Letter from Dean Pamela E. Jansma
The projects described in this edition of Pinnacle are activities that began years ago, yet they sound like they were taken directly from today's headlines. These articles strikingly illustrate the impact of university scholarship and engagement on our daily lives and our communities. Intellectual curiosity does not know the limits of time or obey the vicissitudes of trends, but frequently identifies changes to us as individuals and to the societies in which we live. This month's feature highlights GIS and geospatial technologies used by students and faculty in CLAS, which is close to my heart as my own research came to rely heavily on geospatial technologies over the course of my career. When I was in middle school (many moons ago) one of the first projects I took on using geospatial data was an assignment to create a map of a local park. My partner and I had a tape measure, a sketchpad, a pencil with an eraser, and our feet to record our measurements. Had the park changed over the course of the few weeks we had to do the task, the impact on our work would have been significant. With the modern techniques of remote sensing, GIS, GPS, and the computational resources of a FAST lab, changes can be absorbed and visualized rapidly.
The applications are endless, ranging from watching the revitalization of cities to the retreat of glaciers. Likewise, the widespread availability of data and the ease of communication in the digital information age have enabled people to question the effectiveness of vaccinations and participate in the phenomenon of sexting. According to Jennifer Reich of the Department of Sociology and Amy Hasinoff of the Department of Communication, both are natural outgrowths of our digital information age. Similarly, changes in cultural paradigms as people become more connected to each other have produced The Body Positive, an organization designed to resolve conflicts about body image in individuals and communities. Lindsay Miller, MA Social Science 2014, has brought this initiative to CU Denver, impacting the lives of our students and potentially our community at large. As Albert Einstein reputedly stated, "The world as we have created it is a process of our thinking. It cannot be changed without changing our thinking." In the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, we are constantly thinking.
Pamela E. Jansma
- How GES and the Facility for Advanced Spatial Technology Are Moving CLAS into the Future
Geospatial thinking, the future of GIS, and interdisciplinary geographical pursuits at CU Denver
There are fields of study where methods have changed so drastically in the span of a single human lifetime that questions once thought impossible to solve are now easily within reach. Medicine, engineering, and aeronautics come to mind when we think of giant technological leaps of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, but add Geographic Information Systems to that list. A Geographic Information System (GIS) is a computer-based way of looking at various types of spatial or geographical data that are captured, stored, manipulated, analyzed, managed, and presented through technologies that were largely developed in the past fifty years. GIS creates levels of understanding about our world and its spaces that were never before thought possible by previous generations of geographers and cartographers. When John Wyckoff, now Associate Dean for Faculty and Staff Affairs, earned his PhD in 1980 the field of GIS was still new. Fourteen years later, when he was hired to Chair the Geography and Geology Department in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, CLAS had only had one GIS course on the books—and Wyckoff can't be certain it had ever actually been taught. At the time, geography was moving toward the bright future presented by new technological advances in the world of GIS and, more broadly, Geographic Information Science and Technology (GISc&T). One of Wyckoff's prime directives was to launch a GIS program within the department. Today, GISc&T enables teaching and researching in ways that are far more advanced than could have been imagined when Wyckoff was a student himself.
In This Issue
- Frontlines - Reich researches issues behind parental choice to not vaccinate children
Few healthcare topics are currently as hotly debated as vaccination choice. Fear and anger on both sides of the argument have fueled highly emotional public discourse and questions about changes in policy and regulation. Lately, the news is full of stories about outbreaks of vaccine-controlled infectious diseases like measles and whooping cough that, until recently, were all but eradicated in this country. Social media is buzzing with celebrity-driven anti-vaccination campaigns, as well as posts from scared and angry parents who don't want their kids exposed to unnecessary risks at school or in childcare. To some it may seem like this controversy cropped up overnight, but Sociology Associate Professor Jennifer Reich has been watching tension build for more than seven years, since she first began researching the parental choice to not follow vaccine recommendations for children. Her recent research published in Gender & Society, a top-ranked journal in the Gender Studies and Sociology fields, and in her forthcoming book, shows that unvaccinated or under-vaccinated children from higher income backgrounds generally have parents who intentionally choose to refuse or delay vaccinations out of a belief that they are protecting their children. These children are in stark contrast to other under-vaccinated children from families with lower incomes who tend to be under-vaccinated because they lack access to resources or consistent care.
- Frontlines - Where There is Harm in Teenage Sexting, Hasinoff's New Book Takes a Deeper Look
Smartphones are now ubiquitous among teens, and everyone has heard stories of the crises that ensue when private images go viral—disrupting and damaging young lives. Sexual shaming used to take place in hallways, locker rooms, and on bathroom walls, but now technology has raised the stakes, sending lawmakers, school administrators, and parents scrambling for ways to deal with the issue of "sexting." In the furor, some very simple (but sometimes uncomfortable) truths get lost.
- Frontlines - Student Leadership Group Seeks to Transform Personal and Cultural Views About Body Image
If there could be any doubt that concerns over standards of exterior beauty remain an issue on the minds of Americans consider this: last year, the Today show and Aol.com conducted an online survey that discovered more than 60% of adult women worry more about their physical appearance than about health, finances, professional success, family, or relationships (with men not far behind). According to the National Eating Disorders Association, more than 20 million women and 10 million men suffer from eating disorders in this country alone. As many as 78% of teenage girls report being unhappy with their bodies and even 40–60% of girls in elementary school are worried about their bodies.