PUBLISHED BY THE BOSTON COLLEGE OFFICE OF UNIVERSITY COMMUNICATIONS
Latifat Odetunde ’22 was inspired
BC Innocence Program director, named a “Lawyer of the Year,” reflects on BCIP’s success.
Gaelic Roots presents a lecture/ performance celebrating a pioneering Irish musician.
by the Martin Luther King Jr. Scholarship banquet as a first-year student. This year, she won the award.
FEBRUARY 25, 2021 VOL. 28 NO. 10
PUBLISHED BY THE BOSTON COLLEGE OFFICE OF UNIVERSITY COMMUNICATIONS
New Financial Aid Funds for Woods College Undergraduates
Moore to Step Down as Student Affairs VP But will continue in role as head of Pine Manor Institute for Student Success
BY PATRICIA DELANEY SENIOR DIRECTOR FOR UNIVERSITY COMMUNICATIONS
BY JACK DUNN ASSOCIATE VICE PRESIDENT FOR UNIVERSITY COMMUNICATIONS
Two new financial aid funds have been established at the Woods College of Advancing Studies, thanks to the generosity of Boston College alumni and parents James P. ’88 and Monica Shay ’08, P’24, Woods College Dean Karen Muncaster has announced. The Shay Family Financial Aid Fund honors former longtime dean James A. Woods, S.J., for whom the school was
Vice President for Student Affairs Joy Moore, who has been on leave since October to assist her husband, Rob, in his battle with brain cancer, has announced that she is stepping down from her position in Student Affairs. A popular administrator who has been lauded by students for her advocacy and support, Moore said that she plans to continue her work as the inaugural executive director of the Pine Manor Institute for
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Student Success, but could not devote herself to her duties in Student Affairs. She will remain a University vice president. University President William P. Leahy, S.J., praised Moore as a dedicated University citizen who was committed to helping all students to thrive at Boston College “I support Joy Moore’s decision to step down as head of Student Affairs as she has rightly concluded that her family responsibilities must come first,” said Fr. Leahy. “I am pleased that she will remain at Boston College as vice president and executive director of the Pine Manor Institute for Student Success, enabling our community to continue benefiting from her experience, commitment, and creativity.” Executive Vice President Michael Lochhead, who is serving as interim vice presiJoy Moore
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photo by lee pellegrini
BC Law Faculty Member’s Book Makes the Case for Masks Wearing a mask during the pandemic is ‘a public health need,’ says Hashimoto BY ED HAYWARD STAFF WRITER
The sputtering roll-out of vaccines to combat the spread of COVID-19, combined with new, more contagious strains of the coronavirus, have placed a renewed focus on mask wearing. Boston College Associate Professor of Law Dean Hashimoto, M.D., says evidence from the first year of the pandemic points to masks and their use as one of the surest ways to limit transmission of the virus.
photo by dana smith
Hashimoto’s new book, The Case for Masks: Science-Based Advice for Living During the Coronavirus Pandemic, examines the earliest science to emerge on mask wearing during the pandemic, which has so far claimed more than 500,000 lives in the U.S. With that science, Hashimoto makes a compelling argument for the benefits of masking, a seemingly straightforward solution that quickly became tangled in political leaning, complaints over religious and personal liberty, as well as conflicting reports in mainstream and social media about the benefits and risks of face coverings. “Fundamentally, it is a public health need,” said Hashimoto, who is also the chief medical officer and leader of the
Workplace Health and Wellness Division at Mass General Brigham, the largest health care provider in Massachusetts. “Masking is misunderstood by an important segment of the population: those resistant to masking. Most people don’t have a basic understanding as to why wearing a mask is important.” In part, a lot of attention has gone to other aspects of the pandemic. “It’s not very sexy,” said Hashimoto. “Masking has not received the same amount of attention as vaccinations or drug therapies. But if you look at the data, they are very impressive about the positive, beneficial impact that masking has.” Hashimoto learned firsthand about the benefits of masking as Mass General
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Darwin formulated the theory of evolution by natural selection before DNA was discovered. I think he would be blown away by how much we have learned since then. This is the great thing about science: it is ever changing and we are always accumulating new knowledge. – boston college biologist jeffrey dacosta, page 9
February 25, 2021
BC School of Theology and Ministry Student Is a History Maker Xaviere Missionary Sister Nathalie Becquart, a student in the Boston College School of Theology and Ministry, has been appointed by Pope Francis as an undersecretary of the Synod of Bishops, making her the first woman to hold this position. The appointment is seen as watershed moment in the Catholic Church and an indication of an increased role for women in the life of the Church. Sr. Becquart enrolled in the STM during the 2019-2020 academic year to pursue a licentiate in sacred theology. She is slated to graduate this May after completion of her thesis on synodality. Established in 1965, the Synod of Bishops is an ecclesiastical advisory group of church leaders from all over the world who assist the pope by regularly examining issues close to the Church. During his papacy, Pope Francis has increased the authority and influence of the Synod of Bishops and expressed a desire to create a more synodal Church, one that is listening and learning from all members. The synod’s next general assembly, scheduled for October 2022, will be on “For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation, and Mission.” Sr. Becquart made significant contributions to the Synod of Bishops’ 2018 general
Sister Nathalie Becquart
photo by peter julian
assembly on “Young People, the Faith, and Vocational Discernment,” serving as a coordinator of the pre-synod, a speaker, and an observer. In 2019, ahead of the synod’s special assembly for the Pan-Amazon region, she was among a group of women, the first ever, to be appointed consultors to the General Secretariat for the Synod of Bishops. A statement issued by Synod of Bishops General Secretary Cardinal Mario Grech noted that Sr. Becquart will bring her “theological depth of understanding of synodality, experience of working with youth for the Bishops’ Conference of France, and Ignatian spirituality” to her role as undersecretary. Sr. Becquart told Vatican News she saw her appointment as undersecretary as a
sign of “confidence in the women in the Church” and looked forward to serving the Universal Church. “Nathalie is a very focused, dedicated woman who really works hard, but despite her pedigree and CV, there’s a real humility about her,” said STM Associate Director for Spiritual Formation Barbara Quinn, RSCJ, whose religious community in Newton hosted Sr. Becquart during her time at BC. Sr. Quinn added that Sr. Becquart “is a down-to-earth, grassroots person who has been working on the ground with people and hearing their needs. To me, that is one of the most important qualities she brings. She’s also very well-educated. It’s almost as though her adult life has been leading up to a moment like this, so that when the invitation came, she was ready to go.” Sr. Becquart, who has returned to her native France, expressed gratitude to the STM community, particularly Sr. Quinn and Associate Professor of the Practice Rafael Luciani, her thesis advisor. “With [Rafael’s] course and guidance I had a chance to discover more about the Latin American theology that has shaped Pope Francis’ vision of synodality and to embark on different projects to promote synodality,” said Sr. Becquart.
“I go back to France enriched by my time at Boston College STM,” she added. “I praise the Lord for this path of studies that has been for me a path of unification and discernment, a path of conversion and deepening to open new ways to better serve the Church.” Speaking to Vatican Media, Cardinal Grech said: “Pope Francis has reminded us often that a synodal Church is a Church characterized by listening: by reciprocal listening by which everyone—the faithful, bishops, and the Bishop of Rome—learns from each other; and above all, by listening to the Holy Spirit all together. “The appointment of Sr. Nathalie Becquart as undersecretary will thus help us to remember in a concrete way that, on this synodal way, the voice of the People of God has a specific place and that it is fundamental to find ways to encourage the effective participation of all the baptized along this way.” He continued: “With the appointment of Sr. Nathalie Becquart, and the possibility that she will participate with the right to vote, a door has been opened.” —Kathleen Sullivan
Schiller Institute Holds Its Second Discussion on Environmental Racism On Tuesday, the Schiller Institute for Integrated Science and Society at Boston hosted its second major event on environmental racism for the Forum on Racial Justice in America, titled “Challenging Environmental Racism: Stressful Landscapes, Toxic Exposures, and What One BC Student Is Doing About It.” Environmental scholars Richard M. Mizelle Jr., and Kimberly L. Jones, as well as BC senior and environmental justice advocate Adin Henderson, were the featured speakers. Laura Steinberg, Seidner Family Executive Director of the institute, and Professor of History Conevery Bolton Valencius served as moderators. Where the first Schiller Institute event, held in December, explored the sociological and community-action aspects of environmental racism, “in honor of Black History Month, we extend our examination of environmental racism to look at its historical origins and the legacy that disparate toxic exposures has had on the health and welfare of communities of color,” Steinberg explained in an announcement for the discussion. ASSOCIATE VICE PRESIDENT FOR UNIVERSITY COMMUNICATIONS
Jack Dunn SENIOR DIRECTOR FOR UNIVERSITY COMMUNICATIONS
She said bringing two of the nation’s leading environmental scholars to campus to explore the crucial issue of environmental racism was part of the institute’s mission “to promote interdisciplinary approaches to significant, pressing societal problems.” An associate professor of history at the University of Houston and the director of graduate studies in the Department of History, Mizelle discussed his research, which shows that living, working, and even playing in stressful environments takes a significant toll on the bodies of people of color in the United States. Jones, associate dean for research and graduate education at the College of Engineering and Architecture, and professor and chair of the Howard University Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, spoke about the water contamination in Flint, Mich., toxic landfills, and environmental justice regulations. Steinberg said Henderson’s role at the event was to help “call attention to pathways to action, as he [described] how he has challenged environmental racism in his own life
Lee Pellegrini Peter Julian
NA+ outreach coordinator for the Student Admission Program. The event was cosponsored by the Schiller Institute and the African and African Diaspora Studies Program, Black Student Forum, Environmental Studies Program, and the Engineering and History departments. —University Communications
Boston College Giving Day returns on Tuesday, March 9. Make a gift of any size in support of the BC causes you care about most—from social justice to sustainability, global health to artistic expression, and many more in between. In turn, BC students and faculty will have the resources they need to continue making a difference in the world. Generous challenges could enhance your giving, so spread the word to your Eagle network using #BCGivingDay. Visit bc.edu/givingday to make a donation and learn more.
Christine Balquist Phil Gloudemans Ed Hayward Rosanne Pellegrini Kathleen Sullivan
Patricia Delaney EDITOR
and advises us on how to do the same in ours.” A senior in BC’s Environmental Studies program, Henderson has combined his advocacy for racial justice with his academic pursuit of environmental issues and environmental justice. He is the co-president of the Black Student Forum as well as the AHA-
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February 25, 2021
A Scholarship Dream Come True BY CHRISTINE BALQUIST STAFF WRITER
Latifat Odetunde ’22 recalls being moved to tears when attending the Martin Luther King Jr. Scholarship banquet during her first year at Boston College. As a high school student in Providence, she was very involved in activism and wanted to continue to seek and advocate for change during her time on the Heights. “I was just in awe seeing the scholarship finalists and all that they were able to accomplish their junior year,” said Odetunde, a major in sociology and African and African Diaspora Studies. “I remember being so inspired watching everybody speak so authentically, and I just knew that I wanted to be there. I wanted to be someone who could make an impact in that way.” The Martin Luther King Jr. Scholarship recognizes a Boston College junior who has demonstrated superior academic achievement, extracurricular leadership, community service, and involvement with the African American community and African American issues. Now, Odetunde, the newly named 2021 MLK Scholarship winner, has achieved this milestone. But she admits that her passion to be a change-maker caused her to become over-involved and over-extend herself during her sophomore year at BC, putting her mental health at risk. She points to the Black Women Matter retreat, sponsored by the Women’s Center, as a pivotal time where she came to recognize the struggles that she was facing and made a plan to prioritize care for herself. “I think that would have been the only space, a space filled with black women, where I felt heard, I felt seen, I felt visible,” said Odetunde. “It’s where I felt community; it’s where I felt healing.” After recognizing the depression she was experiencing, Odetunde cut back on the number of organizations in which she was involved and took the time necessary
Latifat Odetunde ’22: “I remember being so inspired watching everybody speak so authentically, and I just knew that I wanted to be there. I wanted to be someone who could make an impact in that way.” photo by lee pellegrini
to pause and reflect, something that Odetunde appreciates is central to the Jesuit ideals of the University. “I think I really had to just take a step back and ask ‘Who am I? And what do I want to give the world?’” said Odetunde. “When Martin Luther King speaks about love and using that to form community, we must not forget about first loving our own selves, because how can we do this work of change without first filling our own cups? This was something I learned at BC.” Another impactful experience during her time at BC was taking—and eventually teaching as a Junior Teaching Fellow—the course When #BlackLivesMatter Meets #MeToo, taught by Associate Professor of Romance Languages and Literatures Regine Jean-Charles and Associate Professor of Sociology C. Shawn McGuffey. Odetunde said the class “changed my life” and brought her into contact with two pivotal mentors. “She is a woman of principle and conviction,” said Jean-Charles of Odetunde. “She is committed to not only speaking
truth but living it. Her acute awareness of injustice inspires her to create change.” Odetunde is working to create change by making a space for Black, Muslim voices through her digital platform, Black Muslim TV, accessible on Instagram @ blackmuslimtv. As founder, producer, and director, Odentude works both behind the scenes and in front of the camera discussing important topics with fellow Black Muslims. She did not allow the pandemic to derail her idea for this channel, but used the time to develop and plan the content for the platform, which she launched on October 1. Working on Black Muslim TV and participating in the Community Research Program through the Thea Bowman AHANA and Intercultural Center prompted Odetunde to research identity development of Black, African, Muslim women, something that she plans to continue pursuing after graduation with the goal of becoming a college professor. She will bring her passion for and knowledge on these topics to the BC community on March 1 when she serves as moderator for a panel discussion, sponsored by the McMullen Museum of Art, with scholars on the topic of “Exploring the Intersections between Blackness and Islam.” “Winning the scholarship made me reflect on how far I’ve come,” said Odetunde. “My freshman year, I clung so hard to the identity of what it meant to be an activist and who I thought that I had to be to fit this certain mold to win the scholarship. But it’s affirming to know that after going through all of these changes, that the authentic version of myself that I am today— the evolved Latifat, who is herself, but is also an activist—is the one who won.”
The other 2021 MLK Scholarship finalists were: •Armani Mitchell, a New York City native studying in the Lynch School of Education, majors in applied psychology and human development with a minor in marketing. An Options Through Education scholar, he serves as a student representative for the Student Admission Program and a resident assistant for the Multicultural Living Experience. He is also a campus ambassador for Jopwell, a mentor for Lift as You Climb, and the president of the Caribbean Culture Club. In his various leadership roles on campus, Mitchell has been active in calling attention to mental health issues in marginalized communities. •Darnell Fils, from Palm Beach, Fla., majors in economics with a minor in African and African Diaspora Studies. He credits his dedication to service as being inspired by his mother, who founded Meals to Go Catering. Fils is a resident assistant for the Office of Residential Life, a student ambassador for the Thea Bowman AHANA and Intercultural Center, a member of the First Gen Advisory Board, and a mentor for the College Bound Program. He also is active in Dedicated Intellectuals of the People (DIOP) and Black Men Build. •New York City native Grace Assogba is an International Studies major with a minor in African and African Diaspora Studies and an Options Through Education scholar. She is the founder and creator of Vyntage, a digital media brand focused on promoting an unfiltered and unapologetic approach to digital storytelling and social campaigns for Gen Z. Assogba is on the leadership team for Sr. Thea’s Ladies, the undergraduate representative on the steering committee for the Forum on Racial Justice in America, and treasurer and chaplain for the Boston-area Epsilon Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. •Nana Kusi Minkah, from Worcester, Mass., is a finance major with a studio art minor. An Options Through Education scholar, he serves as the captain of the Sexual Chocolate Dance Team and president of AHANA Management Academy; he also was a founder of Regal Supply & Co., which provided affordable suits and accessories to empower Black youth to dress for success, and was a leader of the Ghana Immersion Trip.
Alumni Couple’s Gift Will Aid Woods Undergraduates Continued from page 1
named in 2002, and will provide needbased aid. In addition, the Shays’ gift creates the Joseph F. Shay, Sr. ’52 Boston College Fund Scholarship, named for Jim Shay’s father, a graduate of the Carroll School of Management. Both funds will support undergraduates at the Woods College, the University’s fourth-oldest school, and one with a long history of serving the needs of non-traditional, diverse students. The school’s mission dates back to 1929, when Boston College first began offering undergraduate classes at alternative times to meet the needs of working adults. Today, Woods College students represent a wide variety of backgrounds, including firstgeneration students, community college transfers or graduates, veterans, and others returning to school to complete a degree. “We are so very grateful to the Shays
James and Monica Shay
for their support of the mission of Woods College,” said Muncaster. “Our students are seeking opportunities to advance their careers and make a difference in the world. The Shays’ gift will help to make a Boston College education possible for them. “Woods College students are often continuing their education or pursuing a degree while balancing work and family, and possibly civic responsibilities and other commitments,” she added. “We strive to provide a curriculum that is relevant to their lives and work—our new bachelor’s degree in applied liberal arts, for example—and programs that are flexible to suit their schedules. But many of our students also face financial hardships, so philanthropic support is enormously important to them, especially during these challenging times. The Shays’ generosity will make a profound difference in their lives.”
Monica Shay received a bachelor’s degree in English from the Woods College in 2008. Jim Shay holds a bachelor’s degree in history from the Morrissey College of Arts and Sciences. They have two daughters, one of whom is a first-year student at BC. “We are truly excited to support the inspiring students of the Woods College of Advancing Studies,” the Shays wrote in an email. “Accessibility and affordability in higher education have never been more important, and we know from personal experience the transformative impact of a BC education. “It is a privilege to make these gifts in memory of Jim’s dad, Joseph F. Shay, Sr. ’52, as well as to honor Fr. Woods, and to contribute to such flexible, innovative opportunities for students from a diverse range of backgrounds.”
February 25, 2021
Book Sends Very Clear Message: Wear a Mask Continued from page 1
Brigham responded to the massive public health crisis. With 75,000 employees, the hospital group saw an “immediate and remarkable” decline in infection rates after requiring universal masking with surgical masks for employees and patients, according to findings published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. When his book was first published in October, even some of his medical colleagues questioned his contention that masks were more important than vaccines to end the pandemic. President Biden’s endorsement of mask wearing and policy changes designed to encourage their use are welcome turnabouts, Hashimoto said. “It is becoming clear that while the vaccination campaign is important, we need to emphasize masking if we hope to maximize the impact of vaccinations,” said Hashimoto. Other examples Hashimoto cites include the impact of gatherings where no one wore a mask. A choir practice in Washington state last March resulted in 52 of the 61 participants testing positive for COVID-19 or showing signs of the illness. On the other hand, at a hair salon in Springfield, Mo., two stylists with COVID-19 symptoms continued to work for nearly two weeks, serving 139 clients before testing positive. But because they wore masks—required by local rules and company regulations mandating masks for em-
ployees and clients—none of their clients developed symptoms or tested positive. Mathematical modeling shows that relying on the vaccine alone will require 80 percent of the country—or more than 260 million people—to be vaccinated before bringing the virus under control, Hashimoto said. But universal mask wearing— with roughly 85-90 percent compliance—
velopment for improved mask design and technology, scientific studies, and a set of approved standards that would allow consumers to better evaluate mask products to suit their needs. He said the current shift toward wearing two masks underscores the need for research and development to manufacture highly effective, comfortable single masks that will encourage greater use.
“It is becoming clear that while the vaccination campaign is important, we need to emphasize masking if we hope to maximize the impact of vaccinations.” —Dean Hashimoto photo by caitlin cunningham
would require vaccinating only about half of the population, which Hashimoto sees as a very achievable goal. “The emergence of new highly infective strains increases the possibility that COVID-19 will become endemic and continue for a while,” Hashimoto said. “Vaccines are not necessarily the silver bullet to this pandemic. Masking remains essential to controlling and managing the spread of disease.” As lawmakers debate the next steps in funding both public health and economic relief measures, Hashimoto argues funding should also be assigned to research and de-
“It’s not clear that double masking has a lot of practical value because it decreases breathability and comfort and affects mask usage,” said Hashimoto. “Using a wellfitted cotton double-layered mask still is known to be reasonably effective. We need new mask technology rather than relying on double masking. The future turning point will be if we can develop a more breathable mask with a high filtering capacity. We could have already developed this technology if we had decided earlier to invest a tiny fraction of the hundreds of billions of dollars that we spent on vaccine development.”
Hashimoto says that the estimated 20 to 30 percent of Americans who strongly disagree with masking should be treated with respect and provided additional information about the documented benefits of masking through advertising and public service messages. “I advocate a very conciliatory approach with that 20 to 30 percent,” said Hashimoto. “The mistake is making it political. There’s a lot of shaming on social media, which is what you don’t want to do. We don’t do that with other public health initiatives. We need to begin by being empathetic and understanding the reasons why they are against it.” He suggests several steps to increase mask-wearing: •Make masks readily and freely available, especially in underserved communities •Develop better, more comfortable masks •Create incentives for mask use, such as opportunities to gather with proper masks and social distancing •Get the facts out by delivering empathetic, science-based information and messaging •Redouble outreach to populations that are at-risk for the virus, or resistant to mask wearing
Moore Talks About Decision to Leave Student Affairs Continued from page 1
dent for Student Affairs, offered similar praise. “I have enjoyed working with Joy over the course of the past two-and-a-half years in her role as vice president for Student Affairs,” said Lochhead. “Joy is a talented administrator who adapted quickly to the role and earned the respect of students and student affairs colleagues across the country. On campus, she balanced her role of listening to and advocating for students, while performing her demanding administrative duties. Joy will be missed in Student Affairs, but I look forward to our continued partnership in her lead role with the Pine Manor Institute for Student Success.” Lochhead said that the University has engaged the services of Koya Partners to assist in the search for BC’s next Student Affairs vice president, with the goal of having the role filled by the start of the 2021-2022 academic year. A 1981 BC graduate, Moore said she was honored to have served as vice president for Student Affairs at her alma mater, and looked forward to advocating for firstgeneration, under-represented, and underresourced students from Boston College and Pine Manor College in her role as leader of the Pine Manor Institute for Student Success. In the following Q&A, Joy Moore reflects on her time in Student Affairs and her hopes moving forward for the Pine
Manor Institute for Student Success. Q: How did you come to your decision to resign as vice president for Student Affairs? Moore: It was a decision made from the heart. The work of a vice president for Student Affairs is multifaceted and requires you to be physically present and often available to the students and staff 24/7. Given this, the severity of my husband’s condition, and the prognosis of his disease, it became clear to me that caring for Rob and serving as the vice president for Student Affairs would not be possible. As I reflect on my decision, I am ever more resolute that even though you build a plan for how you would like your life to unfold, sometimes the best-crafted plan gets interrupted and suddenly you have to begin to re-imagine your life in a new way. This is the journey I am now on. Q: What will you miss most about your role? Moore: I will miss the engagement with students and working with them to advocate for important initiatives, resources, programs, and equity. I will miss working with the talented Student Affairs team. They are a dedicated group of professionals who are committed to helping each student have a full BC experience. I will miss the difficult work as well. Acknowledging and addressing the hard work is the best approach for meeting challenges head on.
Q: What do you hope to accomplish as executive director of the Pine Manor Institute for Student Success? Moore: I am hopeful that together we can create an institute that provides firstgeneration, under-represented, and underresourced students with the tools, confidence, resources, and positive encouragement they need to embark on a pathway to success in their chosen fields. The creation of the institute presents an opportunity for us to reach out to our neighboring cities and towns and nationally to offer students (who otherwise may not have the chance to take advantage of) programming and resources designed specifically to help ensure they are steered in the direction of success. Q: As an alumna and longtime BC administrator, you have a perspective regarding Boston College that spans decades. How has BC grown during that time, and in what areas does it need to continue to improve? Moore: BC continues to evolve and thrive. Our mission and Jesuit values have kept us true to our work on behalf of students from all walks of life. The faculty are leaders in their field and bring intellectual excitement and energy to the academic life of the community. The students are brighter, smarter, and more engaged. They are passionate about service, helping those less fortunate, and contributing to the common good. All great institutions take a serious and hard look at themselves to
assess what they do well and where they need to improve. BC has done this over its 158-year history and is committed to working on areas that emerge as in need of improvement. BC must continue to work on making students of color feel welcomed and equal members of the community. We need greater diversity in leadership positions, and although we have seen significant increases in the hiring of faculty of color, more diversity is needed among the teaching faculty. Also, BC would benefit by continuing to diversify its student body, and in particular the number of BIPOC [Black, Indigenous, and People of Color] students. These changes take time and they are not easy, but challenges have not stopped BC in the past from achieving its goals. Q: How has your faith sustained you during this difficult and challenging time? Moore: I have always been a person of faith and prayer. Yet, as I soon discovered, there are few life-changing events like the diagnosis of terminal brain cancer of your spouse of nearly 36 years that bring you to your knees and deepens your faith and prayerful life in ways you never imagined. I have called on my faith every day since this devastating reality and the outpouring of prayers from the BC community sustain me and my family. For this, I am forever grateful.
February 25, 2021
Sociologist Coauthors Book on ‘Super Polluters’ BY KATHLEEN SULLIVAN STAFF WRITER
Fossil-fueled power plants are the single largest sites of anthropogenic greenhouse gases, making them one of the greatest threats to Earth’s climate, according to a new book co-published by Professor and Chair of Sociology Andrew Jorgenson. In Super Polluters: Tackling the World’s Largest Sites of Climate-Disrupting Emissions, he and his two co-authors offer a groundbreaking global analysis of carbon pollution caused by the generation of electricity, pinpointing who bears the most responsibility for the energy sector’s emissions and what can be done about them. Jorgenson, an award-winning environmental sociologist, along with University of Colorado Boulder Professor of Sociology Don Grant and Wesley Longhofer, an associate professor in the Goizueta Business School at Emory University, identify the global, organizational, and political conditions connected to the most egregious fossil-fueled power plant polluters. They believe their findings will contribute to the conversation on climate change, and have an effect on policymaking and citizen activism. The researchers studied a global dataset of more than 20,000 fossil-fueled power plants located in more than 160 nations. Using a variety of statistical methods and a technique known as qualitative comparative analysis, they analyzed how plant-level characteristics, such as size, age, fuel inputs, efficiency, and ownership (public
photo by lee pellegrini
versus private, for example), combine with nation-level characteristics, such as electricity prices, levels of economic development, and environmental regulations, to predict which plants disproportionately emit more carbon and why. “For us, it was an important opportunity to pursue sociologically grounded research questions that pivot us from thinking about how an overall sector impacts
the environment to exploring below the surface, to look at actors within a sector, in this case, power plants in the electricitygenerating sector,” said Jorgenson. “Our approach can help us identify which plants are more likely to be egregious polluters and can be the focus of policy efforts as well as community efforts. “We were trying to understand if, after you take size differences and output differences into account, some power plants disproportionately contribute more greenhouse gas emissions than others.” The short answer, he added, “is yes.” The trio was able to statistically show that fossil-fueled power plants throughout the world disproportionately contribute to their respective countries’ overall emissions. These facilities are what the authors call “super polluters.” Jorgenson and his Super Polluters coauthors also call into question the claim that improvements in technical efficiency will always reduce emissions. “A key takeaway point of our study is that societal context matters,” said Jorgenson. “It’s not just about technology and individual behavior, but also mainly about larger sociopolitical and economic factors.” The authors balanced the abstract statistical analyses in the book with case studies on egregious polluters as well as on fossilfueled power plants that are more successful in terms of emission standards. “Like so many others, we firmly believe that the most important long-term solution is to decarbonize our energy sector and fully transition over to renewables, but
that is an incredibly challenging thing to do and it is going to take time, especially given larger social forces that resist such change,” said Jorgenson. “In the meantime, the focus on super polluters could be an additional, useful approach that could have an immediate impact on reducing our overall net carbon emissions resulting from electricity generation. “Our study provides evidence that this is the case,” he continued. “Our analyses show that if we were to effectively target these egregious polluters, there could be non-trivial reductions in carbon emissions. It could be an effective short-term approach while we also continue to focus on longer term, systemic decarbonization approaches.” Jorgenson, Grant, and Longhofer have been working on this project, funded by the National Science Foundation, since 2013. Formally trained as sociologists, each researcher brought a distinctive specialty to bear on the study, according to Jorgenson, who holds a joint appointment in BC’s Environmental Studies Program and is an expert in global environmental sociology. Grant’s primary area of expertise is the sociology of organizations and Longhofer focuses on institutional analysis and political sociology. The research team has received additional NSF funding to continue their collaborative project: looking for “green stars” in the electricity-generating sector. They will also analyze how policy affects power plants in an age of experimentalist governance.
CRR to Study Social Security Programs, Target Populations BY ED HAYWARD STAFF WRITER
Boston College’s Center for Retirement Research, one of four organizations funded by the Social Security Administration’s Retirement and Disability Research Consortium, has been awarded $2.9 million by the SSA this year to study Social Security’s programs and target populations. The new grant will fund research projects that examine, among other topics, whether Social Security is an economic stabilizer and how COVID-19 has affected older workers’ participation in the labor force. “This funding provides critical support for our wide-ranging research on retirement income security, which aims to inform federal policy decisions,” said CRR Director Alicia H. Munnell, the Peter F. Drucker Professor of Management Sciences at the Carroll School of Management, where the center was established in 1998. The Center for Retirement Research has been called “the nation’s leading center on retirement studies” by The New York Times and is frequently cited in major news outlets and publications. Two projects will look at the impact of COVID-19 on retirement and labor force participation among older workers. One
will examine the impact of the pandemic on state and local pensions for workers, like those in Massachusetts, who are not covered by Social Security. “Perhaps surprisingly, a key takeaway that has emerged so far is that COVID is not having as big an impact on retirement security as many anticipated,” said Munnell. “However, a key reason is that the people who have the least are those who have borne the brunt of the pandemic. In terms of research challenges, data for a full assessment of the pandemic are not yet available.” A second project, which includes Associate Professor of the Practice of Economics Matt Rutledge, a center researcher, will focus on how COVID-19 has affected the labor force participation of older workers. Drawing on recent population surveys, the study will estimate the impacts of job loss, health concerns, and the ability to work remotely during the pandemic on the labor force participation of older workers. Other planned research projects include: •“Does Social Security Serve as an Economic Stabilizer?” This project will estimate the moderating effect of Social Security benefits on local economies during recessions and how much of that protection comes from the size of the beneficiary
BC Center for Retirement Research Director photo by jared leeds Alicia Munnell
population and how much from the variation in Social Security replacement rates due to the variation in earnings. •“How Do Households Adjust When Their Kids Leave Home?” Much of the disagreement over households’ retirement preparedness hinges on how they adjust their consumption when kids leave home. •“What Is the Preferred Consumption Pattern in Retirement?” Economic models predict a stable consumption path in retirement. Accordingly, Social Security provides steady, inflation-adjusted benefits, and financial planners and researchers often assume that retirees would like to maintain their pre-retirement standard of living. However, several studies suggest that
retired households decrease their consumption over time, while others indicate consumption increases as retirees age and pay more for health care. •“Do Retirees Draw Down Their Wealth—and If Not, Why Not?” Researchers will examine the implications of retirement wealth draw-down patterns on the sufficiency of Social Security benefits. Past studies found limited draw down by households soon after retirement, which may impact solvency forecasts for Social Security’s Old-Age and Survivors Insurance Trust Fund. As retirees increasingly rely on defined contribution plans, like 401(k)s, instead of pension plans, those draw-down patterns may not hold. Additionally, planning for long-term and other care costs may also influence spending patterns. Additional projects will address the use of Social Security’s online tools; how well the public understands actuarial projections; whether older workers are healthy enough to delay retirement; and how well retirees and their families are prepared for long-term care and support costs. The center also received a separate award from the SSA totaling $187,000, which will sponsor a study examining the share of state and local workers who earn pension benefits through their employers but fall short of Social Security coverage.
February 25, 2021
Lynch School Dean Wortham to Debut Podcast BY PHIL GLOUDEMANS STAFF WRITER
I was riding a horse, when suddenly it pulled up short! That experience of stopping very quickly and unexpectedly serves as both title and metaphor to describe the vision for a forthcoming new podcast by Stanton E.F. Wortham, the Charles F. Donovan, S.J., Dean of the Lynch School of Education and Human Development—one he hopes will produce surprise or disorientation, and marked by revelations so startling that they derail accepted assumptions. Launching next month, “Pulled Up Short: Gadamerian Conversations at BC” is based on German philosopher HansGeorg Gadamer’s notion that regular, intentional challenges to our habitual perspectives are crucial to the development of critical thinking, explained Wortham— what Ignatius called discernment. “Jesuit education is a process centered on attentiveness, reflection, and being loving. We strive to develop young men and women for whom discernment is a habit. BC faculty work to create moments when students and colleagues must wrestle with alternative ways of experiencing the world. Gadamer’s philosophy is thus attuned to a crucial component of the University’s mission and practice.” Wortham plans to produce one 30- to 40-minute episode each week or approximately 10 podcasts through the end of this semester, and then restart in the fall, with a desire to reach a broader audience as it moves forward. The podcasts will involve small group conversations focused on an insight, story, or challenge from one participant that reconfigures some aspect of experience. The
conversations will articulate and explore the insight and its implications for how listeners might change their understanding and engagement. Episodes will focus on questions such as “Should six-year-olds be allowed to vote?”; “Was economist Adam Smith a socialist?”; “Do witches exist?”; and “Does neuroscience dictate human behavior, eliminating free will?” Wortham said initial guests are likely to include BC faculty members like School of Theology and Ministry Professor Thomas H. Groome, Richard Kearney, Charles Seelig Professor in Philosophy, and Usha Tummala-Nara, Lynch School professor of counseling, developmental and educational psychology. Wortham, who noted that Gadamer was a visiting professor at BC in the 1970s, points out that various kinds of inquiry can lead us to be pulled up short. For
example, exposure to unfamiliar cultures often reveals perfectly rational but unfamiliar beliefs and practices that can cause us to re-examine our own principles and customs. “Scientific discoveries can have similar effects, such as those by Copernicus and Darwin, which caused us to radically reframe original theories. To take a crosscultural example, a belief in the transmigration of souls from one body to another explains facts about our experience, and explicates how child prodigies arise and why bad things happen to good people. Asking people who have not thought about it to seriously consider this concept can truly ‘pull them up short.’” Being pulled up short has several aspects, explains Wortham. The practice requires that we recognize deeply held or unquestioned positions, and that we entertain the possibility that they may be incomplete or distorting. Furthermore, it demands openness to questions concerning—and different formulations of—the issue under discussion. “It requires that we go beyond superficial insights to consider alternative ways of thinking about and living in the world. By encouraging situations in which people are pulled up short, we also adopt several values: commitments to imaginative vision and to seeing the world anew; to systematic inquiry wherever it leads; to openness; to move beyond dogmatism and consider alternative beliefs and practices; to conversation and to inquiry jointly with others; and to fostering the development of relevant dispositions in young people.” Wortham offered a literary and political example, drawn from Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s 2009 TEDGlobal talk, “The Danger of a Single
Story.” In it, Adichie describes the harm that results from characterizing entire communities with single stereotypes and simple, deficit-based notions, and how African and Black communities are often subject to these harmful reductions in literature and elsewhere. Wortham points to Adichie’s recollection of her realization “that people like me, girls with skin the color of chocolate, whose kinky hair could not form ponytails, could also exist in literature. I started to write about things I recognized.” Said Wortham, “This revelation unraveled her prior acceptance of stereotypical literary accounts of Black people, which triggered her reimagining. This insight reconfigured her own worldview and allowed her in turn to create moments of being pulled up short for her own readers.” Wortham is concerned that while the dispositions, practices, and values involved in being pulled up short are important at most universities, the professionalization of disciplines and an incremental model of knowledge production are increasingly driving this practice into the background. Although discernment remains central at BC, he believes it could be strengthened. “Our goal is to exemplify this type of practice and to help develop the dispositions and values required to participate in it,” said Wortham. “If this podcast engages a wide audience of faculty, alumni, students, and administrators, we could cultivate a set of shared dispositions, practices, and values centered around openness and conversation, around the willingness to be pulled up short, and the desire to create more of this in daily life. We aspire to build on our history and reinforce BC’s identity as a place that values and fosters this kind of inquiry.”
Grant Supports Lynch School Program for Low-Income Kids BY PHIL GLOUDEMANS STAFF WRITER
The National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded the Lynch School of Education and Human Development a threeyear, $1.45-million grant that will engage low-income youth in an interdisciplinary program where they will learn and apply scientific and computational concepts and practices to build automated, soil-less foodgrowing structures. The project, titled “Developing Technological Innovation: Building a Youth-led Learning Community through Automating Hydroponic Systems,” builds on two recent NSF awards to the Lynch School totaling more than $2.71 million that supported low-income high school students in a similar agricultural technology project, and the training of environmental science teachers. “We are very indebted to the NSF for its ongoing support,” said G. Michael Barnett, Lynch School professor of science education and technology and the project’s principal investigator. “This work directly
addresses a growing need to engage lowincome youth who are underrepresented in science, technology, engineering and math [STEM] in learning more about computational science, the future role of automation, and how science and technology skills and practices are directly related to a range of scientific and technical careers.” To launch the program, expected to begin this summer, researchers will train high school students to program low-cost microcontrollers to collect data, and to use that information to automate recently developed mini-hydroponic units that can grow 30 to 60 plants. The high school participants, with support from program alumni and first-generation college student mentors, will then learn how to teach and share the science and computational lessons with middle school students to reinforce STEM career pathways for youth. Institutional partners include the Boston, Springfield, and Waltham Public Schools. “We are focusing much of our career development on how STEM skills can lead to a wide array of careers, how the work
G. Michael Barnett
photo by lee pellegrini
world is becoming more interdisciplinary and in need of individuals who can utilize and interact with automated systems,” said Barnett, who also directs BC’s Innovations in Urban Science Education Lab. “This work offers a much-needed approach to supporting youth in examining professions across the fields of agriculture, computation, and science instruction.” In addition to Barnett and Lynch School Senior Research Associate Helen Z. Zhang, the project management team includes Lynch School Counseling Psychology Professor and Duganne Faculty Fellow David Blustein, and Counseling, Developmental, and Educational Psychology Professor Maureen Kenny, who will co-lead the STEM career development curriculum. Also involved are Lynch School Research Associate Rajeev Rupani, an expert in design thinking, electronics and coding, and Lasell University Education Chair Claudia Rinaldi, who guides Lasell’s Pathways to Teacher Diversity program in which college students mentor high school students exploring STEM careers.
February 25, 2021
A Deep Dive Into Journalism Two BC seniors will spend a busy year as O’Hare Fellows BY SEAN SMITH CHRONICLE EDITOR
Boston College seniors Douglas Girardot and Keara Hanlon will spend part of the coming year getting an in-depth introduction to professional journalism at a major Catholic media outlet, as recipients of Joseph A. O’Hare, S.J., Postgraduate Media Fellowships for 2021-2022. The two—along with Loyola University Chicago senior Sarah Vincent, the third fellow selected—will spend 11 months working at the New York City offices of America Media, which publishes the magazine America: The Jesuit Review of Faith and Culture, a leading Catholic journal of opinion in the United States. O’Hare Fellows generate content for America Media’s multiple platforms: print, web, digital, social media, and events, and gain professional experience through ongoing mentoring and other opportunities. Fellows meet regularly with America’s editorial staff, including James Martin, S.J., editor-at-large of America and a New York Times best-selling author, to cultivate their skills and professional networks. “It’s an amazing, and humbling, honor to be chosen as an O’Hare Fellow,” said Girardot, a native of New Milford, Ct., majoring in history with a minor in Latin. “Whatever I do in my life, I want to be a writer, to always be learning. Journalism, to me, is an ideal profession: You take what you’ve learned and present it in a way that will hopefully be meaningful to those who read what you write.” “I see the O’Hare Fellowship as enabling me to combine my passions: reading, writing, and issues in social justice, politics, and history,” said Hanlon, a communication major with minors in market-
ics, involvement in the arts, and faith and spirituality. Both are inveterate readers of traditional and “new” media, from The New York Times, America, and Commonweal to online documentaries and podcasts. Girardot serves on the editorial board of The New England Classic, BC’s satire publication, and writes for The Heights. A devotee of classical music, Girardot is a member of the University Chorale of Boston College and performed as a guest singer with the Boston Symphony Orchestra in 2019.
munication Methods) and Assistant Professor of the Practice Brett Ingram (Critical Theory) have been among Hanlon’s foundational academic experiences, as have the interdisciplinary perspectives gleaned through her American Studies minor. Said Hanlon, “No matter what, I know I will need my life to have a strong creative aspect to it for me to be fulfilled. Boston College has helped shape me intellectually, spiritually, and personally, and I feel that the O’Hare Fellowship will enable me to
“No matter what, I know I will need my life to have a strong creative aspect to it for me to be fulfilled. Boston College has helped shape me intellectually, spiritually, and personally, and I feel that the O’Hare Fellowship will enable me to build on the experiences of these years at the Heights.” —Keara Hanlon
“The O’Hare Fellowship will give me a good excuse to spend a lot of time doing what I already do: engaging with others about the big questions.” —Douglas Girardot ing and American Studies who grew up in Connecticut and attended high school in Texas (her family now lives in Chicago). “These are aspects of my life I’ve explored at Boston College, and I look forward to continuing the exploration as an O’Hare Fellow.” Boston College has been well represented in the O’Hare Fellowships: 2020 alumna Molly Cahill is currently serving her fellowship; other past fellows include Nick Genovese ’16 and Emma Winters ’18. Angelo Jesus Canta, a School of Theology and Ministry 2020 grad, was an O’Hare Fellow before coming to BC. A hallmark of BC’s two newest O’Hare Fellows is their diverse interests and activities, which encompass challenging academ-
Like Hanlon, Girardot grew up in a family with a strong Catholic tradition, and its presence at BC resonated with him. Initially interested in physics as a major, he changed his mind after taking a core history class with Professor Sarah Gwyneth Ross, fascinated by her teaching on elements of the Enlightenment and 18th-century culture (“She made learning about the past fun, while showing how it connects to how we think today”). Another history course, taught by Professor Virginia
photo by lee pellegrini
Hanlon is a member of BC’s chapter of the national Jesuit honor society Alpha Sigma Nu, Lambda Pi Eta—the national communication honors society—and Boston College’s Order of the Cross and Crown. She has been heavily involved in Campus Ministry programs, particularly the Liturgy Arts Group (LAG), of which she is now president, and the Kairos retreat, where she has served as a leader. Hanlon plays four instruments and sings, and has been a sports photographer for The Heights. Boston College’s Jesuit, Catholic character, and the attentiveness to social justice in its mission, were major factors in Hanlon’s decision to attend BC. Classes with Communication faculty members Associate Professor of the Practice Celeste Wells (Com-
build on the experiences of these years at the Heights.” Campus Minister for Liturgical Arts Meyer Chambers, who directs LAG, said Hanlon quickly adopted the group’s mission and ideals when she joined as a sophomore. Last year, LAG tapped her as social media coordinator, a fairly new position, and Hanlon “brought fresh eyes, renewed commitment and innovation to the group’s identity. Keara loves working in media, and she’s good at it.” Chambers also praised her stewardship of the group during a challenging year: “Keara has provided leadership for our music ministry when there wasn’t much music allowed to be made. The three pillars of LAG are faith, community, and service, and she has remained true to those ideals.”
Reinburg, that delved into the Reformation inspired him to think deeply about the nature of Catholicism and religion in general in what he calls “a critical, nondestructive way.” Girardot said his BC experience has been characterized by numerous conversations on faith and religious matters both inside and outside of the classroom. “The O’Hare Fellowship will give me a good excuse to spend a lot of time doing what I already do: engaging with others about the big questions. One big reason I’m excited about this opportunity is that I really love how America condenses complicated issues without compromising the integrity of the argument. I think it’s really important to get more people involved in these conversations, and practicing good journalism is a means to do that.” Ross, who became Girardot’s advisor, lauded not only his academic performance but his work as her undergraduate research assistant, which included serving as “a beta-reader” of a draft for a textbook she is writing. “Even the precocious maturity he shows in what he says and writes for class, and what he has begun to share with the world in his journalistic work, still hadn’t quite prepared me for the brilliant editor’s eye he lent to that project—would that many career scholars brought that much insight, generosity of spirit, wry wit to the editorial endeavor. But that’s just Doug for you; he’s an extraordinary student, scholar, and human being who deserves every superlative we’ve got. “For all these reasons, and especially since he nurtures the hope of working somewhere under the broad umbrella of journalism after graduation, Doug struck me as a wonderful candidate for an O’Hare Fellowship.”
February 25, 2021
It’s an Honor BC Law’s Beckman chosen as a “Lawyer of the Year” for her work on the Boston College Innocence Program BY PHIL GLOUDEMANS STAFF WRITER
Boston College Law School Associate Clinical Professor Sharon L. Beckman, faculty director of the Boston College Innocence Program (BCIP), was named one of Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly’s 17 “Lawyers of the Year,” an annual distinction bestowed by the statewide law publication upon a select group of the commonwealth’s attorneys for significant accomplishments during the previous year. She was co-honored along with cocounsel John J. Barter for the September 2020 exoneration of their client Frances Choy, whose arson and first-degree murder convictions were vacated based on new evidence of her innocence, including substantiation that someone else confessed to the crime, and scientific proof that contradicted trial testimony of a state police chemist. “I’ve been involved with other exonerations and there is nothing else like it in the law,” Beckman told Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly, whose last law professor honoree was Harvard’s Elizabeth Warren. “It is so overwhelming watching someone walk out of prison who was wrongly incarcerated and locked up for 17 years.” The original charges against Choy stemmed from a 2003 fire in her Brockton home that claimed the lives of her parents, Chinese immigrants from Hong Kong and Vietnam, when she was 17 years old. After the fire, Choy was arrested by Brockton Police, and subjected to three trials before she was eventually convicted in 2011. The first two resulted in mistrials when the jurors could not unanimously agree on a verdict. Beckman and Barter banded together to work for her exoneration, and a key part of their success was gaining access to emails that showed the trial prosecutors’ racial bias and other exculpatory evidence. The Plymouth County District Attorney’s office ultimately produced those materials, did not oppose Choy’s release from prison, agreed that her convictions should be vacated, and dismissed the charges against her.
According to the National Registry of Exonerations, she is the first woman of color to be exonerated in Massachusetts since 1978, and only the nation’s second female Asian-American exoneree. At the time of court’s decision, Beckman said: “Frances was an innocent crime victim who was instead treated like a criminal suspect. Her wrongful conviction resulted from racism and other official misconduct and systemic failures. She can never get back the years the criminal legal system took from her, but we are overjoyed at her exoneration and hope her case will inspire meaningful reform.” The BCIP legal team included supervising attorney and Adjunct Professor Charlotte Whitmore, and Sarah Carlow, J.D. ’20, Rachel Feit, J.D. ’20, Jesse Gibbings, J.D. ’19, Annie Lee, J.D. ’19, Eric Jepeal, J.D. ’20, Matthew Sawyer, J.D. ’19, Emily Smith J.D. ’20, and Ye-Eun Sung, J.D. ’22. Assistant Clinical Professor Claire Donohue J.D. ’05, M.S.W. ’05 and Amanda Savadian M.S.W. ’20 provided critical social-service support. Rounding out Choy’s legal team were Berlindyne Elie ’21 and Carolina Tiru ’20, whose BCIP service placement was part of Professor of Philosophy Marina McCoy’s PULSE Program elective Mass Incarceration: Philosophical and Theological Perspectives. Beckman described the experience of representing Choy as a “privilege” that was “transformative for students and faculty alike,” and despite “suffering unimaginable loss and injustice, Frances is kind and hopeful, and she does everything in her power to live in a way that would honor her parents.” The BCIP, founded by Beckman in 2006, studies the problem of erroneous convictions and works to remedy and prevent these injustices. A 2013 donation fueled the hire of Whitmore and the establishment of the clinic, the legal equivalent of a teaching hospital. Contributions and a federal grant support Whitmore’s critical role, along with two clinical legal fellows, Carlow and Lauren Rossman, J.D. ’19. At any given time, the BCIP represents
“I’ve been involved with other exonerations and there is nothing else like it in the law,” Beckman told Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly. “It is so overwhelming watching someone walk out of prison who was wrongly incarcerated and locked up for 17 years.”
photo by lee pellegrini
BC Law Associate Clinical Professor Sharon L. Beckman
10 or more inmates in innocence cases; Choy was one of three clients the program helped free in 2020. BCIP is also part of a statewide working group of criminal justice stakeholders collaborating to produce a report that will recommend best practices for remedying and preventing wrongful convictions for every district attorney’s office in the state and the Office of the Attorney General. Beckman, who served as a law clerk to former U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, practiced criminal defense and civil rights law in Boston and in Chicago for seven years prior to joining the BC Law faculty in 1996. She has received numerous accolades, including the University Distinguished Teaching Award, BC’s highest teaching honor; the Law School’s Emil Slizewski Award for Faculty Excellence; and the Ruth-Arlene Howe Black Law Students Association Faculty Member of the Year Award. In a recent Boston College Magazine profile, Beckman revealed that as a child raised in suburban Chicago, she thought coaching swimming would be her eventual vocation, but after reading the classic To Kill a Mockingbird, in which a Southern small-town attorney represents a Black man wrongfully accused of rape, she decided at 11 years old to become a criminal defense attorney. (Swimming has been a big part of her life: While at Harvard,
where she co-captained the women’s swimming and diving team, she became the first New England woman to swim the English Channel; she also is a nationally ranked United States Masters swimmer.) “The book was a complete moral awakening for me of the realities of life in America,” recalled Beckman. “The idea that an innocent person could be wrongfully convicted and sentenced to death because of the color of their skin literally shocked me to my core. It was not a thing I had ever thought about before. That was my white privilege.” Describing the role of a clinical law professor as “essentially a coach for aspiring attorneys,” Beckman said her students provide hope for the future. “They are the reason the BC Law clinics exist; our students go on to become lawyers, judges and legislators who can improve their clients’ lives and the legal system,” she said, pointing to the four BC Law alumni—Susan Finegan J.D. ’91, Sophia Hall J.D. ’12, John Roddy J.D. ’80, and Elliot Weinstein J.D. ’74—among Lawyers Weekly 2020 “Lawyers of the Year.” “These alumni, honored for their advocacy on behalf of the disempowered in areas ranging from civil rights and racial justice to immigration and environmental justice, lead rewarding careers as women and men for others, and that is the goal.”
February 25, 2021
DaCosta Working on Ambitious Bird Genome Project BY ED HAYWARD STAFF WRITER
Researchers have been working to sequence the genomes of the world’s birds—approximately 10,000 species in all. They recently achieved a new milestone when they added 267 genomes to the nearly 100 that had been catalogued previously. Among the researchers who helped assemble the genetic profiles and published their findings in the prestigious journal Nature was Boston College evolutionary biologist Jeffrey DaCosta, who each year teaches hundreds of undergraduates as an assistant professor of the practice and whose research focuses on the biology of birds. DaCosta is part of a team that sequenced and assembled the genomes of the brownheaded cowbird, of North America, and the village indigobird, a type of finch that is distributed in Africa. DaCosta has been studying the village indigobird for more than a decade, including field work in Tanzania for his doctoral research at Boston University. A few years ago, he began studying the brown-headed cowbird. Both are among a fascinating group of birds, called brood parasites, that abandon their eggs in the nests of other species, leaving them to be raised by unknown foster parents. “This is a milestone in avian research,” said DaCosta, a co-author among the international scientists who compiled the report,
“Dense sampling of bird diversity increases power of comparative genomics,” that was published in November. “This was a huge collaborative effort and I was glad to have played a small part.” Hundreds of researchers from around the world contributed to the report, the latest from the Bird 10,000 Genomes Project, also known as B10K. To date, the 363 genomes sequenced represent 92.4 percent of all bird
nome is responsible for traits shared among species, or those that separate species. The B10K project broadens research opportunities, he said. “All of these genomes are now publicly available,” said DaCosta. “They are there now for any biologist anywhere in the world to download and to start investigating the questions they are interested in.” As an evolutionary biologist, DaCosta Asst. Prof. of the Practice Jeffrey DaCosta (Biology) photo by lee pellegrini
families. The project was powered by new technologies that allow researchers to sequence and analyze massive amounts of genetic data. The typical bird species genome comprises about 1.2 billion base pairs of DNA of birds, said DaCosta. They can examine questions that include determining which part of a ge-
said the advances in technology and science represent the latest iterations of discovery since Charles Darwin’s foundational observations and insights were revealed in his 1859 book The Origin of Species. “Darwin formulated the theory of evolution by natural selection before DNA was discovered,” said DaCosta. “I think he would
be blown away by how much we have learned since then. This is the great thing about science: it is ever changing and we are always accumulating new knowledge. To not only understand what exactly is passed from parent to offspring, but to collect DNA sequence data, string it together, and analyze it would be incredibly exciting for Darwin. These new capabilities are beyond the scope of his broad vision of biology in the 1800s. “He did amazing work and thought so deeply about so many things,” DaCosta added. “Scientists of any generation are somewhat bound by the technology of their day. Although Darwin did amazing work, technology now affords a different understanding of biology compared to his day. But the same can be said of someone now studying genomes when compared to people doing this work only 20 years ago. The field is quickly changing.” DaCosta said there remain many mysteries surrounding birds, from navigation to reproduction. The database could help determine how other factors, such as climate change, are affecting birds, he said. “Data compiled by these scientists could be used to compare birds that appear to be doing better or worse in the face of climate change,” he said. “We can look to see how they adapt to living in an aquatic habitat versus the high mountains, or deserts versus rainforests. There’s a lot to be learned still, but this is a major step forward.”
BC Scientist Uses Corals to Unlock Secrets of CO2 Increase BY ED HAYWARD STAFF WRITER
The Southern Ocean played a critical role in the rapid atmospheric carbon dioxide increase during the last deglaciation that took place thousands of centuries ago, according to a new report by Boston College geochemist Xingchen (Tony) Wang and an international team in the online edition of Science Advances. As atmospheric carbon dioxide levels rise because of human activities—dominated by fossil fuel consumption—the findings raise questions about the ocean’s ability to absorb the anthropogenic carbon dioxide and the environmental consequences, including global warming, rising sea levels, and more frequent wildfires, according to Wang. Wang and his coauthors analyzed deepsea coral fossils from 20,000 to 10,000 years ago, when atmospheric carbon dioxide was on the rise. By examining the chemical signatures of nitrogen and carbon in the coral fossils, the researchers revealed that ocean carbon sequestration decreased as phytoplankton failed to devour macronutrients supplied by upwelling currents in the Southern Ocean and trap carbon dioxide in the deep ocean. For all the carbon dioxide emitted by human activities since the industrial revolution, roughly 50 percent stayed in the atmosphere, with about a quarter absorbed by the ocean and approximately 25 percent sequestered by the ecosystem on land. To
Assistant Professor of Earth and Environmental Sciences Xingchen (Tony) Wang. photo by peter julian
better predict the fate of anthropogenic carbon dioxide in the future, Wang and his collaborators have looked at the past variations in atmospheric carbon dioxide before any significant human activities, from 20,000 to 10,000 years ago when the Earth was moving out of the last ice age. “A clearer understanding of carbon dioxide variations in the past provides important insights into the fate of anthropogenic carbon dioxide in the future,” said Wang, an assistant professor in the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, who also holds a courtesy appointment in the Chemistry Department. By studying air bubbles trapped in ancient ice from Antarctic, scientists learned that the atmospheric carbon dioxide con-
centration during the ice ages was about 30 percent lower than the preindustrial level. This lower carbon dioxide level encouraged the growth of large ice sheets in North America and cooled the ice-age Earth. However, there has been strong debate about why the carbon dioxide concentration was lower during the ice ages. In a previous study led by Wang, he found strong evidence suggesting that the Southern Ocean was largely responsible for the lower concentrations of carbon dioxide during the ice ages. Phytoplankton growth in the ocean, supported by macronutrients nitrogen and phosphorus, assimilates carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and transforms them into organic carbon. When these organisms die, their biomass sinks into the deep ocean and decomposes back to carbon dioxide. This process, called the “biological pump," transfers carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and surface ocean into the dark, deep ocean. In most parts of the modern ocean, phytoplankton consume all the nutrients supplied to the sunlit ocean and the “biological pump” reaches its maximum efficiency. However, in the Southern Ocean, phytoplankton growth is limited by the supply of the key nutrient iron, as well as sunlight. As a result, large amounts of nitrogen and phosphorus remain in this ocean region, representing a wasted opportunity for atmospheric carbon dioxide sequestration. By analyzing the isotopic composition of nitrogen in deep-sea coral fossils, Wang
found that the biological pump in the Southern Ocean was more efficient during the last ice age, sequestering more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and thus reducing the concentration of atmospheric carbon dioxide. Wang has previously developed a highly sensitive and precise method to measure the ratios of the nitrogen isotopes in coral’s skeleton with a mass spectrometer. This capability has allowed him to measure the isotopic composition of nitrogen in deepsea coral fossils from the Southern Ocean. The new data from deep-sea coral fossils, including nitrogen isotopes and radiocarbon, suggest that the Southern Ocean was also the primary cause of these rapid carbon dioxide jumps 20,000-10,000 years ago. When these rapid carbon dioxide changes happened, the biological pump in the Southern Ocean was less efficient and the ventilation of the Southern Ocean was faster, the study found. “However, it should be noted that the current anthropogenic carbon dioxide increase is at least 10 times faster than these natural rapid carbon dioxide jumps during the last deglaciation. We are changing our planet at an unprecedented rate,” said Wang. Wang joined BC last year, after completing a doctorate at Princeton University and postdoctoral training at the California Institute of Technology. He plans to continue his research on past atmospheric carbon dioxide variations using deep-sea corals.
February 25, 2021
Gaelic Roots to Celebrate Legendary Irish Musician BY SEAN SMITH CHRONICLE EDITOR
One accomplished traditional Irish fiddle player will salute the life, music, and 130th birthday of another at an upcoming virtual concert organized by Boston College’s Gaelic Roots Lunchtime Series. The event, which takes place on March 11 from noon-1 p.m., will feature Oisín Mac Diarmada—an acclaimed performer, teacher, scholar, and a founder of popular traditional Irish band Téada—as he presents a combination lecture and performance in celebration of Michael Coleman (1891-1945), a key figure in the evolution of the Irish-American music style and a pioneer in the recording of traditional Irish music. Gaelic Roots, which for almost two decades has hosted prominent musicians and experts in Irish, Scottish, American, and related folk music traditions, introduced the Lunchtime Series last fall when the pandemic shut down in-person events on campus. The Lunchtime Series combines real-time presentations with pre-recorded performances; these are livestreamed via the Gaelic Roots Facebook page and YouTube, then made available through the Irish Studies Program website [bc.edu/irish]. A County Clare native, Mac Diarmada is widely recognized as one of the best Irish fiddle players of his generation. He has released or appeared on an assortment of
Oisín Mac Diarmada will give a lecture/ performance on Michael Coleman, a groundbreaking fiddle player and an early recording artist.
recordings, including “The Green Branch” with his wife, pianist Samantha Harvey, and five as a member of Téada, known for its energetic, expressive combination of traditional Irish music with contemporaryminded arrangements. Mac Diarmada has often toured throughout the United States
Kudos for Carroll School Research Carroll School of Management faculty research has earned prominent recognition on both a collective and individual basis in recent weeks. The Carroll School placed 26th in the Financial Times’ closely-watched ranking of faculty research at business schools worldwide. One hundred institutions are included each year in this empirically-based assessment of research by business school faculties, measuring how much they publish in the world’s leading academic journals of management studies. While the rankings fluctuate from year to year based on various factors—including the timing of publication—the Carroll School has maintained an average ranking of 19th during the past five years. Excluding universities abroad, the school’s faculty research ranks among the top 20 in the United States. Meanwhile, the Carroll School once again shone in the American Finance Association’s annual research awards, considered among the most prestigious in academic finance, with Assistant Professors Simcha Barkai and Rawley Heimer earning two coveted AFA honors. Barkai took the top spot among three scholars awarded the Dimensional Fund
Advisors Best Paper Prize for his solo article, “Declining Labor and Capital Shares,” which argues that diminished competition among U.S. firms since the 1980s is the primary cause for a decline in workers’ wages during that time. Heimer and his co-authors won a Dimensional Fund Advisors Distinguished Paper Prize for “YOLO: Mortality Beliefs and Household Finance Puzzles,” which reveals a surprising connection between a person’s age and propensity to save. It marked the second year in a row that Carroll School faculty were among the top honorees at the AFA awards: Last year, Associate Professor David Solomon, the David J. Mastrocola Faculty Fellow, won the Best Paper Prize, while Andrey Malenko and Nadya Malenko—both of whom are now on the University of Michigan faculty—jointly received a Distinguished Paper Prize. Other past Carroll School AFA award winners include Cleary Professor Jeffrey Pontiff (2016) and Associate Professor and Hillenbrand Family Faculty Fellow Vyacheslav Fos (2015). The AFA publishes The Journal of Finance, regarded as the preeminent peerreviewed publication in its field. —Carroll School of Management
and in 2012 appeared at Gaelic Roots with accordionist and vocalist Séamus Begley. Although born in Clare, Mac Diarmada, who had started fiddle at a young age, later moved to County Sligo, the birthplace of Coleman and home to a distinctive fiddle style Coleman promulgated to great effect. Raised in a rich musical environment, Coleman had become a skillful fiddler by the time he immigrated to the United States in 1914. After living in Lowell, Mass., for three years, Coleman settled in New York City, a hotbed of traditional Irish music in the 1920s thanks in great part to Coleman and his fellow immigrant musicians, many of them also from Sligo. In 1921, Coleman made the first of some 90 commercial recordings, most of which were issued on 78 RPM records. His recordings, along with those by other Irish musicians of the period, were crucial to preserving the sounds and styles of traditional Irish music—especially that of Sligo—and proved invaluable to musicians, scholars, and aficionados in later generations. “Many artforms are nurtured by oneoff, extraordinary visionaries, and in the world of traditional Irish fiddling, Michael Coleman inhabits that role for so many of us,” said Mac Diarmada, who co-published a tunebook featuring 22 famous Sligo fiddlers, Coleman among them. “The recording legacy Coleman has left is not only enormous in its scope, but the artistic vision it showcases has been incredibly
inspirational for generations of fiddlers. This legacy is still strongly felt in the New York City area, and the reach of Coleman’s influence in Ireland very quickly spread throughout all the regions from the 1930s onwards. “To this day, the music of Michael Coleman retains a unique mystique and fascination, and is said by so many to be unsurpassed in both its technical and interpretative mastery.” As for Coleman’s impact on his own musical development, Mac Diarmada said, “Coleman’s music is a continual reminder of the potential for great artistry that lies within so much of the traditional Irish music repertoire. Listening to Coleman periodically is both humbling and inspiring in equal measure, and helps me remember that exploring the inner beauty of tunes in a deep way is essential to keeping this music fresh and meaningful for player and listener. Living here in Sligo, we are incredibly proud of Coleman’s legacy and his role in bringing Sligo music to wider attention.” “There are many who believe Michael Coleman to be the most influential Irish musician of the 20th century,” said Gaelic Roots Director Sheila Falls, a fiddler herself, who added that this year the Traditional Music Archive in Dublin will make available previously unreleased private recordings of Coleman. “So it’s quite appropriate to have Oisín present this in-depth look at Coleman’s life and music.”
Friedberg Is Selected as a Simons Fellow in Mathematics
James P. McIntyre Professor of Mathematics Solomon Friedberg continued an impressive string of professional and academic achievements, being named a 2021 Simons Fellow in Mathematics. The fellowships are part of the New Yorkbased Simons Foundation’s efforts to advance the frontiers of research in mathematics, theoretical physics, and theoretical computer science. Simons Fellows programs provide funds to faculty to extend their sabbaticals for up to a semester. Friedberg said the Simons Fellowship will provide him with additional time to carry out his research and allow him to be on leave for calendar year 2022, when he will be coorganizing a special ongoing event, “New Connections Between Number Theory and Physics,” at the Isaac Newton Institute for Mathematical Sciences in Cambridge, England. “Leading mathematicians and physicists from around the world will be in residence for an intensive period of activity around these connections,” he said. “The fellowship will allow me to attend the full program, and I am very excited about doing so.” Friedberg expressed his delight in joining fellow Boston College Mathematics faculty members Martin Bridgeman, Joshua Greene, J. Elisenda Grigsby, Tao Li, and G. Robert
Meyerhoff, all previous Simons Fellowship winners. “This is another example of mathematics faculty at BC receiving national recognition for their research. Our record with these awards reflects the high level of scholarship taking place throughout the department. I am honored to add my name to the list of departmental colleagues who have received this fellowship, and look forward to celebrating further awardees from among the BC math faculty in the future.” A fellow of the American Mathematical Society, Friedberg—whose research has been funded by the National Security Agency and National Science Foundation—has been hailed for his scholarly work in number theory, representation theory, and automorphic forms, an analytical approach to complex mathematical problems. In 2018, a conference was held in Zürich to honor Friedberg for his contributions to mathematics. On January 1, Friedberg began a twoyear term as chair of the United States National Commission on Mathematics Instruction, which promotes the advancement of mathematics education through international collaboration and the exchange of ideas and information regarding mathematical education. —University Communications
February 25, 2021
BC in the Media
An Introduction to New Faculty at Boston College
Assistant Professor of Information Systems, Carroll School of Management DEGREES: Fudan University (B.A.), Tsinghua University (M.A.), Harvard University (D.B.A.) WHAT SHE STUDIES: Technological innovation and strategic management, with a focus on technology strategies in the IT industry; disintermediation in online marketplaces; users’ ideological and composition shifts in more traditional online communities such as Wikipedia. WHAT SHE’S TEACHING: Digital Technology: Strategy and Use
Describe your research focus on disintermediation.
“Intermediaries such as brokers, distributors, and agents all face a risk of disintermediation, when two sides circumvent the intermediary and thus avoid the intermediary’s fees. My study of a large online freelance marketplace finds that enhanced user trust increases this risk, alongside other contributing factors like being geographically near one another, having easily divisible jobs, and clients themselves having high ratings.”
Assistant Professor of the Practice of Photography, Art, Art History, and Film Department DEGREES: Clark University (B.A.); Savannah College of Art and Design (M.F.A.) WHAT SHE STUDIES: Her photographic practice explores how policy affects landscape, housing, and community. WHAT SHE’S TEACHING: Intermediate Photography: Techniques, Formats; Intermediate Photography: Conceptual and Studio; Introduction to Digital Photography; Photography I.
You are founder and director of Undergraduate Photography Now, an arts organization which aims to bolster the work and professional development of photography students. How does UPN foster the work of aspiring young photographers, and why was it important to you to launch this initiative? “I know that when I was starting as a young professional, I was at a large disadvantage for where and how to start my professional career, and resources were expensive or centralized at larger schools and cultural hubs. I started UPN to help students connect with those in the profession, as well as their peers, in an effort to promote a strong network in the New England area. After eight years, many opportunities have come out of the program, including several artist collectives, business partnerships, and career opportunities that started at the UPN portfolio reviews. Unfortunately they are on hold this spring, but I am excited to restart programming in spring of 2022.”
Assistant Professor, Boston College School of Social Work DEGREES: University of Oregon (B.S.); University of Hawaii Hilo (M.A.); Boston College (Ph.D.)
WHAT SHE STUDIES: Stigma; discrimination; sexism; racism; transphobia; gender-affirming care; impact of stigma on child and adolescent mental health; identity-based trauma; interpersonal stigma; structural stigma. WHAT SHE’S TEACHING: Survey of Research Methods in Social and Behavioral Science; Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.
One of your major research activities is serving as principal investigator of the Affirm Lab. Give us an example of how the lab could make a difference in improving therapy for stigmatized youth. “We’re preparing to launch a project focused on developing a clinical training in gender-affirming mental health therapy, meaning therapy that affirms transgender and gender-diverse youth’s gender identities and expressions, empowers them to combat and cope with gender-related stress and discrimination, and acknowledges that they deserve to live in a society without these pressures. We are excited to someday offer this training to BC students who are training in or providing clinical services (therapy, nursing, etc.) so that as graduates they will be equipped to provide culturally responsive and supportive care to a wide variety of clients, including transgender folks.”
Clinical Assistant Professor, Connell School of Nursing DEGREES: University of Pennsylvania (B.S.); Boston College (M.S., Ph.D.)
WHAT SHE STUDIES: Diabetes and cardiovascular health; clinical outcomes for patients using diabetes technologies; virtual health. WHAT SHE’S TEACHING: Primary Care for Families/Advanced Practice Nursing
Even before the pandemic, you were seeing patients with diabetes in a virtual format. Can you describe the benefit to your patients?
“Providing diabetes care in a virtual format increases access to care and reduces patient self-management burden. Virtual visits allow me to connect with patients in the comfort of their home reducing both the time and cost of driving into Boston for a clinic appointment. Advances in medical technology allow us to monitor blood glucose from home and as a result, we can provide effective and efficient diabetes care through video visits.”
—Ed Hayward, Rosanne Pellegrini, Sean Smith, Kathleen Sullivan photos of muldowney, underwood by peter julian; gu by lee pellegrini
The Boisi Center for Religion and American Public will hold a panel discussion, “U.S.-Vatican Relations: An Historical Perspective from Reagan to Biden,” tomorrow from 2-3 p.m. in virtual format. Boisi Center Director and Professor of Theology Mark Massa, S.J., will join Boston College History Professor Oliver Rafferty, S.J., and Associate Professor Charles Gallagher, S.J., and Peter G. Martin, former policy advisor with the U.S. State Department, in examining the long-term patterns and political issues in American politics and social movements that have changed the context for Vatican relations with American Catholics and with the larger political culture. For more information on viewing the event, go to bc.edu/boisi.
The Boston Globe reported on the donation of 5,000 face masks to the University’s Montserrat Program from a California hospitality firm that learned about Montserrat—which provides support for lowincome students at BC—from an employee whose daughter is enrolled in the program. Abuse in childhood can “ripple through the life course” and elevate the risk of becoming involved with extremist groups, according to Assoc. Prof. Scott Easton (BCSSW), who was quoted in a Boston Globe column that highlights BCSSW initiatives and included comments by Dean Gautam Yadama. Forecasters are increasingly optimistic about economic growth this year, though less so about the labor market’s prospects, a new Wall Street Journal survey shows. Part-time Prof. Brian Bethune (Economics) commented on the upbeat projections to The Wall Street Journal Prof. Emeritus M. Shawn Copeland (Theology) was among the experts invited by America magazine to reflect on the biggest lessons from the past year in the hope that they might help us find a better way forward. Pope Francis has criticized the politics of both the left and the right. Community organizing offers a third way, wrote BC Law School Dean Vincent Rougeau in America. British medical journal The Lancet has released a report by 33 scientists, including Global Public Health Program Director Philip Landrigan, M.D., that attributes 22,000 deaths in 2019 to the former president’s regulatory rollbacks. Bloomberg News was among the outlets that reported on the study; Landrigan coauthored a column on its findings for The Boston Globe.
Some Dunkin’ fans go so far as to think of the brand as an extension of themselves. Assoc. Prof. Nailya Ordabayeva (CSOM) commented in Refinery29 on elements of the company’s strategy. Financial services companies reduced monetary settlements to consumers assumed to be Black or lower-income, according to a published working paper by Asst. Prof. Rawley Heimer (CSOM) and doctoral candidate Charlotte Haendler that was the subject of a story by Dow Jones MarketWatch. When a brutal war births a generation of child soldiers, why do some succumb to despair while others recover and thrive? A pivotal study led by BC School of Social Work Salem Professor in Global Practice Theresa Betancourt suggests connection and community may be key to healing, according to a story in The Christian Science Monitor. Assoc. Prof. Régine Jean-Charles (Romance Languages and Literatures), a Haitian American scholar, wrote an op-ed for Ms. Magazine on Haitian president Jovenel Moïse’s refusal to step down. Work as we know it has been changed by COVID-19. Now is the time for managers to envision the office that employees will return to, wrote Prof. Gerald Kane (CSOM) in a piece for Sloan Management Review. Does mixing sports and politics in Super Bowl commercials benefit brands? Assoc. Prof. Michael Serazio (Communication) weighed in for Adweek. Richard Clifford, S.J., professor emeritus and founding dean of the School of Theology and Ministry, wrote a piece for America on the Book of Ruth, and its call to take seriously the lives of ordinary people.
Jobs The following are among the recent positions posted by the Department of Human Resources. For more information on employment opportunities at Boston College, see www.bc.edu/jobs. Senior Associate Director, Creative Services Admissions Assistant, School of Theology and Ministry Program Director, MS Sports Administration Research Economist, Center for Retirement Research Assistant Director, Annual Giving Senior Fiscal and Grant Administrator Liaison Librarian Senior Benefits Specialist Director, Marketing & Communications, BC School of Social Work
Associate Director, Young Alumni Giving Senior Applications Developer Post-doctoral Research Fellow (multiple positions) DevOps Systems Administrator Dean, Connell School of Nursing Speech/Language Pathologist, Campus School Engineering Projects Manager Transitions & Summer Operations Assistant COVID-19 Housing Coordinator Recovery House Manager Assistant Director, Living-Learning Programs
February 25, 2021
Equitable Covid Vaccine Allocation ‘Reserve’ system co-developed by Boston College economists can ensure vulnerable communities receive a fair share BY ED HAYWARD STAFF WRITER
Boston College economists Tayfun Sönmez and Utku Ünver have been working to ensure that policy makers have a way to establish that the coronavirus vaccine is distributed equitably across all population groups, including the most disadvantaged communities. States like Massachusetts and Tennessee have taken notice, incorporating their “reserve” system into distribution efforts to ensure the vaccine effectively reaches communities most in need. The mechanism they’ve developed serves as a benchmark for equity as states seek to distribute vaccines fairly to all people in need. While it cannot overcome the myriad political and supply chain issues that have arisen, they note, it is a lever that policy makers can use to guide decisions across the entirety of a vaccination initiative. Their work on vaccine allocation is just the latest in a series of projects focused on pairing resources with recipients during the pandemic. At first, Ünver, Sönmez, and fellow BC Professor of Economics Bumin Yenmez, in a joint paper with MIT economist Parag Pathak, developed a new mechanism to equitably distribute ventilators and proposed therapeutics. Since then Sönmez, Ünver, and Pathak have been communicating and collaborating with various groups of bioethicists, clinical care physicians, and policy makers. Their latest work seeks to provide health officials with a tool to ensure the delivery of a vaccine to all sections of the society. Recently, the group delivered a keynote presentation program “COVID-19: Priorities in Health,” part of a two-day online conference that focused on vaccine allocation and social justice. The virtual event was hosted by Boston College, as well as Ariadne Labs, the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, the International Society for Priorities in Health, MIT, O’Neil Institute/Georgetown, The University of Pennsylvania’s Department of Medical Ethics and Health Policy, and the Leonard Davis Institute of Health Economics. As the researchers expected, the distribution of safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines has confronted constraints—such as production bottlenecks or supply chain delays—issues that will extend the amount of time before complete demand can be met, according to researchers. Those supply limits lead to rationing. Also in collaboration with Pathak, Sönmez and Ünver have written several new policy reports that show how vaccines can be allocated in ways that reduce inequities. More specifically, vaccine allocation needs to actively respond to disadvantaged populations—particularly racial and ethnic
minorities—already hard hit by illness, deaths, and unemployment when compared to their wealthier, white peers, they say. “One concern is that although disadvantaged communities carry most of the COVID impact burden, they will not be able to receive their share according to either metric fast enough in the rollout of vaccines,” said Ünver, whose “Priorities in Health” remarks were aimed at a
anism to allocate vaccines that includes a “reserve” system that sets aside a percentage of available vaccines for communities that fall under socio-economic indices such as the Area Deprivation Index or the Social Vulnerability Index. Sönmez and Ünver’s current study simulates National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine guidelines for distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine. To adjust to demand outpacing supply,
“One concern is that although disadvantaged communities carry most of the COVID impact burden, they will not be able to receive their share according to either metric fast enough in the rollout of vaccines.” —Utku Ünver
photos by peter julian
“Our hope is the reserve system will eventually become a mainstream tool helping achieve compromise outcomes that help maintain the social fabric.” —Tayfun Sönmez
wide-ranging audience of policy makers, public health workers, community leaders, activists, researchers, news media, and the general public. “Thus, we argue that a reserve allocation can alleviate their burden to some degree.” He added: “The goal from our point of view is to explain to practitioners and state health department representatives how using the economic ‘reserve’ framework outlined in our recent paper, can provide equitable access to vaccines to ‘worse-off communities’ – as defined under several criteria – and promote a technically transparent implementation guided by sound bioethical principles.” The researchers have developed a mech-
NASEM determined prioritization phases of the whole population based on the risk to groups of individuals depending on their professions, ages, health status, and other demographics. NASEM also adopted the recommendation from the BC economists, Pathak, and their co-author, University of Pennsylvania bioethicist Harald Schmidt, that distribution employ a reserve allocation method for the hard-hit/socially vulnerable areas the researchers have outlined in their recent working papers. Ünver and Sönmez said the central questions are: Which groups are most at risk and how can researchers objectively identify them in a standardized manner?
The ADI, developed by University of Wisconsin researchers, and the SVI, developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, are the two leading indices that measure disadvantage. SVI uses “minority percentage of a geographic region’s population” as a direct component, while all other 14 components of SVI and all 17 components of ADI are socio-economic measures. NASEM recommended SVI to determine at-risk groups. The BC economists ran simulations that tested both indices for their effectiveness in reaching the most vulnerable populations. “We find in the simulations that if there is no reserve set aside for disadvantaged areas, although minority communities start off receiving their population share from vaccine allocation over time, that share is nowhere close to their proportion of COVID-19 fatalities, of 49 percent,” said Ünver. Furthermore, without a reserve, after 48 million doses of vaccine are allocated, the share to minority populations falls below their population share of up to 34 to 39 percent and remains lower until the end of rollout of 323 million vaccines in the United States, Ünver said. Simulating the effect of a 10 percent reserve for the most-disadvantaged quartile in each state, the economists tested both the SVI and ADI indices. While pairing both indices with a reserve appeared effective, they found the SVI can deliver more vaccines to at-risk communities. However, no matter which index is used, the disadvantaged communities—both those made up of racial minorities and those that are predominantly white—will be fully offered vaccines when 260 million units are rolled out, around 65 million vaccines before the entire U.S. population is inoculated. While SVI has the potential to be more helpful than ADI in the minority impact dimension, both are much better than not using any reserve, said Ünver. Moreover, ADI does not have a racial component in its calculation, and therefore may be less prone to a legal challenge than a system that incorporates the SVI. “Prior to our efforts, a reserve system has never been used for rationing of medical resources in a pandemic,” said Sönmez. “Due to the urgency of the need, our efforts have already started bearing fruit in states such as Massachusetts and Tennessee, which have adopted reserves in their COVID-19 vaccine allocation policies. Our hope is the reserve system will eventually become a mainstream tool helping achieve compromise outcomes that help maintain the social fabric.”