Political Science Professor Sees Oman’s Significance to U.S. Foreign Policy During Middle East Fact-Finding Trip

Hollins University Professor of Political Science Ed Lynch recently traveled with seven other American academics to the Middle East nation of Oman as part of a trip sponsored by the National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations (NCUSAR).

Lynch, who was selected as an Oman Alwaleed Fellow by NCUSAR in July, journeyed to the Omani cities of Muscat, Nizwa, and Salalah, August 13 – 23.

Lynch said the trip highlighted the importance of Oman to U.S. foreign policy, especially in the wake of the proposed nuclear deal with Iran. “The first contacts between the Obama Administration and the government of Iran occurred because the Omani government was able to talk to both sides and get them together,” Lynch said. “This is a part of the story that the U.S. media is not telling.”

Oman’s foreign policy is based on the principle of “friend to all, enemy to none.” Its leadership has been particularly friendly to the U.S. government. Lynch was told by one U.S. official, “There isn’t much that we ask of the Omanis that they don’t provide.” Lynch added that Oman’s actions were instrumental in all but destroying the threat of piracy from Somalia.

Lynch emphasized that Oman’s friendship is crucial to American consumers: 60 percent of the world’s oil flows through its territorial waters. “Any serious upheaval in Oman could result in the return of $4 or $5 gas in the U.S.,” he explained.

The trip also made it clear to Lynch that this U.S. ally will potentially be in great trouble in the near future. The long-time Sultan is elderly and in ill health. He has no children or brothers and has not named a successor.

At the same time, Oman finds itself in a difficult position in between mortal enemies Saudi Arabia and Iran. A civil war in Yemen threatens Oman’s southern province. While spared the violence and upheaval of the Arab Spring so far, Lynch said Oman’s future is far from clear.

Founded in 1983 and based in Washington, D.C., NCUSAR  is an American non-profit, non-governmental, educational organization dedicated to improving American knowledge and understanding of the Arab world. Hollins will continue its relationship with the organization this fall when the university hosts the Appalachian Region Model Arab League, November 6 – 8.

Photo caption: Professor of Political Science Ed Lynch meets with  H.E. Mohamed Al Hassan, Chief of Minister’s Office, Oman Ministry of Foreign Affairs.


Senior Receives Distinguished Student Researcher Award

In recognition of the exceptional environmental research she performed while studying abroad during the spring of 2015, The School for Field Studies (SFS) has presented its Distinguished Student Researcher Award to Kayla Deur ’16. She was recognized for the research project she conducted at the SFS Center for Mekong Studies in Cambodia.

Each year, the SFS honors a student from the Center who has demonstrated extraordinary skill in contributing to the Center’s research agenda, as evidenced by their Directed Research (DR) paper, oral presentations, and approach to the research project. The award not only cites excellence and diligence in research, but also teamwork and leadership shown during the semester. Outcomes of the projects provide information and recommendations to community members and other stakeholders on critical, local environmental issues.

Deur explored the usage of traditional medicine on a household level, as well as how traditional knowledge is being transmitted cross-generationally and spatially across village domains. According to Lisa Granese, SFS vice president for enrollment and institutional relations, “Her work provides a sound foundation for future research at the Center, and Professor Lisa Arensen, Deur’s DR advisor, comments that her project ‘is an impressive example of undergraduate research.'” Through her work, Deur contributed to a growing list of plants that were indicated as medicinally important by locals.

SFS creates transformative study abroad experiences through field-based learning and research. Its educational programs explore the human and ecological dimensions of the complex environmental problems faced by its local partners, contributing to sustainable solutions in the places where people live and work. The SFS community is part of a growing network of individuals and institutions committed to environmental stewardship.


Hollins Research Featured in New Book by Leading Authority on Treating Mood, Sleep Problems

chronotherapyA Hollins University research study focusing on the treatment of seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is highlighted in an acclaimed new book that offers clinically proven ways to improve your mood and help you get a good night’s sleep.

Chronotherapy: Resetting Your Inner Clock to Boost Mood, Alertness, and Quality Sleep is co-authored by Michael Terman, Ph.D., director of the Center for Light Treatment and Biological Rhythms at Columbia University Medical Center. Terman and his work have been featured on NBC’s The Today Show and NPR’s All Things Considered as well as in The New York Times and Psychology Today, and Chronotherapy is earning praise from clinicians for the scientific insights and treatments it shares. Josephine Arendt, Ph.D., M.D., a chronobiologist and endocrinologist, calls it “essential reading for anyone with persistent sleep problems” and Norman E. Rosenthal, M.D., author of Winter Blues and Transcendence, says, “Chronotherapy is a timely and valuable book, packed with information that can help just about anybody.”

Chronotherapy cites a two-year investigation by faculty members and students from Hollins’ departments of psychology, biology, and physics into the effects of negative air ions on SAD, blood oxygen, and pulse rate. Professors Randall Flory, Bonnie Bowers, Morgan Wilson, Rebecca Beach, and Marshall Bartlett, and psychology majors Chesley Ammerman ’13, Rachel Cohen ’12, Kristen Jones ’11, Katherine Rediske ’11, Lauren Staley ’11, and Gennesis Zuleta ’13 found that “exposure to high-density negative ions is more effective in alleviating the symptoms of SAD (depression, irritability, social withdrawal, daytime fatigue, and loss of concentration) than is exposure to low or near-zero levels of negative air ions,” corroborating previous studies conducted by Flory and colleagues in 2010 and Terman in the 1990s.

The book profiles a Hollins student who participated in one of the study’s clinical trials. The student said she had always struggled during the winter months with a lack of energy and motivation and was asked by Flory to take part after he reviewed her score on a campus-wide SAD survey.

The student spent an hour each morning sitting in front of an ion generator and after the sessions, “I had this energy….I didn’t feel like sleeping in class.” She quit using the device after the study ended and the following winter once again began experiencing the same energy deficit. Despite being “a poor graduate student,” she bought an ionizer.  “I wouldn’t have spent a hundred and fifty to two hundred dollars on it if I didn’t think it worked. I felt I had really seen the results. I use it in the winter all the time….I don’t see how I wouldn’t use it as I go on….”

In the preface to the book, Terman and co-author Ian McMahan, Ph.D., state, “We are grateful to many colleagues who collaborated in research and offered their insights for our book,” including Flory.

Chronotherapy is published by the Penguin Group.


Professor’s Study Suggests Background TV Harms Toddlers’ Language Development

pempekA new study co-authored by a Hollins University professor indicates that the presence of background television adversely impacts the development of children’s language skills.

Assistant Professor of Psychology Tiffany Pempek and fellow researchers Heather Kirkorian and Daniel Anderson conducted the study, “The Effects of Background Television on the Quantity and Quality of Child-directed Speech by Parents,” which was published in the Journal of Children and Media June 11. Parents of toddlers aged 12, 24, and 36 months were observed interacting with their children while they played during a 60-minute session. For half of that time, a TV program consisting of content designed for older children and adults played in the background. While the TV was on, the quantity of words and phrases spoken as well as the number of new words spoken by the parents was lower than when the TV was off.

Given that child language development and language used by parents are fundamentally linked, the study suggests that prolonged exposure to background TV has a negative influence. Since American children under 24 months have been found to watch an average of 5.5 hours of background TV per day, the effect may be significant.

“Our new results, along with past research finding negative effects of background TV on young children’s play and parent-child interaction, provide evidence that adult-directed TV content should be avoided for infants and toddlers whenever possible,” said Pempek. “Although it is impractical and probably not desirable for parents to play with their young child all the time, children do benefit greatly from active involvement by parents during play. Ideally, parents should play with their child without the distraction of TV in the background.”

The American Academy of Pediatrics continues to warn against media exposure for children under two years of age. While foreground media exposure has been the focus of previous guidelines, the potential harm as well of background exposure, a form of media which parents may not be aware has any effect on their child at all, is now noted by recent reports.

Read the full article online here.

The Journal of Children and Media is published by the Taylor & Francis Group, one of the world’s leading publishers of scholarly journals, books, ebooks, and reference works.