Mastering the “green” classroom

ees-usa-today-image-smaller“Green thinking” has moved into classrooms, where students earn degrees specifically focused on sustainability studies or add an Earth-friendly spin to more traditional majors. Furman launched its sustainability science major in 2011, which allows students to explore connections between the environment, economics and social systems. The university’s efforts in this area were included in an article that appeared in USA Today’s Green Living magazine.

A tip of the graduation cap to Luke Christie

luke-christie-smallerLuke Christie has never taken a walk, can’t cut his own steak and can’t put himself to bed, but when you talk to him, you tend to forget his physical challenges. He’s articulate, intelligent, funny and personable. It’s infectious, really. On May 9, Christie, who was born with spinal muscular atrophy, a form of muscular dystrophy, did something remarkable: he earned his bachelor’s degree in mass communications at Furman. Even more remarkable, he was named the top male graduate in his class, earning the Bradshaw-Feaster Medal for General Excellence given by Furman’s faculty. What the 2015 Furman graduate was able to accomplish while attending the university was chronicled in a front-page article in The Greenville News.

Men’s cycling team makes clean sweep at national championships

How good is the Furman University men’s cycling team?

This past weekend at the USA Cycling Collegiate National Championships in Asheville, N.C., Furman claimed victories in the

Freshman Brendan Rhim celebrates victory in the USA Cycling Collegiate National Championships.

Freshman Brendan Rhim celebrates victory in the USA Cycling Collegiate National Championships.

Road Race, Criterium and Team Time Trial events.

“We were the first men’s team in the history of collegiate cycling to claim victories in those three events at one national championship,” said Rusty Miller ’98, who coaches the Furman team.  “And we did it with four freshmen and two sophomores.”

Brendan Rhim, a freshman from Hanover, Vt., won both the Road Race and the Criterium.  The team of Rhim, Charlie Hough of Travelers Rest, Brian Suto of Oxford, Ct., and Richard Rainville of Livonia, Mi., won the time trial event.

“Brendan had a tremendous championship,” Miller said.  “He won the 75-mile road race by breaking away from the field and riding solo for about 45 miles.  He was a heavily-marked pre-race favorite, and he simply rode away from the six full varsity teams and 25 club teams who coordinated in a desperate chase to catch him.”

Miller said winning the Team Time Trial event at the national championships was particularly gratifying since it was a season-long goal that could only be accomplished through team work.

“While the Road Race or Criterium can be won by a star rider with some help from teammates, the time trial can only be taken by a squad of precisely-drilled athletes,” he said.  “We held weekly practices and devoted a lot of time to learn the nuances of winning at this discipline.”

History, Asian studies professor publishes new book

okinawa3Furman University Assistant Professor of History and Asian Studies Wendy Matsumura, Ph.D., has published a new book about Okinawa.

The Limits of Okinawa: Japanese Capitalism, Living Labor, and Theorizations of Community is published by Duke University Press, which offers this description:

“Since its incorporation into the Japanese nation-state in 1879, Okinawa has been seen by both Okinawans and Japanese as an exotic “South,” both spatially and temporally distinct from modern Japan. In The Limits of Okinawa, Wendy Matsumura traces the emergence of this sense of Okinawan difference, showing how local and mainland capitalists, intellectuals, and politicians attempted to resolve clashes with labor by appealing to the idea of a unified Okinawan community. Their numerous confrontations with small producers and cultivators who refused to be exploited for the sake of this ideal produced and reproduced “Okinawa” as an organic, transhistorical entity. Informed by recent Marxist attempts to expand the understanding of the capitalist mode of production to include the production of subjectivity, Matsumura provides a new understanding of Okinawa’s place in Japanese and world history, and establishes a new locus for considering the relationships between empire, capital, nation, and identity.”

Joining the Furman faculty in 2009, Dr. Matsumura holds a Ph.D. from New York University. She specializes in Japanese history and post-World War I Asian agrarian society.

For more information, contact Furman’s News and Media Relations office at (864) 294-3107.

Music by the Lake Every Thursday May 28-Aug. 6

7:30 p.m., Thursdays, May 28-Aug. 6, Amphitheater. Dr. Les Hicken and guests conduct free concerts.

A little bird told me

chickadee, sized

Image courtesy of

The degree to which we humans can adapt to noise is many and varied. Let’s say we live in a quiet neighborhood where the only sounds we hear are the rustling of trees, children at play, and birds singing. Suddenly, with commercial rezoning of property adjacent to ours, we now hear the din of construction vehicles, jackhammers, saws and other sounds related to building and added vehicular traffic. We can a) ignore it, b) complain to county council, c) move, d) insert ear plugs/don earphones channeling stuff we want to hear, or e) speak louder so we may be heard over the cacophony.

According to research published by Furman Biology professor John Quinn, Ph.D., and his colleagues, it appears option e is what our bird friends do in the face of added noise introduced to their environment. Dr. Quinn et al. recorded their findings in a paper titled “Variation in Avian Vocalizations during the Non-Breeding Season in Response to Traffic Noise” for the journal Ethology.

Quinn and researchers from the University of Nebraska studied how traffic noise affects the calls of the Black-capped Chickadee (Poecile atricapillus) and the American Goldfinch (Spinus tristis). The researchers recorded and measured the signature ‘chick-a-dee’ call of chickadees, and the ‘po-ta-to-chip’ call of goldfinches to determine whether components of the calls produced in areas of high traffic noise and low traffic noise differed in any way.

They found that both chickadee and goldfinch calls had higher minimum frequencies in areas with high traffic-noise than in low traffic-noise areas. And while minimum frequencies of calls were higher, the maximum frequencies showed no difference in either species’ calls—a clue suggesting chickadees and goldfinches alter the portion of their calls that is acoustically masked by traffic noise in an effort to better transmit the vocalization.

Vocalizations can inform the receiver of the location and identity of the sender so our avian friends are able to flock together, as birds of a feather do. If part of a call is eclipsed by traffic noise, it may be more difficult to pick out the sounds of birds belonging to the same species, or to hear and respond to alarm calls. Clearly broadcast vocalizations ensure the correct message is relayed, benefiting both the sender and receiver, argue the researchers.

Says, Quinn, “The project was an offshoot of our study of how birds respond to physical changes in the environment like habitat loss, for example. We hypothesized that since landscape changes affect birds, soundscape changes would also have an impact on bird behavior and populations. Our findings show that noise management should be included in conservation planning.”

The abstract for the Ethology paper may be viewed here. For more information, contact Dr. John Quinn, Department of Biology, (864) 294-3756, or

Furman holds 2015 spring commencement

Read commencement speeches of Callie Robertson and Harold Warlick, Jr.

Furman University awarded 649 undergraduate and master’s degrees and presented its top academic honors during graduation exercises Saturday, May 9.

commencement-photo-1Approximately 7,100 people attended the commencement activities in Paladin Stadium.

The Scholarship Cup, given to the graduating senior with the highest academic average, was awarded to Hayley Elisabeth Cunningham, a psychology major from Midway, Ky.

Cunningham also received the General Excellence award as the outstanding female in the class of 2015.  Luke Darby Christie, a communication studies major from Due West, received the General Excellence Award as the outstanding male in the class.  Both awards are given by the Furman faculty.

Furman also presented the Alester G. Furman, Jr., and Janie Earle Furman awards for meritorious teaching and advising.

The teaching awards went to Dr. Vincent Joseph Hausmann, Associate Professor of English, and Dr. Cynthia P. King, Associate Professor of Communication Studies

The advising awards were presented to Dr. John J. Banisaukas III, Assistant Professor of Chemistry, and Dr. Weston Ridgway Dripps, Associate Professor of Earth and Environmental Sciences.

commencement-photo-2Harold C. Warlick, Jr., a 1968 Furman graduate and former dean of the chapel and religion professor at High Point University, served as commencement speaker and received an honorary Doctor of Humanities degree.

The student speaker was graduate Callie Robertson of Tulsa, Okla., an art history major.

For more information, contact Furman’s News and Media Relations office at 864-294-3107.