“The World According to Monsanto”: Le Centre Francophone brings the GMO debate to Webster


With Monsanto’s world headquarters in St. Louis, Webster University’s home campus is situated in the geographical center of contemporary debate surrounding the agribusiness practices which Monsanto has come to represent around the globe. On September 10, at 7:30pm, Webster will bring the debate directly to Winifred Moore Auditorium for a screening of the French documentary Le monde selon Monsanto (“The World According to Monsanto”), followed by a discussion with Monsanto representatives and biological sciences professor Mary Preuss. Webster French professor and director of Le Centre Francophone Lionel Cuillé will moderate alongside Valérie Martin, a Webster student double majoring in biology and French. The event is free and open to the public.

Monsanto may call the United States home, but the influence of their products – primarily genetically-modified seeds and agricultural herbicides – and of their business model reaches much of the developed world. France, in particular, has responded to this influence with opposition and has acted accordingly; this spring, the French ministry of agriculture banned the sale, use, and cultivation of Monsanto’s genetically-engineered corn. Ultimately, the French government plans to fight for European Union legislation which bans genetically-modified organisms (GMOs) from the EU altogether, maintaining that GMO crops present unacceptable environmental risks.

Lionel Cuille photo

Dr. Lionel Cuillé

Cuillé – Webster’s Bruce and Jane Robert Endowed Professor of French and a native of France – explains that French citizens often view Monsanto as “a multinational corporation that coerces farmers into using their genetically modified seeds.” As a regular reader of Le Monde, a French newspaper and one of the most highly-respected periodicals in the world, Cuillé says he sees Monsanto vilified in the French press all the time. The reasons for such opposition are, he says, complex and historically-rooted – “a defiance,” for example, “against a monopoly that [the French believe] would force French farmers to play by rules of an all-powerful corporation, bringing them back to a new form of medieval feudalism.”

Continue reading

“Facts all come with points of view – Facts don’t do what you want them to”: Dr. Christopher Parr Reflects on Ferguson

Photo courtesy of stlpublicradio.com

Webster students protest the death of Michael Brown at the Webster Groves campus on August 19. (Photo courtesy of stlpublicradio.com.)

Department of Religious Studies professor Dr. Christopher Parr joins Global Thinking for a guest post reflecting on the death of Mike Brown at the hands of a police officer in Ferguson, MO on August 9, 2014.

Dr. Chris Parr

Dr. Christopher Parr

Before anything else, and following the lead of Captain Ron Johnson of the Missouri Highway Patrol, it’s appropriate to express deepest condolences to the family of Michael Brown for the tragic loss of his life. When Captain Johnson, after being appointed by Governor Jay Nixon to lead the police response, began his introduction to the public with that compassionate thought, I was shocked to realize it was the first public gesture of commiseration with Michael’s family from any police leader – a full 5 days after Michael was shot. Why would such a simple human expression of concern, regret, empathy be such a long time coming?

In all the turmoil and conflicting stories that have jostled our days since August 9th, a few facts have remained unaltered: an 18 year old black male, unarmed and walking about a minute’s distance from his grandmother’s place, ended up shot dead in the street by six of the ten or more bullets fired at him by a white Ferguson police officer, where his body then lay for over four hours, uncovered for at least half of that time. The police officer has not been arrested, charged, or indicted for this shooting.

Complicated social issues such as policing and race relations strike some people as too difficult to address publicly. For me, this shooting and its aftermath appeared all too familiar, and not difficult to address at all. As soon as I heard the County Police Chief giving his hesitant half-coherent account of what had happened that Saturday, at odds in key places with what three other witnesses had already told reporters, I detected the predictable: police were laying the groundwork for an alternative narrative from that of witnesses to the shooting, one that would make the young black man the aggressor and the white officer the victim, despite the apparent murder that occurred.

Continue reading

Samantha Ross Receives German American Heritage Society Scholarship

Student Samantha Ross while on her study abroad experience at Webster's campus in Vienna

Student Samantha Ross while on her study abroad experience at Webster’s campus in Vienna

Congratulations are in order for Webster University junior Samantha Ross, whose essay on the importance of learning German won her the German American Heritage Society of St. Louis’s annual scholarship. Ross, who is studying at Webster’s campus in Vienna this semester, says she will use the $1500 to off-set the costs of housing while abroad.

Ross was encouraged to apply for the GAHS scholarship by Webster University professor Paula Hanssen, who teaches courses in German and German Studies in the Department of International Languages and Cultures.  Ross says she was “completely surprised” by the award, and is “thankful for the opportunity” to receive financial assistance in support of her German education.

According to the organization’s website, The German American Heritage Society is “dedicated to the preservation of the history and culture of our German forebears and to the promulgation of cooperation and understanding between Germany and the United States.  An objective of the organization is the establishment of archives at the St. Louis Public Library documenting the history of German-oriented families settling in St. Louis and surrounding areas.” The GAHS offers a scholarship yearly to students who wish to travel abroad to further their understanding of German language and culture. Students interested in applying for future GAHS scholarships should contact Dr. Hanssen at hanssen@webster.edu.

Webster Psychology Professor Linda Woolf Honored with APA Presidential Citation

WoolfAward_pic web

Webster psychology professor Linda Woolf received a Presidential Citation from American Psychological Association (APA) President Nadine Kaslow at the organization’s annual convention in Washington, DC on August 9, 2014. The citation – a rare honor awarded to only about 50 out of 130,000 APA members yearly – commends Woolf for “educating current and future generations about human rights through her scholarly teaching and writing, and for assisting APA in drafting and adopting policy resolutions that prohibit human rights abuses and protect the welfare of individuals in U.S. custody, most notably the comprehensive 2013 policy that reconciled seven earlier APA policies.”

Kaslow personally presented Woolf with the citation at a surprise ceremony at the APA convention. Woolf says she was “quite stunned and honored” by the recognition.

Dr. Linda Woolf

Dr. Linda Woolf

Woolf’s work to reform APA policies regarding the human rights of those in U.S. custody was also recognized earlier this year in a personal letter from Kaslow and Norman B. Anderson, APA CEO. “The work you did,” Kaslow and Anderson wrote, “was that of a scholar and committed activist. You represent the very best in our Association.”

Woolf attended the APA Annual Convention with Webster colleague and fellow psychology professor Michael Hulsizer. Together with Kathleen Dockett, a retired psychology professor from the University of the District of Columbia, Woolf and Hulsizer participated in a symposium titled “Social Responsibility: An Ethical Imperative for the 21st Century.” The symposium discussed the connection between social justice and the field of psychology as well as the need to incorporate explorations of social justice issues in the psychology classroom.

Woolf and Hulsizer also made a poster presentation titled “Teaching the Psychology of Political Violence: Genocide, Torture, and Terror” that provided fellow educators with ideas and resources for tackling the subject of political violence with college students.

The theme of social responsibility echoes in the work for which Woolf received her presidential citation and in each of the presentations with which she was involved this year at the APA convention.

Dr. Mike Hulsizer

Dr. Mike Hulsizer

“As psychologists,” she explains, “we not only endeavor to teach the science of psychology but also how that knowledge can be used to make the world a better place–a more socially responsible place. Social responsibility is so key to our profession that it is one of the primary learning outcomes, as defined by the American Psychological Association, for the undergraduate psychology degree.”

The ways in which psychologists engage with “diversity concerns; environmental sustainability; awareness about social oppressions associated with minority statuses; applications of psychologically based interventions to public policy and global concerns; and civic engagement,” Woolf says, make them “uniquely poised to prepare students to be effective and socially responsible professionals and global citizens.”

To support their colleagues in doing so, Woolf, Hulsizer, and Docketts’ presentations “highlighted methods to teach and foster social responsibility in our students on three levels: extracurricular, curricular, and within the classroom.”

Woolf begins her 28th year teaching psychology at Webster this week, and her fall teaching schedule includes a course on genocide, a political psychology course, and a course themed around the ideas of love and hate, demonstrating her continued dedication to bringing issues of social justice and ethics into her own classroom.

11 months and 5 Countries in the Making: The College Celebrates its 2014 Global Master of Arts Graduates

global grads cheer small

Global Master of Arts graduates at the 2014 Global Commencement ceremony in Washington, DC.

After spending the past year hopping between campuses and continents to earn their graduate degree, 31 students received their Global Master of Arts from the College of Arts & Sciences on Saturday, July 19 at the Global Commencement ceremony in Washington, DC. Four of those students are the first to earn the Global MA in International Nongovernmental Organizations – the College’s newest global program, piloted this year.

The 2014 Global Commencement ceremony is the first to take place in the United States, and it brought together international relations program directors and department heads from Webster’s campuses around the globe, as well as international relations faculty and College administrators from the home campus in St. Louis. Over 230 of the graduates’ family members and friends were also there to commend the class of 2014 for a degree well-earned.

Hannah Verity, Director of Global Programs for the College of Arts & Sciences, calls this graduating class a group of “truly outstanding scholars.”

“I have heard from multiple faculty who teach in the program that this year has had some of the brightest, most motivated students they have encountered yet,” Verity said, adding that her own observations have yielded the same impression.

Continue reading

Chemistry Student’s Research Honored at Regional Symposium


Chemistry student Zack Zurfluh-Cunningham (left) and classmate Devin Ericson with Zurfluh-Cunningham’s prize-winning undergraduate poster presentation.

Webster biology student Zack Zurfluh-Cunningham is taking his research out of the lab and on the road.

This summer, Zack and his undergraduate classmates Joseph Callahan and Devin Ericson joined chemistry professor Ryan Groeneman and researcher Eric Reinheimer on a trip to the 24th annual Midwest Organic Solid State Chemistry Symposium (MOSSCS), held at the University of Iowa in Iowa City, where they made a total of four presentations on their original research. Zurfluh-Cunningham won the prize for the best undergraduate poster presentation with his poster titled “Directing the Stereochemistry of a [2+2] Photoreaction within the Organic Solid State by Template Switching.” His work was recognized at the post-conference banquet, where he was presented with $100.

In his presentation, Zurfluh-Cunningham shared his research on how varying the template will control the stereochemistry of the photoproduct. If it sounds complicated, it’s because it is. But Zurfluh-Cunningham has a helpful analogy on hand: think of the reactant – the substance the researcher is trying to alter with the templates – as a cup of water.

“If you have a cup of water and heat it up,” he explained, “the water reacts one way by evaporating.  However, if you freeze that cup, the water reacts a different way by turning into ice. It’s still the same substance, just in a different form depending on what you applied to it.”

Dr. Ryan Groeneman

Dr. Ryan Groeneman

The results of his research are the fruit of collaborative efforts between he and Dr. Ryan Groeneman – efforts which Zurfluh-Cunningham describes as “mostly hands-on and experience oriented.” What he and Dr. Groeneman can accomplish together, he said, is greater than what either could do alone.

“The benefits of this type of collaboration is that we can do exceptional research,” he said. “When a professor works alone, he is limiting the amount of research he can accomplish in a given period of time. When a student works alone, they are limiting the type of research they can do due to their inexperience. However, when the two work together, there is more manpower to get work accomplished, and more knowledge and experience to keep the projects moving along.”

Dr. Groeneman said he is proud of the work his students have done and proud of their efforts to share their work in a professional context like the chemistry symposium. His students, he says, value the chance to do so:

“I think they really appreciate the opportunity to present research in a conference in the area that they study, and in front of fellow researchers who are well-versed in the area.”

Zurfluh-Cunningham agrees. While MOSSCS is the third convention at which he’s presented his research, it was the first convention where he found himself surrounded by fellow researchers who work in this specialized area of chemistry.

Devin Ericson and Zach Zurfluh-Cunningham

Zach Zurfluh-Cunningham (right) and Devin Ericson with a research presentation they gave at the Midwest Regional Meeting of the American Chemical Society last fall. (Read more here.)

“Because of that,” Zurfluh-Cunningham said, “many of the scientists there knew exactly what we [the student presenters] were talking about, and even gave positive feedback.”

Of course, being recognized for the quality of his research is nice, too:

“[The award] has given me value as an up-and-coming scientist. By having my name on publications, and having awards like this as proof, I am displaying my experience in research and making myself a better candidate for careers once I graduate.”

Dr. Groeneman expressed gratitude for the support of the dean’s office in helping make this year’s symposium part of his students’ Webster experience.

“Thanks to Dean Wilson’s contribution,” Dr. Groeneman said, “these students were able to afford conference registration and lodging fees for the symposium without having to dip into their own pockets.”

In fact, Zurfluh-Cunningham plans to use his $100 award money toward the cost of traveling to present at another convention in Columbia, Missouri this fall.

A student in Webster’s dual-degree program with Washington University, Zurfluh-Cunningham finished his three years at Webster this spring and will begin taking classes in Washington University’s chemical engineering program in August. Thanks to his Webster education, he feels more than prepared to make the transition:

“Not many schools give students the opportunity to do undergraduate research.  The fact that I have over one and a half years of experience and three presentations under my belt is remarkable and has proven to be an immensely beneficial experience.”

Dean, Faculty, and Directors Gather for International Relations Summit at Nation’s Capital

International Relations program faculty, directors, and department heads with Dean Wilson at the 2014 International Relations Summit.

International Relations program faculty, directors, and department heads with Dean Wilson at the 2014 International Relations Summit in Washington, D.C..

Faculty, directors, and department heads in Webster’s International Relations program gathered in Washington, D.C. yesterday for the first ever International Relations Summit. The Summit brought together IR leadership from across Webster’s global network to assess the program and collaborate on a unified vision for its development.

“The global reach of our international relations program and the quality of its faculty leadership are two of its biggest strengths,” said Dean David Carl Wilson, who also attended. “The summit provides a crucial opportunity for us to capitalize on those strengths as we plan for the program’s future.”

Webster offers undergraduate, graduate, and global graduate degrees in International Relations, and students can take IR classes at six of our worldwide locations, as well as many of our metro, military, and extended campuses. For more information about the program, visit Webster.edu/international-relations.

Students Present Original Research on Intimate Partner Violence at International Conference

Undergraduate students Michelle Bloyd-Fink (left) and Emily Mason (right) with their faculty research advisor Dr. Don Conway-Long (center) at "Taking the Lead," Webster's undergraduate research conference

Undergraduate students Michelle Bloyd-Fink (left) and Emily Mason (right) with their faculty research advisor Dr. Don Conway-Long (center) at “Taking the Lead,” Webster’s undergraduate research conference

Webster undergraduate students Michelle Bloyd-Fink and Emily Mason presented original research at the 31st Annual Qualitative Analysis Conference in London, Ontario on June 25, 2014. The conference’s theme for this year was “The Social Construction of Boundaries: Creating, Maintaining, Transcending, and Reconstituting Boundaries.” Alongside fellow scholars from around the world, Bloyd-Fink and Mason presented “Thought Pattern Changes in Participants of a Batterer’s Intervention Program” and shared their findings on the reconstruction of physical and emotional boundaries over time among men who batter, using data from their ongoing longitudinal study on thought patterns among Batterer Intervention Program (BIP) participants in St. Louis.

Bloyd-Fink, a double major in Sociology and Women and Gender Studies, and Mason, a double major in Psychology and Women and Gender Studies, began their research on intimate partner violence in January 2014, collecting data from male volunteers enrolled in the BIP program at RAVEN – a non-profit organization in St. Louis dedicated to domestic violence intervention and prevention services.

Men in the 48-credited-week program meet regularly with facilitators and fellow program participants for an education in non-violence. 95 percent of them are attending on a court mandate.

“Half the time they’re there, they’re challenging each other and the facilitators are challenging them on their belief systems and their behaviors, and then the other half [of the program] is spent on curriculum that explores issues like anger management, gender and oppression, and sexual violence,” Bloyd-Fink explained.

Continue reading

Undergraduate Legal Studies Program Ranked #5 in the Nation

Webster’s University’s undergraduate legal studies program has been recognized with a #5 ranking in TheBestSchools.org’ s list of “The 25 Best Bachelor in Legal Studies Degree Programs.” In support of Webster’s spot on the list, The Best Schools cites the program’s broad and comprehensive curriculum, as well as its faculty of “working industry professionals, many of whom are judges, practicing attorneys, prosecutors, public defenders, and paralegals.”

“I am glad to see our Department of Legal Studies recognized for the quality of its faculty and instruction,” said David Carl Wilson, Dean of the College of Arts & Sciences. “We have always been proud of the caliber of both professors and students in the program, and they deserve positive recognition.”

Webster’s Legal Studies program is the only American Bar Association-approved program currently accepting students in the greater St. Louis area.

For more information on the Department of Legal Studies, explore their website or connect with them on Facebook.

Nurse Anesthesia Department Receives Grant for Student Financial Aid

Thanks to a Nurse Anesthetist Traineeship grant from the US Department of Health and Human Services, Webster’s second-year nurse anesthesia students will receive approximately $1,500 each toward their tuition for the 2014-2015 academic year. The federal government has awarded Webster this grant annually since 1999.

Totaling $27,350 this year, the grant allows the Department of Nurse Anesthesia to provide some financial relief to students who have often put their professional lives on hold to complete Webster’s rigorous three-year program.

Nurse Anesthesia program coordinator Bethany Geisler also sees the grant’s value as more than monetary:

“The grant represents recognition for the hard work and effort the graduate students put forth in a demanding yet rewarding field.”

Grants officer Linda Dahlgren is responsible for preparing and submitting the grant application, as well as working with Geisler to report data on grant recipients back to the government. She too believes that the grant communicates a vital message to Webster’s future nurse anesthetists: that “what they are doing is important enough for the federal government to recognize and support them.”


Linda Dahlgren

A key part of the growing importance of MSNA graduates, Dahlgren explains, is their ability to act as a resource for regions classified as health professional shortage areas (HPSA) or medically underserved areas (MUA).

“MSNA graduates fill a vital need in the evolving landscape of healthcare delivery where growing numbers of surgical procedures are performed in doctor’s offices and in outpatient care facilities, especially in rural and underserved areas,” Dahlgren says.

Webster’s nurse anesthesia students perform clinical rotations in ten different areas, the majority of which are HPSAs and/or MUAs. Thus students learn to serve the needs of those populations while on rotation and are equipped to continue to do so after they graduate.

“Even before they have completed their degree,” Dahlgren says, “our students make meaningful contributions to the area in which they do their clinical rotations. It’s great that the university can support them this way.”

For more information on Webster’s Master of Arts in Nurse Anesthesia, visit the department website or contact department representative Gabbie Halley at ghalley54@webster.edu.