The University of Georgia
Graduate School m a g a z i n e
“Be yourself. Everyone else is taken."
summer 2013 Con t e n ts 2 Georgia Blueberries 10 Artist Adam Forrester 16 Jeremy Lackman 24 Jessica Alcorn 26 Virginia Schutte 32 Josh Putnam 38 Dr. Christopher Cooper: Why I Give Back Back Cover We've Moved
©2013 by the University of Georgia. No part of this publication may be reproduced in any way without the written permission of the editor.
m es s ag e from
Dean Maureen Grasso This summer, we completed our move back to permanent quarters on the University campus. The building has a history of its own as a former mill. (See the rear cover for a picture.) While we are not certain how many moves the Graduate School has made since it was established in 1910, we know that this is definitely its best. We are so pleased that this Graduate School building creates a dedicated space for graduate education and our students. As a repurposed building, it brims with personality. And so does this edition. This issue is definitely a fun oneâ€”like Oscar Wilde says, individuality is not optional, but how you use your individual talents is. I like to think that many of these featured students exemplify the best of graduate scholarship because they come from such a wide range of interests and have such different ambitions. Within these pages are stories about science and art, scholar athletes and high-spirited achievers. From blueberry research to political analysis, our subjects show the intellectual breadth and promising reach of our students. Many of these students were only able to continue their graduate education thanks to the generosity of readers just like you. A former graduate student, Christopher Cooper, who is featured in this issue, completed his doctorate here, and his decision to endow graduate studies for others fills me with pride for our alumni. Your open hearts equal your fabulous minds! Thank you, kind readers, for recognizing need and responding to our appeal. We are grateful.
Benefit from UG A Research
by Cynthia Adams photos by nancy Evelyn
Blueberries may be small, but they are a top earner for growers in Georgia. That's rightâ€”the top crop in Georgia is not peaches, but blueberries! The rabbit eye blueberry accounts for 90 percent of the acreage planted in Georgia and the southeastern region. rabbit eye blueberries, a species native to the Southeast, have been in cultivation for more than 100 years.
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What's not to love?
sara Thomas, who received her UGA
doctorate in plant pathology in December of 2012, can dish about the delicious little sapphire-colored berry which has rocketed to the top of the food chain. She also enjoys eating them, like millions of others. Blueberry aficionados are wild about the flavonoid-packed fruit. Thomas, who is originally from the southern city of Bangalore, India, first studied fungal diseases while in India as an undergraduate at the University of Agricultural Sciences. "It was there, while majoring in agriculture, that I became aware of the devastating consequences of plant disease and was motivated to obtain a comprehensive understanding of plant pathology." However, she had never heard of mummy berry disease until she arrived in Georgia. For that matter, blueberries are not even grown in India. She came to UGA to attend graduate school, and completed her doctorate last year. On arrival, she was soon introduced to mummy berry disease. Thomas explains that in the State of Georgia, blueberries are currently valued at $133.5 million, handily making it the top fruit crop in the state!” According to a 2011 Georgia blueberry report published by two UGA professors, H. Scherm and G. Krewer, blueberry sales are exponentially growing. The foundation for the development of Georgia’s blueberry industry, they write, had its basis in an active rabbit eye blueberry breeding program at UGA’s Coastal Plain Experiment Station in Tifton in 1940. They write about the creation of the Georgia Blueberry Association, which was “a major impetus for expansion” in the 1970s. Cultivars developed in Florida and North Carolinabased breeding programs helped further the emerging southern highbush industry in the 1990s. Since 2004, Thomas says the blueberry has eclipsed the
peach as top crop. It is profitable to grow and consumers, like Thomas, are wild for the healthy berries. Though we associate blueberries with the Northeast and colder climes, the native rabbit eye blueberry has succeeded here in the South. This is owed in part, Thomas explains, to a concerted effort by Georgia breeders to get the blueberry cultivars acclimated to southern conditions. "All blueberries need a period of chilling to start flowering," she says. "The ones grown in the South have a shorter period of chilling to start flowering. A lot of breeding efforts have happened to help them adapt here." While at UGA, Thomas studied the rabbit eye blueberry, which accounts for 90 percent of the acreage planted in Georgia and the southeastern region. "Rabbit eye blueberries, a species native to the Southeast, have been in cultivation for more than 100 years," says Thomas. "Although resistant to many pests and diseases, these blueberries are susceptible to a fungus, Monilinia vaccinii-corymbosi, which mummifies blueberry fruit, making it hard and inedible." The result of the fungus is millions of dollars in lost crops. "Managing this disease is critical, and very challenging," she explains. "This is because the fungus has evolved a sophisticated mechanism to infect fruit, i.e., it mimics pollen grains to gain access into the blueberry flower and thus the fruit." Plant pathologists such as Thomas currently battle what she describes as a near impossible disease to resolve once it has infected the plant. “The mummy berry is difficult to control when the fungus moves into the developing fruit,” she explains. In the life of the plant, the disease infects the plant and ultimately manifests in what becomes the fruit. "Most management has to rely upon effectively protecting the flower,” she says, which is very short-lived. “So, timing
These are cheerfully bright little orbs of wonder, courtesy of Mother Nature. They contain flavonoids and compounds that ward off disease. Blueberries reduce the chance of your developing dementia, obesity, cancer, and even cardiovascular disease. Best of all, blueberries contain anthocyanins, proven to ameliorate arterial plaque and dilate arteries. They are low in calorie, high in taste.
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Protecting the flower 6
In the months of March and early April, blueberries come into ﬂower. "If you go to a pick your own fruit at a blueberry farm or ﬁeld, you go there during harvest when they allow people in," says plant pathologist Sara Thomas. "The bush has thousands of berries per bush and every single berry at one point was a flower." The abundant flowers are white and plentiful, just "not very fragrant."
the management is particularly challenging." the protection of the flower was the crux of thomas’s dissertation research, which concerned what is known as "induced resistance." Her work attempted to discover if induced resistance would offer flower protection. In a sense, induced resistance is akin to vaccination in animals. It involves spraying protective chemicals upon the plant, thomas says, making it infection resistant. Her research also sought to improve understanding of how fungicides move in flowers in hopes of managing the disease with fewer fungicidal applications. At UGA, thomas worked as a graduate research assistant. "My major advisor was Dr. Harald scherm. I wish I had the words to succinctly describe his influence on me! essentially, I believe that I received an excellent graduate education at UGA and that this was, almost entirely, because I had an outstanding mentor. He will always be one of the people I try to emulate, the rest of my professional life!" she had to write about herself as well as her work in applying for a Graduate school Dissertation Completion Award. this, thomas confesses, felt somewhat boastful, when she attended a reception honoring award recipients last August.
Harvesting the Fruits of Their Knowledge each summer, a group of graduate-level plant pathologists sell blueberries at UGA during the harvest season of June and July. (to purchase the berries, it is necessary to pre-order via email to: firstname.lastname@example.org. orders are filled in the order received.) the simple program is effective and helps raise money. “When the crop comes into season, we send out an email to our mailing list," says thomas. "then people interested let us know how many pints they would like to buy." students pick the berries, fill the orders, and then send an email notifying their customers the berries are ready for pick up. thomas laughs that the students personally vet all orders.
"I should say the berries are super-tasty, and are taste-tested by us through the picking, sorting, and packing." As she contemplated next steps when her doctorate was completed, thomas reluctantly left blueberries and that phase of her work behind. she had exhausted her work with them, and wanted to expand beyond her doctoral focus, she explained, before departing Georgia for Kansas where she has begun new post-doctoral research. she had done research with tomatoes as well. "Blueberries don't have a lot of genomic resources. tomatoes have the genomic resources that I could use and then transfer the work to blueberries. I needed something to start some groundwork. It was a place to start and try to transfer my work with blueberries." thomas began a post doc as a research associate in plant pathology at Kansas state University in Manhattan, Kan. in 2013. In Kansas, thomas's new research project concerns a variety of root and tuber crops, such as sweet potato, potato, yam, cassava (known as yucca,) and bananas. the locus for her new project is in Africa, where many of these crops are staple crops and ones which are grown by vegetative propagation versus seeds. “Actually, this is similar to blueberries, whereas, if you wanted a new plant, you cut a piece of the stem and plant it rather than try to get the seeds in the fruit to produce new plants. the benefit of this method is that your ‘daughter’ plants are almost exactly like the ‘mother’ plant with regard to yield, taste, etc. But also, unfortunately, with respect to any disease the mother plant might have."
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Georgia Blueberry facts · Last year, Georgia produced 59 million pounds, 3 million more pounds than it produced in 2010. · While Georgia was the second largest overall producer in 2010 and fourth largest in 2011, it shipped the second-largest amount to fresh channels those years. · In a normal year, Georgia produces 50 million to 60 million pounds of blueberries.
"Here again, the problem that we are trying to address is that these five crops in the project are vegetativelypropagated. So you start with a potato plant that has some disease, all its tubers will be diseased. When these tubers are planted, you get diseased plants, which in turn produce more diseased tubers. This keeps getting worse with every season." Thomas says as the plants accumulate pathogens the problems are multiplied. “In developed countries this cycle can be broken by using disease-free seeds that are supplied by many commercial industries." In the case of developing countries, she explains that the disease-free seeds are either unavailable or too expensive. Poor crop yields from diseased plants are difficult to predict, a problem she attributes to “seed degeneration." In countries where farmers keep reusing materials, the pathogens build up in the material. “What they use for seed in the next season is completely degenerated." In poorer nations, such as Africa, disease-free seeds are not widely available. At present, Thomas is working on “creating a mathematical model to predict seed degeneration. The model explains how seed degeneration can be better managed." The model will be part of building a support system that crop management people will use to aid farmers. It could be used by people advising the farmers or farmers themselves if they had the tools for it. Thomas, who is just returned from a Tanzanian conference with other plant pathologists, says working with tubers presents her with a whole new set of research
questions (and a learning curve, she adds). The work offers the potential for applications of international bearing and reach. "I went there for two weeks for the International Plant Virus Epidemiology meeting,” she says by phone afterward. “There were quite a few people. My experience was not working in viruses, so for me it was a crash course in virology, much needed for the project." Virology informs her present research and the evolution of her past work at UGA. “One important cause of seed degeneration is viruses, hence the virology meeting helped." One day, Thomas hopes to reach the "Holy Grail" of her research: conducting research for the Consultative Group of International Agricultural Research, or CGIAR, which maintains centers around the world. “There’s one such center in India, and that is my Holy Grail,” she says. Three CGIAR centers are working with Thomas’s project. The skills she acquired with her UGA doctorate inform her work now, she says. “I had not worked with modeling and so knew it would be a good skill for me to have. This is a post doc, with a good skill for me to acquire." When Thomas left the conference in Tanzania, she briefly returned to Bangalore and met with her parents. Ultimately, she hopes she will find the “right path” back to India and her family, and apply her work as planned on an international scale. Meanwhile, Thomas continues to eat and enjoy the blueberries she came to love and know so well. n
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the Beautiful Polarity of adam Forrester’s works
a PhenIX RISInG:
go to http://www.adamforrester.com/THE-STRANGER or scan this code
by Cynthia adams photos by nanCy EvElyn
hotographer and video artist Adam Forrester sits near the door in a Jittery Joe's coffee shop in Athens. He has a new University of Georgia graduate degree in fine art and a
slew of ideas, which fomented into his thesis project, that variously involve ﬂare guns, dinner jackets, wood piles, and red dirt. Forrester is a video artist and photographer from Phenix City, Ala. The very fact of a birthright such as Phenix, Ala., not Phoenix, Ariz., by the way, might infuse that all-prevalent sense of irony in Forrester’s artistic style. An open book, How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia by Mohsin Hamid, lies on the table. The title is not what it seems: this is a well-reviewed novel, not a get rich quick scheme. Like Forrester, Hamid plays with concept and realities. A smiling, genial Forrester closes the book and politely stands, saying, “A friend recommended it." Having seen the work of the artist, it seems possible the book was purposefully on the table, a clue, given Forrester’s ability to manipulate ordinary objects into objects of art. Plus, he is a reader. He re-read Camus’s The Stranger. Twice. He also mentions Sisyphus and is a friend of allegorical references. His work, he writes in a description of his thesis project, “serves as fictional representation of Sisyphean acts."Forrester’s intriguing MFA installation for the 2013 thesis candidate exhibition
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Forrester’s intriguing MFA installation for the 2013 thesis candidate exhibition is only a mile or so away at the Georgia Museum of Art. The Lamar Dodd School of Art’s Master of Fine Arts degree candidates’ exit show returned to the museum this year. His installation occupies its own, personal theater-like room. Within the theater are mysterious objects and a large screen, with a video running in a continual loop. The exhibit is a combination of video and artifacts that appear in the video. A mound of dirt is encased in a clear acrylic case. (Perhaps the only appearance ever of dirt in a museum, he muses.) Other encased items, including rope and a small orange gun, are displayed. A formal, white dinner jacket is draped upon one mannequin, and a pinkprinted men’s suit on another. It is all to suggest mystery, intrigue, more than a little irony, and, as Forrester says, polarity. In his MFA statement, he wrote that it depicts “the possibility of an obstacle
existing in a positive light and equalizes the futility between such concepts as utility and futility." For his MFA exit show, which is comprised of three discrete films, each features a different suit/costume which the actor (Forrester) wears and a distinct theme. He initially dreamt about “building a house, sleeping in it, and then burning it." He revised the house idea into a tent, which he burned in a Jefferson, Ga. field. Nearby on a tractor was the landowner—a farmer— who enjoyed the entire production. As the videos unfold, wood is chopped, stacked and then nailed. Things are dug up. Things are created and then burned. Forrester did it himself—the conceptualization, the hard labor, the acting, the filming. “It took two days for me to split the wood in one of them,” he says. Yet, as these things happen, the look of the video is fanciful and capricious, bewildering and beguiling, and lends nothing so much
as a strange play at nihilism. Is Forrester nodding to Fellini—or his friend, Camus—or both? Forrester laughs and joyfully discusses the whole enterprise—the farmer, the tent, the costumes, the elaborate creation, seeming to enjoy his Alice-in-Wonderland sleight of hand. He is shamelessly entertained by his playful use of pyrotechnics, brilliant color and graphics—alternated with sometimes sinister-seeming black and white grainy film. Yet here’s another thing that lingers a month, even two, after viewing Forrester’s show. An orange gun, a pink tent, and fire images lick at the psyche. If the art sometimes seems playful, or trivial, it isn’t. It’s simply hard to keep up with an artist whose imaginings are firing this quickly. Forrester appears to be having a punch at our slow wit: the brilliant pink-printed tent in his video winds up being set afire with a flare gun. Whatever we think a thing
Go to http://www.adamforrester.com/INHUMATION to view video or scan this code
" Once I get a sense of the more tangible project via objects or actions or a combination of the two, I try to combine all the elements into their appropriate form, in this case it turned
out to be short video works with
myself becoming a character and the objects taking on the
role of relics."
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Graduate School Magazine asks Forrester: How did you get started with art in general? I grew up being filmed for my father's VHS home movie recordings and was fascinated by being able to participate in these videos, then watch them removed from any other context almost immediately. I fell in love with the cinema at a very early age, and dabbled with both a video camera and a still camera as an adolescent. I began seriously photographing in college, chasing after images made in the likeness of the early street photographers, Cartier Bresson, Walker Evans. But I am certain that, for me, what really made art and the process of making art something that I knew would be with me for the rest of my life was when I saw Les Blank's Burden
of Dreams. In this film we meet the German filmmaker Werner Herzog as he is making a film in the Amazon Rain Forest during a tribal war. The film follows Herzog as he struggles many times over with his actors, the jungle, the tribespeople, and other unforeseen forces. There is a scene in the film where Herzog literally pulls a steamship over a mountain, among other outrageous feats. Watching this director struggle but eventually overcome various obstacles just to create, impacted me greatly. I was drawn to that kind of determination and understanding of what it means to create, and ultimately I ended up making work about obstacles of a similar nature.
is meant to be, it isn’t. Or, it just is. And there again, he, like Fellini, uses feminine and masculine symbols. Meaning, he suggests, is a malleable, highly charged, even explosive, thing. It is stereotypically masculine to build, even to destroy. Feminized objects— orange guns, pink shovels, make the viewer look more than twice. Forrester’s work has been screened and shown at national and international events, including the 6th International Winter Festival of Arts in Sochi, Russia. “I’m making purpose out of things that seem purposeless,” he says. And smiles again. Forrester’s visual punch is reliant, in the tradition of any visual film, upon his heightened sense of costume and design. He has a thing about clothing—which we know already are
both utilitarian in purpose and yet something else as well. Clothing plays a major role of its own in his videos, as does strongly graphic fabric and shockingly colored objects. A pink suit—counterpointed by a white dinner jacket—figures prominently into his video. “I first used a white and yellow suit,” Forrester explains. “I worked up to that aesthetic." The highly stylized clothing he has created for the video command the scenes whenever they appear. The artist is sometimes recognizable, sometimes not, as he wears the costumes. His partner, interior designer Emily Wirt, actually constructed the pink suit to his specification. “I wanted pink, then yellow. In other cultures, pink is not necessarily feminine, but yellow is." First, he found pants in the print
Go to http://www.eatwhitedirt.com to view video or scan this code
“I’m making purpose out of things that seem purposeless." he liked for the visual effect he sought. Eventually, he found more material for a jacket and Wirt did the rest. kaolin as art
Awarded a grant by The Willson Center, Forrester is presently working on a documentary film about white dirt, or kaolin. Kaolin, or kaolinite, is a clay mineral. The white mineral is mined in various places around the world that are typically hot and moist. It is also eaten for health reasons, or even to repress hunger. The practice of eating kaolin is known as geophagy. In the United States, a small population of women, typically pregnant women, eat kaolin and call it white dirt, chalk or white clay. “It’s found here, on the ancient coastline. Kaolin is a substance that is used as a coating for paper to make it shiny. I found people who eat it here in Georgia." Forrester is working on the film this year. He has already, well, dug into it. He has worked in Los Angeles on films which sought funding via Kickstarter. com, which is self-described as a funding platform for creative projects. “I was a runner in LA—a production assistant—before coming to Grad School." In the course of producing his own work, he met Werner Herzog, a German filmmaker and director
Crayola-golden concrete into a bucket. Capturing the entire thing on film. With a wink, the alchemist in him might turn what might be a nightmare of failure into a Technicolor dream of artistic gold. n
who has been called one of the great figures of the New German Cinema. “He is looking for an aesthetic truth,” Forrester says admiringly. This is, obviously, his own quest. Forrester devised a bucket list when he first arrived in Athens. He shares some of the list. “For example, bury your failures in a bucket of concrete,” he says with a small, charming touch of irony. See the playful nihilism again? Without much stretch, it is easy to imagine Forrester driving a bright purple concrete mixer into the town square, then emerging from the cab in ermine robes before dispensing
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mind take and body a
jeremy lackman to new frontiers This kinesiologist favors risk over comfort, and answers whenever (and wherever) opportunity knocks.
Who gets left behind in the wake of “No child left behind” policies? Critics of the education law say kids suffer a loss of physical activity education due to its test-heavy mandates. Remember PE—physical education—where children used to learn team sports, run off steam and get fresh air? That is becoming a thing of the past, says Jeremy Lackman, who is earning a doctorate in kinesiology at the University of Georgia. Lackman is also a sports lover, and is the animated guy beneath the Spike mascot suit. He discusses his journey as well as a new generation of children who are being tested mentally but not physically. by Cynthia Adams
he No Child Left behind Act was signed into law by President Bush in 2001, and required schools to meet standards set by nationalized tests. According to public officials like Tennessee Senator Lamar Alexander, the government should get out of the way rather than hold states and schools hostage to this act. The law dictates education
photos by nancy Evelyn
policy, and The New York Times reported in February of this year that it can “engender unintended consequences." Jeremy Lackman, a UGA doctoral student in kinesiology, agrees. “With No Child Left Behind, the focus is on math, English, and other subjects that you have to pass a test…schools are being run like a business,” Lackman says, referencing educational programs
with mandated testing that leave little room for physical education and liberal arts. Lackman’s eyes are level and his gaze locked in. “If their students do well on the math and science exam, they (the schools) get more money from the federal government." Physical education programs cost time, he adds, eating into shrinking educational budgets. This makes it vulnerable and
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expendable. “Some of the other things that leave are art, music and physical education." He insists that it is not only unrealistic, but destructive to consign students to long days without any physical activity. Rake-thin, Lackman stays lean with a schedule that is full and physically challenging. Lackman strongly believes in activity and body awareness. He is not only happy playing a variety of sports on a playing field, but spends hours as the animated UGA mascot, Spike, where he rallies fans at volleyball and basketball games. He doesn’t drink coffee or tea, but thoughtfully stirs a cup of hot chocolate. He doesn’t own a car, and either cycles, walks, or takes a bus around Athens. It is a choice that he admits is hard. Harder yet, Lackman says, is to imagine a school day which forces children to be inactive. “Students in schools are being forced to sit and sit,” he says, and his pale eyes darken. Last year, a Huffington Post report noted a report by University of Georgia kinesiology professor Bryan McCullick.
McCullick is one of Lackman’s professors. “Only six states nationwide require the recommended 150 minutes of elementary school-based physical education,” McCullick wrote, linking this lack of activity to the problem of childhood obesity. McCullick further states that another issue is whether those six states hold the schools accountable for the recommended PE activity time. “He (McCullick) is the coordinator of the Health and Physical Education program,” says Lackman. “He supervises Health and Physical Education majors. I teach a lecture course for him and assist with supervision of his pre-service teachers in elementary public schools every spring." Lackman’s advisor and lead professor is Rose ChepyatorThomson, who works with gender and curriculum, and hosts the Global Forum every spring. The forum is a conference for multicultural diversity. Geoffrey Canada, successful CEO of the Harlem Children’s Zone in New York, has been a long-term advocate of both academic rigor, and exercise
to combat childhood obesity. Canada has repeatedly raised the issue that Americans are increasingly unable to meet either basic physical education standards or mental aptitude standards. In a keynote address titled “Spare the Rod,” Canada observed that “75 percent of young adults here in America cannot join the military" due to lack of physical fitness and in large part because 30 percent could not pass the entrance examination. There was never lack of activity in the Lackman home. Lackman grew up in the Midwest, raised on a Missouri farm. There was “massive amounts of land,” Lackman says. There were wide open spaces, redolent of Field of Dreams—and just like in the movie, there was nothing but an endless horizon. Lackman loved baseball. “I loved sports. But, I didn’t live near anyone. My next door neighbor was across a wheat field…you had to call people to get a football game together. I’d be in a field and hit a baseball and go get it." He would do the same with a football. “I would toss it in the air to
game show contestant, the spike mascot,
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myself, run under it and catch it. I would often throw a ball to a wall, or a football at a tree knot." Eventually, his father “made and installed a basketball goal and we spent hours shooting." But with a 30-minute drive to the nearest town, Lackman grew frustrated. His parents counseled, “Do what you want,” and supported his desire to attend college even if it meant leaving the Midwest. It was momentous for him. “No one left. I had hundreds of cousins, but I just wanted to be in big cities." Lackman says anyone could appreciate that “if you grew up in the middle of nowhere and it is 30 minutes to town." Lackman majored in psychology at a Missouri university. If he had a free slot in his schedule, he filled it with a sports option, netting lots of physical education credits. “I took tennis, diving, basketball." But when he attended a job fair his senior year, Lackman told them his major was psychology. He was told he needed a graduate degree to enter the field professionally.
Midwest, West Coast, East Coast—On the Move Lackman hadn’t experienced urban life until he visited Chicago as a teenager. The Windy City was a turning point, and a revelation. “It was the closest big city to home. Chicago has a public transport system, with museums and diversity! I fell in love with it." In Chicago, Lackman worked odd jobs at the Adler Planetarium and at the Shedd Aquarium. Then Lackman appeared in a promotional photo shoot at the aquarium. It made him think about a west coast move, and breaking into acting. He fantasized about how Brad Pitt found unexpected fame in Los Angeles. “Brad Pitt was from Missouri. He got a job in a chicken suit for a fast food place, then he made it. A lot of people have a dream like that,” Lackman says. He briefly attended Pepperdine in California, which he liked, but found the tuition was prohibitive. “I loved the
weather but also wanted to do some acting and modeling." Lackman moved to L. A., and did stints in entertainment and modeled. “I became involved in two music videos, including one with the singer Pink, and a movie, and a TV show." He also worked as a producer’s assistant, and did print and promotional modeling. “Then, a move to New York City was in order." New York became Lackman’s home for four years. “I loved it so much, I knew I had to live there,” he says. He lived in Brooklyn, and waited tables in downtown. He loves musicals, and thanks to a lottery system in New York for discounted tickets, he has seen 40-50 musicals. “If you show up an hour and a half or so before, you put your name in a hat and they draw 13 names. Front row seats! You get them for $25 or $30 bucks for what would be a $250 ticket." Meanwhile, Lackman worked on a graduate degree in Physical Education at Brooklyn College. Throughout the excitement of access to arts and theater, Lackman’s love of sports and physical adventures also remained constant. “And, I loved playing them…teaching and playing, and thought it was great." By 2010, he had completed a master’s degree in physical education. Lackman also did some study abroad programs, saying “I went to Argentina, China, and Hawaii." Travel, acting, sports and education were only some of Lackman’s interests. If this sounds like a sometimes disjointed story, Lackman is unapologetic. “It’s my life; no one else can do it for me…I do what I want regardless of what people say. I don’t want to be 65 and think why didn’t I do that? Why didn’t I try that? Having no regrets has guided my whole life."
“Brad Pitt was from Missouri. He got a job in a chicken suit for a fast food place, then he made it. A lot of people have a dream like that." —Jeremy Lackman
Millionaire Moment… While Lackman lived in NYC, he frequented TV shows and Broadway productions whenever possible. It was a kick for him to attend free television tapings. He learned about an audition for the ABC game show, Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? The show’s questions escalate in difficulty. There were degrees of screening for candidates on the game show, beginning with a 30-question test. “I took the timed multiple choice test. Probably 80 people in the room were tested, and maybe 10-15 actually passed." Lackman advanced to the next level. “Then you meet with an associate producer. they interview you, to see if you are personable, and if they like your look, then they put you on camera." The camera test was one of several rituals, but Lackman felt comfortable with performing before cameras. “If you get through that, then they take all that, and decide who they want to have on the show." But it was far from over—next destiny had a hand to play in things to come. “You are in the contestant pool with who knows how many people. Then a computer draws the contestants during the year."
Meanwhile, Lackman planned to begin doctoral studies. He applied to six schools with strong physical education programs for a PhD, and sought experience teaching college students. Five offered him opportunities, but UGA offered a teaching assistant position. He came to visit when the Office of Institutional Diversity invited students, offering opportunities. Lackman toured the campus, met professors, and says, “I had a great experience. I chose Georgia. It’s a great college town—one of the best in the country." He moved to Athens in 2010 to begin doctoral studies at the University
of Georgia. During that fall semester, Lackman got the call from the show’s producers summoning him to be a contestant, but the timing was all wrong. “They called me to come up and tape…it was my first semester here. I had a midterm examination. I had to tell them no, I couldn’t come." But all was not lost—Lackman’s name was returned to the contestant pool for one last chance at being drawn. Good fortune struck again. “Fall of 2011, the Millionaire show called again, and they said, ‘Here’s what we have.’ I flew to New York and taped a December show." Lackman says there was no way to prepare himself—the quiz show is largely entertainment and pop culture-driven in its questions. A smiling Lackman took the podium beside host Meredith Vieira, smiling, and appearing very at home on a stage. Vieira mentioned Lackman’s graduate studies and seemed impressed. “I was a little nervous but not very,” he recalls. “I looked at it as a fun experience…and trivia is trivia. There is no preparation for it. If I don’t know, I don’t know." He had distinct disadvantages, competing on a program that relied heavily upon entertainment-oriented questions. Lackman, an academic, was
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hardly the standard game show contestant. “I don’t own a car, I don’t listen to music on the radio…I don’t know popular music…” For a program that feeds off pop cultural relevance, Lackman was aware of his handicaps. He first stumbled over a question concerning the singer Beyoncé. Yet, by the end of the game show, he triumphantly walked away with $18,000 in winnings. Characteristically, Lackman looks back upon the game show and his appearance as all positive. “I made money, and I got to go to New York. I had front row seats to see Book of Mormon, with the original cast!” On Being SPIKE the Mascot There are three athletic mascots at UGA. “Two pretend to be a dog, and one is a dog,” says Lackman. “Most people know Uga as the beloved Bulldog mascot and many know Hairy Dawg, the giant, grey fuzzy, plush, ‘human’ dog at athletic events. Few people know Spike, the large, inflatable, white dog seen at volleyball and men and women’s basketball games. Spike is usually seen bouncing upside down, falling over on his face, dancing, or interacting with the crowd." Lackman knew the “real” Spike beneath the heavy, hot costume. “I knew a friend, who was Spike
last year,” Lackman says. Later, he says he saw signs about mascot tryouts. Lackman had to audition, using music and a two-minute skit with props. “There were about 15-20 of us for six spots. The program has four Hairy Dawgs and two Spikes. The audition was in front of cheer program/dance dawgs/cheerleaders/former mascots at Stegeman Coliseum. Then there was a round two with a set skit and certain props, then, a decision was made." As Spike, Lackman expends some of his considerable physical and emotional energy. “Games can last three hours, and the suit can be extremely hot. There is a giant fan that blows warm air, and the suit is not made to breathe because it has to inflate, so you recycle your own breath. You come out drenched in sweat." Yet he loves interacting with the crowd, cheering, and taking pictures. “It’s totally worth it,” Lackman says. As for his mental energies, he is currently teaching methods of fitness, early childhood physical education, and a basic physical education course in weight training. His main lecture courses involve teaching methodologies. “Focusing on teaching teachers how to become better at teaching,” he explains. “I really love being in a gym and love teaching,” he writes in an email.
big world travel and a bucket list Lackman is currently making plans to spend some time in Australia and New Zealand. “The latest news is, I am applying for study abroad programs as a TA with Discover Abroad, a UGAsponsored study abroad program offered through Warnell." Meanwhile, he is working on his dissertation and collecting data. For the risk-taking Lackman, there are other challenges set on various continents, which he plans to embrace. On his personal bucket list is a plan to spend four to five years traveling to as many countries as possible, he explains. “Starting in Mexico, and do all of Central and South America, fly to South Africa, go up the western side of Africa, do the Middle East and into eastern Europe, up to Norway, Sweden, Finland…” The world-wide travelogue continues, concluding in Japan. There are also, on that same bucket list, plans to join the Peace Corps, write and publish a novel, and, whimsically, “swim with a whale." Lackman’s can-do spirit and his everexpanding quest position the doctoral student to go, see, and do. But don’t, just don’t, add sit to the list. n
kinesiology: the study of human movement Kinesiology, also known as human kinetics, addresses physiological, mechanical, and psychological mechanisms in humans and animals. Applications of kinesiology to human health include: biomechanics and orthopedics; strength and conditioning; sport psychology; methods of rehabilitation, such as physical and occupational therapy; and sport and exercise. The word comes from the Greek word kinein, to move.
Jessica Alcorn, graduate student, working a University of Georgia flag line. Read her story on the next page.
Students with Mental and Physical Gifts Eighty-three University of Georgia student-athletes received their undergraduate or graduate degrees at the annual spring commencement exercises on May 10, 2013. According to University reports, the 83 UGA student-athlete graduates included 13 members of the women's track & field team, 11 members of the equestrian team, nine football players, eight baseball players, seven women's basketball players, seven members of the men's track & field team, five gymnasts, four men's tennis players, three softball players, three members of the women's swimming & diving team, three women's tennis players, two men's basketball players, two members of the women's golf team, two soccer players, two volleyball players, one member of the men's golf team, and one member of the men's swimming & diving team. n
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Meet Jessica Alcorn:
A Scholar Who Waves a Flag for Georgia! by Cynthia Adams photos by nancy Evelyn
Claudia Winter Photography
Jessica Alcorn, who graduated with a UGA master’s in public policy in May 2013, has two lives. One life is devoted to environmental and public policy matters. The other is devoted to the athletic glee of working a flag line for the University of Georgia. The Monroe, Ga., native has lived within a 30-mile radius of the UGA campus since she can remember. Now, she moves far beyond her much-loved campus this fall to begin doctoral studies in public policy (focusing upon energy and environmental policy) at Indiana University. Alcorn, the serious scholar, has also had a long-term love affair with athletics. During the Graduate School’s Emerging Leaders Conference last October in Bogart, Ga., the accomplished student revealed her surprising love of mentoring up-andcoming student athletes. “I started color guard in eighth grade,” says Alcorn. “I had transferred schools and was looking for an activity to get involved in. Honestly, I didn't even know what color guard was when I showed up at auditions, but it turned out to be an activity I fell in love with." After participating for five years, she returned to her high school band to volunteer.
“I loved the teaching component,” Alcorn explains. “What did that mean if I didn’t share it with others? And, I liked the performance aspect. But I was really interested in the mentoring aspect, and I had the chance to make an impact in a variety of ways." Her standout experiences as a mentor just happened to include UGA recruitment for the color guard, she laughs. “The (high school) kids I was mentoring have just begun graduating. I had helped them while I was in college. Three of them are going to be on the UGA line! Three! I got messages from their parents—and three different ones thanking me, but not just for my color guard mentoring, but helping them be successful later on!” Then there is the very serious Alcorn, entrenched in environmental
issues (e. g., renewables and fracking.) When working for the Center for International Trade and Energy, she worked with projects related to nuclear energy. “Nuclear is technically renewable. In writing some papers, I kind of fell in love with it. It is such an important issue moving forward. You can’t maintain the environment if we don’t move away from foreign oil, polluting, etc. There is so much room for improvement." Her issues are free-ranging. Alcorn discusses urgent need for renewable energy sources in an industrialized society. “However, I have also dabbled in water quality issues. I am currently working on a paper with Dr. Terence Centner on how preemption of local regulation of discharges from confined animal feeding operations impacts water quality. I hope to also explore some urban growth issues in the future." She adds, “I've sat in too much Atlanta traffic." Meanwhile, most of Alcorn’s work is quantitatively focused. She continued training this past summer, “thanks to funding from the Graduate School and David Lee, at the Inter University Consortium for Political and Social Research." n
“I did mentor high school color guard for a year and a half. I’ve taught at different summer camps and my high school’s summer band camp." And, a proud Alcorn says she will return to see her students perform in the fall as “they perform at all UGA games."
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Virginia Schutte, a doctoral student in the UGA Odum School of Ecology, researches red mangroves. Their ecosystems support an astonishing variety of marine life. Her various research efforts received fellowship support from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) as well as the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute.
Virginia Schutte’s Route from Kentucky to the Ocean’s Fray
by Cynthia Adams photos by nancy Evelyn
ater is evocative, primeval. We are sustained by it, bathed in it, and born of it." At the intersection of land and sea,” wrote Kennedy Warne in National Geographic Magazine, “mangrove forests support a wealth of life, from starfish to people, and may be more important to the health of the planet than we ever realized." That intersection of land and sea is where Virginia Schutte found herself as a researcher. And so, fittingly, what Virginia Schutte remembers most about growing up on a 77-acre Kentucky farm is water. “We had a big pond in the backyard; I was always the first one in the water and the last one out." With a contented smile Schutte recalls just sitting in the pond as a young girl. “I grew up outdoors,” she remembers. “And I never imagined myself with an office job. Early on, I knew I was drawn to adventure. I remember in elementary school trying to decide whether I wanted to track tigers in the Indian jungle, live with wolves in Montana, or swim with whales in the ocean. The closest I got to any of those animals was the zoo. But we regularly visited the ocean, so I cultivated my passion for whales by proxy…I loved not just playing on the beach, but really picking through what washed up on shore." At the water’s edge or in swamplands are shrubby trees never seen by inlanders. (They “live life on the edge,” observes Warne.) The trees are called mangroves. Schutte, a University of Georgia doctoral student, first saw mangroves growing along the Florida coast when she arrived to identify a research project. They defy easy definition."Mangrove” is a catch-all word for various species of woody trees and shrubs, specifically those found in saltwater swamps, or along saline coastal regions of the tropics and subtropics. Schutte’s work as a doctoral student has concerned water and the delicate ecosystems of mangroves at the ocean’s edge in places far removed from her Kentucky home in Morehead. In places such as Taipei and Jobos Bay, Puerto Rico, Schutte learned something essential about mangroves. As she poetically and vividly phrases it, “they are the nurseries of the tropical ocean." According to the Florida Museum of Natural History, mangroves protect shorelines from damaging storm and hurricane winds, waves, and floods. Mangroves also help prevent erosion by stabilizing sediments with their tangled root systems.
“Mangroves create an ‘engineered’ ecosystem," Schutte says, "They are ecosystem engineers, like corals on a reef or grasses on a plain."
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THe greAT MANgrOVes · Mangroves trap and cycle organic materials, chemical elements and nutrients in the coastal ecosystem. · Mangroves provide one of the basic food chain resources for marine organisms. · Mangroves provide physical habitat and nursery grounds for a wide variety of marine organisms. · Mangroves serve as roosting and nesting sites for many of our birds. · Mangroves serve as storm buffers by reducing wind and wave action in shallow shoreline areas. · Mangroves assist in protecting water quality and clarity by filtering runoff and trapping sediments from adjacent uplands. Source: The Florida Dept. of Environmental Protection website
they maintain water quality and clarity, filtering pollutants and trapping sediments originating from land. What schutte knew long before that first experience with mangroves, what she had known since childhood in fact, was that she wanted her work to concern the sea. now, working underwater equipped with fins and snorkel, she conducts ecological research within red mangroves and finds her truest purpose. this year, schutte nears completion of doctoral studies concerning mangroves and their implications. Her research has taken her to taiwan, Puerto Rico, Panama and Florida, where she has slashed and cleared red mangrove root structures and the creatures that live on those roots, called epibionts, to see what the implications might be. “We are losing mangroves at about the same rate we are losing rain forests,” schutte discusses in a Youtube video."Without epibionts, the organisms that live on these roots, the creatures that normally live here disappear." As a young girl, schutte drew influences from literature and also from parents with a strong work and social service ethic. Her father, Dr. Anthony Weaver, chose to work in a rural area and still practices internal medicine in Kentucky. He divides his time between his medical practice and being dean of a satellite college. “He wanted to work in an area that was poor and needed help. He also has a radio show called Health Matters." schutte’s mother, Frances, worked for Bell Labs and DuPont before becoming a preschool special needs teacher. the mention of her mother and her two siblings, Harrison and Alice, (“possibly the two smartest people I have ever known,”) yields another huge smile. “We had a lot of encouragement,” she notes, and it seemed as natural as shucking off her shoes to follow her love of the natural world all the way to a biology degree at the University of north Carolina in Chapel Hill, n.C., where she graduated in 2007. From early days, the world was interconnected for schutte. she recalls reading the fantastical, imaginative writings of Madeline L’engle while a young girl. “I loved A Ring of Endless Light, about a woman who talked to dolphins." the book, an acclaimed work of magical realism, intertwines themes of death, faith and also of human connectedness—and portrays a father, like schutte’s, who is a country doctor. In L’engle’s book, a young girl develops a particular rapport with dolphins that verges upon telepathy. After reading L’engle’s books, schutte admittedly “started obsessing over dolphins. I went to some marine summer camps." through her readings and her parents’ ideas of
virginia schutte virginia schutte
stewardship, Schutte realized research and teaching offered a natural path towards a vision she already articulated. The world as revealed to her through intuition and her own scholarship was, as L’Engle had written, a circular and interconnected reality. For others, she knew it was not necessarily their reality. When Schutte interviewed for an undergraduate college scholarship, she was prepared for questions about her environmental interests and being a Kentucky native."I was very aware of strip mining, etc…and the guy talking to me began going on about how we needed to shift gears." Schutte pauses, grimaces, and delivers the startling punch line: “And tell farmers to make computers instead." Point of View: Hitting People the Right Way
Schutte’s parents' enlightened point of view still amazes and inspires. “They believed in hitting people the right way,” she says cheerfully. And so, she plans just that—a plan she will do en masse. “I am into teaching and getting a teaching certificate—I want to be a professor." So, Schutte embraces what others might fear: “I want to teach the giant, 350-person intro courses! You may be their last contact with science before they enter the workforce and you get to have their attention." Meanwhile, her doctoral focus has two main research thrusts. One concerns the idea of mangroves as structures."Mangroves create an ‘engineered’ ecosystem. They are ecosystem engineers, like corals on a reef or grasses on a plain." Those mangroves, as they naturally grow, protect shorelines if left intact rather than removed. “They would have dissipated the energy of the tsunami after Boxing Day." (The 2004 earthquake and resulting tsunami occurred on December 26, with the epicenter off the western coast of Sumatra, Indonesia.) Her research further considers how mangroves act both as natural filters and incubators of sea life."If you have pollutants in the water they will settle out in the mangroves, rather than traveling offshore to systems like coral reefs. Mangroves are a nursery ground for a lot of things." She observes a lot of baby fish and finds tiny lobster and octopus in the roots of mangroves in conducting research in the subtropics. That sea life is colorfully depicted on her own videos, which she developed to explain her research. “Mangroves do a lot for us; that is why I am so excited to study them."
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Schutte believes that if people (say, in the Midwest at remove from the ocean) understood global changes better, they might not choose to make the choices they do in their daily lives."Even if you live in the middle of the country, eating only shrimp that are sustainably harvested, for example, will slow mangrove clear-cutting and protect many ocean creatures (including the shrimp you’d like to eat next year)." We are at a critical juncture, in which we can make different choices, she reminds. go to Humans, with over-zealous shrimp farming and coastal developments, pose the number one threat to mangroves, Schutte says. She studies this aspect as well. “How do stressors change the way that mangroves grow?” She looks at marine versus terrestrial habitation. “That is the second thrust—let’s says that structure changes—do we care?” In Puerto Rico, Schutte studied how nutrient pollution and creatures living underwater in mangrove forests change the way that the trees grow. In Panama, she cut away half the roots under water and compared the effects of half-removal with sawing the mangrove roots off completely. Finally, Schutte says she took hacksaws, and shaved everything off the roots but left the roots intact.“ The oysters, sponges, tunicates. I left the roots alone and took everything off that lived on them. I found 68 percent of the biomass underwater is things living on mangrove roots." She began thinking of the mangroves as living incubators, of seaside nurseries. Meanwhile, she is preparing a different, more conventional kind of nursery on land in Athens. She is due to have her first child with husband and fellow UGA researcher, Charles Schutte, in July of this year. “We will be the flotsam and jetsam family,” she muses happily. “He’s in the UGA Marine Science Department,” Schutte says. Their research work overlaps boundaries. “Our research is at the juncture where freshwater meets the ocean; we know enough about each other’s work to be interested and help each other out." And then, there is the question of bringing up baby: an ecologically aware Schutte baby, who will be taught to love the ocean from the outset like her parents. Athens, Ga., at great remove from the ocean, is where both researchers hope to remain. So they will do the next best, most realistic thing: they will buy and stock an aquarium. “Charles and I have so many plans already; want to be sure we have a fish tank at home so we can do a show and tell at school." “The thing is to know the ocean and to love it,” she says with an earnest, yet full-of-hope expression."The easiest way
to enact scientific policy changes is sometimes to go and impose change." But what matters most, Schutte believes, is to teach."To help others get to know their environment and know the why behind change." She employs what she calls ‘Selfish Science’: “using ecology to improve your life." It is a good way, the Schutte way, to inculcate a new mindset in a new generation. n For Further Study: View Virginia Schutte’s mangrove research video on Facebook and YouTube titled, "Improving Mangrove Management to Protect the Ocean's Tropical Nurseries." See National Geographic’s mangrove article, “Forests of the Tide,” (published February 2007) and Central American mangroves in Nat Geo’s September 18, 2012 issue. Also, the Monterey Bay Aquarium rates seafood options in a free pocket guide and smartphone app through Seafood Watch (http://www. montereybayaquarium.org/cr/seafoodwatch.aspx) with information concerning environmental and human health concerns.
Postscript: Last March the UGA’s Odum School of Ecology announced that Schutte’s short film, “Improving Mangrove Management to protect the Ocean’s Tropical Nurseries,” was accepted into the Beneath the Waves Film Festival. The 2013 festival was held March 20-24 in Savannah, and featured documentaries that highlighted marine science and related issues. Below: In April, Schutte was grand prize winner at the 3MT 2013 Competition. Dean Grasso is standing at left, and Schutte is seated, front row, second from left. The 3MT is a three minute thesis competition, showcasing research by UGA graduate students. According to the Graduate School Dean, Maureen Grasso, “this year 44 competitors presented their research in four preliminary heats. Our judges had the difficult task of narrowing the field to just 10 finalists." Judges from various universities and institutions chose a runner-up and top prize winner. Additionally, the audience selected a “people’s choice” award.
Schutte is a UGA. doctoral student who will complete her studies this December. She is the first graduate student from the Odum School of Ecology to receive a National Estuarine Research Reserve System (NERRS) fellowship. James Byers, her advisor, is a former NERRS fellow.
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FRONTLOADINGHQ’S JOSH PUTNAM:
t Political Blogger Who Could and Did
Josh Putnam's frontloadinghQ blogspot was the deﬁnitive go-to resource major news organizations like The New York Times and The Hufﬁngton Post used during the 2012 presidential election. he “writes to election junkies [and] election nerds,” and has done so since he began blogging during his graduate days at uGA. by Cynthia adams photos by nanCy EvElyn
osh Putnam, now a visiting political science professor at Davidson College, enters a downtown shop and exchanges pleasantries with familiar locals. In this small north Carolina college town, near Putnam’s Gastonia hometown, there is the usual give-and-take rhythm of daily life. But not much is actually happening, apart from a boutique shop getting a new sign erected. For a youthful, slim, intense 35-year-old with a jones for political blogging and forecasting, the pace of life is perhaps a bit boring. But Josh Putnam is too polite to admit that until pressed. He shucks back his light hair, glances into an emptied cup in his hand, and confesses he’s “having some serious withdrawal." And Putnam does not mean caffeine. nothing is quite so over as an election when it’s over—and for those in the thick of the action, it was like going from 85 mph to 15. Putnam had more than a thousand daily hits on his political blog, FrontloadingHQ, in the months prior to election Day in 2012. By election Day Putnam says the number was “nearly 10,000." Just five months earlier, Putnam’s number was on speed dial for most news-gathering organizations. the game was on “once The New York Times contacted me in August of 2011." the caller was Jeff Zeleney, then the nYt’s national political reporter. establishment news figures now knew Putnam’s name, and they followed his blog. “It was a serious part of my routine. When it was over, I had a pretty big void to fill,” Putnam admits. Filling the void involves turning to book writing which will distill Putnam’s dissertation research, his blog, and election rules. It was a big void, because the blog was now a big deal. the Daily Beast, a news blog, asked early in the presidential race, “Is Delegate Counter Josh Putnam the nate silver of the 2012 Race?” (statistician and journalist nate silver was the one analyst who correctly called the 2008 and 2012 elections. “silver actually missed on Indiana in 2008,” Putnam corrects via email,
“just one state better than my forecast that year.") this fact catapulted silver from a sportswriter to a reporting superstar who now writes for elite news agencies. silver, who writes the political blog Fivethirtyeight, also writes for The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and Esquire, among others.) even silver acknowledged Putnam’s work. In his own Wikipedia entry, silver cites Putnam as among “one of at least three academic-based analysts who were broadly correct about the elections." But Putnam dismisses it. “I am mentioned there, but I doubt nate actually wrote that. He and I are marginal acquaintances. We have exchanged data in the past." Writer Ben Jacobs observed that Putnam’s blog was the definitive go-to, the resource every reporter now turned to—not the major news organizations. Jacobs’ piece referred to Putnam’s understanding of the delegate selection process (the presidential nomination process) and their attendant votes. Putnam had teased out the complexities, the most obscure aspects of elections.
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“that information is less well-known and understood than the electoral College process,” observes Putnam. “the expertise of that process is my claim to fame. the media really came to know my electoral College work at that point." From as early as July of 2012, Putnam correctly identified the number of electoral votes per candidate, without wavering. today, however, Putnam merely shrugs it off. Jacobs quoted another political insider who called Putnam a “breakout star” saying he was “top of the list." still, it is lonely sitting at the top of the list of political analysts. on november 6, 2012, Putnam says he was huddled alone in a corner of the Davidson student union into the wee hours of the morning with a laptop. “It’s nerve wracking,” he admits. Later he amends, “true, but that is part of the fun." still counting, still writing, still cogitating. Putnam was hammering out his political blog, FrontloadingHQ, through the long hours of election night. “I got a call from CBs at 5 or 6 p.m.,” he recalls. they asked Putnam to be available for a phone call that night, “to discuss it if a tie." the numbers at one point suggested that possibility to some, but not to Putnam. He stuck to his analysis. obama would win 332 electoral College votes to Romney’s 206. Putnam says that after the 2008 election, ‘I used gubernatorial elections to test my weighted averaging formula. I hoped to do that in 2010, but was in transition." the transition was moving from student to lecturer at Wake Forest University in Winston-salem, n. C. Putnam was all over the national media. As in, The New York Times. CBs. nPR’s “Fresh Air” program. The New Yorker. The Huffington Post. Salon. Politico. Fill in the blank with a major news radio program, publication, or television show, and Putnam’s political blog was cited. “I was on or cited in and on those publications because of the delegate selection expertise in late 2011 and early 2012. things had slowed down some by election Day,” Putnam says later. now, even by his own reluctant admission, Putnam’s name was “almost famous." “I appreciated being contacted,” he says. “I enjoyed the platform." He says he enjoyed adding a voice on PBs news, and giving a daily rundown in the media. “But the thing that struck me about the print stuff was the extent to which they had a story in mind." It did not hurt that Putnam was physically in the right
position at the right time. the early september Democratic national Convention was in Charlotte, only a short drive from Davidson. the late August Republican national Convention convened in tampa. Putnam held media credentials and attended both conventions. the self-described introvert says he “writes to election junkies, election nerds. It’s a narrow topic,” and has done so since he began blogging during his graduate days at UGA. “I started a blog in the lead up to the primaries [in 2007] and didn’t think it would be looked at beyond me. I’ve been blogging six years." By election Day of 2012, Putnam had written 265 posts. He completed his doctorate in political science at Georgia in 2010. (“I started in 2002 and left with a job,” Putnam says, explaining that he took a year off studies after undergraduate school at UnC-Chapel Hill.) that first job was at Wake Forest University, where he filled in for a professor who was on sabbatical. today, he still gets fair traffic on his blog from as far as “the UK and Australia. I am gaining traction in both parties. A lot of folks in grad school socialize/network at conferences. I made those sort of connections through the blog." Putnam adds a caveat: “I never intended for it to be what it is."
“It’s nerve wracking,” Putnam admits,“but that is part of the fun."
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But this is hardly what the press thinks. they feel Putnam has an uncanny ability with his political metrics and analyses. What shocked many political pundits most were sometimes gross miscalculations by political observers and insiders. A blogger named sandy Goodman (Goodman retired from nBC nightly news to become a freelancer) stated, “the astounding 2012 presidential election ended four days later, on saturday, when President obama was finally declared the winner of Florida’s 29 electoral votes, raising his total to 332 against Mitt Romney’s 206 and assuring him a margin of more than three million popular ballots." But what Goodman declared most astounding was this: the data had been there, and suggested an outcome that had taken even Romney by great surprise. Many voters, like Romney, had distrusted the data. Josh Putnam’s home turf was in the calculations. He had staked everything on his metrics and close analyses of key factors. “Political scientists who focused on the fundamentals were right,” he says. Fundamentals included key factors, such as economic indicators and the President’s job approval ratings. six days after election Day, Davidson College President Carol Quillen grabbed Putnam’s arm. she introduced him to David Brooks, who was appearing as a guest speaker on campus. Brooks, who is a nYt columnist and also a PBs commentator, analyzed the election during his campus appearance. not bad for a visiting assistant professor, Putnam admits, saying he hopes to continue on the Davidson faculty beyond next year. A graduate student’s blog has turned into something even he could not have forecasted.
In the Aftermath…of Math What did Putnam have to say about the election process in post analysis months later? After the din died down and the votes were counted (as he predicted) would America ever put an end to the electoral College? It had been the hot center of so much contention. “the thing about politics is, you go with what works until it is apparent it is broken,” he observes. Despite the heated rhetoric in the mainstream media about the dysfunction of an electoral College, Putnam doesn’t have a particular preference to get rid of it. “We will never eliminate it,” he says flatly. “the votes will never be there; just deal with it."
Before There Was frontloading HQ If anything could have predicted Putnam’s political interests, it might have been two things: a politically engaged family who also exposed their son to a larger world.
As for his own political ambitions, Putnam says he has none. "I was the fifth grade class president," he says, "but I ran and lost for senior class president in high school." From childhood, Putnam remembers his parents as news watchers who dragged him to political rallies. He remembers an infamous north Carolina senatorial campaign in 1984. “I became interested accidentally." According to the Kennedy school at Harvard University, the race between incumbent north Carolina senator Jesse Helms and Governor Jim Hunt “was the country's most expensive senate race ever and arguably its meanest. In 1982, Jim Hunt was leading in the polls by a 14 to 20 point margin. two years and $25 million later, after an intense, vitriolic media war, Hunt was the loser by a margin of four points." Helms had long owned a Raleigh radio station, and Hunt had been a popular governor. that race played out in the absence of a mainstream Internet or social media. the media became vitally important during a race that spawned many textbook cases and books. In 1995, Putnam went to Russia with a program called “People to People." Upon his return, a local journalist asked what he wanted to do. “I told him I wanted to study political science." Russia, Putnam says, made him “think about our place in the world." the real eye opener was the Red square, which he describes as vivid, rather than a grim, monotone reality. “I remember going into the Red square and seeing the colors. that wasn’t the stereotype." He says he returned to Gastonia
altered. However, despite the travel, he says, “I don’t follow international elections." After finishing his undergraduate studies in north Carolina, Putnam ran a Chapel Hill video store as he pondered next steps. He chose UGA because of two leading scholars in campaigns and elections. this, he stresses, is a rarity. one is Paul Gurian, who advised Putnam’s dissertation. the other is Audrey Haynes. since graduating, Putnam has given a talk at UGA, but mainly he lectures and blogs from Davidson, dissecting all things political. FrontloadingHQ is where he plies his knowledge, much as he has since his UGA days. n gO to
For FurTher reAdING: See Josh Putnam’s blog at Frontloading hQ, http://frontloading.blogspot.com/ Also, see A Date with Nate by Paul rudnick in November 19, 2012 issue of The New Yorker.
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Why I Give Back: dr. Christopher Cooper The fact that success required a young Christopher Cooper to take on an afternoon paper route seemed a reasonable price to pay. He learned early on that the most important thing in life was to persevere. This former paperboy graduated from the University of Georgia with a doctorate in August of 1986.
by Cynthia adams photos by nanCy EvElyn
hristopher Cooper remains in his native savannah, where history swirls as thickly as morning fog off the savannah River. It was here that a young man with a paper route determined his destiny. As an adolescent, he was already working and investing his earnings towards a good education. “I started working when I was 12 years old. I would go to school and come home and deliver The Savannah Evening Press. I saved most of what I earned and began investing in the stock market when I was 16. I sat aside enough to get through college." By the age of 20, Cooper adds he had become a determined young man with plans to succeed. He excelled in football, volleyball, cross-country running and other athletics, but had his eye upon something even more difficult to obtain—a doctorate degree. He entered Armstrong Atlantic state University, and joined the track team. “I lettered in cross-country,” Cooper says. “I was also active in intramurals." Cooper also was on the bowling team (the champion team in 1968) and also the volleyball team (champions in 1969.) He also played on the football team. His interests extended beyond athletics and he took on assignments beyond the classroom. Cooper was now
also writing for the savannah paper rather than delivering them. During his undergraduate years at Armstrong, Cooper worked as a staff writer for The Savannah Morning News. “And, I also worked for Levy’s Department store." After graduation, Cooper worked for the government for several years before resuming academic pursuits."When I was 28, I started graduate school at Georgia southern University and earned an MA in psychology and an education specialist degree in the school of educational psychology and guidance. then I went to work as a school psychologist with the Macon-Bibb County school system." While working as a school psychologist, Cooper observed the stresses of young students in the public school system. “At that time, stress and depression in children was underplayed, and had not received enough attention." only more recently has that awareness changed, he notes. even though he held an advanced degree, Cooper had a yet unrealized goal—the one he wanted most. “I always wanted a PhD,” he says. Yet by the 1980s, Cooper had developed serious health issues that required medical supervision. He was supported in his ambitions by a personal physician, and persisted in his goal.
“My doctor encouraged me to move to Athens and pursue my PhD in educational psychology." Cooper did. It was an important, and life-affirming, decision. His love of athletics was undiminished, although poor health precluded his participating in favorite sports. At UGA, Cooper now took special pleasure in being a spectator. “I’m an avid football fan,” he says, describing himself as a fan who never missed a home game. “I guess I attended so many I cannot even estimate the number,” he adds with a smile. As a doctoral student at UGA, there were additional obstacles to overcome beyond his health. nine of the faculty members on Cooper’s five-person dissertation committee would come and go, forcing repeated revisions. He fondly remembers those who made the stress tolerable. “the late Marjorie Gordon, assistant to the dean of the Graduate school, offered some guidance. Dr. evan Powell was my dissertation chairman, and Dr. Roy Martin was also very helpful." For all of Cooper’s determination, the process of completing his dissertation became a marathon. “the hardest part was my dissertation,” he says ruefully, “which I had to write seven times before it was
accepted." His dissertation titled, “The Development and Validation of an Inventory to Detect Emotional Stress in Children,” was duly completed. By 1986, Cooper earned a doctorate in educational psychology and returned to work as an educational psychologist. Yet many avocations still claimed his interest—such as acting, writing and history. He had more than a passing interest in each. Cooper had long enjoyed acting in musicals and community theater, eventually winning a few movie roles. While beginning graduate studies, Cooper became immersed in the historic drama Roots, written by novelist Alex Haley. The series primary filming took place in and around Savannah. “A girl I was dating introduced me to the casting director,” he says. Cooper
was cast in a role and he appeared in a scene with Kunta Kinte, a main character portrayed in the film. He points out a picture of himself in period costume standing on Abercorn Street during Roots’ production. “I played a part in the film, and got to know and talk to people like Alex Haley, Lorne Greene, and LeVar Burton,” he says. The film experience fed both his love of history and theater. The production first aired on ABC television in 1977.
Immersed in History
Cooper with unidentified actor on the set of Alex Haley's Roots, filmed in Savannah in the spring of 1977.
A tall and thin man, with soft blue eyes, Cooper lives in his Savannah home and copes with the challenges of arthritis. He occupies himself with reading and writing. He also remains active in
UGA Graduate School Magazine summ e r 2 013
Evan Powell, dissertation chair (far right), on June 13, 1987. Cooper with his parents, James W. Cooper. Sr., and Helen Boston Cooper.
“I always wanted a PhD,” Cooper says. “I had a great respect for education, and knew I wanted to fulfill my potential." He was also a gifted athlete, who studied at Armstrong and Georgia Southern before obtaining a doctorate at the University of Georgia. MENSA, an organization for those with a high-IQ. Chief among the lessons of history is that education shapes destinies. At present, Cooper is absorbed in writing a book in long hand about the legacy and impact of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Roosevelt was also a strong champion of education. Another of Cooper’s interests concerns the powers of philanthropy and social action. One of Cooper’s great influences was his maternal grandparents, who lived in Louisville, Kentucky. William George Boston, and his wife, Mary Alice Ray Boston, presented strong examples to him and he recalls them fondly."He (William George) collected old bicycle parts and built bikes—a couple dozen every year—and gave them to disadvantaged children." Both were social advocates and their generous spirits affected him. Mary
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Alice, who died in 1979, was an activist “who marched for civil rights." Cooper describes her as a passionate woman who lived what she believed. “My grandmother took in Mammy Jack, who was an ancestor’s slave. They so cared about her, that, in her old age they moved her in with them and took care of her themselves. She lived to be 114! My grandmother always wanted to be called Mammy, too, and so my grandparents were called Mammy and Gramps." Cooper believes childhood visits with his grandparents taught him to care about the disadvantaged. He would like to continue his grandparent’s philanthropic example, beginning with the practical. “I’m very interested in supporting things like the (Savannah) Coastal Harvest Food Bank." He pauses. “There are a lot of people who don’t get enough to eat."
Cooper is just as concerned for those starving for opportunity and an education. He has made a bequest to UGA in hopes to benefit future students facing educational hardship. He hopes it might support a student of a special type: “One very deserving, but who is limited by their financial or health considerations,” he notes. “I got a lot out of my experience at the University of Georgia. I want to give something back, to enable graduate students who may have financial difficulty pursuing their graduate degrees. I think that alumni, whether they got their undergraduate, graduate, or both degrees from UGA, should examine what they got out of their experience at UGA—and try to appreciate that by leaving a bequest, even if it is $100." n
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The Summer 13 edition of The University of Georgia Graduate School Magazine.