Hirsh-Pasek’s “word gap” research continues to earn national media coverage

Thirty million words: That is the size of the “word gap,” the number of extra words, so to speak, that children of affluent parents hear from their parents during toddlerhood that poor children don’t hear from theirs. The issue was the focus of a recent White House conference calling for people to address the word gap with the same passion they do child hunger. “It’s not just about shoving words in,” said Temple psychologist Kathy Hirsh-Pasek, lead author of a study presented at the conference. “It’s about having these fluid conversations around shared rituals and objects. … That is the stuff from which language is made.”

Source – The Christian Science Monitor, Huffington Post, Medical Daily, more | Nov. 3–6, 2014

Photo by Ryan S. Brandenberg. Temple Professor Laurence Steinberg, who is well-known for his groundbreaking research on adolescence, brain development and teen decision-making, was honored for his work as an educator.

Psychology professor recognized for inspirational teaching

Temple Psychology Professor Laurence Steinberg has been named one of this year’s recipients of the Elizabeth Hurlock Beckman Award, which recognizes a small number of leading scholars in the fields of medicine, law and psychology.

Steinberg, Distinguished University Professor and Laura H. Carnell Professor of Psychology, was honored not just for hisgroundbreaking research on adolescence, brain development and teen decision-making, but for his teaching.

“We are thrilled that the Beckman Award Trust has chosen to recognize Dr. Steinberg for his dedication to his students,” said College of Liberal Arts Dean Teresa Soufas. “He is an excellent example of how an active researcher brings his scholarship to the classroom.”

The $25,000 award specifically honors academic faculty members who have “inspired their former students to make a significant contribution to society.”

“This honor is doubly meaningful to me,” said Steinberg. “It’s always flattering to be recognized for one’s teaching. But it’s especially special to be recognized for having helped one’s students go on to do great things that make a real difference in the well-being of families and communities.

“I’m exceptionally proud to have been able to work with the terrific young scholars I’ve mentored over the years at Temple, University of Wisconsin and University of California, Irvine.”

An internationally recognized expert on psychological development during adolescence, Steinberg is a frequent consultant on juvenile justice issues and public policy to state and federal agencies and lawmakers.

The U.S. Supreme Court’s 2005 landmark ruling in Roper v. Simmons, which abolished the juvenile death penalty, relied significantly on the argument advanced by Steinberg and his colleagues that adolescents are fundamentally different from adults in ways shown by scientific studies of brain and behavioral development.

Steinberg also served as scientific consultant on the amicus curiae briefs submitted to the U.S. Supreme Court by the American Psychological Association in Graham v. Florida, which banned the sentence of life without parole for juveniles convicted of non-homicide crimes, and Miller v. Alabama, which prohibited mandatory life without parole for all juvenile crimes.

He is the author of a dozen books on adolescence and parenting, including Age of Opportunity: Lessons from the New Science of Adolescence (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014), and a frequent contributor to The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post.

Kim Fischer

Kathryn Hirsh-Pasek is the lead author of a study that points to the importance of high-quality communication with young children. Credit Doug Mills/The New York Times

NYT among media covering Hirsh-Pasek language research presented at White House

New research findings presented at a White House conference by Temple psychologist Kathy Hirsh-Pasek suggest that the quality of words and language interactions between children in low-income families and their parents and caregivers is of much greater importance to language development than the number of words a child hears. “It’s not just about shoving words in,” said Hirsh-Pasek, lead author of the study. “It’s about having these fluid conversations around shared rituals and objects, like pretending to have morning coffee together or using the banana as a phone. That is the stuff from which language is made.”

Read full story. The New York TimesThe Week, WHYY/NewsWorks, HHS.gov, many more | Oct. 16-22, 2014 – Photo credit Doug Mills/The New York Times


Temple writers alter Philadelphia’s poetry landscape

Frank Sherlock was named Philadelphia’s second-ever poet laureate. The first, renowned writer Sonia Sanchez, HON ’98, was the Laura Carnell Chair in English in the College of Liberal Arts until her retirement in 1999 and also was the university’s first Presidential Fellow. A 2013 Pew Fellow, Sherlock attended the College of Liberal Arts.

That both are connected to Temple is no coincidence. The university’s thriving poetry scene spans more than 20 years, and its backbone is the MFA Creative Writing Program. In addition to Sanchez, the program faculty boasts a litany of accomplished poets, including Creative Writing Program Director Jena Osman, a 2006 Pew Fellow and co-founder of the internationally recognized literary magazine Chain; Assistant Professor Brian Teare, a finalist for the 2013 Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award—one of the most prestigious awards for contemporary poets; and Professor Emerita Rachel Blau DuPlessis, a 2002 Pew Fellow, and one of the foremost feminist critics and scholars in the field of poetry.

“As a poet myself, I have always found Temple to be a very special place,” Osman said. “There have been many groundbreaking poets who have taught here through the years.”

Alumni of the Creative Writing Program also have made their marks on the poetry world. For example, Pew Fellow Kevin Varrone, CLA ’97, created a mobile app that tells the history of the Philadelphia Phillies through a 79-piece poem. And the latest work of Emily Abendroth, CLA ’05, called EXCLOSURES, explores the prison industrial complex and other forms of social exclusion.

“Our students continue to write, run presses and publish books after graduation,” Teare said. “It’s a great testament to our exciting applicants and the strength of the program. I feel very lucky to teach here.”

Current poetry students have had their own successes, too. For example, first-year MFA candidate Andrew Steele Dieck has published poetry in several anthologies and is an editor at O’clock Press.

“Temple has a wonderful pedigree,” Dieck said. “The reputation of the faculty and graduates is what drew me to the program.”

Temple’s location also contributes to the program’s success. “The Philadelphia writing scene, particularly for poetry, is incredibly lively,” Osman said. “People actually move to Philadelphia for poetry.”

Indeed, numerous poetry events take place regularly across Philadelphia, such as the Chapter and Verse Reading Series, hosted by Ryan Eckes, CLA ’07; Temple’s Poets and Writers series, which brings four poets and four fiction writers to campus each year; and its annual Rachel Blau DuPlessis Lecture Series in Poetry and Poetics, which fuels discussion about the intersection of critical and creative practices.

“Temple’s Creative Writing Program began because there were a number of English professors with doctorates in scholarly subjects who were also actively publishing creative work,” Osman explained. “That intermixing of theory and practice is part of our origin story.”

The program’s small size fosters an intimate and supportive community, says second-year MFA candidate Christy Davids, who also teaches Freshman English at Temple.

“I never come away from a workshop feeling settled, but I always feel supported,” Davids said. “That helps you become a better writer.”

– Renee Cree

Dustin Kidd (above) uses films as a tool to better understand the influence of pop culture.

Photo by: Ryan S. Brandenberg.

Sociology Professor Dustin Kidd pens field guide to popular culture

As associate professor of sociology and an instructor of The Sociology of Popular Culture, Dustin Kidd takes pride in his ability to dissect the latest cultural trends, from Lady Gaga to cat videos. But his biggest challenge is keeping up with it all.

“When I describe how much time I spend watching TV shows and films, engaging in social media, listening to music and reading books, people become concerned that I’m spending too much time doing it,” he said. “But it’s my job.”

In his new book, Pop Culture Freaks: Identity, Mass Media, and Society (Westview, March 2014), Kidd puts his knowledge of popular culture in the spotlight and examines how mass media influences identity.

He calls the book a field guide to popular culture. In it, Kidd writes, “How do race, class, gender, sexuality and disability influence the production, content, audience for television, music, film, magazines, books, and the internet both in the United States and abroad?”

He also writes that the diversity of the labor force, and lack thereof, makes a tremendous difference in what content is produced and who is portrayed in it. “If you want more women and minorities on TV, you need to hire more women and minorities as writers, directors and producers,” he said.

Though it is written with students and teachers in mind, Pop Culture Freaks is not a textbook. Kidd touches on the core issues covered in popular-culture courses and includes “methodology moment” boxes in each chapter that show readers how to carry out empirically based research on various cultural forms, but he also presents his own data and arguments.

He focuses on who is included in, and excluded from, pop culture and why. “It’s frustrating to see certain groups consistently erased from popular-culture narratives,” said Kidd. “To see Native Americans not being discussed, not being identified, not being represented; to see none of those stories about how Native Americans are faring today or in American history is the most troubling, and perhaps, the least likely to change.”

Throughout the book, Kidd encourages readers to think critically about the content they consume. In one chapter, he analyzes class references in recent Billboard Top 10 songs to illustrate how class anxieties are rarely addressed in pop music. In another, he analyzes dialogue from the TV series “Glee” to show how outcasts are portrayed on television. Bold graphics in the book and dedicated PopCultureFreak Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook, Pinterest, Youtube, and Spotify accounts further underscore the book’s concepts. Readers can join the conversation by participating in those social-media platforms.

“The best way to develop media literacy is to make art,” Kidd said. “If you know what that decision-making process looks like, then you will have the tools to interpret and engage, and subvert and transform, those media messages.”

—Anna Goldfarb


Iyelli Ichile receives NEH invitation

– Siobhan Redding

Iyelli Ichile, assistant professor of African American studies at Temple, has received an invitation to participate in the National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Institute at Emory University. Each year, the NEH offers opportunities for school, college, and university educators to study a variety of humanities topics. The topic for this year’s institute is “Black Aesthetics and African-Centered Cultural Expressions: Sacred Systems in the Nexus between Cultural Studies, Religion and Philosophy.”


History professor receives National Humanities Center Fellowship

– Lindsey Murray

Bettye Collier-Thomas, professor of history at Temple, has been awarded a National Humanities Center Fellowship for 2014-2015 academic year. Collier-Thomas was one of 41 fellows selected from 362 applicants. Each of the recipients represents scholarship in the humanities: anthropology, art history, classics and archaeology, communications studies, history, law, literature, political science, philosophy and religion. During the fellowship, Collier-Thomas plans to work on her latest book project, She Is A Politician: A History of African American Women and Politics.


2014 Distinguished Teaching Awards and the Eleanor Hofkin Award Winners

The College of Liberal Arts and Dean Soufas is pleased to announce the names of the three faculty members and one graduate student who are the 2014 recipients of  the College of Liberal Arts Distinguished Teaching Awards. These awards, established and vetted by CLA faculty, highlight the College’s commitment to excellent teaching at all levels of the curriculum and reward instructors who dedicate themselves to student learning.   They carry a cash prize and will be presented at the annual CLA Baccalaureate Ceremony on May 14th.

  • Distinguished Faculty Teaching Award – Matt Wray (Sociology)
  • Distinguished Faculty Teaching Award – Daniel A. Silverman (Criminal Justice)
  • Distinguished Faculty Teaching Award – Shannon M. Miller (English)
  • Distinguished Graduate Student Teaching Award – Jaclyn Partyka (English)

The College is also pleased to announce that the 2014 recipient of the Eleanor Hofkin Award for Excellence in Teaching is Kristin Gjesdal, Philosophy.  This annual recognition is given by the CLA Alumni Association to a member of the faculty who has a demonstrated record of excellence in teaching and service to our students.

Congratulations to all of our award recipients on behalf of the faculty, students, and staff of the College of Liberal Arts.  Your contributions to the life and vitality of the College and our students are deeply appreciated.

A fish crow visits a 'First-Year Writing' class. Photo by Joseph V. Labolito.

Wildlife attends writing class

Things got wild in Assistant Professor Dan Featherston’s First-Year Writing course this week, when two wildlife ambassadors from the Schuylkill Wildlife Rehabilitation Clinic made guest appearances. Michelle Wellard, a licensed wildlife rehabilitator and the clinic’s assistant director, brought an Eastern screech-owl and a fish crow to Featherston’s class.

The theme of that course is human-animal relations. In it, students discuss, debate, read and write about animal ethics, the moral relevance of nonhuman animal capacities and the social construction of nonhuman animals.

“Having nonhuman animals in the classroom gives us the opportunity to see that the ideas and arguments we’re discussing have very real consequences,” he explained. “They give a face and a presence to how we consider each of them, which in turn makes students feel more accountable as critical readers, writers and thinkers.”

– Kim Fischer

Franklin H. Littell, the “father of Holocaust education” in the U.S.

New collection in TU’s Libraries’ special collections research center documents the work of Emeritus Professor of Religion Franklin Littell

The life’s work of one of the world’s foremost authorities on Holocaust studies is now available in Temple University Libraries’ Special Collections Research Center. Called the Franklin H. Littell Papers and the Franklin H. and Marcia Sachs Littell Library, the collection documents the work of Emeritus Professor of Religion Franklin Littell—who established many of the nation’s earliest programs in Holocaust studies (including a doctoral program at Temple)—and Marcia Sachs Littell, EDU ’71,’76, ’90, his wife and a prolific Holocaust-studies scholar.

Spanning roughly 70 years, the Franklin H. Littell Papers collection comprises hundreds of his writings; several hundred articles written by others; and his speeches, unpublished manuscripts and original correspondence. The Franklin H. and Marcia Sachs Littell Library comprises more than 3,400 of their personal books.

Pieces of the collection began arriving at Paley in July 2010. Because of its size, it took more than three years for Temple’s librarians and archivists to catalog and process its contents. Now they are available for research, and selected parts of the collection are digitized and available online. Researchers can delve into resources about peace and pacifism in the 1930s, the U.S. occupation of Germany in the 1950s, Christian congregants, contemporary sects and cults, McCarthyism, Communism, Nazism, fascist regimes, the Holocaust, anti-Semitism, Jewish-Christian relations and much more. The papers were processed using funds from a grant from the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany Inc. and support from Norman Braman, FOX ’55.

“Nearly every box has something fascinating in it,” said Margery Sly, director of the Special Collections Research Center. She adds that some of the materials are “quite rare,” including Littell’s original correspondence with significant scholars and luminaries of the latter half of the 20th century, and the research material he mined to write his books, papers and articles.

Before Littell died in 2009, the couple decided to donate his scholarly papers and books to Temple. That final gift underscores a mission that began in 1939 when, as a religion scholar, Littell saw Adolf Hitler speak at a rally in Nuremberg, Germany. Sachs Littell said the event incensed him.

From then on, Littell made it his mission to educate others about the atrocities of the Holocaust. After World War II, he assisted with the denazification of Germany and established Holocaust studies programs at colleges and universities across the U.S. Littell came to Temple in 1969, and founded the Annual Scholars Conference on the Holocaust and Churches while there. In 1976, he founded Temple’s Holocaust-studies doctoral program. He also served on the Presidential Commission on the Holocaust under presidents Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush.

Though other universities approached the Littells about obtaining the materials, Sachs Littell explained that they were confident that Temple would be committed both to the collection and to keeping it unified—issues that were important to them.

“I’m a Temple graduate, and all of my work was done there,” she said. “Because of the time we spent there, we always had a special place in our hearts for Temple.”

The collection opens Wednesday, April 9, with a discussion and reception in Paley Library. To learn more about both the collection and the event, visit Temple Libraries online.

—Christine McLaughlin