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Spokane judges have a new tool to decide whether the right people are in jail

Judges in Spokane County will soon have an easier time deciding whether to send people to jail before trial. The city and county court systems are rolling out a new risk assessment tool designed to free up space in the aging jail by making sure people aren’t held there simply because they’re too poor to pay a low-cost bond.

Zachary Hamilton

The tool called Spokane Assessment for Evaluation of Risk, or SAFER, was developed by Washington State University criminal justice professor Zach Hamilton, who looked at 13,000 Spokane County cases to determine which factors were correlated with greater risk.

“One of the hardest jobs we do as judges is making that release decision,” said Superior Court Judge Maryann Moreno. Looking at a defendant’s criminal history to try to figure out if they’ll show up to court can be “sort of like a Ouija board,” she said. “Having a risk score from the SAFER tool “allows me to make that decision much more confidently.”

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Online psychology degree ranks among nation’s best

Washington State University recently was recognized for excellence in psychology education among colleges and universities nationwide.

Affordable Colleges Online (ACO) ranked WSU’s online degree program in psychology among the 12 “Best Online Psychology Degrees for 2016.” Only one other Pac-12 school made the list of 50 top programs among the thousands of colleges offering online psychology degrees.

Lee Daffin

“I am especially proud of the ranking because it reinforces for our students that they are in one of the premier programs in the nation, getting a quality education at an affordable price,” said Lee Daffin, clinical assistant professor of psychology in the College of Arts and Sciences and the program’s director for WSU Global Campus.

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WSU News

WSU’s online bachelor’s degree program earns high ranking

Washington State University has again ranked highly in a list of the best online bachelor’s degree programs in the country. In U.S. News & World Report’s ranking, WSU came in 15th among all bachelor’s programs in the U.S. Last year, it ranked 34th.

Four of the six most popular majors for WSU online students are in the College of Arts and Sciences: social sciences, psychology, criminal justice, and political science. Last fall, more than 2,000 undergraduate students, and nearly 1,000 graduate students, were enrolled.

The university plans to add three online degrees this summer, including a bachelor of science degree in data analytics with specializations offered through CAS.

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WSU News

WSU Professor Hikes Mountains with Cello to Play Music in Nature

Ruth Boden

WSU associate professor Ruth Boden from the School of Music has been hiking up mountain trails with a full-size cello on her back and playing music to the sky. This has given Boden some unique perspectives on the nature of music and life.

As part of her research project “Music Outside Four Walls,” Boden, who teaches cello, bass, chamber music, and music theory at WSU, has carried her 12-pound instrument to Northwestern mountaintops, along the Appalachian Trail, and deep inside other spaces.

She will present a public concert and talk about her research on Thursday, January 19th, at 8:00 p.m. at the Kimbrough Concert Hall.

Through Music Outside Four Walls, Boden aims to create “transformative experiences in music that transcend the commonplace,” she said. To that end, she has hiked with her cello more than 400 miles during the past three years and sent at least 100 hours of music into forests, meadows, mountains, rivers and clouds.Ruth Boden backpacks with her cello across the historic Potomac River railroad bridge on the Appalachian Trail in Harpers Ferry, WV. Photo credit: Dean Luethi

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The Changing English Major

Amid enrollment declines, speakers at Modern Language Association discuss shifts in the major, such as a de-emphasis of traditional survey and the addition of more writing-related courses.

Leeann Hunter

In a panel on writing within the English major at the MLA convention on Saturday, Leeann Hunter, a clinical assistant professor and assistant director of undergraduate studies in the English department at WSU, presented on the Passport Program, a new set of related courses she developed to get students to think beyond the classroom and university. She began her presentation by observing that “one of the greatest barriers to recruiting for the English major has been the perceived lack of professional opportunities.”

The one-credit, pass-fail seminar designed by Hunter — of which there are a couple iterations — is structured as a series of workshops. One key assignment is a “finding your why” activity in which students identify six “foundational memories,” choose three to use (to) develop into pieces of creative writing and, with the help of a partner and Hunter, the professor, identify patterns, such as common beliefs or values, across the various pieces. A version of the course tailored for seniors focuses on things like résumés, cover letters, social media profiles and digital portfolios, and includes performance-art activities aimed at helping students develop confidence and presence. Hunter brings other faculty from the English department to help with various class sessions. She said 20 faculty members participated in the course last fall. » More …