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Fordham to Collaborate with Off-Broadway Company

Fordham University Theatre will collaborate with the off-Broadway company Primary Stages on its April production of The Wild Inside, by Emmy-nominated playwright Cusi Cram.

The co-production marks the second time that Program Director Matthew Maguire has collaborated with a professional company on a Fordham Mainstage play. Last season, the Public Theatre co-produced the spring production of Twenty-One Positions.

“This is a very good symbiotic relationship,” Maguire said. “Our theatre students have one foot in the academy and one foot in the professional world. When this play goes out and gets produced in the theatre world, our acting students will know they originated these roles.”

The Wild Inside is a comic meditation on time, yearning and impossible love set in the Galapagos Islands. It features a 200-year-old tortoise, a tour guide and a Latino television sitcom family, Maguire said. Cram developed the play in a writing workshop at Primary Stages and will be on hand at rehearsals to fine-tune the script. The play will be directed by Jackson Gay.

Primary Stages’ Artistic Director Andrew Leynse and Associate Artistic Director Michelle Bossy gave a master class to theatre students on Feb. 23 and participated in the production’s first rehearsal. Literary Manager Tessa LaNeve is on board as the play’s dramaturg.

Founded 25 years ago, Primary Stages has a reputation for producing daring new works by emerging and established American playwrights. Recently it brought its production of Horton Foote’s Divided Estate to Broadway.

Maguire sees the collaborative model as advantageous to both sides.

“New York City theatres can look to Fordham as a place where they can develop new scripts,” he said, “and when our graduates walk into those theatres to audition, they’ll be seen differently.”

The Wild Inside opens on April 16 at Pope Auditorium.

—Janet Sassi

How Probable Is Climate Change? Don’t Ask the Public

David Budescu, Ph.D.
Photo by Chris Taggart

Scientists describing phenomena such as global warming would be better served by using numbers to communicate their findings rather than simply relying on verbal descriptive terms, according to a study by a Fordham University professor.

David Budescu, Ph.D., the Anne Anastasi Chair in Psychometrics and Quantitative Psychology, teamed up with researchers at the University of Illinois-Champaign Urbana to measure how well the public understands phrases such as virtually certain, very likely, likely, unlikely and very unlikely when reading the findings of climate change research.

These terms are among seven simple qualifiers used by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to describe scientists’ research findings to policymakers and the public.

In the context of the reports, each term is meant to correspond to a range of numerical probabilities (i.e., virtually certain refers to 99 percent or higher probability, very likely refers to 90 percent or higher probability, and likely means 66 percent or higher probability).

But Budescu’s research revealed that the public usually perceived the verbal terms as meaning something less extreme than the scientists had intended.

The study asked 223 volunteers to weigh in on their interpretation of a group of 13 IPCC sentences containing the various phrases. For example, one sentence read: “It is very likely that hot extremes, heat waves and heavy precipitation events will continue to become more frequent.” Less than 5 percent of the volunteers interpreted the probability of that statement consistent with IPCC guidelines, the study showed.

For example, in another sentence, “Average Northern Hemisphere temperatures during the second half of the 20th century were very likely higher than during any other 50-year period in the last 500 years,” a quarter of all volunteers interpreted the phrase “very likely” to mean a probability lower than 70 percent rather than 90 percent.

However, supplementing the verbal phrases with numbers considerably improved communication, the report said. The researchers recommended that the IPCC use both words and numbers to communicate uncertainty and probability.

The study, which was funded by the National Science Foundation, appeared in the March issue of Psychological Science.

— Janet Sassi

Scholar Details Recipe for Success at a Catholic Women’s Colleges

Jeanne Lord, Ph.D., says the turnaround at Trinity College is a beacon of hope for Catholic schools everywhere.
Photo by Patrick Verel

Leaders of Catholic schools would do well to examine Trinity College, a small women’s Catholic college in Washington D.C. that has rebounded under the leadership of Patricia McGuire, who took over the school’s presidency in 1989.

McGuire’s vision and commitment to mission helped her retool the school in a way that kept it solvent, said Jeanne Lord, Ph.D., associate vice president for student affairs at Georgetown.

Lord delivered “Historic Mission vs. Transformative Change in a Catholic Women’s College: Reflections from Trinity College in the District of Columbia” on March 3 in Tognino Hall on the Rose Hill campus. It was the fourth lecture in the Rita Cassella Jones Lecture Series, and was sponsored by the Francis and Ann Curran Center for American Catholic Studies.

Lord detailed the fortunes of Trinity College, which was founded in 1897 by the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur to keep Catholic women from attending secular institutions. Trinity saw its fortunes rise, to the point where in 1969, it was included in conversations with the Seven Sisters, a set of prestigious women-only colleges in the northeastern United States.

But the social upheaval of the early 1970s, the changes wrought by Vatican II, and an increase in coeducational opportunities, took a heavy toll on Trinity. In one 10-year span, the school had six presidents, and when McGuire took the reigns, Lord said the school, which counts House Speaker Nancy Pelosi as a graduate, was on the verge of collapse.

McGuire succeeded in turning it around, Lord said, because she embraced five leadership strategies that all colleges can emulate: personalization of mission, communication, collaboration, balance of identity and promotion of social justice.

“McGuire’s presidency has been characterized by a resurgence in enrollment, the addition of significant academic programs and a dramatic change in demographics, but the course of the presidency has not been easy,” she said. “What makes the conclusion of this story compelling is the message that each of us who toils in the fields of Catholic higher education must believe that we, too, can and must do this work.”

In the question-and-answer period that followed, Lord acknowledged that a small but vocal group of Trinity alumnae have taken issue with the fact that, as part of its revival, the college has embraced a more local demographic, going so far as to open a satellite campus in the less-affluent section of Washington D.C. east of the Anacostia River. As a result, she agreed that it would no longer be appropriate to call it the “Eighth Sister.”

“I’m very sympathetic and support very much what Pat McGuire has done, because she is addressing contemporary needs, and if other people like Pat McGuire don’t do this, there’s going to be huge societal costs,” she said.

—Patrick Verel

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