Obama to negotiate with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu today in an attempt at forging peace in the Middle East

Posted May 18, 2009 by svandorn
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Experts and Elon University students weigh in on the president’s ability to reverse decades of war

By Scott Van Dorn

Over the next few weeks, President Obama’s focus will be on planting the roots of peace with the leaders of Middle Eastern nations.  On May 18th, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will visit Washington, followed by Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak on the 26th and Palestinian National Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on the 28th.

But the question still remains: Can the new president bring peace to the Middle East?

Today, Obama’s meeting with Netanyahu will focus on a large range of topics, including the creation of a Palestinian state alongside Israel in order to establish peace.


Aaron Miller

Aaron Miller, a public policy scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, said the talk is the “beginning of a long movie” and that two issues will dominate the meeting.

“The only two questions that matter right now are will they come to a consensus on Iraq and will they trust each other,” he said.  “And they’re probably not going to answer them.”

Ali Al-Ahmed, however, had a slightly different take.  Ahmed is the founder and director of the Institute for Gulf affairs, a think tank in Washington dedicated to improving U.S.-Gulf relations.

“The Obama-Netanyahu negotiations are an important step in building up peace in the Middle East,” he said.  “The peace goals must focus on creating ties between Israeli and the major Arab powers, such as Saudi Arabia.”

However, like Miller, Ahmed doubted the feasibility of a positive outcome in the near future.

“It seems that this peace issue won’t be solved anytime soon, as the parties

Ali Al-Ahmed

Ali Al-Ahmed

involved are benefiting from such crisis,” he said.  “I do not see any realistic chance for a permanent settlement between the Palestinians and the Israelis. We will have some Palestinians make peace with Israel, but that would be limited to the West Bank.”

Students at Elon University offered a similar sentiment – even with the hope Obama brings.

“I think it’s silly that people think he can all of the sudden fix things,” junior Kyle Davidson said.  “Its been going on for so long, and I feel like people are putting unrealistic expectations on Obama. He’s not Jesus.”

Whether or not Obama can make a change is still unforeseen.  But Michael Carver, a junior political science major and former associate analyst under Ahmed, pointed out Obama’s main strength with the Arab leaders.

“What Obama brings is quite simply that he isn’t George Bush,” Carver said.  “Obama’s foreign policy thus far isn’t that different from Bush’s second term foreign policy, but Bush was so polarizing his first term, when his foreign policy moderated he was unable to come off as credible in the eyes of world leaders making negotiations rather untenable.”

“Most of these leaders still remembered how Bush said, ‘you’re either with us or against us.’”


Tennis coach Leonard a bright spot for Elon athletics

Posted May 10, 2009 by svandorn
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By Scott Van Dorn

When coach Mike Leonard took over Elon Men’s tennis team five years ago, the team was did not win a match in the Southern Conference.

Two years later, they were the only SoCon Champions for any sport in Elon school history.



It would be easy to credit the coach after such an amazing turnaround. Leonard, however, remains modest.

“Well it’s the players, you gotta recruit and you gotta motivate them and get them to a point, but it comes down to the players,” he said. “The players are the ones that win it, I’m just kind of steering the ship.”

While Elon has a talented roster, Leonard might have a little more influence than he’s letting on.

One of the main areas he makes players focus on is the mental side of the game – something extremely important in tennis. Players are sometimes alone on the court for hours, and matches can often become a battle of mental toughness. This style of coaching especially helps the younger players.

“He has made me stronger mentally and makes a big emphasis on the attitude and the effort you put onto the court,” sophomore Alberto Rojas said. “He’s pushing all the time, trying to make us give our best and be competitive.”

But that doesn’t mean he lets his players off the hook physically. On a normal weekday afternoon in the spring, players can be seen running back and forth across the courts at Elon’s Jimmy Powell tennis center.

Bob Owens, the assistant head coach, praises Leonard’s style as well.

“We’ve got a good symbiotic relationship,” Owens said. “He knows what my strengths are and just leaves those responsibilities to me. He knows where his strengths lie and runs with those.”

Leonard was a graduate of Elon University in 1991.  In his senior year playing for the Elon team, Leonard was the South Atlantic Conference Player of the Year and earned Stein H. Basnight Outstanding Athlete honors.   He was inducted into the Elon Sports Hall of Fame in 2001.

Before coaching the Phoenix squad, Leonard was the Tennis Director for the prestigious Raleigh Racquet Club from 1995 to 2004.  During his time there, he coached many juniors, including two national champions.

Over his five years coaching at Elon, Leonard has amassed an impressive 85-40 record.

Leonard is impressive off the court as well.  Owens spoke about his personal relationship with the head coach and how that has impacted the team.

“His girls Olivia and Julia and my grandson Brody are great friends and playmates,” Owens said. “My wife, Wanda and Micheal’s wife, Amy are close and this seems to make the professional relationship work even better than normal.”

Last weekend, Elon unfortuneatly fell short in the finals of the SoCon tournament.   Despite the loss, however, the team is looking strong again next year and hopes to add a second conference title.

“Learn from and it can help you,” Leonard said about the disappointing loss. “If you don’t learn from it you go out and do it again, time’s gonna run out on you.”

Elon students react to Obama’s first 100 days

Posted May 1, 2009 by svandorn
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Obama ran a large portion of his campaign on hope of a better future for America.

But hope, by definition, is “the feeling that what is wanted can be had or that events will turn out for the best.”

So, after Obama’s first 100 days in office, how have things turned out?

At Elon University, students and faculty were mostly very supportive.

“I think he’s got a lot on his plate, and I think he’s managing it very well,” said Ross Wade, Elon assistant director of career services for the School of Communications.  “I’m very optimistic about the administration he’s putting together,”

“I’m happy about Guantanamo Bay,” Elon student Elizabeth Dobbins said about Obama’s crackdown on torture. “He’s bettered the U.S. image, but obviously it will take a long time.”

Dobbins remained undecided on her overall feeling about Obama, but said it was definitely at least an improvement.

“I’m overjoyed compared to Bush,” she said.

There were, however, some negative sentiment about his first 100 days as well.

“I think he’s muddled some issues, on torture especially,” Elon student Chad Smith said.  “Not that he had bad policies, more that he could have communicated better.”

Wade also had a few doubts.

“The whole bailout thing, he’s doing it and I understand why, but it’s still kind of a little hard to swallow,” he said.  “But it’s what we would have to do with any president – trusting in his judgment and hoping for the best and hopefully things will turn out the way that he sees them.”

Calhoun discusses interactive media at Elon

Posted April 30, 2009 by svandorn
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By Scott Van Dorn

There are many new and different ways to tell stories through different types of media in today’s world.  In order to sort through all the clutter, Elon University Professor Ken Calhoun spoke to a reporting class about which directions to take.

“What’s going to tell the moment of this story best?” he asked the class.

Ken Calhoun

Ken Calhoun talks interactive media

Interactive media has become a conversation, instead of just a story being told from one person to another.  It is important to find the best delivery method to your story or “extend your reach,” as Calhoun said.  The storytelling experience therefore become more immersible, and increases the connection between the viewer and the story.

The best example of this was a site called “Filmmaker in Residence,” which uses many different formats.  There is sound, interactivity, video and text all compiled together to tell the story in an interesting fashion.

Other cool sites that showcase interactivity are Starbucks, which provides a video and text time line of the coffee-making process, and Second Story, which has a map of Monticello.

“Maps are really hot right now,” Calhoun said.  “As humans we like to be spatially situated in the story.”However, it is also important to keep this kind of interactivity simple.  The New York Times’ web site puts emphasis on this simplicity.  For example, there is no learning curve with their interactive time lines.  It is evident what to do just by looking at the page.

But it is just one technique to get readers involved.  It is important to understand, like in any business, what the consumer enjoys.

“Make it so people want to touch and play and explore,” Calhoun said.  “People like bells and whistles, they want to get lured in.”

In this way, the creator of these sites is not “hosting” a conversation, but actually “trapping” people in a conversation.

One of the most amusing examples Calhoun used to show this was the “Whopper Sacrifice.”  The promotion gave anyone who dropped five of their Facebook friends a free Whopper at Burger King.  It caused some controversy, but ultimately the kind of unique and creative type of idea that will become necessary in an technologically expanding future.

Elon students environmentally aware… right?

Posted April 17, 2009 by svandorn
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By Scott Van Dorn

An Elon student sat in the passenger seat of a car in Harden parking at Elon University, when she talked about how she believed she was environmentally aware.  She commented on how everyone should do their part to help prevent global warming.recyling?

“Just trying to make our footprint, each individually, less,” she said.  “If everyone worked on that it would be good.”

Unfortuneately, the car she was in at the time was left running.

Being environmentally aware is nice to say, but how many students actually follow what they preach?

Out of 131 Elon University students polled, 90 percent of participants said that they were environmentally aware.

That seems like a lot of people, but Elon does encourage this type of behavior.

This week is Elon’s second annual “Earth Week.”  The Green Club and the Sierra Club are raising awareness about the environment through a series of events.  Earth Day itself is April 22.

There are recycle bins in every classroom, and the trams are run on biofuel.  Dining halls are also trying to eliminate the amount of water they use to wash dirty dishes by taking away trays.

Classes also play a major role, especially in regards to global warming.

“I’m not overly concerned (about global warming), but since I’ve come to Elon a few of the classes I’ve taken have taught me a few facts I didn’t know before,” student Oscar Pedlewski said.  “Definitely now I’m thinking about it more.”

Current sophomores at Elon were even required to read Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth before coming to campus last year.

But while you can lead a horse to water, you can’t always make it drink.

The best example?

Waste bins in Elon classrooms are often full of plastic cups, with the proper recycling bin just feet away.

A Tricky Transition: Parent/Child Relationships in College

Posted April 10, 2009 by svandorn
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Changes can create a rocky family environment

11 important tips for students

By Scott Van Dorn

When do children become adults?

Eighteen when the law says so? Twenty-one when they can drink? Twenty-two when they finish college and move out?

The line is blurred. So blurred, in fact, a new term has arisen describing people of this age: emerging adults.

Too many children think they are adults. Too many adults their maturing offspring are still children.

Courtesy of Google Images

Courtesy of Google Images

It is a balancing act in every parent/child relationship, and the transition into adulthood is one of the toughest situations to handle.

“It’s a tough struggle on both sides,” family counselor Val Padgett said. “Families who pull it off well somehow found a way to do that in the context of loving each other.  Parents give their children two enduring gifts, one is roots the other is wings, but the serious conflicts emerge when the parents and the kids have different concepts about how fast and what direction the independence should proceed.”

A 2007 study in the Journal of Family Psychology focused on this issue. The article, titled, “If You Want Me to Treat You Like an Adult, Start Acting Like One!” attempted to identify some of the basic problems in these relationships. The study interviewed 392 unmarried college students and at least one of their parents.

Results showed that one of the basic problems is that there was a “disagreement between children and their parents in the emphasis they placed on various criteria for adulthood.” That “findings suggest that parents and children view the transition to adulthood differently, which might have implications for the parent-child relationship during this period of development.”

11 important tips for students


College is a time when children are thrust into a world of freedom and responsibility. It is a time when many of their worldviews will be created and destroyed.

These changes can often cause problems within families.

“Your job is to pull away from family and it’s a difficult transition,” Padgett explained.

One major issue is communication. It is important for a child to keep in touch with parents on a regular basis.

Steffany Bane, a co-author of Doors Open on Both Sides, a book that deals with this stressful period in family relationships, gives some advice to the emerging adult.

“It is difficult to realize how important it is to our parents that we keep in touch,” Bane writes. “They have little control over what you do while you’re at school, so it won’t hurt to take a moment to call and tell them how you are doing.”

Open communication of all the details in a college students’ life, however, can sometimes lead to problems.  Sometimes parents become too worried to act in a helpful manner.

“Once you unload your problem on your parents they will worry about it even more than you do,” Bane said. “Whether we like it or not, our parents take on our problems, and it’s sometimes difficult for them to let go.”

And the communication goes both ways. Students tend to judge their parents more once they have become more separated from them.

One New Jersey parent who has two daughters in college, Marylu DiBisceglie, experienced this problem.

“Communication at times is difficult,” she said. “My children jump to conclusions often about my life choices; they often listen to negative people in their life or to someone who does not agree with my choices; all this affects our relationship.”

Padgett said students and parents must be flexible and prepared to work through this type of situation.

“Sometimes the communication pattern shows differences in values and beliefs,” she said. “And at some point you may just have to acknowledge that those differences are real and you may not resolve the tension between them. And then it comes down to the matter of figuring out a way to peacefully coexist.”


The main issue regarding the parent’s perspective is dealing with the sudden loss of control as best as possible.

This can cause the most problems from the student’s perspective.

“My father tried to impose the same rules on me he had when I was 16,” said one student who preferred to remain anonymous. “He even tried to tighten some of the rules. It created a lot of arguments because we were so far away.”

Padgett said parents and students must understand the shift of the parental role.

“What you need are permeable boundaries,” she said. “Boundaries that make the child feel safe but also have doors in them.”

“You have to be realistic about what you can enforce. You can tell your students whatever you want about how you want them to behave, but you’re not here. It’s partly practical things that I talk to parents about. Don’t try to be the authority over things that you don’t have the authority over.”

Laura Walker, a parent/child relationship specialist from BYU and one of the authors of “If You Want Me to Treat You Like an Adult, Start Acting Like One!” has tried to find some answers to the problem. She’s learned through her studies that anything that can be interpreted as ‘controlling’ can be very damaging.

“So far, what we have found is that emerging adults benefit when their parents remain involved, but not too involved,” she said. “The least effective type of parenting during this age is authoritarian parenting, or very controlling and hostile parenting. It’s associated with all sorts of negative outcomes for the emerging adult children.”

Walker said parents need to aim for authoritative parenting and avoid the authoritarian approach.

“We have found that authoritative parenting seems to be the most effective during this time period,” she said. “So lots of warmth/support and autonomy, but also high and realistic expectations.”

This chart compares the characteristics of the two main styles of parenting

This chart compares the characteristics of the two main styles of parenting

Students who were interviewed for this story noted that the best relationships are often the ones where the parent has released some control.

“They realize they don’t have control over me,” Elon Junior Mike Kleinman said of his family, “And unlike high school, they think it’s normal not to have to control a 20-year-old and are somewhat okay with it.”

Another Elon student offered a similar opinion.

“I think being in college on my own and out of the house under my parent’s supervision has trigger a sort of release in their minds,” said the student, who also chose to remain anonymous. “They don’t have direct control over me anymore, so they figure that my mistakes are my own. Even when I was arrested last year, sure they were angry, but they couldn’t and didn’t do anything about it. I was in more trouble the first time they found me drunk in high school, no cops involved.”

Padgett has some tips for parents who want to be authoritative.

“Don’t say, ‘you have to do this,’ but instead say, ‘Have you considered such and such?’ Or something like, ‘I’m not telling you what do to, but I’d like you to think about,’” she said. “It’s certainly ok for parents to have opinions, but they shouldn’t expect them to follow the advice all the time.”


It is important for the child to understand that most of the parental concern comes out of the desire to keep him or her safe and happy.  Students should reassure their parents to minimize the amount of worrying.

For relationships to work however, the child must also assume a level of responsibility for their own behavior – to act like an adult in order to be treated like one.

“It’s not so awful to be over-indulgent from time to time as long you don’t cross a certain line,” Padgett said. “You have to learn that you’re human and have limits – you can’t just do whatever you want.”

The counselor says there is a line of concern parents should try not to cross as well. They must understand that it is important for an emerging adult to make certain decisions.

“You’ve done a good job of raising them for 18 or 20 years now,” Padgett said. “Expect that most of the time they are going to make good choices. Occasionally they’re going to screw up, but we all do sometimes – that’s part of the process of learning”

Margo E. Bane Woodacre, the other author of the book Doors Open on Both Sides and mother of Steffany Bane, offers some tips for concerned parents for spotting serious problems.

“Be aware of ‘signals’ of unusual behavior from your child,” she writes. “Look for hints of chronic homesickness or persistent avoidance of communication from your child. If unusual behavior is sensed, arrange to get help through the proper college channels.”

Lasting Effects?

Sometimes rifts between parents and children during the college years remain long after commencement.  It pays to care for this tender relationship so transitional problems are resolved.

Some find ways to make it work.

“We learn from our mistakes, both parent and child,” New Jersey parent Mary Kuczynski said. “People young or old mature at different age. We just have to wait this out.”

Some do not.  DiBisceglie spoke from experience and disappointment.

“These problems started in college and have continued,” she said about one of her daughters. “And will probably continue in the future.”

Padgett believes that successful future relationships are actually more dependent on the relationship in general, not entirely dependent on the transition.

She said there is a mutual understanding that needs to occur during the transition, however, to forge a successful relationship. The best relationships come when both sides analyze their actions and begin to compromise.

“Think about your most recent conflict with (your parents),” Padgett said as advice to students. “And then see what parts of it were yours that you might tweak a bit.”

Stephanie Dowrick writes in her book Choosing Happiness about a parents’ best approach to reach their children.

“They benefit from being loved fiercely and unconditionally; accepted and cherished for who they are; listened to with interest and spoken to with respect.”

When 98.6° falls short: Anderson Cooper speaks at Elon University

Posted April 8, 2009 by svandorn
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Award-winning anchor talks about some of the world’s biggest calamities

By Scott Van Dorn

Cooper at Elon

Elon University has suffered three enormous tragedies over the last few weeks.

A faculty member was killed riding his bicycle.  A freshman student lost her battle with cancer.  Another student was part of a boating accident that killed his father.

These events sometimes make it difficult to see the bright spots amidst so much pain.

Maybe Anderson Cooper came at just the right time.

With a colorful array of flags from countries across the world behind the podium, Cooper delivered a stirring speech Tuesday at Elon’s Alumni Gym about the experiences of his career that have taken him to see some of world’s most horrifying places. But within his stories, filled with striking images of war and hate, he wove a powerful message of hope.

“In war you expect to find darkness,” Cooper said.  “But you find lightness as well.  You expect to find horror, but you find humanity as well.”

Cooper is anchor of Anderson Cooper 360°, has been to over 50 countries around the world and reported on some of the most serious issues of our time.  He perhaps is most famous for his breaking coverage of the South Asia tsunami in 2004 and Hurricane Katrina in 2005, winning a National Headliners award for his work after the tsunami.  He has also been to countries in Africa like Congo, Rwanda and Somalia, where he saw the effects of war and starvation first-hand.

“Africa really opened my eyes,” Cooper said.  “It was more horror and hate than I choose to remember.”

The anchor spoke about some of the terrible images he had witnessed.  In Rwanda, he described the sickening cruelty of youths with sliced Achilles tendons so they couldn’t run away.  And it was even worse in Congo where sexual assault is used as a weapon.  Cooper solemnly recounted the story he heard of a woman who had been violently raped and had a rifle fired inside of her afterward.

He spoke about the strength of some of those women in Congo.

“Their bodies are destroyed, but their souls remain intact,” he said.  “They just want people to know their story.”

These needs are what have taught Cooper the value of the reporter.  How a reporter was “bear witness” and how there is a “value in knowing” the tragedies of the world.

“See a situation from as many different viewpoints as possible to actually see what’s happening,” he said.

But it was a disaster closer to home that gave him the greatest example of why reporting matters.

After Katrina, Cooper said how it was like “standing in the remnants of people lives.”  He gave images of dead bodies strewn about in the water, sometimes tied to lampposts by their shoelaces to keep them from floating away.

Cooper also told the story of Ethel Freeman, a 91-year-old woman who died an undignified death after being stranded outside a convention center.  Her body was left unattended in a corner, forgotten by everyone except her son.  A picture of Freeman, covered by a blanket in her wheelchair, became a major symbol of the failed relief efforts of Katrina.

“How they were treated there could be how we could be treated in the next disaster,” Cooper said.

But fortunately, as Cooper mentioned, there are glimpses of hope amidst the disasters as awareness and action continue to increase in an attempt to better the world.

The anchor seemed to model his speech after this concept, by peppering jokes in between his other stories.

At one point, he recalled his college days when he was struggling find a purpose.  He talked about the ambiguity of being a liberal arts major, with his only real concentration in the Soviet Union.

“When the Berlin Wall fell, I thought I was screwed,” he joked, sending the audience into a fit of laughter.

He poked fun at the insincerity of politicians a few times.  He compared meeting them was like walking in the Hall of Presidents at Disney World.

“They’re remarkably life-like up close,” he said.

There were also some serious criticisms of politicians, however, like how in the United States, there is a clear distinction between Republicans and Democrats.

Cooper finds this unfortunate.

“I think it’s important to walk as much as you can in someone else’s shoes,” he said.  “We pay attention to the things that separate us instead of what binds us together.”

The horrible memories from abroad put the petty squabbles in perspective for Cooper.

“The lines that separates the living from the dead and the rich from the poor are very thin,” he said.  “Our frailty makes what we have all the more valuable.  It’s what makes us human – what draws us together and not what keeps us apart.”

And while even Cooper needs to do a variety of different stories to “stay sane,” he stressed the importance of knowing.

“It’s very tempting to ignore the sadness of others,” Cooper admitted.  However, like the name of his show, he understands how important it is to get a 360-degree view of life – in both its moments of beauty and despair.

Leo Lambert, president of Elon University, foreshadowed Cooper’s ideas in his introduction of the anchor.  After describing the terrible events that occurred recently to the school, he followed with some of the remarkable successes some students.

“This is life,” Lambert said.  “Tragedy, joy and hope interwoven.”