Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Changing marketplaces and crowdfunding

Image Source: NYTimes Zoe Prinds-Flash

Is there anything we can't crowd-fund these days?  I have a friend who recently raised almost $20K on Kickstarter for his art studio (Baker Prints Kickstarter).  VolumeOne has funded the summer concert series in Eau Claire with a successful WePay campaign of community donations. One of our very own APSS majors has been raising money through IndieGogo to produce a film (still waiting for my personalized song and video shout-out, Roskowski).  It's a fun time to have an idea and need money.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Congratulations Dr. Kirby!

A belated congratulations to our very own Dr. Alec Kirby on the amazing reviews his new book is receiving. 

Some highlights:
"This long-overdue study of the ambitious former Minnesota governor explains how his undeniable intelligence and ability were overshadowed by an outsized ego that left no room for introspection or self-criticism. The highlight of the book is an illuminating, blow-by-blow description of Stassen’s misguided and politically fatal attempt, while working in the Eisenhower administration, to seek an unauthorized break-through during 1957 disarmament talks with the Russians."--James Worthen, author of The Young Nixon and His Rivals: Four California Republicans Eye the White House, 1946-1958

"Kirby, Dalin and Rothmann have delivered the definitive biography of Harold Stassen, a cautionary tale of what befalls a politician who triumphs all too easily when all too young. Stassen might well have taken the GOP in a more liberal direction. He certainly came close in spring of 1948. How he got to that point and what happened following it are revealed in these pages. Essential reading in understanding the Republican Party of the 1940s and invaluable in understanding how the GOP got to be where it is today."--David Pietrusza, political historian and author
And also a great review in the San Francisco Chronicle that everyone should click through and read in its entirety.

Pick up your very own copy at your local bookstore, on Amazon or direct from the publisher, and maybe we can talk Dr. Kirby into doing a book signing day ;)

Friday, July 19, 2013

Recent SCOTUS Ruling on the Indian Child Welfare Act

In the midst of several important and historic rulings by the Supreme Court this term (Voting Rights Act, DOMA), a ruling pertaining to the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) has been less remarked upon.  I think this ruling is similarly important and historic, so here is my take on it. 

First, a brief synopsis (you can see a timeline here).  The case involves a baby girl, Veronica, born to a Latina mother and Cherokee father in September of 2009 in Oklahoma.  The parents’ relationship ended a few months before she was born and her mother, through an adoption attorney, was connected with a white family, the Copabiancos, who wanted to adopt Veronica.  The adoption attorney contacted the Cherokee nation about the father’s membership in the tribe, but due to errors in the information about the father, they were unable to verify his membership.  A few days after Veronica was born, the Copabiancos filed to adopt Veronica and have her moved to their home in South Carolina.  The courts granted this request on the basis of paperwork that listed Veronica as “Hispanic.”  Several months later in January, 12 days before the father was deployed to Iraq, the Copabiancos attorney served him with papers relinquishing his rights to Veronica.  He claimed he thought the papers were relinquishing ties with the mother and requested to have them back after he signed.  The process server refused.  The father then contacted a JAG lawyer for advice and, a few days later, filed documentation to establish paternity, custody, and support of Veronica (this is about 4 months after Veronica’s birth).  At this point, the Cherokee Nation verified his membership while Veronica remained with the Copabiancos (but was never officially adopted, only granted temporary custody).  In May the father filed a response in family court stating he did not consent to the adoption.  The father returned from Iraq, in December of 2010, and a family court trial finally occurred in September of 2011.  In November, the family court denied the Copabiancos’ petition for adoption and awarded custody to the father, stating that ICWA applies to the case.  The court further noted there was no reason to terminate the father’s parental rights or to think Veronica would not be safe and cared for with him.  After a series of appeals, the case was heard by the Supreme Court who ruled that ICWA did not apply in this case because the father did not have custody of the child when she was first adopted and because no relatives or other Native Americans came forward to adopt Veronica (thus they could not be given preference). 

Friday, May 10, 2013

Class of 2013

***Updated 5/11*** (Sorry Jesse and Clay!)
Tomorrow one of my favorite groups of students ever will take the big step across the stage wearing funny costumes and enter the next phase of their lives.  I will miss each and every one of them.

I've had the privilege and honor of teaching every member of this year's Applied Social Science graduating class in at least one course (and sometimes half a dozen different ones), and will be forever grateful to them for bearing with our growing pains (they will be the first class to really go through the program as it was intended and have all been at Stout for as long or longer than the program has been in existence), pushing us to improve, showing us what was possible for our students to achieve, and ultimately, reminding us why we love our jobs.

A few memories I have of each of our graduates (and a few pictures I could scare up)

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Crowd-sourcing everyday decisions

For once I'm going to actually keep it (relatively) short with a blog post.  I recently stumbled across this new smartphone app called "Seesaw" which allows you to crowd-source your everyday decisions.

I'm kind of fascinated by this for a couple of reasons, but mostly I'm thinking about it because I spend every day teaching students how to model decision making using economic theory, and I'm realizing that (outside of some game theory and public choice topics) there is very little economic theory that I am teaching them that is capable of modeling this increasing area of decision making in modern societies and economies.

From Kickstarter crowd-sourcing new investment decisions to Facebook polls and Qualtrics surveys, increasingly our decision making is becoming data-driven and crowd-driven.  Traditional "cost-benefit analysis" type models are taking a back seat to (what I would generally consider the lazier version of decision making) just asking other people to decide for us.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Memories of a Mama: Joydeb Mukherjee

Inspired, in part, by Nels' recent "Bricolage" homage to his friend Dave Conz, we are blessed with the following guest post today from Dr. Lopa Basu, Director of the Honors College and English Professor at UW-Stout. 
Memories of a Mama: Joydeb Mukherjee

In Bengali, the term for a maternal uncle is Mama, phonetically a repetition of Ma the word for mother.  From our earliest nursery rhymes, the intimacy of the place of a maternal uncle’s home is invoked:

Tai Tai Tai
Mamar bari jai
Mamar bari bhari moja
Doi Sandesh Khai

My rough translation:
Clap Clap Clap
We go to our Mama’s house
Mama’s house is a place of great joy
There we eat curds and sweets !

The place of the Mama and his home is a place of freedom, a suspension of the rules and disciplines of everyday school and home life, a place of uninhibited imagination and play. Today, as I write this, I remember that Mamar Bari and the Mama who had such a formative influence in my childhood and with whose death, that figurative place has ceased to exist. As long as my Mama lived, my childhood was still available to me. Today, I feel the burden of adulthood and the inability to escape into another world of imagination and play.

Monday, April 22, 2013


"If you don't have the right equipment for the job, you just have to make it yourself."

Well, this might be the most difficult blog post for me to write yet.  My office-mate from graduate school and one of my closest friends, Dave Conz, died last week.  When something like that happens you end up thinking a lot about the person's life and what it meant, to you and to others.  Dave offered so much to this world.  He had a doctorate in sociology, a master's degree in humanities, and a bachelor's degree in aerospace studies.  He was a pilot, a motorcycle mechanic, a hobby farmer, a dancer, a welder, a drummer, a skateboarder.  He spoke German.  He made biodiesel and beer from scratch.  And so much more.  Perhaps his biggest contribution intellectually was identifying the constraints and opportunities in modern society to combine a bunch of random ideas and things together to create something extraordinary (per the MacGyver quote above- one of Dave's favorites).  In a lot of ways this is what we are trying to do with the Applied Social Science program- getting students to the point where they combine all the random things they learn in a meaningful and consequential way.  Sociologists (and others) call this "bricolage", and while there is considerable scholarship on this topic I want to take some time ruminating on it in my own way.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Debt, Growth, and the great Excel debacle of '13

Today news broke about an influential economic study being "de-bunked" on several levels, both due to some selective data decisions and also the sexier headline of a mistaken Excel code. (note, the de-bunked link above is to a more readable summary ... for economists or others in the audience that want to read the original critique, that can be found here)

The particular study in question is about a very important topic, particularly in recent policy debates:  the importance of the U.S. debt levels to the overall economy.  We have been locked into an endless cycle of debt ceiling debates, in part fueled by the conclusions of this study and so any suggestion that these findings are questionable could (and should) have major implications for how we think about debt and austerity moving forward. The original authors Reinhart and Rogoff (paper here) essentially found (or claimed to find) that countries with high levels of debt (specifically, a debt-to-GDP ratio of 90% or more) suffered from lower economic growth rates.  These findings have been widely cited by Paul Ryan and others as evidence that austerity plans to reduce the debt are vitally necessary for the health of the economy.  Such claims are now being shown to have been based on some shaky economic foundations.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Why pick on gender studies?

In another post, my colleague Chris Ferguson made excellent points about the value of higher education that goes beyond very narrow job training while still keeping in mind that education is an investment in the future (but an investment of a particular kind).  In that post, he quoted Governor Pat McCrory’s comments about his desire to use public money to fund education that trains people for jobs:

“If you want to take gender studies that’s fine, go to a private school and take it. But I don’t want to subsidize that if that’s not going to get someone a job.”

Chris pointed to the fact that gender studies is singled out but then left it aside hoping that someone would tackle it.  So, here is my two cents on that issue.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Rethinking the cost of higher education

I am late getting around to posting this, but if you follow higher education policy at all, quite a bit of attention has paid recently to the latest governor to weigh in on education reform.  North Carolina's Gov. Pat McCrory (am I the only one that has trouble pronouncing that name?) has caused quite a stir with his comments regarding the value of liberal education.

One thing you should know about citizens of North Carolina is that they take a lot of pride in their excellent universities and colleges (I'm a proud Wake Forest Alumnus, but I would also grudgingly admit that Duke, UNC-Chapel Hill, Davidson, Elon, NC State, etc are, if not quite as good as Wake, also top notch institutions) and so any remarks disparaging these colleges (or their basketball teams) are likely to draw backlash in the state.