In the May 17 New York Times, columnist David Brooks identifies the single challenge facing our era as social isolation. Feelings of isolation and solitary study are a particular challenge facing students at all “commuter schools” (both 4-year and community colleges) largely because students often come together for a handful of hours for class each week, then return to their jobs, families and non-academic life. High prices for parking, erratic public transit and demanding employers and family members only work to strengthen the pull away from campus. Students may not fully appreciate it but academic life goes beyond the classroom experience. Whether it is the lunch with a fellow student you don’t know who explains her passion for chemistry, or the casual chat with a professor in office hours (or facilities like Alexandria’s Science Resource Center), you gain much by using the campus to learn beyond the walls of the classroom. In an era of increasingly interchangeable sources of educational material (you can learn facts by diligently using resources on the Internet or even taking online classes), the live, in person experience is what can help you learn and work with others to shape your future. So despite obstacles, I encourage students to spend time studying at school, getting involved with activities, making a new friend in the cafeteria or asking a professor (even one you don’t know) a question. And if I randomly ask you a question in the hall (and I don’t know you), stop and chat because you are learning at a rare institution: an academic environment with many faculty assigned to relatively few students. My college freshman biology class? 300+ students! What are the obstacles holding you back from being a more active part of the campus community? What are obstacles you’ve encountered from students, faculty or the physical layout of campus? Are there suitable locations for you to engage with others?
The crack staff at the NVCC-Alexandria library notified me of a new addition to the collection: Aristotle’s Ladder, Darwin’s Tree: The evolution of visual metaphors for biological order. Upon reading the book, by Prof. J. David Archibald at San Diego State Univ, I imagine students interested in biology and also fascinated by graphic design, history (including Ancient Rome) or art would enjoy this 200 page text replete with diagrams, paintings, and drawings. The only complaint? No color, only black and white! While this may be warranted for pen and ink B&W sketches, it took away much of the visual impact of Ed. Hitchcock’s 1852 Paleontological Chart, which was originally published in color. Odd to omit color, especially for a text focused on visual metaphors. Otherwise, worth reading for students interested in taxonomy and visual organization of information.
In Anastacia Marx de Salcedo’s book “Combat-Ready Kitchen: How the US Military Shapes the Way You Eat,” she tells the story of how military developments in food technology have impacted what we find at the grocery store. From canned foods developed by Napoleon’s army, to the current MRE indestructible bags, and the food contents, she paints an amazing picture of how food we love (such as Cheetos, McRib sandwiches, and even energy bars) are the result of government research projects. Bio 102 students will love reading about the ways acetylene gas is broken up to preserve fruits & vegetables longer. What are favorite food snacks you enjoy? What are traditional ways of preserving food? Why is food preservation necessary/How can food change?