Kennesaw State University

Kennesaw Scholar from Nigeria: Elections Were Fair, Electrifying and Historic

Name of Publication: 
Global Atlanta
Excerpt of Article: 


By Trevor William/April 1, 2015

NigeriaAfrica’s most populous country and a democracy of more than 170 million people, was scheduled to go to the polls in February, but presidential and parliamentary elections were postponed to late March due to the threat of violence by Boko Haram, the Islamist insurgency that has taken hold in the north. 

Some worried that the incumbent president, Goodluck Jonathan, was simply manipulating the situation to rally his electoral troops in light of what looked to be a formidable challenge from former military man Muhammadu Buhari, the general who famously ruled as a dictator for a few years after a coup d’etat in the early 1980s. 

For Kennesaw State University’s Akanmu Adebayo, a Nigeria native and director of the university’s Center for Conflict Management, this shift did more than force a change in travel plans. It added another wrinkle in his duties as an official observer in an election that turned out to be as electrifying as it was historic. 

After the voting was extended from Saturday to Sunday, March 29, in some polling units, it became clear that Mr. Buhari, 72, had unseated Mr. Jonathan, the first time a challenger had snatched the presidency from an incumbent. He also did it handily: With the final precincts reporting, Mr. Buhari had topped Mr. Jonathan by a margin of 2.5 million votes.

The demand for change in a country racked by corruption, falling oil prices and Boko Haram showed Dr. Adebayo that this could be the beginning of a new moment in Nigerian — and African — democracy, despite the looming threat of violence. 

Based on his observations, Dr. Adebayo concluded that that elections were fair and valid, though he saw a lot of room for improvement. In rural areas with limited electricity, light from officials’ mobile phones was used to count votes, a small number of newly introduced card readers faced problems and the 1 million people employed by the election watchdog had no chance to vote themselves, according to his preliminary report. Global Atlanta caught up with Dr. Adebayo by email in Ibadan, Nigeria. The interview follows: 

(Click here to read full interview)

Interdisciplinary forums put spotlight on women, gender equity

AADS annual conference, Gender and Women's Studies series highlight issues during Women’s History Month

KENNESAW, Ga., (March 26,2015) -- Two forums presented by programs within the Interdisciplinary Studies Department made issues of women and gender equity a focus during the March 2015 Women’s History Month.

The seventh annual African and African Diaspora (AADS) Student Research and Engagement Conference on March 21 included three panels on the image of black women in contemporary media and a plenary forum on women’s roles in liberation movements in Angola and Tanzania. That was followed on March 23-25 by a collaborative series organized by Gender and Women's Studies,  which featured a focus on feminism and the impact on men and masculinity, gender equity and the campus environment. 

Jesse Benjamin, coordinator of the African and African Diaspora Studies program, associate professor of sociology and AADS conference organizer, said the focus on women emerged in an “organic fashion,” as the conference planning developed. “We realized that we had exciting student research panels on Black Women in the Media set to run right before and after the plenary, and these were followed by a panel of experts from Atlanta on issues of Black Women in the Media.”

A concern for gender and the campus climate among multiple constituents across the university prompted the collaboration that brought noted sociologist Michael Kimmel, author of “Angry White Men,” for a lecture and a series of frank discussions among students, faculty and administrators. 

“Kimmel is a preeminent scholar of gender and has impacted work across the humanities and social sciences, so you can understand his wide appeal,” said Stacy Keltner, coordinator of Gender and Women’s Studies and associate professor of philosophy. “We organized the discussions in order to deepen our understanding of his work and its significance for us and college campuses more generally.”

A broad coalition of Kennesaw State departments and student organizations joined Gender and Women’s Studies in sponsoring the series. They included the College of Humanities and Social Sciences and its departments of Interdisciplinary Studies, Communication, Psychology, Sociology and Geography and Anthropology; the Coles College of Business and its Department of Management and Entrepreneurship; Office of Diversity and Inclusion; Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning; Women’s Leadership Center; Zuckerman Museum of Art; Anti-Assimilationist Non-Normative Students of KSU; hu-MAN Up; Kennesaw Pride Alliance; and YESbody!

AADS Conference

Student panel examining images of black women in contemporary TV and films included, from left, Jalessah Jackson, moederator Camille Kleidysz, Ashley MacFarland and Anna Tussey.

As it has in previous years, the AADS conference presented a full day of concurrent panels led by students, faculty and other scholars and community activists; noteworthy plenary speakers; a world-renowned keynote speaker; awards presentations and catered cuisine from the diaspora, topped off by a hip-hop social. 

Even though that winning formula that has proven its efficacy for six years, the move to include an emphasis on women added another dimension, attracting some 500 students and scholars from across disciplines throughout the day. 

A student-led panel titled “Media Representation of Black Womanhood” took on the stereotypical image of the “strong black woman” embodied by characters in popular TV series and films, including Olivia in ABC’s Scandal; Analese in ABC’s How to get Away with Murder; Cookie in Fox’s explosive Empire; and the varied roles actor Viola Davis plays in the movies Doubt and The Help.

In the student panel, “Media Representation of Black Womanhood,” AADS major Jalessah Jackson moderated, and Masters in American Studies Program students, Camille Kleidysz, Ashley MacFarland and Anna Tussey, presented papers. Their formal presentations prompted a myriad of viewpoints. Among them: that contemporary images present the black woman as more multi-dimensional than earlier images; that the image of the black woman portrayed in TV shows are becoming more stereotypical as the shows become more popular; though Empire’s Cookie character breaks the mold, the reigning image of the strong black woman on TV is as professional and exceptional; and that the images today are both beneficial and problematic.

“Black women are so starved for portrayals of themselves that they’re willing to accept C-grade images [like Cookie, Olivia and Analese],” said Griselda Thomas, professor of English and Women Studies, who co-teaches a special topics course on the “Strong Black Woman.”

A second similar panel invited the three earlier presenters to join in roundtable discussion with two additional colleagues in the Masters in American Studies Program, Tanya Brinkley and Kristen Walker. The discussion was led by Tiana Ferrell, granddaughter of famed abolitionist journalist Ida B. Wells, and publisher of Atlanta Free Speech.

Rounding out the trilogy of panels dealing with the portrayal of black women in media was a panel of professionals and activists looking at the issue from a black feminist perspective. Participants included Adrian Brown, a community activist, as moderator; Ferrell; Kimberly Fletcher, president of Achievers Marketing & Management; Ifetayo Ojelade, a licensed psychologist and executive director of A Healing Paradigm.

Presenters challenged the pervasive projection of black women as “hypersexualized,” and questioned whether entertainers like Beyoncé and Nikki Minaj, who view themselves as feminist, can rightly claim they are. 

“Black women are not in control of how their sexuality is portrayed,” said Fletcher.  “You have to consider who is approving these scripts; it’s still predominantly white males.”

Psychologist Ojelade expressed concern for the detrimental effects of a lack of portrayals of black women whose greatness have nothing to do with their sexuality. She shared images of goddesses in traditional African religion who are revered because of their qualities of virtue, and mentioned powerful women like [Susan Estrich], the first African-American woman to head the Harvard Law Review.

“Why is it that these types of women are not as popular as [the character Olivia] on Scandal?” she asked, suggesting a psychological impact for black women regarding the types of characters they are embracing. “If you’re used to drama, you’ll try to find it.”

The conference plenary forum shifted the focus on women to the historic roles of women in liberation struggles in the African nations of Angola and Tanzania. The forum featured talks by Jesus “Chucho” Garcia, Venezuelan Consul General in New Orleans, and Fatma Alloo, founder of the Tanzania Media Women’s Association. 

“When the history of Africa, the Atlantic slave trade and the resistance to that crime against humanity is told, you hear praise for the resistance of African leaders, but you don’t hear about women in the resistance,” Garcia said through his interpreter, Jose Pérez. “The subject [of resistance] has been covered by a male-dominated and racist history.”

Garcia relayed the contributions of women throughout the African diaspora who have been pivotal in the fight against slavery and oppression. He cited Angola’s Nzinga Mbandi and Kirupa Vita; Harriet Tubman in the U.S.; Cecile Fatiman in Haiti and Cuba’s Commander Inga as examples of women freedom fighters. 

That theme was repeated in a talk by Fatma Alloo, founder of the Tanzania Media Women’s Association, who urged women to become involved in telling women’s stories.

“The sons of Africa are very well documented, not its daughters,” Alloo said. “In all the stories of South Africa’s upheaval and transformation, how many stories have you read of [first wife of famed former South African President Nelson Mandela] Winnie Mandela’s struggle and perspective? We don’t know the names of many important organizations created by women. ... Don’t you think we have a lot of homework to do?”    

Other conference sessions focused on youth movements in Africa, the Black and Latino communities’ relationship with police, student activism and research in African art history. A conference highlight, the Bishop Henry McNeal Turner and Ida B. Wells Memoral Lecture, featured as keynote speaker Kenyan educator, author and activist Ngugi Wa Thiong’o, a distinguished professor at the University of California, Irvine, and former finalist for the Nobel Prize in literature.


GWS collaborative series on issues of women, men and gender equity

Micharl Kimmel, sociologist and author of "Angry White Men" 

A series of discussions organized by Gender and Women Studies focused on gender equality and how feminism has impacted men and women. The three-part series featured a lecture by noted sociologist Michael Kimmel, author of “Angry White Men.” A book discussion preceded the lecture, and a roundtable discussion followed it. More than 200 students and faculty from various disciplines participated in the series.

Kimmel’s ideas were the focal point for discussions, including his premise that men have benefitted from feminism as much as women. The topic of his lecture — “Mars, Venus or Planet Earth: Men and Women on Campus in a New Millennium” — reflects a prevailing view that “men and women are so different, they may as well be from different planets.” 

“By every measurable trait of attitude and behavior, men and women are more similar than different,” said Kimmel, director of the Center for the Study of Men and Masculinities at Stony Brook University, where he is distinguished professor of sociology and gender studies.

As part of his research, Kimmel said he has been listening intently to what men say they want and finding that, as a result of the way women’s lives have changed over the past 50 years, men would be well served to become allies with women to protect gains women have scored. However, he said men’s concepts of masculinity prevent them from seeing that they are better off as a result of the feminist movement.

Among the feminist-inspired changes Kimmel noted are a higher level of visibility for gender, to the point it is a study at most colleges; the growth of women in the workforce to about 50 percent in the U.S.; a new emphasis on work/family/life balance, with women being unwilling to chose; and the expression of sexual freedom and enjoyment.

“Things have changed so dramatically for men, Kimmel said. “There are no longer the all-male schools, military or jobs their dad’s went to.”

What has not changed, however, are men’s ideas of what masculinity is, Kimmel explained. He described the tension between men’s ideas of manhood and masculinity.

“If you ask a man what is a good man, you’re likely to hear words like ‘honorable, good provider, protector.’ But are those the same traits that show up for you when you’re told to ‘man up’ or ‘be a real man?’”

He said masculinity or being a “real man” more often is equated with such things as “not reflecting any “sissy stuff,” being a big wheel in terms of the size of your wealth or power; being a sturdy oak, a rock — reliable in times of crisis, and living life on the edge or taking great risks. Kimmel said masculinity becomes a “relentless test” and the fear of not manning up becomes an  “animating reality.”

While gender studies have given more visibility to gender, Kimmel concedes that most men don’t think gender is important because of a sense of privilege, which negates equality, and especially equity.   

“Privilege is invisible to those who have it,” said Kimmel, recalling a TV talk show where a white men alleged reverse discrimination because a black woman had stolen “his” job, not “the” job. 

In their push for work/life balance, women have not only sought equality, Kimmel said, but equity — a sense of fairness — especially in marriages, when it comes to such things as property ownership, house work and child care.

“Studies have shown that where there is equity in these relationships, kids do better in school; the kids, women and men are happier and healthier; and men and women have more sex and enjoy it more. And what man wouldn’t want that?”

Concluding, Kimmel noted that gender issues, and especially issues of masculinity, play a critical role in discussions about sex on campus, the rise of HIV/AIDS and sexual assaults, and the conditions that will help women feel safe in their relationships. “In every arena we talk about, the very things women have said will make their lives better will make it possible for the first time for men to be free.”

— Sabbaye McGriff

Photos by Anthony Stalcup and Daid Caselli


West Coast Connection

Jeffrey Stepakoff, left, and Aaron Levy stay in contact to teach script writing class

From LA, veteran TV writer-producer stays in touch with KSU class  

KENNESAW, Ga. (March 27, 2015) — Kennesaw State professor Jeffrey Stepakoff has spent an average of eight hours a day since Jan. 1 holed up in the “writers room” of a large production studio in Santa Clarita, just North of Los Angeles, adding flesh to the ideas that will become next season’s episodes of Chasing Life, a series that began airing on the ABC Family channel in 2014.

Sunshine Week: Government media policies can be used to control access to information

Name of Publication: 
Concord [New Hampshire] Monitor
Excerpt of Article: 

Student Professional

ellenelledge2 .jpg

Academic and career ambitions intertwine for student writer and editor

KENNESAW, Ga. (March 4, 2015)– It’s difficult to tell where Ellen Eldridge the student and Ellen Eldridge the professional begin and end. The activities of her two lives — as a senior majoring in communication and as a working journalist — blend together perfectly, phasing in and out like scenes in a movie.

Grab a Beer, Explore the Globe

Name of Publication: 
National Geographic
Excerpt of Article: 

by April Fulton

Beer is the third most widely consumed beverage in the world, after water and tea. Many of us love it but don’t give much thought to where it originated, how it has changed with the migration and climate of its creators and how much it drives economies today.

Take two beer-loving geographers and a crazy idea to educate people about their favorite beverage, and you’ve got the makings of a book about global spatial relationships, as seen through beer goggles. Appropriately, the book was born as a sketch on the back of a cocktail napkin.

Mark Patterson and Nancy Hoalst-Pullen, a.k.a. The Beer Doctors on Facebook and Twitter, are geographers from Kennesaw State University in Georgia. They published an academic book called The Geography of Beer last March, and have since turned it into a course and a study abroad program. Hoalst-Pullen will be giving a TED talk on using beer to expand geographic literacy later this month. ...

Social entrepreneur says students have role in bolstering economic development


Greg Van Kirk delivers annual Pathways to Peace lecture

Today’s study abroad programs provide ample opportunity for students to become engaged with efforts to alleviate poverty, according to Greg Van Kirk, the investment banker-turned-Peace Corps volunteer who pioneered methods to help entrepreneurs in rural Latin American communities create sustainable businesses.

Van Kirk spoke to an overflow audience attending the annual Pathways to Peace lecture held Feb. 24 at Kennesaw State University’s Coles College of Business.   

As co-founder and president of Social Entrepreneur Corps, Van Kirk collaborates with institutions and organizations — Kennesaw State among them — to develop international internship programs in Guatemala, Ecuador, Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic. The programs support the development of entrepreneurial approaches to meeting the needs of rural communities. To date, 40 Kennesaw State students have worked with the organization in Guatemala and another 20 students have enrolled to work there during summer 2015.

“As a Peace Corps volunteer myself, it’s been a real pleasure to have students come down as kindred spirits and work together to create holistic and comprehensive solutions for the marginalized communities we serve,” Van Kirk said. “It’s going to take a team effort to alleviate poverty.”

Van Kirk shared some of the things he has learned while creating a successful model for providing “entrepreneurial solutions.”

“If you want to do something to help a community, write down all the things that annoy you about it,” he said. “That’s what you should do something about.”

As a “gringo” in a small Guatemalan village, Van Kirk said he became the de facto tour guide, and everyone asked him where to go when they arrived. Since there was no gathering place, Van Kirk opened the town’s first restaurant with assistance from partners and local residents. When he noticed that most people cooked inside their two-room adobe houses on fires in the ground, he donated a cook stove to one family, which “made a big difference.” That led to work with locals to develop a company to make and sell cook stoves.

That was the beginning of Van Kirk’s development of the MicroConsignment Model (MCM), a method of providing first-time access to life-saving technologies, products and services for isolated villagers through innovative entrepreneurial solutions that are locally-owned, managed and profitable, and therefore sustainable.

“This is not relief work,” Van Kirk said. “We’re devising new ways to innovate and brings these things to the community in ways that are scalable. We’re working to get smart people to come down and get involved so we can scale these entrepreneurial solutions up to larger and more communities.”

Even so, social entrepreneurship represents a shift in paradigm from the traditional business model, Van Kirk explained. “It creates access where there was none, a sense of agency or self-efficacy and control, and empowerment through which people do things they never thought of doing.”

For most businesses, success is primarily measured by profit — by how much they earn, he said. “If you ask what success looks like to social entrepreneurs, that’s not what drives them. You’re taking on the traditional entrepreneurial characteristics and measuring yourself by how much you’ve increased social impact.”

Another distinction of social entrepreneurship is the range of entities that might provide solutions to the challenges or lack of access within a community, including individuals, businesses, governments, nonprofits, charities or any of these working together in partnership. 

Social entrepreneurs are guided in their decision-making by a set of core values, Van Kirk said. These include: do no harm; innovate; be endurable, appropriate, dignified, inclusive, resilient, scalable and system-changing.  

Van Kirk urged students to make a few calculations before committing to the work of social entrepreneurship. 

“You must be self aware and know what your situation is — your strengths, weaknesses, what you’re willing to do and to give up,” he said, adding that the work also requires students to have empathy-triggering understanding; to be curious about the history, ecosystems, current practices, desires, capabilities and needs of the people; and be willing to commit “to go the extra mile and give 110 percent.”

The Pathways to Peace lecture series is produced through a collaboration among Kennesaw State’s Coles College of Business, University Collegeand College of Humanities and Social Sciences. Sponsors include the American Democracy Project, the University’s Peace Studies Programand ENACTUS.


—   Sabbaye McGriff

Photo by Anthony Stalcup


'He was more than I could live with': Jury watches video of teen confessing to killing father

Name of Publication: 
Excerpt of Article: 

By Brian Amaral  February 07, 2015 at 8:18 AM, updated February 07, 2015 at 12:16 PM

John Mahoney was done lying about who shot his father. 

After nearly four hours of interrogation, Mahoney, then 19, finally began to crack. It was just hours after he'd killed Jerry Mahoney, a beloved Piscataway police officer, at their township home the morning of Dec. 27, 2007

"Any time I did something wrong it was an excuse for him to hit me, God help me if I tried to fight back," Mahoney told Shawn Raypach of the Piscataway Police Department and Eleazar Ricardo of the Middlesex County Prosecutor's Office after finally confessing. "He was more than I could live with." 

Jurors in John Mahoney's murder trial watched the taped confession Tuesday and Wednesday as prosecutors sought to convince them that John Mahoney was a remorseless killer motivated by hatred and greed.

Mahoney's attorney, William Fetky, team has not denied that John Mahoney shot and killed Jerry Mahoney. Instead, they're arguing that the shooting was an act of self-defense by a young man whose father had subjected him to years of physical and psychological abuse. In the taped interrogation, Mahoney becomes more expansive about the abuse he says he suffered as he got closer to confessing to killing his father. 

For several hours during his interrogation, though, Mahoney kept up an unlikely ruse. Mahoney had told police that a stranger had broken into the home, shot Jerry Mahoney, and then shot John Mahoney in the arm during a brief struggle. The man was average height, average build, unremarkable, and fled out the back door.  ...

"It's not uncommon for the act to take place when the parent is in a compromised situation, like asleep, or lying down," said Jeffrey L. Helms, a professor at Kennesaw State University in Georgia and the author of a study on the topic, in an interview with NJ Advance Media. "Children are no physical match for their parents, and their fear is so great."

Auschwitz liberation's 70th anniversary focuses on survivors

Name of Publication: 
CBC News
Excerpt of Article: 

A record 1.5 million people visited former Nazi death camp in 2014

By Aleksandra Sagan, CBC News Posted: Jan 25, 2015 5:00 AM ET

As the 70th anniversary of the liberation of the Nazis' most notorious concentration camp approaches, historians are grappling with how to preserve the memory of Auschwitz and the Holocaust.

No one knows how many of the survivors remain alive today, but it's a group that is dwindling as age takes its toll.


To mark the liberation's anniversary, about 300 former Auschwitz prisoners are travelling to Oświęcim, Poland, to pay tribute on Jan. 27 at Birkenau's Gate of Death, the unloading ramp at the camp's rail entrance.

"In 10 years, during the 80th anniversary, we'll not have this opportunity," says Pawel Sawicki, a press officer for the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum. Ten years ago, he explains, 1,500 survivors commemorated the 60th anniversary.

About 1.1 million people who passed under the camp's infamous sign "Arbeit macht frei" (one translation reads "Work will set you free") between 1940 and 1945 never left, many of them murdered in the camp's gas chambers. Only some 200,000 are believed to have survived that fate.

The Red Army freed 7,000 of these survivors from Auschwitz on Jan. 27, 1945. 

In the days before liberation, the Nazis had removed nearly 60,000 others, forcing them to march to other camps. Some were later liberated at other concentration camps. A small number of survivors escaped, while others only stayed at Auschwitz temporarily before being relocated to nearby labour camps....

Preservation a 'huge challenge'

These survivor stories will be the focus of the anniversary, which won't include any political speeches, Sawicki says.

When all the survivors have died, the opportunity to hear them tell their stories and to ask them questions will be gone as well. Then, the physical structures of Auschwitz and other concentration camps will be the only remaining witnesses, says Catherine Lewis, a history professor at Kennesaw State University in Georgia, who also runs its Museum of History and Holocaust Education.

​"In some ways, the buildings, the barracks, the bunk beds, the toilets are all kind of a silent witness to this historical moment," she says.

That idea propels the extensive preservation efforts at Auschwitz, she says. ...

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