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Two UW-Madison Professors Investigate Childhood Trauma Effects

“‘It’s not that people are overtly deciding to take these negative risks, or do things that might get them in trouble… It may very well be that their brains are not really processing the information that should tell them they are headed to a bad place, that this is not the right step to take.'”

Seth Pollak, a UW-Madison psychology professor has spent years studying the effects of stress on children.

Adults who endured high levels of stress within their childhood have difficulty reading signs of potential punishment or loss, which makes them vulnerable to certain avoidable health, legal, and financial problems.

According to a study conducted by researchers at UW-Madison, this problem may in fact be biological, stemming from certain inactivity in the brain where a situation should be triggering awareness.

This discovery may help educate at-risk youth to avoid risky situations.

Pollak and an additional UW-Madison psychiatry Professor Rasmus Birn conducted an experiment with 50 people aged 19 to 23. These participants participated in a previous study with Pollak when they were 8 years old. The participants were those who endured high stress levels as children, such as parents killed by gunfire or substance abuse, maltreatment, and foster home placements.

The study was conducted by two UW-Madison professors. (Photo by Jeff Miller / UW-Madison)

The participants were put through several tasks while their brain functionality was measured for activity areas of loss, risk, and reward in the brain.

Results showed that high childhood stress participants were less attentive to a potential loss situation than the low childhood stress group, and were more stimulated by losses. The high-stress childhood group also reported more risky behaviors- smoking, not wearing a seatbelt in a car, or texting while driving- compared to low stress participants.

To the researchers’ surprise, it was solely the participants’ childhood stress level, and not the stress in their current lives, that was a predictor of their abilities to identify potential losses or avoiding risky behaviors.

“’So many of our behavioral interventions are predicated on the idea that people will understand there’s a sign they’re about to be punished,’” Pollak said. “’Maybe we need to rethink some of those things.’”

The researchers plan to further investigate their findings and continue researching this topic.

“’Now that we have this finding, we can use it to guide us to look at specific networks in the brain that are active and functionally connected,’” Birn said. “’We may find that childhood stress reshapes the way communication happens across the brain.’”

Gillian Keebler
Student Assistant, Go Big Read Office

Panel of UW-Madison Experts to Speak Next Week

Clear your schedules… on October 9th at 7:00 p.m., UW-Madison’s Go Big Read Program will host a Panelist discussion of themes and contemporary issues discussed within Hillbilly Elegy.

The event will take place in Memorial Union Theater at Shannon Hall. Doors will open at 6:30 p.m.

Both UW-Madison students and Madison community members are welcome! The event will be open to the public, and no ticket is required to attend the event.

The panel will first discuss common themes within the book that are also current issues in society, such as poverty, childhood development, drug addiction, and trauma. A Q&A session will follow the panel discussion.

Copies of Hillbilly Elegy were distributed at Freshman Convocation. CC Image Courtesy of Jeff Miller.

The panel of UW-Madison experts consist of political science Professor Kathy Cramer, who will tackle politics and cultural anger revolving around common themes within Hillbilly Elegy. Family Medicine Assistant Professor Aleksandra Zgierska, whose research focuses on opioid addiction and treatment will cover those topics. Professor Dr. Katherine Magnuson  will discuss stress and poverty within childhood development.  Professor Russ Castronovo will then mediate a question and answer session with the audience and panel members.

Can’t make it? Don’t worry. The entire event will also be livestreamed through the Go Big Read website. There will also be live commentary from the Go Big Read Twitter account.

Go Big Read logo.

You can find more information about the event on the UW-Madison news page. 

Gillian Keebler
Student Assistant, Go Big Read Office

Gentrification – Consequences, Impacts, & Eviction

For a background on the themes discussed in this article, check out Part I of this two part series on gentrification, Gentrification – Understanding & Context.

The Ongoing Debate Over Gentrification

The implications of gentrification—rising housing costs and changes in neighborhood culture—have a range of impacts for those it affects, and it is often very difficult to determine if gentrification is good or bad. Often the positive effects of revitalizing poor neighborhoods exist alongside the negative, and this is where the surrounding gentrification originates.

There are many positives from gentrification: the rising popularity of a neighborhood increases amenities, with additions of modern green spaces, remodeled subway stations, and essential community centers, like libraries and recreational facilities. Heightened popularity and surging demand for housing also raises property values, augmenting overall neighborhood wealth. Meanwhile, hype attracts more stably-employed and better-educated residents, increasing the quality of local schools, reducing crime, and increasing the tax base, further allowing beautification projects and educational investment. These are wonderful assets for neighborhoods that have often struggled with securing a strong tax base, that have failed to provide basic infrastructure to residents, and that have struggling public school systems.

In recent years, the Lower East Side of New York has gentrified dramatically. The area now features a whole foods and many trendy restaurants and coffee shops.

In recent years, the Lower East Side of New York has gentrified dramatically. The area now features a Whole Foods and many trendy restaurants and coffee shops. CC Image courtesy of David Shankbone on Wikimedia Commons.

However, all these benefits are also offset by a slew of downsides. Primarily of concern is the increase in property value seen with gentrification. These rising property values often set off a chain reaction of negative consequences for the neighborhood’s original residents. With drastic changes in home values, neighborhoods become less and less affordable for their long-term residents with spiking rents; meanwhile, increasing property values may tax-out homeowners with limited incomes. Pushed out of their own neighborhood, former residents—those that made the neighborhood so desirable and culturally distinct in the first place—move out, relocating to areas without community ties and support. In these more affordable neighborhoods, there may be heightened crime rates and other societal ills, leaving former residents with a reduced quality of life. Furthermore, with their displacement, the modern amenities and reduction in crime seen in their former neighborhood are left to be enjoyed by those who gentrified the area. Although some may argue that gentrification helps the “ghetto”, those who resided there fail to even profit from the positive aspects of gentrification. Simultaneously, the process also leads to an indisputable degradation in culture, tearing intricate and culturally distinct communities apart. As new groups flood in, the old guard is exiled with increasing property values, taking their cultural uniqueness with them. The irony here is that those who created the “hip neighborhood” to begin with—the community that so many gentrifiers “appreciated” for its particular uniqueness—leave, taking their culturally distinctive characteristics with them. All that is left behind is the culture of the gentrifiers themselves.

Clearly these complex consequences of gentrification, both positive and negative, add a layer of intricacy to the discussion. However, the debate is especially complicated and heated because of the impossibility of separating issues of race and class from the process. It is the wealthy, and typically white, that flock into the neighborhoods of the moment, dislocating low-income, long-standing residents, usually immigrants and people of color. Given the economic and racial implications of gentrification, as one writer stated, perhaps arguments and discussions about gentrification are really “about who deserves to live in a city” and who does not (Kelefa Sanneh, The New Yorker).

The complexities of race, class, and ethnicity add a particular intensity to the topic and are imperative to consider during debate.

Gentrification in Madison

These issues have been raised and contemplated here in Madison, WI. During my time in Madison, several new luxury apartment buildings have been constructed, including Hub Madison, The James East, Ovation 309, and other sparkling properties around the capitol. In 2013 alone, there were “$347 million worth of new development in the city of Madison” and “nearly two-thirds, some $223 million, [were] apartment projects”(Mike Ivey, The Cap Times). These figures are astounding considering that in St. Paul, Minnesota’s 2nd ward, which is similar in composition to Madison’s downtown area, there was only $91.4 million worth of total development in the same year (Pioneer Press). Thus, the sudden large supply of luxury rentals in a concentrated area of downtown seems a bit concerning. And, the price of these new rentals is astounding, especially considering that Madison is a city that is distinctively populated by college kids and lower- and middle-class locals.

The view down University Ave. in Madison before the construction of Hub Madison and The James East.

What is driving this residential development? With the influx of increasingly well-employed young professionals into the Madison area, especially with the recent shift of the region to a tech and start-up hub with the likes of EatStreet and Epic calling the Madison area home, there has been increasing demand for downtown housing. With well-educated and well-funded young professionals seeking access to nightlife, work, and leisure in “hip” neighborhoods, areas like Willy Street, Tenney-Lapham, North-East Campus, and East Washington Street have become increasingly popular (Mike Ivey, The Cap Times). And like with most cases of gentrification, the increased demand for residences in these neighborhoods has been driving monetary and cultural change in these regions.

Epic Systems has been hiring many young professionals who are seeking residences in the downtown Madison area. CC Image courtesy of Mandy Aalderink on Wikimedia Commons.

Property values and rents have been rising in the downtown area and many advocates are concerned that these changes will begin to push longtime residents out. For instance, a recent draft report from Madison’s Housing Strategy Committee has found that “as rents rise and vacancy rates fall, even moderate-income households are [now] being priced out of Madison’s rental market.” It states that “nearly half of Madison renters are now considered ‘housing cost burdened,’ meaning they are paying more than 30 percent of their monthly income to their landlord” (Mike Ivey, The Cap Times). With rising rent burdens, many lower-income renters may have to look outside their neighborhoods for more affordable options as young professionals flood in. For instance, single mother Life Hardyman is concerned she will be unable to find an affordable home in her former neighborhood after a brief absence from the city—her previous apartment’s rent had inflated over $300 since she first moved to Williamson Street several years ago (Nathan J. Comp, The Isthmus). These steep increases in rent may push many out of their original neighborhoods.

At the same time, the cultural uniqueness of the hip and now gentrifying areas are at stake with cost spikes. In the Willy Street neighborhood, long-term residents speak of the demographic shift that is coupled with the area’s gentrification. Now Willy Street is “so desirable it’s become dominated by white, educated, alternative-types with means” and “[it’s] morphing into a socioeconomic mono-culture” (Nathan J. Comp, The Isthmus). Others have concerns over Madison’s State Street area, where gritty college locales have been increasingly replaced with minimalist store fronts, trendy coffee shops, and expensive grab-and-go restaurants.

The pricing and cultural shift in Madison is concerning, however, many of these changes have also brought positives into the neighborhoods. Violent crimes are down to their lowest level in 15 years, with only 209 crimes per 100,000 persons (US News). Amenities have increased, like a new central public library and spacious grocery stores. State Street and East Campus Mall are cleaner and more modern. The benefits are astounding.

Yet, we must ask the question, who is benefiting from these developments? Long-term or new residents?

San Francisco’s Mission District attracted young professionals in the last 10 years with its funky murals and distinct culture. CC Image courtesy of Jay Galvin on Flickr.

Gentrification & Eviction

It is integral to consider how gentrification and its consequences may impact eviction rates. Although evictions have remained relatively constant in Madison despite rent increases, an article published by the New York Times found that nationwide, evictions soar with rent increases. For instance in San Francisco, despite being under rent control, rents in the gentrifying Mission District have ballooned. Studios are going for nearly $3,000 a month; one bedrooms for nearly $4,000 (Carol Pogash, The New York Times). At the same time Mission District eviction rates have spiked and many locals were forced to relocate. On the Anti-Eviction Mapping Project‘s graphic of San Francisco evictions, the Mission District is in red—the worst.

In Milwaukee, where this year’s Go Big Read text, Evicted, is focused, gentrification, and thus rent hikes, are occurring as well. These cost changes may be contributing to evictions. From 2010 to 2013, evictions increased 10% in the city (Shaila Dewan, The New York Times) while 12.1% of the city’s lower tracts gentrified (Joe Peterangelo, Public Policy Forum Blog). Given that gentrification and eviction disproportionately affect lower-income neighborhoods, it seems convincing that the rise in evictions and the simultaneous gentrification of low income regions are related. Although Milwaukee’s rate of gentrification is minimal in comparison to figures seen in other major cities, it does give cause for concern if the trend continues gaining momentum.

Milwaukee’s Bayview neighborhood has gentrified in recent years. CC Image courtesy of Fox6 Milwaukee on Flickr.

Conclusion

Obviously gentrification is a complex issue in American cities today. It is important to consider the many intricacies of the matter and discuss the topic with an open mind as it continues to occur throughout our diverse neighborhoods.

 

Morgan Olsen

Student Assistant, Go Big Read Office

Art and Go Big Read: How Curriculum, Creativity, and Evicted Intersect on Campus

This week Wisconsin School of Business students and the Go Big Read program partnered to harness art as a means to further investigate the ideas presented in Go Big Read social justice texts. The result was 20 unique pieces of art, aimed to address social issues.

LEAD students creating their prints in Wheelhouse Studios.

LEAD students creating their prints in Wheelhouse Studios.

LEAD focused on printmaking as a way of securing social change, in partnership with the Go Big Read program

LEAD focused on printmaking as a way of securing social change.

Students part of the LEAD Course: Principles in Leadership, Ethics, Authenticity, and Development (an introductory program for freshman students directly admitted to the Business School) throughout the  semester have “engaged in social entrepreneurship projects aimed at helping solve societal problems” (Angela Richardson, Program Coordinator). One of the main focuses of the course was the integration of Go Big Read texts Just Mercy and Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City.

Art created by LEAD students in partnership with the Go Big Read Program.

Art created by LEAD students.

Reading these texts as part of their curriculum, students were asked throughout the semester “to make an effort to identify the major themes and important takeaways” of the books, as they related to social justice and inequalities (bus.wisc.edu). Noting striking statistics, imagery, and more, “the information [students] gathered and the ideas they generated were then used as inspiration” for the artistic project.

Earlier this week, in Memorial Union’s Wheelhouse Studios, all this prep and brainstorming came to fruition. Drawing on inspiration from historical and current social justice movement posters and evoking their own knowledge from the texts, all 120 students implemented their creativity, collaboratively hand-making 20 beautiful posters.

The project not only allows “students to practice a set of skills that are useful in both business and in life – collaboration, analysis, communication, leadership, creative thinking, and empathy, among others [–]” but, it also gives first year students the opportunity to grapple with challenging social issues like mass incarceration and housing instability in American today.

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Art created by LEAD students in partnership with the Go Big Read Program.

Furthermore, “by working together in small groups to design and create their own posters, they add their voices to the on-going dialogue around these issues”, contributing to a more aware and concerned campus community (bus.wisc.edu).

We are eager to see what the next set of LEAD students creates in partnership with the Go Big Read program!

 

Morgan Olsen

Student Assistant, Go Big Read Office

International Women’s Day Event on 3/7/2015

University of Wisconsin-Madison librarian Emilie Songolo and AFRICaide are hosting an International Women’s Day event March 7th at Christ Presbyterian Church from 11:00-4:00 p.m.

The purpose of the even is to bring together women of all backgrounds to celebrate International Women’s Day. The theme this year is “Make It Happen!” Many people, organizations and institutions have been engaged in improving the lives of women locally, nationally, and internationally. They work in areas such as economic development, community development, education, health, science and technology, politics and government, the arts, and women’s empowerment. We would like to come together to celebrate their work, encourage others, and plan ways for improving the lives of women all over the world. We will also make items to donate to local communities.

You can find more information about the event here: Event Information

Watch and interview about the event below.

“Empowering Women and Girls around the Globe” Panel Discussion

Our four panelist– AraceliLearn

how local access to information is critical to improving the lives of women and
girls in South Africa, Kenya, Nicaragua, and rural China. How Libraries and Information
Services are Empowering Women and Girls around the Globe
is
a free public event on Tuesday
evening, February 10 from 6:00–7:30 p.m. in 460 Memorial Library, 728 State
Street
.

Alonso, Lisa Ebert, Louise Robbins and Karla Strand — will talk about
their work in other countries. This event is part of the “Go Big Read”
community reading program which this year features the book, I am Malala, the true story of the
youngest Nobel Peace Prize winner. Light refreshments will follow the panel
discussion. This event is sponsored by the Friends of the UW – Madison
Libraries, Office of the Gender & Women’s Studies Librarian, Department of
Gender and Women’s Studies and the Go Big Read program.

Araceli Alonso is an Associate Faculty at UW-Madison in the
Department of Gender and Women’s Studies and the School of Medicine and
Public Health. Dr. Alonso is also the Founder and Director of Health by
Motorbike (HbM), a nonprofit that provides medical services and health literacy
to women and girls from remote and isolated villages in Africa. For her
work with women’s health and women’s rights in rural Kenya, in 2013 Dr. Alonso
received two of the world most prestigious awards—the United Nations Public Service
Award and the Jefferson Award for Public Service.

Karla Strand directs the Office of the Gender & Women’s Studies
Librarian for the University of Wisconsin System, the premier resource for the
support of gender and women’s studies scholarship and librarianship. Prior to this, she was employed at
Carroll University where she served as Diversity Librarian and Associate
Director. Strand is currently completing her doctorate in Information
Science via the University of Pretoria in South Africa where she is researching
how public librarians in KwaZulu-Natal province can help alleviate information
inequality in their communities.

Nikumbuke Library Patron

While
completing her master’s degree in Community and Organizational Leadership, Lisa
Ebert went to Nicaragua through the Wisconsin/Nicaragua Partners program, part
of the nationwide Partners in the America organization established by President
Kennedy. Her Nicaraguan experience changed Ms. Ebert’s focus for her master’s
program to women’s empowerment issues and more specifically to how the
Wisconsin/Nicaragua Partners organization helps to empower women who
participate in their Learning Centers. She has returned to Nicaragua two
additional times.

Louise S.
Robbins is Professor and Director Emerita of the School of Library and Information
Studies of the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She has also taught library
courses at universities in China, Korea, Japan, and Kyrgyzstan. Since 2006,
Robbins has been involved with the Evergreen Education Foundation, which
provides various kinds of assistance to schools and public libraries in rural
China.
The event sponsors and panelists also encourage you to read the remarkable
story of Malala Yousafzai in this year’s Go Big Read book, I Am Malala.
When the Taliban took control of the Swat Valley in Pakistan, Malala refused to
be silenced and fought for her right to an education.
More
information about the event can be found on the event calendar and at the Friends of the Library.

Woven Gardens of Hope: Afghan Women’s Carpets Exhibit

 

The Woven Gardens of Hope: Afghan Women’s Carpets Exhibit opens today at the Helen Louise Allen Textile Collection in Nicholas Hall. The exhibition highlights a community-based program to empower Afghan women through weaving of carpets following centuries-old techniques to create a sustainable quality of life for their families. Their carpets will be shown within the context of historic carpets and textiles from this region and culture, extending a past tradition into the present.

The gallery is free and open to the public. The exhibit will be open from January 23rd through March 1st and will have five featured events during that time. The first featured event is an opening ceremony this Sunday, January 25. To learn more visit the exhibit’s site here

Go Big Read seeks titles focused on inequality in America for 2015-2016 program

Have you read any great books lately? Do you think something you’ve read would make a great Go Big Read selection? Let us know! For the 2015-2016 academic year, we are seeking books with a focus on inequality in America:

America is often billed as a land of opportunity, but for many people there are barriers to accessing education, getting out of poverty, seeking justice and more.    

“The Go Big Read program will provide a communitywide opportunity to further discuss the ways in which unequal opportunities affect our society and impact our relationships with one another.”  -Rebecca Blank  

If you’ve recently read something that engages with the theme of inequality in America, we want to hear about it. The deadline to submit books for consideration is January 30, 2015, and we are accepting both fiction and non-fiction nominations. You can use this form to nominate titles, and read more about our selection criteria here, and also see if your favorite title is on our running suggestion list.

We can’t wait to hear from you!

Spring Course Sign Up

Faculty and Staff, are you considering using this year’s Go Big Read book “I Am Malala” in your spring course? To arrange free books for your students, fill out the web form here.
Malala Yousafzai made history this fall when she became the youngest winner of the Nobel Peace Prize. Malala’s activism and rousing speeches are a source of inspiration to students across campus. Malala’s book has sparked deep and engaging conversations across campus about religion, education, and culture. Examples include the event, “Breaking Stereotypes: Women in Islam” hosted by the Muslim Students Association and the event “Embattled Ideologies: I Am Malala and the Question of Women’s Education in Islam” hosted by the Lubar Institute for the Study of the Abrahamic Religions. You won’t want to miss the chance to include your students in these important conversations. 

Using Our Stories for a Cause: UW-Madison Students Speak Out

Malala Yousafzai is a model for young speakers and activists all over the world. Here in Madison, other young people are using their own life stories to promote social causes that matter to them. In this showcase event on Dec. 3rd, UW students from the Communication Arts 181 honors public speaking course will speak on a variety of topics that have impacted them, their families, and other folks on campus in a personal way.
Topics will include: combating water scarcity, revising anti-bullying campaigns, getting a regular full night’s sleep, promoting rail transport, preventing teen dating violence, supporting athletics, and more.
This event is free and open to the public. The event is Wednesday, Dec. 3rd, 6:00-7:30 pm, in 4070 Vilas Hall.