March 2015

35 Years of Herstory at UConn

UConn Foundation
UConn Foundation

3 min read

This year marks the 35th anniversary of gender-based violence prevention programs at UConn. The Women’s Center and the Violence Against Women Prevention Program (VAWPP) will be hosting a reunion and celebration for all the alumni and current students who have worked hard to create change.Women's Center

Lauren Donais, who coordinates VAWPP, answered a few questions about the history—and future—of violence prevention programs at UConn.

How has the role and scope of the WC, VAWPP and other violence prevention programs grown since the Rape Education Program was formed in 1980?

The scope of the program has grown since 1980 in that the primary focus was sexual violence, and with the name change to VAWPP in the early 1990s, we wanted to reflect our work on the various and interconnected forms of gender-based violence. The name change also was indicative of the commitment to not only educate the community, but also prevent gender-based violence through programs, services, and institutional advocacy.

Today, we continue to address and prevent all forms of sexual violence, intimate partner violence, stalking and harassment across the gender spectrum, through education, outreach and advocacy. We emphasize a primary prevention approach that engages all stakeholders in the campus community to examine their role in ending gender-based violence by addressing its root causes in sexism and other forms of oppression.

A significant factor influencing our work today is the degree to which sexual and relationship violence and Title IX on campuses are part of a national dialogue. To have the President and Vice President of the United States in the same room speaking out on this issue was unprecedented during VAWPP’s herstory.

How do you work with other departments and organizations across campus to promote these programs?

UConn was one of the first schools to receive federal funding in 1999. We were funded again in 2001 and in 2009 as part of the Connecticut Coalition to End Violence Against Women.  These grants supported education for incoming students, training of conduct administrators and police officers, and the creation of our Community Response Team—all programs that rely on cross-departmental collaboration.

Each spring the Women’s Center partners with the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life (OFSL) and the Asian American Cultural Center (AsACC) to organize Greeks Against Sexual Assault (GASA) and the Men’s Project, respectively. Both events aim to empower participants to take an active role in changing the cultural norms that support and condone violence.art_vaw-app

Just last week, we teamed up with OFSL, Athletics and the Leadership Office to screen The Mask You Live In—a documentary that follows boys and young men as they struggle to stay true to themselves while negotiating America’s narrow definition of masculinity.

And for the past two years, VAWPP has partnered with Residential Life to host UConnsent Day—a program designed to spark honest conversations about sexual consent and healthy relationships on campus and promote campus departments and community partners that provide support and advocacy to victims/survivors.

What is the role of alumni in prevention education on campus?

Countless VAWPP alumni have gone on to pursue careers in education. I receive regular requests to use VAWPP workshops and content in middle school and high school classrooms or as part of training alum are administering to colleagues in the workplace.

Additionally, VAWPP alumni were an integral part of training our current cohort of VAWPP Peer Facilitators this semester. A handful of them volunteered their time over Labor Day weekend to assist me with instruction and share their stories and expertise.

Are there any recent successes or forward progress to celebrate at this event? And/or could you provide a sneak peek of what’s in store for your alumni at the event?

Our current cohort of VAWPP Peer Facilitators are in the thick of a very busy semester. Our Consent 201 workshop is a new core element for all First-Year Experience courses in an effort to expand on concepts first-year students were introduced to at Orientation.

Consent 201 invites students to think critically about common patterns of communication around requests, negotiation, pressure, and coercion. Peer Facilitators use fun, interactive, non-sexual role-play to help students discuss dynamics within sexual and romantic situations.

Our over-arching goal is to shift the narrative away from how students can avoid sexual assault and instead toward how we can create a culture of respect that promotes holding out for enthusiastic consent.

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The Hip Hop Revolution

UConn Foundation
UConn Foundation

4 min read

The African American Alumni Council and the African American Cultural Center are hosting a Huskies Forever Weekend event for alumni and friends featuring Dr. Jeff Ogbar, a professor of history and the director of the Center for the Study of Popular Music at UConn.

Jeffrey Ogbar (Peter Morenus/UConn Photo)
Jeffrey Ogbar (Peter Morenus/UConn Photo)

Want to know what’s in store? Dr. Ogbar was kind enough to answer a few questions about his award-winning book, Hip-Hop Revolution: The Culture and Politics of Rap.

In a 2009 interview about your book, Hip-Hop Revolution…, you mention that young African American consumers of hip-hop are more likely to graduate high school and less likely to commit suicide. What are the positive messages hip-hop fans are taking away from the art, and how does consuming it empower them?

As strange as it may seem, I am quick to admit that there aren’t a lot of positive images that hip-hop fans take away from mainstream rap nowadays. It is true that young black people appear as cool, confident, and creative, but most of the images and lyrics in commercial rap today (unlike that of the early ‘90s) generally focus on pretty negative racial stereotypes.

My argument, however, is that the consumers of the art are not as impressionable as critics suggest. The consumers can actually make a distinction between fanciful (and outlandish) art and reality. Young African Americans can listen to the art, but their social, educational, economic, and political world is shaped by forces much larger than the music they consume.

Today’s generation of African American young people (18-29) are more likely to graduate from college and graduate school than any generation of black people in history. They also have the lowest teenage pregnancy and birth rates on record. The black homicide rate is actually lower now than any point going back to the 1940s. And multiple studies reveal that black males are more likely to endorse gender equality than any other racial or ethnic group of mendespite commercial rap’s typical misogynist lyrics.

Acknowledging that the world of hip-hop is very broad and diverse, are there broad strokes or trends you identify in how the evolution of hip-hop—and its messages on gender, race, and power—have paralleled major events in African American history in the last several decades?

I think that rap music in the late 1980s and early 1990s more closely reflected the major issues concerning black people: anti-apartheid, the drug trade, mass incarceration, crime, even health (to a lesser degree).

Today, however, commercial hip-hop music is narrowly focused on tropes of the thug. Very few mainstream rappers have forcefully addressed police brutality or the #BlackLivesMatter movement, or even care to challenge themes of misogyny. (I know I sound like an old fogey, but this is true.)

What do you hope alumni take away from the conversation?

I think that hip-hop music needs to be understood as a phenomenon that is significantly broader than today’s hottest rappers.

It includes the creative work of four elements:

  1. The dee jay
  2. The absolute beauty and acrobatic creativity of the b-boy/b-girl/breakdancer
  3. The sublime art of the graffiti artist
  4. The incredibly rich, literary styles of the very best poetics in rap set to music.

Even rappers who celebrate thug tropes may do so with sophisticated literary devices, such as intertextual allusions, puns, metaphors, complicated rhyme schemes, similes, metonyms, and more.

The big takeaway: Hip-hop has given the world a special creative genius that is often overlooked and ignored, partially because of the community that has developed the art. The attention that its most prominent element (rap) gets attention for is its crass and vulgar language, leaving outsiders to distill rap to little more than crude rhymes to beats.

But people are often surprised to learn that hip-hop is so discursive that scholars have written books on hip-hop and philosophy. One can learn about Derrida and Foucault, while examining philosophical intersections with Nas and Mos Def.

In addition to being a history professor and the author of an award-winning book, you are the director of the Center for the Study of Popular Music, an interdisciplinary institute here in Storrs. Could you talk a little bit about the Center and what its focus and direction will be in the next year or so, as well as its role in the broader community?

The Center for the Study of Popular Music helps bring together a rich cross-section of scholarly work done at UConn into a locus open to the wider community. There are professors who teach courses and have published work on everything from jazz to rock and roll, blues to hip-hop.

We have a huge repository of music-related materials at the Dodd Research Center from the Sam and Ann Charters Collection (primarily blues and jazz) and Fred Ho Papers Collection (primarily jazz). There is a new collection related to punk music as well.

Music is a wonderful, universal art that takes many aesthetic forms. It is festive, somber, sacred, secular, instructive, creative, resistive, empowering, reflective and more. We hope to broaden worldviews, bring our community together in intellectual and entertainment through the Center. Any support will bring us close to realizing these goals.

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Bubble Tea and Progressive Desserts with the Cultural Centers

UConn Foundation
UConn Foundation

2 min read

Bubble tea from H.A. Cafe
Bubble tea from H.A. Cafe

What brings people together better than a shared meal—especially when it’s dessert? In the words of Angela Rola, founding and current director of the Asian American Cultural Center, “Food is the wonderful gatherer of people. It’s the one venue and medium that people of all different backgrounds will come together for.”

At Huskies Forever Weekend, the UConn Cultural Centers hope to appeal to the sweet teeth of attendees at the Progressive Desserts Party. At the event, alumni, friends and students will have the opportunity to sample a variety of tasty ethnic desserts, as well as learn about the great work the Cultural Centers are doing both on and off campus.

One unique dessert that will be offered by the Asian American Cultural Center is bubble tea, prepared by the H.A. Café in downtown Storrs. Never heard of bubble tea? We sat down with Ronald Liu ’11 (BUS) and Jessica Chiep ’12 (CAHRN), two owners of the H.A. Café, to get the inside scoop.

“Bubble tea has two facets,” say Ron and Jessica. “The first is the tea itself that comes in different fruit and creamy flavors. The second is the bubbles, or toppings, which can be any little surprises in the drink. The standard bubble is tapioca, a chewy gummy that tastes a little sweet and like caramel.”

Ronald Liu ’11 (BUS) and Jessica Chiep ’12 (CAHRN)
Ronald Liu ’11 (BUS) and Jessica Chiep ’12 (CAHRN)

Can’t wait until the Progressive Desserts Party to try some? Ron and Jessica provide a basic recipe and some pro-tips for making your own bubble tea at home:

  1. Buy a very strong black tea from any grocery store.
  2. Purchase tapioca pearls from your local Asian specialty grocery story.
  3. The pearls will be pre-packaged and can be multicolored, white or black.
    • PRO TIP: Black tapioca pearls are the most ideal.
  4. Head to the kitchen and brew your black tea.
    • PRO TIP: Double-brew your tea, or use four bags for one individual tea. The tea is the base, and most important part, of your drink.
  5. Boil some water and prepare the tapioca pearls according to the package instructions.
    • PRO TIP: For cold bubble tea, put the prepared tea in the freezer or fridge while your tapioca is cooking—you don’t want to dilute your tea.
  6. Once your tea is done, add cream and sugar to your individual taste.
  7. Grab a large cup and mix your tea and tapioca pearls
    • PRO TIP: Add the tapioca pearls before your tea.
  8. Stir, sip and enjoy!

During your Huskies Forever Weekend voyage, make sure to stop by the Progressive Dessert Party to learn more about UConn’s Cultural Centers, as well as sample H.A. Café’s bubble tea, and other delectable ethnic morsels.

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Rainbow Center Welcomes Alumni with Open Arms

UConn Foundation
UConn Foundation

2 min read

Rainbow CenterOne of the best parts of Huskies Forever Weekend is that alumni and friends have the chance to share their passion for UConn together. In this spirit of community, the Rainbow Center’s newly formed LGBTQIAA+ group invites those coming to Huskies Forever Weekend to meet and get to know this growing and welcoming part of #UConnNation.

Just ask Emma Blandford, one of the LGBTQIAA+ alumni group’s leaders. Blandford hopes the group’s gathering, occurring the Sunday of HFW at the Rainbow Center, will help alumni, students and friends engage with the UConn’s LGBTQIAA+ community in a fun and open environment.

Curious what they have in store? Blandford lays the scene for what guests can expect at the event:

“A couple of our alumni have volunteered to be table hosts, so visitors won’t just come in, have an awkward snack and stand in the corner because they don’t know anyone. These table hosts are very open, warm and accepting people. I know coming into a room of strangers can be very intimidating, especially around a topic everyone seems to be talking about. So with table hosts and planned discussions, we hope to break the ice and get folks feeling comfortable quickly.”

Although new to UConn, the LGBTQIAA+ alumni group has big goals to spread its outreach—not just in Storrs, but nationally and through social media. The hope, as Blandford details, is to grow a nationwide support network where members of the UConn LGBTQIAA+ alumni network can find safe, comfortable spaces to develop connections:

“We want to offer a space where we can create professional, social and educational connections for the LGBTQIAA+ community,” she says. “There are many folks who feel isolated and may not necessarily know where to start to identify with a community who they feel a part of. This can provide them with that opportunity and provide a community where they feel safe and comfortable, or just find friends who can relate.”

So if you’re planning on attending Huskies Forever Weekend, plan a stop at the LGBTQIAA+ Alumni Gathering to meet Emma and get involved.

To learn more or register for the event,  call the Rainbow Center at 860.486.5821.

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UConn Stamford to Host Human Rights Forum (Westfair Online)

Jennifer Doak-Mathewson
Jennifer Doak-Mathewson

< 1 min read

Excerpted from Westfair Online (White Plains, N.Y.)

Lieberman bystander conference imageUConn’s Stamford campus will host a daylong forum titled “Beyond Bystander: Monitoring Human Rights in Conflict Zones” on Friday as part of the Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman Conference and Lecture Series on Human Rights Practice.

The program is supported by Stamford-based Point72 Asset Management, part of the company’s five-year commitment to raise human rights awareness through lectures and conferences. It is coordinated by UConn’s Office of Global Affairs in collaboration with the UConn’s Human Rights Institute, UConn’s Thomas J. Dodd Research Center and the UNESCO Chair & Institute of Comparative Human Rights, with assistance from the UConn Foundation.

“Sen. Lieberman was a tireless champion for human rights, as well as the state of Connecticut and the city of Stamford, during his 24-year tenure in the U. S. Senate,” said Doug Haynes, president of Point72 Asset Management, in a statement. “We are pleased to honor his leadership and advance the cause of human rights by sponsoring UConn’s Stamford-based Senator Joseph I. Lieberman Conference and Lecture Series on Human Rights Practice.”

 

 

 

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UConn to Align Alumni Efforts Within Foundation (UConn Today)

Jennifer Doak-Mathewson
Jennifer Doak-Mathewson

3 min read

Reposted from UConn Today

The University of Connecticut’s Board of Trustees endorsed a plan today to align all of UConn’s institutional advancement operations—most notably the addition of responsibility for alumni relations—under the UConn Foundation’s direction.

Today’s action reflects careful evaluation over the past few years about how the University could vastly improve outreach to its more than 230,000 living alumni worldwide. Earlier this month, the board of directors of the Foundation—an independent 501(c)(3) organization—passed a similar measure accepting this new charge.

“No truly great university can fully achieve its potential without a vast, supportive, and engaged alumni body, and with the full spirit of Husky Nation mobilized as one, there are no limits on what the future holds for UConn,” President Susan Herbst said. “I’m grateful to the Foundation and its leadership for taking on this worthwhile responsibility of better connecting—and, in many cases, reconnecting—our alumni with UConn.”

The University previously has coordinated alumni outreach activities through the UConn Alumni Association, also a non-profit 501(c)(3) entity independent of UConn.

The Alumni Association’s operations have been supported by the University—more than $13 million over the past two decades—and by requiring alumni to pay dues to be members of the organization. This dues-based structure has yielded a membership base of approximately 10,000 alumni, which is less than 5 percent of UConn’s total living alumni base.

Under the new model, the University expects the Foundation to substantially expand alumni outreach, including establishing a newly constituted alumni community that would no longer charge membership dues.

“We’re excited about the potential of this expanded partnership,” Foundation President Joshua R. Newton said. “UConn alumni have worked hard to get to where they are, and staying connected with the University shouldn’t come at a cost. Integrating our outreach efforts without paying for membership means that it will be easier than ever before to show you’re a proud member of the UConn family.”

The University and the Foundation believe that these changes to the alumni engagement structure should be seamless for UConn’s alumni. Those who are connected to the University through one of its alumni chapters, UConn clubs, or the UConn Alumni Association will see no less connectivity with their alma mater. They will still have at least the same access to alumni events, programs, publications, and communications.

In addition, the University is optimistic that the Alumni Association will make the Alumni House available to continue serving as a home on the Storrs campus for all alumni.

“The Alumni Association continues to work alongside the University and the UConn Foundation in transitioning to an alumni relations model that is in the best interest of our alumni, our students, and our alma mater,” said Lori Riiska, president of the UConn Alumni Association. “The Alumni Association is committed to preserving its mission and building closer ties between our University and each of its stakeholders.  I believe all alumni leaders and volunteers can rally behind this goal.”

What’s more, by coordinating alumni relations activities with the UConn Foundation, operations will become more streamlined and cost effective. Currently duplicated services and some administrative functions can be eliminated, and the services can be provided in a more efficient manner.

This will result in more resources available for coordinated and substantive outreach to alumni.

“Guiding alumni relations efforts from within the Foundation will result in streamlined operations for both organizations, making it the best return on investment for the University of Connecticut,” Newton added. “This change will lead to a more diverse and engaged alumni community, one that is free of barriers and open to all.”

The board action includes a three-month extension to the University’s memorandum of understanding with the Alumni Association for the specific purpose of effecting a transition of alumni relations activities by June 30. The University and the Foundation also entered into a three-month agreement covering this transition. During that time, the University and the Foundation will formalize a commitment on how to incorporate alumni outreach and engagement responsibilities into the scope of services it provides UConn in addition to generating private support.

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