Universities and Cities Working Together to Build Strong Communities

32240As the former president of the University of Pennsylvania, Judith Rodin understands first-hand the power of universities to impact surrounding neighborhoods and communities. In this Helen Edison presentation, Rodin explores their transformative potential.

“Over the last few decades, a host of anchor institutions have breathed new life into communities and they have forged new pathways for economic growth in their cities,” says Rodin.

As she explains when she became president at Penn State, “The blight of the local neighborhood became the plight of the university. Students didn’t feel safe, and parents didn’t feel safe sending them there.” At the time, crime rates had soared, many people lived below the poverty level, businesses closed, and drug dealers moved in. “We knew that we could never have a future as a truly great university in a disintegrating community in an economically weakening city,” says Rodin. “We needed to become a force for strengthening our community.”

Most importantly, she learned that “in the process of transforming the university and its surrounding neighborhoods, we demonstrated just what a powerful impact a university can have when it accepts that its destiny is intertwined with that of its neighbors.”

Learn more about how cities and universities can work together to build a strong and inclusive future. Watch Resilient Cities: A Conversation with Judith Rodin.

Ann Patchett

Contributed by John Menier

8232Listed by Time magazine as one of the world’s 100 most influential people in 2012, Ann Patchett is a true woman of letters: novelist, essayist, anthologist, and co-owner of Parnassus Books in Nashville. Patchett is also a frequent and accomplished public speaker, noted for her anecdotes about the literary life, her insights into the creative process, and her wry wit.

One of Patchett’s favorite topics is the ever-changing relationship between readers and books. As an example she cites her own evolution reading (and re-reading) the works of John Updike, Leo Tolstoy, Pearl Buck, Ta-Nehisi Coates, and others, noting that “the books don’t change, but we do.” Put another way, the reader’s evaluation of a particular book is shaped as much by the reader’s life experience and circumstances as by the work’s innate qualities. As such our appreciation (or lack thereof) for a particular title may change over time, but the consistent commonality among the books we treasure is that they never fail to evoke a strong response. Patchett believes the writer’s primary task is to elicit that response by inviting the reader to become an active participant in their story.

Patchett’s approach to the reading public is refreshingly un-elitist. She stresses the importance of what she calls “gateway drugs,” books of dubious literary worth that may encourage readers to explore other authors and genres. She applauds the success of “trashy” pop novels such as “Fifty Shades of Gray” and “Twilight,” no matter their pedigree, for their role in re-vitalizing book sales and energizing the publishing community. What matters most to Patchett as both author and bookstore owner is that the reading habit is fostered and encouraged, and in that endeavor, there’s no place for snobbery.

Click here to watch An Evening with Ann Patchett

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Yoga as Therapy

8232A promising response to opioid addiction is presented here as clinical psychologist Erik Groessl of UC San Diego describes how yoga has helped military veterans lower their chronic back pain and reduce their dependence on painkillers. Groessl explains how this research is changing the healthcare culture at the Veterans Administration as more of his colleagues recognize the potential of yoga as an alternative to prescription drugs. Groessl’s work is the latest in a series of conversations with Paul J. Mills of UC San Diego highlighting successful treatments using the modalities of integrative medicine.

Watch: Yoga as Therapy with Erik Groessl and Paul J. Mills

find more program from the UC Wellbeing Channel here.

Twins in Space: The Effects of Space Travel on Humans

8232Researchers love identical twins. Because they have the same genetic code, they provide a unique opportunity to determine how environment may lead to developmental differences – i.e. nature vs. nurture.

In this new program from the Stein Institute for Research on Aging, Brinda K. Rana, PhD, shares the results of NASA’s remarkable Twins Study. In March 2015, U.S. astronaut Scott Kelly embarked on a one year mission onboard the international space station. Meanwhile, his identical twin brother, Mark, remained on Earth giving scientists an opportunity to study the long-term effects of space travel on the human body versus normal development.

Ultimately, NASA wants to know what will happen to astronauts as they inch closer to their Mission to Mars. Space is a harsh environment, both physiologically and psychologically. Astronauts must contend with microgravity, disruptions in sleep cycles, radiation, and dietary limitations, as well as confined spaces and isolation from friends and family. What will happen to astronauts after 3 years – the time it will take to get them to Mars and back again?

But these studies not only have implications for the lives of astronauts. Physiologically, space travel mimics the effects of aging on the human body, changes such as cardiovascular decline, vision problems, muscle and bone atrophy, and cognitive impairment. Any discovery that improves the lives of astronauts in space could also be used to help us right here on Earth.

Learn more about what it took to plan and execute the Twins Study, as well as some of what they’re just beginning to discover. Watch Twins in Space: The Effects of Space Travel on Humans.

Browse more programs from the Stein Institute for Research on Aging.

Mangroves: The Skin of Our Coasts

8232Mangroves, trees that form forests in the transition between land and sea, provide a habitat for a great diversity of plants and animals worldwide. These coastal ecosystems are invaluable to humans, supplying a number of services essential for our survival. We still do not know how much these ecosystems are worth from an economic perspective – but they are essential from an ecological perspective. Scripps Oceanography’s Octavio Aburto examines mangrove ecosystems and explains why it is vital to put enormous efforts into understanding their value.

Watch Mangroves: The Skin of Our Coasts

Check out the Jeffrey B. Graham Perspectives on Ocean Science Lecture Series archives