College of Fine, Performing and Communication Arts in the news

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Changing minds: What moves the needle for the unvaccinated?

By Karen Doheny  Not so long ago, Heather Simpson of Dallas was known as the anti-vaccine mom who dressed as "the measles" for Halloween. She painted red spots on her face and posted her photo on Facebook, joking: "Was trying to think of the least scary thing I could be for Halloween … so I became the measles." It went viral with the anti-vaccine crowd. But between that Halloween and today, a series of “aha” moments transformed Simpson's attitudes toward vaccines. In January 2021, one of those moments involved her daughter, now 4, who was scratched by a feral cat, raising concerns about tetanus. Her daughter had been bitten by a dog when she was just 1, and Simpson turned down advice then to get a tetanus shot. "I was convinced the tetanus shot would kill her faster than the tetanus." After the cat incident, the anxiety was so exhausting, she listened to the nurse practitioner at the clinic, whom she trusted. The nurse gently reassured Simpson that the shot was less risky than the possibility of tetanus -- but did not bombard her with statistics -- and that won over Simpson and triggered an overall rethinking of her vaccine stance. "People develop negative attitudes [about vaccines] by accessing alternative sources of information, anecdotes, and personal stories," says Matthew Seeger, PhD, dean of the College of Fine, Performing and Communication Arts and co-director of the Center for Emerging Infectious Diseases at Wayne State University in Detroit. 
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WSU endowment scholarship community bolstered by alum

Out of her passion and devotion to high school and college students, Detroit philanthropist Carolyn Patrick-Wanzo is working to protect the future of social work and music through the creation of several endowment scholarships at Wayne State University with her late husband. Patrick-Wanzo, 76, became interested in the world of endowment scholarships when she and her husband, Mel Wanzo, a trombone player best known for playing in the Count Basie Orchestra decided to give back to the community. “He would say, ‘You can give your life to the music and in 10 years nobody would know you existed,’” she said of her jazz musician husband who played the trombone in the big band. “We would talk about, ‘Let’s do something sustainable,’ when we retired.” That sustainability came in the form of endowment scholarships in the music department at WSU – the first one in 2003.  
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Wayne State establishes infectious disease research center to aid in future pandemics

Wayne State University announced Monday the opening of a new center focused on the study of infectious diseases and strategies to combat future pandemics. The Center for Emerging and Infectious Diseases will enhance training and research in the field of public health. The center is not a physical building but a collection of doctors, researchers and professors at the Detroit-based university. "The COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically altered local, state and national mindsets toward infectious disease threats, including pandemic diseases," Dr. Mark Schweitzer, dean of Wayne State's School of Medicine and vice president of health affairs for the university, said in a news release. "The pandemic revealed deep and broad gaps in our clinical and public health infrastructure that responds to pandemics. "In line with the mission of WSU to support urban communities at risk for health disparities, the center will have the expertise and capacity to support and collaborate with neighborhoods, hospitals and public health agencies to deliver state-of-the-art diagnostics, treatments and preventive strategies for the benefit of all residents in Detroit and other communities." Work done at the center will focus on vaccine development, clinical vaccine evaluational, deployment strategies for the vaccine in underserved populations and research on pandemic mitigation efforts. Directors of the new center include: Dr. Teena Chopra, professor of medicine in the division of infectious diseases; Dr. Paul Kilgore, associate professor of pharmacy practice; Dr. Marcus Zervos, head of infectious diseases division for Henry Ford Health System, professor of medicine and assistant dean of WSU Global Affairs. Key faculty include Dr. Phillip Levy, professor of emergency medicine and assistant vice president of translational science and clinical research at WSU, and Matthew Seeger, professor of communication.
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How fear of government surveillance influences our behavior

People steer away from talking about policy issues publicly or even among family and friends when they think their attitudes aren’t widely shared. This inclination is known as the spiral of silence. Knowledge of government monitoring influences online expression, especially if users think their opinions conflict with that of the majority, according to a study by journalism professor Elizabeth Stoycheff at Wayne state University. Stoycheff asked 225 participants to fill out a survey about how they get their news, and about their views on surveillance. She showed them a fake Facebook page that reported on renewed U.S. airstrikes against ISIS terrorists in Iraq. Its tone was neutral. Participants were asked if they’d be willing to express their opinion on the airstrikes, by liking, forwarding, or commenting on the page. Half received several reminders that although the answers were confidential, there was no guarantee that the NSA would not be monitoring them. Afterward, participants were questioned about their opinions of airstrikes and what they believed most Americans thought about them. They were also asked questions about the legitimacy of online surveillance by government agencies. Their answers were consistent with the spiral-of-silence effect. The more their personal opinions diverged from perceived mainstream opinion, the less participants were willing to express their views. The effect was strongest in participants who believed that they might be monitored and that online surveillance was taking place: they answered in a more conformist way and engaged in self-censorship.
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Learning a thing or two about jazz with lecturer Vincent Chandler

Vincent Chandler is native Detroiter, who was a protégé in Detroit’s jazz scene during one of jazz music’s peaks in the city. He studied under some of Detroit’s most influential jazz musicians and is now passing on what he has learned as a lecturer in jazz studies, trombone, at Wayne State University. Chandler joined Jackie Paige on Community Connect to talk about the importance of passing on the history of jazz to the next generation and how jazz music has influenced the Black community since the genre’s conception. While speaking about jazz music’s history, Chandler points out the opportunities that the popularity of jazz gave to Black musicians, as the music helped start a foundation for eroding racial prejudice and breaking down barriers. Although the fight for racial equality continues today, jazz fueled the Civil Rights Movement in a way that no one thought music could. “What the Black community has done for music when it comes to America… you’ll see that throughout history it has given us opportunities that transcend even slavery.”
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Call it the Fauci effect: Interest spikes in health crisis communication

A number of U.S. colleges and universities say they've seen a surge of students who say the COVID-19 crisis inspired them to pursue the public health field, and crisis communication in particular. The pandemic exposed the need for and challenges of well-executed public health messaging — particularly in a time rife with misinformation campaigns and polarizing politics. Government officials have been both lauded and criticized at different turns for their public health messaging over the last year, most recently on confusion sparked around mask guidance. "Historically or traditionally, we never anticipated that pandemics would be such political issues," said Matthew Seeger, a health and risk communication scholar at Wayne State University. "Hopefully we’ll get past this moment and we will return to a time where people will work cooperatively and in a very partnership manner to be able to address these concerns," he said.
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'More like a story than a song': How Marvin Gaye's 'What's Going On' remains relevant 50 years later

Fifty years ago, vibrating with agitation and energy, Marvin Gaye headed down the wood steps into a Detroit studio and made his anthem for the ages. “What’s Going On,” a poignant musical masterpiece crafted in a season of unease, persists as a timely backdrop to another heated time, half a century later, when the world feels upside down. Racial tensions, police controversy, environmental anxieties, a globe on edge — they were the topics on the front burner when Gaye rebooted his musical career and took control of his creative vision inside Motown. “People always talk about various influences out of Detroit. This really was a hometown effort that went worldwide. It captured that community sensibility and coming-together during a challenging time,” said Chris Collins, a music professor and director of jazz studies at Wayne State University. “The production — the openness of the music involved — was a pretty spectacular example of what can come out of that.” Collins said his 20-something son is enamored with the song and album. “It's in his musical life as a young person,” said Collins, also director of the Detroit Jazz Festival. “I think that speaks to the power and sincerity of that recording. It spans generation and communities.” At Wayne State, ethnomusicologist Josh Duchan’s course on 20th century popular music zeroes in on “The Message,” the pioneering 1982 rap hit by Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five. “A song like that — which is much more explicit in its lyrics — is kind of the extension of what Marvin Gaye and ‘What’s Going On’ did years earlier,” he said. “It’s looking around at the world and saying: These are not the conditions we all hoped for.” 
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Basically everyone is mad at the CDC for being so confusing about masks

Don’t wear a mask. Wear a mask. In fact, wear two masks. Now take your masks off (once you get your shots). Keep the mask on, though, if you're in stores — well, some of them. The CDC’s latest change in guidelines, announcing that vaccinated people can stop wearing masks in most places, has governors complaining, scientists unhappy, and people confused. Rochelle Walensky, director of the CDC, has defended the new guidelines, saying the agency was simply “following the science.” The goal, she said, was to clearly declare that vaccines were effective and, amid declining vaccination rates, convince more people to get their shots. But health communication experts who spoke with BuzzFeed News said that, even armed with new data, the sudden switches in advice simply cross people’s wires without warning, said Matthew Seeger, a health and risk communication scholar at Wayne State University. You have to lay the ground carefully before you change guidance so people can understand where it is coming from. “We spent a year trying very hard to get people to wear masks,” Seeger said. “This kind of sudden, abrupt change, without any kind of signaling that it’s coming, will leave people feeling blindsided.”
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Everybody needs a ghostwriter

Stephanie Tong, a communication professor at Wayne State University, has found in her research on online dating that it’s common for people to get their friends’ input when sending messages or swiping through potential matches. “A lot of times, people want to eventually introduce their significant other into their social networks, but with online dating, people are doing that at a really early phase,” Tong told me. “Friends are actually getting in on the selection [process], which is new in a way.” The future significant other just doesn’t know it yet.
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COVID-19 vaccines appear to be working. But some recent headlines lack context and cause confusion

COVID-19 vaccines appear to be working well in Michigan to prevent people from getting sick or dying. But some news consumers might be getting the wrong impression about how safe the vaccines really are. And many recent headlines — including from established and reputable news sources — aren’t helping. MichMash hosts Jake Neher and Cheyna Roth discuss those headlines and why they might be misleading, and continue the conversation with Wayne State University Associate Professor of Journalism Fred Vultee, who wrote headlines for 25 years as a newspaper editor and now specializes in media framing and news practice. He noticed these headlines with concern. “I don’t want to say that this one headline is gonna make people say, ‘Bang. No vaccine.’ What this can do is maybe amplify or — ‘See, I told you so’ — or remind you that your initial idea, ‘I am scared of vaccines,’ might have been the right one to think about,” says Vultee. “We’re not going to say offhand that this media message makes people get up and walk across the room and turn off the TV. But we say that if it amplifies the wrong ideas, we’d rather have it steer in the direction of amplifying the right ideas.”    
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Ethnic media alliance pushes stories of success, provides community leadership

Michigan is home to a variety of ethnic media outlets: the Jewish News, the Latino Press, the Michigan Chronicle among them. Hayg Oshagan, a professor at Wayne State University, looked at the outlets and had a vision: What would happen if they were brought together? So, in 2005, he met with editors from the News, Press and Chronicle -- and the Korean Weekly and the Arab American News. These five papers have a combined circulation of more than 130,000, and a readership reach above 400,000. And while circulation declines have bedeviled the mainstream newspaper world -- a 30 percent drop nationally between 1990 and 2010 -- some of the these properties (Arab American News, Latino Press) are showing surprising resilience in their subscriber ranks. Together, they are now New Michigan Media. Oshagan's goal was to make issues and concerns of ethnic and minority communities more visible to the surrounding community -- to make minority communities more visible to one another and to promote their contributions to the region. “Minority interests have been largely ignored by mainstream media,” said Oshagan. "The collaboration aims to change the existing narrative by bringing to light issues as a group -- and making people see the economic, social, moral argument of immigration to this nation and region.”
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Wayne State produces Its first virtual dance production

Theatre and Dance at Wayne, the producing arm of the Maggie Allesee Department of Theatre and Dance at Wayne State University is sharing its first virtual dance production, "Dynamic Perspectives" through its website 5 p.m., Saturday, Jan 23. "Dynamic Perspectives" is a virtual storytelling presentation that combines the work of Dance students from the Fall semester. The presentation is a commemorative reflection on the Wayne State dance community's efforts to navigate the present moment as the world grapples with the impacts of COVID-19. The project is devised, organized, and executed by students in the Virtual Dance Collaboratory (VDC) - a new company created to give students creative space to process, dialogue, and create work about the present moment and future possibilities. VDC is a student-driven collective whose structure has been built from the ground up.

EPA awards $50,000 to student teams in Michigan for innovative technology projects

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency  announced $50,000 in funding to two student teams in Michigan through its People, Prosperity and the Planet (P3) grants program. The teams from University of Michigan and Wayne State University will receive funding to develop and demonstrate projects that help address environmental and public health challenges. The Phase I teams will receive grants of up to $25,000 each which serve as their proof of concept. Across the nation, this year's winners are addressing a variety of research topics including efforts to reduce microplastics waste and food waste, creating innovative and solar-driven nanomaterials, building a stand-alone water treatment system that can provide potable water for indoor use in single family homes, and removing PFAS from water using liquid extractions. These teams are also eligible to compete for a Phase II grant of up to $100,000 to further implement their design in a real-world setting. A student team from Wayne State University will research how green stormwater infrastructure (GSI) affects urban groundwater quality and flow by piloting a network of community-based groundwater monitoring stations surrounding GSI sites in Detroit.
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Vaccine politics, skewed by Trump’s polarizing approach, will complicate Biden’s path to a unified pandemic response

Cold, hard science powered the race that produced the first coronavirus vaccine, expected to win clearance imminently after gaining a positive vote from a Food and Drug Administration advisory committee Thursday night. The challenge next moves to more-fraught terrain — getting impatient Americans to understand that, while a vaccine is here, most will have to wait. Gallup’s most recent polling in November found that 37 percent of Americans would not agree to get a coronavirus vaccine, an improvement from the 50 percent who would not agree in September. Overcoming that hesitancy will require a broad-based education campaign from federal, state and local governments, featuring corporate and religious leaders, celebrities, sports stars and influencers, say experts. They will be up against an explosion of disinformation. “Unfortunately we have done a very good job of creating distorted and misleading narratives around this pandemic, and I still know individuals who say it’s just the bad flu, it’s a hoax,” said Matthew W. Seeger, a professor and dean at Wayne State University and co-author of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention manual on pandemic leadership and communication. “We now have these wildly competing narratives, and we need to do a much better job of telling the truth about covid 19,” he said.
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Michigan officials say no to big Thanksgiving gatherings. Who will listen?

Hospital leaders have pleaded. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has warned. Health officials have mandated, inspected and threatened fines. And a statistical model developed by Harvard researchers predicts nearly 1,000 COVID deaths a day in Michigan by year’s end if we can’t change the arc of the virus. But even as hospitalizations and deaths accelerate, will residents follow state pandemic restrictions — including limits on holiday gatherings — to help curb the spread of COVID-19? Public messaging on health risks is a “really challenging form of communication, and it's a lot easier to get it wrong than it is to get it right,” said Matt Seeger, dean of Wayne State University’s College of Fine, Performing and Communication Arts and an expert in crisis communications. “It's difficult to get people's attention around risk issues. Consider how long we've been trying to convince people to stop smoking,” he said. Mixed messages, politics — and an evolving understanding of the coronavirus — have complicated the task. Seeger said a one-size-fits-all message is unlikely to work, and may backfire when it’s delivered by the government. 

WSU Theater and Dance offers digital portal to creative performance and learning

While its theaters may be dark, Wayne State University’s Department of Theatre and Dance has reinvented its offerings to reach its audiences digitally, despite the pandemic precautions which keep live performance venues silent. Thomas Karr, director of marketing and audience engagement for the Magee Allesee Department of Theatre and Dance, said the 2020-21 season is three-fold, offering digital content to audiences worldwide, and includes a Productions Series, a Dialogue Series and Studio Hours. The Productions Series offers streaming and recorded theater performances. “Our Productions Series is where you’ll find the digital experience of viewing fully-realized theatrical productions, similar to what you might experience when attending in-person at the theatre,” Karr said. “Anyone can attend these digital performances for free, but we suggest a $10 ticket to help us maintain the high quality you’ve come to expect from us.”
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Woke fashion: Environment and the industry

While there are a lot of efforts being made by different companies and designers, the fact that being sustainable has become trendy does lead to some companies thinking the sustainable label, with little follow through, is good enough. Take for instance, H&M, which has a sustainable brand but since they aren’t cutting back on any of their other inventory, it just creates more waste, which ends up in landfills and further enhances the problem. H&M – the definition of fast fashion – also has a recycling initiative, which then gives customers a 15 percent off coupon for their next in-store purchase for every bag dropped off. “Who doesn't love a discount? But what does that do? That entices you to buy more.” said Monika Jonevski, who teaches fashion merchandising at Wayne State University. “Then that's just feeding into the cycle…you can buy a $5 t-shirt at H&M…But then you wash it a few times, it's going to turn into like sandpaper and shrink. Then you buy another and then you buy another and buy another. In the end, it's the same cost of spending a little bit more for a shirt that is well made and not harmful to the environment.” Jonevski has been front-and-center of sustainable fashion over the last decade. She was with Adidas when a push came for the company to work with recycled plastic from the ocean to create outsoles on footwear, something they began in 2016 through their partnership with the advocacy group Parley for the Oceans. As of March 2018, the shoe company had sold one million pairs of shoes made from ocean trash, made possible by a yarn developed by the advocacy group that turns the ocean plastic into a polymer that’s used to contract the knitted footwear. Each shoe uses an average of 11 plastic bottles per pair. Jonevski was also with Adidas when they worked with fashion designer Stella McCartney, who Jonevski called a game changer in terms of sustainability. That partnership unveiled a tennis dress made from cellulose-blended yarn and Bolt’s Microsilk in 2019.
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Experts say Trump downplaying risks of the coronavirus was not justified

President Trump has defended the way he downplayed the dangers of the coronavirus. He says he was showing leadership during a time of crisis, but that's the opposite of what crisis management experts recommend. NPR's Ayesha Rascoe spoke with Wayne State University Professor Matthew Seeger. After 9/11, he helped the Centers for Disease Control develop plans for talking to the public about emergencies. “Whenever I hear, you know, the rationale of panic as an explanation for why people are withholding information, it's like fingernails on a chalkboard.” Seeger says past crises have shown that people rarely panic in these situations, and that's why experts recommend transparency. “When there is an announcement of a hurricane warning in South Florida, people don't panic. I mean, they don't abandon everything and jump in their cars and drive north.”