CDC Director Dr. Thomas Frieden, Atlanta arts leader Richard Garner to speak at Oglethorpe Commencement

The 2015 Oglethorpe University commencement ceremony will be held on Saturday, May 16 at 9:00 a.m. on the academic quadrangle of campus. Oglethorpe President Lawrence M. Schall and Board of Trustees Chair Ceree Eberly, Chief People Officer at The Coca-Cola Company, will preside over the commencement ceremony for approximately 170 graduates.

Thomas Frieden

Dr. Thomas Frieden

During the ceremony, Oglethorpe University will bestow honorary degrees on two outstanding leaders in their respective fields:  Thomas Frieden, MD, MPH, Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), will be presented with a Doctor of Science, and Atlanta arts leader Richard Garner will receive a Doctor of Fine Arts.

Richard Garner

Richard Garner

“This year we have chosen to honor two individuals who represent the value, depth, and impact of an education in the liberal arts and sciences,” said President Schall. “As head of the CDC, Dr. Tom Frieden leads our nation’s efforts to positively impact the current and future health of the U.S. and the world. Richard Garner, a longtime friend of our university, has enriched the lives of generations of Atlantans through his commitment to presenting and preserving the arts.”

Both honorary degree recipients will address the graduating class. Additional speakers will include student leaders in the graduating class and Austin Gillis ’01, President of the Oglethorpe University National Alumni Association. Further details may be found at oglethorpe.edu/commencement.

Dr. Thomas Frieden became Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in June 2009 and oversees efforts to control health threats from infectious diseases, respond to emergencies, and battle the leading causes of suffering and death in our nation and around the world. As the director of the nation’s health protection agency, Dr. Frieden is leading the CDC in addressing these challenging health priorities: improving health security at home and around the world; reducing the leading causes of death and illness; and strengthening public health and health care collaboration. A physician with training in internal medicine, infectious diseases, public health, and epidemiology, Dr. Frieden is especially known for his expertise in tuberculosis control. Dr. Frieden worked for CDC from 1990 until 2002. He began his career at CDC as an Epidemic Intelligence Service (EIS) Officer at the New York City Health Department. Dr. Frieden speaks Spanish and graduated from Oberlin College. He received both his medical degree and a master’s of public health degree from Columbia University and completed infectious disease training at Yale University. He has received numerous awards and honors and has published more than 200 scientific articles.

Richard Garner served for 29 years as co-founder and producing artistic director of Georgia Shakespeare from 1986-2014. As a mainstage director for Georgia Shakespeare, he directed numerous productions, including Hamlet, As You Like It, Much Ado About Nothing, The Glass Menagerie, an original adaptation of The Odyssey: A Journey Home, an original musical adaptation of Antigone, Henry V, Romeo and Juliet, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, The Winter’s Tale, The Taming of the Shrew, The Tempest, The Comedy of Errors, Metamorphoses, Pericles, Richard II, Julius Caesar, and Titus Andronicus. He also edited and directed Shakespeare for Students tours and the inaugural production for Shake at the Lake, free Shakespeare in Atlanta’s Piedmont Park. He has served as adjunct faculty at Emory University, Oglethorpe University and Kennesaw State University, and has been a guest lecturer at Georgia Tech, Mercer University, the University of North Georgia/Brenau University, and West Virginia University in Shakespearean performance and audition technique. Richard is the past president of the Shakespeare Theatre Association of America, and is the recipient of the 2015 Community Artist Award from the Emory University Center for Creativity and Arts, the 2008 Flourish Award in Arts Leadership from Kennesaw State University, the 2004 Distinguished Career Award from the Georgia Theater Conference, the 2000 ABBY Award for Outstanding Arts Professional, and the LEXUS Leader of the Arts Award. Richard studied in the Professional Actor Training Program at the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco where he received a two-year Conservatory Certificate, and at Berry College, where he earned a B.A. in English and Theater.

Oglethorpe Partners with Alliance Theatre, Horizon Theatre, Capitol City Opera

conant1Oglethorpe University has partnered with three leading Atlanta arts organizations—the Tony Award-winning Alliance Theatre, the Horizon Theatre Company, and Capitol City Opera Company—to present performances and provide educational opportunities for students of all ages at the Conant Performing Arts Center.

“With the unfortunate dissolution of Georgia Shakespeare in the fall, we were committed to exploring new partners in the arts that were not only rooted in excellence and quality, but also would offer significant hands-on learning opportunities for our students and complement our theatre and music programs,” said Oglethorpe University President Lawrence Schall.

The Alliance Theatre will host three camps at Oglethorpe during summer 2015, two geared towards primary school children and the third for high schoolers. Oglethorpe theatre majors will be hired as teaching assistants for each of these camps, which will run for two weeks. Each camp experience will culminate in a showcase performance. In January, leaders from The Alliance served as judges and mentors for prospective theatre students during the Oglethorpe Theatre Scholarship Competition.

The Horizon Theatre Company will bring a multi-week run of their summer production, Avenue Q, to the Conant Performing Arts Center, starting in June 2015. Specific dates and further details will be announced soon. Two Oglethorpe theatre students will have the opportunity to be on stage for this production. Lisa and Jeff Adler, co-artistic directors at Horizon Theatre, also participated in this year’s Oglethorpe Theatre Scholarship Competition.

Oglethorpe’s relationship with Capitol City Opera has grown over years. Capitol City Opera now presents multiple performances annually in Oglethorpe’s Conant Performing Arts Center, in both the spring and the fall. The Opera also offers internship opportunities for Oglethorpe students and ticketing benefits for the campus community. Capitol City Opera’s next performances at the Conant Performing Arts Center will be The Abduction from the Seraglio, from March 27th through 29th, and Hansel & Gretel on March 28th.

“Oglethorpe has a long history of offering distinctive arts experiences for both the campus and the larger community,” said President Schall. “These partnerships will help to ensure that continues.”

Oglethorpe Senior Racks Up Hackathon Wins

IMG_8825Haider Khan ’15 doesn’t exactly fit the hacker stereotype. But, the Oglethorpe senior, who’s majoring in chemistry and minoring in computer science, recently bested the competition to win two back-to-back hackathons, as well as a start-up competition, all hosted in metro Atlanta. A testament to Haider’s skills and training, the victories have also been lucrative. So far, Haider and his teammates have won a total of $13,300 in cash and prizes.

In layman’s terms, a hackathon is a competition, usually lasting several days, in which groups of developers and other experts collaborate in computer programming to solve a given issue or challenge. The events typically are kicked off with an introduction to the sponsoring companies and a presentation about challenge the competitors will tackle. The sponsoring companies then give the developers access to their technology to create their solution.

Haider’s first competition was the AT&T Mobile App Hackathon, which focused on real public safety issues. Atlanta emergency medical responders, police officers, dispatchers, fire and rescue teams were onsite to discuss with the developers the challenges they encounter in their jobs. In response, Haider and his team built a hybrid mobile-web app called Safety Net to assist EMS responders in large scale disasters by tracking personnel in real time. They were awarded 1st place in Best Overall Public Safety App, 1st place in Best Use of AT&T’s WebRTC API, and 2nd place in Best Use of Telerik Technology.

khan 2

Haider (left) with his one of his Charge Forward teammates after their big win.

The next hackathon, for interactive wearable financial apps, was sponsored by Global Payments Inc. and CaixaBank in Barcelona. “At the second hackathon, the theme was wearables,” Haider explained, “so we were given smart watches and were told to come up with novel solutions to five challenges, ranging from ease of payment, user authentication, security, alternative payments, and design for payment services and transactions.” Haider and his team Charge Forward were awarded the $10,000 3rd prize for their smartwatch application that lets the user change credit card payment method with the flick of a wrist and uses NFC technology to process transactions on the spot.

Most recently, Haider competed in Atlanta Startup Weekend, hosted at Coca-Cola Company headquarters. Teams pitched startup ideas to judges (and an audience) and were evaluated on customer empathy (did their idea address a real problem for real people?), execution (did it work?), and their business model (how would it successfully compete in the market?). Haider’s team, GatherCam, pitched their idea and business plan for a program that would compile photos posted on various social media sites by different people at the same event, such as a wedding. Their idea was a true crowd pleaser and won over the judges, earning them 1st place in judge’s scores, as well as the audience choice award.

Haider (second from left) with his GatherCam teammates during the Atlanta Startup Weekend at Coca-Cola.

Haider (second from left) with his GatherCam teammates during the Atlanta Startup Weekend at Coca-Cola.

After graduation, Haider hopes to continue his efforts in creating innovative technology. He plans to move to California to work in Silicon Valley and eventually to start his own technology company. Haider is confident that the knowledge he’s gained while pursuing his education at Oglethorpe, particularly his minor in computer science, has helped him significantly in his recent accomplishments.

“I highly suggest to Oglethorpe students that if they have a passion for technology to take a computer science minor,” Haider advises. “I personally think the tech industry is extremely fun to work in (and) the applications are endless. We are moving into an economy where knowing how technology works is a currency.”

Psychology Team Dives In to Study the Benefits of SCUBA

with-the-founders-of-Life-Waters

OU students and faculty with the founders of LifeWaters: Jody Paniagua, John Carton, Charley Wright, Katee Gmitro, and Harry Dodsworth.

Dr. John Carton, psychology professor and chair of the Behavioral Sciences division at Oglethorpe, recently led an a innovative research project to investigate the psychological benefits of SCUBA training for individuals with spinal cord injuries and other mobility impairments. He partnered with LifeWaters, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping spinal cord injured patients and disabled veterans experience the benefits of SCUBA, and enlisted the help of students in his psychology lab at Oglethorpe.

In conjunction with Veterans Day, LifeWaters brought 12 veteran divers and 6 dive “buddies” specially certified to assist divers with spinal cord injuries and limited mobility to the Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta to dive in the monstrous tank containing 16-foot whale sharks and hundreds of other species. Dr. Carton and two students from his psychology laboratory, Katee Gmitro ’16 and Harry Dodsworth ’16, observed the dive and spent the entire day immersed in the process of SCUBA therapy.

While on site, Dr. Carton, Katee and Harry were able to meet and interview all the divers, their dive support staff (buddies) and families. They also toured behind the scenes of the entire aquarium and met the director of the aquatic therapy program and the founding directors of LifeWaters. They observed the divers entering and exiting the large tank where they were diving—which included the whale sharks and 12-foot span manta rays.  And, they had the chance to watch the whale sharks’ feeding during a private viewing.

A paralyzed diver with his "buddy" and a diver from the Georgia Aquarium.

A paralyzed diver with his “buddy” and a diver from the Georgia Aquarium.

Prior research has shown that SCUBA training can positively affect the mental well-being of participants and even help reduce psychological symptoms. Working with the students in his psychology laboratory, Dr. Carton designed a longitudinal study that involves measuring participants’ mental health prior to entering SCUBA training with LifeWaters and comparing it to their mental health after their certification, after their first dive, and a year later. A “wait list” control group will provide data for comparison.

“Many veterans with paralyzing injuries suffer from a variety of anxiety and mood disorders, for which there is continued need to identify therapies that produce lasting positive effects,” says Dr. Carton. “Anecdotal observations support the hypothesis that SCUBA may go well beyond teaching dive-related skills, to also positively affect the mental well-being of participants and even help reduce psychological symptoms.”

A small scale study that was sponsored by the Cody Unser First Step Foundation several years ago provided some preliminary data to support the hypothesis. Unfortunately, that study was not formally published, replicated, or expanded upon. That is where Dr. Carton’s laboratory stepped in. He brought in his students from his laboratory to help them “better understand the research and to mentor them in the development of additional hypotheses for this research project.”

While at the aquarium, the students collected qualitative data for future hypothesis development and witnessed firsthand the therapeutic outcomes of the program, both for physical and mental health issues. Both students were invited to collect additional data on future dive visits to this facility and other locations.