<![CDATA[The Johns Hopkins News-Letter]]> Tue, 31 Jan 2023 07:45:19 -0500 Tue, 31 Jan 2023 07:45:19 -0500 SNworks CEO 2023 The Johns Hopkins News-Letter <![CDATA[Department of Sociology hosts author to talk through her book on spiderweb capitalism]]> Kimberly Kay Hoang discussed her book, Spiderweb Capitalism: How Global Elites Exploit Frontier Markets, in an event held by the Department of Sociology on Jan. 25.

Hoang is an associate professor of sociology and director of global studies at the University of Chicago. At the event, she outlined her book and described the extensive interviews that informed it. The book develops a macro and micro perspective of how offshore shell companies used by the elite impact the environmental, social, political and economic systems around the world.

"Spiderweb capitalism," a term coined by Hoang, refers to a network of subsidiaries and offshore finance centers that surpass national boundaries and exclusively benefit global elites. Hoang used over 300 interviews to map the illicit movement of finances through places like Taiwan, Malaysia, Japan and Singapore.

Ryan Calder, the director of Islamic studies and assistant professor of sociology and Islamic studies at Hopkins, introduced Hoang at the event.

In an interview with The News-Letter, Calder shared how Spiderweb Capitalism's interview-based approach shed a new perspective on the ways wealth moves across borders.

"[Hoang]'s really well-known as an ethnographer, which means someone who goes into situations and observes what's going on and... talks to real human beings and sees what they do and gets to know them even at a personal level," he said. "It offers something that's often missing sometimes from sociology and very often from... more abstracted economic analyses of the way capital moves."

At her talk, Hoang explained that practices used to create these systems exist on a sliding scale of legality, with big players shielded from accountability.

She noted that frontier markets are experiencing faster growth rates than advanced economies.

"Despite these trends, these markets have attracted far more attention from managers and investors than they have from social scientists," she said. "We actually know very little about the social relationships that comprise them."

Hoang's research went beyond the global movement of capital and investigated the strategies involved in creating spiderweb capitalism.

"In emerging markets like Vietnam and Myanmar, the relationships between private and public sectors are often murky and highly contentious as public officials and private investors provide social services while simultaneously lining their own pockets," she said.

She added that restrictions meant to mitigate corruption have led to creative forms of bribery. She cited the example of gifting luxury goods, which can be liquidated quickly for cash in secondary markets.

In conjunction with bribery, Hoang discussed how professional relationships between officials, entrepreneurs and investors are cemented through bonding experiences that gradually move from public to private spheres.

"When investors want access to prime real estate or want to be able to complete a project to get the final approvals, it requires entertaining to expedite the excruciatingly slow process," she said. "Women are a key part of this erotic triangle for private entrepreneurs to get state officials to sign off on crucial documents."

During the question and answer portion of the event, Hoang emphasized that spiderweb capitalism is found across the globe, not just in emerging economies.

"What's really hard is that we theorize by a nation-state. We think about this as like there are highly developed economies over here, corrupt economies are there and they're separate; they do different things," she said. "What I found is that they're actually woven together. The whole world is their oyster and they're choosing their legal jurisdictions."

She described how these financing networks are used by political figures in the U.S. She added that this is not a partisan issue, with celebrities, Democrats and Republicans using offshore shell corporations as loopholes to further their investments.

Hoang stressed the impact of spiderweb capitalism on everyday people's retirement funds.

"Ultimately, we are prey because you're obligated to contribute to your 401k or 403b or whatever, and you have no idea what that index is doing," she said. "The reason we're prey is that we're the exit, but when FTX blows up, guess what? All the people that got in first are going to get their money out, and the people that are left are the regular retail investors like you and me who are going to pay the bill."

In an email to The News-Letter, Aila Trasi, a graduate student in the Political Science department, expressed her interest in Hoang's research.

"I was shocked by the kind of evidence that she was able to collect during her fieldwork and by how skillfully she presented it to the audience," she wrote. "She's trying to fill an immense black hole in economic sociology and finance - and I'd say this book is a great start in this direction."


Hoang used research collected from hundreds of in-depth interviews to write Spiderweb Capitalism.

<![CDATA[America needs free medical school]]> At a school like Hopkins, it can seem like half of the student body is pre-med. You can't walk through Brody Atrium without hearing someone mention shadowing, clinical research or biochemistry.

From the moment their undergraduate experience begins, pre-med students are stressing about getting into medical school. In addition to the academic obstacles they face - weed-out classes like organic chemistry and the grueling Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT) - pre-meds have a hefty price tag to look forward to. In the U.S., medical students graduate with a median debt of $200,000. To put that into perspective, the median value of a home in Baltimore is about $210,000.

In 2018, New York University made the shocking announcement that it would cover tuition for all of its medical students regardless of financial need. Since then, several other top institutions, such as the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis and the Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons, have committed hundreds of millions of dollars to provide scholarships to medical students.

That's great and all, but we shouldn't have to celebrate institutions that prevent their students from graduating with hundreds of thousands of dollars of debt. It should be the standard.

While free medical school might sound like an expense this country can't afford, the truly daunting expense on the horizon is a nationwide physician shortage.

The Association of American Medical Colleges predicts a shortage of between 37,800 and 124,000 doctors by 2034. The shortage of primary care physicians (PCPs) is of special concern, as primary care is vital to the health of a community and to reduce overall healthcare costs.

As it is, primary care doctors don't have enough time in the day to follow nationally recommended guidelines for patient care. PCPs face more burnout and lower pay than other doctors and have mountains of paperwork to complete at the end of each day.

As the population of the U.S. continues to age, patients will need more care from their PCPs in order to manage their medical problems and medications. But doctors are getting older too, and they will eventually retire. More than 40% of active physicians in the U.S. will be 65 or older in the next decade. We are piling an increasingly heavy workload on PCPs who are already stretched too thin, and the entire American healthcare system will suffer as a result.

Access to primary care improves patient health outcomes. When patients don't have access to PCPs, they often turn to hospital emergency departments as a last resort. The PCP shortage will only exacerbate the existing strain on emergency rooms across the country, which have been hit hard by shortages of beds and staff.

In 2019, Weill Cornell Medicine launched a program to eliminate medical school debt for students with financial need. Since then, the school has seen an increase in applications from students who are underrepresented minorities and who qualify for financial assistance. Of the first class to enter since the debt-free initiative was announced, nearly three-quarters of students qualified for the program.

What's more, the fact that the average MCAT scores and grade point averages of the class were comparable to previous years negates the misconception that increasing socioeconomic diversity means sacrificing merit.

Eliminating medical school debt - and thereby increasing diversity - could play a vital role in mitigating the effects of the physician shortage. Medical students from low-income backgrounds are more likely to enter primary care specialties.

Further, many majority-minority areas are already suffering the impact of a PCP shortage. The odds of being a current PCP shortage area are 67% higher for neighborhoods that have a majority of Black residents.

Black Americans are suffering from decreased access to physician care, and this worsens health outcomes on top of myriad existing health disparities. But having more Black doctors could help.

When minority patients see a doctor of the same race or ethnicity, time spent together, patient understanding of cancer risk, medication adherence, wait times and other aspects of patient care improve. When Black newborns in the hospital are cared for by Black physicians, their mortality rates decrease by between 39% and 58%.

Obviously, free medical school won't be a quick fix for all the issues pervading education and the U.S. healthcare system - there will still be physician burnout, long emergency room wait times and piles of paperwork. But as people are already struggling to find PCPs accepting new patients, we can't afford to wait for some magic panacea to appear. We need to act now. The health of the country depends on it.

Abigail Tuschman is a junior from Fort Lauderdale, Fla. majoring in Writing Seminars. She is the Opinions Editor for The News-Letter.


Tuschman argues free medical school is necessary due to the impending physician shortage and the benefits of diversity in medicine.

<![CDATA[To watch and watch for: Week of Jan. 29]]> Welcome back! As we settle into the semester, I always enjoy finding some time to hit the theaters and check out a new title on the shelves. It's one of the few sweet spots before classes turn busy, and you won't regret making the most of it while you still can.

Although the awards season stretch is never too great in terms of film releases, this week nonetheless offers a wide-ranging selection. If the horror thriller Knock at the Cabin isn't to your taste, the sporty romantic comedy 80 for Brady might do it for you. Visionary documentary Turn Every Page and drama series Dear Edward round out the rest.

Two deeply compelling novels are set to come out as well: The Snow Hare paints a portrait of motherhood, while Maame: A Novel looks at the ups and downs of navigating two cultures at once.

In music, superstar Shania Twain is back with a new album Queen of Me, and British singer-songwriter RAYE releases her debut studio album, My 21st Century Blues.

Below is what to watch and watch for this week. Enjoy!

To watch...

Assault on Precinct 13, directed by John Carpenter - Feb. 2

Showing one night only at the Charles Theater, this 1976 crime thriller follows a police sergeant's efforts to rally an unlikely group against a gang of corrupt cops.

Knock at the Cabin, directed by M. Night Shyamalan - Feb. 3

Based on the novel A Cabin at the End of the World, a family taken hostage by malevolent strangers must find a way out while averting an apocalypse.

80 for Brady, directed by Kyle Marvin - Feb. 3

With an all-star cast of Lily Tomlin, Jane Fonda, Rita Moreno and Sally Field, this comedy tells of four best friends embarking on a trip of a lifetime to meet Tom Brady.

Turn Every Page, directed by Lizzie Gottlieb - Feb. 3

This acclaimed documentary delves into the 50-year relationship between writer Robert Caro and his editor Robert Gottlieb, two giants in the world of literature.

Dear Edward, created by Jason Katims - Feb. 3

Premiering on Apple TV+, this series follows a young boy (Colin O'Brien), the lone survivor of a plane crash that killed his family, and his struggle to continue on with his life.

To read...

The Snow Hare, by Paula Lichtarowicz - Jan. 31

Amid the threat of war, a woman exiled to a work camp must make sense of a life she never expected while grappling with a lonely marriage and new love.

Maame: A Novel, by Jessica George - Jan. 31

Moving out for the first time, a young woman dives headfirst into her newfound freedom, only to face an unexpected tragedy that forces her to reassess the life she knew.

To listen...

Queen of Me, by Shania Twain - Feb. 3

Twain marks the beginnings of a comeback with this transformative album focused on self-acceptance and empowerment.

My 21st Century Blues, by RAYE - Feb. 3

In her first record as an independent artist, this deeply personal album from RAYE promises to be unapologetic and unfiltered.


This week's picks include Turn Every Page, The Snow Hare and My 21st Century Blues.

<![CDATA[Becoming Brandi Carlile]]>

I cut twelve inches of my hair off a couple of weeks ago. Well, not intentionally. I walked in to the salon, said that I wanted it as short as it could be without my resembling Dora and thought I was going to get a chic Vanessa Hudgens bob out of it.

I ended up sporting more of a Brandi Carlile look. Not that I don't appreciate Brandi, I just wasn't expecting to be channeling her at that moment. However, becoming Brandi was more freeing than I expected; I think I understand why she sports the haircut that she does.

At first, I wasn't sure why I decided to chop it all off. I just felt a strong urge to go into my neighborhood salon and declare, "I want it all off!" like the heroine does in every movie when she experiences a symbolic rebirth. Maybe it was the split ends - they were getting a bit unruly. Or, it could have been the fact that I hadn't combed or washed my hair in a week - putting it up in a bun was all I had the energy to do.

Essentially, I was feeling overwhelmed with the sense that my hair - and, by extension, my life - was beyond my control. This was a scary and foreign concept to me: I've always been taught to take pride in my hair.

Since I was kid, I've been told that my hair is the healthiest and thickest hair that has been seen (I feel like this has to be false, but I'll take the bragging rights). So, I never dyed my hair, barely straightened it, meticulously checked the shampoos and conditioners that I used and only used coconut oil in my hair.

I've found that my almost fanatic obsession with controlling my hair stemmed from my fruitless efforts to control everything else in my life.I've pushed myself to be so high-achieving that I view my entire life as a rat race. To slip slightly or not have a plan in place is legitimately frightening to me. Anxiety races through me and prevents me from sleeping, focusing or experiencing my present moment.

I consistently feel some sense of apprehension over my life because I am unable to comprehend that I cannot control everything or achieve every goal I have set forth for myself. I have a need to control my life trajectory - my friends joke that I change my life path every six weeks (nothing major, of course, because anxiety).

This is a punishing cycle - (1) I set lofty goals to feel a sense of progression towards an unknown, featureless finish line, (2) I fall short of these goals because I am human and then (3) I feel like I have lost complete control, aimlessly wandering into nothingness.

After finals finished, I felt emotionally drained (as does every other college student). However, I dealt with the completion of finals with a deep-seated anxiety of "What next?"

I think I get this partially from my grandparents (both sets). They are famous for always having another passion project to pursue, even after retirement. They have so much energy to give, and they find something positive to put it into. That's why I emphasize the partially - there was nothing positive about my excess energy.

I felt this bubbling sense of energy after everything was finally done because I felt that I was not doing enough. I wasn't pursuing my life path as urgently as I should, I hadn't started reading the first book on my TBR list, I had wasted an entire semester by taking the wrong classes and so on.

My hair reflected my unease with uncertainty; it became clumpy, clustered and destroyed. To gain control over something in my life, I decided that I needed to change my hair and take a page out of the Princess Diaries. So, I found myself dashing to the salon to cut my hair. I did not get what I expected. My hair was much shorter than I wanted it to be. It barely went past my neck and mimicked a pixie cut for people who don't want to commit to a pixie cut. I was horrified, initially.

I went home and stared at myself in the mirror, part in abject horror and part in barely contained glee. This was a dramatic change worthy of the Princess Diaries, so I did get my wish, in a way. As I tried to work my hair into something resembling Brad Pitt, I eventually realized that it was useless to dwell on what I couldn't control.

Could I do anything about my hair at the current moment? No. So, it was pointless worrying and fretting and complaining about it.

Then, I asked myself, "Could I love myself and my hairstyle?" Yes, I could grow to love it. So that is where I chose to put my energy. It's not easy to love yourself or be confident that you are making the right choices. It takes energy. You need to actively believe in yourself; it is not innate like breathing. I needed to convince myself that I am the character worth rooting for when the world gets flipped upside-down. The only person I need to convince is myself.

To start myself on that journey, I decided to slick my hair back like Brandi Carlile (it seems so silly on paper). I had never done something like that before! I quickly decided that Brandi wears the slicked-back look much better, but I was happy enough with the result. Comparing myself to Brandi Carlile wasn't going to get me anywhere (but I still do it sometimes).

In my effort to exert some agency over the anxiety that had been pervading every facet of my life, I took the biggest, most unexpected blow to the one part of myself that I placed most of my energy in controlling: my hair. My hair currently does not follow any type of plan that I had for it. And I find that it's weirdly freeing.

Ino longer feel weighed down. My hair doesn't agree with me every day, and it acts differently now that it is so much shorter. I've had to get used to that ever-changing status - it forces me to try something new with my hair every now and then.

Now, instead of restricting myself to only coconut oil, I find myself putting mousse in my hair, just to try it out. I felt so uneasy with every other aspect of my life that I felt I needed to exert control over something, like my hair. But instead, I found a new hairstyle that I wasn't expecting to get (and, frankly, didn't really want to get, initially).

With my new Brandi Carlile hairstyle, I feel more prepared to accept the changing world around me and free myself of some (not all) of my anxieties on my own inadequacies. Although I was forced down a new, unfamiliar path (both in terms of hair products and general life trajectories), I came out on the other side okay.

Did I mess up and have to go through a drastic change in my life? Yes. But, did I learn to make something positive out of it and ensure that not everything got ruined? Yes. So, if I apply this lesson to the rest of my college experience, I think that it will be okay, too.

Diksha Iyer is a sophomore from Dearborn, Mich., studying Public Health and Economics.


Iyer discusses what her changing hairstyle represents about herself.

<![CDATA[Despite pitfalls of superficiality, Dog Gone is a heartwarming canine tale]]> For the most part, I've learned to avoid movies about dogs. It's not that I don't love dogs or don't love to see them as canine protagonists. Honestly, if I could watch a full-length movie of a dog running around, playing and just generally being its happy self, I would enjoy it.

It's just that dog movies tend to be massive tearjerkers. The first time I watched Marley & Me, I was a blubbering mess by the end credits. Hachi: A Dog's Tale was just plain brutal, and don't even get me started on Turner and Hooch. I can typically withstand some heartstring manipulation, but sad films with dogs hit so much harder than tragedies with people.

So, when I first saw that Netflix released Dog Gone on Jan. 13, I was wary of the film. Not only was the title's pun off-putting, to say the least, but I also wasn't sure I was ready for emotional devastation and turmoil.

Based on a true story, the film centers around Fielding (Johnny Berchtold), a college student who adopts Gonker, a retriever mix, to cope with his recent breakup. After his graduation, he and Gonker briefly live with his parents, John (Rob Lowe) and Ginny (Kimberly Williams-Paisley), before Gonker is diagnosed with Addison's disease, which requires monthly treatments. Once treated, Gonker gets lost in the woods, inspiring a search for Gonker before he needs his next dose of medicine.

The characters are, for the most part, exaggerated caricatures. Fielding is a misunderstood, tie-dye-clad youth with major soul-searching anxieties. His father is a protective, disapproving parent concerned with his son's lack of financial security. I liked the conflict and tension between the two characters, but the resolution seemed forced and contrived. No way does a disapproving parent completely change their mind based on a single conversation with a young hiker.

I'm also really not sure what's going on with Ginny. Throughout the film, we are interrupted by odd flashbacks to her character's childhood trauma surrounding the death of her dog. Honestly, the side plot is intense and over the top, especially when her disturbing parents stiffly bribe her with shopping if she doesn't cry. It brought a bizarre and chaotic energy that interrupted and took away from the urgency of Gonker's rescue.

Additionally, the plot itself feels jumbled, a tangled mess of tangents and ideas that are not fully fleshed-out. I know that this film is based on a true story, but the story felt too long for its 95-minute run time. Too much was squeezed into a film that really, to do each part of this story justice, should have been a mini-series.

I would have enjoyed the film more if it had pared down some of the details to give some of the heavier emotional moments more weight. Having two points of drama in the film, Gonker's disease and disappearance, felt excessive and disorienting. At times, it felt like two separate movies: one where Gonker is diagnosed and Fielding gains responsibility and one where Gonker disappears and Fielding gains responsibility.

Fielding and his father also encounter a lot of poorly-acted characters on their trek to find Gonker, including some beefy bikers and belligerent bargoers. Their wooden and exaggerated performances take away from the believability of the film. Not only that, but they introduce moments for the film to get moralizing and corny about first impressions and stereotypes.

Despite the film's flaws, my favorite moments in the movie featured Gonker. Every time he was present, he lit up the screen in little bursts of cuteness. We got many adorable scenes with belly rubs, yoga poses and impressive doughnut-flipping tricks. He also delivered the best acting performance in the film, and the scenes where he was lost and alone in the woods whining were heartbreaking.

I also enjoyed watching the progress of the search, especially once the family starts receiving phone calls from helpful Samaritans throughout the country. This introduced the magnitude and scope of the search as news of Gonker's disappearance made its way to national news.

Yes, this film did make me cry, but I would recommend it to anyone looking for some cute dog scenes. While the pacing made the movie difficult for me to finish, and it's certainly not the best-acted film, it has some heartwarming scenes that make the slower parts worth it.


Rob Lowe plays a disapproving father in Netflix's Dog Gone.

<![CDATA[I read 142 books last year so you don't have to. ]]> It goes without saying that Hopkins students are busy - and I don't mean nine-to-five busy but rather a breed of busy that translates into an overcrowded, color-coded Google calendar with few breaks penciled in. So as dreamy as an afternoon curled up with a book may sound, finding those spare moments of leisure is hard, and picking out a good book only eats into that already-scarce time. Recognizing that, I've done the hard part for you: I read 142 books last year and highlighted five worth your precious free time.

1. Beautiful World, Where Are You by Sally Rooney (2021) - Literary Fiction

I listened to a friend rave about this book for the entirety of last semester but didn't get my hands on it until winter break - once I started it, I couldn't put it down. Rooney's unique style of writing draws you in from the start; she seamlessly switches from first to third-person narration and alternates between the perspectives of Alice and Eileen, two friends struggling to navigate the challenges of young adulthood and their changing relationship.

Through their exchanges, Rooney makes poignant observations about society that will be relatable to college students who are nearing entry into the "real world." You'll see parts of yourself reflected in the multilayered personalities she skillfully constructs that makes them feel more like people than book characters. This title won several awards, and for good reason - I never wanted it to end.

2. An American Marriage by Tayari Jones (2018) - Contemporary Fiction

Unthinkable circumstances throw Celestial, Roy and Andre into a complicated love triangle, but this isn't your typical romance novel. In describing the trials they face, Jones exposes the intricacies of marriage and critiques the racial disparities that plague American society. Though written a few years ago, the tension captured in these pages has only become more relevant in light of the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement. This book achieves an unexpected level of emotional depth and inspires thoughtful deliberation on our contemporary notions of race, romance and womanhood.

3. The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah (2015) - Historical Fiction

Hannah sends readers back to 1939: World War II is brewing in Europe, and France faces the threat of Nazi invasion, forcing sisters Vianne and Isabelle to make impossible sacrifices for those they care about. Though they pursue distinct forms of resistance and grow apart consequently, both women make invaluable contributions to their countries and their families. Hannah develops themes of love, resilience and courage as the narrative progresses and illuminates the oft-ignored role played by women during the war - an intentional focus I appreciated and found eye-opening.

4. Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro (2021) - Science Fiction

Science fiction truthfully isn't my go-to genre, but Ishiguro writes in such a way that I can set my preferences aside. Narrated from the perspective of Klara, an "Artificial Friend" with sharp observational skills, Ishiguro comments on the relationship between humans and technology. His imagined dystopia in which children are genetically engineered to boost their cognitive abilities is not difficult to envision and invites readers to ponder the ethics of technology. As Klara forms connections with the people around her, Ishiguro further prompts readers to contemplate where we draw the line between humans and machines and what it means to love.

5. The Guest List by Lucy Foley (2020) - Mystery

I tend to find mystery novels predictable, unstimulating and too reliant on overused plots - but not this one. Set at a wedding off the stormy coast of Ireland, it opens with a sudden death then launches into an investigation of those on the short guest list (hence the title).

Foley exposes the characters' dark pasts and their contentious relations with each other, cultivating two secrets for every one revealed to keep readers on edge until the finale. She dexterously builds suspense through the use of haunting imagery, multiple perspectives and a non-linear narrative structure that offers a glimpse into the truth without giving it away. And because of its intense descriptive language, this book reads more like a movie, making it even more enjoyable.

The right book can transport you to another world, providing a momentary escape from life at Hopkins when it begins to feel overwhelming. I hope that at least one of these titles will pique your interest, and more importantly, that you can set aside some much-deserved personal time to crack one open. Happy reading!

<![CDATA[Science news in review: Jan. 29]]> Welcome back from winter break! Even though the weather might be cold outside, the science world is still hot with new stories! This week, we have details about the virus causing the spike in egg prices, a change in the Doomsday Clock and the possibility of science slowing down.

Avian influenza behind the spike in egg prices

Alas, the classic broke college kid protein is no longer as affordable as it used to be. While the U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that a dozen eggs cost $1.79 in December 2021, that price has risen to $4.99 a dozen at the local Giant and led to some amusing memes on the Internet.

It turns out that a recent outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza is behind the shortage of the breakfast staple. While avian influenza is generally not harmful to the wild birds that carry it, infection in domesticated birds such as chickens causes their immune system to go haywire, leading to a 90-100% mortality within 48 hours. In response to the outbreak first detected last February, farmers culled their flocks to prevent the disease from spreading. As a result, nearly 44 million chickens have died in the past year and reduced the national egg supply by 7.5%.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has stated that the risk for a human outbreak of this influenza virus is low - only one individual in the past year tested positive for the virus. This person worked with infected birds, and the CDC noted that it is possible his case was a false positive. While it may take several months for farmers to repopulate their chicken supplies, now might be a good time to switch from eggs to pancakes for breakfast.

Doomsday Clock set 90 seconds to midnight

Members of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists set the Doomsday Clock to 90 seconds until midnight on Tuesday. The Doomsday Clock is a symbolic approximation of how close humanity is to "midnight," or global catastrophe either from nuclear war or climate change. When the clock was first set in 1947, it was placed at seven minutes to midnight. 90 seconds is the closest the clock has ever been to midnight. Members explained the decision to set the clock forward in response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, which has heightened the risk of nuclear conflict and hindered international conversations on climate change.

Is science slowing down?

An analysis of 45 million papers and 3.9 million patents from the past six decades has found that modern papers are less likely to be "disruptive," meaning they are unlikely to revolutionize any given field. However, researchers noted that this does not mean that papers are of lower quality or that there are fewer papers being published, but rather that any one given paper is not likely to push a field substantially forward. Although this study has sparked a flurry of online conversation on the cause of the slowdown, the authors considered specialization as a potential culprit. For example, instead of being a biologist, a scientist might consider themselves a molecular entomologist that specializes in studying a specific type of beetle. As fields become increasingly minute, researchers may have to spend more time learning their fields instead of gaining broader knowledge that could be used to advance them.


An outbreak of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) is behind the spike in egg prices.

<![CDATA[Settling in: how to make your dorm room feel like a home]]> Winter break ended this past weekend, forcing us to say goodbye to our families and hometowns. It was time to go back to school. Yet for me, I found myself saying to my parents that I'm excited to go home.

Home. I called Hopkins my home. Though classmates cringe at themselves when they accidentally refer to our University as "home," I openly embrace this vocabulary. My friends, the East Coast weather and club activities all bring me comfort at Hopkins, but my dorm tops all. It is a perfect, miniature home.

It might seem impossible to turn the small, bleak, plain AMR II dorms into a homey space, but it really isn't. If you do everything I did, you'll find yourself making your parents shudder as you start to subconsciously replace the word "school" with "home."

Bring decor from your bedroom to your dorm room.

Initially, I was hesitant to remove my movie posters and paintings from my bedroom walls. Not only was I trying to avoid ripping the paint off the walls (pro tip: don't use 3D puffy glue dots on interior paint... sorry Mom and Dad), but I also didn't want to see bare spots in my childhood bedroom. It felt as if I was dismantling a huge part of my life.

However, I knew I couldn't leave behind my treasured The Royal Tenenbaums poster, so I ripped off the band-aid, rolled up my posters and gave them a new wall to compliment. While my childhood room looks patchy, this has helped my dorm room feel less foreign. I don't feel like Coraline, crawling through a tunnel into my "other" home and seeing a room that should look like my bedroom. Instead, I feel at home. So don't buy 10 new posters to hang up. Take your favorites from home and let them serve as reflections of your childhood. It'll warm up your room when the heat stops working.

Incorporate hometown reminders.

I'm from Philly (a.k.a. a small town 20 minutes away from Philadelphia that nobody knows), and as much as I wanted to leave my hometown to experience a new city, I'm still a 'Philly' girl through and through. My Philly-inspired art prints remind me that I'm never far from my roots, literally and figuratively. I can always go back home, but I can also take home with me anywhere I go. This includes photos of family and friends, too. Having a framed photo of my friends and me from high school sitting on my desk reminds me that I forever have my hometown girls with me. It truly has helped my dorm become a home away from home.

Dorm shop with your family.

My roommate told me the dorm feels like home to her because all of her bedding and new wall art were picked out by her and her mom. It's like wearing your mom's old hoodie when you miss her, but better yet, I can wrap myself in the bedding that my mom chose. Little things like that can help you adjust to your new room and view it as home since you are still surrounded by family.

Now I know not everyone is a decorative person. Some people like beige walls surrounding them and dislike the texture of throw pillows. Taking the time to put up a bunch of photos and fairy lights isn't enjoyable for everyone. So is there another way to make your dorm feel like home without having to buy new decor, destroy your childhood bedroom and continuously fix badly-hung art?

Yes, and the answer is simple.

Make your dorm room yours. Don't make your dorm room into another Brody Learning Commons or a Calculus II section. Invite your friends over and have loud conversations that your neighbor will quote to you when you pass them by. Binge-watch Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders: Making the Team with your roommate and pretend your opinions matter. Lay in bed. Scroll through TikTok. Listen to music. Get ready for formals. Do anything and everything in the dorm so that when you get back from Introduction to Fiction & Poetry, you can swing open the door and say to your roommate, "Honey, I'm home!"

If you follow these simple steps, you can make any space, no matter how small and far away from your family, home.

<![CDATA[Humans of Hopkins: Vid Smooke]]> Vid Smooke is a professor of Music Theory at the Peabody Institute. In an interview with The News-Letter, they describe their experience in academia, their educational philosophy and the arts scene in Baltimore.

The News-Letter: When did you realize you wanted to pursue music?

Vid Smooke: In high school in the 1980s, I first encountered synthesizers and what they could do. I would spend hours and hours just programming different sounds and trying to get it to make various sounds.

Meanwhile, I was just in love with listening to music and especially the weirder the music, the better. I encountered the music of a composer named George Crumb in a high school class. His music was so beautiful in a way that I couldn't possibly understand how it could exist. And when I found out that he taught at the University of Pennsylvania, I decided to do everything I could to go out there and study with him and learn how he was able to do this.

N-L: How did you end up at Hopkins?

VS: After about two years of working as a music publisher by day and in theater by night, I realized that it just wasn't sustainable. I needed a change in my life. I decided that the only way to get a change was to pursue a higher level of education.

This was 1992 when I was submitting the applications, so I didn't have the internet yet and the only way to figure out what schools existed was a dictionary. The back of the dictionary had a list of colleges and universities in the United States and so I went through and was like, "Well, I've heard [Hopkins] is a good school and is in a city where I could imagine myself living."

N-L: How was the transition back into school?

VS: What I found when I got to Peabody was that, because I had been in the working world and was coming back to school, I knew exactly why I wanted to be in school and what my goals were, and my goal at that time was to be a creator who taught.

It was by far the best thing I could have done. I think a lot of people are afraid to get out of school then lose how it works. I would say, 'Don't worry about it.' So much of doing well in school is knowing why you're in school and being ready to put in the work. When I got to Peabody, people were saying, 'Yes, and now your main goal is to compose.' I was just astonished. 'Wow, so I get to compose 40 hours a week and no one's going to try to tell me there are other things I should be doing?' Amazing.

From the moment I went back to school, teaching was a primary goal, so I made absolutely certain to find teaching anywhere I went. While I was a student at Peabody, I taught in what was called the Elderhostel program, which were courses for retirees who wanted to come to a conservatory and go to a lot of concerts and learn more about classical music.

N-L: Now you're teaching everything from history of rock classes to music theory classes. What draws you to teaching in general?

VS: When I was younger, I didn't fit in in any way and was suicidal and bullied and all that stuff that a lot of people experience in high school. When I got out of those situations and found people who were able to engage with me intellectually, it was a real-life saver for me. Like, it literally saved my life, so I hope to be that for the next generation [of] people who maybe don't fit in for whatever reason. To me, the main thing that any class teaches is how to assess information in order to be a better citizen. I think that no matter what class I'm teaching - at the heart - it's about analyzing the information and trying to come up with a judgment instead of coming to the material with preconceived notions.

N-L: How have you applied this to your classes at Hopkins and interactions with Baltimore?

VS: I helped create an experimental music ensemble at Peabody about 10 years ago. That was really designed to reach students who weren't being served by the other ensembles at Peabody and students who might have felt a little bit like outsiders.

Although I've been doing less of this since the pandemic, one of the main things I've tried to do was really tie Hopkins to the Baltimore community and recognize that Hopkins is part of a larger community that has so much to give us, especially in the field of music and experimental music. Baltimore is one of the world's centers for experimental music, especially improvisatory music.

Some of the people working in it are Hopkins faculty. Wendel Patrick runs an organization called the Baltimore Boom Bap Society that does improvisational hip-hop performances every month. There's an international festival of improvisation called High Zero festival that brings in people from all over the world. Just getting the students to realize that there is a community here and that the community is very welcoming and wants people to be a part of it has really been the best.


Smooke describes pivoting from the career world into academia.

<![CDATA[The beauty of apricity]]>

I dread winter. Snow-covered street lamps and snowflakes are anything but beautiful to me - the snow has always had a habit of dampening my clothes just enough to intensify the bitterness of the air until it is maddening. And, rather than declare the season of joy and fellowship, Christmas lights have only signified a time of frozen extremities and suffocating layers of clothing.

During these long, cruel months, I am motivated each day by only one thing: the sun. Or, to be more specific, I am motivated by apricity, which is the warmth of the sun during winter. I am in awe of its natural brilliance, grateful for the strength it provides during the winter months and in love with the story of how I came to know it.

I was familiar with the feeling of apricity before I knew what to call it. When I was in the second grade, I would travel the five blocks to and from school by foot every morning and afternoon. These walks introduced me not only to my profound distaste for the winter months but also to the term which I have grown so fond of - "apricity."

During one of the most dreadful afternoons I had endured that winter, I noticed a small bird that was almost completely obscured by snow and the darkness of nearby shadows. It only managed to produce a few meager squeaks as I passed by, but that was enough to provoke me to stop and attempt to help.

As I searched feverishly for a way to uncover the bird without touching it with my hands, the frail, elderly woman who walked me across the intersection each day approached. The woman promptly moved the bird from beneath the shadow of a tree and onto a small patch of clear sidewalk in the sun.

Because I had to go home, it was not until the next day that I learned that the bird had survived. When I asked how she had saved it, the woman replied, "It wasn't me; it was the sun."

For years following this experience, however, I was unaware of the existence of the name for that warmth I had felt. With only simple words such as "warm" and "perfect" in my vocabulary, I often found myself frustrated when trying to describe my experience. It was not until I was fifteen years old that I finally stumbled upon the proper way to describe that feeling.

During one of my classes at school, I was given the task of naming an island. While searching for possible names, I discovered the word "apricity" and was completely dumbfounded after reading its definition. There, in dark print, was the word I never knew I needed. I have since fallen in love with that word.

Apricity is not and cannot be artificially made. The warmth given off from a clunky space heater is nothing compared to the delightful sensation that the word defines, nor is apricity equivalent to the sunburnt feeling one gets after reclining in a tanning bed.

One could argue that the sensations I have just described are incredibly pleasant - and they would not be mistaken - but anyone who has experienced the hope that apricity brings along with its characteristic ethereal feeling of warmth would understand why those sensations are hardly comparable. Comparing apricity to a space heater is impractical because apricity offers something that warm blankets and heated seats do not: perpetuation.

Apricity is more permanent, long-lasting and deeper. It doesn't rely on a fickle or weak source of warmth but the eternal, powerful sun. It represents more than a feeling: it is an idea of survival and life in the midst of struggle and darkness.

To me, apricity is a treasured, priceless gift: a beautiful name tag for the sensation I had been so desperate to identify. It is my favorite word not only because it defines much more than the simplistic feeling of warmth but also because of how I discovered it.

The word is my beacon of hope during times of struggle. When life appears too difficult to bear, I only need to remember to search for the sunshine that the world always has to offer.

Ashlyn Peralta is a junior from Levelland, Texas studying Writing Seminars.


Reflecting on her grievances with the winter season, Peralta reveals her discovery and love of the sensation of apricity.

<![CDATA[Events this weekend (Jan. 27 - 29) ]]> Welcome back, Blue Jays! Congratulations on finishing your first week of classes! It's been a while since we were all together in Baltimore - take this weekend to reconnect with the city at these great events.


Live music, 5 - 8 p.m.

Celebrate making it through the first week of classes at a Baltimore institution! Bertha's Mussels has been hosting live music every weekend for over 40 years - this Friday's performers are Brandt, Reggie and Eamon Duke.


Pruning Party, 10 a.m. - 1 p.m.

Recover from Friday night's partying with a different kind of event... a pruning party! Blue Water Baltimore's Forestry Team will teach you how to properly care for their newly planted urban trees for free, providing the perfect way to gain volunteer hours. More information can be found here.

Amazing Scavenger Hunt, 8 a.m. - 7 p.m.

Have you been meaning to check out some new areas in Baltimore? Grab some friends and sign up for this scavenger hunt run by Urban Adventure Quest. A go-at-your-own-pace activity, the destinations of the scavenger hunt will take you from the Inner Harbor to landmarks, neighborhoods and sites all around the city! Sign up now for $44 per team of five.

Shriver Hall Concert Series Discovery Series, 3 - 5 p.m.

When visiting the Baltimore Museum of Art this weekend, you can also attend the tuba recital of Peabody Institute's Jasmine Pigott. The recital is free, though donations are encouraged. Register here.


Comedy Open Mic, 2 - 4 p.m.

Enjoy a relaxing Sunday before midterms season at the Waverly Brewing Company! Located in Hampden-Woodberry, the Waverly Brewing Company holds weekly comedy open mic events. Attend for some laughs or try your own hand at stand-up!

<![CDATA[Don't let the winter blues get you down.]]> This week kicked off the start of the spring semester. Though we have new classes and new professors, it's difficult to feel excited with Baltimore's cold and gray winter weather hanging over campus. Our surroundings may be bleak, but it doesn't mean our days should be, too.

At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, when students were stuck at home, it seemed like everyone was picking up a new hobby. Instagram and Snapchat stories revealed ventures into breadmaking, crocheting, jigsaw puzzles and podcasting. Now that we're back in-person and have largely returned to normal life, most of us have abandoned our socially-distanced pastimes. Our cookbooks and balls of yarns sit abandoned on shelves, collecting dust.

It shouldn't take a pandemic for us to pursue our passions. It's true that we don't have nearly as much free time now after the transition back to in-person life - think of all the time spent traveling between home, classes and office hours and putting on real pants every morning.

On top of that, most of us Blue Jays pack our schedules with academic and professional activities. Between classes and extracurriculars, it can be difficult to find time to eat and sleep, let alone have fun. However, we should still prioritize dedicating time to our own enjoyment. It may come as a shock to some, but not every activity has to be a resume booster.

With the Spring Student Involvement Fair approaching, students should consider joining special interest or arts groups on campus. If you find it difficult to pencil in time for your passions, signing up for a club with a set schedule could be beneficial.

Attending campus events is another great way to shake up a routine. Lacrosse season is right around the corner, and with winter sports like men's and women's basketball wrapping up, now is the perfect time to attend a sporting event. What's more, showing some school spirit has its perks - The Flock gives out free food and memorabilia at many Hopkins games.

Of course, if sitting in the bleachers isn't your thing, there are still plenty of other indoor and outdoor activities to partake in. You don't have to venture far if you want some winter fun with friends. The Hopkins Ice Rink has returned to Homewood Campus once again and will be open through Feb. 19. Students can register for a 90-minute skate session online, free of charge.

Visits to museums close to campus, like the Evergreen Museum and Library, are another way to spice up the undergraduate experience. The National Aquarium, located in the Inner Harbor, is half-price on Friday nights.

If you want to stay inside, starting a new show is an easy way to give yourself something to look forward to at the end of the day.

Until spring gives us back sunlight, warm days and green trees, we have to find a way to cope with the dreariness around us. Having a hobby can prevent the days from blurring together. Dedicating a few hours in your week to plan something fulfilling and fun is a great way to decompress and find inspiration in the mundane routine of another semester.


<![CDATA[On the rise: The impact of climate change on sea levels]]>

What would you do if the island you were living on was sinking? While this is definitely not an easy question to answer, it is a question that those who are living on many small, tropic islands are facing. Inundation is a threat that many islands are now facing due to climate change and rising sea levels. Let's discuss what rising sea levels mean for island nations (and possibly even larger continents).

In an email to The News-Letter, Thomas Haine, a professor in the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, discussed catalysts for rising sea levels. The main one is climate change, which leads to a cascade of other effects. First, surface water that is naturally stored on land, such as groundwater, is diminishing in some areas. Second, land and ocean ice melts due to rising atmospheric temperatures, leading to increased liquid water content in seas. Third, oceans are said to have been undergoing thermal expansion, which causes water molecules to take up more volume, increasing ocean volume. Haine also mentioned that there are distinctions between sea levels locally and globally.

"Sea levels have risen about 0.2m since 1900. This is for global sea level. There are [also] regional changes in sea level too," he wrote.

Apart from the increasing threat of inundation, rising sea levels also pose other threats to islands and coastlines. Rising sea levels threaten both ocean and land food sources. For the Hawaiian islands, the sea level rise affects coral reefs and intertidal zones. Intertidal zones can provide food such as limpets, urchins and seaweed, which locals consume. With rising sea levels, salt from the ocean contaminates soil, which prevents usual farming.

For the island nation of Tuvalu, for example, rising sea levels also brings other issues like "climate-related illnesses." Rising ocean temperatures lead to increased coral bleaching, a phenomenon where beneficial algae leaves the coral. This coral bleaching leads to an increased presence of a dangerous microalgae called Gambierdiscus toxicus, which releases ciguatoxins.

If fish eat these microalgae, the ciguatoxins settle inside them. If humans eat these fish, the ciguatoxins settle inside them, leading to ciguatera fish poisoning. With an increased frequency of such illnesses, Tuvalu has set up their own "specialist department" focused on these climate-related illnesses.

The greatest threat is the inundation and flooding of island structures. But what can be done regarding these rising sea levels and the threat of inundation?

One solution to combat the effects of rising sea levels is building sea walls. Seawalls, like the Jakarta Bay Seawall, are made with sturdy materials and work to prevent water from going inland which would occur as sea levels rise. Especially with flooding due to storms, such seawalls could help with the water rise from ruining structures close to the coast. Other options include building energy walls and artificial islands.

But Haines noted that this solution isn't perfect.

"It often has undesirable side-effects, however, like beach erosion. Plus the fixes you suggest don't address the other negative impacts of CO2 emissions on the climate+environment. E.g., they don't affect ocean acidification or global warming," Haine wrote.

Sea walls, artificial islands and energy walls focus on the aftereffects of rising sea levels, but what about preventing the rising sea levels and increasing ocean temperatures prior to the aftereffects? Solar geoengineering is a broad term for techniques that involve limiting the amount of sunlight that reaches the ocean, therefore hoping to reduce the increase of temperatures.

One such technique is marine cloud brightening. Daniel Harrison, the principal investigator of the Marine Cloud Brightening for the Great Barrier Reef project, aims on spraying saltwater drops on marine stratocumulus clouds to add brightness to these clouds, therefore allowing them to reflect back more sunlight. Marine cloud brightening could not only aid with cooling the ocean but also preventing further side effects associated with ocean warming like coral bleaching.

However, Haine claims that such geoengineering fixes require caution.

"The reasons are: (i) There are probably unintended consequences of the fix, (ii) The fix might need to be maintained indefinitely (at considerable cost), (iii) The fix doesn't address other negative anthropogenic impacts on climate+environment," he says," he wrote. "For smaller time scales, this geoengineering fix may not be all bad. "The suggestion that it's a temporary fix to buy time for a permanent solution (e.g., drawing down atmospheric CO2) is a good idea."

Another solution is relocation and leaving the island nation in risk of being inundated. New Zealand used to offer the Pacific Access Category Resident Visa that residents of island nations Kiribati, Tuvalu, Fiji and Tonga could apply for to relocate to New Zealand. While this visa was not instituted for the reasons of climate change, such special categories for visas could be opened up in the future for climate change reasons.

But this should be the worst-case scenario. We have to consider the ethical implications of telling residents of island nations to relocate as the best option to escape rising sea levels. They would have to leave their home and community. In addition, assimilating into a new, larger country will not be easy. Therefore, it is important that we try to combat rising sea levels before they increase beyond control.

The effects of rising sea levels in a larger city show us that it's not only small islands like Tuvalu that can be affected by rising sea levels. Significant sea level rises can very well start to affect coastal cities like New York. Therefore, the issue of rising sea levels is not just a problem for island nations to fix.

Tanvi Narvekar is a senior from the Bay Area, California majoring in Neuroscience and Psychology. Combating Climate Change is an ode to her passion for climate change action and helping with its mitigation. The goal of the column is to educate about current events and future action regarding climate change.


As sea levels rise, island nations are especially at risk.

<![CDATA[Hopkins community mourns the loss of Sharleen Argamaso-Hernan ]]> The University is mourning the death of Sharleen Argamaso-Hernan, assistant director of academic support, who passed away on Dec. 25, 2022. Argamaso-Hernan was assistant director for the Study Consulting Program and oversaw the first-year course Introduction to Hopkins: Arrive & Thrive.She first worked at Hopkins as a postdoc after earning a doctorate in Biology. Argamaso-Hernan returned to Hopkins in 2018 after working at Lansdowne High School in Baltimore County.

In an email to the Hopkins community, Assistant Dean of Academic Advising Jessie Martin highlighted Argamaso-Hernan's impact on the Hopkins community.

"Every year undergraduate students are asked to name a faculty or staff member who has made a positive difference in their Hopkins experience, and, every year, Sharleen is one of those most frequently mentioned," she wrote.

Argamaso-Hernan's family has set a memorial scholarship in her honor to facilitate student-teaching mentorship opportunities at Lansdowne High School and is planning a celebration of her life on campus in February. Martin also wrote that the University will communicate details of the event once they are finalized.

"I would be remiss if I didn't mention how much Sharleen has meant to faculty and staff across divisions," Martin wrote. "Her transformational influence will last for many years to come."

The Counseling Center may be contacted by calling (410) 516-8278 from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. A counselor is also available 24/7 at that same number in emergency situations.

Student Outreach and Support is available for appointments and can be contacted at (410) 516-7857 or at studentoutreach@jhu.edu.

Religious & Spiritual Life can be reached from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday at (410) 516-1880 or at chaplain@jhu.edu.

A Place to Talk is available for in-person support Sunday through Thursday. Members are available from 7 p.m. to 1 a.m. in Brody Learning Commons 4010 and from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. in AMR I.

TimelyMD's TalkNow service is available 24/7 and can be accessed by visiting timelycare.com/jhu.

Students may contact their resident advisors or residence directors or visit the Residential Life Office. Residential Life can be contacted by phone at (410) 516-8283 or by email at residentiallife@jhu.edu.

<![CDATA[Hopkins community mourns the loss of Saeeda Osei Frimpong]]> The University is mourning the death of Saeeda Osei Frimpong, who passed away on Jan. 11. Frimpong was a sophomore majoring in Neuroscience in the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences. She was a member of the African Students Association, the American Red Cross Corps and the Black Student Union.

In an email to the Hopkins community, Vice Provost for Student Affairs Rachelle Hernandez and Interim Dean of Student Life Allison Avolio wrote about Frimpong's involvement and impact on the community.

"She will be remembered for her kindness, thoughtfulness, and dedication to helping others," they wrote.

Hernandez and Avolio offered condolences to Frimpong's family and loved ones and encouraged students to look out for each other.

"The loss of Saeeda will be felt deeply by many in our community, and we ask that you seek opportunities to help and uplift one another in the coming days," they wrote.

Students can express their condolences by writing an email to "The Family of Saeeda Osei Frimpong" and sending it to the Office of the Dean of Student Life at deanofstudents@jhu.edu.

The Counseling Center may be contacted by calling (410) 516-8278 from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. A counselor is also available 24/7 at that same number in emergency situations.

Student Outreach and Support is available for appointments and can be contacted at (410) 516-7857 or at studentoutreach@jhu.edu.

Religious & Spiritual Life can be reached from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday at (410) 516-1880 or at chaplain@jhu.edu.

A Place to Talk is available for in-person support Sunday through Thursday. Members are available from 7 p.m. to 1 a.m. in Brody Learning Commons 4010 and from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. in AMR I.

TimelyMD's TalkNow service is available 24/7 and can be accessed by visiting timelycare.com/jhu.

Students may contact their resident advisors or residence directors or visit the Residential Life Office. Residential Life can be contacted by phone at (410) 516-8283 or by email at residentiallife@jhu.edu.

<![CDATA[University announces three scholarly cluster hires aimed at increasing faculty diversity]]> The University announced plans to hire 13 new faculty members in three areas of study as part of the Fannie Gaston-Johansson Faculty of Excellence Program (FGJFEP) on Nov. 16.

Named after the University's first Black woman to become a tenured professor at Hopkins, Fannie Gaston-Johansson, the FGJFEP has resulted in the recruitment of 35 tenure-track professors over a six-year period. The program is part of the Faculty Diversity Initiative (FDI), recently revived under the University's Second Roadmap on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.

From nine submitted proposals, the FDJFEP Selection Committee, President Ronald Daniels and Provost Sunil Kumar selected three areas of interdisciplinary study to receive faculty hires: Mathematical Biology, Fluid Mechanics across scales and the Center for Africana Studies. A second call for proposals is planned for later in the academic year, with a March 1 application deadline.

Associate Vice Provost for Faculty Diversity Roland Thorpe explained the selection committee's process of reviewing proposals in an interview with The News-Letter.

"We had a selection committee who was representative of faculty across the University who have participated in [Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion] efforts either in their research, service, practice or teaching," he said. "It was an NIH style process whereby each application had three reviewers, and we had a rubric, and we had individuals rank each [proposal] on criteria from a scale of 1 to 5."

According to him, the average of the review scores was used as the preliminary score. The committee would then meet to discuss the proposal again and give a final score to decide on their recommendations.

The University established the FDJFEP in 2015, when underrepresented minority representation in faculty was at 8%. This number reached 10% in 2019. According to Thorpe, the statistics for 2022 are not available as a result of differing methodologies.

These faculty diversity demographics lag behind that of the undergraduate student body, which in the fall semester of 2019 was 14.7% Hispanic, 25% Asian and 7.7% Black.

William Egginton, the Decker Professor in the Humanities and Director of the Alexander Grass Humanities Institute, submitted a proposal to increase the representation of Latinx faculty in the Program in Latin American and Latinx Studies, which was not approved. In an email to The News-Letter, Egginton explained the importance of the cluster hire program.

"We have long been aware of the dire underrepresentation at Hopkins of Latinx faculty, and the university's cluster hire initiative represented and represents a real opportunity for us to help address this important need," he wrote.

Egginton plans to resubmit the proposal during the second call for submissions and has high hopes that it will be accepted.

Thorpe stressed the importance of the FDJFEP in building community for faculty members from underrepresented minorities in an email to The News-Letter.

"Bringing in individuals and putting them in departments where there's not much diversity… can create some isolation among the faculty, and we're trying to prevent that, particularly in the STEM areas," he wrote.

In an email to The News-Letter, Yolanda Abel, an associate professor at the School of Education, described the importance of diversity, particularly in academic institutions.

"It is important for people to see others who are like them in faculty and/or senior leadership roles," she wrote. "It is also important as it can help create a diversity of thought that often results in better outcomes to challenges and environments that are more inclusive."

Junior Kobi Khong also discussed the importance of the University hiring faculty that reflect student diversity in an email to The News-Letter.

"As our student population has grown and benefited from its diversity, the diversity of faculty should keep up so that students can receive a multifaceted education that reflects the diversity and globality of the real world," he wrote.

Khong is involved with efforts to build a Critical Diaspora Studies (CDS) program at the University. He added that faculty diversity is key for ensuring that courses offer a full and nuanced perspective of the world and that programs like the FDJFEP are a step in the right direction.

Junior Natalie Wang is also a student organizer involved with the CDS program. In an interview with The News-Letter, she detailed issues with faculty diversity at the University.

"The Economics department has never had a Black faculty member… the first Black U.S. historian who was tenured at Hopkins was in 2016, which was not that long ago," she said. "We also have very little Indigenous representation and representation of people with disabilities."

Wang stressed that while conversations about faculty diversity often center around race, it is important to recognize the need for diversity across other axes, like disability.

While the FDJFEP focuses primarily on STEM fields, junior DJ Quezada expressed his belief that there needs to be more of an effort in the social sciences to integrate diverse voices.

"I've encountered students who have indicated being taught in an East Asian Studies class by a white Professor doesn't make them feel as comfortable in the classroom experience," he said.

Quezada added that the University's position in Baltimore, a city with a population that is 61.6% Black, makes placing emphasis on faculty diversity particularly important.

"It's incumbent on the University, especially with its setting in one of the most diverse cities in the country, to make an affirmative effort to specifically hire people of color into critical faculty roles," he said.

Wang raised concerns about retaining racially diverse faculty and emphasized that University policies should be equipped to sustain diversity.

"Just because students have faculty that look like them doesn't necessarily mean that we have an institution or a system that's just," she said. "Increasing diversity without changes in institutional policies, for example in areas like safety or policing, we're just putting more people in danger."


Students and faculty discuss the necessity of diversifying faculty.

<![CDATA[Exclusive interview with President Ronald J. Daniels]]> In an interview with The News-Letter on Dec. 12, University President Ronald J. Daniels discussed the function of higher education in American democracy, the importance of accountability in the University's decision making and the creation of democratic spaces on campus.

The News-Letter: Why is democracy so important, both to you and for higher education institutions?

President Ronald J. Daniels: I think at one level, it reflects the institutional role that I have, that you understand how important democracy is to the flourishing of the University. Great universities require a climate in which you have open debate, institutionalized skepticism towards claims, constant challenges that people make of claims made by others.

There's just a willingness of governments to see the importance of this kind of investment in democratic societies, which you don't see in authoritarian ones. We know the story is that, for a lot of authoritarians, the university - because it challenges received wisdom, it's prepared to push back against claims that those in power often make - is a threat to those societies. It's really hard to maintain a strong commitment to free expression if there's a state that is going to penalize people for criticizing the government, and that has a chilling effect on the character of the debate.

On another level, I have a very personal story that is tied to my family's near miss in the Holocaust, in which you saw the failure of democratic society in Nazi Germany. My family constituted five of about 5,000 Jewish refugees that were admitted in Canada from 1933 to 1945. It also says something about Canadian society: that fear of outsiders and parochialism can still be tied to the democratic experiment.

The flourishing of democracy is really important for the ability to support and sustain civilized societies, and I feel it very directly.

N-L: How do democratic ideals guide the way you govern the University?

RD: Having a place where people can be free to challenge - to think imaginatively about alternative ways of organizing the world, of how you think about social or scientific phenomena - is really important. I think that this is where the connection between the success of the University and its democratic character is really important.

Over the last several years at Hopkins, we've worked in a number of different ways to try and build structures around a number of different issues where we're giving opportunity and, in fact, being very deliberative about trying to find ways in which we can give more voice to people to help us think through the best way to run the University.

We stood up two bodies during COVID to help us get better information and to have a forum where, again, we could have open debate and deliberation... We did that with faculty [The University Pandemic Academic Advisory Committee], and we did that with students [JHU 2020 Planning Student Advisory Committee]. After the end of the second year of working with these bodies, it seemed to us just blindingly obvious that they should be continued, formalized and become a permanent part of the architecture at the institution so that you have these structures that ensure that, when major decisions are being made, they have an opportunity to be checked, debated and informed by the views of many others.

We did that in a number of different areas - around the diversity roadmap, thinking about how we manage the issues of sexual assault, one could go on and on - but fundamentally what I think is really important is if you're serious about cultivating this democratic character, to make sure you have institutions, committee structures and processes that help concretize that idea.

N-L: How does diversity in college admissions contribute to the project of American democracy?

RD: That's the issue right now before the Supreme Court of the United States. We have signed briefs and made arguments on a number of different fora supporting the proposition that having diversity reflected on a number of dimensions on college campuses is absolutely essential for the success of the university but so too for the success of the country more generally.

The University represents a site where, by deliberately cultivating diverse student populations and also diverse faculty and staff, you create an environment in which people who might not otherwise be exposed to one another have to live with, talk to, challenge, work through problems together; in some sense, [it is] a microcosm of the richness of American society, which, in other circumstances may be avoided.

This was one of the reasons why I was very supportive of the idea of trying to, in the case of our housing policy, go beyond simply saying it's enough to bring a diverse student body who might then line up roommates who come from similar backgrounds of themselves; it seemed to me that was a lost opportunity to fully harvest the benefits of diversity to be up on campus.

It's not just enough to have representational diversity; you really want to have interactional diversity. Where people [not just know] that we're on the same campus together but they're really forging relationships and exploring different ideas and identities.

N-L: What do you see as threats to American democracy, and do you see these manifesting themselves at higher education institutions?

RD: The threat of growing polarization, distrust in institutions [and] demonization of those who have different views of ourselves ultimately does impact the body politic and it's extremely dangerous. A compounding factor is the extent to which people are losing the capacity to be able to discern truth from falsehood and to even understand when you can and cannot have confidence in the truthfulness of claims that others make. Once you're in a world where there's no ability to see whether a claim made is true or not and people come indifferent to it, then I think that becomes extremely dangerous because it allows your political leadership to tell you what the truth is.

It's absolutely essential for the university to be understood as one of those institutions that you can go to and believe that - when we make claims, when we make recommendations, when we produce research findings - it's based on facts and truth. We can assure and reassure the public that we're serious about that responsibility.

N-L: With the broad range of viewpoints expressed on campus, how can the University create spaces for meaningful dialogue?

RD: It's important to encourage people to be true to the values and the beliefs they have and to share them. On another level, I think what it requires is that we're constantly conscious of the need to make sure that everyone feels that they truly belong, that these debates can never create a sense that you're marginal or that you really don't have a right to be heard.

We should have space to be able to have hard conversations where we're truly probing different views and maybe even value systems and still see that as legitimate and an important part of the experience.

Finally, trying to create broad boundaries for civic friendship where, even if I don't agree with what you say and what you believe, we can still find ways of not just being civil to each other but even saying that we want to have a friendship.

N-L: How does the University guarantee that the various stakeholders, including students, faculty and staff, are represented in its decision making processes?

RD: First and foremost, before you even get to "are they represented in the decision making process," it requires intentionality on ensuring that they're actually in the campus community to begin with. Over the last decade plus, it's just been a remarkable transformation of the student body. We've been able to achieve the most selective class in the country while simultaneously creating one of the most diverse classes ​​in the country represented on a number of different dimensions: racially, ethnically, politically, geographically and socioeconomically.

The various initiatives that I described a moment ago, both in terms of standing committees that we have stood up and, more generally, in terms of more subject-specific task forces [and] working groups that have been established - this is where you want as much as possible to make sure that you're creating bodies that have that kind of diversity of perspective and experience so that people will feel that there's a legitimacy in the decisions that are being made.

It's an important factor in how you think about inviting people into these committees. Whatever your background is, people feel that there's an excitement about being part of the conversation and want to help make decisions and help us get to a better place.

N-L: How does the University organize civic engagement efforts to reach students of varied academic interests?

RD: It starts with a strong belief that our students who are in STEM-related fields are incredibly important to the conversation over the nature of our contemporary democracy. Just look at the issues that confront us daily around how you think about new modes of technology, how they should be regulated… How should we think about clinical trials and the kinds of protections that participants in those trials should or should not be subjected to? So many of the challenges that are going to be posed to democracy are going to come from those kinds of developments.

One of the things that the Dean of Engineering and the Dean of the Krieger School have been really worried about is the extent to which the requirements for many of our majors limit the capacity of students to step outside of their majors and take courses where they get exposed to these ideas. They have been systematically trimming back major requirements to create more space for students to take those courses.

Our students will see that their understanding of the technology and the complexity of technology can filter into those broader frameworks that we see in the social sciences and the humanities. It's about creating more breathing space, more opportunities. It actually requires us being able to find ways in which we can communicate to our STEM students that, as I said before, they're really vital, essential participants in this debate. I think that, too, might require a greater intentionality on our part as to how, particularly given the large STEM population that's here at Hopkins, they see themselves in this.

N-L: Looking forward, what other initiatives does the University have planned to continue promoting democratic ideals?

RD: [The SNF Agora Institute] is one of the most consequential things that we've been involved in at the University. We're recruiting a significant group of faculty and fellows to be part of that program and thinking about everything from debate series to other kinds of specialized programming that can build upon the existence of the Agora Institute and find ways of sharing its benefits with the undergraduate student body.

Even the decision that we announced over the weekend, in terms of the naming of our Bologna campus, represents another opportunity that students can take advantage of. That gift will allow us to increase significantly the size of the faculty who are at the Bologna campus, and two of those additional faculty positions will be earmarked for faculty who will be associated with Agora. There's a really interesting opportunity for students who are undergraduates here to continue to probe and explore the issues of democracy from a comparative perspective.

There's just so many opportunities, with all the outreach efforts that you can do in Baltimore, to actually take these ideas of democratic engagement to a different level. It's not just about your participation in elections - whether you'll work on a political campaign or run for office, as I hope our students will - but even the extent to which you engage in various civic organizations and are dealing with issues from homelessness, to drug addiction, to violence, to the deficiencies in our education system, all of which I know our students are doing on a daily basis here. That, again, is another opportunity for students to use their time here at Hopkins to get more exposure to our democratic moment.


Daniels spoke on the significance of cultivating democratic ideals at the University.

<![CDATA[The science of studying for finals]]> It's almost time for finals here at Hopkins! For many students, that means a lot of late-night study sessions at the library pumped with caffeine. In this stressful time, it's important to understand how students study most effectively to achieve the best results.

Elise Walck-Shannon, a biology lecturer and researcher at Washington University in St. Louis, published a study in CBE-Life Sciences Education that analyzed the relationship between study habits and academic performances in a large introductory biology course.

In an interview with The News-Letter, Walck-Shannon highlighted that an important takeaway from the study is that active approaches to learning yielded better exam results than passive approaches to learning. Active learning is defined as studying through direct involvement in the learning process, whereas passive learning includes receiving and internalizing information.

In the study, students took a test before and after completing the biology course to control for academic preparation. Students then reported their studying habits after the exams in the course. Walck-Shannon noted that they controlled for study time and class absences to get a better understanding of study strategies and academic performance.

"We asked in a free response question to list the type of study strategies they typically do. We took that list and found the most common themes and created choices students could choose from," she said. "Then we estimated the amount of time they spent using each of those strategies."

The three strategies that had the largest positive effect on academic performance were using problem sets, explaining a concept to yourself and others and self-quizzing, which includes using flashcards or taking practice tests. Other studies have also found that taking more practice tests was correlated with higher performance on the final exam.

Walck-Shannon noted that all three study habits force students to form an understanding of the connection between concepts.

"When you're trying to remember something, ask yourself why does this make sense?," she said. "This will help you be able to recall it later, and it will help all of the things you are learning to come together if you are able to make those connections for yourself."

Another variable measured in Walck-Shannon's study was the student's judgment of learning, a self-estimate of how much they learned. Students tended to overestimate their learning when using passive study strategies like rereading or copying their notes. It turns out that effective study strategies actually include intentional difficulties to make the student put more effort into learning the material. It may feel like you haven't mastered a concept when using active learning strategies, but that is the desired effect.

Distractions also play a big role in study habits. Being distracted while studying was negatively associated with exam scores in Walck-Shannon's study.

To avoid distractions, Walck-Shannon recommended that students should create a plan beforehand. This plan should include implementation intentions, which are if-then statements on what you will do if an obstacle or distraction arises.

"The important part is to plan from the outset, so you don't get too caught up in distractions," she said. "For example, if I find myself checking my phone, then I will turn it off and set it aside."

Another major concern during finals is getting enough high-quality sleep, especially when the library at Hopkins is open 24 hours during reading period and finals. Walck-Shannon reflected on how sleep has been shown to play an important role in academic performance.

"All cognitive processes depend on being well-rested," she said. "Getting enough sleep not just the day before, but a few days before a final will be incredibly important."

Cramming is also not a good idea - focusing on spacing out studying sessions has been shown to improve learning, especially on application-type tests. Interleaving is also an effective study strategy where you mix up studying and practicing different topics in each session.

In addition to study strategies, another factor during finals is the high stress that surrounds this time period. Stress can be inconducive to studying properly; one study found that increased anxiety around math in students was associated with failing to complete more effortful, and possibly helpful, study strategies.

To counter the negative effects of stress on academic performance, creating a detailed plan is important. The plan should include how much you will study each day, what time you will study, where you will study and what you will do with each session. Additionally, you should remain flexible and be willing to revise the plan if it is not working.

Hopefully using this information can help you study for finals and make this season a bit less stressful. Good luck, Blue Jays!


Brody Learning Commons is open 24 hours during reading period.

<![CDATA[I'll be home for Christmas]]>

So, where's your hometown? It's one of the most typical and easy conversation-starting questions. Yet, it can be a hard stump for someone with a multicultural, multi-regional background.

The Merriam-Webster dictionary's first definition of home is "one's place of residence." However, as a college student, I technically have two residences: one where my parents and siblings live and the other here in Baltimore. Plus, my physical home has changed quite a lot growing up.

During elementary school, I lived in Ohio. As soon as I went into middle school, we moved to California. My family moved again to New Jersey when I started high school. And of course, Hopkins is in Maryland, so my college was also in a totally new state.

On top of that, I was born in Korea, raised in the U.S. and just recently got my U.S. citizenship in 2018, so do I say my hometown is the Korean city I was born in? Can home truly be defined as the place where one simply lives?

Over the past couple of years, I occasionally find myself ruminating on the concept of home because I don't feel quite at home anywhere anymore. During Thanksgiving break, I went back to the place I would most consider "home" right now.

My bed there was cozier, the people around me made me feel welcome and there were no words I could use to adequately describe the joy I felt eating my family's cooking. The physical place that contained my high school memories, my parents and my siblings was definitely a "home."

And yet, the place still didn't quite feel like home. In fact, the feeling of home seemed to no longer exist - I felt like a guest in my own household.

By no means did this feel wrong or bad, just different. I wasn't treated like an outcast or a stranger, but there was a very refined sense of discomfort inside me. An even more alarming feeling came when I returned to Baltimore, to my own apartment, and still did not feel like I was home.

It's not that my parents find me uncomfortable or that they don't want me to be at home because I know they, more than anyone, were excited to see me again. And it's not that I don't find my own place in Baltimore unfitting or foreign.

Rather, I'm in that awkward stage of life where I'm an adult that doesn't know how to be an "adult," but I'm still being treated like one. I feel uncomfortable because I don't know how to cope with myself. The problem isn't the home; it's me ("Hi! I'm the problem, it's me" - Taylor Swift). I keep telling myself that neither place is truly home because I'm an independent person living alone, but I still call my mom for every little inconvenience that happens.

This feeling reminds me of the dissonance I feel with my cultural identity. I'm not quite American, nor am I quite Korean, and I have yet to find my own voice as a Korean-American. Precisely said, it's the feeling of un-belonging. It feels unnatural, but at the same time, it's a natural part of growing older and transitioning from a "teenage dirtbag" to a functioning mature human in society.

I thought I absolutely had to fit the stereotypes of my different cultural identities to be considered and accepted as part of those cultures, instead of accepting the fact that everyone has their own idiosyncrasies. I also thought that I was alone in this struggle when, in reality, many other people share this feeling of un-belonging.

Despite my growth, I still sometimes question my cultural identity. I know that when I go home for Christmas, I'll still have the initial feeling of discomfort being a guest in my own home.

But I recognize that these feelings of un-belonging and discomfort will be fleeting sentiments in the long run as I become older, grow into myself and build my own identity.

After much reflection, home doesn't necessarily need to be a physical place or even any particular feeling of coziness or comfort. To me, home is probably just my family; the most loving yet stubborn people in my life that make me smile and cry all at once.

They might make me feel like a guest sometimes, but they're still home. I can't wait for exam season to be over and be on the train ride back home. And who am I kidding, I love being treated like a royal guest, especially when my mom makes all the food I love.

Good luck to everyone on finals, stay warm and safe travels when going home.

Jamie Kim is a junior from New Jersey studying Psychology. Her column explores her journey navigating through life and Hopkins as an introvert.


As Christmas nears, Kim considers where home really is and what it means to find belonging.