Flight plan

Crit Jones pix

One week after Crit Jones ’14  graduated Furman, he was hired by Duggan Associates Inc., a consulting company specializing in operational excellence. A  few months later, the business and accounting major from Argyle, Texas, was touching down in Malaysia to begin a project with FMC Technologies.

Kirk Karwan, Ph.D., who was one of Jones’s professors, said that the business faculty were a little surprised at the speed of his ascent.

“He landed a job with an aggressive, smaller consulting firm that is expanding its reach,” Karwan said. “We would like to see more of our students placed in organizations like this.”

Jones started cultivating his relationship with Duggan Associates his junior year at Furman. Some of Duggan’s consultants had worked with a company where Jones’s father was employed, so Jones called the company’s owner, Kevin Duggan, to inquire about the possibility of an internship. Duggan offered him an opportunity in Rhode Island, where the firm is located.

Jones’s second internship with the company began his senior year when the Duggan asked if he would be interested in a project in Texas. When that internship ended, Jones told Duggan ” . . . that as long as he had work and could utilize me, that was the direction I wanted to go.” Jones kept in touch with the firm, and it wasn’t long before the next opportunity materialized.

In fact, after graduation, he did not interview with any other companies.

Jones, an associate with Duggan, works with senior associates to design processes and implement changes. As part of his initial job training, he spent time with several companies in Texas and Ohio to study value stream mapping, layout design, and mix model training, among others.

One of his early projects in Chicago was designing and implementing the future state value stream for GoGo Air, a company that installs WiFi on airlines. The project was of special interest to Jones, who has been a licensed pilot since he was 17.

“I grew up flying with my father,” he said. “Flying teaches you preparedness and how to follow standards.” That experience transfers to his consulting job.

His work with FMC Technologies in Malaysia also included designing a new layout and beginning implementation of the project. He will return to work on two other projects with the company that manufactures oil and gas equipment for offshore wells.

“Every situation is different,” he said. “It’s understanding how a process can be implemented. I want to have some industry experience and consulting gives you a wide perspective on various industries.”

Helping companies create robust processes “puts power in an employee’s hands,” he said, allowing them to solve problems in offices, on manufacturing floors or in designing a product.

Future plans including obtaining an MBA, he said, but he’s not sure when or how that will occur. It would be a difficult task to earn an MBA while working full-time as a consultant. His long-term goal is to become an entrepreneur.

“I grew up in an environment where my family owned a small company,” he said. “I enjoy the small business environment.”

His advice to Furman students is to use internships to start early in a career that they might be interested in, gaining experience in different industries. That experience can help when trying to find the first job because “you can point to your experience and say ‘I’ve done it before.’”

Employers want to hire someone “who is passionate about the experience,” he said. He also suggested that students not rely solely on businesses that come to Furman to interview prospective employees.

“You have to pursue a company you’re interested in and reach out to them,” he said.

Learn more about the Business and Accounting Department and Furman internships.



Writing the history of desegregation at Furman


Furman’s 50 Years Commemorating Desegregation webpage does more than thoughtfully explore the University’s path to integration.

It paints a picture by presenting colorful portraits of those who blazed the sometimes turbulent path. It, too, provides perspective. A popular feature of the webpage is an interactive timeline. It begins on May 18, 1955, when Furman officials confiscated copies of The Echo, a student publication, after it published articles supporting desegregation, and runs until Jan. 29, 1965, when Joseph Vaughn officially enrolls as the school’s first African-American undergraduate student. In between are nearly two dozen historical nuggets that put the sequence of events in context.

Another timeline delves even deeper, offering information about important post-integration milestones in Furman history. The comprehensive nature of the research is exactly what you’d expect from an advanced graduate student, which is exactly what Brian Neumann ’13 hopes to be some day.

As things stand at the moment, however, he’s definitely in the conversation for greatest intern of all time.

“I was alerted to some work that he was already doing as an intern in Special Collections at the Duke Library, and when I went to talk to him and he handed over some of the work he’d done I was just amazed at the care and the extent,” Furman history professor Steve O’Neill ’82, Ph.D., co-chair of a school committee charged with acquiring information in preparation for the anniversary, said.

“He basically had a 63-page annotated bibliography of almost every episode involving African Americans, the decisions of the administration that had been made about African Americans, or where African Americans had been playing prominent roles.”

It’s fair to say, in fact, that without Neumann’s contribution a great deal of what Furman thought it knew about its integration past would be lost to history. Quite an accomplishment for a self-described 19th-century historian who had little advanced knowledge or interest in Furman desegregation until DebbieLee Landi, at the time the University’s Special Collections librarian and archivist, charged him with getting a few things together in the fall of 2013.

“One of the projects that she assigned me was to start researching the history of desegregation because she knew the anniversary was coming up,” Neumann said. “Being the person that I am, once I started doing that and reading these documents I got totally immersed in the story and was absolutely fascinated by it. I think DebbieLee was expecting maybe a 20-page source guide, and pretty soon I had 400 pages of notes.”

But what could possibly be so interesting? Furman had done the moral thing and admitted a black student. A half century later, the only thing left to do was exchange back pats at the fond memory. End of story, no?

No. The University’s road to desegregation was rife with potholes. There were boardroom battles and disagreements.

“Typically, the (story) that has been told in the past has been more of a celebration of desegregation commenting on everything that Furman got right. And in fairness, we did get a lot right. But I think it’s also important to look at both sides of the issue and see how we maybe didn’t always live up to our ideals and how going forward we can better meet those ideals,” Neumann said. “When I started to look at the documents I realized it wasn’t quite a conscious policy. It was more of this 10-year long struggle and debate, and on Furman’s part a lot of reluctance and resistance to do the right thing even as the federal government and Supreme Court were pushing schools to desegregate.”

Neumann said that while Furman administrators at the time were relatively progressive for the South they were far from leaders on this issue. Neither were students, who favored keeping desegregation by large margin into the 1960s. The true visionaries were the teachers.

“What I found was it started with the professors,” Neumann said. “The faculty in the late 1950s and the early 1960s realized, hey, we have to live up to justice and equality. Discrimination is wrong.”

Neumann felt so strongly about what he learned that he wrote a paper. On the same page is a link to a doctoral dissertation written by Courtney Tollison ’99, Ph.D., now an assistant professor of history at Furman.

Tollison’s paper was one of the first serious looks at Furman desegregation, and in some ways Neumann’s conclusions stand in contrast to hers. Neumann asserts the most important thing is having access to the information.

“One of the things I’m glad Steve O’Neill did with the desegregation project is he changed the wording of the project from a ‘celebration’ of desegregation to a ‘commemoration,’” Neumann said. “I think a celebration is emotional and uncritical, and while there is value to it, it doesn’t allow us to fully understand the complexities of an event…whereas a commemoration really allows you to engage with the event, ask difficult questions, accept difficult answers. It’s messier, but I also think it’s more meaningful.”

O’Neill, whose scholarly focus is the American South and South Carolina history, never taught Neumann, but he is the first to admit his contributions are just this side of invaluable.

“He started out as a research assistant but very quickly became a peer of mine. I just had to get out of his way, and he really did a remarkable job not only writing the piece that was published but in doing a whole bunch of other things that we had not anticipated in terms of tracking down photos, editing, and writing for the website,” O’Neill said. “His work on the calendar—it wouldn’t have been done without him. And I can say the same thing about the booklet . . . I knew that he was at the top of the list of history majors who graduated in 2013, but I was not prepared for the quality of work he was able to produce. And the final result really speaks for itself.”

Neumann will present his work both to Furman and the South Carolina Upcountry Museum in the coming months. He calls it an “immense honor,” which it is. It’s also a chance to use history to advance a future that clearly needs some more advancing in light of the racial tension that continues to plague America.

“It’s important to remember that hundreds of Furman students and professors wrote letters, gave speeches, and signed petitions in support of desegregation. And it’s important to remember that Furman desegregated peacefully and voluntarily, and against the wishes of the Southern Baptist Church,” he said. “But it’s also important to remember that Furman desegregated only once it had no other choice—once political and economic pressure made it unavoidable.”

An overnighter in the lab

Margaret McCurry ’18 donned a comfy pair of pajamas and settled in for the night. Other than her 13 hair “accessories,” she looked like a typical college freshman getting ready for bed.

It’s 11 p.m. and McCurry is feeling a little sleepy. “Do you think you might need another pillow?” she’s asked.

“That would be nice,” McCurry responded.

Her stylishly-decorated room could have come out of an Ikea catalog. But in this case, McCurry’s room and the matching room next door in Johns Hall are the hub of a new and ever-growing undergraduate research program at Furman University.

Psychology professor Erin Wamsley, Ph.D., is the driving force behind the new Sleep and Cognition Laboratory, which opened last May. Wamsley came to Furman last year from the faculty of the Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School, impressed by Furman as a liberal arts institution that is serious about undergraduate research.


Sleep and Cognition Lab coordinator Yvette Graveline connects electrodes to Ashton Nicewonger ’17

Furman students’ work at the sleep laboratory started with Wamsley’s first May Experience course, Electroencephalography (EEG) and Sleep Research Methods boot camp, three weeks of learning how to record EEGs, design a sleep study, and analyze data.

Six students, including four neuroscience majors and two Furman graduates, continued sleep research over the summer.

By this fall, more than 100 undergraduate students, mostly from Furman, had participated in sleep studies headed up by Wamsley and her team of researchers.

Since a third of a person’s life is spent sleeping, Wamsley is hoping to find questions to a host of questions about sleep and memory, including how memories are transformed during sleep, how emotion influences memory processing during sleep, and why and how the sleeping brain generates dreams.

She’s hoping to add more to the big picture of how human memory works, both long-term and short-term. “When you learn something, the life of a memory is not over,” she said.

Wamsley also hopes her research will assist in treating psychiatric disorders, since sleep is often disrupted in those diagnosed with depression, schizophrenia, or post-traumatic stress disorder.

One study, a collaboration with Robert Stickgold, a Harvard Medical School professor and the director of the school’s Center for Sleep and Cognition, looks at the effect of rest and sleep on human memory.

Evidence has shown that animals have replayed memories in their brains when they fall asleep, Wamsley said. The goal of the research project, funded through a grant from the National Institute of Mental Health, is to establish patterns of brain activity in humans that show this “reactivation” of memory.

Quiet rest, also called resting wakefulness, and its effect on memory was the focus of a second study, which included 26 participants. They each listened to a short story, immediately recalled everything they could remember about the story, and then spent the next 15 minutes either resting with their eyes closed or playing the computer game Snood.

Results of the study showed quiet rest led to greater improvement in memory, compared to staying in an active state with a computer game. “This study supports the hypothesis that even a short period of rest can support memory under optimal conditions,” according to results of the EEG study, which Furman students presented at a neuroscience research event in Washington, D.C., this fall.

“It is becoming increasingly clear that the so-called ‘resting’ brain is actually hard at work processing recent experience, integrating new memories into existing semantic networks and preparing us for the future,” Wamsley said.

Dozens of Furman students are participating in a third study that looks at how recent learning experiences are processed during sleep and incorporated into dreams.

For students volunteering to participate in the two-part study, their evening starts as 13 electrodes are applied using multi-colored wires: six on their head, one by each eye, two on the chin, one behind each ear, and one on the forehead.SleepStudy_021

Students then participate in cognitive tasks, including typing for a motor sequencing task, and then by playing a video game that asks them to navigate their way through a three-dimensional maze. The sleep lab “bedroom” is set up with typical bedroom furniture and decorations to make students feel as relaxed and comfortable as possible, Wamsley said.

Throughout the night, sleep lab coordinator Yvette Graveline monitors students’ brainwaves using polysomnography and may wake students up as many as 12 times to ask them to provide reports of what they are dreaming.

“This is the fun part. We’re going to let you fall asleep,” Graveline tells McCurry. “You’ll hear, Margaret, please report now. Describe as many details as possible of what you were thinking right before I wake you up—sounds, how you felt, people you saw, what things looked like.”

McCurry was excited to participate in the study, especially after studying about causes of stress in her Wellness Concepts class at Furman. “I’ve always had strange dreams regularly,” she said. “I hope I can gain some insight into what they mean or why they happen.”

The following morning, volunteers have their memory tested again.

Sleep studies have proven popular with both student volunteers and research assistants alike. Students receive $70 for participating in an overnight sleep study and $10 for assisting with the daytime study. There is currently a waiting list for volunteers, Wamsley said.

After spending the summer working at the EEG lab at the University of California, San Diego, neuroscience major Matt Whitmire ’15 of Fort Mill said he is thrilled to have a hands-on opportunity to explore his career interests in a very real way. He is working between 10 and 14 hours each week as a research assistant in the Sleep and Cognition Lab this year.

The skills learned in the Sleep and Cognition Lab—practicing analytical skills and solving problems in a team—are “essential preparation” for graduate school and medical school, Wamsley said.

“It’s a whole different side of the field,” said Whitmire, who plans to attend graduate school after Furman. “Furman has given me so many opportunities to go different places and do good work. It’s really going to help me with the career I’d like to pursue.”



New York Times columnist to speak at Furman

Ross Douthat (Susan Etheridge for The New York Times)

Ross Douthat (Susan Etheridge for The New York Times) 

Ross Douthat, op-ed columnist for The New York Times, will speak on the Furman University campus Tuesday, Jan. 27 at 5 p.m. in Burgiss Theater of the Trone Student Center.

His lecture, “The Futures of Christianity in 21st Century America,” is free and open to the public. It is co-sponsored by Furman’s College Republicans, Political Science Department, and the Tocqueville Program.

Douthat was the youngest op-ed columnist ever hired at The New York Times when he joined the paper in 2009.  Prior to that, he was a senior editor and blogger at The Atlantic.  He is the film critic for National Review and has also contributed to The Wall Street Journal, The Weekly Standard, GQ, Slate and other publications.

He is the author of several books, including Bad Religion: How We Became a Nation of Heretics and Privilege: Harvard and the Education of the Ruling Class.  He is also co-author, with Reihan Salam, of Grand New Party: How Republicans Can Win the Working Class and Save the American Dream.

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

Willis commits to Furman

austinAustin Willis, a three-time Georgia All-Star, has accepted a Furman Rugby Scholarship and has committed to attend the University.

Willis, son of Dr. Roger Willis and Dr.  Margaret Ellison, attends Woodward Academy and is a member of the Alpharetta Rugby Club, a three-time state champion. Willis plays scrumhalf and was named most valuable player for the 2013-14 season.

Willis attended the 2014 John Roberts Rugby Camp where he impressed Head Coach John Roberts.

“Austin is very mature for his age. He very quick, deceptive and has a great work pace and field presence,” says Roberts. “Moreover, he is very serious about his school work and will fit in nicely at Furman.”

Willis’s brother, Devon, is a sophomore at The Citadel where he plays in the Bulldog backline.

“As a student I am honored to be apart of such a prestigious university and as an athlete I am appreciative of the opportunity to play rugby for such a quality program like Furman’s,” said Willis. “Go Paladins!”

Willis is the first commitment to Furman’s third scholarship class. Since launching a scholarship program in 2012, Furman — a three-time D3 national champion, has emerged as one of the top D2 teams in the nation. Last fall, the Paladins captured the Southern Rugby Conference 15s Championship and were ranked  6th in the final national rankings.

“Our 2015 Class will be our strongest by far,” said Roberts. “Austin will be part of very special rugby class. I am looking forward to seeing him in purple.”


Riley Institute’s DLI draws praise

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.com

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.com

Dot Scott, president of the Charleston Branch NAACP, wrote an op-ed for The Post and Courier questioning the Charleston County School Board’s decision to not extend an Atlanta firm’s contract to create a diversity plan for the district. She suggested district officials could benefit from enrolling in the Riley Institute at Furman’s Diversity Leaders Initiative. As a member of the first Lowcountry class, Scott wrote that she “found the class training to be enormously beneficial and useful.”

ZTA becomes Furman’s eighth sorority


With less than 3,000 students, the words “too many” and “Furman” aren’t often found in the same sentence. So remember this day, both for its rarity and its fleeting status: Furman has too many women interested in joining a sorority, which is about to change thanks to the first addition to campus Greek life in more than two decades.

A vetting process that began in September culminated when Zeta Tau Alpha (ZTA) was selected by a panel of students, faculty, and staff to become Furman’s eighth sorority. ZTA joins charter Panhellenic Council chapters Alpha Delta Pi, Chi Omega, Delta Delta Delta, Delta Gamma, Kappa Delta, and Kappa Kappa Gamma as well as National Pan-Hellenic Council chapter Alpha Kappa Alpha.

Furman’s student body hasn’t grown appreciably since national organizations were permitted on campus following the University’s split from the Southern Baptist Convention in 1992, but the number of students interested being a part of them has. According to Cameron Smith, associate director for student activities and Greek Life advisor, in the fall of 2013 57.8 percent of Furman women were members of a sorority, and 51 percent of the student body as a whole was involved in Greek life (compared to around 21 percent nationally). The result is the existing chapters are bursting at the seams.

“We’re much higher than most campuses. We’ve experienced significant growth in our sorority community in the last 10 years. Our average chapter size has increased from the high 90s to 149 in last spring semester,” she said. “So the feeling is being in a group that’s supposed to create smaller community within the Furman community that’s 149 women isn’t really congruent with the rest of the Furman student experience.”

Called “opening for extension,” Furman started the process when it sent letters to the 20 national groups not represented on campus inviting them to apply for selection. Thirteen responded, which is one more than came to Furman back in ’94 when the ball first got rolling.

“(It’s) really incredible actually,” Smith said. “It says a lot about Furman. It says we’re the type of school that national organizations see as a good investment and they really want to be here.”

It also says ZTA hit a home run with its application to emerge from the original pool before being picked from a group of three finalists in late September. Courtney German ’15 currently serves as Furman’s Panhellenic Council president, and as a result, the Medford, N.J., native couldn’t vote on whether or not to select ZTA. But she was heavily involved in the process and knew right away ZTA would be a good fit on campus.

“I love their philanthropy. It’s breast cancer awareness and education,” she said. “We have awesome philanthropies in all of the sororities that we have, and that was something I really think they will be able to spread around Furman . . . ZTA seemed to be the total package for what Furman was looking for.”

One thing ZTA won’t be able to do, however, is immediately ease Furman’s sorority numbers crunch. As Greek chapter members know, once you’ve been initiated into one you can never be initiated in another. That means that ZTA at Furman will be made up of all new women, which presents a unique opportunity.

“ZTA brings the opportunity to make history—both at Furman and ZTA,” ZTA extension director Marlene Conrad said. “We are seeking freshmen, sophomores, juniors, and seniors who are looking for the opportunity to become a founding sister and to help us determine what ZTA will be known for at Furman. New members have the opportunity to become leaders within ZTA right away.”

Everything from chapter president to academic chair will be up for grabs when ZTA starts its “colonization recruitment” on Jan. 19, 10 days after recruitment for the other sororities on campus began, and the choices will be made within the first three weeks of ZTA officially joining Furman on Feb. 5. Initiation for new members will be in mid-April.

“We know that many groups were interested in becoming the newest sorority at Furman, and Zeta Tau Alpha is honored to have been selected as that group,” Conrad said. “Furman’s principles of Greek life align with our own values that we teach our new members during their seven-week new member program—namely, leadership, commitment, service to others, and academic achievement.  Furman has a strong reputation for recruiting the best and brightest students to campus, and the opportunity to be a part of this distinguished university was definitely appealing.”

Learn more about Greek Life at Furman.


The problem with grade inflation

grade-inflationAverage college GPAs in 2006 were much higher than they were in 1930, according to a study published in the Columbia University-based publication Teachers College Record. Stuart Rojstaczer, a writer and former science professor, co-authored the study with Furman computer science professor Christopher Healy.  Healy, who joined the Furman faculty in 1999, was quoted in an article in The Atlantic magazine about grade inflation and how it can ultimately undermine students’ achievement.

Art exhibition by Karina Noel Hean

9 a.m.-5 p.m., M-F, Jan. 14-Feb. 13, Thompson Gallery. Drawings by Hean on display.

Furman hosts annual Church Music Conference

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.com

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.com

Furman University will host its 2015 Church Music Conference on campus Thursday and Friday, Jan. 22 and 23.

The conference is open to the public. Registration for the two-day event is $70 prior to Jan. 16, and $90 after that date as space remains.

Founded in 1971, the Furman University Church Music Conference is made possible through a grant from the Thomson Foundation. Drawing church musicians from all over the Southeast, the conference features nationally known clinicians who present lectures and conduct workshops relating to the practice of church music.

Guest clinicians for this year’s conference are Dan Bara, Professor of Choral Music at the University of Georgia; Mary Louise (“Mel”) Bringle, Professor of Humanities at Brevard College (N.C.); and David Higgs, Professor of Organ at the Eastman School of Music, Rochester, N.Y.

Dan Bara oversees seven university choral ensembles and the graduate choral conducting program at the University of Georgia. In addition to the many regional and national awards and honors earned by his choirs, UGA Hodgson Singers last year won the Grand Prix at the International Choral Competition Ave Verum in Baden, Austria. Dr. Bara is a highly sought after guest conductor and clinician, having conducted all-state and honor choirs in 15 states and Carnegie Hall. He has served as clinician for conferences sponsored by national church music associations ACDA and AGO and other school and church music organizations.

Mary Louise (Mel) Bringle is Professor of Philosophy and Religious Studies and coordinator of the Integrated Studies major at Brevard College. The recipient of a generous grant from the Louisville Institute, Dr. Bringle is writing a book about one of the seven deadly sins. She is recognized as one of the finest hymn text writers of our time and her works are included in two single-author collections and in hymnals and supplements of numerous denominations in North America and Scotland. She recently served as President of The Hymn Society in the United States and Canada and as chair of the committee charged with creating a new hymnal (“Glory to God”) for the Presbyterian Church USA.

On Thursday, Jan. 22 at 8 p.m. in Daniel Chapel, the conference will feature a recital by acclaimed organist David Higgs, Professor of Organ at the Eastman School of Music. One of the nation’s leading concert organists, Higgs is an active performer nationally and internationally. His recital is part of a special series of organ concerts in 2014-15 which celebrates the 10th anniversary of the installation of Furman’s Hartness Organ, Opus 121 built by C.B. Fisk (Gloucester, Mass.). A renowned organ teacher as well as performer, Higgs will present a Friday morning master class in Daniel Chapel with Furman University organ students.

More information about the Church Music Conference may be found at this link. Or contact conference coordinator and University Organist Dr. Charles Tompkins at (864) 294-2969, or by email, charles.tompkins@furman.edu. The Furman Music Department may be reached at (864) 294-2086.