Art and the immigrants

first_imgWhen she was a girl in Brazil, Angelica Silva made a regular, cherished detour on her way to school, stopping at a local museum to wonder at the treasures inside.Last week Silva, now a Harvard custodial worker, was back in a space filled with beautiful artworks.“For me, it’s amazing,” said Silva, who looked like a kid in a candy store during a recent outing to the Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum. “I loved the museums since I was a little kid.”It was Silva’s first visit, but it won’t be her last. She is participating in an outreach program created by museum officials that helps immigrants to enjoy Harvard’s collections, develop their English skills, and connect to important lessons in history and democracy.“We wanted to invite people into a mainstream cultural institution that they might not seek out on their own,” said Ray Williams, the museums’ director of education, who created the program called “Engaging New Americans: Explorations in Art, Self, and Our Democratic Heritage.”In 2009, Williams and senior museum educator Judy Murray developed a pilot for the program in collaboration with the Massachusetts Alliance of Portuguese Speakers and its 12-week citizenship course. The outline included visits to the museum focused on art from colonial and revolutionary times, the 19th century with an emphasis on Western expansion, and 20th century art.“We realized the museum might have works of art that could make American history more memorable, and that we might enrich the process of preparing to become an American,” said Williams.Like latter-day explorers, the many first-time visitors enter the galleries, using the paintings and sculptures as springboards for conversations in English about democratic values.A provocative altarpiece from the Italian Renaissance depicting Saint Francis of Assisi receiving the stigmata inspires a discussion about Catholicism. Other works in the museum shine a light on religious traditions. Collectively, they help students explore the notion of the freedom of religion guaranteed by the First Amendment to the Constitution.“The works of art lead naturally to conversations about the democratic freedoms we enjoy,” said Williams.Last fall, Williams hired Maria Schaedler-Luera as a part-time community educator. Drawing on her theatrical background, she incorporates active teaching techniques into the program. The Brazilian native, who has a master’s in intercultural relations, likes to gather students in front of the museum’s Daniel Chester French bronze sculpture of a seated Abraham Lincoln. There she asks them to create a frozen tableau portraying the Emancipation Proclamation.“Living art and responding with our body,” Schaedler-Luera said, leads to a powerful learning experience.After studying a painting together, Schaedler-Luera and Williams will ask the students what it means to them, what they observed, or how it relates to their own experience as an immigrant. In reacting to the art, they practice their English skills. Sometimes they write a poem together about an artwork, with each student contributing a line, or they read a brief play, drafted by Williams, that relates to painting or sculpture.“It’s about navigating the museum environment, learning how to look closely at a work of art, building on each other’s ideas, and using English to express your thoughts, feelings, and opinions,” he said.With a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, Williams and his team expanded the program last year to include more than 30 teaching gallery visits and a family day, as well as produced an upcoming sourcebook that will include questions about featured works of art, activities to develop English skills, and information about American history and government.To ensure accessibility, Williams also used the funding to assist with transportation costs, extra museum staffing after hours when most of the visits took place, and  meals for those participating in the program. Today, the project serves a number of community organizations and partners closely with Harvard’s Bridge to Learning and Literacy program.Last Wednesday (June 15), Williams guided Silva’s Bridge class to the Sackler’s fourth-floor galleries and a room filled with works of Impressionist masters such as Edgar Degas, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, and Paul Gauguin.Together, they explored the subject matter and nuance of a moody, richly textured painting: Claude Monet’s “The Gare Saint-Lazare: Arrival of a Train.” Next, the students chose an artwork that they felt related to the concepts of change and transition and discussed their selection. Finally, they read through a brief play by Williams that was based on the evocative work “Pan and Pysche” by 19th century British Artist Sir Edward Burne-Jones.“I am always just thinking about how wonderful the museum is as a resource and how it can really speak to people in so many different ways,” said Williams, who hopes the program can serve as a template for other museums interested in expanding their community outreach.For John Antonellis, a lead instructor at the Bridge program who has accompanied two of his classes to the museum, the new experiences and the respect that the program offers his students are invaluable.“For a lot of students, it’s their first time ever in an art museum. So it’s not part of their routine, and it raises their awareness to a whole new way of seeing the world,” Antonellis said. “It often brings out sides of their personality not evident in a classroom setting. At times, they are the teachers sharing their observations and insights informed by their particular cultural viewpoint.”last_img read more

A really cool treat

first_imgHarvard helped members of its administrative team beat the summer heat and get into the Olympic spirit on Friday with an ice cream social that featured tasty treats and two TV screens showing the Olympic Games in London.Sponsored by Harvard’s Office of the Executive Vice President, the afternoon get-together in Tercentenary Theatre was one in a series of events that aims to bring together colleagues from different Schools and departments. Last fall, the office organized a “giving thanks” event that encouraged employees to write notes of gratitude to their co-workers. In December, the office held a “winter warm-up” breakfast in Holyoke Center, with bagels, coffee, and hot chocolate.The events invite members of the Harvard community to take a break from their daily routines and connect with colleagues they might not normally see.“Today, we are taking advantage of the excitement of the Olympics and hosting an ice cream social as a way to say ‘thank you’ for the extraordinary work that our staff does every day, ” said Harvard Executive Vice President Katie Lapp.Taking a break from his duties as associate director for custodial and support services, Jason Luke enjoyed a cone and caught up with friends and colleagues.“Hot summer day, end of the week, free ice cream: What could be better?” he said. “I like just running into people — people you maybe don’t see or get a chance to chitchat with on a regular basis, since you are always working. … That’s the best part.”Volleyball, swimming, and gymnastics topped Luke’s list of favorite Olympic events to watch. The U.S. women’s gymnastics team was also a big hit with artist Jerrie Lyndon, who during the social created a chalk drawing that depicted members of the team and the iconic Olympic rings on a walkway adjacent to Memorial Church.“I was impressed with our team and how they did,” said Lyndon of the gold medal-winning squad that was dubbed the ‘Fab Five.’  “I know this is just temporary, but I wanted to make a tribute to them.”Attendees were treated to a selection of ice cream flavors from Ben & Jerry’s, cups of Richie’s Italian Ice in mango, lemon, and watermelon, and a playlist of songs from the Olympics opening ceremonies.last_img read more

Row, row, row your shells

first_imgThe Harvard men’s and Radcliffe women’s rowing crews will be out in full force during this year’s Head of the Charles Regatta, taking place Oct. 20-21 along the Charles River.The men’s heavyweight crew is already on a roll this year, opening the season by dominating the Head of the Oklahoma regatta on Sept. 29, where the crew bested 2012 Olympians. Coached by Harry Parker, the heavyweight crew last year won the Championship Eight event at the Head of the Charles in a feat that hadn’t been pulled off by Harvard in 34 years.The Crimson men’s lightweight crew finished second to the U.S. rowing team in the eights event at last year’s event, while the Radcliffe women’s heavyweight crew also finished in second place, with the Radcliffe lightweight crew placing third.For more information, visit year’s Head of the Charles is expected to attract 9,000 rowers from around the world and 300,000 spectators.last_img read more

Intelligent Earth

first_imgWhat would happen if the Earth’s axis suddenly tilted by 50 degrees or more? It may sound like the plot of a bad science fiction movie, but scientists say it’s not an academic question — geological records show such shifts have happened several times throughout the planet’s history, with dramatic effects on climate and sea level.Harvard researchers are now answering one of the key questions related to such shifts: Once its axis tilts, how does the Earth “know” to return to its normal orientation?As described in a Nature report, Jessica Creveling, a former Harvard grad student and now a postdoctoral fellow at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), and Harvard Professor of Geophysics Jerry X. Mitrovica worked with colleagues on research suggesting that these events — known as true polar wander — may have been caused by “pulses” of convection in the Earth’s mantle below the surface, with the resulting return of the poles driven by both the elasticity of the tectonic plates around the planet’s surface and by the flattening of its shape around the equator.“The idea you can take the Earth, tip it over and somehow the system always knows where it’s come from — that’s a peculiar idea,” said Creveling. “For me, that’s the quirky, dynamic issue and the challenge of this. In fact, all of the classic papers in this field argue that when the pole moves, it loses all memory of its previous location. We’re saying that this is not the case. There is something in the system that tells it, ‘Here’s where you come back.’”In explaining these remarkable episodes of polar wander, Mitrovica and Creveling also point to changes in the flow of the Earth’s mantle that occur during periods when tectonic plates come together to form supercontinents. The massive landmasses act like thermal blankets, and “it is at these times when the Earth will be provoked into a large true polar wander event,” Mitrovica said. “When a supercontinent exists, material rises up in the rocky mantle below the supercontinent, stretching the Earth out like a football and giving it a tendency to spin like a football.”To understand how the Earth “knows” how to return to its original orientation, Creveling and Mitrovica turned to two images, the first being the stretching of a rubber band.As the planet shifts on its axis, stress on the tectonic plates that make up Earth’s crust increases, Mitrovica explained. That increased stress acts like a stretched rubber band, gradually pulling the planet back to its original rotation axis, even after millions of years of rotation at a different angle.Previous research conducted by Mitrovica uncovered a similar phenomenon on Mars. However, while the Earth’s surface is made up of many different plates, the surface of Mars consists of a single plate.“We have shown that even with those breaks, [the Earth] still has a bit of that rubber band effect,” Mitrovica said.The second effect at work in drawing the planet back to its original orientation, Mitrovica explained, is similar to that of a toy punching bag that bounces back up after being pushed over. Because the Earth is not a perfect sphere, when the rotation pole moves, the extra mass centered around the equator acts like an anchor, pulling the pole back to its original place.These massive shifts in the Earth’s position could have played a role in the planet’s long-term development, and life on it.“I think it is an important piece of the puzzle. It will help us understand how the Earth evolved from where it was to where it is now,” Creveling said.last_img read more

Allston Partnership fund extended

first_imgHarvard University announced the extension of the Harvard Allston Partnership Fund (HAPF), bringing an additional $500,000 in grants to local nonprofits that serve and support the Allston-Brighton community.The announcement follows the Boston Redevelopment Authority Board’s approval of the relocation of some University support services to 28 Travis St. The five-year extension of the HAPF, which was created in 2008 by Harvard and the city of Boston, in collaboration with the Allston-Brighton community, is a direct result of the program’s success and popularity. Nonprofits, local leaders, and neighbors have called the HAPF an essential support for important educational and social services in the Allston-Brighton community.“Over the past five years, the Harvard Allston Partnership Fund program has worked to improve quality of life for thousands of Allston-Brighton residents,” said Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino. “I’m pleased that Harvard has recommitted to the partnership for another five years, and will continue to serve our residents through this important work.”In its first five years, the HAPF gave $500,000 in grants to 20 local organizations, helping them to serve more than 3,500 Allston-Brighton residents. The program will continue the annual distribution of $100,000 in grants to local organizations in 2014. By 2018, the HAPF will have infused a total of $1 million into local Allston-Brighton organizations in just over a decade.“The HAPF is a unique partnership between Harvard, the city of Boston, and our Allston neighbors, and an example of how we can work together to achieve our shared goal for a thriving Allston community,” said Christine Heenan, Harvard’s vice president for public affairs and communications. “We are pleased to support the excellent work of many Allston-Brighton nonprofits that work tirelessly to better the lives of our Allston neighbors and enrich our community.”“Half a million dollars in HAPF grants have already helped local organizations to survive and thrive so they could serve thousands of local residents, and the extension of this fund will continue to assist our neighbors who would otherwise go without educational and social support programs. I think I speak for all the members of the HAPF advisory board when I say that I’m proud to be part of an effort that has had such a widespread impact on people in our community who needed it most,” said John Bruno, a member of the HAPF advisory board and the Harvard Allston Task Force. “With Harvard’s support and under diligence and guidance of Inez Foster, the program’s administrator, we’ve enabled hundreds, if not thousands, of dreams to come true.”The HAPF supports neighborhood improvement projects, cultural enrichment, and educational programming in Allston-Brighton. HAPF funds have enabled local nonprofits to extend their reach, serving more residents and enhancing youth enrichment, as well as providing educational programs and activities for families, the elderly, and people with disabilities. Several organizations, including the Gardner Pilot Academy, the Honan Allston Library, and the Vocational Advancement Center, have received several grants over the years.The volunteer board of community members carefully reviews applications for funding annually before distributing funds that will best benefit the community.last_img read more

The world as sacred

first_img“Divine Space and Sacred Territories” sounds like something you find in church. But this felicitous phrase was the name of the inaugural conference of Harvard’s African and Diasporic Religious Studies Association, the only such group in North America.About 20 scholarly presenters and 150 listeners gathered Friday at Boylston Hall to discuss this modern scattering of ancient religious traditions. The teachings are “always blending and cosmopolitan,” said association director and Harvard doctoral student Funlayo E. Wood, and are “formidable forces in world region. They heal what is broken, balance what is askew.”What has this religious diaspora done to influence modern spiritual practice? A lot, the scholars said, including providing a sense of the Earth as sacred and healing. And what can such religious influences — most of them from a preliterate era — offer current spiritual practice? Again, much, say the experts, including a sense that the divine may reside in everyday objects, in movement, and in the body itself.Funlayo E. Wood, association director and Harvard doctoral student, introduced the inaugural conference.Through the day, the conference scholars from New England, New York, Georgia, Florida, and Nigeria touched on Yorùbá, its Caribbean cousin Vodou, and other practices from humankind’s genetic ancestral home. (“We are all Africans,” said keynote speaker Baba John Mason.)“It’s not tired old things that have been repeated,” said Francis X. Clooney S.J. of the conference’s fresh perspective on modern spirituality. “You’re bringing new things.” (Clooney, who offered a few words to the audience early on, is director of the Harvard Divinity School’s Center for the Study of World Religions, a major conference sponsor.)Such practices offer timely lessons. For one, they bring to bear those natural entities deserving honor and protection, including the Earth itself. “Destroying the land equates to human genocide,” said presenter Yoknyam Dabale, a Nigerian-born blogger who is a master’s degree student at Boston College.The conference began with a libation based on the sacredness of Earth itself by Ifa and Orisa practitioner Awo Oluwole Ifakunle Adetutu Alagbede, chief priest of the Ile Omo Ope shrine in Harlem. “Christians look toward the sky,” he said of his water blessing. “We look toward the ground.”Dabale added that female spirits are custodians of the land. It was a reminder of another lesson from Africa’s religious diaspora: the spiritual power of the feminine. Within Christianity, at least, that note remains muted. Dabale said that both modern Africa and the Americas are in need of the balancing, life-giving spiritual power of the feminine.Also deserving of honor and protection, according to these diasporic traditions, are ancestors, who represent the wisdom of the past; elders, who represent the wisdom of the present; and communities, which represent the wisdom of cooperation. That well-ordered life is embodied in the termite mound, said Mason. The shape of these towering cylindrical mounds is echoed in sacred mud structures seen throughout the Yorùbá homeland of northwest Africa.Historian Suzanne Preston Blier, whose reflections on African sacred beliefs opened the conference, remarked on the same ubiquity of these architectural features, these “hollow residences of spirits,” she said, that attract protection and good will. Blier, who is the Allen Whitehill Clowes Chair of Fine Arts and professor of African and African American Studies, also talked about mapping sacred space using modern geographic information systems (GIS) and computer technologies. An interactive project is already under way, she said, in the Africa section of Harvard’s WorldMap.Also deserving of care are our own bodies. “Your body is a temple — ritual space that you design,” said Mason, a Yorùbá priest and founder of the Brooklyn-based Yorùbá Theological Archministry.The body is in special need of protection these days, said therapist, interfaith minister, and Yorùbá priestess DeShannon Bowens, especially for “cultural groups with a history of violent oppression, (where) traumas on the body go back to the time of their enslavement.” A sexual assault takes place every 2.5 minutes in the United States alone, she said, adding that one in every three or four girls (and one in six boys) will be sexually assaulted in their lifetimes.“It violates our bodies as sacred space,” said Bowens of sexual trauma, which she tries to heal with both psychotherapy and traditional spiritualism. “These wounds go back thousands of years.”Bowens, founder of the Ilera counseling service (the word means triumph and health in Yorùbá), was among the many practitioners, artists, and scholars who said that African diasporic beliefs bring another lesson to the West and to Christian nations at large: The body and the spirit are not in opposition. They are not in a dueling, dual state, as Augustine held (and as Plato had argued much earlier). They complement one another, and interweave — as Vodou holds — like Earth and sky. Thinking that the body and spirit are opposed, like good and evil, said Bowens “is one of the hardest things to get over. You don’t even have to be a Christian.”In the conference’s four panels, and among its 14 presenters (12 of them women), the lesson of the body’s spiritual power was most evident. Scholars stood behind the podium, but they moved, shouted, sang, and danced, too. Maya James was among the last trio of presenters, all performers from the collective Lukumi Arts in New York. Her paper was a riff, sermon, shout, and a scholar’s interweaving of Aristotle and Shakespeare with the Pentecostal. Her work compared women sitting placidly in church to peaches in a jar. But before long, the peaches “shook loose,” said James, the preacher was leaping from the pulpit, and “it is holy bedlam in this space.”Holy bedlam provides a lesson for churches everywhere, she said. “Divinity can exist anywhere, even when it’s not invited.”The conference seemed to say: Bring the body back to spirituality. It also seemed to say: Bring back the portability of the sacred. In a gathering whose main theme was divine space, a lesson emerged from Africa’s spiritual diaspora: In a world of churches, temples, and mosques, the sacred does not require a building; it is present in everyday life.Blier talked about sacred groves, pathways littered with glittering mica, roots, stones, and trees with meaning. Clooney talked about sacred spaces in the world created by tragedy, like ground zero in New York, and about Harvard’s own “quasi-sacred spaces,” including Memorial Church, Memorial Hall, and the glittering toe on one foot of the John Harvard statute, a lucky touchstone for thousands of tourists ever year.Mason talked about the little shrines in the home of every Yorùbá believer, which provide living space for orisha, the traditional deities of wisdom, sexuality, healing, and other powers. “This is maybe the one strength that keeps us from being Catholic or being Protestant,” said Mason. “We did not put orishas in a separate place that we may visit. Rather, they are in my house. … My relations to God are always close at hand.”last_img read more

The ‘mirror with a memory’

first_imgThe Harvard University Archives resemble a time machine. Get behind a desk, fill out a form, dial back to the year you want, and there you are: transported by means of collected books, manuscripts, diaries, and more.Then there is “Mirror With a Memory,” a Pusey Library exhibit of photographs and other artifacts from the years when Harvard and the nation were anticipating the Civil War, then fighting in it (or, in some cases, avoiding the fight), and later remembering it. In four glass cases, the display serves a dual role. It distills what Harvard was like 150 years ago, and it showcases the photography of the day. Writing in the Atlantic Monthly in 1859, Harvard poet and medical professor Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr., A.B. 1829, called the new medium, barely 20 years old, “the mirror with a memory.”The Civil War was not the first conflict to be captured in that mirror, said exhibit curator Juliana Kuipers, a special materials cataloger and processing archivist. But it was the most extensively photographed to then, and the portable images — on glass, copper, iron, and paper — changed the American perspective on war. Photography brought the front home. “You had these battlefield images,” Kuipers said, and soldiers could keep them in pockets and knapsacks, or send them to their families. The photos also served as resonant artifacts of lives lost to war.The show’s biggest images show the College at that time: dusty Harvard Square, with one horse poised to pull a rail trolley; Harvard Yard, with undergraduates in top hats loitering outside Hollis Hall; and the muddy shore line of the tidal Charles River along Mt. Auburn Street. Memorial Hall is visible on the far northern horizon.Over the exhibit’s cases, a timeline recounts the history of photography, from the 18th century photograms of Thomas Wedgwood to the 2010 Apple iPhone. (Emily Tordo, a staff assistant at the archives, did the layout.) In between are the photo technologies typical of the Civil War era: the daguerreotype and the tintype, both metal artifacts that were framed and fragile; the ambrotype, made of glass; and the albumen print, the first type of photo printed on paper from a negative. It was the albumen print, reproduced on a substrate of cotton paper, which made photos robust and portable enough to be carried by soldiers or mailed home.The College’s first class album, in 1852, was simply 83 daguerreotypes stored in a wooden case. The images were the work of Boston photographer John Adams Whipple, the official class photographer until the eve of the war, and inventor of the crystalotype, paper prints created from daguerreotypes.In the realm of minor photographic inventions with a Harvard provenance, “Mirror With a Memory” includes a mention of the quotable Holmes. He developed a handheld stereoscope for viewing dual photographs so that the images appeared to have depth.These technologies seem exotically archaic. But the images they created bring the viewer back to the duality of the time machine/archive. The exhibit shows simultaneously what has changed and what has stayed the same. The best example is the striking currency of young men posing for posterity on the eve of war. Robert Gould Shaw, A.B. 1860, whose uniformed image appears twice in the show, looks as impossibly youthful and handsome now, in an albumen print image, as he surely did then. He died in battle in 1863, but we can see him still.Robert Gould Shaw (A.B. 1860) photographed by John Adams Whipple. Whipple was Harvard class photographer from 1852, the year the class album tradition began, until 1859. Shaw was killed at Fort Wagner on July 18, 1863 and was buried in a mass grave with his slain black troopers. The exploits of Shaw’s infantry were recounted in the 1989 film “Glory.”Other faces in the exhibit look roughly contemporary. Longtime Harvard librarian John Langdon Sibley, A.B. 1825, whose 1846-1882 diary records life at Harvard, looks well-fed and professorial. A teenage Robert Todd Lincoln, A.B. 1864, captured in an 1860 ambrotype, was President Abraham Lincoln’s eldest son, and he rode out most of the fighting as an undergraduate. Bearded, tough-looking William Henry Fitzhugh Lee, Confederate general and the second son of Gen. Robert E. Lee, enrolled at Harvard in 1854 and left in his junior year. (His picture is seen in part of one exhibit case nearly given over to Harvard’s Confederate veterans.)These indoor portraits look like they could have been taken yesterday. But in photos taken outdoors, we return to an irretrievably vanished world. At the juncture of Garden Street and Concord Avenue is a long line of heavy cannon piled in front of the Cambridge Arsenal. In another image, a few uniformed men of the 20th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry — named “the Harvard regiment” for the origin of its officers — stand in front of a log cabin at Fort Benton, Md., in the fall of 1861. They had just survived the 20th’s first battle, at Ball’s Bluff, Va.; 88 of their fellows had been killed or wounded (including future Supreme Court justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr.), and 113 captured.Colonel’s headquarters, 20th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, Camp Benton, Maryland, 1861. To the far left is Capt. William Francis Bartlett (A.B. 1862), who served through the whole war, was wounded three times, and became a major general. He was considered Harvard’s greatest war hero. The photo was taken just after the 20th’s first battle at Ball’s Bluff, Va.Other exhibit artifacts root us just as firmly in the past. To illustrate the early days of the war, there is a copy of the May 1861 issue of Harvard Magazine, then an undergraduate publication. It is open to an angry letter from Confederate sympathizers in Kentucky, which invites Harvard boys to “smell the powder and feel the steel of Southern gentlemen.”To illustrate the end of the war, the exhibit looks at Harvard’s efforts at commemoration. There is a list of the Union dead published for Commencement in 1865, an album of images of the slain (there is Shaw again), and documents about Memorial Hall.The exhibit includes an 1864 letter from Harvard senior Frank Waldo Wildes, A.B. 1864, to classmate John Owen, A.B. 1864. Wildes was getting ready for Class Day. Owen was at the front, an officer with the 36th U.S. Colored Troops.“You say you are very busy,” said Wildes, showing a touch of heat. “Well, so am I.”“Mirror With a Memory” is on view at the Harvard University Archives, Pusey Library, through June 5. Hours are 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. Robert Todd Lincoln (A.B. 1864), President Lincoln’s eldest son, in the summer of 1860. He enlisted in February 1865 as an aide to Gen. Ulysses S. Grant and two months later was present at Gen. Robert E. Lee’s surrender at Appomattox Court House.last_img read more

Tuberculosis and HIV targeted by student researchers

first_imgWhen people who have been cured of tuberculosis (TB) re-develop the disease, are they relapsing or fighting a new strain? How often should HIV/AIDS patients be tested to see if antiretroviral treatment is working?These questions are being explored by doctoral candidates Ellen “Ellie” Caniglia and Richa Gawande, who are conducting infectious disease studies at Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH). For both Caniglia and Gawande, the scientific explorations reflect their desire to find answers to urgent public health questions that they hope will lead to new ways to treat and prevent infectious diseases, especially those impacting impoverished countries.“Infectious diseases disproportionately affect developing nations. I’ve always been drawn to work on problems that impact poor populations,” said Gawande, who has seen firsthand the problems of global health inequities during travels to India and Haiti. “I want to be part of the collective effort to understand, treat, and prevent disease,” she said. Her interests ultimately led Gawande to HSPH where she is enrolled in the Ph.D. Program in the Biological Sciences in Public Health and works in the laboratory of Sarah Fortune, Melvin J. and Geraldine L. Glimcher Associate Professor of Immunology and Infectious Diseases. Read Full Storylast_img read more

Winning night for A.R.T.

first_imgFor the third consecutive year, theater productions with strong ties to Harvard won a range of honors at the Tony Awards.“All the Way,” a searching look at President Lyndon B. Johnson’s first year in office, won the award for best play on Sunday night at Radio City Musical Hall. The play also earned a best actor Tony for Bryan Cranston, who transitioned from his Emmy-winning run as chemistry teacher turned drug dealer Walter White in the hit series “Breaking Bad” to portray the nation’s 36th president onstage. “All the Way” opened the American Repertory Theater’s 2013-2014 season last fall and was directed by Bill Rauch ’84.Also, Tennessee Williams’ “The Glass Menagerie,” directed by former Radcliffe Fellow John Tiffany, won best lighting design for Natasha Katz. The play also was a top candidate for best revival.“We were thrilled to see ‘All the Way’ win the Tony for best play and Bryan Cranston win best actor for his incredible performance,” said A.R.T. artistic director Diane Paulus. “We are so proud that work we originated at our home at Harvard went on to find success with a wider audience.”Up on stage, Rauch kept his arm tightly around Paulus, his longtime friend, as producer Jeffrey Richards and Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Robert Schenkkan accepted the award for “All the Way.”Speaking by phone Tuesday from his home in Ashland, Ore., after a whirlwind trip to New York City, the artistic director of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival recalled his time as a Harvard undergraduate working with the nascent A.R.T., and what it meant to bring his professional production back to Cambridge.“It was so moving to be back on the Harvard campus and to be doing the show at the Loeb Drama Center where I really cut my teeth as a director … it was so powerful to be working at the A.R.T., a company that had shaped me so much as a young artist,” said Rauch, who directed 26 shows while on campus, met his husband while in college, and later formed the Cornerstone Theater Company in Los Angeles with several friends from Harvard.Rauch said he and the show’s producers chose to stage “All the Way” at the A.R.T. “largely because of our huge respect for Diane Paulus’ leadership.”“I love that we got to do “All the Way” at the A.R.T.” Rauch added, “and of course that we’ve had the success on Broadway. I couldn’t be happier.”When it came to casting the lead, Rauch and the play’s artistic team set their sights on Cranston, in part because of his name recognition, but also because of his “incredible depth as an actor.” Cranston, said Rauch, brought vulnerability, ferocity, and an incredible physicality to the role.“I was amazed by what a physical actor Bryan is. He made a lot of strong choices physically about LBJ that I think really led to a lot of the energy and the excitement about his performance. … It’s really quite remarkable. He really transforms his body when he’s LBJ. He becomes heavier; he becomes taller. It’s quite astonishing.”The awards keep a Tony streak alive for the A.R.T., which has staged a number of winning productions recently. Last year, Paulus won for best direction of a musical with her restaging of the 1970s show “Pippin,” which also won awards for best revival of a musical, best actress in a musical, and best featured actress in a musical.In 2012, the best musical Tony went to “Once,” directed by Tiffany and workshopped at the A.R.T. before it headed to Broadway. That same year Paulus’ fresh take on the 1935 opera “Porgy and Bess,” with music by legendary composer George Gershwin and lyrics by his brother Ira and author DuBose Heyward, earned an award for best musical revival as well as a best actress Tony. The two shows took home 10 awards in total.Sunday evening also included a sneak peek at what’s in store for an upcoming production at the A.R.T. Singer Jennifer Hudson performed “Neverland” from the musical “Finding Neverland.” Based on the film of the same name, the show tells the tale of playwright J.M. Barrie’s relationship with the family that inspired him to create “Peter Pan.” “Finding Neverland,” presented at the A.R.T. by special agreement with producer Harvey Weinstein, opens on July 23 and runs through Sept. 28.last_img read more

The last companions

first_img“Looking into the eyes of someone facing death is one of the most powerful things a person can do,” said Annette Nicolas, a Boston Theological Institute student enrolled in a hospital chaplaincy course at Harvard Divinity School (HDS).Working with the elderly, Nicolas said she once locked looks with a dying woman in her 80s. “I didn’t know what she was seeing in my eyes, but I knew she wasn’t going to let go of my gaze, and I wasn’t going to let go either.”Nicolas said that to be with someone in death is a beautiful, profound, and almost biblical experience. “I feel blessed to be in that position, and to also study spiritual caregiving at HDS.”Over the last three years, an increasing number of Harvard and Theological Institute students have studied at HDS with the vocational objective of caring for the spiritual needs of the sick and dying.Chris Berlin, a hospital chaplain and HDS instructor in clinical chaplaincy, said there is a growing need today — especially as modern technology has prolonged the act of dying — for well-trained chaplains who can speak to the emotional and spiritual needs of the sick and dying in institutional settings. Berlin said that HDS prepares students to meet those needs by teaching them to befriend, listen to, and simply be with the sick and dying. “The human presence is a very healing thing,” he said.Chris Berlin, a hospital chaplain and HDS instructor in clinical chaplaincy, said there is a growing need today — especially as modern technology has prolonged the act of dying — for well-trained chaplains who can speak to the emotional and spiritual needs of the sick and dying in institutional settings. Photos by Rose Lincoln/Harvard Staff PhotographerHDS students and their instructors also insist that facing death doesn’t have to be gloomy or depressing. Instead, it can be emotionally rewarding, life-affirming, and even wondrous for both patient and chaplain, they said.“Many of my patients have told me how they find gratitude in spite of their illness,” said Sophia Lufkin, a first-year HDS student who recently completed an intern chaplaincy program in a cancer ward of a Boston hospital.Walking past the gothic, hewn-stone buildings of the Divinity School, Lufkin explained that having a serious disease often prompts a person to step back from a hectic life and discover what is really important and meaningful ― usually his or her family and friends.The 26-year-old Lufkin said that her experiences with the sick and dying have made her more grateful for the people in her life. “I have seen how quickly life can be taken away, and that has made me appreciate my relationships much more.” Lufkin said her goal as a hospital chaplain is to help people find new hope and healing as they walk down an often dark and lonely path.“Many of my patients have told me how they find gratitude in spite of their illness,” said Sophia Lufkin, a first-year HDS student who recently completed an intern chaplaincy program in a cancer ward of a Boston hospital.Wearing a full Muslim headscarf, blue-jean skirt, and tennis shoes, and enjoying a bowl of vegetable soup on a patio table in a bustling Harvard Square, Ann Myers, a third-year HDS student, said that her chaplaincy field training has been life-affirming, making her appreciate her friends and family more. But she admits that she might not be what some patients think of as a hospital chaplain.Nevertheless, Myers — an American convert to Islam — said being a Muslim ministering mostly to Christian patients has not been a problem. “In fact,” she said, “a lot of patients even thought that I was a nun. Some even called me sister.” Myers laughed and said she usually didn’t make a big deal about this until she was asked what convent she belonged to. “Then I had to come clean.”Myers said that as a hospital chaplain her biggest challenge was just walking into a patient’s room for the first time. “How can I go into a total stranger’s room and say, ‘Hi, I’m Ann, a student chaplain, what do you think about God?’” The normally shy Myers said that she usually got through it by giving herself little pep talks before entering. “But sometimes,” she admitted, “I just couldn’t do it; much of it was rooted in my fear of rejection.”In the end, Myers said she learned that her fears were ill-founded because people were always grateful to talk to her. “But sometimes when I entered the room and told them I was a chaplain, I had to quickly follow it with: ‘It’s OK, I wasn’t sent here because you’re checking out soon.’”Sarah Jabbour, a third-year HDS student, agreed that one of the biggest challenges a chaplain has is making that awkward introduction. “The quickest way to become unpopular with patients is to say you’re a chaplain,” Jabbour said with a laugh. But the introduction is made and conversation begins, Jabbour said, “It’s amazing how much emotional and spiritual progress you can make with your patient.”Jabbour recalled visiting an elderly dying man, Larry, whose disease had paralyzed most of his body and prevented him from speaking. For a while, Jabbour said, Larry could make the thumbs-up, thumbs-down sign to answer yes-and-no questions. On their visits, Jabbour read the sports page to Larry, an avid sports fan. “And I learned more about baseball and football than I ever cared to,” she said with a smile.Jabbour said once when an old song, “You Make Me Feel So Young,” filtered over the nursing home speakers, Larry suddenly stopped, pointed to himself, then to his heart, and then to her.“Larry, are you trying to tell me that you care about me?” Jabbour asked.Larry gave her a thumbs-up sign.“I love you, too,” Jabbour replied.Jabbour said the moment made her realize how emotionally and spiritually healing just being in the presence of another person can be. “I learned that being a chaplain doesn’t have to be more complicated than that,” she said.Ronald Hindelang, a bespectacled and grandfatherly-looking 73-year-old who is a full-time chaplain at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, agrees. “A lot of times, new chaplains think too much when talking with patients,” said the sagacious Hindelang, who trains HDS student chaplains at Brigham. “They believe they have to say certain prescribed things, but I tell them that less in more.” Hindelang said sometimes it’s best to let things speak for themselves, and allow patients to talk and sort matters out for themselves in front of the chaplain.Ronald Hindelang, a full-time chaplain at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, said he tells his students that he is less interested in having a heavy theological discussion with a patient, and more interested in having a meaningful conversation.Winding his way down a busy corridor of the hospital, Hindelang said he tells his students that he is less interested in having a heavy theological discussion with a patient, and more interested in having a meaningful conversation. “Because I don’t think many of my patients will remember whatever I said, but they will remember that I was there, that I cared for them, that I prayed with them, and maybe even cried with them,” he said as he smiled and allowed a patient in a wheelchair to pass. “And in the end, they will hopefully remember that I was just a good companion with them for a while.”Berlin said he agrees that a good chaplain is always a good companion. As a companion to many patients over the years, he said that he has witnessed some pretty amazing things that might even be deemed miracles.Meeting residents in an assisted living facility in Danvers, Annette Nicolas tends to their spiritual needs.Sipping a black ice tea in the corner of a French Provincial-themed café on Massachusetts Avenue, Berlin recalled when a patient of his, Julie, a devout Christian, became increasingly depressed as her death neared. On his last visit with her, Berlin said her eyes suddenly grew wide and she looked at him in shock. At first, Berlin thought she was having a seizure, but she didn’t look like she was in physical distress. Berlin asked her what was going on, and Julie said she was seeing Jesus Christ in the air behind him, radiating comfort and reassuring her that all was OK.“And she kept on saying, over and over, as tears rolled down her face, ‘Thank you, Lord Jesus. Thank you.’” Two days later, she died.Similarly, Hindelang said he recalled a conversation he had with an atheist woman who was angry when her 4-year-old son, dying of a tumor, said that he had had a dream in which God told him that he was going to die, but he would soon be in heaven. Hindelang said the agitated mother insisted, “How could this happen? We never went to church. We never prayed. We never even used the word God in his presence.”Hindelang said he didn’t say much. It’s best, as he has told his students, that a chaplain sometimes lets things speak for themselves.Anthony Chiorazzi, who has an M.Phil. in social anthropology from Oxford University, is studying for a master of theological studies degree at Harvard Divinity School. He has researched and written about such diverse religious cultures as the Hare Krishnas, Zoroastrians, Shakers, and the Old Order Amish.last_img read more