Board approves tuition/fee rates, tenure, emeritus appointments
Old Dominion will raise its tuition and fees for in-state undergraduate students by 6.9 percent, effective with the summer 2004 term.
The Board of Visitors, which approved the 2004-05 tuition and fee rates at its April 8 meeting, also endorsed the appointment of tenure for 10 faculty members.
Full-time, in-state undergraduate students will pay $5,268 for 30 credit hours, a $340 increase over this years rate. In-state graduate students will have a 4.7 percent increase in tuition and fees, paying $6,072 for 24 credits. Room and board rates for freshmen living in Rogers and Gresham residence halls will increase 2.9 percent.
Robert L. Fenning, vice president for administration and finance, noted that the new tuition and fee structure was established in a period of budgetary uncertainty, given the lack of an approved state budget in advance of the board meeting, but he pointed out that the new rates were based on several known factors, including significant unavoidable cost increases, time-sensitive resource needs, and tuition and fee language in all three state budget bills that indicated tuition increases should be no higher than 10 percent.
Out-of-state undergraduate and graduate students will see tuition and fee increases of 4.3 and 4.7 percent, respectively.
The board approved the award of tenure and promotion to associate professor for the following faculty: Joseph Cosco, English; Dean Cristol, Charlene Fleener and Guang-Lea Lee, educational curriculum and instruction; Jill Jurgens, educational leadership and counseling; Ling Li, information technology and decision sciences; Gayle McCombs, dental hygiene; Hassan Ndahi, occupational and technical studies; David Selover, economics; and X. Nancy Xu, chemistry and biochemistry.
The board approved granting the title of emeritus to Maurice Berube, educational leadership and counseling; Willard Frank, history; and Murray Rudisill, educational curriculum and instruction.
In other action, the board approved adding a bachelor of arts degree in Asian studies and authorizing the university to seek funding from American Honda Foundation to finance speakers for a general education course on the global environment.
The board selected Emily Richardson, a junior sociology major, as student representative to the Board of Visitors for 2004-05. Back to top
Once this settlement agreement is filed with the court and the courts orders are forwarded to the Federal Railway Adminis-tration, the FRA is expected to remove the stop-work order it had placed last Nov. 18 on its $2 million funding for the projects continuation, said Robert L. Fenning, vice president for administration and finance. He noted that the university and the ODU Research Foundation have come to an agreement with the FRA on the scope of the work that is being funded by the federal agency, along with the delineation of tasks between Old Dominion and AMT.
After the money is released, AMT, in conjunction with Lockheed Martin, other firms and ODU engineering faculty, will begin work to improve and refine maglevs control system. The goal, Fenning said, is to have a demonstrable engineering prototype, a vehicle that levitates and travels between stations with improved ride quality and reliability.
If the vehicle and system prove successful during its tests, the results of which could be known as early as this fall, additional funding would then be needed to complete work on the track and the systems three stations, Fenning said.
The maglev vehicle, which is parked atop its elevated track near the Health and Physical Education Building, was to have begun ferrying passengers as early as September 2002, but technical problems and the lack of additional funding stalled the project. The American Maglev Technology project has been financed to date from a $7 million loan from the commonwealth of Virginias Transportation Board, another $7 million from private companies, including Dominion Virginia Power and Lockheed Martin, and now $2 million from the FRA, which is expected to be released soon. The loan is to be repaid by AMT with revenue it receives from selling its maglev technology. A proposed solution to the United States transportation problems, AMTs maglev system features a train-like vehicle that levitates and is propelled by electromagnetic forces atop an elevated guideway. Should the ODU system prove successful, it will one day continuously shuttle up to 100 passengers from one end of campus to the other. The vehicle will travel up to 40 miles per hour along the 3,200-foot-long guideway, which stretches from Powhatan Avenue to the University Village. Back to top
Darwin, Kant and Biodiversity is title of next Lecture Series talk
Harry W. Greene, professor of ecology and evolutionary biology and curator of vertebrates at Cornell University, will discuss Darwin, Kant and Biodiversity April 15 for the Presidents Lecture Series.
The lecture, free and open to the public, will be held at 8 p.m. in the Mills Godwin Jr. Life Sciences Building auditorium.
Greene conducts research and teaches in the areas of behavioral ecology, evolution and conservation of predators, including desert and tropical rain forest snakes. He has traveled to North, Central and South America, as well as Europe, Africa and Asia, to conduct fieldwork. He now works mainly in the borderlands of Arizona, Texas and Mexico.
During his 27-year career, Greene has received several honors, including the University of California, Berkeley, Distinguished Teaching Award and the American Society of Naturalists Edward Osborne Wilson Award. He is president of the American Society of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists and currently serves as a consulting editor for the journal Organisms and Environments, published by the University of California Press.
Greene is the author of more than 140 scientific and popular publications. His first book, Snakes: The Evolution of Mystery in Nature, was reviewed in Natural History, Science, Nature, Time and The New York Times. The book won a PEN Center West Literary award for nonfiction and a Silver Medal from the Common-wealth Club of California. He is currently writing Chiricahua Blacktails: The Natural History of a Montane Rattlesnake with D.L. Hardy Sr. and Tracks and Shadows: Field Biology as Art, to be published by the University of California Press. Back to top
Speakers announced for commencement
Jay Harris, an anchor for ESPN News and 1987 Old Dominion graduate, and Adm. Vern Clark, chief of naval operations and senior officer in the U.S. Navy, will be the speakers for ODUs spring commencement programs on May 8 at the Ted Constant Convocation Center.
Harris, who earned his bachelors degree in communication, will speak at the morning ceremony, which combines graduates from the colleges of Arts and Letters, Engineering and Technology, and Sciences. The program is scheduled for 9-11 a.m.
Clark, who received his Navy commission in 1968 and was appointed chief of naval operations in 2000, will speak at the afternoon ceremony, addressing graduates from the colleges of Business and Public Administration, Education and Health Sciences. He will also be awarded an honorary doctorate during the program, which is scheduled for 3-5 p.m.
The three-credit, interdisciplinary general education course, proposed for our green campus, is the work of a committee of senior scholars from many disciplines, said President Roseann Runte.
Harold Wilson, chair of the senates Undergraduate Curriculum and Programs Committee, will give a presentation on the Global Environment course. A question-and-answer session will follow.
Information about the course can be found at www.odu.edu/webroot/orgs/ao/fsenate.nsf/pages/fsorgdoc304. Back to top
Holocaust historian to give lecture April 28
Holocaust oral historian and political activist Lani Silver will lecture on The Holocaust and Social Injustice at 7:30 p.m. April 28 in room 101 of the Mills Godwin Jr. Life Sciences Building.
The lecture is sponsored by ODUs Institute for Jewish Studies and Interfaith Understanding.
Silver founded the Bay Area Holocaust Oral History Project in 1981 and served as executive director until 1997. She was also Steven Spielbergs initial consultant and interviewer trainer for his Holocaust oral history project, the Survivors of the Shoah Visual History Foundation, which recently completed some 53,000 oral histories.
Silver, with historian Eric Saul, spent the past seven years discovering and promoting the story of Chiune Sugihara, known as the Japanese Schindler, Japans consul general to Lithuania in the late 1930s and early 40s who saved more than 4,000 Jews from Nazi death camps against the orders of the Japanese government. Back to top
The two-hour film, which aired March 18 and 19, recounted the story of the Germanic tribes that battled the Roman Empire.
The program will include the installation of officers for the coming year and the presentation of HACE Rookie and Staff Member of the Year awards. Nominations for the awards are due April 15. For details call Scott Harrison at 683-3755.
Fliers, with registration information about the luncheon, have been distributed via campus mail. The registration deadline is May 4.
Raisors topic will be Inside the Outsider Shooter: A Path to Community. The book recounts Raisors role in the 1954 Indiana high school basketball championship game, a contest that inspired the 1986 movie Hoosiers. He also writes about joining the early attempts to integrate the Louisiana State University campus in the late 50s. Back to top
For more information about this other scheduled events, which are sponsored by ODUs Womens Center and Center for Family Violence Education and Research, see the Calendar on page 7 or call 683-4109. Back to top
Last year, 695 employees and emeriti faculty contributed to the campaign. Employees may make a gift online at www.givetoodu.com.
For more information call Hunter Brunick at 683-5738. Back to top
The State Council of Higher Education for Virginias Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduates Program (GEAR UP) is a partnership providing services and programs focused on increasing high school graduation and college-attendance rates of low-income students, improving the academic performance of low-income students, and educating students and their families about the real costs and financial resources available to make college affordable for every child.
The ODU students will be paired with students at Maury and Granby high schools in Norfolk and will mentor them on college opportunities.
I want to support them and challenge them to believe in themselves so that they can reach for the stars and achieve all they set out to do, said Natasha Billie, a masters student in higher education. Back to top
The nonprofit outreach arm of the program, Writers in Community sends students to area schools and civic groups for readings and writing workshops.
Tickets are $10, which includes admission, light hors doeuvres and casino chips. A cash bar will be available, and bluegrass group Three Legged Back Porch Collective will perform.
For more information call 581-8231. Back to top
For more information call Milissa Story at 683-3594. Back to top
He will lecture on public budgeting, finance and government reform, and will help graduate students with professional development in their various fields.
A favorite faculty member among students, Mengistu brings international perspectives to his classes from firsthand experience, having taught and studied recently in his native Ethiopia and South Africa under Fulbright grants. He assisted with the Third International Conference on Public Management, Policy and Development in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in June 2001, and returned the following summer to teach and conduct workshops. He also did research for an academic text on governmental budgeting and finance with a focus on fiscal policy and privatization in developing nations.
Mengistu joined the College of Business and Public Administration in 1985. He received his bachelors degree from Walla Walla College, masters of public administration from Arizona State University and doctorate from the University of Delaware.
The Fulbright Senior Specialists Program offers two- to six-week grants to U.S. academics and professionals to support curricular and faculty development and institutional planning at academic institutions in 140 countries. This program aims to increase the number of those who have the opportunity to go abroad on a Fulbright, but may find it difficult to be overseas for the traditional programs two-month to an academic-year time frame. The program is sponsored by the U.S. Department of States Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. Back to top
The base period of the contract is valued at $4.1 million and the total estimated value, if all options are exercised, is estimated to be more than $22 million over a five-year period beginning April 1, 2004.
The contract will support many of the commands key initiatives, including the Joint Training Directorates Joint National Training Capability, the Joint Experimenta-tion Directorates knowledge management program, the Command, Control, Communications and the Computer (C4) Systems Directorates joint management command and control program.
An enterprise center of the Frank Batten College of Engineering and Technology, VMASC will also support work on the Joint C4ISR Battle Centers Collaboration, Communications, Compression, Geospatial Information Fusion Systems program and the Joint Intelligence Directorate Multi-Sensor, Aerospace Joint ISR Capability Coalition program.
The contract provides engineering and technical support in the form of studies, technical analysis, and programmatic and technical assessments, as well as documentation of various aspects of the C4ISR program to include both joint and NATO support. Back to top
The Battle Lab is an innovative computer simulation laboratory designed to provide the advanced modeling and simulation infrastructure to support research in the areas of collaboration, composability, distributed simulation, human-computer interfaces, human factors, simulation methodologies, systems integration, virtual environments and visualization. Back to top
The award, which includes $1,000 and a plaque, is presented each spring to a tenured faculty member who has exhibited consistent excellence in his or her research efforts. The award recognizes the accomplishments of faculty who achieve national prominence for high-quality research and scholarship.
An ODU faculty member since 1973, Cash has focused his research on body image and its implications for psychological well-being. He has published more than 100 scientific articles in peer-reviewed journals and is the author of several books and numerous audio publications on body image. In 2003 he was named a fellow of the American Psychology Society.
He is the founder and editor-in-chief of Body Image: An International Journal of Research. Back to top
From tournament director Mikki Baile to those working in parking, security, maintenance and the many specialized areas of marketing, sports information and athletic support, our loyal Monarch employees and volunteers went the extra mile to ensure a successful, quality tournament.
Visiting teams, NCAA representatives, and the local, regional and national media were impressed with the fans, event management, the Constant Center and our commitment to excellence. As athletic director, I want all of the wonderful people who contributed to this event to realize how much your support was appreciated.
Please join me in reflecting with great pride on the significant contributions our Monarch family made to the tremendous success of the tournament.
Diehn Concert, Residency features jazz saxophonist
The residency will culminate in two performances in Chandler Recital Hall of the Diehn Fine and Performing Arts Center. The first, with ODUs Big Band, will be at 4 p.m.
April 18. On April 19, Wilson will perform with the John Toomey Trio as part of the F. Ludwig Diehn Concert Series. The April 18 concert is free and open to the public. Tickets for the April 19 concert may be purchased in advance by calling 683-5305 or at the door.
Wilson has been featured on more than 80 recordings with some of the great names in jazz, including Chick Corea, Dave Holland, Dianne Reeves and Donald Brown.
As part of his residency, Wilson will conduct a series of free hourlong clinics. For the schedule call 683-4061.
Performance Festival showcases student directors
Remaining Series One performances, scheduled for April 14-18, will feature the plays Tall Tales by Robert Shekkan, directed by Jeremiah Albers; At the Exit by Pirandello, directed by Ted Kleen; Two Scenes by David Mamet, directed by Scott Quirk; and Degas, Cest Moi by David Ives, directed by Denis Malone.
The final performance in Series Two, on April 12, will feature the premiere of M.F.A. playwright Stacey Isoms Letters to Bob Dylan, directed by guest director Jose Zeyes. Both the Series One plays and the Series Two staged readings will be in the Stables Theatre. Show times are 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 2:30 p.m. Sunday. For tickets call 683-5305.
Creo to perform Music of the Netherlands April 26
For tickets call 683-5305.
PlayTime Theatre presents Aesops Famous Fables
This original production features Mr. Aesop (the worlds worst teacher) and a cast of wise and funny animals who decide to let him in on a few of their secrets. The favorite stories will also offer a moral or two in between the laughs.
Show times are 7 p.m. Friday; 11 a.m., 2:30 p.m. and 7 p.m. Saturday; and 2:30 p.m. Sunday. For tickets call 683-5305.
Dance concert set for April 15-17 at Wells Theatre
The performance will include new and classic modern dance and tap, as well as a unique twist on Irish step dancing in works choreographed by faculty, students, and guest artists.
Tickets can be purchased at the door or in advance by calling 683-5305.
Painting from Venice at gallery through April 25
The gallery will host a reception from 7-9 p.m. April 17. The exhibition and reception are being held in conjunction with the Azalea Festivals celebration of Italy.
Saverio Simi de Burgis, art history lecturer at the Accademia di Belle Arti in Venice and a co-curator for the exhibit, will give a slide lecture from 12:30-1:15 p.m. April 15 in room 107 of the Diehn Fine and Performing Arts Center. Both de Burgis and Vito Piraino, the Italian consul, will attend the reception and give a brief welcome.
The University Gallery, 350 W. 21st St., Norfolk, is open noon to 3 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday; noon to 5 p.m. Friday and Saturday; and 1-4 p.m. Sunday. Back to top
But hes also known at least behind the scenes for his auxiliary services domain, which includes housing operations, the Mail Center, catering and concessions, Webb Center, food services, ID Center, parking services, vending, the University Bookstore and the Ted Constant Convocation Center anything that makes money, he says.
Runyon is proud of the role he played in getting the Constant Center ready for business, which included the hiring of a management team and getting the facility operating at a high level.
When we were selecting architects for the job, the firm we eventually hired claimed it would be a terrific venue for not only basketball but also concerts. I was not sure I believed them until I heard Roberta Flack and the Virginia Symphony perform at the grand opening. The acoustics are great.
Runyon is also credited with privatizing ODUs food service, a task he was given not long after his arrival on campus 11 years ago. When I came, the food service operated through the state. We had sad, outdated facilities and equipment, were not considered customer friendly and, frankly, lost money year after year.
His challenge was to offer a first-class food service operation and to protect the jobs of good state employees who would now be paid by a private company. We didnt want to lose their positive contributions. Of the 35 full-time employees who were here nine years, 12 are still with us.
Among Runyons biggest challenges over the next few years will be meeting the parking needs of a growing campus. You can never have too much closet space or too many parking spaces, he jokes.
Despite the headaches that accompany a position with such wide-ranging responsibilities, Runyon likes his job. I enjoy interacting with students, in particular. Youve got to stay relatively young at heart to survive on a college campus.
But if most students know Runyon primarily for his Wacky Olympics, which begins its 12th year next fall, thats OK with him (see his self-selected epitaph below). We just kind of made it up; I dont even remember why we chose the name we did. But its gotten bigger and better each year, and the students and staff seem to enjoy it.
College degrees: Michigan State University, B.S. in psychology and chemistry; University of Nebraska, M.S. in education and counseling
Birth date: Sept. 16
Hometown: Midland, Mich.
Spouse: Linda Pareseghian Runyon, a kindergarten teacher in Virginia Beach
Children: Craig, 30, who lives in D.C. and is an assistant editor at The Washington Post; Brent, 26, who lives in Woods Hole, Mass., and is a freelance writer and producer for National Public Radio and author (first book to be published in September by Knopf)
Pets: Shadow, a 4-year-old hyperactive Australian shepherd
Pet peeve: Drivers who talk on their cell phones, smoke and cut you off
Favorite place on campus: Ted Constant Convocation Center
Most memorable campus experiences: Wacky Olympics I through XI and the Dave Matthews concert at The Ted
Most treasured possession in my office: Photo of my family on top of the mountain range at Yosemite National Park
Whom I most admire at the university: Ruby Milteer, head cashier at the Webb Center cafeteria the past 27 years. She welcomes everyone with a warm smile and such a positive attitude every day of the year.
Last book read: Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier
Favorite movies: The Great Impostor, Top Gun and To Kill a Mockingbird
Favorite song: My Girl by the Temptations
Idea of the perfect day off: Breakfast on the oceanfront at an outdoor cafe, kayaking with dolphins, an ODU basketball game (mens or womens) at The Ted, dinner with friends or family at Tautogs at the ocean, hot tub ....
Hobbies: Kayaking anywhere the water flows, softball, volleyball, golf (with forgiving friends), racquetball, walking on any beach
Favorite TV shows: American Dreams, West Wing, NCAA Basketball Tournament
Vices: Hmmmm. The list is too long.
Favorite area restaurant: Chicks on the Lynnhaven River
Last vacation: Two weeks in Alaska
Last smart thing I did: Moved to Virginia Beach on the river
Last dumb thing I did: Agreed to train to paddle my kayak across the Chesapeake Bay 20 miles ... Yikes!
Worst job: X-ray assistant in a hospital at age 16
Profession I might like to attempt: Kayak guide in Saint Johns, Virgin Islands or Fiji Islands in winter, and Alaska in summer
Appropriate epitaph, for when the time comes: Don Fun Runyon: He made a lot of people smile Back to top
Also recommended: An I grade may be changed to a W (Official Withdrawal) only in very unusual circumstances and when the students situation has changed since the I grade was awarded. In these cases, the request for a change to a W must be in writing, documented and approved by the instructor, department chair and dean. Students will not be allowed to graduate until all grades of I have been resolved.
Additionally, the senate recommended new language be added to the policy regarding the grade of Z (No Grade Reported). As part of this recommendation, the senate suggests that students not be allowed to graduate until all grades of Z have been resolved. Back to top
A series of awards also will be presented to outstanding ODU student groups, advisers and faculty, as well as members of the community, who have contributed to the cause of civil rights. The program begins at 5:30 p.m. in the multipurpose room at the Ted Constant Convocation Center. The program is free and open to the public.
Simmons also will emcee a Def Poetry Jam performance, sponsored by ODUs NAACP chapter, in the Constant Center arena, at 7:30 that night. The ODU show is one of only four campus performances of Def Poetry Jam this year. Tickets start at $20 and can be purchased at the Constant Center box office, all TicketMaster outlets, online at www.ticketmaster.com or charged by phone at -671-8100.
In the last 25 years, Simmons, 45, has brought hip-hop to virtually every facet of media and pop culture: in music with the immensely successful Def Jam Recordings; in television with HBOs The Def Comedy Jam and Russell Simmons Presents Def Poetry; on Broadway with the critically acclaimed stage production Russell Simmons Def Poetry Jam on Broadway; and in the fashion industry with the Phat Farm and Baby Phat clothing lines.
Today, the Def Jam record label continues to hold the leading spot in the market with 2002 revenues of $780 million.
Simmons founded the Hip-Hop Summit Action Network (HHSAN) in 2001 to harness the cultural relevance of hip-hop music as a catalyst for education advocacy and other societal concerns fundamental to the well-being of at-risk youth.
April 13 Brown Bag: Effective Practices: What Are Reusable Learning Objects Anyway, 12:30-1:30 p.m., 422 Gornto; light refreshments served
April 14 Workshop - Part 1: Getting Started with PowerPoint: Slideshow Presentation Tool, 1:30-4:30 p.m., 411 Gornto
April 15 Workshop - Part 2: Interacting with Your Students in Blackboard, 5:45-7:45 p.m., 411 Gornto
April 21 Workshop - Part 2: Using PowerPoint Effectively in Your Classroom, 1:30-4:30 p.m., 411 Gornto
April 22 Workshop - Part 3: Assessing and Collecting Student Feedback in Blackboard, 5:45-7:45 p.m., 411 Gornto
April 27 Brown Bag: Web Accessibility and Section 508 Guidelines, 12:30-1:30 p.m., 422 Gornto; light refreshments served
April 28 Workshop: Orientation to Blackboard: Online Course Management System, 1:30-4:30 p.m., 411 Gornto
May 6 Workshop - Part 1: Getting Started with Blackboard: Online Course Management System, 1:30-4:30 p.m., 411 Gornto
May 13 Workshop - Part 2: Interacting with Your Students in Blackboard, 1:30-4:30 p.m., 411 Gornto.
The View from the Top: Where Would We Be Without Bob Stanton?
Theres no question that this is the right thing to do environmentally, and there is no question that it is going to save us a ton of money ... . Were putting on university-wide a big campaign to save energy and we needed an icon. (Ron Tola, assistant vice president for facilities management, on ODUs new LEEDS-certified Engineering and Computa-tional Sciences Building)
ODU Building Is LEEDer of the Pack
Alcoa had a commercial aluminum foil they sell in the grocery stores. Around Christmastime, they make a multicolor glitter foil, like a CD disk, but they didnt know how to do a single color. (Mool Gupta, director of the Applied Research Center, on his teams research of the blue-winged morpho butterfly and possible applications for making aluminum products with a single permanent color)
Learning from Mother Nature
In these kinds of cases, the more mud you can sling, the more balls you can throw up in the air, the more distractions you can create, the more likely you are to convince people theres reasonable doubt. (Donald Smith, professor of sociology and criminal justice, on the manslaughter trial of former NBA player Jayson Williams)
Can Celebrity Friends Tip Scales in Williams Favor?
The ocean is the interaction between physics, biology and chemistry. Trying to figure out the dynamics of this relationship is really the big-picture goal of what were after. (Gregory Cutter, professor of ocean, earth and atmospheric sciences, on a research teams three-week expedition to the Sargasso Sea and beyond, for which he served as the voyages chief scientist)
ODU Scientists Await Ocean Research Trip
Whether he is in daily cahoots with al-Qaida and bin Laden is not clear. What is important is that he is trying to sow dissension between the Shias and Sunnis in Iraq. (Steve Yetiv, associate professor of political science, on al-Qaida operative Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who emerged as a leading target for U.S. forces in Iraq)
Theres Osama, and then Zarqawi
History shows that when people understand what the needs are, they are willing to support tax increases for better schools and colleges, better transportation systems, health care for children and the elderly, public safety and protection of natural resources. (G. William Whitehurst, Kaufman Lecturer in Public Affairs, in an op-ed commentary)
Gaubatz, author of the 2002 book Elections and War, will discuss how foreign policy and national security are shaping up to be major campaign issues in this years presidential race. Elected leaders tend to be somewhat skeptical of waging war because of electoral implications, he says.
ODUs military programs commended in review
ODUs commitment to military education is admirable, according to the review. Further, it has created a panoply of programs which meet several specific needs of both military students and society.
The Washington-based councils recent Military Installation Voluntary Education Review of Hampton Roads naval installations, conducted in October, lauded ODU for:
Volunteers sought on 13th for Lafayette River clean-up
Staff members should obtain authorization from their supervisor to attend. They may use community service leave to participate in the project, according to Rachel DeMunda, director of environmental health and safety. For more information or to register contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or 683-4495.
One must travel to learn.
You can almost guess from the map that Japan is a country of calculated spaces and deep reserve. It is about the size and shape of California, if that state were shaken free from the mainland by an earthquake and left to drift lonely in the Pacific Ocean. But unlike California, which seems overcrowded by most normal standards, Japan is a country so densely populated that manners seem a key to survival rather than the extracurricular activity that they often appear to be in the United States. Our course across the misnamed Pacific Ocean from Vancouver, British Columbia, to Kobe, Japan, was 4,500 miles and took two weeks. Other than a glimpse of the Aleutian Islands, we saw no land at all for those 14 days.
The sea was our home, and each morning we propped ourselves against the ships rails, the salt spray misting against our skin. Over time, perhaps, the sea has grown more pungent with the salt of the continents. In my mouth it left the taste of another world. After a few days, the vastness of the ocean made us long for the familiar distractions of the land just as the land had once made us yearn for the uncluttered sea. The second day out, at noon, we sighted a whales spout and the curve of black back breaking the smooth surface of the water. We watched and waited. The ocean compels such attention, a humility, or at least a looking beyond self. On land, usually, we look to filter out and distinguish among the individual images that crowd our consciousness, but on the ocean we strain to see the specific amidst the seeming sameness. Our first day aboard the ship, Captain Ryan said in lilting Irish tones, Were just a sliver of steel in this wide, wide ocean. And we were just a thought flickering against the conflagration of experience.
Off the starboard bow the next morning, a rainbow pale green, yellow and rust streamed from a dark cloud. What must have lost sailors made of such signs? That they were omens or tricks of fate? Behind me the sun bled through a carpet of clouds, and the sea was immeasurably beautiful. It was the last calm day we would have for a while.
The ocean can make you feel as old as time itself. For the ancient Greeks the sea was an endless river that circled the planet, a stream between the end of the earth and the beginning of heaven. The Pacific is not only the largest ocean but the deepest and, maybe, the most misapprehended. First, of course, it was misunderstood by the man who struggled with it on his way around the world in the sixteenth century Ferdinand Magellan. As Daniel Boorstin explains in The Discoverers: During the whole three months and 20 days during which they sailed about 12,000 miles through open ocean, they had not a single storm. Misled by this one experience, they named it Pacific.
I was thinking of Magellan when we awoke to seven-foot swells, spumes of spray dancing along the ridgeline of whitecaps that stretched to the horizon. It could have been romantic, an Impressionistic sky, the sea a quilt of light blue and steel gray, but most of the voyagers were too sick to appreciate it. Half the faces I saw around the ship were pasty yellow or pale green. During my first class, at least half a dozen students walked out of the room, narrow-eyed, jaw muscles popping, as if they despised me. But as the ship rose and fell with the waves and I caught sight of the horizon line bobbing up and down with a sickening regularity in the picture window on the left side of the classroom, I realized that I wasnt the worst teacher in the world as I had at first suspected but that my wit was no match for nausea. At least, I decided, my teaching didnt cause nausea. And given the fact that I had to hold tight to the podium to stand upright and was feeling queasy myself, I was perfectly satisfied with that meager achievement.
Unlike Magellan, those first few days out, I didnt have to deal with mutinies or starvation, just an audience that rose and fell and changed hue before my eyes. Once I got used to the fact that nausea produced a look on someones face that could easily be mistaken for apathy or even hatred, then I was better able to control my instinct to hide in my cabin.
In that first week, shortly before we landed in Japan, the staff captain, Harry Sylvester, a tall, gray-bearded man with ironic eyes and a smile that could silence a room of 700-people, offered the students some warnings.
If you have to abandon ship, women and children first applies, he said, eyeing the college men in the first few rows.
Doors are heavy. Close them. If theyre open and you have your finger on them, they could close, leaving you with a smarting, broken or severed finger. He eyed the children in the room.
If theres a fire and you happen to be trained in firefighting, well by all means grab a fire extinguisher and be a hero. If not, call someone and get out of the way. He seemed to look directly at me for this one.
He told us about Mr. Skylight and Code Blue (medical emergency codes for the crew) and then he paused for Mr. Mob.
Thats Man overboard, he said, and God help you if you slip into the sea. The chances are not good that were getting you back. A few years ago aboard Semester at Sea, a young man took it into his mind that he wanted to rappel from the deck of the ship and touch the water. It was midnight. He had had enough wine, I suppose, to make this seem to be a fine idea. Or maybe he was naturally stupid. He fell into the sea. The ship performed a figure-eight maneuver and, miraculously, we found him a few hours later. He was sent home at the next port. We dont want to search for you in the dark sea and we dont want to call your parents to say you were lost overboard so if any idea seems stupid to you, it is. Dont do it.
Harry Sylvester had offered convincing warnings, and we lost no one at sea. We were all prepared, though, for some encounter with suffering in Japan. We even expected it. Kobe, our destination port, was only two hours from Hiroshima by bullet train and a few more by bus. And as Kenzuboro Oe wrote, Hiroshima is like a nakedly exposed wound inflicted on all mankind. Was there a more appropriate place to understand the reality of suffering than a country founded on the first noble truth of Buddhism?
Located at the confluence of the Ota and Motoyasu rivers, the city has been rebuilt in the concrete, steel and glass image of everything else we saw in Japan, but at its heart stands the A-Bomb Dome, a haunting reminder of Aug. 6, 1945, and all that remains of the old city. The twisted girders and skeleton of a building have been preserved by UNESCO as a reminder. We walked to the Cenotaph, erected in memory of the victims of the bomb, and we marched solemnly through the museum, forcing ourselves to look at the photographs of the rubble and the charred bodies. Two things stay with me from that day. It was the first time I had been in a museum in which the history was not written by Americans or friends of America. I felt shame for my own country.
Outside the Dome, we met a man who was 7 years old when the bomb dropped. He looked older than most 64-year-old Americans might have, wizened and missing a few front teeth. But as he spoke with us, translated by a young woman on the street, he made me realize that he was History, that he was what the bomb was about, the individual standing against the faceless flash of a technology sparking out of control. Somehow, he had survived the destruction, and somehow Hiroshima and Japan had, as well, rebuilding their cities and countries with a quiet courage and reserve and determination.
In Kobe that night we drank beers in an Irish pub that didnt serve Guinness but that did have two Irish-Americans on acoustic guitars singing Beatles songs. When we left the bar, Kobe was ablaze in colored lights. Down the street, outside an upscale noodle restaurant, a dozen men were laughing and shouting. It seems only drunk men or baseball fans make loud noises in Japan. The men were tossing a compatriot into the air, singing some phrase as they did it, and laughing like schoolboys when they caught him again. The man turned to us, This is the happiest day of my life! He had just retired and his co-workers were launching him into a new world. They let me participate in tossing the man, and we joined together like campers on the shores of Long Lake in Maine during one of those summers from my boyhood.
Michael Pearson, director of creative writing, taught three courses for the University of Pittsburghs Semester at Sea program from August to December 2002. This commentary is excerpted from his essay Innocents Abroad, 2002, which appears in the spring 2004 issue of Creative Nonfiction. Back to top