Academic achievements for Feb. 2, 2023

The following are local students who have been recognized by their college or university.

Valdosta State

More than 1,700 distinguished and accomplished students were recognized for exemplifying excellence in the attainment of their educational goals by being named to Valdosta State University’s Fall 2022 Dean’s List. VSU’s Fall 2022 Dean’s List includes the following area residents: Amaia Johnson of Richmond Hill Kaleigh Filer of Richmond Hill Gabrielle Howell of Richmond Hill Nathan Vickers of Richmond Hill Morgan Robertson of Richmond Hill Cristy Sehr of Ellabell Shelby Cook of Ellabell.

Southern New Hampshire Univ.

It is with great pleasure that Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU) congratulates the following students on being named to the Fall 2022 President’s List. The Dean’s List includes the follow area residents: Aldo DeLaGarza of Fort Stewart Brandon Korn of Richmond Hill Patrick Quinlan of Richmond Hill Erin Sheasgreen of Richmond Hill Sarah Lamson of Richmond Hill Charleigh Knowles of Richmond Hill Georgia College & State University

Georgia College & State University recognizes its students for making the President’s List for the fall 2022 semester.

Among them are Jordan Bausch, Wiley Bundy and Alexander Gerlach of Richmond Hill.

Dean’s List honorees include Evan Cowan, Greyson Hendricks and Jonathan Hoffmam, all of Richmond Hill.

Mars Hill University

Ethan Wade Lee of Richmond Hill is one of 339 Mars Hill University students named on the Honor Roll of the Academic Dean at the end of the fall 2022 semester.

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Prepare for college this summer at a Warrior-Scholar Project academic boot camp

Every year, 115,000 Veterans transition from the military to college. Returning to the classroom after serving our country can be intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be.

Warrior-Scholar Project (WSP) offers free one- and two-week academic boot camps at college campuses nationwide. These academic boot camps are designed to prepare you for college the same way boot camp prepared you for the military.

“I was fearless as a Marine, but when it came time to go back to school, I had my doubts,” said Marine Veteran Patrick Trujillo. “I was afraid of failing and wasn’t sure that I would fit in. After attending Warrior-Scholar Project at USC, I no longer had any doubts. WSP helped me realize that I would succeed in academia the same as I had in the Marine Corps.”

A Warrior-Scholar Project classroom at Princeton University.

A Warrior-Scholar Project classroom at Princeton University.

Who is eligible for an academic boot camp?

  • Enlisted Veterans without a bachelor’s degree
  • Enlisted active-duty service members without a bachelor’s degree

Enlisted service members and Veterans can choose from three disciplines: humanities, STEM, and business and entrepreneurship. The humanities boot camp focuses on college-level reading, essay writing and seminar participation. In the STEM boot camp, participants can brush up on math and science skills and learn to code in Python. The business and entrepreneurship boot camp gives participants a foundation in business and entrepreneurship concepts.

During this immersive experience, participants live on campus and eat in campus dining facilities, while learning from campus faculty, tutors and student Veteran peer mentors. View a list here of Warrior-Scholar Project’s boot camp campus partners.

In boot camp sessions, participants will:

  • Discuss the difficulties of life as a student Veteran and the emotions that come with it
  • Explore and debate current and relevant societal topics in a classroom setting
  • Work on a weeklong project: an argumentative essay (humanities), a research project (STEM) or an entrepreneurial pitch (business and entrepreneurship)
  • Learn best practices for studying and how to maximize and manage your time

How do I attend academic boot camp?

Fill out an interest form to start the process of attending a free Warrior-Scholar Project boot camp. Once you have completed the interest form, a member of Warrior-Scholar Project’s outreach team will contact you via phone to gain a better understanding of you and your academic interests.

Learn more about Warrior-Scholar Project:

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There Is No Room For Trial And Error In Diplomacy

University professors, former politicians and pundits warn the Iranian government of ignoring rationality and making wrong appointments amid serious crises.

Ebrahim Fayyaz, a professor of sociology at the University of Tehran, said in an interview with Rouydad24 website that enmity with “knowledge and particularly humanities” has made academic and research institutions useless. He said the demographic situation in Iran has made it difficult for the country’s rulers to keep the society under control, and it is going to be even more difficult as we go further.

As an example, he said: “We did not consider the rules of the global game when we started to sell drones to Russia. As a result, Russia took advantage of us because our foreign minister did not know how to protect the country’s interests.”

Iran has supplied hundreds of kamikaze drones to Russia which have been used against Ukraine’s civilian infrastructure, angering the United States and Europe.

Fayyaz warned that there is no room for trial and error in International diplomacy, but this is what Iran is doing constantly. He said: “We should have defined our foreign policy with the help of the academia. But unfortunately, our government does not want to interact with the universities. Our officials want to talk. They do not want to listen to others.”

Ebrahim Fayyaz, professor of sociology in Tehran

“Under the circumstances,” he said, “the university does not have anything to do with the government, and the government does not take the universities seriously. The government thinks that thanks to the oil money at its disposal, it no longer needs the university. This situation pushes the universities into the opposition’s lap.”

Fayyaz also criticized the state television for dictating the official views to the interviewees and asking them to repeat the party line. He said: “The rulers should follow men of knowledge and not vice versa.” He added: I have been barred from appearing on TV because I wanted to say what I think, not what the government wants me to say.

Fayyaz’s statements was so similar to what some Economists such as Moreza Ezzati, who has said, “public interest is not a priority for the government,” and politicians such as former lawmaker Gholam Ali Jafarzadeh Imanabadi who regrets that “There are no wise and educated individuals around President Ebrahim Raisi.”

Imanabadi has recently charged in an interview with Nameh News that the Iranian President has given big jobs in his cabinet to day dreamers and naïve individuals. Instead, he has removed a lot of wise, highly skilled, expert and well-educated individuals from their posts.

“The situation will be like this as long as national interests are not among the priorities of top officials and they make their decisions based on their biases and grudges and give opportunities to radical elements devoid of wisdom,” Imanabadi argued.

“The only thing these officials can do is criticize former officials and blame them for all the problems that have been created recently.” He added: “Even the Taleban in Afghanistan have realized that they need to talk with America if they want to solve their problems, but Iranian officials ignore obvious realities. At the same time, they fabricate their own figures to pretend that the country is on the course of progress. Raisi recently made so many claims…all contradicting the Central Bank and the Statistical Center’s official figures.”

Stating that general dissatisfaction in Iran is at a record level, Imanabadi said that Raisi should set aside factional differences and bring back the experts to the government. Referring to Raisi’s frequent analogy about the “train of progress,” Imanabadi said: “Where is this train? It either does not have a driver to steer it, or it has been derailed.”

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Chatting with AI to write academic essays

WHILE browsing social media, I couldn’t help but notice the recurring posts about artificial intelligence (AI) and its emergence. Indeed, it has affected various multimedia platforms. The first trend I noticed was the rise of AI-generated art content that has made its rounds in social media, particularly on my Facebook feeds.

Among the examples of AI-generated art content I saw were some hyperrealistic art that is typically only done by real humans through months of painstaking and continuous focus on one’s craft. However, these AI-generated artworks are commonly created in just a few seconds or minutes based on a user’s uploaded image or prompt. Among the artworks, I can only notice one flaw that distinguishes AI-generated artwork from human-made artwork: the inconsistencies involving the “hands” of depicted humans. Nevertheless, it takes focused attention to detail to spot such errors. I realized that AI had evolved so much from its initial depiction in the 1950s when it was used for the purposes of scientific and programming breakthroughs. Right now, AI can also be commercialized and utilized by the general public for entertainment.

After AI art generation, another trend that now pops up on my Facebook feed is AI-generated essay content. The most common AI chat tool that I see is “ChatGPT.” As per ChatGPT itself (when I asked to define what it is), it describes itself as an “AI assistant” because it is capable of answering a more general and wide range of questions. It also differentiated itself from a “chatbot” because this is focused on specific questions, topics and answers from its users.

From a student perspective, I was very curious about how ChatGPT works, given that it prides itself on providing information on various topics. I was keen on utilizing ChatGPT and how it would fare compared to my academically written essays for a particular course that I recently finished studying at my university. This course is about philosophy, which centers on ideas about the “good life.” In that course, we studied philosophers from the Western and Eastern regions and their different views on what is a good life for a person.

For my specific paper I wrote just a month ago, I focused on this topic: “Confucius’ take on the Good Life.” In general, I find philosophy to be a very complex and abstract topic. As such, I asked ChatGPT to define “What is the Good Life in Confucianism?” After a few seconds of waiting, I already got my answer, which seemed accurate at first glance. I compared the paper I wrote a month ago and the one paragraph that the AI assistant wrote. I quickly noticed the extreme similarities it had to my written paper, as the AI assistant was even citing and integrating certain Mandarin letters and words to fully define the good life in Confucianism.

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I was incredibly surprised by how ChatGPT articulated its ideas on such complex topics in philosophy. It was able to analyze ancient and modern philosophical sources to thoroughly come up with the answers to my question. I proceeded to ask more questions about the other essays that I’ve written for my philosophy course, and it still delivered almost accurate answers. I was amazed, and at the same time wary, of what this AI assistant could be capable of in the near future! I also further checked its plagiarism content based on its answers, and it did not show any signs of plagiarism based on multiple plagiarism checking tools.

As a management student that took a philosophy course, I was caught off-guard by new concepts and ideas in a liberal arts-focused studies given my more analytical point of view from management and business courses. As such, I noticed that in the essays that I’ve written, I tend to lean toward a more objective and analytical approach. I utilized citations in almost every couple of sentences and paragraphs that I’ve written while my classmates who are philosophy majors have more articulate and abstract writing styles. I also realized that I tend to relate philosophical concepts to my personal experiences given that we were trained to relate concepts to our daily lives in management. Comparing my style with the results written by ChatGPT, I noticed striking similarities. The AI assistant seemed to also write in a very objective manner centering on facts and citations from the catalog of data it was trained on.

Even after all of the discoveries I’ve found on the evolution of AI generation tools, I strongly believe that we should still be wary and cautious when utilizing such software. AI tools can prove to be double-edged: they can be prone to exploitation and could also possibly replace jobs performed by humans. Yet, at the same time, I also realize that generating creative ideas are best driven by humans. AI tools can help us consider different perspectives, but it is our responsibility to pilot these tools in a way that allows humanity to thrive.

Franchette Romjin Kim T. Miller is an undergraduate student of the Applied Corporate Management program under the Department of Management and Organization, Ramon V. Del Rosario College of Business, De La Salle University. She is the former president of the De La Salle-Model United Nations Community and the former executive vice president for externals of Student Catholic Action-DLSU.

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BYU faculty members urged to align their teaching, research better with LDS tenets

Department chairs and deans at Brigham Young University are under pressure to revise their criteria for promotion to better reward faculty whose work supports the teachings of the school’s owner, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

The instruction to do so came in a speech given to department heads in November by Justin Collings, the newly appointed associate academic vice president of faculty development.

In it, the BYU law professor explained that departments’ “rank and status” documents, responsible for setting the guidelines for promotion and tenure (referred to as “continuing faculty status” at the Provo school), should not “merely mimic analogous documents at other schools” but instead “reflect, reinforce and propel our unique and inspired mission.”

For some, the call represents a welcome challenge to explore uniquely Latter-day Saint ways of thinking about and engaging in their diverse areas of study. Others, however, warn the instruction could, depending on its implementation, infringe on faculty members’ academic freedom and endanger BYU’s reputation.

Constitutional government and other areas of interest

Among the topics Collings suggested as potential areas of focus for faculty looking to get ahead were languages, family, religion and constitutional government — a list found in the 2022 version of the school’s strategic objectives.

In pursuing these and other subjects of interest to the 16.8 million-member church, faculty should refrain from “lowering our standards or departing from disciplinary norms in cavalier or eccentric ways,” he cautioned. “However, everything in our rank and status documents should advance some aspect of our prophetic mission.”

In issuing the challenge, Collings drew on two similar speeches given by apostle Dallin H. Oaks, one in 2014 and another in 2017.

(Brigham Young University) President Dallin H. Oaks of the First Presidency has been particularly vocal in encouraging faculty members to apply their research to support the LDS Church’s teachings.

On both occasions, Oaks, a former BYU president, called on faculty to offer “public, unassigned support of church policies that others were challenging on secular grounds.” He also chastised departments for not doing enough to reward those seeking to provide such assistance.

BYU faculty members weigh in

George Handley, a humanities professor and environmental advocate who has taught at BYU for 25 years, welcomed the charge, which he viewed as a green light for faculty members to use their training to engage more meaningfully with a wide range of questions from a Latter-day Saint perspective.

“You can look at [the speech] and say this looks like it’s going to reward the most overtly aligned with the family proclamation at the expense of everyone else,” he said. “But I don’t think that’s the way you have to understand what is happening.”

Rather, conversations he’s had with Collings and Church Educational System Commissioner Clark Gilbert have left Handley with the impression that they intend faculty to interpret the call broadly.

For his own part, the eco-theologian sees in it an opportunity to further his own work on environmental stewardship within the context of the Latter-day Saint tradition.

“I just don’t think,” he said, “anyone should feel limited.”

Stacey Shaw, who teaches in BYU’s School of Social Work, expressed a similarly optimistic view of Collings’ speech.

(Matthew Norton | BYU) Stacey Shaw is a professor for BYU’s School of Social Work, where she specializes in refugee resettlement, mental health, HIV prevention, religion and spirituality.

As someone whose research focuses on refugees, she said it felt to her as an invitation to “be creative” in how she applies the teachings of Jesus Christ to her work.

“We have examples of how he treated the stranger or someone who was physically suffering,” she said, “but how do we apply that to our program or our social welfare policy?”

Lowering the standard for promotion?

(Courtesy of Michael Austin)
Michael Austin is a BYU alumnus and executive vice president for academic affairs at the University of Evansville, a Methodist school in Indiana. He fears the latest instruction could pose a threat to BYU faculty’s academic freedom and the Provo school’s reputation.

BYU alumnus Michael Austin is less optimistic. The executive vice president for academic affairs at the University of Evansville, a Methodist school in Indiana, was not present for the speech. Having read a copy of it, however, he’s convinced the timing isn’t accidental.

New and sometimes opaque ecclesiastical standards set for faculty and staff have vastly curtailed the pool of potential hires not only at BYU, he argued, but all the schools in the Church Educational System.

“My friends on hiring committees at BYU and BYU-Idaho say the candidates they submit are rejected, and they don’t know why,” Austin said. “Adjuncts are fired without enough time to find someone to cover for them. There’s no feedback [from the church’s Ecclesiastical Clearance Office].”

As a result, departments settle on second and third choices, which Austin said means an inevitable drop in the quality of candidates successfully passing through the hiring process.

The November call to change the rank and status documents, he suggested, amounts to an effort to lower the standard of promotion to match the incoming quality of new candidates.

Why? “Because there is virtually no chance that, say, a research article in favor of the family proclamation,” Austin said, “is going to pass peer review.”

Risks to academic freedom

Even more problematic may be how speeches like these create suspicion around the research professors produce, particularly on issues Latter-day Saint leaders are most vocal about.

“If faculty aren’t free to come to any conclusion,” he said, “any scholarship that comes out of BYU relating to the church’s position on an issue has to be dismissed as biased.”

It becomes, he said, “a real issue of academic freedom.”

Jacqueline Pfeffer Merrill, director of the Campus Free Expression Project at the Bipartisan Policy Center, a Washington-based think tank, pointed out that private universities have the right to enact policies that support their missions.

“However, without confidence in an institution’s guarantee of academic freedoms,” she said, “it raises questions about institutional quality.”

Merrill gave high marks to BYU’s academic freedom policy, which emphasizes the need for faculty to feel empowered to “ask genuine, even difficult questions.” The concern then is whether departments, feeling pressure perhaps from the Collings speech, end up enacting policies that conflict with and curtail those already in place.

When that happens, faculty members are left in limbo, she said, wondering which guidelines ultimately will win out.

BYU spokesperson Carri Jenkins addressed this concern, confirming that the school “remains committed to the principles of its long-standing academic freedom policy, as well as to its mission statement, which encourages faculty ‘to make their service and scholarship available to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in furthering its work worldwide.’”

She dismissed the idea that the two might be in conflict with each other, stating that “these commitments complement and reinforce one another.”

If there is anything BYU professors can take comfort in, Merrill offered, it’s that they are far from alone in finding themselves in the middle of an often tense debate about how much latitude schools — especially private ones — have when it comes to shaping policies meant to preserve and uphold their identities.

Battles have broken out on campuses across the country over policies relating to everything from LGBTQ rights to diversity, equity, inclusion and COVID-19.

“The questions I see BYU wrestling with,” she said, “are really typical.”

Editor’s note • This story is available to Salt Lake Tribune subscribers only. Thank you for supporting local journalism.

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