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Octogenarian Artists, Both UA Alumni, Present Fine Art

Thu, 06/09/2016 - 1:17pm
Sheila Wilensky |

Sydney and Vince Flynn (Photo: Erica von Koerber)

Creating art has always been essential to Sydney and Vince Flynn, who will celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary on June 21.

As octogenarians, the Flynns have joined the online marketplace, launching in December, presenting their work, including acrylic, watercolor, mixed-media paintings, and pen and ink drawings.

The couple's collaboration began in 1956, when Sydney Flynn was the art editor and Vince Flynn was the fiction editor at the Arizona Kitty Kat, the now-defunct University of Arizona campus humor magazine. Sydney received her bachelor's degree in 1959 and master's in 1961, both in art, becoming the first M.F.A. candidate. Vince earned his bachelor's in 1958 and a master's in education in 1974.

Vince was a self-taught artist, but he was always dabbling. "He was known as the real artist to our friends, who would wait to receive Christmas cards he designed every year, usually portraying the three wise men," Sydney said.

She wanted to become an illustrator. "My two very different interests were cartoons in the style of Hilary Knight and Ronald Searle, and dark scenes from mystery movies and horror stories," she said.

After Sydney completed her graduate degree, she worked as an illustrator at Hallmark Cards, drawing cartoon babies, Victorian children and long Searle-style women. Everything seemed to be leading toward a career as a cartoonist-illustrator.

Instead, in 1966, the Flynns married in San Francisco, where Sydney taught K-12 art and her husband taught English.

After decades of teaching in international schools, including those in Tokyo, Vienna, Madrid and Karachi, the couple settled in Tucson eight years ago.

But retired they are not. 

Both quickly got involved in local theater. As playwrights, they are active with the Tucson Alliance of Dramatic Artists, the Community Playhouse and Old Pueblo Playwrights.

One of Vince's plays will be presented at the upcoming OPP New Play Festival.

Whether sharing their writing or offering their artwork online, the Flynns agree that the benefits of an artistic lifestyle range from creating a painting to making someone happy to own it.  

Categories: Arts and HumanitiesToday

UA Experts Address the Value of Nursery Rhymes

Tue, 06/07/2016 - 12:06pm
Rebecca Peiffer | NASA Space Grant Intern, University Relations - Communications

LeapFrog, VTech, and learning tablets and laptops for toddlers are just some of the toys designed for young children in an increasingly lucrative market for childhood educational materials and technologies.

In light of the increased accessibility of such technologies during the formative years of children, University of Arizona researchers spoke about a centuries-old resource that has proved beneficial for brain development: nursery rhymes.

Traditional poems and songs such as "Little Red Riding Hood," "Star Light, Star Bright" and "Frère Jacques" are known to serve as important tools for helping children to learn, retain information, detect patterns and learn language, aiding with early childhood development.

Answering our questions about the continued importance of nursery rhymes were:

  • LouAnn Gerken, a UA professor of psychology, linguistics and cognitive science, whose research centers on language development and its relation to learning more generally, also with a focus on what music and language learning share.
  • Dawn Corso, an instructor of music and ethnomusicology, who is also a conductor and performer. Corso, of the UA's Fred Fox School of Music, teaches courses in ethnomusicology and music in general studies, having previously taught in K-12 schools.
  • Kathy Short, a professor in the UA Department of Teaching, Learning & Sociocultural Studies, is the director of World of Words. Housed within the UA College of Education, World of Words is a unique collection of international children's books. Its mission is to integrate global literature into classrooms and libraries while challenging children and adolescents to understand and accept those different from themselves.

Q: Why do we teach children nursery rhymes?

Gerken: Nursery rhymes highlight the rhythmic nature of the child's particular language, as well as language in general. When children first learn to talk, they tend to organize their utterances into rhythmic sequences. So the rhymes we teach children can help them develop their language skills in a way that's natural to them.

Corso: I think it's important to consider whether the rhymes were created by children or adults. When they're created by adults, the goal is to teach some kind of moral to children. The hope is that they learn the lesson without even realizing it, because it becomes more fun. When children make up rhymes, they seem to have less specific purposes, but mostly just describe the world around them and experiences that are relevant to the child. 

Short: Nursery rhymes, and children's literature in general, offer empathy. I think you can learn a lot of facts about the world and other people, but that doesn't necessarily help children build empathy the same way that connecting with a character in a story or a rhyme does. Also, they're so easy for young children to memorize, because of their alliteration and musicality.

Q: How do these rhymes impact children's language development?

Gerken: Nursery rhymes might help children identify the typical stress placement in their language. I don't know if anyone has formally shown this, but rhymes often highlight the rules for stress in the child's native language. Also, rhymes tend to mirror the way children naturally speak. When children first learn to talk, they organize their utterances into rhythmic sequences. For example, English-learning children try to make words and phrases correspond to a "stressed-unstressed-stressed-unstressed" sequence. They tend to omit syllables that don't fit into this rhythmic sequence.

Short: Rhymes are an exercise in language play. They build the ability to hear phonemic differences, which is critical to becoming a reader. 

Q: Why do we remember these rhymes, even as adults?

Corso: There are several features of good rhymes that help them stay memorable. They can't be too long, or we would remember only the beginning and the end of the rhyme. That's quite typical of memory. It's why you don’t want to interview in the middle — you're less likely to be remembered. Another feature that makes them memorable is that they are what we call "strophic." This means they have the same melody and rhythms throughout, and only the words change. For instance, in "Hickory, Dickory, Dock," you see that the stressed parts kind of rhyme as well. That makes it easy to learn the musical pattern. Then, even if you forget the words, you have a chance of recovering them. Nursery rhymes are definitely tied to memory, because it's important that they be memorable and enjoyable. 

Q: What musical value do nursery rhymes have?

Corso: Nursery rhymes are very interesting rhythmically. A lot of kids remember and care more about the musical aspect than the words. You see it everywhere: Kids will continue a rhyme they really like and run out of words to rhyme, so they'll make up their own. The semantics don't matter to them, they just enjoy the rhythmic patterns. The musicality of rhymes also helps pass down cultural information. Music is interesting to study as a conveyor of culture because, unlike language, it's not one-to-one, there's not a distinct connection from song to meaning. The melodies and rhythms can convey important cultural values as well. For instance, rhythm helps convey the specific linguistic patterns of the language, especially related to stress placement.

Short: Nursery rhymes emphasize the rhythms and musicality of language. If you look at the words, they can be fairly nonsensical. But they are embedded in the language and, by extension, in the culture. The musicality, the way the language flows, the way the rhymes play with this strongly differs from culture to culture. Looking at rhymes from other cultures in other languages can demonstrate the unique musicality of languages around the world.

Q: What important cultural information can nursery rhymes convey?

Gerken: Different languages have different patterns of stress. For example, in Hungarian, stress tends to fall on the last syllable, which is quite different from English. The typical placement of stress in languages greatly influences the rhythms of nursery rhymes.

Corso: Many different factors sustain culture, including language, traditions, social codes. But music is ubiquitous. Rhymes are a specific form of that, and you can find them in every part of the world. They are usually passed orally and they contain a lot of social information. For my dissertation, I studied how rhymes in the African-American community help students learn outside of school, and what kinds of lessons they teach. These rhymes help pass down the unique social norms of the African-American community. They also present the children with some of the tougher issues that they'll face as a member of that community, but in a way that's fun and more playful.

Short: I think we need very dynamic notions of culture. Culture isn't this static box, it's continuously changing and transforming. Culture is integral to how we think about ourselves, how we think about the world, and how we create our values and beliefs. It's important for children to have this sense of how you interact with people who have different belief systems. Children's literature, including nursery rhymes, is a great avenue for this. Children are in the process of building their views about everything, so the earlier we engage them with this literature, the more they grow and those perspectives become part of their worldview. To be frank, once you're an adult, you can change your perspective, but it's harder.

Categories: Social Sciences and EducationToday

Murthy to Grads: 'Live a Connected Life'

Sat, 05/14/2016 - 12:35pm
University Relations - Communications |

Dr. Vivek Murthy, the U.S. surgeon general, speaks during the UA's 152nd Commencement ceremony. (Photo: John de Dios/UANews)

In a speech intimately aware of the University of Arizona, its graduating class and large-scale problems in the contemporary world, Dr. Vivek Murthy, the U.S. surgeon general, presented his hopes for the thousands of students in the Class of 2016.

"As I was thinking about you on the way to Arizona, my mind was filled with things that I wish for you in the years ahead: good health, a fulfilling career, a happy family and so much more," Murthy told the audience of more than 4,000 graduates. 

"But there is one thing I hope for you more than anything else: My hope is that you live a connected life," he said.

With more than 40,000 guests and hundreds of UA volunteers in attendance, Murthy presented in his keynote Commencement address three essential "ingredients" for such a life.

"Now, you might think to yourself: 'Hold on a minute, it’s 2016 and I feel the world is pretty connected. I’ve got thousands of followers on Instagram and Snapchat, I’m available by text 24/7 and the GPS locator on my cell phone is turned on. How much more connected could I get?' But I'm talking about a different type of connection — the kind that makes you rich in life currency, not in monetary terms," Murthy said.

Murthy presented empathy, optimism and courage as the requisite qualities. 

"Empathy feeds our desire for connection. Optimism helps us believe that connection is possible. But courage is what enables us to act and make our connections to people real," he said.

Murthy had other points of emphasis and advice for the graduating class.

About Knowing the Graduates

"I actually feel that I already know you since I’ve been there at formative moments in your life. Like the time you were standing under the bleachers in high school and someone offered you a cigarette. You politely declined because you knew that smoking causes cancer, and I was right there on the side of the cigarette box backing you up. Or remember that time, a few years ago, when you followed your friends into a bar — accidentally, of course? You were offered shots but said, 'No thanks. I'm not yet 21 and I know consumption of alcoholic beverages may cause health problems.' Well, I was there, too, on the side of the bottle, feeling so darn proud of you. So, it seems fitting that since I was there for those moments, I should be here for this one."

About the UA Class of 2016

"Your class includes a young woman who moved from halfway around the world at the age of 17 and became the first in her family to attend college. Your class includes a student who is getting his bachelor's degree at the age of 18. Your class includes a young man who turned a health scare during freshman year into a passion for using medical optics to improve the lives of others. And your class includes many other students who have pushed the boundaries of science and the arts in service of society. Yours is a class that has also mobilized efforts on campus to ensure that diversity and inclusion are not just slogans but values that are reflected in every aspect of university life. And I thank you for that."

About Diversity and Inclusion

"The great challenge that faces America is that the bonds that hold together our diverse nation are being tested. As we grow in diversity in race, religion and viewpoints, the breadth and depth of our connections must also expand and become more inclusive — but that is not always happening."

About Courage

"When the twin towers fell on 9/11 on that fateful morning 15 years ago, thousands of Manhattan residents fled south looking for an escape from the growing inferno behind them. But instead of relief, they were greeted by the unforgiving waters of the Hudson, which offered no path to safety. The panicked crowd continued to grow until the U.S. Coast Guard made a key decision: They issued a radio call to every civilian ship in the area, asking them to join in an unprecedented citizen rescue mission. The response was overwhelming. Within minutes, the Hudson was covered with scores of boats streaking toward the southern tip of Manhattan. They pierced through the dense cloud of dust and debris and brought soot-covered people on board, offered them water and ferried them to safety. In nine hours, nearly 500,000 people were rescued. The 9/11 boat lift became the largest boat rescue in the history of the world. Now, the 9/11 boat lift was powered by ordinary people. They were never trained in emergency response. They would never have described themselves as heroes. And they had every reason to flee for safety themselves. But their courage is what allowed them to act. Vincent Ardolino, the captain of the Amberjack, said his wife thought that he was a maniac for wanting to take his boat toward Manhattan that morning after the call. But he knew that he had to go. 'Never go through life saying you should have,' he said later, reflecting on that decision. 'If you want to do something, you do it.'"

About Social Isolation

"Too many of us live in big cities but find few people who really know us. We have stronger Internet connections but weaker personal connections. We have more followers on social media, but they just don’t seem to fill the void. Now, I learned early on in medicine that isolation was the most common challenge my patients faced. It has real consequences. Isolation and weakening social connections are associated with increased risk of heart disease, declining brain function and shorter life spans. They can also lead to anxiety and fear. Isolation and silos also weaken our communities. Without strong communities, we cannot pull together during times of hardship. Our diversity turns from a source of strength to a source of conflict. But when we have strong connections to each other, everything is possible."

About Opportunities the U.S. Can Provide

"My parents came to America nearly 40 years ago from humble beginnings in search of a better life for their children. They raised my sister and me to believe that America was a place where your ideas and willingness to work hard mattered more than the color of your skin or the sound of your accent. And despite all our imperfections as a nation, I stand before you fully aware that in no other country in the world could the grandson of a poor farmer from India be asked by the president to look out for the health of the entire nation. That is the power and promise of America. And I am deeply grateful for it, and I am especially thankful to my parents and sister who are, in fact, here today."

Categories: Campus NewsTeaching and StudentsToday

Our Favorite Social Posts From Commencement

Fri, 05/13/2016 - 1:39pm
University Relations - Communications |

Commencement didn't just happen in real time; it was lived online, too.

Here are some of our favorite social media posts that went out to honor graduates who received their degrees during the University of Arizona's 152nd Commencement ceremony.

4 years ago I took a chance on the University of Arizona, and today I couldn't be happier that I did. Thank you UA for giving me the best friends and college experience a girl from Lufkin, TX could have ever asked for. #gradUAtion #wildcatsforlife 

A photo posted by Lauren Hoepfner (@lohoepfner) on May 14, 2016 at 12:16pm PDT

I have an AMAZING support system. I never thought I'd get to this point. 5 years ago I thought I was done with school, done with pushing myself and fine with settling. Luckily, I have been granted a new life, new hope and new opportunities. This means the world to me, and the fact that my baby girl has watched me struggle, study, do homework, juggle life with school and so much more just makes it all the more worth it. This is for you, kid! You deserve the best mom possible and I plan to be that for you. Now let's celebrate! #classof2016 #beardownlife

A photo posted by Jennifer Munoz (@j_bomb6) on May 14, 2016 at 5:47pm PDT

Another fantastic mortar board from @thatquad. Thank you for sharing! #beardownlife

Close your eyes, think about people whose love & kindness made 2day a reality. Those are your anchors #BearDownLife

— U.S. Surgeon General (@Surgeon_General) May 14, 2016

My dad is graduating from #Eller today!!!! #CollegeOfBusiness #EllerCollege #EllerSeniors2016 #EllerSenior2016 #UniversityOfArizona #UofA #BachelorsOfScience #BS #Wildcats #WildcatForLife #Alumni #BearDown #BearDownLife #Asian #Vietnamese #Tucson #Arizona #ProudOfMyDaddy

A photo posted by Michelle Nguyễn-Richards (@nguyening_smiles) on May 13, 2016 at 2:07pm PDT

After a whirlwind of a weekend, I am officially a college graduate. Special thanks to everyone who supported me throughout this journey, I couldn't have done it without you! #WildcatForLife

A photo posted by Carly Monson (@carlyykayy) on May 16, 2016 at 1:25pm PDT

Officially UofA alumni #beardownlife

A photo posted by anya_3 (@anya_3) on May 13, 2016 at 11:07pm PDT

Busting w/ pride seeing daughter receive her MD, MPH last night. #beardownlife @UofA #medschool #graduation #Tucson

— Pat Johnson MS RD (@FUTP60Arizona) May 13, 2016

Graduation 2k16 #GoPro

A photo posted by Erich Harman (@eharmony4) on May 13, 2016 at 7:00pm PDT

Today we celebrate the culmination of our @UofA students' success. Congrats & good luck Graduates! We wish u all the best. @UofAZPolice

— Brian A Seastone (@UAPoliceChief) May 13, 2016

Check out this awesome #mortarboardmonday submission. Thanks for sharing, Hunter! #beardownlife

— Bear Down Life (@BearDownLife) May 9, 2016

Check out three of our four graduates at the @AZATHLETICS ceremony yesterday.


— Arizona Basketball (@APlayersProgram) May 13, 2016

About to go sing the national anthem for the big graduation in Arizona Stadium!!!! #love #graduation #2016

A photo posted by Sarah Julia Ambrose (@sambrose94) on May 13, 2016 at 7:34pm PDT

Graduating in style with Wilbur!

A photo posted by Alex Guyton (@th3pr3stig3) on May 13, 2016 at 7:13pm PDT

AND WE'RE DONE! Congrats Class of 2016! #beardownlife

A photo posted by kayla ichiba (@keepupwithkayla) on May 13, 2016 at 7:06pm PDT

Meg, congratulations on graduating last night from the University of Arizona - College of Science! I am so proud of everything you have accomplished and the obstacles you have overcome during the short two years we have known each other. Don't worry, I will make sure to have a kid before I graduate and will definitely be passing down our family traditions in ΤΒΣ. mlitb, Thomas "حالم" Noth #universityofarizona #classof2016 #beardownlife #taubetasigma #alumnistatus

A photo posted by Thomas Allen (@thomasanoth) on May 13, 2016 at 12:55pm PDT

"Nobody can tell me where I can and can't go" -Kanye West #ridersonly #damndaniel #beardownlife #cos2016 #may2016

A photo posted by Daniel Rojas (@drojos) on May 12, 2016 at 6:19pm PDT

Commencement 2016!

A photo posted by dominique cruz ☀ (@domuhfleek) on May 13, 2016 at 7:07pm PDT

Graduation Day, Victory Stance #lessgetittt

A photo posted by Perris Howard - PERR!S (@perrismusic) on May 13, 2016 at 12:21pm PDT

Thanks for everything U of A #beardownlife #wildcatforlife

— Kimberly Escarcega (@kim_escarcega) May 14, 2016

Ready for Commencement 2016 #wildcatsforlife

A photo posted by Melinda Burke (@melwburke) on May 14, 2016 at 9:51am PDT

Categories: Campus NewsTeaching and StudentsToday