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Don Mankin, A&S '66 (MA), '68 (PhD): Travels Outside the Comfort Zone
When Don Mankin was a science fiction-obsessed boy growing up in Philadelphia in the 1950s, "adventure travel meant taking the subway to downtown Philly," he recalls with a chuckle. But after earning his electrical engineering degree from Drexel University and a PhD in engineering psychology from Johns Hopkins, then securing a teaching position, he ventured farther afield, embracing the burgeoning backpacking culture of the 1960s. "I started to explore the world," he says. "Every summer I took trips that were increasingly exotic," from the lush heat of Thailand to the frigid emptiness of Antarctica.
Still, for decades, he pursued his career as an academic and a business consultant, keeping his love of travel as a hobby — until three and a half years ago, when he gave a friend a copy of his latest organizational psychology tome (he's written four). "Can I give you some career advice?" the friend asked him. "Stop writing this stuff. You should be writing about your trips."
"I don't think it happens very often," says Mankin, "that a single comment can change your life."
Earlier this year, the first product of that change appeared in the form of Riding the Hulahula to the Arctic Ocean: A Guide to 50 Extraordinary Adventures for the Seasoned Traveler. Published by National Geographic Books, the guide paired Mankin with Shannon Stowell, president of the Adventure Travel Trade Association.
Mankin's career path already had undergone one turn when he came to Hopkins in 1964 to pursue engineering. "I met Alphonse Chapanis," Mankin recalls, "and he helped set me on a career path more to my liking." Chapanis was considered the father of ergonomics, the study of how engineering and design interact with the human form and psyche. Mankin began to study the thought behind building systems more compatible with human operators, and eventually became an expert in organizational management and psychology.
His interest in psychology guides the writing of Riding the Hulahula. The titular adventure — rafting on this northwestern Alaska river — was a particularly notable one for Mankin. It was the first strenuous trip he had made since undergoing angioplasty. And, he recalls, "I was waiting for some test results from another medical mystery," one involving a bone marrow biopsy. "But after a day or two into the trip, I tried to dredge up some anxiety about it, and I couldn't," he says. "It just wasn't relevant." The tests came back negative.
That recollection reveals the book's message about the importance of the travel experience. His guide isn't just a recitation of sights and sounds from amazing trips, of braving remote deserts and jungles to visit isolated indigenous tribes, or of encounters with endangered wildlife. It's about the voyages that people make within themselves when faced with real challenges that force them to delve into the unknown.
"I am a psychologist," says Mankin, now 66. "That's the way I look at things. I wanted to write about the kind of experiences evoked by places. It is about the transformation, and the power of adventure. When you go to remote places, and get out of your comfort zone, interesting things happen." — Geoff Brown
|Photo by Ron Aira||
Before Jaws, a larger, even more deadly beast swam the
seas, and it still terrorizes high school students to this
day. Moby-Dick, with more than 200,000 words, is
flooded with biblical analogies, Victorian pop-culture
references, and long scientific yet poetic descriptions of
The epic novel is textbook for what Mark Twain meant when he said, "A classic is a book which people praise and don't read." Margaret "Meg" Guroff discovered this last spring when she and a friend agreed to reread Moby-Dick.
"I thought I had read it," Guroff says, recalling a high school English class. "I think I even wrote a paper on it. But as soon as I started reading, I remembered that I had only pretended to read it."
After a few pages, she turned to the Internet to Google its obscure analogies and seafaring terms. She kept detailed notes, and soon realized she was, for all intents and purposes, annotating Moby-Dick.
Though many people wondered why she would undertake such a project, Guroff says she found support from teachers and colleagues from her days in the Writing Seminars. "Hopkins was where I learned to honor people's creative, or, in this case, quasi-creative efforts," she says. She also realized the surprise many readers experience when they get past the book's density and see how emotionally powerful, thought-provoking, yet impressively funny Moby-Dick can be. "I mean, it's full of bawdy humor and fart jokes," Guroff says.
Thinking others might benefit from her annotation, Guroff and a few Web-savvy friends built www.powermobydick.com, launching the Web site in July. (The Web site inspired the annotations you see here.) In the first month, it notched 2,000 visits and more than 5,785 page views, along with praise from users for its simple, straightforward design and the readability of the annotations. "The site has gotten a lot more attention than I expected," Guroff says. "There are a lot of people out there who either love the book, or, at least, want to be able to read the book."
Guroff might have even made some academic discoveries of her own, like when she came upon the passage describing Captain Ahab stabbing a knife at a whale "like an Arkansas duelist," as Melville put it. No one seemed to have annotated this passage, so she hunted down a possible source. "It seemed like this was a reference to the famous fight called the Sandbar Fight, involving Jim Bowie,"
Guroff said. "It was a well-known story when Melville was writing, and he may have just dropped it in."
She doesn't have any plans to annotate another work, though people often recommend she take on Ulysses.
Perhaps she'll travel to the former whaling town of Nantucket, Massachusetts? Or take a long seafaring voyage? "I'd love to, but I don't think I ever will be able to," she said. "I get seasick." — Robert White
A Tomb on the Periphery, by John Domini, A&S '75
(Gival Press, 2008)
Lisa Shelton, Bus '02 (MBA): Off to a Flying Start
The path that Lisa Shelton took from project lead at aerospace titan Northrop Grumman to founder of one of Baltimore City's most innovative and inspiring children's centers all started one day in 2002. That's when she pulled over, on a whim, in Rosemont-Walbrook, an economically depressed neighborhood in West Baltimore.
"I was having lunch on North Avenue," recalls Shelton, who
was raising her then 10-year-old daughter, Sandi. "I went
into a child care center nearby just to see what it was like.
I came out and got back into my car and just started
|Sandi's Learning Center serves toddlers through grade schoolers with age-appropriate activites.||
That experience led her to an important decision: to open a
place where parents could comfortably leave their children
during the workday, a place where kids could learn and grow
and get the skills they need to succeed. "I started looking
around the neighborhood for a site," says Shelton. "I didn't
know anything about child care [as a business], but the
things I had learned at Johns Hopkins really helped —
how to do a needs assessment, for example."
She started with a small rowhouse that she purchased for $12,000 and turned into her first accredited center, with some 20 children. She then used every means of credit available to buy, for $58,000, a nearby apartment building, just two blocks south of North Avenue. The deal was not as great as it sounds; unbeknownst to her, the building was condemned and scheduled for demolition.
Today, on the former site of that decrepit building stands
Sandi's Learning Center, named for her daughter, now 16 and
a summer employee there. It's a 15,000-square-foot, $3
million building of beige stone with immaculate landscaping,
built after Shelton learned how to work with the city and
state to secure education funding. The demolition of the
apartment building turned out to be the first stage in the
creation of Sandi's. It's the only new construction visible
in a part of Baltimore that hasn't been a beneficiary of the
rebirth going on in the downtown and waterfront
neighborhoods. In fact, Sandi's is the only accredited day
care center in the 21216 zip code.
|Lisa and her daughter, Sandi, the center's namesake||
In September, Sandi's welcomed 220 children, the maximum
enrollment Shelton feels the center can handle. Sandi's is a
combination of nursery school, elementary school, indoor gym,
computer lab, top-notch cafeteria, and even a resource for
parents. "The majority of our enrolled families fall within
the 100 percent and 130 percent poverty line," Shelton
explains. "Most of our parents are single moms. However, we
do have a few foster parents — grandparents,
great-grandparents, and aunts who are responsible for raising
children." Adds Shelton, 41, "If the environment is not
right, it really stops growth."
Encouraging growth is the main goal at Sandi's, which is designed to help kids thrive, beginning before they can walk. In one room, toddlers smile and stare up at visitors to their activity-filled and safety-proofed areas. A few doors down, young kids wearing the center's blue shirts return from a field trip and inquisitively pester their instructors for information about every topic imaginable. On the second floor, huge classrooms await the delivery of new furniture — and a hoped — for Head Start grant that will allow enrolling even more kids.
Shelton says she used her professional experience from managing projects at Northrop Grumman, in concert with her MBA education at what is now the Carey Business School, to pull this project together. From learning how to navigate the corridors of City Hall and the state capital to writing grant proposals and hiring qualified staff, Shelton has transitioned from complete child care novice to seasoned professional. Her project has received funding from city and state agencies and nonprofits and has become a favorite of politicians and philanthropists because of her persistence and vision.
"It was teamwork that let me accomplish this, and that's what I learned at Hopkins from my professors," Shelton says. "The only way things work is through teamwork." — GB
Christopher Shih, Med '98, '04 (PGF): Piano is Physician's Forte
Medical practice makes perfect? A Johns Hopkins-trained doctor won international recognition this past June — not for his gastroenterological genius but for his pianistic prowess.
Christopher Shih, a specialist at the Maryland Digestive Disease Center, took first place in the Van Cliburn Foundation's first YouTube amateur piano competition. Competing via video entry against 40 other amateur pianists age 35 and older, Shih gave a nuanced performance of Enrique Granados' ravishing Los Requiebros from his piano suite Goyescas. Taped in 2007, his entry received 701 of the 2,389 viewer votes cast. Renowned for its prestigious professional competition, the Van Cliburn Foundation launched its YouTube contest last spring to generate interest in its International Competition for Outstanding Amateurs. Shih's win gained him entry to that competition, next scheduled for 2011.
With upcoming performances in the United States and Europe, as well as a busy medical practice and family life, Shih knows it's hard to find time to practice. Yet he continues to pursue this lifelong love. He played piano all through his childhood &mdahs; he attended St. Albans School in Washington, D.C. — as well as at Harvard University as a biochemistry major and during his medical training at Johns Hopkins.
At the School of Medicine, Shih performed frequently in Hurd
Hall and Turner Auditorium in concerts offered by the Office
of Cultural Affairs. After his third year of medical course
work, he took a year off to study full-time with pianist
Robert McDonald, then at the Peabody Conservatory.
"The YouTube competition was an afterthought. I saw it on the
Internet and thought I would enter for fun."
— Christopher Shih
During a nine-year hiatus from performing, Shih completed his
residency and internship and became father to two children,
now 6 and 3. Then, once again, he set a goal of "playing at
the highest possible level" — -with notable success.
Since 2006, he has won the Washington International Piano
Artists Competition, the Boston International Piano
Competition for Exceptional Amateurs, and the 19th Concours
des Grands Amateurs de Piano in Paris. "The YouTube
competition was an afterthought," says Shih. "I saw it on the
Internet and thought I would enter for fun."
With his talent and dedication, he could have considered a musical career. But Shih remains clear about his amateur status. "I'm always going to be a doctor," he affirms. "This is just a hobby, just for fun. It doesn't put food on the table."
A recent YouTube viewer urged him to reconsider: stephenTGV commented that making music "is much more rewarding than doing polypectomies!!" - Sarah Hoover
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, A&S '04 (MA), was named as a 2008 recipient of the MacArthur Fellowship. Adichie, an award-winning writer, is now entitled to $500,000 as part of the so-called "genius grant." Her works have appeared in The New Yorker, Granta, and the Virginia Quarterly Review. Her most recent novel, Half of a Yellow Sun (2006), details the destruction of civil war in her native Nigeria following the establishment of the Republic of Biafra.
Costantino "Chris" Colombo, Bus '88 (MS), has begun his first semester as dean of student life at MIT. Colombo lives on campus with his wife, Bette, and sons Michael and Paul. Since 1998, he had served as dean of student affairs at Columbia University's two undergraduate schools.
Chester Crocker, SAIS '65 (MA), '70 (PhD), has been appointed to the World Bank's new Independent Advisory Board (IAB). Appointments to the IAB, which will focus on anti-corruption measures, are the result of recommendations from the Independent Review of the World Bank's Department of Institutional Integrity. Crocker served as U.S. assistant secretary of state for African affairs from 1981 to 1989.
Kathleen Long, SPH '81 (PhD), dean of the University of Florida College of Nursing in Gainesville, has been named the university's associate provost. She will serve on a half-time basis and will remain dean. Long will address such areas as sabbaticals, professional accreditations, teaching requirements, and clinical practice relationships. She also will help develop approaches for a three-year, $2 million program to expand faculty development.
Gerry Peterson, Nurs '64: The Accidental President
A decade ago, Geraldine "Gerry" Peterson wasn't even active in any alumni groups.
Then, someone asked if she would be interested in attending
a Washington, D.C., alumni chapter event. She did, and she
was hooked. Johns Hopkins had always been important to her,
and she soon took leadership roles, serving as the chapter's
secretary, vice president, and president, as well as heading
several committees. That led to becoming second vice
president, and later first VP, of the Johns Hopkins Alumni
Association's Alumni Council, the 100-member governing board
of the Alumni Association. In October, she was elected
president of the council, succeeding Jim Miller, A&S '64.
Gerry Peterson: "I recognize that there are a lot of Hopkins
graduates who feel disconnected from the university. My goal is
to work hard to bring alumni from these schools into the fold, to
make them feel connected."
Photo by Will Kirk
"It's very difficult for me to sit on the sidelines,"
Peterson says. "If I'm involved in something, I really want
to be involved." She rarely jumps into projects halfway, but
admits she's given friends stationery that says "Stop me
before I volunteer again!"
Multi-tasking, however, is a skill she perfected as a nurse.
Empowering alumni from the Johns Hopkins campuses beyond Homewood is one of Peterson's core goals. "As a graduate of the School of Nursing, I recognize that there are a lot of Hopkins graduates who feel disconnected from the university," Peterson says. "My goal is to work hard to bring alumni from these schools into the fold, to make them feel connected." Peterson also wants to make full use of the resources of alumni chapters throughout the country. "We are looking at ways to keep chapter presidents and committee members more aware of what's going on," she says.
Peterson is excited by the possibilities of her presidency. "I'm not an 18-year-old, and I rarely text anybody, but the technology that the university is providing is just terrific," she says, and developing it over the next few years will "keep people connected in multiple ways." For example, young members of the Alumni Council are spearheading a drive to disseminate information through social networking and podcasts. Peterson says she realized just how important such a push was when a 70-year-old Peabody alumnus "encouraged me to move forward with technology!" — Kristen A. Graham
Gerry Peterson at a Glance Resides: Bethesda, Maryland
Education: Nurs '64; bachelor's and master's degrees in health services administration from George Washington University.
Occupation: Vice president for regulatory affairs for Garvey Associates, a Potomac, Maryland, consulting firm that provides scientific and regulatory services to the pharmaceutical industry. She has worked in regulatory affairs and project management for more than two decades.
Previous positions: Emergency room and critical care unit nurse at Johns Hopkins Hospital, and family nurse practitioner in both family practice and ob-gyn settings.
Family: Husband is Ron Peterson (different from the president of the Johns Hopkins Hospital); they have a son, a daughter, and an 18-month-old grandson.
Ari Halpern, A&S '96, isn't your typical former math major. He was on assignment in Bogot, Colombia, with Fox Television as a script supervisor when he heard the news. A crossword puzzle that he authored was accepted by The New York Times and published in its famed puzzle section on Thursday, July 10. He notes, "Almost all newspaper crosswords, including The New York Times, start off easiest on Monday and get harder throughout the week." His remote location did put a damper on his excitement, though. As he wrote in his blog, quantumful.blogspot.com, "The New York Times here costs 13,500 pesos . . . the equivalent of about $8. Not only is the news expensive, you get it a day late!"
Halpern generously applied his skills to create this JHU-themed puzzle.
Follow this link to the puzzle.
Nursing Homecoming and Reunion
Graduates of the
School of Nursing convened on September 26 and 27 for
the annual Johns Hopkins Nursing Alumni Association (JHNAA)
Homecoming and Reunion. On Friday, they took part in a
daylong session on "Nursing Now" presented by the Institute
for Johns Hopkins Nursing. On Saturday, alumni from all
classes gathered for a lunch featuring Dean Martha Hill,
Nurs '64, '66, SPH '86 (PhD), and JHNAA President Deborah
Baker, Nurs '92, '97 (MSN). Hill and Baker presented three
Johns Hopkins Alumni Association awards: a Heritage Award
to Susan A. Appling, Nurs '73, and Distinguished Alumni
Awards to Diane Demarest Becker, Nurs '64, '78, SPH '79,
'84 (DS), and M. Louise Fitzpatrick, Nurs '63.
|Photo by Rob Smith||
Alumni Association annual membership dues support a wide variety of programs for alumni and students across the university. In this new column, we'll highlight where your money goes.
Two events in the fall season connected students and alumni for career networking. The Society of Engineering Alumni Career Night welcomed more than 50 alumni and over 100 students to the September 24 event. After a formal panel presentation with alumni speaking about their career paths, the students learned specific tips about networking in the engineering field. The evening ended with an opportunity to practice these newfound networking skills during a reception where the students worked the room, talking to as many alumni as possible.
The recently revived Peabody Career Day on October 10 connected students on topics relevant to emerging artists-everything from how to handle performance anxiety to tax tips for musicians. Students also had the opportunity to sign up for future sessions with a professional photographer and ask questions about filling out their artist media kits. A networking lunch allowed students to meet alumni, faculty, and artist managers for more in-depth questions.
At both events, students and alumni had the chance to login and learn more about JHU inCircle, the online career networking tool developed exclusively for Johns Hopkins University alumni, students, and faculty. —Kirsten Lavin
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