Allegheny Professors Study the Story of Zika, Effects on Behavior

_LI_2738 (1)

What are people reading and hearing about the Zika virus?

How are their behaviors changing as a result?

Those are the questions three Allegheny College professors are asking as part of an interdisciplinary effort here to better understand the global consequences of Zika, a virus at the center of an international public health emergency.

The answers could have profound social and economic ripple effects and change the way society talks about sexually transmitted infections, including Zika, a mosquito-borne virus that can also be spread through sex.

Vesta Silva’s work began this summer.

Silva, an associate professor of communication arts, and student Rachael Robertson ’17 analyzed an archive of American media coverage of Zika, looking for common themes. The stories, they found, focused on personal, not governmental or public, responsibility: Wear long sleeves. Use bug spray. When sexual transmission was part of the message, the message was limited to “Don’t get pregnant,” said Silva, who also teaches in the interdisciplinary Global Health Studies program.

Government officials weren’t talking about what federal, state and local agencies could do beyond insecticide spraying (visual, but not very effective, Silva said) or long-term research and vaccine development. Nor were they discussing direct actions communities could take now with the help of the government or nonprofit agencies, like installing window screens and air conditioning and cleaning up neighborhoods, Silva said.

“It’s not that there’s no role for the individual, but when you’re simply telling the story of individual responsibility and the government is responsible for vaccines only, we lose all sorts of possibilities for slowing the spread of Zika,” she said.

And just as important, what people read, hear and understand about the virus could influence their decisions and behavior.

As Silva was scouring newspapers and websites, Becky Dawson ’00 and Amelia Darrouzet-Nardi, both Allegheny assistant professors of global health studies, were surveying more than 2,000 women of childbearing age who live in states bordering Mexico or in states along the Gulf Coast, the areas in the U.S. most vulnerable to Zika infection.

A short questionnaire asked women about their behaviors and their future plans, whether they were sexually active and whether they planned to have children, among other questions. It also asked what form of birth control they used, if any, and which forms of birth control should be encouraged and used in light of Zika.

Dawson and Darrouzet-Nardi have just started to analyze the results, but answers suggest misconceptions about the virus and how it is spread.

“Our initial findings suggest that among the women who have heard about Zika, fewer than 15 percent are changing their sexual behaviors as a result of the outbreak,” Dawson said. “The number of women who are unaware that Zika can be spread between monogamous partners is staggering. We are also seeing that the majority of women believe that they know how to prevent spread of the disease by avoiding mosquito bites. The level of concern for the disease is lower than we anticipated.”

That could be because public health campaigns have largely focused on mosquito bite prevention. There has been relatively much less education around sexual transmission, and that’s especially problematic when it comes to Zika, Dawson and Darrouzet-Nardi said.

Infection during pregnancy can cause birth defects, including microcephaly, which could have major economic effects on a family.

“Having it happen to you would be so life-changing,” Darrouzet-Nardi said.

It’s also important to talk about sexual transmission because people typically think of sexually transmitted infections as something they’re vulnerable to only if they or their partners are not monogamous, Darrouzet-Nardi said. That’s not the case with Zika. A woman or a man in a monogamous relationship who has been infected through a mosquito bite could pass the virus on to his or her partner.

“Monogamy isn’t protection,” she said.

That’s a game-changer, potentially upending how everyone ought to be talking about sexually transmitted infections and safe sexual practices in the future, Dawson said.

“Now we can pass an infection with enormous consequences between monogamous partners,” she said. “It’s going to revolutionize the way we talk about sex.”

If women do start making family planning decisions based on Zika, the effects on demographics and the economy could be long term and far reaching, Darrouzet-Nardi said.

“Whether and how women attempt to plan pregnancies around various risks is still an empirical question, and the answer is essential for improving global maternal health, birth outcomes, and women’s empowerment. Regular monitoring of family planning decisions and outcomes is essential for understanding the patterns that emerge with respect to infectious diseases or other health threats,” she said.

An interdisciplinary approach to Zika is crucial, Silva said.

“Zika is not a problem that can only be addressed by science, social science or humanities alone,” Silva said. “If we don’t bring all of those perspectives to bear, we’re missing key elements of controlling this outbreak or future outbreaks.”

Source: Academics, Publications & Research

Food Hub, Mobile Market Bring Fresh Food to Community


The burgeoning farm-to-table movement is getting some help from some tech-savvy students at Allegheny College.

Working under the direction of Assistant Professor of Computer Science Janyl Jumadinova, two students — junior Maria Kim and sophomore Jesse Del Greco — are developing an “online food hub,” a website aimed at connecting the community with the region’s farmers. It’s one of the many ways Allegheny faculty and staff are working to educate the public about the availability and benefits of fresh, locally grown food.

Once launched, the still-unnamed site will allow users to search for sellers of specific produce within a selected geographic range. Buyers — limited to restaurants and other bulk purchasers, initially — will be able to place orders online and arrange for pickup or delivery, Jumadinova said. If successful, the hub could expand and offer online buying to the general public.

Every visitor will be able to search for local gardens and pick-your-own farms and learn about events and activities related to local foods and farming.

“The whole goal is to increase access to and availability of fresh, local food,” Jumadinova said.

The site’s searchable database includes nearly 30 participating farms, gardens and farm-to-table restaurants in Crawford County or Edinboro — and that’s just the start.

“Eventually we want to expand to markets as far away as Cleveland, for instance. That’s a big city and that’s a good market for (local) farmers,” Jumadinova said.  

As Jumadinova’s computer science students put the finishing touches on the site, communication arts students Madeleine Zimmermann and Madeline Becker are working to design a logo and branding with the help of the Assistant Professor of Communication Arts Julie Wilson. The site could launch as early as spring 2017. When complete, it will be an online space benefiting both farmers and consumers, Del Greco said.

“Farmers will be able to list the produce they have grown, and businesses will instantly be able to connect with the farmers and purchase the produce as needed,” Del Greco said.

The hub builds on many other ongoing efforts Kerstin Martin, director of Allegheny’s Community Wellness Initiative, is leading to increase access to, and availability of, locally grown food.

In 2015, the CWI built a community garden at the Meadville Area Recreation Complex featuring 30 raised beds that residents can rent each season on a sliding scale. Students from Meadville Area Middle School use the garden as part of their curriculum, planting crops and cooking with produce they’ve grown.

“I really see this as being integral to getting people excited about local food, getting kids to think about the implications of local food both for their health and the health of the environment. They’re going to be the consumers of tomorrow,” Martin said of the education component.

This year, Martin took her mission on the road.

Every Wednesday between August and October, she and a few students loaded up her car with the produce picked earlier that day from Allegheny’s Carr Hall garden and headed to Holland Towers, a senior living community in downtown Meadville. Once there, she’d spread out the bounty — tomatoes, kale, peppers — on a table for residents to buy.

The mobile market project drew between 15 and 20 people each week.

“For people who say transportation is a barrier to getting fresh food, this is bringing the food to their neighborhood,” Martin said.

Martin said she plans to continue the mobile market in 2017. The long-term plan is to add more selling sites and to sell food from local farmers, not the Carrden, giving farmers another venue and residents more produce options.

Emma Yates, a 21-year-old senior environmental science major who is doing an independent study on the food hub, said the effort helps educate people and builds a bridge between the campus and the community.

“It’s a really cool way to bring sustainability efforts and local farming to community members,” Yates said.

Holland Towers resident Robin Milstead visited the mobile market each of the six weeks it stopped at the apartment complex, building a friendship with Martin as she shopped for hot peppers and garlic and cherry tomatoes. Milstead doesn’t have a car, so usually relies on friends to give her a ride to the grocery store. Sometimes she takes the bus.

The mobile market makes it easier to eat healthier, she said.

“The produce is really good quality. I like it better than what you can buy at the store,” Milstead said. “I can’t wait until they come back next year.”

Source: Academics, Publications & Research

“A Civil War Christmas: An American Musical Celebration”

November 17-20, 2016
Thursday-Saturday, 8:00 p.m.
Sunday at 2:30 p.m.

It is Christmas Eve in 1864 along the icy, war-ravaged Potomac near Washington, D.C.  Union and Confederate troops are hunkered down by the river, Abraham Lincoln strategizes for peace while his wife Mary visits the wounded, and former slaves are migrating north in search of freedom.  Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Paula Vogel weaves a rich tapestry of stories, both historical and fictional, into a drama that intertwines holiday carols, marches and spirituals of the Civil War period.  An epic theatrical event that captures a nation in desperate need of hope and healing.

To order tickets call the box office at 814-332-3414

Gator Day Alumni Panel 11:00 a.m. “How to Move Off Your Parent’s Couch and Get the Job You Love”

We welcome three successful professional alumnae, from Pittsburgh, who are returning to Allegheny College to share how they got from college to where they are today. This panel is a rich resource for those seeking a career in branding and digital marketing—from tips on how to make your application and résumé stand apart from the “clutter,” to thinking about how to look for jobs you would truly love to be in, to networking and mentoring advice, and developing a portfolio that shows who you are, rather than simply showcasing skills.

Our panelists are Kristen Lauth Shaeffer ’03, assistant professor of film and digital technology at Chatham University and filmmaker; Macae Lintelman ’10, digital customer experience consultant with Accenture, and Hillary Wilson ’12, digital marketing manager, Pittsburgh Public Theater.

WHEN: Tuesday, Oct. 25, from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. (including Q&A), followed by a meet-and-greet with panelists over a buffet-style lunch.

WHERE: Gladys Mullenix Black Theater in the Vukovich Center. Entrance to the theater is through the main lobby on the ground floor.

This event is open to all members of the college community and is sponsored by the Department of Communication Arts and Theatre.

Cosdon co-leads graduate sessions

At this summer’s meeting of the American Theatre and Drama Society, Associate Professor of Communication Arts/Theatre Mark Cosdon co-led sessions for graduate students dedicated to teaching in a liberal arts college and the tenure/promotion process. Cosdon serves on the board of the American Theatre and Drama Society. Recently, he joined the advisory board of the Harvard Theatre Collection.

Source: Academics, Publications & Research

The Playshop Theatre Auditions Sept. 1&4, 2016

A Civil War Christmas:  An American Musical Celebration
By Paula Vogel

September 1 at 7:30 p.m.
September 4 at 1:00 p.m.

Vukovich Room 107

All students are welcome to audition.  Many diverse roles are available.  Copies of the play are on reserve in the library.  You are encouraged to read all or part of the play prior to auditions.  You do not need to bring any prepared material to the auditions.

Director Beth Watkins

Theatre Students to Complete Summer Internships

A number of theatre students will complete internships this summer. Karina Mena ’16 will intern in marketing at the Manhattan Theatre Club. Amanda Fallon ’18 will intern in production at the Ko Festival of Performance at Amherst College. Itzel Ayala ’17 will be in the apprentice acting company at the Williamstown Theater Festival at Williams College. Mary Lyon ’17, Liz Colarte ’17, and Simon Brown ’19 will intern at the New York Classical Theater.

Source: Academics, Publications & Research

Cosdon to Have Chapters in Routledge Handbook of Musical Theatre Producers

Associate Professor of Communication Arts and Theatre Mark Cosdon has chapters titled “Joseph Papp and the Public Theater” and “Making Musicals that Matter: George C. Wolfe and Oskar Eustis at the Public Theatre” forthcoming in the Routledge Handbook of Musical Theatre Producers. This past year Professor Cosdon served on tenure boards at the University of North Carolina and at Knox College. In March, he hosted the sixth annual “Brilliance of the American Theatre” reading series at the Drama Book Shop in New York City, bringing together authors of new works in American theatre history. He serves on the board of the American Theatre and Drama Society and has been appointed to the editorial boards of Theatre History Studies and Southern Illinois University Press’s Theatre in the Americas Series.

Source: Academics, Publications & Research

The Playshop Theatre presents “Peter Pan and Wendy” by Doug Rand

Directed by Beth Watkins

April 21 and 22 at 7:30 pm
April 23 and 24 at 2:30 pm

In the Gladys Mullenix Theatre, Vukovich Center for Communication Arts
Suitable for all audiences
Box Office 814-332_3414

Faculty and Alumnae Present Work at National Science Foundation Meeting

Professor of Environmental Science Richard Bowden and Lauren Deem ’13 presented the poster “Controls on Forest Soil Carbon” at the National Science Foundation Long-Term Ecological Research All-Scientists Meeting in Estes Park, Colorado. The poster described the ability of forest soil to absorb climate change pollution (carbon dioxide) at a suite of forest research sites. Collaborators were from Oregon State, U. Michigan, the College of Nyíregyháza (HU), U. Toronto, U. Copenhagen, and U. Penn. Julia Schock ’15, Professor of Communication Arts Michael Keeley, and Professor Bowden also presented the poster “Hemlock: A Documentary,” which described the cultural and ecological history of the hemlock tree, which is Pennsylvania’s state tree and which is threatened by an invasive, introduced insect. The video produced in the project, which was Julia’s senior thesis, was also shown at the awards banquet of the LTER meeting. Professor Bowden served as co-chair of the triennial conference.

Source: Academics, Publications & Research