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Monday, June 29, 2015

Mastering the Obvious

Many of you know that I was born, raised, and currently live in Eau Claire, WI. This fact provides never-ending opportunities for my Minnesota-centric co-workers to give me a hard time about life over the border. I have endured painful references to my IQ dropping as I drive over the bridge into Hudson, heard inquiries about the amount of cheese that is clogging my arteries, and let’s not even talk about the per-capita-beer-consumption comparisons. In response, I take every opportunity to boast about the wonders of Wisconsin and the greater Eau Claire area in particular (Menard’s, Justin Vernon, and Bush’s Beans to name but a few).

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

South Carolina, Symbols, and Social Marketing

Last week while I was “mentally preparing” to write this opening column, I thought, “I need to reflect on something like social marketing or GIS mapping rather than writing once again about culture, race, microaggressions, or FD’s concerted efforts to reach underserved populations.”

And then Wednesday came. Officials reported that a white gunman killed nine black churchgoers at an African Methodist Episcopal church in Charleston, SC. I thought, “How can I not acknowledge and reflect on this heinous act?” No information helps me “make sense” of this act, but an article — The GOP's uneasy relationship with the Confederate flag from the Washington Post — helped me think of symbolism in our world that is all around us and the influence it has blatantly, subtly, and even unconsciously.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Design Your Difference

This week's columnist: Renee Obrecht-Como.

I associate this time of year in Family Development with planning. We are poised for a new University fiscal year, and the annual SNAP-Ed Plan comes due. This year, we also have a five-year plan for EFNEP in progress. It’s an exciting time, when the focus is on our hopes and dreams for the coming year’s work.

With this frame, a piece from the CBS Sunday Morning news show a couple of weeks ago, Designs That Make a Difference, struck me. It was all about functional, beautifully designed pieces used by people living on limited financial resources. In one example, Yves Behar, a prominent industrial designer, described one of his proudest achievements: $5 eyeglasses that are worn by millions of Mexican schoolchildren who cannot afford glasses at a retail price. The children already had glasses, handed out by the government. However, the children were not wearing those glasses because of their unfashionable design. The new glasses are not only functional (rugged, able to withstand high levels of distortion), but they are also stylish, with multiple colors and shapes.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Indignities and Insults: Racial Microaggressions

Have you ever attended a conference where, when someone asks you afterward “What did you learn?” you drew a blank? Such was not the case with the Children, Youth, and Families at Risk (CYFAR) conference I attended in Washington, D.C. last week. Conference planners, led by our own Lynne Borden, department head of Family Social Science, tapped Caprice D. Hollins, Psy.D. from Cultures Connecting to provide content training.

In Dr. Hollins’ breakout session, she cited Derald Sue’s seminal work “Racial Microaggressions in Everyday Life.” Dr. Sue defines racial microaggressions as “brief and commonplace daily verbal, behavioral, or environmental indignities, whether intentional or unintentional, that communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative racial slights and insults toward people of color.”

Monday, June 8, 2015

Word Matters: Bringing the 'I' to Your Writing

One of my favorite writers on writing, William Zinsser, died last month at the age of 92. Zinsser was a big advocate of clarity, simplicity, and brevity. "There's not much to be said about the period except that most writers don't reach it soon enough," he wrote in his classic book on non-fiction writing, "On Writing Well." (That book has sold more than 1.5 million copies since its publication nearly 40 years ago.)

But Zinsser also advocated injecting the personal in non-fiction writing. Not in a self-indulgent or excessive way, but in a way that makes your writing authentic and memorable. He called it bringing the "I" to your writing.
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