harvard resonate with you?  Or is the historical depiction of Harvard academic life too far removed from what you expect at URI? How did it generatively contrast the more popular contemporary impressions of college life? And even, more specifically, contrast contemporary impressions of Harvard life, such as found in the book, The Accidental Billionaires: The Founding of Facebook: A Tale of Sex, Money, Genius and Betrayal, or the popular film adaptation The Social Network?

Please post your responses to Gavin’s questions below.

Gavin F. Hurley is currently a writing instructor in the Department of Writing & Rhetoric at University of Rhode Island. In Fall 2013, he will be teaching WRT 106: Introduction to Research Writing.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Meet Alyssa Neill: President of Slow Foods URI

Ladies and Gentleman of the Freshmen Class of 2016, please stop all that you are doing to close your eyes and imagine the last time you ate something orgasmic? Can you? If you answered, “yeah dude, my Oreo cookie,” please know that you are in for a treat!

I'm a third year nutrition and dietetics student on track to get my RD. I cook too much. I enjoy running, doing heated power yoga, and riding my bike as much as possible. Oh, and I love to eat. Here's the thing: I only eat food with integrity—food that tastes good, is grown near my home in a sustainable environment, and benefits those who grew it. I've been part of Slow Food URI for four semesters, serving as the president for half of them.

So, back to the treat I promised you all! Every Tuesday, from September 11th (yes, that’s right—starting THIS Tuesday!) until October 30th, 11:00am to 3:00pm, Slow Food URI is hosting a Local Food Market on the Quad (You know, that big field at the center of the campus. Yes, that one!). At the market, Rhode Island's best vendors will be selling tacos, wood fired pizza, sustainably harvested cold brewed coffee, fresh baked breads and pastries, apples, tomatoes and corn, plus lots of other LOCAL specialties. SO, bring some cash, a friend, and your appetite and let Slow Food URI serve you some mind-blowing treats.

If you're interested in Slow Food URI there are a whole lot of ways you can get in touch with us: Follow us on Twitter @SlowFoodURI, email us at, come introduce yourself on Tuesday at the market or email me at

Hope to see you all on the quad!

Oh, and here’s Slow Food USA's news story about URI’s Farmers Market:

“One Secret to Community Building: Really Good Street Food”
By Deirdra Stockmann, formerly of Slow Food Huron Valley (MI)

Slow Food URI Farmers Market

What does it take to grow a small Slow Food on Campus chapter into the go-to organization for all things local food-related at the university? In the case of Slow Food University of Rhode Island, it takes dedicated, energetic student leaders who make the most of partnership opportunities, and who know the way to college students’ hearts: really good street food.

Alyssa Neill is passionate about food. As a teenager, she kept a garden and chickens in her backyard and worked at a health food store in her hometown. A rising college junior and nutrition and dietetics major, Neill hopes to put food at the center of her career. “I believe that food is medicine,” she said in a recent interview squeezed in between final exams and term papers. Through her work, she wants to help others celebrate the pleasure and healing powers of good food.

When Neill enrolled at the University of Rhode Island in 2010, she was thrilled to learn that the campus had a Slow Food chapter. She was familiar with Slow Food’s mission and eager to join the movement. But upon arriving at a Slow Food URI meeting, she was disappointed to find it a small organization with low visibility on campus. The few events they planned each semester were sparsely attended.

Neill continued to attend the meetings. Soon, she was planning them. Today, she is the president of the chapter. Over the last two years, Neill and a growing group of Slow Food URI leaders have worked to raise awareness and enthusiasm for local and sustainable food across campus. “This year has been really exciting as people start to recognize who Slow Food is, we've gotten a good response from the whole campus community. People email and ask about how they can get involved.” This spring, the faculty coordinators of a high profile honors colloquium on campus approached Slow Food URI about partnering on a weekly series of events in the coming fall.

How did this transformation come about in a couple of years? The student group started a garden on campus where they host occasional grilled pizza parties and they organize a food and sustainability film series. These events attract a few dozen participants each. But one event in the fall of 2011 catapulted Slow Food URI to a new level of campus visibility.

The big break came with the opportunity, and the responsibility, to organize a one-day local food fair as part of a “sustainability module” based on the book No Impact Man. The book, written by Colin Beavan, was selected as the “common reading” assignment for first year students. In conjunction with the book, an interdisciplinary committee of students, faculty and staff planned seven weeks of films, lectures, tours and fairs for students to further explore many dimensions of environmentally sustainable living.

Slow Food URI

Slow Food URI organized the local food fair during Local Food and Agriculture Awareness week. Neill sent out dozens of emails and visited area farmers markets to recruit vendors to the local food fair. It took a lot of time and a lot of patience. Only a handful of vendors were willing to take the risk and time to do a one-day, first time event. Tallulah’s “farm to taco” mobile cart and Bravo Wood Fired Pizza anchored the food fair. Both vendors feature vegetables, meat and dairy from Rhode Island farmers and artisans. Their enthusiasm, willingness to work with students, and delicious food made the event a hit.

Word traveled fast around campus about the delicious tacos and baked-on-site pizza available on the Quad. In a few hours, the vendors sold out. “We saw food do exactly what it is supposed to do, create community and awareness,” Neill said, noting that the enthusiastic response of the students was her favorite part of the event. Bringing local food to campus in well-prepared, ready-to-eat form was just the way to lure students, many of whom don’t have cooking facilities or refrigerators in their dorm rooms.

The fair was such a success that the Slow Food URI leaders were encouraged to establish a more regular local food market on campus. This past spring, they organized several events featuring the popular taco, pizza and coffee vendors, as well as a few farmers selling fresh microgreens and mushrooms. The produce offerings attracted more staff and faculty to the market. One professor requested that the event become weekly so he could do most of his produce shopping there. Through the market, Neill said, “we're introducing students to the local food movement, whereas with the staff, we're encouraging a behavior that they already do or would like to do.” The market has begun to attract the off-campus community as well. One day, a local elementary school made a field trip out of it; 100 kids enjoyed their picnic lunches on the URI Quad while college students lined up for tacos and pizza.

Many more farmers will sell a wider variety of fresh produce at Slow Food URI markets this fall. The group will coordinate the markets with the honors colloquium, a weekly public lecture series. This year’s colloquium theme is Health Care Change? Health, Politics and Money. “We wanted the Farmer's Markets to be held on the same day as the Colloquium to extend the themes into the entire day. We are hoping that some of the vendors from the Market will supply us with healthy refreshments for the evening instead of the usual cookies,” nursing professor Mary Cloud said.

The partnership with the colloquium will help address one of the main challenges Slow Food URI faced this year: publicity. Organizing farmers markets is a lot of work, especially on top of full-time student responsibilities, and the small organization found it difficult to get the word out about the markets on campus let alone in the surrounding residential community. In exchange for the Slow Food chapter organizing markets on lecture nights, the honors colloquium will include the markets in their broad public promotion.

Working with the Slow Food URI farmers market has helped Alyssa Neill think about life after college: “I have always been interested in nutrition, but I guess my idea of what nutrition is has definitely morphed as far as the time I have put into the markets and watching people eat and watching people react to different kinds of foods. … Watching people come together around local food has inspired me to want to study a holistic diet and food cultures.”

As a Slow Food USA chapter, Slow Food University of Rhode Island provides opportunities for neighbors and citizens to build community through enjoyment of and dialogue about our food system and culture. As a Slow Food on Campus chapter, the URI group goes beyond, it creates transformative opportunities for young leaders to shape their future, and ours.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Meet Norly Germain, URI Visiting Research Scholar

Haiti: 31 months after the quake, 400,000 people still live in makeshift camps.

Whenever world news organizations mention Haiti in news reports, it seems as if it is only to focus on the newest catastrophe whether a natural disaster or political turmoil. After the earthquake of January 12, 2010 struck Port au Prince and killed more than 230,000 people and left 1.5 million people homeless, Haiti became the number one topic in national and international news. This attention lasted for about two months and then Haiti disappeared off the news pages. Lots of attention and support were pledged on behalf of Haiti, but the population still struggles to survive and to have roofs above their heads. Billions of dollars have been raised in the name of Haiti while the population cannot satisfy even their basic needs. Who could believe that 31 months after the quake, 400,000 people still live under tents in makeshift camps despite all the international aid that has been brought or sent to Haiti as well as the presence of more than 12,000 non-governmental organizations (better known as NGOs) on the ground?

During my recent trip to Haiti, I was surprised to see how slowly the effort to re-build the country has gone. Millions of dollars are spent in building temporary housing, which are not secure enough to protect the population against seasonal hurricanes and storms. Anarchic houses are built over and over again despite the authorities’ prohibition. In addition, the Haitian people still need to deal with basic life difficulties since food and water continue to be a luxury and there continues to be electricity and transportation problems. While education is provided sparingly, I noticed an increase of health care facilities in the country and road constructions. There also seems to be a better communication and understanding between the government and the population. To encourage the Haitian authorities and the international community to effectively rebuild the country and to help the earthquake victims to finally live a decent life, Haiti needs to be part of the international news on a daily basis. The Haitian people’s voices need to be heard. The same problems still exist and the people's needs and their expectations should be satisfied.

Norly Germain is a Haitian citizen who received a B.A. and M.A. in Industrial Engineering in Haiti and in France. Norly is now working on his PhD at the University of Metz in France and is a visiting research scholar at URI. The goal of his work is to propose a system of healthcare infrastructure for Haiti to reduce infant and maternal mortality rates, which are the highest in the western hemisphere. Along with Professor Roger LeBrun, Norly will take part in the URI Diversity Week panel on Thursday, October 4 from 12:30 to 1:45pm to talk about Haiti beyond the scope of Tracy Kidder’s Mountains Beyond Mountains.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Meet Roger LeBrun—Professor with URI's College of the Environment and Life Sciences - Department of Plant Sciences and Entomology and One of the Coordinators of URI's Honors Colloquium!

The Class of 2016 is entering University of Rhode Island at an auspicious time. URI’s annual fall Honors Colloquium is celebrating its 50th anniversary, and I’m proud to be one of the coordinators of this year’s program, along with Jef Bratberg from Pharmacy and Mary Cloud and Shahla Yekta from Nursing. The semester-long lecture series, called “Health Care Change? Health, Politics and Money,” will examine the forces that influence the health care system in the United States and abroad, which results in wide disparities in access to health care.

The Colloquium will feature some of the world’s most prominent voices, including the president of Doctor’s Without Borders and the medical director of the international charity Partners in Health. The lecture series begins on Tuesday, Sept. 11, with Pulitzer Prize-winning author Tracy Kidder, who will discuss your Common Reading book Mountains Beyond Mountains. As you know, MBM is about Paul Farmer, a physician who is single-mindedly bent on improving the health of some of the poorest people on the planet, especially those who suffer from tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS. This important book will be used in the Colloquium coordinators’ Honors 201 course to show "how one person can make a difference in solving global public health problems through a clear-eyed understanding of the interaction of politics, wealth, social systems and disease." Professors Bratberg, Cloud, Yekta, and I designed the course using the World Health Organization’s model, which demonstrates the main determinants of health that contribute to health inequities amongst individuals, societies and nations.

I hope Mountains Beyond Mountains will inspire you to learn, travel, and give back what you've learned to those who have so little. You are undertaking a new and exciting adventure at URI, which comes with a responsibility to generously share the wealth you enjoy. Mountains Beyond Mountains will show you how one extraordinary person did just that.

For a complete list of the Honors Colloquium’s speakers, go to
If you are interested in learning more about URI’s Honors Program, go to

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Haiti Today

Check out the article, "Years After Haiti Quake, Safe Housing Is a Dream for Many," by Deborah Sontag in the August 16, 2012 New York Times. It lays out how the reconstruction efforts after last year's earthquake have fallen far short of human need. What do you think?

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — Since the earthquake of Jan. 12, 2010, a scrappy 12-year-old boy named Givenson Fanfan has been sleeping on the rock-hard floor of a tent pitched in a fetid camp dominated by a 50-foot tower of trash. He dreams of a bed.

In a hillside community, Terilien Brice, a 63-year-old grievously injured in the earthquake, lives like a shut-in inside his condemned house, which was marked with a red tag that is supposed to mean “no entry,” not no exit. He feels helpless.

Dieu Juste Saint Eloi, 68, in contrast, secured a one-room shelter with plastic sheeting for walls, but his clan of 12 squeezes into it. And it perches on a ledge above the ruins of his spacious home, into which his granddaughter keeps tumbling and breaking bones.

Unexpectedly, though, his 29-year-old son, William Saint Eloi, hit the housing jackpot. Isolated all his life because he is deaf, he now has a new home and community because two can-do Christian charities have taken deaf disaster victims under wing.

Two and a half years after the earthquake, despite billions of dollars in reconstruction aid, the most obvious, pressing need — safe, stable housing for all displaced people — remains unmet.

Go to: to read the entire article and view the connected videos!

Friday, August 3, 2012

How's the Reading Going?

Can you believe that we are one month away from the beginning of the semester? The above image is of URI's Director of Gender and Women's Studies Jody Lisberger relaxing on Block Island. As you can see, she has her copy of Tracy Kidder's Mountains Beyond Mountains. Many faculty, including Dr. Lisberger, will be crafting assignments using Kidder's narrative--if you haven't picked up the book, now might be a good time to do so. Gender and Women's Studies, better known by its acronym GWS, has a vision of a world free from sexism, and that means other issues--including national chauvinism; class, ethnic, racial, and heterosexual bias; economic exploitation; religious persecution; ageism; and ableism--need to be examined alongside that concern. How do the concerns of GWS fit with Farmer's vision of fair and equitable medical treatment for everyone? How does your first assignment--to think critically about how individuals in wealthier nations might or might not be responsible for people in poor countries--coincide with the mission of GWS? As Christa, an incoming Chemical Engineering student, pointed out: even if individuals do not "have the money to personally donate funds to countries such as Haiti, all of us, who are more fortunate, can certainly donate some of our time, energies, and knowledge to those who can benefit from our assistance." So, what do you think?

Thursday, July 12, 2012

What's Your Big Idea?

Hello again, Class of 2016! This is just a friendly reminder that you are able to post at any time regarding Mountains Beyond Mountains. The first member of Class of 2016 has begun the conversation with our first posting. Your assignment, after reading (or beginning to read) Tracy Kidder's Mountains Beyond Mountains is: “What responsibilities do you think individuals in wealthier nations have towards people in poor countries? What do you think is the best way to express or act on this sense of responsibility?” Mara, an incoming biomedical engineering major, suggested that discovering where one's passion is may be the most important factor in taking responsibility. What do you think? Also, if anyone is having difficulty posting, please email Place in the subject line Common Reading Blog!

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Welcome URI Class of 2016 to the Common Reading Blog for Tracy Kidder's Mountains Beyond Mountains!

Welcome, to the URI Class of 2016 to this year’s Common Reading blog—a blog by and about developing YOUR place in URI and in the world. At orientation Provost Donald H. DeHayes asked you to read Tracy Kidder’s Mountains Beyond Mountains. He also asked you to develop a response to your first assignment: “What responsibilities do you think individuals in wealthier nations have towards people in poor countries? What do you think is the best way to express or act on this sense of responsibility?” Wow! That’s a lot to think about, but guess what: It’s time! Orientation is complete and you’ve registered for your classes, met some of your new classmates, and, perhaps, read part or all of Mountains Beyond Mountains. Tracy Kidder’s journey with and story about Doctor Paul Farmer as well as Farmer's work in Haiti, Peru, and Russia challenges basic assumptions about how we view our place in the world and how we want to be treated and treat others. This blog is YOUR chance to share your thoughts about Mountains Beyond Mountains with your future classmates and the larger URI community. In addition to the Class of 2016, you’ll hear from URI faculty who will teach Mountains Beyond Mountains in their courses in the Fall 2012 semester. Let the conversation begin!

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