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Race, class, and William Julius Wilson’s world of opportunity

By Eric Sorensen

In the middle of the last century, a Tennessee preacher-turned-sociologist, Tolbert H. Kennedy, found a relatively untapped pool of doctoral students among the nation’s black college graduates. Between 1944 and 1965, when Washington State University barely had a few dozen black students, he and fellow ex-preacher Wallis Beasley helped produce more black doctors of sociology than all but two schools, the University of Chicago and Ohio State.

Among them was a young man who went from the hardscrabble coal country of western Pennsylvania to graduate first in his class at Wilberforce, the oldest black college in the country, and get a master’s degree at Bowling Green University. Casting about to study for his doctorate, he fielded fellowship offers from nearly half a dozen universities.

Kennedy, then the head of the Division of Social Sciences, told the student over the phone what it was like at WSU and made it clear that he took pride in having so many outstanding black graduate students. He followed up with letters and calls offering to answer any questions.

“I was so impressed with that attention that I decided to go there,” recalls William Julius Wilson, sitting in one of three offices he keeps at Harvard University. “You have to understand, I didn’t get that kind of attention at the other universities.”  Continue story →

Criminal justice program ranked third in nation

By Richard H. Miller, WSU Global Campus

Washington State University’s online bachelor’s degree in criminal justice has been ranked third in the nation by TheBestSchools.org.

The ranking cites WSU’s long history in criminal justice education as well as the professional experience of the faculty.

The ranking follows several other top national rankings for WSU Online in the last year:

  • Sixth place for supporting the military in the 2012 Guide to Online Schools.
  • Fourth place for the overall degree program from the SuperScholars website.
  • Sixth place from U.S. News & World Report for student services and technology.

WSU Online, part of WSU’s Global Campus, offers eight online undergraduate programs and eight master’s programs, including the new master’s in agriculture with a food science and management specialization.

Professor joins Smithsonian webcast on racist stereotypes in sports

C. Richard King
C. Richard King

This event has been postponed owing to Hurricane Sandy.

Professor C. Richard King (critical culture, gender, and race studies) will join other commentators, authors, and representatives from sports organizations for a live broadcast from the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian on Thursday, November 1, from 7:00 a.m. to 2:45 p.m. PDT. The event will include a series of panel discussions on racist stereotypes and cultural appropriation in American sports. King will be part of a panel discussion that begins at 7:15 a.m. and will participate in the webcast throughout the day.

The discussions will explore the mythology and psychology of sports stereotypes and mascots and examine collegiate retirement of “Native American” sports references and some efforts to revive them despite the NCAA’s policy against “hostile and abusive” names and symbols, according to the museum website.

“My role will be to present reflections on the mascot controversy,” King said. » More …

Prospective Alzheimer’s drug builds new brain cell connections

Jay Wright
Jay Wright

By Eric Sorensen, WSU science writer

Washington State University researchers have developed a new drug candidate that dramatically improves the cognitive function of rats with Alzheimer’s-like mental impairment.

Their compound, which is intended to repair brain damage that has already occurred, is a significant departure from current Alzheimer’s treatments, which either slow the process of cell death or inhibit cholinesterase, an enzyme believed to break down a key neurotransmitter involved in learning and memory development.

Such drugs, says Joe Harding, a professor in WSU’s College of Veterinary Medicine, are not designed to restore lost brain function, which can be done by rebuilding connections between nerve cells.

“This is about recovering function,” he says. “That’s what makes these things totally unique. They’re not designed necessarily to stop anything. They’re designed to fix what’s broken. As far as we can see, they work.”

Harding, Jay Wright (regents professor, psychology), and other WSU colleagues report their findings in the online “Fast Forward” section of the Journal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics. Continue story →

Faculty use funding to improve education

Thanks to grants from the Smith Teaching and Learning Endowment, thousands of undergraduates are benefiting from new or revised classes and teaching innovations at Washington State University.

“We are very pleased by the innovations developed by these skilled and thoughtful educators with the funding from the Smith grants,” said Mary F. Wack, vice provost for undergraduate education and dean of the University College. “They each made a great difference to academic experiences of the undergraduates in their classes and programs. And they serve as models to other faculty at WSU and nationally.”

The most recent six $5,000 grants allowed seven faculty members to implement their ideas to improve educational programs, including David Leonard (critical culture, gender, and race studies), Pamela Lee (fine arts), Allyson Beall (environment), and Tom Dickinson (physics and astronomy). They addressed either of two issues of importance at WSU today: improving student engagement in large classes and integrating environmental sustainability concepts into courses. Continue story →