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Unconventional Wisdom

Paradigm-changing work by TC faculty and staff members

Conversation Starters

At TC’s Mysak Clinic, a multidisciplinary aphasia team is restoring the gift of communication.

After suffering a stroke, 41-year-old Leander (not his real name) lost his abil­ity to express himself through language — a condition known as aphasia. Today he travels to the aphasia clinic at TC’s Edward D. Mysak Center for Communication Disorders to receive Verb Network Strengthen­ing Treatment (VNeST), a new therapy which reintroduces him to verb-noun relationships. He also benefits from the Mysak Center’s multidisciplinary approach, which includes art and music programs.

 “Everybody’s relation­ship to language is differ­ent, and so is everybody’s aphasia,” so treatment should be tailored to each individual, says Lisa Edmonds, Associate Pro­fessor in Communication Sciences & Disorders, the primary creator of VNeST.

The Mysak’s diverse aphasia team can meet that need. Bernadine Gagnon (M.S. ’01), Chief Clinical Supervisor, is a registered nurse who dual-majored in Linguistics and Biology and minored in teaching English as a Second Language (ESL). She taught ESL in public schools and universities before earning her speech/language pathology degree from Teachers College. Clinical Instructor Lindsay Milgram (M.S. ’11) is an expert on language skills ranging from articulation and auditory processing to narrative language and executive functioning. Edmonds, an affiliate to the team, conducted clinical trials with monolingual and bilingual aphasia patients at the University of Florida and the Veterans Administration before coming to TC. The Mysak Center’s Director, Kathleen Youse, and Assistant Director, Elise Wag­ner, and Biobehavioral Sciences department chair Stephen Silverman work closely with the team.

Aphasia results from damage to parts of the brain that contain language but does not affect intelligence. The condition can include difficulties in speaking, listening, reading and writing, and can co-occur with swallowing problems and other issues that are a focus at Mysak. Yet despite an estimated 1 million aphasia patients in the United States — including children, whose condition is congenital — the research database remains slim. That’s why Gagnon has boosted the clinic’s aphasia population from five to 40 people. Both at Mysak and in her own Aphasia Rehabilitation and Bilingualism Research Lab, Edmonds is planning small pilot studies and randomized controlled trials of VNeST and other approaches, including the use of computers and tele therapy. Meanwhile, Gagnon has initiated weekly groups to foster word recall, memory and functional skills and focus on language-enhancing art, music and mindfulness activities. She’s also planning a “slam” series in which people with aphasia tell their life stories.

Edmonds, Gagnon and their colleagues are committed to the Mysak Center’s mission to advance personalized rehabilitation and to under-stand the cognitive, psychosocial and linguistic components that underlie aphasia. Their emphasis on clinical treatment and research — which reflects the broader approach of the Mysak Center — has attracted students from across the College, includ­ing two doctoral candidates who are researching the impact of music on aphasia rehabilitation.

“We want our students to understand the science behind aphasia treatment,” Gagnon says. “But we don’t want them to forget about the per­son they are taking care of. If you don’t focus on the human being, you will never accomplish great things in treatment or research.” —BARBARA FINKELSTEIN

 

Making Leadership a Science

Why does one company thrive amid change while another ends up in bankruptcy?

Leadership is widely viewed as critical to the answer, but it has proved difficult to define. Now, though, TC’s Warner Burke believes he’s getting close.

Burke and his students will soon conclude a five-year study of “learning agility” the ability to adapt, listen to others and learn new things.

“We believe effective leaders are more adept at learning what they need to know,” says Burke, TC’s Edward Lee Thorndike Professor of Psy­chology & Education. “That’s especially important during times of great change.”

Burke knows about those times, having consulted during the reorganization of companies such as British Airways, SmithKline Beecham, and the Anchor and Dime savings banks. In 1992, he co-designed the Burke-Litwin Change Model, a map of interrelated “change drivers” ranging from mission and strategy to cultural and external environment that is now a staple in leadership and “org psych” courses around the world. Burke also worked with TC faculty member Debra Noumair to help create a unique, year-long Executive Mas­ter’s Program in Change Leadership.

With constant upheaval now common­place in all fields, Burke and his students have refined a set of learning agility metrics that include personal flexibility, speed, risk-taking and openness to feedback. Burke is also applying his practical and theoretical expertise to the U.S. Army and the Veterans Administration (VA). TC’s Eisenhower Leader Development Program (ELDP), co-founded by Burke, enables officers from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point to earn TC master’s degrees in social-organizational psychology. Burke is assessing ELDP officers to see if they outscore peers on learning agility. He also is serving as a consultant with MITRE, a nonprofit that is working to bring a culture of greater accountability to the VA. MITRE has invited Burke to serve on a 16-member blue ribbon panel that is undertaking an indepen­dent review of the Veterans Access, Choice and Accountability Act of 2014. Burke will collect data on leadership effectiveness.

“Whether you’re talking about aggressive, market-driven companies or military units that fight rogue militias, we need leaders who can sus­tain an organization through its most challenging times,” he says. “Finding them depends increasing­ly on a provable relationship between leadership and learning agility.”—BARBARA FINKELSTEIN

 

Bringing History to Life

When Columbia university historian Kenneth Jackson spoke at a 2013 New York Historical Society exhibition about Teachers College, he described how several leading New York City families created TC and other in­stitutions that still drive the city’s cultural and civic life. Then, the latter-day representatives of five of those families — Vanderbilt, Macy, Milbank, Rockefeller and Dodge — came on stage.

Both Jackson’s presence and the exhibition were engineered in part by TC’s Center on History and Education (CHE), created in 2012 with funding from TC Trustee Sue Ann Weinberg (Ed.D. ’97). Like Jackson, the Center seeks to underscore history’s continuing relevance.

“The Center is encouraging development of a new historical scholarship that sees the com­munity as the starting point for improved history education,” says Thomas James, TC’s Provost and Dean, an education historian who serves as the Center’s Director.

“Local history is how you grab kids’ atten­tion,” says CHE Associate Director, Bette Weneck. “It’s also the path toward effective citizenship.”

Those are urgent aims. Studies show that only 45 percent of U.S. students demonstrate a basic understanding of American history, and many states no longer require civics education.

The Center isn’t working alone. Columbia’s Department of History helped CHE secure a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities and Jackson serves as a senior adviser. The University’s Center for International History is helping to deepen knowledge of U.S. immigrant communities, and the Centers for Digital Research & Scholarship, and New Media, Teaching & Learning are creating online archives for teachers. Citywide, partnerships have been established with the New York Historical Society, the New York Public Library and the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. CHE also is collabo­rating with TC’s Institute for Urban and Minority Education and faculty in the History & Education and Social Studies programs, including Ansley Erickson, Cally Waite and Christine Baron.

Meanwhile, Weneck is teaching a course, “The History of Education in New York City,” in which students absorb the late TC president and historian Lawrence Cremin’s vision of education as often occurring through non-school venues. Students also explore past teaching and learning in the city’s neighborhoods.

“When you connect history to people’s lives, it comes alive,” Weneck says. —JOE LEVINE

 

Going Where the Need Is Greatest

When the world crumbles around us, support makes us feel safe and hope keeps us from resigning,” says Lena Verdeli, Associate Profes­sor of Psychology & Education and Director of TC’s Global Mental Health Lab.

Amid traumatized communities in post-earth-quake Haiti, AIDS-ravaged Uganda and Syrian refugee camps in Jordan, Verdeli has culturally adapted Interpersonal Therapy (IPT), a form of group therapy developed by her mentor, Columbia University epidemiologist Myrna Weissman, to fight paralyzing depression brought on by war, dis-ease or disaster. Verdeli trains mental health professionals and laypeople to provide care to fellow community members. Then she evaluates the results.

“We have information on the impact of locally adapted IPT on people’s distress and func­tioning, and on how restoring their mental health affects their families and communities,” Verdeli says. “That’s crucial in low-resource areas because you cannot afford to invest in ineffective strategies.”

In two clinical trials in Uganda (one with depressed adults, the other with war-affected adolescents in internally displaced camps), those participating in weekly 90-minute IPT group sessions over four months experienced significantly greater reduc­tion in locally-defined depres­sion symptoms than those not receiving the therapy.

An intervention in Haiti, conducted with Harvard’s Partners in Health and funded by the Canadian government, generated a care framework that Verdeli and colleagues are using in Co­lombia and Lebanon. It calls for delivering mental health care through existing systems, via mental health specialists, primary care personnel and laypeople. These providers assess the context of depression; define pathways for delivering care; create support, supervision and rules for referrals; use quality improvement practices; and plan for sustainability and capacity building.

Some 5.7 million Colombians internally displaced by civil war are coping with severe and persistent depression and anxiety resulting from dislocation, sexual violence, civilian abductions and recruitment of youth as combatants. In Feb­ruary, with Universidad de Los Andes in Bogota, the Colombian Ministry of Health, and the New York State Psychiatric Institute, Verdeli and her team conducted local trainings, including in the use of IPT by and for internally displaced women.

“Working with displaced persons challenges you to explore local, national and international contexts and patients’ fast-changing worlds and experiences,” Verdeli says. Often, clinicians and researchers benefit as patients do: “More than anything else, this work has pushed me to increase my tolerance for ambiguity and complexity.”—BARBARA FINKELSTEIN
 

FIRST EDITIONS

In the Eyes of the Beheld

Marie Miville and her student researchers explore multicultural gender roles

We were talking about hair: the experience of having kinky hair or hair that is other than long and flowing,” recalls Marie Miville, Associate Professor of Psychology & Education. “There’s a sense that women of color can never achieve a standard of beauty because they don’t have the hair.”

From such conversations, Miville and her student re-searchers were inspired to produce Multicultural Gender Roles: Applications for Mental Health and Education (Wiley, 2014). Through interviews with 60 African-American, Latino/a and Asian-Ameri­can subjects, the book helps teachers and therapists help people of color “inhabit their gendered selves” despite community, family and societal pressures.

Multicultural Gender Roles builds on the idea of intersectionality, which holds that iden­tities are simultaneously shaped by race, gender, class, sexual orientation and other forces. Yet it also presents gender roles as the subject of constant negotiation and navigation conducted in arenas such as “Resolving conflicting messages,” “Navi­gating privilege and oppres­sion” and “Constructing own gender styles/expressions.”

Deepening the discourse around race, ethnicity and gender with research that makes a direct impact in practice is especial­ly rewarding, Miville says. “It’s wonderful to look at intersectionality from an experience basis— how conflicts arise from mixed messages, how people deal with feelings that arise, how they negotiate through con­flict.” — SIDDHARTHA MITTER

What Immigrant Kids Bring to the Table

Carmen Martínez-Roldán and co-authors flip the discourse about a misunderstood population

Immigrant children are often viewed through the lens of their deficits. Visual Journeys through Wordless Narratives: An International Inquiry with Immigrant Children and ‘The Arrival’ (Bloomsbury, 2014), co-authored by TC’s Carmen Martínez-Roldán, Associate Professor of Bilingual/Bicultural Education asks instead: “What knowledge do young immi­grant students bring to their new classrooms?”

The book grew out of a project in which teams of bi­lingual/bicultural educators in the U.K., Spain, Italy and the United States explored the responses of very young immigrants to a wordless picture book, The Arrival, by author/illustrator Shaun Tan, in which a man arrives from afar in a new country.

The children spoke to the researchers of the dislocations resulting from their own parents’ search for jobs; of having to flee persecution and violence; and of the hardship of arriving and living in a new  country. They also demon­strated their resilience in the face of harsh stereotyp­ing, frequently describing immigrants as proud and dignified workers.

Martínez-Roldán and her co-authors recognize that language and cultural literacy “are crucial for inclusion in a new country.” Ultimately, however, they ar­gue that these skills must be developed “in spaces where these children feel safe to explore themes that resonate with their experiences; to ex-press their understanding; and to engage in intercultural exchange.” — HARRIET JACKSON

Published Friday, Jun. 5, 2015

Unconventional Wisdom

Conversation Starters

At TC’s Mysak Clinic, a multidisciplinary aphasia team is restoring the gift of communication.

After suffering a stroke, 41-year-old Leander (not his real name) lost his abil­ity to express himself through language — a condition known as aphasia. Today he travels to the aphasia clinic at TC’s Edward D. Mysak Center for Communication Disorders to receive Verb Network Strengthen­ing Treatment (VNeST), a new therapy which reintroduces him to verb-noun relationships. He also benefits from the Mysak Center’s multidisciplinary approach, which includes art and music programs.

 “Everybody’s relation­ship to language is differ­ent, and so is everybody’s aphasia,” so treatment should be tailored to each individual, says Lisa Edmonds, Associate Pro­fessor in Communication Sciences & Disorders, the primary creator of VNeST.

The Mysak’s diverse aphasia team can meet that need. Bernadine Gagnon (M.S. ’01), Chief Clinical Supervisor, is a registered nurse who dual-majored in Linguistics and Biology and minored in teaching English as a Second Language (ESL). She taught ESL in public schools and universities before earning her speech/language pathology degree from Teachers College. Clinical Instructor Lindsay Milgram (M.S. ’11) is an expert on language skills ranging from articulation and auditory processing to narrative language and executive functioning. Edmonds, an affiliate to the team, conducted clinical trials with monolingual and bilingual aphasia patients at the University of Florida and the Veterans Administration before coming to TC. The Mysak Center’s Director, Kathleen Youse, and Assistant Director, Elise Wag­ner, and Biobehavioral Sciences department chair Stephen Silverman work closely with the team.

Aphasia results from damage to parts of the brain that contain language but does not affect intelligence. The condition can include difficulties in speaking, listening, reading and writing, and can co-occur with swallowing problems and other issues that are a focus at Mysak. Yet despite an estimated 1 million aphasia patients in the United States — including children, whose condition is congenital — the research database remains slim. That’s why Gagnon has boosted the clinic’s aphasia population from five to 40 people. Both at Mysak and in her own Aphasia Rehabilitation and Bilingualism Research Lab, Edmonds is planning small pilot studies and randomized controlled trials of VNeST and other approaches, including the use of computers and tele therapy. Meanwhile, Gagnon has initiated weekly groups to foster word recall, memory and functional skills and focus on language-enhancing art, music and mindfulness activities. She’s also planning a “slam” series in which people with aphasia tell their life stories.

Edmonds, Gagnon and their colleagues are committed to the Mysak Center’s mission to advance personalized rehabilitation and to under-stand the cognitive, psychosocial and linguistic components that underlie aphasia. Their emphasis on clinical treatment and research — which reflects the broader approach of the Mysak Center — has attracted students from across the College, includ­ing two doctoral candidates who are researching the impact of music on aphasia rehabilitation.

“We want our students to understand the science behind aphasia treatment,” Gagnon says. “But we don’t want them to forget about the per­son they are taking care of. If you don’t focus on the human being, you will never accomplish great things in treatment or research.” —BARBARA FINKELSTEIN

 

Making Leadership a Science

Why does one company thrive amid change while another ends up in bankruptcy?

Leadership is widely viewed as critical to the answer, but it has proved difficult to define. Now, though, TC’s Warner Burke believes he’s getting close.

Burke and his students will soon conclude a five-year study of “learning agility” the ability to adapt, listen to others and learn new things.

“We believe effective leaders are more adept at learning what they need to know,” says Burke, TC’s Edward Lee Thorndike Professor of Psy­chology & Education. “That’s especially important during times of great change.”

Burke knows about those times, having consulted during the reorganization of companies such as British Airways, SmithKline Beecham, and the Anchor and Dime savings banks. In 1992, he co-designed the Burke-Litwin Change Model, a map of interrelated “change drivers” ranging from mission and strategy to cultural and external environment that is now a staple in leadership and “org psych” courses around the world. Burke also worked with TC faculty member Debra Noumair to help create a unique, year-long Executive Mas­ter’s Program in Change Leadership.

With constant upheaval now common­place in all fields, Burke and his students have refined a set of learning agility metrics that include personal flexibility, speed, risk-taking and openness to feedback. Burke is also applying his practical and theoretical expertise to the U.S. Army and the Veterans Administration (VA). TC’s Eisenhower Leader Development Program (ELDP), co-founded by Burke, enables officers from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point to earn TC master’s degrees in social-organizational psychology. Burke is assessing ELDP officers to see if they outscore peers on learning agility. He also is serving as a consultant with MITRE, a nonprofit that is working to bring a culture of greater accountability to the VA. MITRE has invited Burke to serve on a 16-member blue ribbon panel that is undertaking an indepen­dent review of the Veterans Access, Choice and Accountability Act of 2014. Burke will collect data on leadership effectiveness.

“Whether you’re talking about aggressive, market-driven companies or military units that fight rogue militias, we need leaders who can sus­tain an organization through its most challenging times,” he says. “Finding them depends increasing­ly on a provable relationship between leadership and learning agility.”—BARBARA FINKELSTEIN

 

Bringing History to Life

When Columbia university historian Kenneth Jackson spoke at a 2013 New York Historical Society exhibition about Teachers College, he described how several leading New York City families created TC and other in­stitutions that still drive the city’s cultural and civic life. Then, the latter-day representatives of five of those families — Vanderbilt, Macy, Milbank, Rockefeller and Dodge — came on stage.

Both Jackson’s presence and the exhibition were engineered in part by TC’s Center on History and Education (CHE), created in 2012 with funding from TC Trustee Sue Ann Weinberg (Ed.D. ’97). Like Jackson, the Center seeks to underscore history’s continuing relevance.

“The Center is encouraging development of a new historical scholarship that sees the com­munity as the starting point for improved history education,” says Thomas James, TC’s Provost and Dean, an education historian who serves as the Center’s Director.

“Local history is how you grab kids’ atten­tion,” says CHE Associate Director, Bette Weneck. “It’s also the path toward effective citizenship.”

Those are urgent aims. Studies show that only 45 percent of U.S. students demonstrate a basic understanding of American history, and many states no longer require civics education.

The Center isn’t working alone. Columbia’s Department of History helped CHE secure a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities and Jackson serves as a senior adviser. The University’s Center for International History is helping to deepen knowledge of U.S. immigrant communities, and the Centers for Digital Research & Scholarship, and New Media, Teaching & Learning are creating online archives for teachers. Citywide, partnerships have been established with the New York Historical Society, the New York Public Library and the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. CHE also is collabo­rating with TC’s Institute for Urban and Minority Education and faculty in the History & Education and Social Studies programs, including Ansley Erickson, Cally Waite and Christine Baron.

Meanwhile, Weneck is teaching a course, “The History of Education in New York City,” in which students absorb the late TC president and historian Lawrence Cremin’s vision of education as often occurring through non-school venues. Students also explore past teaching and learning in the city’s neighborhoods.

“When you connect history to people’s lives, it comes alive,” Weneck says. —JOE LEVINE

 

Going Where the Need Is Greatest

When the world crumbles around us, support makes us feel safe and hope keeps us from resigning,” says Lena Verdeli, Associate Profes­sor of Psychology & Education and Director of TC’s Global Mental Health Lab.

Amid traumatized communities in post-earth-quake Haiti, AIDS-ravaged Uganda and Syrian refugee camps in Jordan, Verdeli has culturally adapted Interpersonal Therapy (IPT), a form of group therapy developed by her mentor, Columbia University epidemiologist Myrna Weissman, to fight paralyzing depression brought on by war, dis-ease or disaster. Verdeli trains mental health professionals and laypeople to provide care to fellow community members. Then she evaluates the results.

“We have information on the impact of locally adapted IPT on people’s distress and func­tioning, and on how restoring their mental health affects their families and communities,” Verdeli says. “That’s crucial in low-resource areas because you cannot afford to invest in ineffective strategies.”

In two clinical trials in Uganda (one with depressed adults, the other with war-affected adolescents in internally displaced camps), those participating in weekly 90-minute IPT group sessions over four months experienced significantly greater reduc­tion in locally-defined depres­sion symptoms than those not receiving the therapy.

An intervention in Haiti, conducted with Harvard’s Partners in Health and funded by the Canadian government, generated a care framework that Verdeli and colleagues are using in Co­lombia and Lebanon. It calls for delivering mental health care through existing systems, via mental health specialists, primary care personnel and laypeople. These providers assess the context of depression; define pathways for delivering care; create support, supervision and rules for referrals; use quality improvement practices; and plan for sustainability and capacity building.

Some 5.7 million Colombians internally displaced by civil war are coping with severe and persistent depression and anxiety resulting from dislocation, sexual violence, civilian abductions and recruitment of youth as combatants. In Feb­ruary, with Universidad de Los Andes in Bogota, the Colombian Ministry of Health, and the New York State Psychiatric Institute, Verdeli and her team conducted local trainings, including in the use of IPT by and for internally displaced women.

“Working with displaced persons challenges you to explore local, national and international contexts and patients’ fast-changing worlds and experiences,” Verdeli says. Often, clinicians and researchers benefit as patients do: “More than anything else, this work has pushed me to increase my tolerance for ambiguity and complexity.”—BARBARA FINKELSTEIN
 

FIRST EDITIONS

In the Eyes of the Beheld

Marie Miville and her student researchers explore multicultural gender roles

We were talking about hair: the experience of having kinky hair or hair that is other than long and flowing,” recalls Marie Miville, Associate Professor of Psychology & Education. “There’s a sense that women of color can never achieve a standard of beauty because they don’t have the hair.”

From such conversations, Miville and her student re-searchers were inspired to produce Multicultural Gender Roles: Applications for Mental Health and Education (Wiley, 2014). Through interviews with 60 African-American, Latino/a and Asian-Ameri­can subjects, the book helps teachers and therapists help people of color “inhabit their gendered selves” despite community, family and societal pressures.

Multicultural Gender Roles builds on the idea of intersectionality, which holds that iden­tities are simultaneously shaped by race, gender, class, sexual orientation and other forces. Yet it also presents gender roles as the subject of constant negotiation and navigation conducted in arenas such as “Resolving conflicting messages,” “Navi­gating privilege and oppres­sion” and “Constructing own gender styles/expressions.”

Deepening the discourse around race, ethnicity and gender with research that makes a direct impact in practice is especial­ly rewarding, Miville says. “It’s wonderful to look at intersectionality from an experience basis— how conflicts arise from mixed messages, how people deal with feelings that arise, how they negotiate through con­flict.” — SIDDHARTHA MITTER

What Immigrant Kids Bring to the Table

Carmen Martínez-Roldán and co-authors flip the discourse about a misunderstood population

Immigrant children are often viewed through the lens of their deficits. Visual Journeys through Wordless Narratives: An International Inquiry with Immigrant Children and ‘The Arrival’ (Bloomsbury, 2014), co-authored by TC’s Carmen Martínez-Roldán, Associate Professor of Bilingual/Bicultural Education asks instead: “What knowledge do young immi­grant students bring to their new classrooms?”

The book grew out of a project in which teams of bi­lingual/bicultural educators in the U.K., Spain, Italy and the United States explored the responses of very young immigrants to a wordless picture book, The Arrival, by author/illustrator Shaun Tan, in which a man arrives from afar in a new country.

The children spoke to the researchers of the dislocations resulting from their own parents’ search for jobs; of having to flee persecution and violence; and of the hardship of arriving and living in a new  country. They also demon­strated their resilience in the face of harsh stereotyp­ing, frequently describing immigrants as proud and dignified workers.

Martínez-Roldán and her co-authors recognize that language and cultural literacy “are crucial for inclusion in a new country.” Ultimately, however, they ar­gue that these skills must be developed “in spaces where these children feel safe to explore themes that resonate with their experiences; to ex-press their understanding; and to engage in intercultural exchange.” — HARRIET JACKSON

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