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c h r o n i c l e ’ S

N e w s


c u l t u r e

m a g a z i n e

Plus: Victor Dzau

A Day in the life Of Duke University Health System’s CEO

{Q+A with Laurie Patton}

Art meets Technology

LGBTQ Identities in a movement VOLUME 13






APRIL 2012




After your appointment last February, you said you wanted to focus on four major areas: interdisciplinarity between departments, international partnerships, civic engagement and digital initiatives. What has influenced your belief in the importance of these goals? I think what we have developed in conversation with colleagues here is the idea of moving beyond interdisciplinarity. Some people think that the term interdisciplinarity is a bit of a cliché and everyone is using it, and even though Duke was a leader in it, it doesn’t put Duke in very fun rhetorical position to say you know, ‘We were first’—that doesn’t really help.

So what I mean by beyond interdisciplinarity is, we have to assume that there has to be some collaboration for effective engagement and practical engagement—both. We have to assume that the other person’s expertise is necessary for us, instead of just different than us. It’s no longer a matter of tolerating intellectual diversity; it’s a matter of needing intellectual diversity in order to move forward. In terms of civic engagement, I think we need to reduce the ivory tower, and create an ivory fence, over which neighbors can shake hands. I actually think Duke is better than most at both civic engagement, as well as what I call public scholarship, which is translating our scholarship almost as soon as we produce it and understanding that scholarship both for the public and engaged with the public is not inimical to specialization. I think people have been writing about transitioning to a digital culture, but in fact we are in a digital culture, we’re there. Which means that we have to think seriously about all the rules and forms for best practice digitally. So, for example, how can we create forms of digital learning that actually encourage and facilitate faceto-face learning, because that’s what you pay for, when you pay for an elite education, is that small group face-toface experience?

Photo by Sonia Havele

After a lengthy selection process, Duke chose former Emory religion professor Laurie Patton as its new dean of the faculty of Arts and Sciences in February 2011. Since her appointment a little over a year ago, Patton has been hotly pursuing innovation in all areas under her purview. In the dean’s spacious Allen building office overlooking the main quad, The Chronicle’s Toni Wei spoke with Patton about food, fundraising and the future.

What about any challenges you’ve encountered in this role? I think that we continue to be in a financially constrained environment, which means that I need to continue to build in a time when I can’t do everything that we all want to do, and every day I have a difficult financial conversation with someone. The big challenge going forward will be the [upcoming capital] campaign, which will be very much around deepening our partnerships and making sure that the fund for financial aid is as robust as it could be.... I think we also need to create more places for revenue generation, so that we can support what we’ve already committed to. That includes undergraduate research and making sure that faculty are supported in all the ways they need to be to do their research. And that’s a big challenge. You’re piloting an interdisciplinary “University Course” focused on food this semester. How did this come about? What went into planning it, in terms of both considerations and resources? It was a great story actually. We only

did one pilot of it at [Emory University], and it was a small seminar, and as we were talking about what we might do in the next couple of years at Duke, [Dean of Academic Affairs for Trinity College] Lee Baker said, ‘Why not do it this Spring?’ so I said, ‘OK, let’s try it.’ I’ve been really amazed by the response because I think people have genuinely sensed that this was a way forward for the University, and we’re thinking of not only continuing this but developing perhaps a suite of courses that could be offered like this. Your official title is dean of the faculty of Arts and Sciences—how have you balanced all your responsibilities with the departments against interacting with students? I’ve always loved working with students, that’s the reason why I’m in this. I feel I’ve been able to connect with students partly through the food course—not as much as I’d like. I think the only way that I could be the best dean I know how to be is to remain in constant touch with students and to find as many venues to do that as I can. It is a balancing act, but… ultimately

policy decisions about students are things that I need to approve, so in effect even though [in Arts and Sciences] we have discrete job titles, we actually overlap and interact with all of the different constituencies all the time. Knowing the history of gender issues at Duke, and now being here for almost a year, what are your thoughts on being the second woman to hold this position at Duke? I think that there are a number of wonderful legacies around women that Duke has, partly through the Woman’s College, partly through the leadership of people like Ernie Friedl, Nan Keohane, Nancy Andrews, Kathy Gillis and Jo Rae Wright—they are inspirations to me. I’ve commissioned with [Vice Provost for Library Affairs] Deborah Jakubs an illustrated history of women at Duke, which I’m very excited about doing as well. But I think that the way to carry legacies forward in a university is to continually tell all the little stories that make up the big story, and that’s what I’m really excited to continue to do [not only for] women at Duke, but for everyone too.


Beyond Cosmic by

Alejandro Bolívar

The city of Durham has a vibrant Hispanic community—Latinos make up 14 percent of its population. Immigrants from countries like Mexico, El Salvador and Guatemala have made the Bull City their home and brought along their native cuisines. As a Hispanic, I enjoy exploring the many layers of our cultural entity, food notwithstanding. Latin American cuisine, after

all, is more than tacos and burritos. A visit to these humble restaurants— where I can order in Spanish and enjoy cheap, quick, hearty food—always brings me closer to home. Ten minutes from East Campus, off N. Roxboro Street, there are four restaurants within walking distance that serve different types of Hispanic cuisine.

Taqueria y Birrieria Los Comales This hole-in-the-wall Mexican restaurant has no-frills, cheap Mexican food. Come here if you want authentic—the Spanish menu is difficult to understand, even for a native speaker like myself—and the food is spicy. Vegetarians beware: the only dishes without meat are the quesadillas and tortillas. I ordered tacos de azada (steak), pastor (pork cooked with pineapple) and chicharrón (pork rinds simmered in green tomato sauce). Pros: Salsa bar has 12 toppings (including cilantro, fresh tomatillo sauce and a delicious cole slaw). Tortillas are very fresh. Good selection of Mexican staples, including some traditional Mexican hangover cures like menudo soup, served only on the weekends. Cons: The azada and pastor were a bit tough, while the chicharrón had a very mushy texture. Decorations were kitschy (faux plants, giant sombreros and ESPN Deportes in the background). Price: $1.50 - $2.00 per taco Food rating: 2/5 Ambience rating: 3/5

La Monarca Michoacana Why go for 31 flavors when here you have 42? This Mexican ice cream and popsicle parlor carries unusual concoctions like pine nut, mango chili and cheese. All very creamy and refreshing. This place is a true Durham gem and a favorite of the Bull City’s Hispanic community. Pros: Tequila ice cream. Need I say more? Goes spectacularly well with mango sorbet. Staff was very patient. Generous portions. Cons: Flavors aren’t labeled. Price: $3.75 for two scoops Food rating: 5/5 Ambience rating: 3/5

Photography by Tracy Huang 6 TOWERVIEW

Panaderia Pahuatlan An entire wall filled with colorful, enormous pastries and fresh bread greets you upon entry. I asked the staff for recommendations, and they suggested bread filled with goat cheese and jalapeños topped with sesame seeds. It was the perfect snack. I also bought milhojas (a dessert similar to a puff pastry, topped with powdered sugar) and a coconut covered and raspberry filled pastry—also delicious. Pros: The pastries are huge. Offers a rare glance at desserts and bread, a seldom seen side of Latin American cuisine. Cons: No seating. Prices are not listed. Price: $5.00 total for all three items purchased Food rating: 3.5/5 Ambience rating: 3/5

Mami Nora’s Rotisserie This Peruvian restaurant cooks probably the best rotisserie chicken you will ever eat. Seasoned for 24 hours, the meat is slightly smoky and extremely flavorful and juicy—a secret recipe the owners have never revealed. The meal comes with two sides; with nine options to choose from (ranging from fried green plantains to yucca fries), you cannot go wrong. I ordered black beans, rice and sweet plantains. The restaurant also makes ceviche (a South American staple of raw fish marinated in lemon juice and spices) on Saturdays and Sundays. Pros: The rice—slightly sticky and short grain, just like I’d eat at home. The chicken, of course. The sweet plantains were delicious—crunchy and caramelized on the outside and soft on the inside. Cons: The beans were oddly flavored, too much lemon and salt for my taste. The sauces served with the chicken were OK. Price: 1/4 chicken with 2 sides: $5.75 dark meat, $6.25 white meat. Full chicken: $13.50 Food rating: 4/5 Ambience rating: 3.5/5




by Samantha Lachman

Photos by Melissa Yeo


n most Fridays, dozens of people wait outside the Durham County Library for its doors to open. But this Friday there are only a handful. “Computers will be unavailable at the Main Library Friday March 23, due to an equipment upgrade,” a sign reads. “We apologize for the inconvenience.” Some turn away when they see these words. I’m standing in the courtyard outside the main branch of Durham’s County library system. The inside is filled with books, but in a digital age, these tomes are not what draw most visitors. Down the street are the Urban Ministries homeless shelter and the women’s and children’s division of the Durham Rescue Mission. Today, fewer people than usual walk from these havens to wait in line. “Not until two, not until two,” a woman mutters as another attempts to pull the doors open. It’s 1:45 p.m. She looks at me and says, “The computers aren’t working today if that’s what you’re looking for.” This is not my first visit to the Durham Public Library. I’ve stood in this courtyard on four occasions. Usually, there’s a long line by quarter to two. Utter strangers strike up conversations, music blares from cell phone speakers and some people watch from their cars. I became intrigued


by this atmosphere early this semester when I parked my car in a nearby lot while collecting documents at City Hall for a class assignment. I was surprised to see so many people waiting to enter a library during the workday. I asked someone why no one was going inside and learned that the library did not open until 2 p.m.—the hours had been shortened on Fridays. I followed the crowd in when the doors opened noticed that most of them headed straight for the 27 computers available. Most who did not reach a computer waited for one. On my next visit, I spoke to Gina Rozier, the library system’s marketing and development manager. She explained the library’s shortened hours were a result of budget cuts—a consequence of the economic downturn of recent years. Plans to increase the number of computers as well as other renovations— totaling $14 million—were delayed until 2015. Under the proposed renovations, funded by Durham County, there will be more than one hundred public computers at the main library. Today, as I wait outside, I attempt to engage others in conversation while a black man in his mid-thirties laughs at me. We start talking and he says his name is Milton. When I tell him I am a Duke student, he jokes, “Your parents must have a lot of money!” Milton says he comes to the library often for the computers, but today, he’ll just sit, read and watch people outside. “The library is fine; it ain’t nothing to do with the library, it’s

just people hanging out,” Milton tells me. “People like senior citizens are scared to come out here,” he says, drawing my attention to the large proportion of young people who make up the crowd. I ask him whom else I should talk to. “That lady in the blue pants.” She is the woman who warned me earlier about the dysfunctional computers. Her name is Teresa, and she does not come to the library just for the computers. Today’s “equipment upgrade” is no inconvenience for her. “I read everything I can get my hands on,” she says, while cradling a stack of books. She’s the first in line. We continue waiting. “Must be about time,” Teresa announces after a few minutes, and I notice it’s 2 p.m. A uniformed member of the security staff unlocks the doors. The few patrons who stayed after discovering the computers were unavailable shuffle in. Left bereft of more people to bother, I turn back to Milton, who chuckles at my questions. He won’t tell me his last name or where he’s from. Walking toward my car, I run into Elizabeth, an 18 year old who’s perched on a stair railing with some friends. “I came here because the Internet is down at my house, but since [the computers are] not working here, we’re just hanging,” she says. She compliments my shoes. It seems paradoxical that a library—one of the last bastion of books and the solitary act of reading—functions more as a social space for members of this small community. Yet, in the same way novels have for centuries drawn readers into imaginative worlds of fiction, the Durham County Library also provides its patrons access to new worlds—namely, the digital world. Most regulars have admitted to using the library computers to check their Facebooks (or simply to stay warm). Although today’s libraries are not what they once were, they are in many ways so much more.



hapel Hill is about more than Franklin Street or the Old Well or that particular hue of light blue. It’s a town of great depth–a cultural hotbed that’s nevertheless open to everybody. And while Chapel Hill is one of North Carolina’s oldest cities, it’s an always changing spot, full of new restaurants, unique shops and stylish accommodations.


Chapel Hill’s food scene is world-renowned. It offers some of the best restaurants in the South, including nationally recognized fine dining establishments specializing in French, Italian, and Asian fare, as well as regional grub like barbeque and Southern soul food. Chapel Hill has earned its title bestowed upon it by Bon Appétit magazine, “America’s Foodiest Small Town.” This town has something to satisfy any taste bud.

CHAPEL HILL Fueled up from a lunch and in the mood to shop? Chapel Hill has everything you could want, from used books to fine art to designer clothes–at prices considerably less than Rodeo Drive or Fifth Avenue. And if you’re in the mood for one-of-a-kind products, Chapel Hill has enough off-the-wall stops to satisfy your taste for curios.

Does reading all the above make you want to stay in Chapel Hill for the short term–or longer? Great hotels can be found for reasonable rates, and all come with the Southern hospitality the town is known for. There are plenty of apartments available, as well, if you find yourself unable to leave this Southern Part of Heaven.


A CRACKDOWN ON Or Health By Connor Southard


ou won’t have any trouble finding students who say that the administration has been far stricter in enforcing alcohol policy this year, but it’s a tough claim to prove. To see just how difficult it is to draw concrete conclusions about the administration’s approach to alcohol on campus, visit the Student Affairs website and read the undergraduate alcohol policy. The subsection headed “Community Expectations Violations” begins: “It shall be a violation of the alcohol policy to engage in an action while under the influence of alcohol that is disruptive to the community.” Fair enough, considering that fighting and vandalism are later listed as “disruptive” behaviors, which they typically are. But the real questionbegger in that sentence is “community.” Does “shouting” after a few rounds of Nasty Natty—also listed as a disruptive behavior, to the dismay of gung-ho greeters everywhere—really disrupt the “community” at a place like Duke, where drinking is woven into the campus fabric? As one student joked, it might be more disruptive in our particular community to drink daintily and always act like we’re on the fourth floor of Perkins. In a 2010 email to the student body, President Brodhead wrote, “Like every other college in America, we have too much drinking on this campus.” Duke students know that drinking can cause or inflame problems, and that it flits around the edges of so many things that some or all of us would like to change about this campus. But understanding that drinking and chaos go hand-in-hand is roughly as profound as realizing that cars sometimes crash. This is a 12 TOWERVIEW

college, right? Even the president of our school admits that, on a college campus, the presence of alcohol is, if not inevitable, hard to shake. The same could be said for the give and take between drinkers (i.e., students) and administrators. “We need rules,” says Zach Prager, former Interfraternity Council president and president of Pi Kappa Alpha. “But when you feel backed into a wall, no one does anything on campus.” Though Prager said that this back-to-the-wall feeling is mostly perception, an accretion of little things like Residence Coordinators and Resident Assistants appearing to pay ever closer attention to what fraternities are doing in section, he said there has been a noticeable shift in the way the administration is approaching alcohol use. “Administrators are not ‘cracking down,’ but it’s the culture. Stricter is the norm.” Prager cites subtle developments like the six beer rule—originally an LDOC regulation, now in effect permanently—that prevents a student from being in possession of more than six beers at a time. He notes that this can be used to preclude, say, four students from clustering on the quad around a case of thirty beers. The little things have added up to the point that Prager says his fraternity has

already moved all of their official events offcampus. “My fraternity hasn’t registered an event all year. We don’t do anything in section… The risks far outweigh the rewards.” Wayne Manor senior Greer Mackebee was set to appear on “Jeopardy!” the week before Spring break, and Wayne naturally wanted to have a watch party. Mackebee got permission from Wayne President Carter Suryadevara to reserve a common room in K4 on Wayne’s behalf, only to be told by administrators that they couldn’t hold an event because they were still under investigation for an alcohol-related incident that had happened during rush. Wayne cancelled the event and didn’t use their official funds. Meanwhile, however, Pratt students had started to publicize the watch party, and Mackebee himself had previously created a Facebook event. What began as a Wayne event was no longer within its power to effectively cancel, and dozens of students showed up to the K4 common room. Wayne Manor ended up getting in trouble after an RA arrived and decided that what was going on was a Wayne watch party, even though the majority of students in the room were not, according to Suryadevara, Wayne members. The group was also

ALCOHOL, and Safety as Usual? “crackdown” master strategy, they stressed that any changes in policy or enforcement were in response to specific high risk or dangerous drinking practices like Tailgate. Moneta did acknowledge that administrators have recently adopted a more comprehensive focus than in years past, noting, “we have been consistently and predictably focused on dangerous and harmful drinking.” He mentioned that pre-gaming would be the biggest alcohol-soaked agenda item for the near future, though it’s not clear what that will entail. In the story told by administrators, changes in policy and enforcement are part of a deliberate, rational bureaucratic agenda that moves forward in response to the needs of students, not in opposition to what we want. “It’s called progress,” Wasiolek said. She painted any change in the culture of alcohol enforcement as “not a deliberate shift in policy” but a culture shift among “community members,” a constituency that includes students. Szigethy said that the administration’s current approach to enforcement is a matter of “trying to get a handle on what students truly want… [and] responding to the drive among students for a different campus culture.” But the stories told by Prager and Suryadevara run counter to the administration’s characterization of a changing climate of enforcement as a matter of responding to what students want. Then again, anyone who has so much as glanced at the opinion pages of The Chronicle knows that many of Duke’s students, faculty and administrators spend plenty of time wishing that someone

would do something to change that old bogeyman, campus culture. Duke is constantly investigating and critiquing itself—just look at the recently released Duke Social Relationships Project, which had plenty to say about alcohol. We can all recite from memory the glaring incidents that have given shape to the abstract culture-talk. Tailgate was cancelled after a

Statistics courtesy of the Duke Social Relationships Project

sanctioned for moving furniture without permission, an offense classified as “wrongful appropriation” of university property under Student Affairs policy. Suryadevara says that the group is now on edge about even its most informal events. Only at the last minute did Valerie Glassman, senior program coordinator for the Office of Student Conduct, assure Suryadevara that an impromptu gathering of Wayne members in a common room to watch the DukeUNC game was permissible. Apparently, student leaders are only sometimes expected to prevent students from gathering unofficially in common rooms. Stories like this one belie an inconsistent approach. “We were afraid to line up in K-ville, because that might somehow violate policy,” Suryadevara said. “And then you have The Chronicle complaining about bad attendance at basketball games.” DSG President Pete Schork noted that paternalistic enforcement can run counter to the University’s educational mission: “If the administration is telling us how to party, essentially, beyond telling us what’s right but ensuring what’s right in their minds, I think that jeopardizes our capacity to determine that for ourselves and ultimately lead healthier lives in the way they would want us to.” Dean of Students Sue Wasiolek, Vice President for Student Affairs Larry Moneta and Tom Szigethy, associate dean and director of the Duke Student Wellness Center, all stressed the administration’s approach to alcohol is focused on the publicly stated and re-stated “health and safety” agenda to which Schork alluded. While they all denied that Duke has adopted any kind of


young teenager was found drunk and passed out in a Porta Potty. Two Duke students, Drew Everson and Matthew Grape, have died in the past two years in accidents that involved alcohol. Moneta reminded me of an unfortunate fact that no one at Duke is allowed to forget: The University’s evaluation of itself is still taking place in a context that is specifically, as he puts it, “post-lacrosse.” No one can say that administrators don’t have any reason to scrutinize and adjust alcohol policy and enforcement at Duke. But that doesn’t mean that the concrete changes they’ve made, as well as the new perceptions that have grown among students, are totally in line with “health and safety.” Cancelling Tailgate, banning orientation week parties, holding student group leaders accountable for the actions of their group members, convincing frats and selective living groups that they have to constantly watch their backs—where does all of this lead? Prager isn’t the only one who warns that his group and others have either moved the majority of their events off-campus or are planning to do so. Schork, Suryadevara and former Brownstone president Daniel Fishman all echoed him, saying that their experiences provide groups with a strong incentive to look off-campus. Neither Wasiolek, Moneta, nor Szigethy ventured to claim that Duke students wouldn’t start doing more drinking and general socializing off-campus, though they were quick to note that this is an old counterargument and one that is heard on many campuses. Still, as much power as these administrators and others may have on Duke property, there’s essentially nothing they can do to oversee student health and safety if we simply choose to take our parties elsewhere. Given such self-reflective discussion, spurred in large part by


a series of embarrassing—and sometimes tragic—events bound up with drinking, it may have been inevitable that Duke would tighten up. Duke’s alcohol policies and the atmosphere of enforcement are still far from the most draconian in the nation. All of West and Central Campuses are “wet,” and Duke has never been known for things like room searches and citationhappy campus police. If Duke hadn’t long seemed like a place that was fairly friendly to student drinkers, there would be no tradition for strictness to contradict, no loss to become outraged over. Narratives and counter-narratives aside, though, off-campus drinking is something to worry about. All the health and safety talk in the world won’t do us much good if we go looking for fun and find ourselves exposed to more drunk driving, Durham police who aren’t as friendly as their Duke counterparts and whatever else can happen when drunk students start having misadventures away from our cocooning campus. It’s important to remember that Lacrosse happened off-campus, as did the most recent alcohol-related tragedy, senior Matthew Grape’s death in a drunk driving accident. You might say that it’s up to us to look out for our own safety, and not ask the administration to hold our hands, since we’re so hung up on being treated like adults. Fair enough, but where does “community” fit into that equation? We need to find a way to talk about on-campus drinking without bile and without dissembling. The alternative is to replace a sense of community with rules that drone on about “community,” and to say “health and safety” when you really mean “health and safety as long as you play by our rules.” n

William Seaman’s “A China in Many Senses (Nasher Version)”

Photos by Chelsea Pieroni

RTificial Intelligence

By Adarsh Dave Photos

The screen that lay in front of me was utterly empty, a blank space beckon-

ing to be filled. I noticed, looking beneath the screen, a virtual wheel of objects on another monitor. I selected an object that resembled a potted plant shaped from white clay and clicked, generating the plant on screen. With another click, I painted the plant with the image of a tree on a mountainside. Another click, and the plant zoomed off through space. Five minutes later, I had filled the previously empty screen with a surreal smorgasbord of media that would make any Dadaist proud—spinning armoires with video clips projected onto them, shrinking and stretching china sets textured with the image of a farm field and a snippet of text spiraling through my screen reading, “The condensation factor spins out of control.” I was sitting in the Smith Warehouse office of William Seaman, professor of visual studies. After my frenzy of clicks ended, Seaman formally introduced me to his creation that had so enthralled me—a computer program named “The World Generator/ The Engine of Desire.” Seaman’s program, along with his more recent works, illuminates a path to a once impossible confluence of art and science: the artificial creative intelligence. TOWERVIEW 15

Virtual worlds and virtual intelligence “The World Generator” is meant, as its title suggests, to be a system for building virtual worlds. Created in 1995, the program contains a hard-coded set of aesthetic qualities that can be set up in an infinite number of ways. The user chooses the basic models, colors, media objects and motions present in the virtual world, or the user can instruct the computer algorithm to create the world itself. On its own, the program stands as a gorgeous piece of art; the instantiation of twirling plants, cups with dancers textured on and video clips of rainstorms flying past my screen creates a strikingly dynamic work. One strength of the program, says Seaman, is its ability to facilitate art of much higher dimension than other mediums. The user can create from pictures, audio, color, motion or video—all incorporated seamlessly onto a virtual stage, and the artist can use “The World Generator” to create an artistic world of many mediums rather than a two or three dimensional work of one medium. Indeed, the use of “The World Generator” as a facilitator of creativity was prominently featured in early February at Duke’s Collaborations: Humanities, Arts and Technology festival, with one of Seaman’s “The World Generator”-based works projected on the outside of the Nasher Museum of Art. Yet, “The World Generator” was meant for more than just artistic creation. The higher function of the program, realized in retrospect by Seaman, lies directly on the path to artificial intelligence. When I interacted with “The World Generator,” it had forced me to become an artist, splashing arbitrary objects across the canvas of the void. The sheer emptiness of the virtual world ensured that I would fill the space independent of influence other than my own aesthetic biases — out of instinct rather than response. In Seaman’s hypothesis, if I had selected objects deliberately, I had essentially injected my personal notion of art into the computer program. A question follows: what if we, or the program, took note of these human aesthetic choices? The tenacious scientist could accumulate a general idea of human aesthetics more concrete than theoretical. Even further, that scientist would have created a key to one of the most persistent problems of artificial intelligence: objectifying the concept of human creativity. With a tangible idea of what human aesthetics generally resembles, an artificial artist could be, in a sense, reverse-engineered directly from human creativity.

‘The Insight Engine’ Truthfully, it is easy to object to the assumptions made in such logic. After all, isn’t one aspect of creativity novelty and individuality? The sum total of a range of 16 TOWERVIEW

human creativity is still inherently derivative of individual creativity. I questioned Seaman on this very point, giving the example of a copycat artist who incorporates a multitude of artistic styles. I was soon walked across the room to his computer, its screen studded with swirls of words colored across the spectrum. It was “The Insight Engine,” Seaman’s newest work. Partly funded by the Duke Institute of Brain Sciences, the Engine

William Seaman’s “World Generator”

strives to answer the question that stemmed out of his previous project: how does one recreate the creative lightning that strikes artists, scientists or even comedians in the creation of new ideas? Imagine a researcher who is culling ideas out of a thick stack of scientific literature, searching for eureka. Using existing technology, they can parse a paper’s keywords, subjects and predicates to draw out its meaning. But, Seaman asks, how could they synthesize an idea from two separate papers? How can an engine replicate the chance occurrences — finding a paper under another or in a wastebasket—that triggers an insight? Drawing from any number of papers a researcher desires, “The Insight Engine” does just this; it breaks each paper into a hierarchy of ideas, with directly connected

ideas at the top — think keywords, statistics, meanings — and loosely attached ideas at the bottom, such as overlapping keywords and meanings, citations, etc. The hierarchy morphs into a visual orchestra of ideas projected onto the screen with which the user creates webs and matrices of ideas. These matrices are passed through coded filters, combining everything from idea-related papers to web content and “ontological” sources — a vague term Seaman uses to describe the network of historically and theoretically related concepts. The filters even include a chance process,

returning content alphabetically close to related sources or written by similar social circles, simulating the element of providence present in finding a discarded paper. The user chooses and removes sources from the returned, adding to and subtracting from the idea swirling on screen. The system tracks users’ choices and combines them with choices from a network of other users. The network learns from these interactions, focusing its source-finding and processing modules. Eventually, the network could evolve into an “innovation finder,” creating and synthesizing novel concepts and ideas from grand webs of history, theory, research, mathematics and written thought. Seaman put it most succinctly: “If I develop an entity within an engine that develops a sensibility, that entity can use the engine.” It

has a lofty goal, yet the swirls of linked ideas, papers and numbers I saw revealed the possibility of a grand, thinking search engine that could crunch all human knowledge into novel thoughts and ideas.

The grand prize “The Insight Engine,” still in progress within Seaman’s group, is just another step in a march towards artificial creativity. Through small increments of technology, we could begin to quantify and understand the very root of human creativity, including the serendipitous flashes of random insight and genius at the heart of novel ideas. We understand each component through modern technology, the pieces of which will form the backbone of an eventual artistic robot. An artificial artist could simulate basic aesthetics with concepts engineered from “The World Generator” or creative lightning with advancements to “The Insight Engine.” Still, the real conclusion comes from a holistic view of Seaman’s work: the more we attempt to understand our own minds, the more capable we become of synthesizing them artificially. As always, our central character speaks most clearly on the issue: “For me it’s about learning more about us. We don’t know the active components that allow sentience to arise [within us]; when you are forced to abstract and artificialize something, you are forced to understand.” His words resonated with me as my emotions raced while I perused Seaman’s workshop. The beautifully simple union of art and science that informed all his work confronted me with fundamental questions. What is the artist? The creative spark? What is the consciousness that separates us from the silicon of computers? I came to a personal realization, surrounded by the virtual worlds and virtual geniuses that gripped me. We strive towards artificial creativity and intelligence but find ourselves in the process. Infant theories of consciousness and aesthetics have reared their heads, breaking walls of dogma that keep art to the artists and science to the scientists. The man without prejudice moves forward. He or she will recreate in labs and studios the creativity and intelligence of an organic brain. At the same time, they build the understanding of the minds, emotions and genius present in every man and woman. I cannot think of anything more human than that. n TOWERVIEW 21

Photo by Faith Robertson


The Man Behind the Medicine By Taylor Doherty


t the opening of the Duke Cancer Institute in February, Dr. Victor Dzau, who heads Duke Medicine, stood on the second floor at the building’s ribbon cutting ceremony and looked over the glass ledge at the crowd seated below. Dzau believes the new building will revolutionize care for cancer patients. Instead of emphasizing impersonal procedures, the lobby feels more like a home, featuring a fireplace and a café. When patients lose their hair, they can visit a boutique in the lobby that provides wigs and head scarves at no charge. If patients and their families need time to be alone, there is a “quiet room” designed for meditation that offers customizable mellow music. The institute is more than just a hospital. “We have renewed our promise to our patients that they come first and that they are always at the center of everything that we do,” Dzau said shortly before introducing Gov. Bev Perdue, who sat behind him and next to President Richard Brodhead. As chancellor for health affairs and CEO of the Duke University Health System, Dzau is responsible for everything from the clinics where patients are treated to the classrooms where medical and nursing students learn and research. In his mid-60s, his black hair is now mostly white. A doctor’s white coat hangs in his office closet, though he often works in a suit. At the building opening, he wore dark pants, a white shirt and a patterned blue tie. Before he took the stage, he found his wife, Ruth, who he has been married to for nearly four decades. Ruth Dzau serves on the boards of Planned Parenthood of Central North Carolina and the Center for Child and Family Health, a local organization that cares for children and families affected by trauma, abuse and adversity. One of the Dzau’s two daughters, Jacqueline, works in Duke’s ophthalmology department.


Photo by Elysia Su Victor Dzau’s days begin early and end late. He begins working at his desk by 7 a.m. and continues until around 7:30 p.m., when he usually attends dinner meetings or events. When he finally gets home, Dzau catches up on email and makes his way through a color-coded packet of work his staff puts together for him. The yellow folder contains documents to review and sign, the blue folder calendar requests to consider, the black folder items to read and the red folder his mail. On a typical night, he sleeps just four or five hours. “That’s one of the, I guess you can call it, gifts,” Dzau said, his voice accented from his childhood in Shanghai and Hong Kong. “That’s my biology, I can do this, and it gives me extra hours to work or have fun.” With a stressful schedule and little downtime, Dzau is very engaged and moves between calendar items quickly. Celeste Lee, who was his chief of staff from 2007 to 2010, likened the experience to scenes from the former hit NBC drama “The West Wing.” Sometimes he would pass by Lee’s desk and ask her to walk with him, and then he would walk so fast that she would have to run with a notepad in hand to keep up. Dzau and his personal assistant Edwin Stephen first met when Stephen was a concierge at the Washington Duke Inn, when Dzau was first being recruited by the University. Now, Stephen’s responsibilities range from managing the mail room to driving Dzau to the airport. He has earned the chancellor’s trust by never repeating the details of confidential meetings and phone calls, and he knows Dzau’s calendar by heart. “People have to keep up—he walks fast. You ever walk with him?” Stephen asked me with a laugh. “[Dzau says,] ‘Let’s walk! 20 TOWERVIEW

You go to the gym every day, keep up!’” Dzau invited me to shadow him for two days to get a sense of how he spends his time. He opened all the meetings on his calendar including an executive committee session reviewing an information technology project and patient satisfaction scores at Duke hospitals and clinics as well as his working lunch with the head of the Duke Global Health Institute.


zau, now approaching eight years as the figurehead of Duke Medicine, said the satisfaction he gets from his work makes the long days more meaningful than draining. As a child he saw firsthand how medicine can serve communities, and it became his passion. Born in Shanghai, China, Dzau and his family fled the country in the 1950s when the communist regime took power. Dzau’s father, who owned a soap factory in China, moved his family of five to Hong Kong. The Dzaus were not poor in Shanghai, but in Hong Kong they had to start over with nothing. For a year, the family shared a single room before re-establishing themselves. As a child growing up in Hong Kong, Dzau witnessed overwhelming poverty and inadequate healthcare. Not far from his family’s apartment, people lived in squalor on the hillside with no heat and limited access to water. Tuberculosis was rampant in the area, and several members of Dzau’s immediate family suffered complications from the disease and other serious medical emergencies, like strokes. At the time, treatments that would be standard in the U.S. today were not accessible to many families. “As a child, you can never forget those kinds of things,” Dzau said. While still in Hong Kong, Dzau learned how

he could make a difference, inspired by a friend’s father, who was a doctor. Once he finished his primary education in Hong Kong, he moved to Canada to attend McGill University and become a doctor himself. He spent his career at Stanford and Harvard Universities where his research focused on cardiovascular disease before he was recruited by Duke. Given his background, one of Dzau’s most cherished causes is providing medical care to all members of the local community, regardless of their ability to pay. Although this comes at a cost to Duke’s bottom line, Dzau believes it is part of the University’s medical mission just as research and teaching are. Five or six years ago, Dzau helped overcome a serious obstacle to community care. Some Durham patients with complex medical issues struggled to get the speciality treatment they needed because they were intimidated by either the cost or Duke’s high patient volumes. To address these problems, community leaders with medical expertise met in the basement of a Durham church in order to find a way to care for these patients. The effort included nongovernmental organizations, county commissioners, heads of hospitals and doctors who worked in the community but not directly for Duke, and Dzau pledged the University’s support. The group’s efforts resulted in a system of health care called Project Access of Durham County. The leaders first estimated the number of Durham residents who were not receiving the specialty care they needed and then agreed to each care for some of those patients even if they could not pay. “This was really a breakthrough,” Dzau said of the cooperation between the various private and public entities

that contributed to the solution. In this sense, even the Duke Cancer Institute is a part of what Dzau considers to be the community care system. Community care provides basic medical services but ideally includes highly specialized treatment because patients without insurance require this sort of care as well. The idea is that care should be given in the community for the community, Dzau said. The University’s efforts address local needs, but combining private and public entities to improve health care remains a national issue. The Institute of Medicine, an organization that provides national medical advice, just completed a 21-month study about the relationship between

and beginning to make changes that will enable us to be ready and succeed in the future,” Dzau said. “Whatever happens, we will be a better organization.” On the first morning I followed Dzau, he arrived at a meeting with the project leaders of the various Enterprise-Wide Planning committees wearing a black pinstripe suit, a pink and blue tie and glasses. The group discussed the challenges ahead, which range from reducing certain expenses in the medical center over the next five years to defining the role of the consultants Duke hired for this strategy project. In meetings like these, a pattern of Dzau’s behavior emerged. In order to let those who

those who work near him to keep up. “He expects a lot from you, and so you expect a lot from yourself,” said Celeste Lee, his former chief of staff. In a given day, Dzau has the responsibilities of a CEO, a scientist and a professor. At one moment, Dzau is focused on the numbers, the quality of the hospital’s care and the costs associated with those treatments. In his next appointment, he turns his focus to academic research and the importance of discovery. Then Ph.D candidates or undergraduates arrive, and there’s a complete transformation again, said Edwin Stephen, his special assistant. “It’s like he’s taking his tie off,” he said. “It’s completely different, and sometimes, when I want to please him or ask him a favor, I don’t call him doctor. No, I call him Professor Dzau. That, you know, gets his attention.” It will take the business acumen of the CEO, the analytic approach of an academic and the care of a doctor for Dzau to lead Duke Medicine to continued success. The business model for medicine in the United States is changing, and the sources of national funding that have allowed doctors at academic medical institutions to devote part of their efforts to conducting research and improving care are not guaranteed. Sunday mornings, the chancellor will sometimes play a round of golf. He enjoys theater, music, movies and travel. Dzau does not escape for long, however, because medicine is his passion. When his week is complete and his schedule is free—in particular, Saturday mornings— Dzau ventures to campus to work in his lab, which focuses on cardiovascular translational research. He studies the heart, trying to improve patient care so that people do not have to suffer as he saw in Hong Kong. “I want to say one thing,” Dzau said. “For me, I’m not making a distinction between work and pleasure. If people make the equivalent that work is pain and pleasure is not work, I actually find a lot of gratification and satisfaction in doing what I do. So I don’t find it onerous, per se, work.” n

“He expects a lot from you, and so you expect a lot from yourself.” ­


ealth care reform, debate over the National Institutes of Health budget and uncertain economic conditions pose substantial challenges for Duke Medicine in the coming years. With this in mind, Dzau launched an initiative called Enterprise-Wide Planning, which will reconsider fundamental questions about the vision for Duke’s health system, including considering issues such as how revenues from clinical care can continue to support the University’s educational mission. As Congress and the Supreme Court consider the future of American health care, four subcommittees at Duke are compiling information and drafting recommendations that are set to be completed by June. “What we are doing right now is going through a planning period, getting prepared

work for him voice their opinions, Dzau listened first and followed with a series of probing questions. Then, he would finally speak his mind, incorporating the ideas of his team and the shortcomings of the analysis thus far. The following afternoon, when I asked Dzau about this method, he smiled. “And if I feel strongly, I’ll say it more than once,” he said. Members of Dzau’s staff said instead of rejecting ideas, he encourages others to consider solutions from all possible perspectives. Many of Dzau’s appointments take place in his office, which has blue carpet and white walls covered with photos, degrees and articles. His desk is covered by neat stacks of papers, and the room has more than a dozen chairs. This space is just one of the rooms in the larger chancellor’s suite, which is located at the top of the academic quad and not far from the Old Chemistry and Social Psychology buildings. It has its own boardroom and workspace for the six employees who help with everything from planning annual events to booking travel. Sarah Braman, for example, is the executive assistant who manages Dzau’s calendar. Most days, the chancellor has back-to-back meetings all day, she said. Members of the staff said Dzau’s work ethic pushes

Photo by Elysia Su

primary care and public health. The committee’s March report used Durham as one of three examples of successful community care and noted the range of community participants that contribute to this effort as well as Durham’s collaborative financing structure for providing that attention. “Duke has given an example of how primary care is working with public health to improve health,” Dzau said.


Photo by Faith Robertson

— Celeste Lee, Dzau’s former chief of staff




& T U O H IT



hen Jacob Tobia posted on his Facebook that President Richard Brodhead had complimented his high heels, more than 300 people “liked” it. This is not particularly surprising. If there is a face of activism on a campus typically bemoaned for its lack thereof, it’s Jacob, a sophomore from Raleigh who is attending Duke on a full-ride scholarship. He has challenged students and administrators on issues surrounding Occupy Wall Street, racial justice, the use of conflict minerals, gender-neutral housing and most recently, North Carolina’s Amendment One. “If we’re looking for really socially conscious and active Duke students, it’s kind of hard for me to meet any new ones,” he said. For Jacob, the heels are not merely cosmetic; they are radical
















theory put into practice. It is also courageous, at a school where an abundance of ideological liberalness doesn’t diminish how conservative Duke looks. Not that he’s an all-out contrarian. He’d rather more students take a cue from his book, which reads along the lines of the “live out loud” adage. “Being out is everything,” Jacob said. “And that doesn’t have to mean being out in the way that Jacob is out. That doesn’t have to mean wearing high heels like I’m wearing right now, or big chunky bracelets that I’m wearing right now, or sitting cross-legged like I’m sitting right now, or wearing a dangly little feathered earring thingy like I’m wearing right now or having a queer ass haircut that’s like where the sides of your head are shaved and the back of your head’s shaved but the top’s still really long and flowy like I have right now. It doesn’t mean that. Being out is just, if people ask who you’re dating, you say who you’re fucking dating, you know? Like, if people ask about your past, you talk about your past. And you don’t filter out the queer part.” A quick lesson for the uninitiated: The “Q” at the end of the shape-shifting acronym, LGBTQ, is more than just a catchall, and no longer a pejorative. “Queer” in academic or activist circles connotes more than just identity politics and includes an ethic of radical inclusivity. “Queer as an idea... may not mean that people always gather around the fact that they’re a man who wants to be with another man, or a woman who wants to be with another woman but rather, that they gather for the ways in which they are different from the dominant culture, that they have trouble feeling accepted for. I hope we always have a queer community in that way,” Jacob explained.



ntil recently, any reference to a community of this sort would have been purely symbolic. But something changed—this is the general consensus for those who have paid attention, or have simply been around for the past four or five years. People like Chris Perry, Pratt ’11, who returned to Duke this Spring to fill a temporary staffing role at the Center for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Life where he worked as an undergraduate. “I thought homophobia was like, Selma 1960s shit—that we’d taken care of that a while ago. Homophobia didn’t exist to me. As such, gay wasn’t high on my identity list. Probably Italian was ahead of that. So when I got on campus I refused to go to the LGBT Center. I thought, ‘I’m not that kind of gay. I know the Yankees’ 40-man roster,’” Chris said. “But after a year, I literally knew zero LGBT people on campus [in 2007-2008]. There was just no visibility. You used to be able to search on Facebook, ‘Men interested in Men 18-22 at Duke,’ and like four people came up, and I was one of them.” Durham isn’t much like Selma, but 2012 could still turn out to be a marquee year for social equality agitation in the state. The proposed first-ever amendment to the North Carolina State Constitution would provide that “marriage between one man and one woman is the only domestic legal union that shall be valid or recognized.” Gay marriage is already illegal here, but the amendment would invalidate opposite-sex civil unions as well. Perhaps more importantly, the amendment would send a clear message to LGBT students, both native and prospective. But Duke is not a microcosm of North Carolina, and the campus trajectory, by most accounts, has spiraled rapidly in favor of gay students during the past four years. And though white males— those for whom sexuality is the only exceptional identity trait— TOWERVIEW 23

may have reaped the benefits first, the school has made inroads to a more mature social equality. Chantel Liggett, a bartender at the Armadillo Grill, is a queer black woman. Though she might prefer you didn’t know, she is also a Blue Devil on hiatus. (She will toil through another five and a half credits next Spring in order to finish her degree, a B.A. in women’s studies with a Sexuality Studies certificate). Chantel started at Duke in 2007 and began work at the LGBT Center shortly thereafter, where she oversaw the inception of programs like the Women Loving Women discussion and social group. The group was formed as a response to the increasing popularity of Fab Friday, a weekly social that was overwhelmingly male in years past. Compared to Fab Friday, WLW was “anonymous and low-key,” Liggett recalled. “I think it’s becoming more normalized to see queer women on campus so it has to be less of a secretive thing now than it was at first.... I think one recent one had 35 or 40 women and that’s incredible, versus freshman year when there were two women that I could say were totally out and also came to the Center.” Talking to Chris and Chantel, it’s still hard to pinpoint the root of such a noticeable campus shift. Was the proliferation of programming responsible for the success, along the lines of “if you build it, they will come?” Even after praising the LGBT Center’s programming and the emphatic efforts of employees past and present, Chris equivocated slightly. “Maybe it just reached a critical mass and became exponential from there,” he said. “I think that now we actually have a very large community—and I’m talking about gay men, here. I think that between Duke and UNC, we’re very fortunate.” Coinciding with the ascent of a visible gay presence, the Blue Devils United blog was launched in the Fall of 2009. Beyond the regular publication of posts by a few dozen staff writers, the blog has posted close to 400 anonymous entries. If the visibility of Duke’s gay communities has expanded in recent years, so too has awareness of “closeted” students, who frequently express apprehen-

sion or fear about being open about their sexuality and sex lives, to varying degrees of magnitude. “The interesting part of when we started seeing all these gay men comfortable and out—and I’d say, even a women’s community has formed during the past few years—is that there are still so, so many closeted cisgendered [gender-conforming] white men,” Chris said. “It’s just weird. Theoretically, on paper it should not be like that. They should feel comfortable on campus at this point, right?” The question, like most worthwhile questions, can be answered “yes” and “no.”


ick Vivion, Trinity ’06, spent his first few years out of college traveling the world, producing freelance travel videos for sites like Lonely Planet. In April 2010, Nick helped launch a new project, Unicorn Booty, which has already become one of the most popular gay blogs on the Internet. Though by no means activismcentric, the site was founded to help gay-friendly businesses thrive and find customers through social media and networking. Earlier this year, Nick moved from Seattle to New Orleans with his fiancé and blog co-founder to open Booty’s, an innovative “blogstraunt” that takes the shape of a restaurant, café and studio. Despite an adventurous spirit, Nick was a surprising candidate to lead a gay business venture—it is not really a career groomed by his experience at Duke. He remembers knowing about 20 other gay students at Duke but having little interest in or knowledge of any kind of community involvement. He shared closer ties with his fraternity, Pi Kappa Alpha, which he said elected an openly gay president during his junior year and saw his sexuality as a non-issue. “I don’t really believe in the coming out thing. I think that everyone’s really different, and for some people it’s really cathartic,” he said. “But I do think it’s kind of messed up that gay people are forced to come out. You know, my sister never told me she was straight; my best friend never told me that.”

A screenshot of the Unicorn Booty website, which Nick Vivion, Trinity ’06, co-founded. 24 TOWERVIEW

Photo by Nate Glencer

Nick’s philosophy is close to what Chris would call “postgay,” a status that has nothing to do with being ashamed or closeted. He uses it more to describe students whose sexuality “doesn’t make it high on their list of identities. It doesn’t shape their experiences as much.” But this is only natural; in many ways, identity politics and minority mobilization are borne of necessity. The minority identities that crystallize into thriving movements, or so-called communities, often do so in the face of adversity or systemic oppression. Amendment One then, might appear as an opportunity in waiting. But this would require that more Duke students take the issue more seriously, a challenge that Jacob and Chris have contended with throughout the semester. “So Duke already has a stereotype of political apathy,” Chris said. “And then you couple that with ‘it’s a North Carolina issue’ and we only have 15 percent in-state [students], so getting people to care about a North Carolina issue is even more difficult. Then on top of it, if we defeat Amendment One we’re still in the same place. An end game of status quo is not really compelling to people.” Without a vital venue for activism, the outstanding draw for students to form a gay community is relationships. This is obvious enough, but sex and politics have never been easy bedmates, and the element of visibility—the compulsion to come out, or not— further muddies things. The interplay of romance and platonic relationships can toe a frustratingly fine line for people who have to rely on others’ self-declarations, intuition, secondary sources or their own risk taking. (Shots in the dark can have painful consequences, physical or emotional). It’s at this point that Nick arrives at an ambivalent reflection of Duke’s campus culture, as he experienced it. “I have the right to create myself. That to me is what freedom is.... For me it was about going to Duke, and finding a space where I wanted to be known as Nick Vivion, not ‘that gay guy,’ and I don’t know if that’s some sort of insecurity on my part, but ultimately it comes down to that—I want to define my identity. If gay is my number one thing and I’m an activist and I’m out and I’m queer, cool. If I’m a fraternity boy who is closeted because I don’t feel totally comfortable with it, that’s cool too. But I think at Duke it can be really hard to do that because there’s a lot of conformity going on and you get so many kids coming out of a high school system where’s there’s cliques and groups and everyone has their place, and it’s just so much easier to box people into these stereotypes.” The tension between stereotypes and normalcy is an issue of critical importance, one that links the disagreements between Jacob’s

and Nick’s philosophies with generations of past civil rights discourse. The challenge: whether the nobler goal is soft assimilation—say, routes like supporting gay-friendly business, or emphasizing the compatibility of gay families with “traditional” society—or a demand for a radical paradigm shift from rote tolerance to real inclusiveness. Those in the latter camp are more likely to call themselves “queer” than “gay.” But for Duke students, these conflicts don’t resonate at the level of theory or activism—it’s a question of love, and a pragmatic question at that. And in many ways, it resembles the dating and romance struggles faced by Duke and college students at large. “I think that sometimes gay people forget that we are also just human, and very much the same as straight people, who sometimes have relationships that they don’t want others to know about for whatever reason. It can be nuanced,” Nick said. Sophomore Jacob Tobia Even beyond the question of being “closeted” or just not loud and proud, a merging of gay and straight angst at Duke fixes to the crucible of the so-called hook-up culture. “There’s gonna be a huge percentage of people not interested in finding a relationship and that’s totally cool because life is a long, long process, and you need to figure out how you relate to people,” Nick said. “There’s nothing inherently bad about a hook-up culture unless it’s abusive, right?” The problem with this social circumstance occurs when a hookup culture arises from our inadequacies and does not fully capture the potential of young adult relationships. And for queer students, Jacob thinks the problem demands an extra level of confidence. “Not to belittle the struggle of individuals. Not to say that if your parents are going to kick you out or stop funding your education that that’s not going to be hard,” he said. “I recognize that fear as very real. I felt it, I’ve been through it, I still feel it at times. But the other thing I have to say is that we have to demand moral courage of one another and realize that there are people that have come out and had to sacrifice a lot more than you to do so—and who will make that choice after you for time eternal.” Considering the range of perspectives—and whether the closet is something to be overcome and not just an imaginary symptom prescribed for non-heterosexual students who don’t act the “right way”—illuminates the multiple ways to conceive “community.” Jacob’s stance is admirable; it paves the way for others to live more comfortably in their skin, at Duke and beyond. But for post-gays, or the label-free who would prefer that their sex lives not be politicized, there’s the rub: living within and without a campus community, a gay community at that, can feel like a maddeningly gentle half-gait toward progress. n TOWERVIEW 25

The Graduates The Pioneer Class of The Emily K Center By Caroline Fairchild Photos by Elysia Su



t’s 1965 on the North Side of Chicago. Living in a poor neighborhood about a mile from the United Center, a high school senior dreams of playing college basketball. With his mother busy scrubbing the floors late at night at the Chicago Athletic Club and his father working as an elevator operator, he looks to a local community center to help him reach his goals. Learning lessons of hard work and determination at the center, the young man springboards into a basketball career at the United States Military Academy. And on to become the winningest coach in the history of Division 1 basketball. Now it’s 2012 and nine high school seniors, all women, in Durham, North Carolina are dreaming too. Some dream of going into humanitarian aid. Others want to be accountants. But they all aspire to one day be the first in their families to graduate from college, a dream

program qualifies for free and reduced lunch, the Emily K Center recognizes that financial barriers are just one of many obstacles that face low-income students in their pursuit of higher education. Implementing the program, targeting ninth to 12th grade students, the Center offers personal college admissions counseling, standardized testing preparation and financial advising including exposure to different scholarship opportunities. “Kids can articulate that they want to go to college, but it is another thing to maintain that level of success through your high school career to actually get there,” Executive Director Adam Eigenrauch said. “The program is about demystifying the system.” Eigenrauch, who has devoted more than 10 years to North Carolina’s education system, is just one of many dedicated staff members at the Center.

that The Emily Krzyzewski Center’s Scholars to College program is helping make a reality.

Explaining the Center’s process for recruiting students, Eigenrauch said the program demands considerable family involvement. Although the students are not hand selected by the Center, the structure of the program facilitates a commitment that sets students apart from their peers. “They are special kids, but certainly not unique kids,” Eigenrauch said. “There are kids all over Durham who have potential and want to work hard and do both of those things and don’t do it in a way that results in college. The thing that really stands out is the commitment.” Brittany said her mother, like the other scholars’ parents, has made her children’s education a priority. After beginning college but discontinuing her studies due to economic constraints, she sought out better college preparation for her daughter at Emily K. “Some of the parents have said to me that they don’t know where their family would be without this program,” lead counselor Jennifer Umvarger said. “Brittany’s mom feels very strongly


e’re told it’s all about dreams,” said 17-year-old Brittany Lambright, who is part of the inaugural graduating class of the Scholars to College program and hopes to be an orthodonist. “But you have to have the plan to back those dreams up.” Named after Coach Mike Krzyzewski’s mother, the Durham center draws its mission from the skills that Krzyzewski learned as a young boy at his community center in Chicago. The program, established in 2008, is part of the Emily K Center’s larger “K to College” model that pledges to serve academically-focused, lowincome students who seek to achieve in school, gain entry to college and break the cycle of poverty in their families through out-ofschool programming. Although each student enrolled in the Scholars to College


about the program and she has a real strong desire to see her child successful.” Four years since the commencement of the program, the first class of seniors boasts more than 20 college acceptance letters from five states and more than $120,000 in scholarship opportunities. Despite the impressive accolades of these young students, they all expressed anxiety over the prospect of financing their college education. The Center has put the students in a position to get into their dream colleges. Now, financial aid packages and scholarship opportunities will decide where they will actually study. “I can dream all day, but the finances have to be there as well,” Brittany said. “We are trying to focus on graduating with the minimum amount of debt possible.”


Vianey Martinez

Carey Cabrera


Brittany Lambright

igh school senior Vianey Martinez carried around a dictionary when she moved to the United States. When she was nine years old, her family moved to Durham to reunite with her father who had left Mexico earlier in search for a better way to support his loved ones. In the beginning Vianey cried frequently, missing her family and friends from home and scared about not knowing the language. But, dictionary in hand, she made learning the language of her new home a priority, setting her apart from her fellow English as a Second Language peers. “Moving was a very drastic change for my family,” Vianey recounts. “I figured I had no other option but to learn the language. I wasn’t going to be able to go back.” Given the sacrifices her parents have made for her and her younger brother, going to college has always been the only option. But the inability to properly communicate to her parents the rigorous and competitive application process has been frustrating. “My family doesn’t know a whole lot about going to college and the fact that they don’t speak English makes it even harder,” Vianey said. “I think my parents just thought college applications were just a basic application that asked you some personal information.” But after joining Emily K last year, Vianey said her parents are more at ease knowing that there are people motivating their daughter to reach her full potential. Recently admitted to several colleges in North Carolina, including the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Meredith College and Elon University, she said going to college close to home is important. “I know they are here for me and I think it is the fair thing for me to stay close,” Vianey said. Still awaiting financial aid packages and scholarship decisions, she said Meredith is her first choice because of its small college feel, but ultimately she will attend whatever college offers her the most financial support. Carey Cabrera knows all too well what Vianey is going through. Passionate about music, singing and the arts, she is a senior at Durham School of the Arts with aspirations to go into humanitarian aid. At her high school, she said there is one college counselor for all 170 seniors. But at the Emily K Center, she shares her head counselor with only two other girls­ —support she needs as the daughter of a single mother with five children. “College is such a big step. It is a milestone and you need guidance,” she said. “My mom doesn’t have the time or energy

to make sure I have all my college essays down and read over it all. I feel like I needed a way to get a handle on all of that, and that is definitely what I have gotten here.” After taking advantage of a summer SAT class offered by the Emily K Center, Carey was able to boost her score more than 200 points. She is convinced that it was those 200 points, and the constant guidance of the Center, that earned her admittance to her reach universities: McCalaester College and Wellesley College. Now she just has to figure out how to pay for it. “I was discouraged about college and finance,” she admits. “But coming to Emily K and seeing that there are all these different ways to pay for college has been really encouraging.” Eigenrauch said the Center is aware of the large financial component as-

hen asked who their heroes were, the young women did not look to their favorite athlete or the most recent American Idol. Instead, Carey, Vianey, Brittany and others all named their parents. Carey applauded her mother for raising five kids while still maintaining a full-time job. Vianey said her parents, still not able to speak English

sociated with each student’s ability to attend college. But counselors don’t let that reality affect students’ drive. Instead, the Center communicates to students that the more attractive they are as a college student, the more options they will have once financial aid packages roll in. “Our goal is to help you get into college, but getting into college and going are not one and the same,” he said. “Being able to afford it is a part of it. Let’s not do high school just to do high school, but let’s do high school in a way that positions you to get into college.” The benefits of the Scholars to College program have extended beyond the nine girls. Carey, like many of the other girls, has taken it upon herself to help her peers outside of the program navigate the college process, armed with the skills and strategies that they have learned at the Center. “I have friends in different social groups, some are more academic than others,” Carey said. “They are really smart—I know they could go to college, but they don’t have the resources and the motivation. I am just really grateful that I am lucky enough to have

and desperately missing their family, have remained in the United States as a sacrifice for their children’s future. And Brittany is thankful for all the hours her mother puts in during the night shift at work. “They have always done the things that they do for me and my brother so we can have more than they did,” Vianey said. “I think they sometimes think that they are not supporting us as much as they could be, but they are always there for us.” Krzyewski’s passion for basketball is distinct from Carey’s love of singing, Vianey’s love of numbers and Brittany’s passion for orthodontics. But what the young women have in common with their benefactor is a devoted family and a community center helping them to achieve their dreams. Providing him with an example that he would follow for life, Krzyzewski’s parents, including his mother, who the Center memorializes, set a foundation for his future success. As these girls sit on the precipice of their college dreams, they will never forget how their parents supported them in their dreams. Or how the Emily K Center gave them the tools to actually get there. n

those resources and that I have Emily K.” Carey acknowledges the lofty price tag associated with her private education dreams. But she said, despite money always being an object in her family, her mother was always an advocate for her education. “My mother always told me, ‘Don’t feel disadvantaged. Do what you want to do, we’ll figure it out,” she said.




States of Wonder By Sherryl Broverman “


’m not really a science person.” I’ve been hearing that phrase in the first week of class for over more than 15 years now. I always want to ask back, “What is a ‘science person’?” Instead, I just tell them not to worry; this class is for people like them. I think the assumption is that “science people” have some magical skill set that allows them to think across physical scales, memorize formulae, and revel in arcane knowledge. Most scientists I know have as their intellectual underpinning the sentiment “That is so cool! How the hell does that work?” True, you do need to develop a narrow focus (in part due to the need to study and manipulate a tightly controlled system, and in part due to funding necessities), but the underlying drive is usually a state of wonder. Science is about questioning. That ultimate questioner, Charles Darwin, said, “Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge.” The more you know the more you begin to question. As a teacher you see the questions and sophisticated inquiry jump up dramatically about two-thirds of the way through the semester. That’s when you get all the “But wait a minute!” questions from students as they put it all together. I teach the conscripts, the science-phobes, those made to take two natural science classes to graduate. Most don’t intend to have my class impact their careers. Fine by me. My goal is not to produce 30 TOWERVIEW

more scientists or doctors, but young adults better equipped to think about the natural world around them and their place in it. However, they may be parents, voters or even congressmen determining national science research budgets. We live in a world increasingly driven by scientific innovation (stem cell research) and questions (determining the cause of global warming). Science literacy cannot be for an elite or restricted class. That is a recipe for a dysfunctional society. How do we measure evidence? What constitutes proof? Why is the sky blue? (Trust me, you will be asked that last one by your kids someday…) Being scientifically literate doesn’t mean you will have all the answers. It means you will say, “Let’s tease this apart” and know how to question and analyze the answers you find. Science is a mindset more than a body of knowledge. The best way to create science literacy is to show the relevancy of the scientific process to significant social issues. No, this isn’t a bait and switch tactic. The two are intimately intertwined. How can you decide the ethics of removing an HIV+ child from her mother if the mother refuses treatment (for example) if you don’t know how the drugs work, how well they have been tested, what their toxicities might be, etc? As citizens we need to learn to ask questions, analyze different answers and question assumptions— holding our personal views in abeyance so we can be open to new conclusions. That’s a “science person.” It turns out that this approach to teaching science

Photo By Nathan Glencer

also engages underrepresented groups who are interested in biology, but feel that their passion for social connections isn’t found in many “regular” science courses. After carefully analyzing the demographics over several years in my HIV/AIDS course versus another science course I taught that had less of a social framing, I found that the “science in a social context” course had a 30 percent increase in the number of female students and a 100 percent increase in the number of African American students enrolled. At the heart of all my teaching is the concept at the heart of all biology: evolution. A failure to understand evolution led to a former surgeon general of the United States to declare that the war on infectious diseases had been won. (This comment was followed by the emergence of SARS, AIDS, Ebola, MRSA, bird flu and swine flu.) The Gates Foundation wants to eradicate malaria. Great goal, but you can’t do it without understanding what Darwin outlined over 150 years ago. Just two years after introducing nets into a village, mosquitoes will have evolved new behaviors to either avoid landing on nets or be resistant to the insecticides in them. Life will

always go on evolving endless forms. We forget that at our peril. Traditionally taught introductory science courses can be daunting. Studies have shown that standard intro biology classes require learning more vocabulary than a first-year Spanish language class. I have been at two institutions where it has been debated what the “core” ideas in biology are. It usually comes down to 1) the molecular basis of life; 2) the processes of evolution; and often 3) the resultant diversity that automatically occurs once you throw in inconceivable amounts of time. But in truth, the “core” idea of science is seeing facts not as individual items to be memorized, but as parts of fascinating stories about life or answers to puzzling questions. That idea is critical to thinking like a scientist. It’s a wonder we all can share. Sherryl Broverman is an associate professor of biology and global health. Her research interests include science literacy, science education reform and the linkages between gender, education and health in rural Kenya. She is also the Chair of the WISER NGO (

April 2012 issue  

Towerview's April 2012 issue