Observation Report

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Date: Monday, April 23

Time: 7:00pm to 8:00pm

Tutor: Mary Kathryn Healy

Client: Madison Rousseau

Course Title: Political Violence

Assignment: Research Paper on the Korean War

            This tutoring session focused on establishing a unique and concrete thesis for why America intervened with the Korean War using Fearon’s bargaining model. Madison came in with a written rough draft which was already read and evaluated by her professor Dr. Donald Beaudette. In his comments, Dr. Beaudette asked Madison to further clarify her thesis and make it more straightforward and distinct. Madison was first confused about what the professor meant so she went to the writing center for help.

            Madison’s tutor, Mary Kathryn Healy, is an amazing second-year writing consultant who is especially good at creative and political science writing. Mary first asked Madison for her visiting purpose and then read through the rough draft with her. After that, she asked Madison to verbally express what she actually wanted to convey to the readers through her essay and her understanding of the chosen topic. When Madison talked about how her opinion was formed based on an article she once read, Mary asked her to search for the article and analyzed it along with Madison. Then, Mary shared about how she interpreted the article and how she looked at the topic overall.

            What I found very special about Mary’s tutoring style was that she never directly told the tutee what to write. Instead, she would ask for Madison’s opinion first and then guide her to express her ideas more effectively. For example, in formulating the hypothesis, Mary told Madison to follow the general template “if… then…”, where “if” is followed by the condition (e.g. a theory), and then is followed by the conclusion. Mary also emphasized the importance of the consistency between a hypothesis and a chosen theory. However, she did not tell Madison what exactly to write as her theory and conclusion and instead encouraged Madison to think by herself.

            After Madison had recomposed her thesis based on Mary’s advice, Mary continued to help Madison check for her word choices and logic flows. The thesis of Madison’s article at this point was “mutual understanding of military power and capabilities increases the likelihood of a preventative war”. After reading the sentence, Mary suggested Madison choose between “military power” and “capabilities” and delete the other because writing both was redundant. In addition, Mary also suggested Madison put the modifying phrase “each other’s relative” before her word choice to make the thesis clearer.

            Overall, Mary helped Madison get her thoughts into shape by guiding her through the process of formulating a strong thesis. At the end, Mary also checked the structure and organization of Madison’s essay to make sure that it met the expectations of the professor. One thing that I think Mary could possibly do better when guiding her tutee is to help Madison analyze the topic from different perspectives using various evidence so that the thesis could be more comprehensive.

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Statement of Writing Philosophy

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I believe the main purpose of a writing tutor is to help tutees to become better writers in a way that encourages their independent and critical thinking, improves their writing skills, and makes them feel more comfortable and confident towards writing in different fields and disciplines. Being a writing tutor is very challenging but at the same time also very rewarding, especially when you see the people you helped have become better at writing as a result. Nowadays, the responsibility of a writing tutor has gone far beyond just being a “tutor”. Rather, writing tutors are “consultants” that help guide people to solve not only professional, but also personal problems such as high level of anxiety and low self-esteem. By being patient and friendly and showing your compassion for the tutees, writing tutors could provide significant comfort and inspiration to their tutees and make them feel more confident while writing.

          One thing I believe that is particularly important for a successful writing tutor is to establish an intimate relationship with his or her tutees. By doing this, tutees would feel more relaxed while being at the writing center and be more willing to come for help. Tutees who come to the writing center are usually very lost and stressed out. Therefore, as tutors, we need to be patient and kind enough to show them that we understand and care about their situations and are always there for them. After helping tutees to build a positive attitude towards writing, writing tutors should utilizing “questioning strategies” to let tutees seek answers on their own. By recognizing and correcting their own mistakes, tutees could develop a thinking process which helps them to avoid the same problems next time when writing and revising paper by themselves.

          A close relationship could easily be established through an effective conversation. An effective conversation does not necessarily have to be formal or informative. Even a casual talk about the weather or food could help tutees to feel relaxed and refresh their minds. Furthermore, conversations between tutors and tutees could help both parties to learn more about different cultures and traditions that they are previously unfamiliar with. This could in turn help liberate the mind of tutees and inspire some genuine and creative thoughts. In addition, by having such conversations with tutees, tutors are actually helping them to develop the communication skills that are essential to all disciplines and careers at the same time. Last but not least, if tutors could teach tutees how to clearly and effectively communicate with others about the social issues they are concerned with, tutees could then become more active citizens and make more contribution to the society.

          In conclusion, I believe the responsibility of a writing tutor is far beyond just revising a piece of writing. Rather, a tutor should aim to produce better writers and more active citizens by integrating his or her passion, patience, and empathy into the tutoring process.

Personal Strength reflection

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Curiosity and persistence are attributes which helped me to get where I am now.

I grew up in a relatively relaxed environment, and my parents never forced me to learn things or forbid me from trying things. I have been given the freedom to explore my interests in my own way.

“She never took any drawing lessons?” Once two artists friends of my mother asked, amazed at my sketches and paintings. I just love art as a way to express myself. I also love to watch soccer games. I like to analyze the tactics employed by the coaches and find out the reasons for their win or loss of a game. I wrote and published soccer game commentaries online.

I have curiosity in almost everything. How do people maintain balance when riding a bicycle? Why do the raindrops on the windshield flow backwards when a car is moving? When I am not satisfied with answers from the classroom, I go figure them out by reading books, asking experts, or researching online. I am not afraid of failures, they are just experiences on the journey to success. I still remember my PE final test in ninth grade, which was the last year of middle school in China. We had an endurance assessment with two options: rope skipping or 800­meter running. To my friend’s surprise, I chose the later. “You are insane! You can barely finish the 400­meter track!” They were right. At first, I could not finish the 800­meter. In three weeks, however, with unremitting training morning and night, my record went from 5 minutes to 3’38”. I finished third among 250 participants. This experience also sparked my interest in running, and now I regularly run 2 miles at a time, three times a week, to exercise my body and relax my mind.

With passionate curiosity and bold persistence, I am finishing the four ­year US high school curriculum in three years. I have been actively involved by seizing every passing opportunity and have had a very fulfilling experience. I am sure that curiosity and persistence will help me in my future education pursuit too.

Theme of being a writing tutor: Responsibility and civic engagement

I am interested in the theme of responsibilities and civic engagement as a writing tutor. Like what Stephen M. North wrote in his journal The Idea of a Writing Center, the job of a writing tutor is “to produce better writers, not better writing.” Therefore, I believe the responsibility of a tutor is much more than just helping the tutees improve on a specific piece of writing which they are having problem with. In my presentation, I would like to address the importance of other abilities, such as guiding tutees to discover their potentials in critical thinking and writing, inspiring them to speak up for their ideas and beliefs, and helping them express these ideas effectively, that fulfill a competent writing tutor.

In addition, I believe one of the most important responsibilities as writing tutors is to help promote civic engagement. For example, by teaching tutees how to clearly and effectively communicate with others about the social issues they are concerned with, tutors are actually helping the tutees to become more active citizens. Besides, tutoring is never a one-way process. As a tutor, when we are tutoring a person, we could learn about different cultures and values through active interactions between the tutors and tutees, and the conversation itself is a form of civic engagement. Therefore, tutors need to have an open mind and be willing to accept others’ opinions so that they could see the world through various perspectives. In fact, one of the major tasks of a writing tutor is to liberate the minds of the tutees and motivate them to express their genuine thoughts without the shackle of social norms and conventions. To put them together, I would like to discuss how a comprehensive and diversified writing center could benefit tutors and tutees individually and in turn contribute to the wellbeing of the society as a whole.

Review for the Document: Commanding Height

The main topic of the video Commanding Heights is about the effect of globalization on the world’s economy and the essential factors that contribute to the economy’s “commanding height”. The first forty minutes of the first episode utilizes historical events, especially the first and second World War, to compare and contrast two distinct economic ideas which were represented by two of the most preeminent economists during that time (1917-1945).

The first economist is John Maynard Keynes, a noble Englishman whose idea shaped the frame of macroeconomics and dominated the Western world during the twentieth century for more than sixty years. Keynes believed that the market economy needs regulation to keep its systems (banks, stock markets, etc.) in check and that government should increase spending in order to provide more jobs for its people during times of difficulties. His theory was perfectly verified during World War II, when the U.S. government increased employment and spending on the war effort and brought its people out of the Great Depression. On the other hand, Friedrich von Hayek is an Austrian exile who opposed any form of government intervention on the free market and believed that the market could always adjust itself under stress. However, his idea was not recognized by the general public until the 1980s, and since then, more and more countries have adopted it as the foundation of their economic system.

Even though the idea of a free market economy has prevailed in most part of the world, the debate over whether the market should be regulated or not has never ended. If an absolute free market is the best solution to a healthy economy, why did it fail during the Great Depression? How resilient the market actually is on its own and would the same thing happen as in the 1930s if there is another great depression? If the market cannot adjust on its own under extreme conditions, to what extent should the government intervene and implement regulations to improve economic well-being? Instead of treating which economic system to choose as an either-or question, I think we should use marginal analysis to find a balance between the market and government forces.

From this video, I learned not only the personal and professional lives of two prominent economists, but also how their different economic perspectives helped to shape the structure of today’s economy. In addition, I realized how closely economics is related to the political and social issues both within and between countries, and how a misguided economic policy could have devastating consequences (unbearable financial burden from WWI on the Central Powers led to hyperinflation, the rise of Fascist, and WWII). Using historical evidence and empirical analysis, the video provides a comprehensive picture of how the world’s economic systems have changed throughout the course of the economic revolution and their costs and benefits. Personally, I believe there is never a perfect economic system, but it is the time and extent which you apply each system that matter.

Specific Learning Disabilities

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Definition:

People who have difficulty in understanding and learning language. More specifically, the lack of ability to receive, process, recall, and understand writings.

Categories of Specific learning disabilities:

Disability in reading (dyslexia): having trouble in recognizing and processing a certain type of written information.                                                                                                         Disability in writing (Dysgraphia) : disability in how to plan and organize a piece of writing. Also affects a person’s handwriting and motor skills.                                       Spelling: Difficulty in remembering and putting alphabets together.                                         Math (Dyscalculia): the lack of fluidity and flexibility in a person’s math-related conception. Finding difficulty in calculating, visualizing certain geometric structures, or finding patterns based on known information.

Characteristics of people with specific learning disabilities 

auditory processing problems                                                                                                             visual processing problems                                                                                                                  sensory motor problems                                                                                                                       social problems: not understood by their peers, cannot get the cues given by others and say inappropriate languages in inappropriate situations.

Outcome:

Specific learning disabilities can affect people’s confidence, leading to the diminishing of their sense of self and empowerment. They usually have a difficult time when transitioning from one environment to another.

Misconceptions:

Specific learning disabilities are not autism, disabilities in vision and hearing, intellectual disabilities, emotional disorder, or cultural, environmental, and economic disadvantages.

 

Reflection on “Tax Reform and Its Impact on Corporations’ Employee Benefit Plans”

I attended a lecture by Jodan Ledford titled “Tax Reform and Its Impact on Corporations’ Employee Benefit Plans” on March 8th, 2018 in Williams Hall. Jodan Ledford is a graduate of Oxford College class of 1999 and Emory College class of 2001 and is now the Head of Client Solutions and Multi-Asset in LGIMA. He has gained rich experience in investment and pension plan management by working at J.P. Morgan’s investment banking division. In this lecture, he mainly talked about the new Tax Cuts and Jobs Act and its influence on corporate investments and pension plans.

In the first part of the lecture, Mr. Ledford introduced the corporate defined benefit plan and the impact it has on our society. The defined benefit plan was first implemented in the twentieth century by the railroad companies to incentivize their workers to retire from service. The benefits were calculated with a defined formula which takes into account the age, length of service, and income of the employees. However, due to workforce mobility and increasing life expectancy nowadays, the cost of funding the corporate defined benefit plan has outweighed the benefit of such plan. In addition, the high insurance premium charged by the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation(PBGC) on the firms to fund the benefit plan has become too expensive to sustain. As a result, the benefit plan is now gradually fading away, which is very unfortunate for the current and future working generation like us because the plan could provide a great sense of security and comfort to employees after retirement.

          Next, Mr. Ledford talked about the relationship between defined benefit plan and the new tax reform act. As we all know, tax incentivizes behavior. The corporate income tax in the United States was originally high with a rate of 35%.  The new tax code has lowered the corporate tax rate to 21% percent which brings cash back to corporations. Therefore, corporations now have more incentives to invest in capitals and pension plans, which effectively solve the pension crisis that has been wandering around in the U.S. for several decades. However, this tax reform does come with the cost that the government would now collect less tax and accumulate more deficit.

          Finally, Mr. Ledford discussed the structure and function of defined contribution plan, which is more pertinent to our generation compared to the dying defined benefit plan. Defined contribution plan is typically contributed both by the employees and employers by putting a certain amount of money aside for use after retirement. Since the money people save is tax deducted, defined contribution plan is also tax incentivized. However, in contrast to the defined benefit plan, employers do not have to contribute to the defined contribution plan. So, as employees, we have to depend on ourselves to manage our assets wisely and save for our future. One way to do this is to effectively invest our assets into corporations as stocks. Since stocks represent partial ownership of a corporation, as shareholders, we have the right to impact the decision of the corporation. For example, we can choose to vote for the implementation of low-carbon technologies, the change in the structure of the board, or the modification of workers’ pay packages. In fact, by actively participating in a corporation’s decision making, we are indirectly influencing the wellbeing of our society.

          In conclusion, this is a very informative and inspiring presentation which not only educated us on the structure of the U.S. retirement market but also informed us about how our role as investors could affect the change in our society. Therefore, I believe we should wisely use our partial ownerships in corporations to actively engage in their policy makings in order to do good to the society. It is exciting to think about how us, the participants in the retirement market, can utilize our assets as power to achieve our social or environmental goals and in the meantime exert positive effects on both the corporations and the society.

Personal reflection on the Journal Introducing Students to Disciplinary Genres: the Role of General Composition Course

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After reading the journal Introducing students to disciplinary genres: the role of general composition course”, I agree with the author’s argument that “explicit teaching [of disciplinary genres] is beneficial, and […] is particularly so for undergraduates, who are just at the thresholds of their disciplines.” I believe the role of college is not only to provide students with general knowledge of writing styles in the field of humanities, but also prepare them for further studies in different disciplines that they are going to enter. For example, if they are going to be scientists, they need to learn how to write a scientific journal; if they are going to be psychologist, they need to know how to write an experimental report; if they are going to be economists, they need to know how to write a business document.

Different disciplines have different writing styles and writing requirements, and since “undergraduate writers [often] lack contextualized knowledge of the disciplines to which they are being introduced,” it is important to teach them the specific conventions of writing in their respective disciplines. For instance, writing in the field of natural sciences is very different from writing in the humanities. In fact, for most of the parts, they are the exact opposite of each other: writing in the natural sciences use past tense, plain and concise word and phrases, and paraphrased citations while writing in the humanities use present tense, complicated and descriptive words and phrases, and direct quotation. Although these rules do not hold 100 percent of the time and the specific use of language does depend largely on individual circumstances, they do give us a general idea of how writing in different disciplinary genres can vary greatly from each other and thus emphasize the importance of introduce these ideas to students in the early stage of their educational pursuit.

In conclusion, I believe the general composition course should provide students with the general knowledge of different writing conventions in different disciplinary genres. By doing so, students can feel more prepared and confident when transitioning from undergraduate studies to further graduate studies or work and can quickly acculturate into their new discourse communities.

Writing Center Handout for Writing in Biology

Writing in Biology

  • Basic Format:
  1. Title page
  2. Abstract
  3. Introduction
  4. Materials and Methods
  5. Results
  6. Discussion
  7. Acknowledgements
  8. References
  • Detail Explanation:
  1. Title is short but descriptive and should concisely state your research topic. It is followed by your name, the course you are taking, your lab schedule, your lab instructor, and the date.
  2. Abstract is a brief summarization of the whole context. It should be no more than 250 words.
  3. Introduction is the foundation of your work which provides background information about your research topic of interest and its significance, along with your hypothesis, prediction, and reasoning. An abstract about the experimental procedure should also be included (Note: Ask your instructor for the minimum number of references required).
  4. Materials and methods is a detailed description of the steps you take to conduct the research. The whole section needs to be written in the past tense. It should be specific enough so that other people could replicate your whole procedure if they want to (Include sub-sections if needed).
  5. Results section should include all your modified data and observations. It should begin with a brief statement about the hypothesis and experimental approach. Include tables and figures if needed.
  6. Discussion section is where you analyze and explain your data and observations from the result section. You need to refer to others’ work as evidence to support your own reasoning. The significance of your finding and further directions of research should also be mentioned.
  7. Acknowledgement section is often not required by your instructor in a biology class but are needed in a formal scientific paper. It is the place where you recognize all the sources, including institutions and people, that have provided help during your research.
  8. References is the place where you include all the papers you have consulted during the course of your research. It should be documented in the MLA format.

Review on a Lecture titled “Dangerous Desires: An Exploration of Augustine’s De ordine”

I attended a lecture by Maggie Labinski called “Dangerous Desires: An Exploration of Augustine’s De ordine” in Williams Hall on Monday, March 5th, 2018. Maggie Labinski is an Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Fairfield University whose research interests lie primarily in the fields of feminist philosophy, sexuality studies, and education. In this lecture, she employed the famous dialogue De ordine written by Augustines to introduce the role of sexuality in academic settings, demonstrate the pedagogical value of erotic desire, and connect the sexual abuse problems that are prevalent in our modern society to the theories presented in the dialogue.

Dr. Labinski started her lecture by addressing the social issues brought by erotic desires, especially those concerning well-positioned people who abuse their power to satisfy their own desire at the expense of others. She then introduced two major feminist positions on sexual abuse. Before attending the lecture, I have always agreed with the first position in which we should oppose sexual misconduct and completely remove erotic desire from classroom settings. As females, we are not the objects that serve to fulfill the sexual desire of those privileged. Furthermore, as students, we do not want to walk into classrooms everyday worrying about being the subject of such bestial behaviors. I strongly believed that a safe academic environment is essential for productive learning and that it is a violation of human rights to let certain people utilize their power as a weapon against those unarmed minorities.

However, what I found astonishing was that not only the most prestigious universities in the U.S., such as Berkeley and Columbia, are being immersed in the scandals of sexual abuse, but also former research has shown that the presence and fulfillment of erotic desire has helped professor to teach better and students to perform better academically. This phenomenon led us to the second position in which some feminists embrace the pedagogical value of the erotic. According to Dr. Labinski, erotic desire has given us motivation to seek for the most intimate part of ourselves and thus compelled us forward in education. However, personally, I doubt if such aspiration will be realized when we could hardly feel safe in an academic environment. Therefore, I think it is very important to find the equilibrium position between the values and harms of erotic desire and the appropriate way that such desire should be expressed.

Dr. Labinski then expanded on the second feminism position by exploring how Augustine negotiated the erotic desire in his classroom. She introduced two episodes in Augustine’s early dialogue De ordine where he engaged with the desires of others. The one I found particularly interesting was when Augustine included the words of his mother Monica in his dialogue during a time when women were typically excluded from any type of educational discussion. In Augustine’s opinion, the most important part of a human being is his/her internal strength and not something as superficial as gender. Moreover, Augustine had honored Monica as the central role of his school due to her exceptional ability to desire and her pure love for wisdom. Although Monica’s desire is different from Augustine’s own, Augustine accepted such differences and valued them highly as means to hold people up, especially during times of difficulties. I think the fact that Augustine allowed his students to become the leading role of his class and to privilege their desires over his own has great implications on how modern classrooms should manage their problems of erotic desire.

Overall, after listening to this lecture, my opinion on the role of erotic desire in our society has changed to some extent. Instead of letting the erotic desire of the privileged people go unchecked or completely eliminating such desire from the classroom setting, I believe that we should let the minorities or the students to hold the power of such desire and make them the leading role in the relationship. By doing this, we not only give their erotic desire an opportunity to flourish, but also maximized its pedagogical value in a relatively safe environment without the danger for unscrupulous behaviors or the abuse of power.