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Friday, February 27, 2015

Public Program: Q&A with Professor Bruce Nelson, Dartmouth and the Civil Rights Movement Panelist

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the historic march from Montgomery to Selma, Alabama. For this year’s celebration of this momentous event, the Rockefeller Center explored Dartmouth’s connections to the Civil Rights Movement by hosting a faculty panel. After their talk, "We Were There…Dartmouth and the Civil Rights Movement," Courtney Wong '15 sat down with Bruce Nelson, a speaker on the panel, for an interview. This is the last interview in a series with each of the panelists.

J. Bruce Nelson taught US history at Dartmouth from 1985 to 2009. He was an active participant in the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s and was jailed in Selma, Alabama in 1965, on the eve of the famous Selma to Montgomery march.

Professor Bruce Nelson

Courtney Wong (CW): What prompted you to become involved in the Civil Rights Movement, a movement that preached some vastly different values than the ones you grew up with?

Bruce Nelson (BN): I grew up on Long Island, attended a private school in the northeast, and went to Princeton University. I was a pretty typical student for the time – very uneducated and non-interested about political things. I remember living in a segregationist environment, one that wasn't really progressive nor enlightened. I didn't challenge or question my environment until junior year in college when my parents divorced, which made me question the idea of the American Dream. As a result, I became quite religious and eventually majored in the subject. I also became attracted to the Civil Rights Movement because of the distant figure of Dr. King and the religious dimensions of his narrative and his vision of a redeemed American society. That began to really resonate with me.

Afterwards, I decided to move to San Francisco to pursue my theological studies and was assigned to work at a predominantly black church. This began an experience for me that was radically at odds from what I had grown up with, which was an all-white, segregated environment. All of the sudden, I was surrounded by this predominantly black community, which I found to be extremely warm and welcoming. I entered a totally different world and didn't look back.

CW: What did your parents think about that?

BN: Well fortunately they were 3,000 miles away. My sister, who I was close with, lived close by and was at least cautiously supportive of me, but I remember meeting people who were not part of the conventional mainstream and who challenged the status quo, and I found their demeanors and ideas very exciting.

CW: What were some of the biggest obstacles that you faced participating in the Civil Rights Movement?

BN: I was married at the time with a second child on the way and I was a graduate student at [University of California,] Berkeley, so I couldn't just "go South" even though I wanted to. Some of my heroes were the young Civil Rights Movement leaders in an organization called the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, or "SNCC." I wanted to emulate them, but with everything going on (like family and work), it was hard to devote myself entirely to the Movement. Regardless, it was exciting, stimulating, and sometimes disorientating, but it was all an incredible experience. There was a lot to learn and I was a willing pupil.

Professor Bruce Nelson, right, speaks at "We Were There...Dartmouth and the Civil Rights Movement."
CW: You wound up in Selma during the historic weekend of the march by accident. How did you wind up there?

BN: I was very active in the Presbyterian Church and although I found it somewhat difficult to participate in the Movement, I was involved to some degree. There happened to be a sequence of events leading up to the march in Selma, in which state troopers attacked marchers in an awful occurrence called Bloody Sunday. I wasn't there, but Dr. King put out a call in the aftermath of the event for people of goodwill, especially clergy, to come to Selma. I felt this tremendous sense of moral urgency, like somehow I belonged there. I had no idea how to get there and we had no money, but fortunately, it was 1965 and people were very political at the time, and my fellow TAs offered to cover for me.

As for getting there, I heard through my pastor that Presbytery (larger body of congregations) of San Francisco put up plane tickets for four seminary professors to go to Selma. I knew that although that they were sympathetic, these guys weren't really active in the Civil Rights Movement like I was, so I was angry that I couldn't go as one of the most active members around these issues. It turned out that one of them couldn’t go, so it worked out. I went and it was an experience I will never forget.

CW: What were your thoughts when you were jailed in Selma in 1965? Were you afraid?

BN: There were two dozen of us who were arrested, but [the police] didn't want to keep us in jail. In fact, they wanted to get us out of jail as quickly as possible because it was costly and they didn't want to make martyrs of us or have any more disruption near the mayor's house. We sat up all night in what was barely a jail, talking about theology and politics and the Movement. You felt a tremendous sense of camaraderie in the moment. We were treated like heroes when we were released, but looking back on it, it wasn't heroic at all.

CW: How has your participation in the Civil Rights Movement influenced your approach to teaching US history to students?

BN: In addition to the Civil Rights Movement, I was also very active in the anti-war movement and the Labor Movement. Given all of these experiences, I've had to learn how to be faithful to my own values and at the same time not simply be a partisan mouthpiece. I've had to try to respect and highlight alternative voices and show a full and complicated picture of the subject that I teach. Sometimes it's not an easy thing to do.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Rockefeller Center Conducts a Manuscript Review for Faculty Member Janice McCabe

On February 2nd, faculty and staff members from Dartmouth and beyond gathered at the Rockefeller Center to discuss the current research of Janice M. McCabe, an Assistant Professor of Sociology whose area of expertise includes gender, education, and youth studies. With a focus in research that investigates youth culture and social networks, Janice McCabe recently completed a manuscript tentatively titled, "Friends with Academic Benefits: Networks Matter During and After College." Andrew Samwick, Professor of Economics and Director of the Rockefeller Center, facilitated the three-hour discussion, which intended to offer constructive criticism of the manuscript at the pre-publication stage.

Professor Janice McCabe

The formal manuscript review process brought together not only Dartmouth faculty members, but also leading scholars in the field from the Ohio State University and the University of Pennsylvania. McCabe said, "Generous funding from Rocky allowed me to invite two of the top scholars in the field to come to Hanover for the seminar, and I also got to invite whomever I wanted from campus as well." McCabe invited faculty members from six different disciplines across campus, including the Sociology, Economics, and Math departments as well as the Tuck School of Business.

Christianne Wohlforth, an Adjunct Assistant Professor in the Government Department, lauds the formal manuscript review seminar as "an exceptionally supportive mechanism for the promotion of faculty research and publication." She said, "Professor McCabe's review gathered a truly interdisciplinary gathering of sociologies, economists, political scientists and education specialists, whose comments will help her frame her book so that it can be of use to all these disciplines." In the same vein, McCabe also acknowledged the immense benefit of having gone through the process. She commented, "It will be a much better book having gone through peer review in an interdisciplinary discussion forum where people can bounce ideas off of each other. I’m very thankful for this opportunity from the Rockefeller Center."

Although the formal manuscript review process is relatively new to the Rockefeller Center, it is not novel to Dartmouth College. Both the Dickey Center for International Understanding and the Leslie Center for the Humanities have hosted formal manuscript reviews in the past. According to Andrew Samwick, the Rockefeller Center intends to make manuscript reviews a regular part of its offerings to faculty across the Social Sciences as a result of the success of McCabe’s recent review. He commented, "Such a wide range of thoughtful comments will contribute to a final manuscript that is more convincing and better articulated."

The product of research that began 12 years ago, McCabe’s manuscript explores different types of relationships and networks formed in college. Drawing on extensive interviews with students conducted at a large, public midwestern university, she performed network analysis and drew sociograms (social network maps) to critically examine the academic and social consequences of having these different networks.

"One reason I chose to do this is because friendships are really important to college students," she says, "and yet academically we know very little about these relationships." McCabe’s book will also examine the outcome and the consequences of these friendships after graduation, both socially (in terms of their friend networks) and professionally, offering insight to sociologists and to university administrators on the factors of student success in college. She is scheduled to publish in the fall of 2016 with the University of Chicago Press.

Although currently on maternity leave, McCabe will be teaching a research methods course in the Sociology department as well as a course entitled, "Education and Inequality" when she returns in the fall. The receipt of this preliminary feedback on her manuscript will go a long way in aiding her final revisions prior to submission for publication. She remarked, "I know that this will be a better book now that I’ve received so many thoughtful comments as a result of the formal manuscript review, thanks to the Rockefeller Center."

-Written by Courtney Wong '15, Rockefeller Center Student Program Assistant

Apply to the Rockefeller Peer Mentoring Program by March 9th

Are you an '18 interested in public policy and the Rockefeller Center?

Are you a '16 who has taken public policy courses or been involved with the Rockefeller Center, politics, policy, or leadership on or off campus?

Then you are eligible to participate in

the Rockefeller Peer Mentoring Program!

This Spring Term program pair juniors who have been involved in public policy with first-years interested in public policy. The program also includes a networking event with 30 faculty and staff mentors, training on how to improve your LinkedIn profile, and advice on anything from internships to course selection to jobs.

Former mentors have been Truman Scholars, founders of the Dartmouth Chronicle, Rockefeller Leadership Fellows, Presidential Scholars, and more.

Former mentees have been First Year Fellows, worked with YALI Fellows, and are studying everything from Public Policy to Engineering to Women's and Gender Studies.

If interested, please apply by March 9th.
Great Advice, Great Events, Networking, & Free Food

For further information, please contact program coordinator Sam Williamson at

Notes from the Field: David Caldwell '16

Rockefeller Center-funded interns reflect on their experiences as part of our Notes from the Field series. The Rockefeller Center helps students find, fund, and prepare for a leave-term internship experience in public policy research, public policy analysis, issue evaluation, or activities which help shape and determine public policy.

Student Intern: David Caldwell '16

Internship Organization:
CLT Joules

How would you describe your employer in one paragraph? What’s the elevator pitch?
CLT Joules is an energy start-up incubator in Charlotte, North Carolina that develops entrepreneurs in the energy space. Its mission is "to enhance Charlotte’s position as a national energy leader by strengthening the energy innovation ecosystem through the development of energy entrepreneurs."

What are your specific responsibilities in the organization?
I am researching and evaluating how state and local energy policies affect North Carolina and Charlotte as an emerging energy hub.

How did you feel on the first day of your internship?
I was a bit overwhelmed. There was a lot I needed to learn in order to have informed discussions with the energy start-ups in the building. Everyone has been very nice and helpful, however, in answering questions about North Carolina's energy landscape and pointing me in the right directions.

What is your favorite part of the internship so far?
I think the most rewarding part of the job has been the accumulation of information. I have learned so much about what is going on in the energy sector. I am getting to ask lobbyists and renewable energy start-up groups about issues such as how the dropping oil prices affect them, what fracking will mean for the area, and how renewable energy sources are competing with the huge supply and drop in price of natural gas.

What challenges have you faced so far?
Since there has been so much going in the energy space, finding the key issues as opposed to the peripheral ones has been challenging. I have tried to have the different people I interviewed narrow down that list by asking them what issues have the biggest effect on their job and company going forward.

Broadly speaking, what do you hope to achieve by the end of your internship?
I hope to learn as much as I can about North Carolina and Charlotte energy policy as well as how those policies stack up against other solidified or emerging energy hubs.

What have been some practical lessons you've learned in the day-to-day life of your internship? Packing a lunch is a great way to have a flexible schedule so you can be pulled into meetings or work around the schedules of others.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Public Program: Q&A with Professor Gretchen Gerzina, Dartmouth and the Civil Rights Movement Panelist

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the historic march from Montgomery to Selma, Alabama. For this year’s celebration of this momentous event, the Rockefeller Center explored Dartmouth’s connections to the Civil Rights Movement by hosting a faculty panel. After their talk, "We Were There…Dartmouth and the Civil Rights Movement," Courtney Wong '15 sat down with Gretchen Gerzina, a speaker on the panel, for an interview. This is the second interview in a series with each of the panelists.

The Kathe Tappe Vernon Professor in Biography, Professor of English, and Chair of African American Studies at Dartmouth College, Gretchen Gerzina is the author or editor of seven books and was for 15 years the host of the nationally syndicated public radio program "The Book Show." An Ann Arbor, Michigan native, Gerzina recently wrote a novel entitled "Mr. and Mrs. Prince: How an Extraordinary Eighteenth-Century Family Moved Out of Slavery and into Legend."
Professor Gretchen Gerzina

Courtney Wong (CW): In your presentation, you spoke about your upbringing in an "integrated" neighborhood. At what age did you really get a grasp on the external racial issues that extended beyond your neighborhood?

Gretchen Gerzina (GG): I can remember a moment in kindergarten when I realized that people found it different that I had a white parent and a black parent. Also, the church that we belonged to was predominantly a middle-class black church, and I can also remember it being very political. But I always had white friends and black friends, and white neighbors and black neighbors, and I don’t really remember it being a big deal. I always thought my unique ethnicity was a cool thing, and I still do.

CW: Did your parents feel obligated to educate you about the broader Civil Rights Movement?

GG: I don't really know if they felt that it was their job to educate us, my siblings and I. Of course, the television and radio were on and around us all the time, so they wanted us to know what was going on but they also wanted us to feel comfortable about who we were. My parents wanted us to have happy lives.

CW: How can the novel be a gateway into essential parts of history that we can’t necessarily learn from a textbook?

GG: Take Jane Austen, for example. Her stories took place in such a small setting, but you can learn so much about the era. You learn about the manners of the people and how people interacted with each other in a very different way than today, but then someone very different like Toni Morrison in Beloved teaches you so much about the psychology of slavery. So many people have written about the narratives, but no one has gotten into the mind of how it feels like she does. It's important to know how we lived and how we got to the way we are today, and fiction can really do that. I feel that when I teach history, I can't say much more than what I can prove, but with fiction I have free reign, which is why I want to try it someday.

CW: How does your background influence the way that you teach African American history and literature?

GG: I bring a lot of personal stories in – not necessarily about my own life, but also from people that I know. I want students to have context for the things that we're reading about. You find yourself repeating things that you've already taught, but for me it's been really important for them to know what life was like for a lot of people during the Civil Rights Movement era. It's important to know what it was like to grow up in those times, and not just how it was for me, but also how it was like for people before me. Students have to know that people put down their lives for what we have today, and how people died for the right to vote.

CW: What draws you to certain genres of literature?

GG: I teach fiction but write biographies. It's interesting because I would love to write fiction someday, but I keep thinking that I haven't exhausted the real stories yet. However, I just love the way that fiction is put together, and the way it can move you and push you in a direction that you may not necessarily want to go. When it works for the students, it's just wonderful.

CW: What is one of your most enjoyable classes to teach?

GG: I think I love the "Victorians Through Six Children’s Novels." The students come in thinking that it's going to be easy because it's about children's novels, but it's really about the Victorians. We use the children's books to learn a lot about an era. I also like it because students have very different perspectives on childhood compared to what actually existed in the past.