Thursday, November 30, 2023

The Lovelady Center - Senator April Weaver

The Lovelady Center is based on the idea that we are called to help those seeking to change their own lives for the better. This center is changing lives through faith-based learning and gives women and children hope for an incredibly bright future.

The Alabama Senate Republican Caucus was able to spend some time with members of their team yesterday in Birmingham. It was inspiring hearing some of the testimonies about the center, and we look forward to a continued partnership for all the good they are doing in Alabama.  

Senator April Weaver

Saturday, November 25, 2023

Self-Care for Sick Days: Navigate cough, cold and flu season like a pro

Cooler weather inevitably means cough, cold and flu season isn’t far behind. Now is the time to take precautions and set yourself up with healthy habits.

“As much as we try, avoiding viruses, bacteria and germs to prevent getting sick can be a challenge,” Dr. Tim Tiutan, MD, said. “However, being prepared with the right remedies, listening to your body and its symptoms and remaining diligent with a healthy routine is just as important as treating symptoms head on.”

To help navigate this cough, cold and flu season, consider these tips from Tiutan and the experts at Mucinex.

Prepare and Prevent
You won’t find a foolproof way to keep germs away, but you can lessen your chances of getting sick and make sure you’re equipped to weather an illness.

  • Practice healthy habits. Keeping your body in prime condition can help ensure you’re in the best condition possible to fight back when germs attack. That means keeping up with exercise and ensuring you’re getting enough vitamins and nutrients through a well-balanced diet.
  • Get a flu shot. The flu shot gives your body a head start in fighting back against flu bugs. If you’re exposed to the flu after receiving the shot, your body can immediately go on the offensive against those germs. You may not stay completely symptom-free, but you’re more likely to experience a mild case and be back on your feet quicker.
  • Restock the medicine cabinet. The start of cough, cold and flu season is an ideal time to dig through your medicine cabinet. Start by discarding any medications that are out of date and make a list of anything you need to replenish. Be sure to include pain relievers, fever reducers, decongestants, antihistamines and cough syrups to fight symptoms. It’s also a good time to restock items like tissues, cough drops, hand sanitizer and anti-bacterial soap.

Treat Symptoms
Although the flu can hit fast, it’s often hard to tell at first whether your symptoms are due to a simple cough, cold or a case of the flu. Either way, managing symptoms like a cough can bring relief and help you keep comfortable and get plenty of rest.

  • Give your body time to heal. Sleep plays an important role in your overall health, especially when you’re under the weather. On average, you need 7-9 hours each night to give your body enough time to fully recharge. When you’re sick, you likely need even more, and it’s a good idea to dial back your activity level, too. Pushing your physical limits often only delays your recovery time.
  • Take medications as directed. Nagging symptoms can often keep you from getting the sleep you need. One way to give your body the break it needs is to effectively manage symptoms. A hacking cough is a common symptom that can be painful and disrupt your sleep. Consider an option like Mucinex DM 12-Hour, a cough suppresent which relieves chest congestion and thins and loosens mucus, giving you an extended reprieve. It’s clinically proven to last up to 12 hours, provides relief for chest congestion and makes coughs more productive.

Prevent Spread
Getting sick may be beyond your complete control, but you can take steps to protect others from germs when you’re feeling ill.

  • Keep germs to yourself. Washing your hands often, covering your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze and sneezing into your elbow if you don’t have a tissue are simple ways you can limit the spread of germs, especially within your home or workspace. Frequently wiping down high-touch surfaces can also help reduce the spread of germs.
  • Skip socializing. If you’re feeling under the weather, stay home. Even a mild cold can easily spread, and an illness that affects you mildly could cause significant distress for someone else. Avoid unnecessary errands and take advantage of services like curbside pickup if you must get out. Also check with your employer about working remotely if you’re up to it.

Find more ways to stay healthy and limit symptoms by visiting

Cold vs. Flu
There’s a lot of overlap between cold and flu symptoms, so it can be tricky to figure out whether the bug you’re fighting is a cold or influenza and how to tackle it.

While both the common cold and the flu are respiratory illnesses, they are not caused by the same viruses. Although colds are inconvenient, they are far less likely to develop into anything more serious, as the flu can.

What is a Cold?
Generally, colds are milder than the flu, and more likely to cause runny or stuffy noses (while the flu can cause stuffy or runny noses, it’s less likely to do so). You won't feel good, but you'll probably be able to do some or all of your daily tasks. The flu typically hits harder, making it difficult to go to work or follow your usual routine.

What is the Flu?
The flu often feels worse than a cold; you might experience the same symptoms but amplified. The flu comes with more pain and fever than a cold. Common flu symptoms include sore throat, chills, fever, runny or stuffy nose, muscle fatigue or aches and headaches. The flu can also develop into more serious conditions and complications, making it more dangerous than the average cold. While the common cold is rarely serious, the flu can be dangerous for young children, the elderly, pregnant women and people with compromised immune systems.

Treating a Cold vs. Flu
You can be vaccinated against the flu. There is no such vaccine for common colds. If your provider recommends it, getting the flu vaccine each year can go a long way toward preventing sickness.

Whether you have a cold or the flu, symptom relief is largely the same. Get plenty of rest, drink plenty of fluids and take over-the-counter medicines to relieve symptoms. Stay home to avoid spreading sickness. Wash your hands frequently and cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze.

Watch for shortness of breath, chest or abdomen pain, confusion, sudden dizziness, severe or persistent vomiting and flu symptoms that improve then return with fever and worse cough. If you experience any of these symptoms, consult a doctor.


Solve Winter Blues with Cozy Recipes

Cozying up with a bowl of warm deliciousness is a perfect way to ward off the chill of winter, and it’s made even better when shared with those you love. Turning to favorite chilis and soups with comforting ingredients and smoky spices can transport your family from snow and sleet to warmth and paradise.

Smoky German Potato, Sausage and Bacon Chili offers a reprieve from the cold with hearty flavor and family favorites seasoned with chili powder, cumin and cayenne pepper for classic taste with a twist. The thinly sliced potatoes and bacon of READ German Potato Salad in a sweet-piquant dressing provide a delicious new take on traditional chili.

A bit on the lighter side but equally satisfying, Tuscan 3 Bean Peasant Soup calls for shallots, diced tomatoes, spinach, cannellini beans, cooked small pasta and more for a true winter warmup. Served with toasted bread cubes, it’s sure to warm loved ones up from the inside out.

Its key ingredient is Aunt Nellie’s 3 Bean Salad, featuring premium green, wax and kidney beans in a light, sweet-tangy vinegar dressing. As a ready-to-eat solution, it can be served chilled, at room temperature or as part of comforting winter recipes.

Visit and to find more cozy cold-weather dishes.

Smoky German Potato, Sausage and Bacon Chili

Recipe courtesy of "Dad with a Pan" on behalf of READ
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 40 minutes
Servings: 8

  • 4 strips thick bacon, cut into cubes
  • 1 pound smoked sausage, sliced into 1-inch segments
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon ground coriander
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 2 Fresno peppers, diced
  • 1 can (14 1/2 ounces) diced tomatoes, drained
  • 1 can READ German Potato Salad, drained
  • 1 cup beef broth
  • salt, to taste
  • pepper, to taste
  1. n large saucepan over medium heat, cook bacon until crispy. Remove and set aside, leaving about 2 tablespoons drippings in saucepan.
  2. Add smoked sausage and cook until browned.
  3. Once sausage is cooked, add diced onion and minced garlic, cooking until onion is translucent.
  4. Drain excess fat then stir in chili powder, coriander, cumin, cayenne pepper, oregano and Fresno peppers until well mixed.
  5. Add drained diced tomatoes, German potato salad and cooked bacon to saucepan.
  6. Add beef broth and stir to combine. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.
  7. Bring mixture to simmer and let cook about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until flavors are melded.

Substitution: Jalapenos can be used for Fresno peppers.

Tuscan 3 Bean Peasant Soup

Recipe courtesy of Sarah Meuser on behalf of Aunt Nellie's
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 27 minutes
Servings: 8

  • 10 ounces day-old crusty bread, such as ciabatta, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus additional for drizzling (optional)
  • 2 medium shallots or 1 small yellow onion, peeled and chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
  • 1 can (15 1/2 ounces) cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 can (28 ounces) diced tomatoes
  • 3 cans (14 1/2 ounces each) low-sodium chicken broth (about 6 cups)
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup small pasta, such as ditalini, uncooked
  • 2 cups frozen cut leaf spinach or chopped fresh spinach
  • 2 jars (15 1/2 ounces each) Aunt Nellie's 3 Bean Salad, drained
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest (optional)
  1. Preheat oven to 375 F. Place bread cubes in single layer on large baking pan. Bake until bread cubes are lightly browned, 8-12 minutes. Set aside.
  2. Heat large saucepan or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add 2 tablespoons oil; swirl to coat. Add shallots; cook 5 minutes, or until soft, stirring occasionally. Add garlic; cook 1 minute, or until fragrant. Add cannellini beans, tomatoes, broth and black pepper; bring to boil. Add pasta; cook 8 minutes, or according to package directions. Stir in spinach and bean salad. Simmer 5 minutes, or until heated through.
  3. Ladle soup evenly into bowls. Top with toasted bread cubes and lemon zest, if desired. Drizzle with additional olive oil, if desired.

Seneca Foods

Digitized records from wildlife centers show the most common ways that humans harm wild animals

Tara K. Miller, University of Virginia and Richard B. Primack, Boston University

At hundreds of wildlife rehabilitation centers across the U.S., people can learn about wild animals and birds at close range. These sites, which may be run by nonprofits or universities, often feature engaging exhibits, including “ambassador” animals that can’t be released – an owl with a damaged wing, for example, or a fox that was found as a kit and became accustomed to being fed by humans.

What’s less visible are the patients – sick and injured wild animals that have been admitted for treatment.

Each year, people bring hundreds of thousands of sick and injured wild animals to wildlife rehab centers. Someone may find an injured squirrel on the side of the road or notice a robin in their backyard that can’t fly, and then call the center to pick up an animal in distress.

We study ecology and biology, and recently used newly digitized records from wildlife rehabilitation centers to identify the human activities that are most harmful to wildlife. In the largest study of its kind, we reviewed 674,320 records, mostly from 2011 to 2019, from 94 centers to paint a comprehensive picture of threats affecting over 1,000 species across much of the U.S. and Canada.

Our findings, published in the journal Biological Conservation, point to some strategies for reducing harm to wildlife, especially injuries caused by cars.

The Wildlife Rehabilitation Center of Minnesota, the largest independent rehab center in the U.S., treats over 1,000 sick and injured animals yearly.

Tracking the toll

Humans are responsible for the deaths and injuries of billions of animals every year. Bats and birds fly into buildings, power lines and wind turbines. Domestic cats and dogs kill backyard birds and animals. Development, farming and industry alter or destroy wild animals’ habitats and expose wildlife to toxic substances like lead and pesticides. Extreme weather events linked to climate change, such as flooding and wildfires, can be devastating for wildlife.

Most Americans support protecting threatened and endangered species, and recognize that human activities can harm wildlife. But it is surprisingly difficult to determine which activities are most harmful to wildlife and identify effective solutions.

Information from wildlife rehab centers across the U.S. can help fill in that picture. When an animal is brought into one of these centers, a rehabilitator assesses its condition, documents the cause of injury or illness if it can be determined, and then prepares a treatment plan.

Wildlife rehabbers may be veterinarians, veterinary technicians or other staff or volunteers who are certified by state agencies to treat wildlife. They follow professional codes and standards, and sometimes publish research in peer-reviewed journals.

A growing data pool

Until recently, most wildlife rehab records existed only in binders and file cabinets. As a result, studies drawing on these records typically used materials from a single location or focused on a particular species, such as bald eagles or foxes.

Recently, though, rehab centers have digitized hundreds of thousands of case records. Shareable digital records can improve wildlife conservation and public health.

For example, the Wildlife Center of Virginia has worked with government agencies and other rehab centers to establish the WILD-ONe database as a tool for assessing trends in wildlife health. This will be an exciting area of research as more records are digitized and shared.

Map showing distribution of wildlife centers that provided data for the study.
Locations in the U.S. and Canada where animals were found (blue dots) before being brought to wildlife rehabilitation centers (red stars) included in Miller et al., 2023. Miller et al., 2023, CC BY-ND

Threats vary by species

Using this trove of data, we have been exploring patterns of wildlife health across North America. In our study, we identified key threats affecting wildlife by region and for iconic and endangered species.

Overall, 12% of the animals brought to rehab centers during this period were harmed by vehicle collisions – the single largest cause of injury. For great horned owls, which are common across the U.S., cars were the most common cause of admission – possibly because the owls commonly forage at the same height as vehicles, and may feed on road kill.

Other threats reflect various animals’ habitats and life patterns. Window collisions were the most common injury for the big brown bat, another species found in many habitats across the U.S. Fishing incidents were the main reason for admission of endangered Kemp’s ridley sea turtles, which are found in the Gulf of Mexico and along the Atlantic coast.

Toxic substances and infectious diseases represented just 3.4% of cases, but were important for some species. Bald eagles, for example, were the species most commonly brought to centers with lead poisoning. Eagles and other raptors consume lead ammunition inadvertently when they feed on carcasses left in the wild by hunters.

In southern Florida, hurricanes and floods resulted in spikes in the numbers of animals brought to rehab centers, reflecting the impact of climate-driven extreme weather events on wildlife health.

About one-third of animals in the cases we reviewed were successfully released back to the wild, though this varied greatly among species. For example, 68% of brown pelicans were released, but only 20% of bald eagles. Unfortunately, some 60% of the animals died from their injuries or illnesses, or had to be humanely euthanized because they were unable to recover.

Spotlighting solutions

Our results spotlight steps that can help conserve wildlife in the face of these threats. For example, transportation departments can build more road crossings for wildlife, such as bridges and underpasses, to help animals avoid being hit by cars.

A large wild cat emerges from an underpass beneath a highway.
A mountain lion uses an underpass to safely traverse Route 97 near Bend, Oregon. CC BY

Wildlife management agencies can ban or limit use of ammunition and fishing gear that contain lead to reduce lead poisoning. And governments can incorporate wildlife into disaster management plans to account for surges in wildlife rescues after extreme weather events.

People can also make changes on their own. They can drive more slowly and pay closer attention to wildlife crossing roads, switch their fishing and hunting gear to nonlead alternatives, and put decals or other visual indicators on windows to reduce bat and bird collisions with the glass.

To learn more about animals in your area and ways to protect them, you can visit or call your local wildlife rehab center. You can also donate to these centers, which we believe do great work, and are often underfunded.

The scale of threats facing wild animals can seem overwhelming, but wildlife rehabbers show that helping one injured animal at a time can identify ways to save many more animal lives.

Tara K. Miller, Policy Research Specialist, Repair Lab, University of Virginia and Richard B. Primack, Professor of Biology, Boston University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. 

Set Children Up for Day Care Success: 6 ways parents can prep little ones for child care

Long days of school, first trips to day care or even a return from a period of at-home care can be difficult or downright nerve-wracking for parents and children alike. This new adventure can bring challenges from keeping children healthy to supporting their nutrition and more. Sending a little one to day care can even result in maternal separation anxiety.

To help alleviate some of the anxiety and parental concerns, the childhood nutrition experts at Gerber teamed up with Dr. Whitney Casares – a board-certified practicing pediatrician and creator of “Modern Mommy Doc” – to share these tips for families preparing their little ones for child care.

Keep Important Factors Top of Mind
As part of appreciating the milestone of the first time at day care, Casares encourages parents to remember that, while daunting, day care means new experiences, new friends and opportunities for growth, fun and healthy development. As part of the transition, she suggests paying attention to critical factors like sleep, nutrition, illness prevention and emotional development.

Support Their Immune Systems
Offer little ones a diverse array of nutritious foods during the transition to day care. A diet rich in fruits, vegetables and whole grains is essential for building immune systems. Additionally, iron-rich foods like iron-fortified baby cereals, eggs, beans and meat are critical for a strong body. Caregivers should frequently wash hands and focus on good sleep hygiene.

Put Nutrition on the Menu
When packing lunch boxes for a day of care, it’s important to keep nutrition in mind. Once children transition to finger foods, Casares recommends snacks from Gerber like Peach Puffs, Fruit and Veggie Melts and Wonderfoods Superfood Hearts, which come in a variety of flavors and include vital nutrients to optimize health.

Be Prepared for Separation Anxiety
Not all infants and toddlers experience separation anxiety, but many can, so it’s good to be prepared. Casares encourages parents to pack a familiar swaddle blanket in infants’ diaper bags to help ease those anxieties. Some toddlers benefit from having a beloved stuffed animal or blanket with them. Try introducing these transitional objects to little ones early so they smell and feel familiar when drop-off comes around.

Pack the Essentials
While nutritious foods, like Gerber Fruit and Veggie Pouch Blends, are certainly near the top of the list, there are plenty of other essentials to pack for each day. Don’t forget to add breast milk or formula, bottles and extra nipples alongside snacks and meals. Also remember to pack extra sets of clothes, diapers, wipes and those anxiety-soothing must-haves like blankets and stuffed animals.

Prepare for Appetite Changes
It’s common for children’s appetites to decrease during their first few days of child care as they may eat a little less while growing accustomed to their new environment and surroundings. There’s no need to worry – parents can adapt to these changes by understanding they’re often a natural part of the transition. While you may find little ones are hungrier before and after day care, this behavior should ease over time. If it doesn’t, schedule an appointment with your pediatrician to be sure babies stay on track.

To find more childhood nutrition advice, visit


Why inequality is growing in the US and around the world

Elon Musk is the world’s wealthiest person. Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for The Met Museum/Vogue
Fatema Z. Sumar, Harvard Kennedy School

U.S. income inequality grew in 2021 for the first time in a decade, according to data the Census Bureau released in September 2022.

That might sound surprising, since the most accurate measure of the poverty rate declined during the same time span.

But for development experts like me, this apparent contradiction makes perfect sense.

That’s because what’s been driving income inequality in the United States – and around the world for years – is that the very rich are getting even richer, rather than the poor getting poorer.

In every major region of the world outside of Europe, extreme wealth is becoming concentrated in just a handful of people.

Gini index

Economists and other experts track the gap between the rich and the poor with what’s known as the Gini index or coefficient.

This common measure of income inequality is calculated by assessing the relative share of national income received by proportions of the population.

In a society with perfect equality – meaning everyone receives an equal share of the pie – the Gini coefficient would be 0. In the most unequal society conceivably possible, where a single person hoarded every penny of that nation’s wealth, the Gini coefficient would be 1.

The Gini index rose by 1.2% in the U.S. in 2021 to 0.494 from 0.488 a year earlier, the Census found. In many other countries, by contrast, the Gini has been declining even as the COVID-19 pandemic – and the deep recession and weak economic recovery it triggered – worsened global income inequality.

Inequality tends to be greater in developing countries than wealthier ones. The United States is an exception. The U.S. Gini coefficient is much higher than in similar economies, such as Denmark, which had a Gini coefficient of 0.28 in 2019, and France, where it stood at 0.32 in 2018, according to the World Bank.

Wealth inequality

The inequality picture is even bleaker when looking beyond what people earn – their income – to what they own – their assets, investments and other wealth.

In 2021, the richest 1% of Americans owned 34.9% of the country’s wealth, while average Americans in the bottom half had only US$12,065 – less money than their counterparts in other industrial nations. By comparison, the richest 1% in the United Kingdom and Germany owned only 22.6% and 18.6% of their country’s wealth, respectively.

Globally, the richest 10% of people now possess nearly 76% of the world’s wealth. Meanwhile, the bottom 50% own just 2%, according to the 2022 World Inequality Report, which analyzes data and the work of more than 100 researchers and inequality experts.

Drivers of extreme income and wealth

Large increases in executive pay are contributing to higher levels of income inequality.

Take a typical corporate CEO. Back in 1965, he – all CEOs were white men then, and most still are today – earned about 20 times the amount of an average worker at the company he led. In 2018, the typical CEO earned 278 times as much as their typical employees.

But the world’s roughly 2,700 billionaires make most of their money not through wages but through gains in the value of their stocks and other investments.

Their assets grow in large part because of a cascade of corporate and individual tax breaks, rather than salaried wages granted by shareholders. When the wealthy in the United States earn money from capital gains, the highest tax rate they pay is 20%, whereas the highest income earners are on the hook for as much as 37% on every additional dollar they earn.

This calculation does not even count the effects of tax breaks, which often slash the real-world capital gain tax to much lower levels.

Tesla, SpaceX and Twitter CEO Elon Musk is currently the world’s richest man, with a fortune of $240 billion, according to a Bloomberg estimate. The $383 million he made per day in 2020 made it possible for him to buy enough Tesla Model 3 cars to cover almost the whole of Manhattan had he wished to do so.

Musk’s wealth accumulation is extreme. But the founders of several tech companies, including Google, Facebook and Amazon, have all earned many billions of dollars in just a few years. The average person could never make that much money through a salary alone.

Another day, another billionaire

A new billionaire is created every 26 hours, according to Oxfam, an international aid and research group where I used to work.

Globally, inequality is so extreme that the world’s 10 richest men possess more wealth than the 3.1 billion poorest people, Oxfam has calculated.

Economists who study global inequality have found that the rich in large English-speaking countries, along with India and China, have seen a dramatic rise in their earnings since the 1980s. Inequality boomed as deregulation, economic liberalization programs and other policies created opportunities for the rich to get richer.

Why inequality matters

The rich tend to spend less of their money than the poor. As a result, the extreme concentration of wealth can slow the pace of economic growth.

Extreme inequality can also exacerbate political dysfunction and undermine faith in political and economic systems. It can also erode principles of fairness and democratic norms of sharing power and resources.

The richest people have more wealth than entire countries. Such extreme power and influence in the hands of a select few who face little accountability is raising concerns that are part of a robust debate on whether and how to address extreme inequality.

Many proposed solutions call for new taxes, regulations and policies, along with philanthropic strategies like using grants and community-based investments to dismantle inequality.

Voters in some states, like Massachusetts, voted to raise taxes on the income earned by their richest residents in ballot initiatives in November 2022. Proponents of these initiatives claim the revenue raised would boost funding for public services, such as education and infrastructure. President Joe Biden is also proposing to almost double the top capital gains tax for those making over $1 million.

However societies choose to act, I believe change is needed.

Fatema Z. Sumar, Executive Director of the Center for International Development, Harvard Kennedy School

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. 

From ancient Greece to Broadway, music has played a critical role in theater

The remnants of a Greek theater in Sicily. Fausto Riolo/Getty Images
Timothy J. Moore, Arts & Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis

Though anxiety about the fate of live theater performances still lingers, Broadway is celebrating its third season since reopening after the COVID-19 pandemic, with a lineup dominated once again by musicals.

The new season includes long-running hits like “Hamilton,” revivals of classics like “Merrily We Roll Along,” new musical adaptations of nonmusical works like “Days of Wine and Roses,” and even “Here We Are,” the last musical by Stephen Sondheim.

Despite its centrality to today’s theater, musicals are often thought of as second class to what is considered legitimate theater, such as William Shakespeare’s “Hamlet” or Arthur Miller’s “Death of a Salesman.” In both of those works, music plays little or no role.

The names of different musicals are illuminated by neon signs.
Broadway musical theater billboards in Times Square in New York City. Ozgur Donmaz/Getty Images

But musicals have been the dominant form of theater across cultures and throughout most of history, including in ancient Greece, the birthplace of theater.

Music, words and songs

My research focuses on the tragedies and comedies of ancient Greece and Rome. Though no scores from these original plays exist, a remarkable number of clues about the sound of ancient theater can be found in the surviving texts of the plays and other sources.

Evidence reveals that the plays of ancient Greece and Rome were decidedly musical affairs.

For example, in a conspicuous place during the performance stood an elaborately dressed player of the “aulos,” a loud and strident woodwind instrument consisting of two pipes played simultaneously. Both actors and choruses sang during their performances to the accompaniment of this instrument.

In this illustration, a man is using two long pipes as a musical instrument.
An illustration of a man playing the ‘aulos,’ or double pipe, in ancient Greece.

Just as in modern musicals, the important components of what made the plays work were the actors’ use of words both spoken and sung.

Oedipus’ woeful song

Consider Sophocles’ “Oedipus the King,” thought by many to be the quintessential Greek tragedy, and often taught and performed as a drama without music. The plot and message of the tragedy are profound and disturbing.

Though Oedipus rises to the heights of human success and becomes an admired ruler of the city of Thebes, he is unaware that he had murdered his father and married his mother. When he learns the truth, he blinds himself and begs to be driven from the city.

Music does much of the work in making this powerful play effective.

Clues in the text of “Oedipus the King” suggest that when it was first performed in about 430 B.C., just under a fifth of the verses were sung or chanted to the accompaniment of the aulos.

Most of the play’s passages accompanied by music are sung by the chorus. Far from mere interludes, the chorus’s songs expressed key themes in both their words and their music.

When the chorus first enters, for example, they sing stately prayers like the one in which they address the oracle of Apollo:

Sweet voiced oracle, Zeus-sent, tell me, what is your message?

But later in the song, their rhythm becomes less self-assured when they turn from prayer to despair at the plague that afflicts their city:

O dear, I’m bearing countless toils!

In conspicuous contrast to the chorus’s emotional songs, Oedipus does not sing through most of the play in his attempt to maintain control in the face of ever more threatening revelations.

The contrast becomes most pointed when the chorus, singing, defends Oedipus’ brother-in-law against a charge that he is plotting to gain the throne:

Don’t strike down in dishonor, on an unclear charge, a dear one who has sworn an oath.

Then Oedipus replies, speaking and not singing:

Know well that when you seek this you are seeking death or exile from this land for me.

Oedipus later yields to the chorus’s wish, but his refusal to participate in their musical performance reflects both his reluctance and his determination to remain in charge.

A marble sculpture of the head of a bearded white man.
A marble bust of the playwright Sophocles. DeAgostini/Getty Images

But when Oedipus has met disaster and enters from his palace after blinding himself, he sings in his distress, and he calls attention to the change in his performance mode by addressing his now uncontrolled voice:

Oh, Oh, how miserable I am. Where on earth am I going? Where does my voice fly out uncontrollably? Oh, my fortune, where have you leapt to?

In contrast to the earlier scenes, it is now the chorus who speaks, distancing themselves from their fallen king:

To someplace dreadful, unbearable to listen to or to see.

Recent productions of Greek drama have followed the textual clues to music provided in the texts, with chorus and actors alternating unaccompanied spoken performance with sung verses, accompanied by the aulos or other instruments.

Notable are performances in ancient Greek at Columbia/Barnard and in English translation at the University of Vermont. These performances indicate how much Greek theater has in common with modern musical theater on Broadway and around the world today.

Timothy J. Moore, John and Penelope Biggs Distinguished Professor of Classics, Arts & Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. 

How to Support Student Mental Health This Academic Year

by Leah Jackson

Illustration of student at desk with swirls above head

The student mental health crisis is a key area for higher education leaders to address, and it is an issue that requires collaboration from the entire campus community, not just the counseling center, cautions a new report from the American Council on Education (ACE) entitledSix Considerations for Student Mental Health in Higher Education for the 2023-24 Academic Year.

"It is a campus-wide issue, and higher education cannot hire its way out of it -- there are not enough counselors and not enough funds," reads the report.

Thankfully, though, ACE has identified six actions in this report that institutions can take to support students before they need therapy, including:

1. Realize the impact of counseling center staffing and address turnover.

ACE says counseling centers have been overworked. Even prior to the pandemic, caseloads were growing as campuses worked to expand mental health services. With the pandemic and great resignation that followed, the situation has only worsened. As a result of staff burnout and greater opportunities elsewhere, many counseling centers have seen turnover. The report recommends that leaders re-evaluate how to best serve students without overburdening staff in these centers.

2. Cultivate degree pathways for aspiring mental health professionals, especially for students of color and LGBTQ+ students.

The report also points out that colleges and universities can play a pivotal role in addressing the counselor shortage that exists across industries (not just in higher education). Recommendations include encouraging students to explore this career option and incentivizing them with scholarships and grants, among others.

3. Build upon positive movement at the federal and state levels that supports student mental health.

"With all the attention that mental health is receiving at the federal and state levels, college and university leaders are well positioned to build upon these efforts," the report reads. It outlines several recent federal actions that higher education has benefited from and highlights how some states are addressing the mental health crisis, which may inspire other ideas.

4. Implement evidence-based practices on campus, and document and assess their impact.

ACE warns that while there are many solutions, interventions, and programs used to address mental health, not all of them are proven to be effective. The report shares a few resources that can help institutional leaders identify strategies that really work, such as American Council on Education's brief What Works for Improving Mental Health in Higher Education, an "open-access brief shares various strategies for addressing college student mental health -- those with proven effectiveness, promising evidence, and proven ineffectiveness."

5. Focus on public health- and trauma-informed approaches to address the mental health crisis.

The report advises against the traditional, reactive approach to mental health of the past, saying that it is important to examine root causes of issues. So, rather than helping students only after a crisis has occurred, colleges and universities should focus on implementing public health-informed approaches that "promote healthy lifestyles as well as ways to identify, prevent, and respond to concerns through prevention, intervention, and postvention," the report says. However, recognizing that many students come to college with trauma from the past, ACE also recommends considering a trauma-informed approach. Faculty, staff, and leaders should be trained to provide safe places for students, empower them, and empathize with them.

6. Anticipate that incoming traditional-aged students and their parents will ask about and expect there to be mental health support on campus.

Current and future incoming college freshmen are students who were in the K-12 education system during the pandemic and dealt with "tremendous disruption" the report says. To support students, many middle and high schools boosted their mental health resources, so these students will be accustomed to having those resources at their fingertips and expect that same option in college. Likely, their parents will expect it as well. The report recommends institutional leaders "begin outreach efforts and partnerships with K-12 institutions and counseling units to understand the unique challenges and new variables that come with this incoming generation of students."

For more in-depth information on each of these recommendations to better support your students' mental health, read the full brief from ACE.


This article is republished from HigherEdJobs® under a Creative Commons license. 

Don’t be fooled by Biden and Xi talks − China and the US are enduring rivals rather than engaged partners

Rolling out the red carpet for presidents Joe Biden and Xi Jinping. Doug Mills/The New York Times via AP
Michael Beckley, Tufts University

There were smiles for the camera, handshakes, warm words and the unveiling of a couple of agreements.

But beyond the optics of the first meeting in over a year between the leaders of the world’s two biggest economies, not an awful lot had changed: There was nothing to suggest a “reset” in U.S. and China relations that in recent years have been rooted in suspicion and competition.

President Joe Biden hinted as much just hours after the face-to-face talks, confirming that he still considered his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, a “dictator.” Beijing hit back, with foreign ministry spokesperson Mao Ning telling reporters Biden’s remark was “extremely wrong and irresponsible political manipulation.”

As a scholar of U.S.-China relations, I believe the relationship between the two countries can be best described as an “enduring rivalry” – a term used by political scientists to denote two powers that have singled each other out for intense security competition. Examples from history include India and Pakistan, France and England, and the West and the Soviet Union. Over the past two centuries, such rivals have accounted for only 1% of the world’s international relationships but 80% of its wars. History suggest these rivalries last around 40 years and end only when one side loses the ability to compete – or when the two sides ally against a common enemy. Neither scenario looks likely any time soon in regards to China and the U.S.

How enduring rivalries end

China “is a communist country … based on a form of government totally different than ours,” Biden said after his meeting with Xi.

That comment gets to the heart of why diplomacy alone cannot reset the U.S.-China relationship. Washington and Beijing are not rivals due to any misunderstanding that can be sorted out through talks alone. Rather, they are rivals because of the opposite reason: They understand each other only too well and have come to the conclusion that their respective world outlooks cannot be reconciled.

The same is true for many of the issues that divide the two countries – they are framed as binary win-lose scenarios. Taiwan can be governed from Taipei or Beijing, but not both. Similarly, the East China and South China seas can be international waters or Chinese territory; Russia can be crippled or supported.

For the United States, its Asian alliances are a force for stability; for China, they’re hostile encirclement. And both countries are right in their respective assessments.

Diplomacy alone is insufficient to resolve a rivalry. At best, it can help manage it.

When the US calls, who picks up?

Part of this management of the U.S-China rivalry involves finding areas of agreement that can be committed to.

And on Nov. 15, Biden and Xi announced deals over curbing China’s production of the deadly drug fentanyl and the restoring of high-level, military-to-military dialogue between the two countries.

But the fentanyl announcement is very similar to the one Xi gave to then-President Donald Trump in 2019. The U.S. administration later accused China of reneging on the agreement.

Similarly, committing to restarting high-level dialogue is one thing; following up on it is another. History is dotted with occasions when having an open line between Beijing and Washington hasn’t meant a whole lot in times of crisis. In 2001, when a U.S. surveillance aircraft collided with a Chinese jet over Hainan Island, Beijing didn’t pick up the phone. Likewise, during the Tiananmen Square massacre, then-President George H.W. Bush urgently tried to call his counterpart Deng Xiaoping but was unable to get through.

Moreover, focusing on what was agreed to in talks also highlights what wasn’t – and is unlikely to ever be – agreed to without a substantial shift in power that forces one side to concede to the other.

For example, China wants the U.S. to stop selling arms to Taiwan. But Washington has no intention of doing this, as it knows that this will make the disputed island more vulnerable to Beijing. Washington would like China to end its military displays of strength over the Taiwan Strait; Beijing knows doing so risks seeing Taiwan drift toward independence.

American policymakers have long said what they want is China to “change” – by which it means to liberalize its system of governance. But the Chinese Communist Party knows that doing so means self-liquidation – every communist regime that has allowed space for alternative political parties has unraveled. Which is why American attempts to engage China are often met with suspicion in China. As former Chinese leader Jiang Zemin commented, engagement and containment policies have the same aim: to end China’s socialist system.

For similar reasons, Xi has shunned attempts by the U.S. to bring China further into the rules-based international order. The Chinese leader saw what happened when Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev tried to integrate the Soviet Union into the Western order in the late 1980s – it only hastened the demise of the socialist entity.

Instead, Xi calls for a massive military buildup, the reassertion of Chinese Communist Party control and an economic policy based on self-reliance.

Actions speak louder …

The encouraging words and limited agreements hammered out in the latest meeting between Xi and Biden should also not distract from the actions that continue to push the U.S. and China further apart.

China’s show of force in the Taiwan Strait has been sustained for three years now and shows no sign of abating. Meanwhile, Beijing’s navy continues to harass other nations in the South China Sea.

Similarly, Biden has continued the U.S. path toward military alliances aimed at countering China’s threat. It recently entered a trilateral agreement between the U.S., Japan and South Korea. And that came two years after the establishment of AUKUS, a security partnership between the the U.S., Australia and the U.K. that has similar aims.

Meanwhile, the U.S. administration will continue to tighten the screws on China’s economy through investment restrictions. Biden is well aware that easy flowing money from Wall Street is helping China weather choppier economic waters of late and is keen to turn off the tap.

The point of diplomacy

This isn’t to say that diplomacy and face-to-face talks are pointless. They do, in fact, serve a number of interests.

For both men involved, there is a domestic upside. For Biden, playing nice with China projects the image of a statesman – especially at a time when, due to U.S. positions on Ukraine and the Middle East, he is facing accusations from the political left of being a “warmonger.” And encouraging Beijing to tread softly during the U.S. election year may blunt a potential line of attack from Republicans that the administration’s China policy is not working.

Meanwhile, Xi is able to showcase his own diplomatic skills and present China as an alternative superpower to the U.S. and to potentially cleave the Western business community – and perhaps even major European nations – from what he would see as the U.S. anti-China coalition.

Moreover, summits like the one in San Francisco signal that both the U.S. and China are jointly committed to at least keep talking, helping ensure that a rocky relationship doesn’t descend into anything more belligerent – even it that doesn’t make them any friendlier.

Michael Beckley, Associate Professor of Political Science, Tufts University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. 

Thursday, November 23, 2023

Addressing Difficult Topics in an Interview

by Leah Jackson

Thursday, October 12, 2023
Unpleasant and awkward interview

All job seekers have circumstances that make them unique. That's part of being human. Whether you have non-negotiables, an employment gap, or another special circumstance, everyone has topics that will be difficult to discuss in an interview. These can feel like landmines ready to destroy your chances at the job, but the reality is that these issues are often larger in our own minds, says Deborah J. Cohan, Ph.D., professor of sociology at the University of South Carolina Beaufort and the author of the forthcoming book, "The Big Book of College: A Professor Tells You Everything You Need to Know to Succeed in and Out of the Classroom" (New World Library, May 2024).

"Whatever it is can feel like the proverbial elephant in the room," she continues. "The other reality is that most everyone is bringing an elephant to an interview in addition to their legal pad, pen, and water bottle. Even search committee members are aware of either their own elephants, the departmental elephants, and the institutional ones."

With some strategic planning and what Cohan calls "a moment of 'it's not what you say but how you say it,'" you can confidently navigate these touchy topics. Consider these tips:

Own Your Story

You may have a unique situation (such as an employment gap due to a lack of fit in your last position, job searching with a medical condition, a need for remote work, etc.), but you don't have to play victim to those circumstances. Instead, take ownership of your career story -- the good and bad.

"Try to flip the script and say something positive about a previous negative experience," cautions Luke Ritter, Ph.D., an assistant professor of American history at New Mexico Highlands University. "For example, say your interviewer asks why you want to switch jobs. The real reason you want to leave that job is because your department chair is intolerable. Instead, say, 'I have learned that I best thrive around colleagues with strong, effective communication, and I noticed that your department promotes such collegiality.' Flipping the script is not being inauthentic; it's showing your future employer that you know how to learn from and rise above bad experiences."

Owning your story also means being confident in your choices. If you're interviewing for a position for which you may be perceived as overqualified, be prepared to answer persuasively why it's the right choice for you. If you have non-negotiables, be ready to defend your needs.

Be Upfront

Don't let fear keep you from being honest and timely with employers.

Cohan shares a personal example of how being upfront helped her obtain a tenure-track position at her current institution (where she is now a full professor) after turning down a position in the same department only a year earlier.

"I said this in the very first paragraph [of my cover letter]," she says. "I can appreciate the various ways in which it might be an unusual and challenging experience for a search committee to re-consider a candidate who did not accept a previous offer. Understandably, a situation like this raises questions. I felt very lucky to cultivate a rich rapport with a number of you, so please know and trust that it was for various personal reasons that I was unable to accept the offer to work at USCB in 2010; those issues have since been resolved and, consequently, I hope to have another chance to be considered for this position. Please also know my willingness to answer any of your questions and my openness in discussing this further should we have the opportunity to do so."

When asked very frankly why she didn't take the job the last time, Cohan was honest. "[I told them] I had realized I first needed to get a divorce and then move across the country. And when I wrote that second letter, I was prepared to do just that."

Whatever your circumstances are, addressing them confidently, tactfully, and in a timely manner is important. If you have an employment gap due to caregiving, moving for a partner's job opportunity, or other reasons, explain this clearly so that employers aren't left to draw their own (possibly negative) conclusions. Similarly, if you are asked about your current position and why you are job searching, be honest yet respectful and positive. What did you learn about yourself or what you need from a work environment or position? How does that relate to the position you're interviewing for?

Medical situations can be the most complex of all. You are not obligated to disclose any medical conditions that might require accommodations. Deciding when and how to disclose these things really is a personal choice. It's not a one-size-fits-all process, said a recent guest on the HigherEdJobs Podcast. However, waiting to discuss these needs until receiving an offer may cause you more stress due to the unknowns about leave or accommodations offered and whether the institution will be supportive of your needs. If you have truly found a good fit, navigating these issues should be a joint effort with respect and willingness from both parties.

Manage the Conversation

Rehearsing for these conversations can be helpful. Yet, there are limitations. You can't control how the conversation goes, but you can manage it. Be prepared to improvise. Know what you are willing to share and work to divert the conversation back to your career story and your value as a candidate. Don't get caught up in rehashing your past experience. Stay focused on the job at hand and how those past experiences uniquely qualify you for it. Storytelling is an important interview skill that can help you showcase your circumstances in a positive light. To learn more about telling action-based stories to support your candidacy, read this article.


There will always be difficult topics in a job interview -- for candidates and employers. You're not alone, but you should prepare to navigate these conversations.

"There is a clear advantage for the job seeker in being able to [do this] because how that information is received and discussed is likely to reveal a lot about what it would be like to work somewhere," Cohan says. "Most of us need and want colleagues and bosses who are mindful of the whole of ourselves and the whole of themselves. The more authentically that people show up to interviews -- on both sides -- the more informative and productive the process is for everyone. This doesn't mean that we should approach and engage with no sense of boundaries or awareness of what's appropriate, legal, and ethical to ask, but it means that openness, directness, honesty, and compassion go a long way."

Citing the many challenges of today's world (campus threats, systemic racism, lingering pandemic effects), she reminds us that "it's very reasonable to think that both candidates and employers come to the table with a great deal on their minds and in their hearts, and it behooves all players to negotiate these conversations with empathy and curiosity."


This article is republished from HigherEdJobs® under a Creative Commons license. 

Solving Higher Education’s Newest Challenge: Employee Retention

by Rich Goodman

Magnet attracting wooden blocks with people on them

As colleges have their eyes fixed on strategies to overcome upcoming obstacles of matriculation, economic challenges, and competition for relevance in the modern professional world, one problem has been growing quietly to present a new challenge: employee retention. With the broader workforce continuing to shift to offer increased accommodation to employees with the appeal of remote work, flexible schedules, and greater compensation, how are college leaders working to keep up? The reality is that every year, many higher education professionals say goodbye to colleagues for new positions or even to leave the field. In a Fall 2023 report, CUPA-HR noted that the 2022-2023 academic year was the highest on record for employee turnover since their tracking began in 2017, and 33% of remaining employees in higher ed shared that they are likely to search for a new job within the year. For those who stay despite challenges, colleges may also see less appealing results with the trend of "quiet quitting." Leaders may feel trapped by limitations in their capacity to make change, especially with the all-powerful budget cut, but here are a few ways in which colleges can work to celebrate, invest in, and hopefully retain their talented faculty and staff.

Step 1: Talk to your people. And listen.

The talented professionals who support your institution each have a voice, and asking for input does not go unnoticed. Your colleagues have insights, concerns, and experience that should be sought broadly, but especially regarding institutional decisions. Communication starts with accessible opportunities. Lead by offering frequent, open, transparent communication to help to build trust. Ensure that employees have multiple options to give feedback without being filtered by their direct supervisor. Easy first steps include actively promoting an anonymous feedback portal, allocating time for open office hours with decision-makers, and facilitating open forums where voices can build with support. Employees should also have elected representation, which have standing meetings with college leadership to amplify collective voices. Managers should also receive appropriate training to learn how best to communicate and support their team. Without emotionally intelligent leadership and clear direction, it's easy for a team to feel lost or undervalued.

Step 2: Balance the numbers.

Higher education has long faced a compensation problem. In a 2022 report from Pew Research Center, low compensation and opportunity for advancement were tied for the most common reasons for employee resignation. According to CUPA-HR, 53% of higher ed employees ranked salary as their top reason for searching, and 86% ranked it in their top three reasons. The cost of recruiting and training new employees is often higher than a pay increase or promotion after the cost of sourcing, interviewing, hiring, training, failed searches, and the hit to productivity with the loss of an employee. Underpaid positions can attract underperforming candidates, which could take another toll on employee morale, cascading turnover, or even student matriculation and success. If the aphorism "time is money" holds wisdom, when one side of the equation is unbalanced and can't be corrected, it's time to fix the other side. Since you're reading this article, I hope you have already run through countless options to pay folks a fair market value for their work, so let's focus on time. If your team's compensation cannot be competitive, focus on benefits within your control. Flexible schedules can make a significant impact on work/life balance, offer a gesture of trust and autonomy, and are more inclusive for employees who have time-sensitive responsibilities outside of work. Other opportunities to return an employee's time could be implementing "Summer Fridays" or other reduced workweek plans. At a minimum, always avoid scheduling "staff bonding" outside of work hours.

Step 3: Lean into flexibility (and away from outdated expectations).

In addition to time, institution leaders can also consider other opportunities to offer flexibility and autonomy, leading to improved staff morale. CUPA-HR coined a "two-thirds rule" when representing work-from-home preferences: two-thirds of higher ed employees would prefer to work remotely or on a hybrid schedule and believe that most of their job can be done remotely, but two-thirds of higher ed employees are required to work mostly or entirely on campus. Revisit policies or procedures that offer arbitrary rationale, and instead focus on the impact of innovative practice on the support of your team. This also includes flexibility on credentials -- if you have an entry-level role listed for under the ideal salary, maybe it's time to remove "Master's preferred."

Step 4: Work on inclusion, minimize inequity.

Employees from underrepresented backgrounds often face unique challenges to feel valued and included, often leading to low morale and low retention. The steps mentioned above can help by creating flexibility to accommodate varying needs, but there are always more ways to support diversity, equity, and inclusion.

Step 5: Lead with respect.

A 2022 report by Pew Research Center reported the heartbreaking statistic that feeling disrespected was the third most reported reason for employee resignation. Respect comes in many forms. Respect is when a leader asks someone on their campus for their opinion, especially for something within their area of expertise -- that is respect. Respect is knowing and following the boundaries set by a colleague for their work hours so as not to encroach upon their time with family. For more on respect's impact on retention, Nicole Butler, employee relations & leave specialist at the University of Baltimore, offered this wisdom:

"Despite the significance of official acknowledgments, the heart of staff retention often lies in simple gestures, such as asking about a colleague's weekend or offering a heartfelt 'good morning.' If organizations are looking for low-cost ways to boost their staff morale and retention, it's these everyday acts of genuine engagement that should be emphasized, taught, and practiced." And please remember -- if you find yourself in need of more ideas, return to step 1.


This article is republished from HigherEdJobs® under a Creative Commons license.