By Matt Collette | Northeastern News | May 31, 2013
There are two ways to learn about Brazil’s language, culture, and government. The first way is in a classroom, through lectures, class discussions, homework, and exams.
The other ways is to simply go to Brazil, the largest country in South America.
A group of Northeastern students chose the second option, arriving in Brazil in early May for one of the university’s Dialogue of Civilizations programs. Since then, they’ve toured the country, living in Rio de Janeiro and Belo Horizonte while studying the Portuguese language and Brazil’s education and political systems.
“I came on this trip to see my roots and family,” said Leonard Ziviani, a second-year business administration student who grew up in Brazil before moving to Boston nine years ago. “But I was also looking to meet new people and make a lot of connections for future internships and co-ops.
“I feel like I am going to come back to live and work here,” he added, “so knowing more about my own country and how its political system and economy works were huge reasons for wanting to participate in this program.”
Guided by assistant professor of political science Thomas Vicino and Simone Elias, a doctoral student and the Portuguese program coordinator, the students are getting firsthand exposure to topics they previously explored through textbooks and PowerPoint presentations. After morning classes, the students embark on excursions to key cultural and governmental sites, meeting with top state officials and civic leaders. One time, they stopped at Mineirao Stadium, one of the central sites for next year’s World Cup, which Brazil is hosting.
With events like the World Cup and the 2016 Olympics—the first to be held in South America—Brazil’s presence on the world stage is increasing. Its fast-growing economy makes it a key player alongside emerging economies in countries such as China, Russia, and India.
For students on the Dialogue, however, the understated moments often prove the most enlightening.
“I like to play soccer and a bunch of us have been going to a park right up the street where we can play with Brazilians,” said Alex Rodriguez, a second-year student studying international affairs. “They’re so much better than us, but it’s still a lot of fun. And we get to learn a lot of the conversational language and slang that we don’t pick up in our classes.”
Taking part in the Dialogue in Brazil helped fourth-year international affairs major Katherine Dopler land an international co-op. From August to December, she’ll be in the country teaching English and helping run a language learning center.
“I’ll have a solid footing for when I return to work and live in Brazil for a semester,” Dopler said.
As part of the program, students pair up with their Brazilian counterparts at Centro Universitário UNA in Belo Horizonte. Dialogue teaching assistant Allana Leigh, who participated in the program last year, noted that face-to-face interaction reinforces the lessons learned in the classroom and on the site visits.
“It gives you a new perspective,” added Dopler. “It’s one thing to learn about a country from the United States, but it’s another thing to live and learn side-by-side with people in their own country.”
Violence Prevention & the Meaning of First Responders
By Emily Mann | Aspire Wire: Ideas, Conversation, Action | May 28, 2013
We should be outraged about it all. Columbine. Newtown. Aurora. Virginia Tech. Some stories of violence make the news and stay in the news. Some stories we may not hear about at all. We won’t know the names of the victims. But whether it is on the front page of the Boston Globe, the back pages of the New York Times, or not in the paper at all, it is worthy of outrage.
Slate.com has been compiling homicides since Newtown. It is not a perfect record, but an approximation of the violence that is seen (even if not noticed) in America. Spend some time there and you will learn about the men and women, children and infants, yes—infants, who have been killed by gun violence in the United States these past few months. At my last look, it was 3,774 people. I’m outraged.
The problem is clear – too many people killed with guns. But solutions are in debate. Gun control, in one form or another, is certainly one mechanism to propel the conversation forward, but many of us already know that limited or unlimited gun control is only part of the answer to the problem. If we want to make change we need to look at a range of solutions that address individual, family, community and social issues. This means a commitment to a multifaceted series of solutions to a complex social problem. Our current strategies aren’t working now, and we need to consider a range of policies, programs, and practices if we are going to reduce (eliminate) gun violence.
The prevention paradigm considers the role of individuals, families, schools, communities, and government policy. This theory of practice seeks to implement effective strategies that have been proven to work and make positive change on targeted outcomes before, during, and after the onset of a problem.
“We have opportunity to look beyond the violent headlines at the helpers in the community, in the schools, who work in the non-profit sector to infuse prevention in the lives of all children.”
Using the prevention paradigm, tertiary responses to violence react to a crisis and are implemented to treat existing problems. Tertiary practices, programs and policies look to the victim, who is injured or dead, and the perpetrator, who inflicted the wounds. One classic and best known tertiary response is incarceration and victim support services. Alternatives to incarceration do exist (such as substance abuse treatment and mental health counseling), but so do more innovative programs and practices that look to make a positive impact right before the violent act. The Violence Interrupters highlights one approach that looks to engage youth at risk of violence at either end of the gun. They don’t look to disrupt the tangle of small gangs that have moved into (Chicago) neighborhoods, but they look to minimize gun related violence by coming in between gang turf battles and de-escalating neighborhood tensions. Their work is hard to quantify, but there appears to be some success from this on the ground model. But reactions to violence are not enough.
Secondary approaches to violence prevention are wide ranging from special education and educational enrichment to other forms of youth development and engagement targeting the “prime time of juvenile crime”; the after school hours between 3 and 6pm. And while there are many well researched and promising programs and practicesthat have been reviewed, I was most recently drawn to an article that helps to reframe the discussion away from the single target of a troubled or “bad” child, but towards the role that adults play in passing down messages of kindness, compassion, and fostering resilience. Rather than focus on a punitive approach to classroom behavior management, several schools around the country are looking at the environment of the school, and are reframing policies and practices of “blame-shame-punish” to policies that identify and consider the role of trauma in the lives of many children as they navigate their school day experiences.
Mounting evidence shows that early primary prevention and intervention programs, targeted before the onset of a problem, not only help to reduce violence, but also are cost-effective strategies that support a host of other pro-social outcomes, including high school completion and employment (and a subsequent reduction on social welfare programs). A 2010 report by the World Health Organization, stated: “Violence can be prevented. This is not an article of faith, but a statement based on evidence.” The report details seven prevention strategies that focus on individual development, promoting social relationships between peers, parents, and caregivers; teaching life skills; reducing access to drugs, alcohol, guns, and other weapons; promoting gender equality; fostering social supports and cultural competence; and early identification of victims coupled with programs and support and care for the needs of children, youth and adults who have experienced trauma. One of my favorite examples from a list of inspiring programs is the Nurse Family Partnership home-visiting program. The philosophy behind the program is aligned completely with a prevention perspective—targeting services early and holistically to support the developing needs of infants and their young parents. This program and other models of early intervention, that include high quality preschool, have been shown to reduce special education placements and child welfare interactions, and promote youth and parent educational and employment opportunities. Additional health and welfare benefits include lower rates of juvenile delinquency.
After the Boston Marathon bombings, many of us sat in shock as we reflected on an unimaginable act of terrorism. But even in that time of crises, we knew that the helpers were there. Messages on radio and television highlighted those brave citizens who came to the aid of those in need. The helpers were people from all professions working together for a common good—to restore health and justice and provide a sense of safety in an uncertain time. As we reflect on that moment and all the moments in time where violence takes and ruins lives, we have opportunity to look beyond the violent headlines at the helpers in the community, in the schools, who work in the non-profit sector to infuse prevention in the lives of all children. While we often think of first responders as those individuals immediately on the scene in a time of crisis, we may need to expand our definition to include frontline educators and human service professionals who come quickly in times of crisis, but also work more slowly to ensure that a crisis never happens in the first place.
3Qs: Philanthropy in the wake of tragedy
Tragic events like last month’s Boston Marathon bombings and the devastating tornado in Oklahoma this week have inspired incredible acts of kindness from people living in those communities, as well as others across the country. Many of those efforts come in the form of philanthropy. We asked Rebecca Riccio, the founding program director of Northeastern Students4Givingwho teaches in the Human Services program, to examine how charitable efforts unfold in the wake of tragedy, and the importance of being an informed donor.
1. What was your reaction to the charitable efforts that have transpired following last month’s Boston Marathon bombings and the devastating tornado in Oklahoma this week?
These tragic events serve as important teachable moments regarding philanthropy, because as a society we rely so heavily on charitable giving to supplement government aid following disasters. I also think they help us reflect on ways to give effectively to make the most impact. A couple of specific points come to mind. First, individual philanthropy often focuses on helping victims and communities recover in the immediate aftermath of a disaster. Look at how quickly The One Fund raised $30 million following the Boston Marathon bombings; it’s a reflection of people’s generosity and their impulse to help. However, if you look at disasters from years past like Hurricane Katrina and Superstorm Sandy, it’s also clear that the victims’ needs and the associated expenses continue long after the media attention fades and the initial fundraising efforts wind down. We need to take a longer-term view of recovery because those efforts can take longer and cost more than we think.
A second point is that while people understandably feel compelled to respond to them, front-page tragedies can also eclipse some of the other problems we try to address through charitable giving, like hunger and homelessness, which never relent. Additionally, there are instances when donor fatigue sets in, particularly following clusters of events like these. People may feel overwhelmed by the tragedies and by the requests for money to fund them. This can take a toll on the nonprofit community as a whole. For instance, in Boston there’s been some concern that fundraising efforts subsequent to the Boston Marathon bombings have not reached anticipated levels.
2. What impact has social media had on philanthropic efforts in the wake of tragedy?
Social media can make people feel more intimately connected to these events because of the immediacy of the coverage and the realization that tragedy can strike any of us at any time. This heightened awareness and sense of connection inspire giving.
Social media also provides quick and easy mechanisms for making donations of any amount online; the democratization of giving allows everyone to make a difference. However, the speed with which the Internet allows people to make donations is also a cause for concern because of the fundraising scams that emerge following tragic events. It’s important for people to verify nonprofits’ legitimacy before giving.
There is also risk in giving spontaneously because people may not necessarily stop to consider how their money will be used. Not all organizations are equally effective or well managed. There are online resources to assist people in making informed giving decisions; websites like guidestar.org can help verify basic information about nonprofits, while sites like charitynavigator.org provide rating systems for nonprofits.
One of the positive aspects of The One Fund was that Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino, and Gov. Deval Patrick strategically minimized the risk of scams by forming the fund quickly and making it clear this was the primary mechanism for making donations.
3. What is Northeastern Students4Giving and what role do students play in its programming?
NS4G is the university’s experiential philanthropy education program, housed in Human Services. We use real-dollar grant making to teach students how social change happens and is funded. Students are responsible for every aspect of the funding cycle, and they get real insight into the challenges nonprofits face. They see that there are never enough resources to meet our community’s needs. I can teach about that in theory, but it’s more powerful for students to experience it firsthand. Every year, NS4G chooses a specific funding priority to integrate into the curriculum. This coming year’s priority will be helping the city continue to recover from the Boston Marathon bombings.
Much of my motivation for growing NS4G and teaching philanthropy courses is to help people understand not only the significant social and economic role the nonprofit sector and charitable giving play in the U.S., but also the power of being an informed donor.
The Time to Adapt is Now. Matthias Ruth and Douglas Foy Conclude Open Classroom Series on Climate Change.
Climate Change Series: Conclusion
by Douglas Foy and Matthias Ruth
As we bring our series Climate Change. Challenges. Solutions. to a close, moderators Douglas Foy and Matthias Ruth offer their reflections on the mounting challenges presented by climate change, and the depth and breadth of the solutions that will be required in the coming years.
Douglas Foy is president of Serrafix Corp. and former president of the Conservation Law Foundation. As a super-secretary in Governor Mitt Romney’s cabinet, Doug oversaw transportation, housing, environment, and energy agencies, with combined annual capital budgets of $5 billion.
Twenty years ago, when I started raising the alarm about the dangers of climate change, I thought of it primarily as a legacy issue. Climate change would affect our children and grandchildren. It wasn’t fair that they would have to suffer the consequences of our greed, profligacy and shortsightedness.
Today, it’s increasingly clear that I was wrong. Yes, climate change is a legacy issue that will affect generations to come, but it is also an issue that directly threatens generationstoday. We’re already experiencing the first wave of its impacts and we can expect increasingly severe effects in the near — not distant — future.
Just in the last year, the U.S. has faced severe drought in the Midwest, brutal heat waves in the Southwest, and the devastation wreaked by Hurricane Sandy on the East Coast. Though coverage was trumped by the Boston Marathon bombings two weeks ago, central Indiana was inundated by up to 5 inches of rain in 24 hours, causing widespread flooding throughout the region.
Going forward, the presumption should be that any extreme weather event is caused or exacerbated by climate change resulting from greenhouse gas emissions. The burden of proof — not mere assertion, but proof based on hard, scientific evidence — should now be on those who would deny the reality and impacts of climate change.
We need to redouble our efforts at mitigation, at rapidly reducing our dependence on fossil fuels and replacing them as quickly as possible, while building a zero-emissions global economy. But even if we could magically eliminate all new greenhouse gas emissions tomorrow, we still face centuries of warming temperatures, extreme weather and rising sea levels.
In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, there’s a lot of thinking and talking about adaptation.
For example, how will coastal cities deal with future super-storms and flooding? Will Boston have to build a barrier across the Harbor Islands to protect the city and surrounding coastal and riverfront communities? If fortification is not possible, will we need to retreat to higher ground, abandoning huge tracts of low-lying land like East Boston and the Back Bay to the sea? And, what about cities that don’t have higher ground to retreat to like Miami?
That the questions are being asked is a good sign, but so far there has been little action. Coastal communities will be hammered by the effects of climate change within the next decade. The time to begin adapting is now.
Matthias Ruth is a professor at Northeastern University with appointments in the School of Public Policy and Urban Affairs and the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. He is a founder of Ecological Economics and a founding co-editor-in-chief of the journal Urban Climate.
For too long, too much of the climate change debate has focused on silver bullet solutions when what we need are multiple solutions.
Because climate change is a global problem, there is a strong sentiment that it must be solved through a global accord (a silver bullet solution). However, global greenhouse gas emissions have risen 50 percent since the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, which recently expired. Monitoring and enforcement of any global accord is difficult — even more so as countries embrace trade globalization, which has its own perverse incentives that increase greenhouse gas emissions.
We’ve had endless discussions about using nuclear power to replace fossil fuels as our dominant energy source. But 60 years after the first experiments, nuclear fission faces ongoing cost and safety challenges. Current estimates suggest that the alterative, nuclear fusion, will not be commercially viable until mid-century at the earliest.
The building of dikes and other hard structures to protect against sea-level rise generates another pair of issues: Physical flood control may undermine emergency preparedness and ultimately leave populations more vulnerable when the barriers fail.
Technological leapfrogging, which would have entire continents transition to using cellphones, is another oft-cited potential solution from the telecommunications sector. But more often than not, new technology results in greater consumption, which in turn increases greenhouse gas emissions.
The fundamental reality is that many solutions are required for a problem that has many sources.
Local and regional action in support of a transition to a carbon-free society is in the best interest of the local environment, local businesses and local communities. It is perfectly consistent with the goal of stabilizing global climate. Significant local and regional actions can be taken even when global agreement is not possible.
Replacing fossil fuels requires an “all of the above” approach that makes greater use of renewable energy sources and makes efficiency a priority.
Adaptation to protect cities is more than building bigger and stronger dikes. It includes more robust emergency preparedness systems, as well as hundreds of minor infrastructure adaptations like sensor-operated lighting, pre-programmed thermostats for reduced night-time energy consumption, siding and roofing materials that serve as solar collectors, and better insulation of buildings.
In contrast to technological leapfrogging, behavioral leapfrogging is little-studied and thus, hard to accomplish. The list of potential changes in default settings and signals for behavioral change is long: Designing buildings with attractive staircases and with elevators out of immediate sight to get people walking up a few flights. Placing energy consumption monitors where, in real time, consumption, emissions and costs are displayed to building users. Certifying the energy performance of buildings much like we do for cars via MPG ratings.
We have barely begun to explore — let alone implement — the many ways that small changes in behavior can result in big changes in energy use.
Instead of waiting for the experts and the powerful to agree, we all can do something about climate change. The sooner we get started — acting where we can with the power we have — the better.
NS4G CELEBRATES FIVE YEARS OF MAKING A DIFFERENCE
Northeastern Students4Giving, the University’s experiential philanthropy education program housed in the Human Services Program at the College of Social Sciences and Humanities, has awarded over $83,000 to local nonprofit organizations since its launch in 2008. This year, students, faculty, and friends celebrated the organization’s fifth anniversary with an awards ceremony on Thursday, April 18.
In her remarks at the ceremony, just days after the attack on the Boston Marathon, Program Director Rebecca Riccio reflected on the students who are involved in NS4G.
“I am especially proud to be part of a program which routinely attracts young people who come to us to learn how to make a difference in their professional lives and in their private lives,” Rebecca Riccio said. “It’s a source of comfort to see the care and intensity with which they take the responsibility of giving this money back to the community. It’s also a source of comfort that they will define the future.”
The program engages in real-world philanthropy, awarding grants to local nonprofits determined by annual funding priorities and a rigorous review process. The undergraduates begin the grant-giving cycle in the course “Human Services Professions” by determining local Boston neighborhoods’ most-pressing needs. This year’s NS4G cohort determined those funding priorities to be community mental health and post-incarceration reintegration. Then, after developing a rubric, conducting site visits, and engaging in rigorous deliberations, the students give real-dollar grants to deserving nonprofits.
At the ceremony, NS4G students Sara Pressman and Carolyn Walker awarded Project Place, an organization whose mission it is to provide career development and peer support for incarcerated women preparing to re-enter their communities, one of the competitive grants because it’s the “innovative, passionate, organized, and respectful organization” for which they had been seeking.
Students Katty Mojica-Martinez and Theresa Park presented the second grant to Bridge Over Troubled Waters for the organization’s creativity, its community ties, its passion, and for its potential in helping individuals with mental illness overcome the economic, social, and cultural barriers to accessing mental healthcare.
Both grants of $10,000 each were made possible by gifts from Learning by Giving Foundation and the Wong Family.
Earlier this year, NS4G also hosted its annual Social Impact Conference where Learning by Giving Foundation announced the national winners of its Decisions with Impact student philanthropy video contest. Two NS4G produced videos profiling past grantees Haley House and Brookview House were finalists in the contest. Haley House and Brookview House, who were also in attendance at this year’s ceremony, received a combined $2,500 in the contest from Learning by Giving.
NS4G relies on donors for these grants, as well as for its lecture series and its conference. These funds have also been provided by the Fidelity Charitable Gift Fund, the Arthur K. Watson Charitable Trust, the Charlotte Foundation, and the Sunshine Lady Foundation founded by Doris Buffett, who NS4G honored as a special guest at this year’s ceremony.
Buffett, who proclaimed herself a philosopher rather than a philanthropist, “because that sounds stuck up,” brought the crowd in Raytheon Amphitheater to laughter on several occasions. She answered questions from the students on her giving philosophy, on taking risks with investments, and on drawing attention to marginalized communities who aren’t as easily identified as such.
“I like big issues,” said Buffett, “and then I like to operate on local levels.”
In introducing Buffett, Riccio noted how much of an advocate Buffett is for experiential philanthropy education programs such as NS4G.
“Doris knows the value of money, but she doesn’t think that it’s money that makes the difference,” Riccio explained. “She thinks it’s the people who make the difference when you invest in them. She has invested in us and has made it possible for us to invest in others.”
NS4G students also presented Buffett with a scrapbook which encapsulated the last five years of NS4G and the journey the program has taken with her support.
Diane MacGillivray, Senior VP of University Advancement, wrapped the program up with anecdotes on how philanthropy can affect individuals, as well as her observations on NS4G.
“I’m so very proud as an administrator for Northeastern University to have been affiliated with this program, to have watched it grow, to see what it has become, and what I’m so confident that it will be going forward.”
Pictured above: Philanthropist Doris Buffett, right, was the guest of honor at the 2013 NS4G Annual Awards Ceremony. Photo credit: Brooks Canaday.