On Wisconsin http://onwisconsin.uwalumni.com For UW-Madison Alumni and Friends Thu, 25 Aug 2016 17:17:58 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.4.4 Horsepower vs. Hearing http://onwisconsin.uwalumni.com/calculation/horsepower-vs-hearing/ http://onwisconsin.uwalumni.com/calculation/horsepower-vs-hearing/#respond Fri, 27 May 2016 18:06:35 +0000 http://onwisconsin.uwalumni.com/?p=17510 rural noise graphic

Tractor image, Shutterstock; all other images, IStock; photo illustration by Nancy Rinehart

Growing up on a dairy farm in Viroqua, Wisconsin, Melanie Buhr-Lawler ’00 heard her dad’s tractors and other loud equipment every day. Now, as a clinical associate professor of audiology at UW–Madison, she promotes hearing conservation to those with little to no information about these noisy risks.

melanie buhr-lawler

Melanie Buhr-Lawler says her father, a farmer, told her a tractor pull would be the ideal place to educate people about the dangers of rural noise. Sarah Morton

Most rural residents over age forty experience substantial hearing impairment, studies have found. On a farm, tractors and other heavy equipment each can exceed one hundred decibels or higher — enough to cause permanent hearing damage after fifteen minutes of exposure. Yet, the federal occupational health and safety regulations that protect employees in noisy urban work settings don’t cover farmers.

To raise awareness, Buhr- Lawler and students from the UW’s Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders attend the Tomah Tractor Pull, an annual Wisconsin event that draws sixty thousand spectators. They talk about options to protect hearing and offer free earplugs to block out the deafening roar of turbocharged, three-thousand-horsepower machines.

“A tractor pull is one of the loudest places on earth — as loud as a jet plane at takeoff,” says Buhr-Lawler.

The project, funded by a Statewide Outreach Incentive Grant from the UW, aims to create a model program that can be used at other loud events in rural areas.

When she started the effort three years ago, Buhr-Lawler felt some trepidation about passing out earplugs to a crowd that was clearly up for some noise. “We wanted to be a positive force, not the university coming in to ‘nag’ everyone,” she says.

But the crowds have welcomed her with open ears: so far, her team has passed out thousands of earplugs.

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Waiting http://onwisconsin.uwalumni.com/diversions/waiting/ http://onwisconsin.uwalumni.com/diversions/waiting/#respond Fri, 27 May 2016 18:06:22 +0000 http://onwisconsin.uwalumni.com/?p=17527 Waiting cover

The picture book Waiting has earned Kevin Henkes x’83 two of the highest accolades in children’s literature for 2016: designations as a Caldecott Honor Book and a Geisel Honor Book. This is only the second time that anyone has won that combination, and these wins make Henkes the sole author/illustrator to have earned honors across the Caldecott, Geisel, and Newbery categories.

These are just the latest manifestations of literary praise and reader love that Henkes’s nearly fifty picture books and youth novels have garnered. Some of his best-known titles include Kitten’s First Full Moon, Owen, Penny and Her Marble, Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse, Chrysanthemum, Olive’s Ocean, and The Year of Billy Miller.

The congratulatory phone call prompted a reaction of “great joy,” Henkes told the Wisconsin State Journal. “I’ve been done with the book for a long time,” he said, and “my heart and soul are thinking about what’s next. So when something like this happens, it’s a nice bit of frosting on the cake.”

Kevin Henkes

The stars of Waiting are figurines of an owl, pig, bear, puppy, and rabbit sitting on a child’s bedroom windowsill. They’re all waiting for extraordinary things to happen — and they do: outside, inside, instantly, over time, spectacularly, quietly, frequently, and seldom. The book addresses the waiting that kids regularly experience and Henkes’s notion that, while waiting, “often life throws unexpected joys and sadnesses one’s way.”

The hundred-some little animal sculptures that he’s made at a clay studio near his Madison home were the spark for Waiting’s characters: those that sat on his own studio windowsill looked as if they were waiting for something.

Henkes’s latest work — illustrated by his wife, Laura Dronzek ’82, MFA’93 — is When Spring Comes, and look for his next book, Egg, in 2017.


Hello, book lovers! Check out the new Wisconsin-alumni section of Goodreads for more news about books by Badger alumni and faculty.


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How to keep the “four horsemen” at bay http://onwisconsin.uwalumni.com/features/how-to-keep-the-four-horsemen-at-bay/ http://onwisconsin.uwalumni.com/features/how-to-keep-the-four-horsemen-at-bay/#respond Fri, 27 May 2016 18:06:02 +0000 http://onwisconsin.uwalumni.com/?p=17398 petri_dish

Return main feature: Love Is Not A Mystery 

Psychologist John Gottman has identified four behaviors that are the death knell for most relationships, but it’s possible to fight them off and preserve a healthy union.

A complaint focuses on a specific behavior, while a criticism attacks the character of the person. The antidote for criticism is to complain without blame. Talk about your feelings using “I” statements and then express a positive need.

Criticism: “You always talk about yourself. You are so selfish.”

Antidote: “I’m feeling left out by our talk tonight. Can we please talk about my day?”

Many people become defensive when they are being criticized, but that never solves the problem at hand. Defensiveness is a way of blaming your partner and saying, in effect, “the problem isn’t me, it’s you.” As a result, the conflict escalates further. The antidote is to accept responsibility, even if only for part of the conflict.

Defensiveness: “It’s not my fault that we’re always late, it’s your fault.”

Antidote: “Well, part of this is my problem, I need to think more about time.”

Displays of contempt include sarcasm, cynicism, name-calling, eye rolling, sneering, mockery, and hostile humor. Contempt is the greatest predictor of divorce and must be eliminated. The antidote is building a culture of appreciation and respect.

Contempt: “You’re an idiot.”

Antidote: “I’m proud of the way you handled that teacher conference.”

One partner withdraws from an interaction. He or she stops responding and shuts down when feeling overwhelmed by a fight or conflict discussion.

Antidote: Practice physiological self-soothing and stop the conflict discussion. Let your partner know that you’re feeling flooded and need to take a break for at least twenty minutes, since it will be that long before your body physiologically calms down. It’s crucial during this time to avoid thoughts of righteous indignation (“I don’t have to take this anymore”) and innocent victimhood (“Why is he always picking on me?”). Spend time doing something soothing and distracting, like listening to music or exercising.
source: The Gottman Institute

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The Gottman Method for healthy relationships http://onwisconsin.uwalumni.com/features/the-gottman-method-for-healthy-relationships/ http://onwisconsin.uwalumni.com/features/the-gottman-method-for-healthy-relationships/#respond Fri, 27 May 2016 18:05:46 +0000 http://onwisconsin.uwalumni.com/?p=17401 atom

Return main feature: Love Is Not A Mystery 

Build love maps

How well do you know your partner’s inner psychological world, his or her history, worries, stresses, joys, and hopes?

Share fondness and admiration

The antidote for contempt, this level focuses on the amount of affection and respect within a relationship. (To strengthen fondness and admiration, express appreciation and respect.)

Turn towards

State your needs, be aware of bids for connection and respond to (turn toward) them. The small moments of everyday life are actually the building blocks of a relationship.

The positive perspective

The presence of a positive approach to problem-solving and the success of repair attempts.

Manage conflict

Relationship conflict is natural and has functional, positive aspects. Understand that there is a critical difference in handling perpetual problems and solvable problems.

Make life dreams come true

Create an atmosphere that encourages each person to talk honestly about his or her hopes, values, convictions, and aspirations.

Create shared meaning

Understand important visions, narratives, myths, and metaphors about your relationship.


A person needs to know that his or her partner acts and thinks to maximize that person’s best interests and benefits, not just the partner’s own interests and benefits. In other words, this means, “my partner has my back and is there for me.”


Believe (and act on the belief) that your relationship is your lifelong journey, for better or for worse. (If it gets worse. you will both work to improve it.) It implies cherishing your partner’s positive qualities and nurturing gratitude by comparing the partner favorably with real or imagined others, rather than trashing the partner by magnifying negative qualities, and nurturing resentment by comparing unfavorably with real or imagined others.

source: The Gottman Institute

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Wild Life http://onwisconsin.uwalumni.com/vision/wild-life/ http://onwisconsin.uwalumni.com/vision/wild-life/#respond Fri, 27 May 2016 18:05:36 +0000 http://onwisconsin.uwalumni.com/?p=17623 A family of great horned owls soaks up the springtime sun near the Lakeshore Path. This photo was captured in April 2015, but the birds returned in 2016. UW–Madison is home to a surprising variety of wildlife. In recent years, students and staff have spotted foxes, hawks, muskrats, turkeys, and turtles on campus.

Photo by Jeff Miller

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The Race to Stop Zika http://onwisconsin.uwalumni.com/on_campus/the-race-to-stop-zika/ http://onwisconsin.uwalumni.com/on_campus/the-race-to-stop-zika/#respond Fri, 27 May 2016 18:05:27 +0000 http://onwisconsin.uwalumni.com/?p=17616 mosquito


David O’Connor is doing something extraordinary for a scientist: the UW pathology professor is sharing his results daily.

His lab is studying the Zika virus, and he’s hoping that posting data online in real time will allow public health policymakers and other researchers to work on tests, treatments, or vaccines much sooner. If the results followed the traditional route, they would take months or years to become public via scientific journals. Instead, O’Connor’s lab posts results on a blog and updates followers via its Twitter feed, @dho_lab.

The effort began in October, when O’Connor last visited Brazil, where babies born with underdeveloped brains and small heads were the relatively quiet beginning of worry over the spread of the mosquito-borne virus. One of his Brazilian collaborators asked whether technologies developed on their decade-long research program studying drug-resistant strains of HIV could be used to look for new viruses that might explain some unusual cases of a birth defect, microcephaly, in the northern part of the country.

“At the time, we didn’t know it would explode into the public consciousness like it did,” O’Connor says. “But we did start planning.”

That culminated in some of the first experiments studying Zika virus in monkeys, conducted by a broad UW–Madison team that includes the Wisconsin National Primate Research Center and expertise in infectious disease, pregnancy, and neurology.

Until recently, Zika was an understudied virus expected to cause little more than flu-like symptoms — the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lists fever, joint pain, and headaches — in about 20 percent of the people it infected. But the rapid spread of the virus and its connection to an otherwise rare birth defect have drawn plenty of attention from the public and government officials.

Many questions remain about the virus, and their answers are hotly anticipated, says Thomas Friedrich ’97, PhD’03, a UW associate professor of pathobiological sciences, adding, “There are a lot of countries in the tropics right now saying, ‘Don’t get pregnant until 2018.’ That’s not a sustainable public-health recommendation.”

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Physician, Heal Thyself http://onwisconsin.uwalumni.com/features/physician-heal-thyself/ http://onwisconsin.uwalumni.com/features/physician-heal-thyself/#respond Fri, 27 May 2016 18:03:44 +0000 http://onwisconsin.uwalumni.com/?p=17307 In a nondescript classroom in the Brogden Psychology Building, David Rakel tells about fifty UW medical students to take a deep breath and slow down. Feet on the ground, eyes closed, breathe in, let it go. Focus on a time of grief and loss. Think about a person who made you feel better. Now focus on a person who, probably unwittingly, made you feel worse.

Rakel then asks, “What helped?” Hands are raised, answers are offered. “A hug.” “No words, just presence.” “They listened to me talk.”

What didn’t help? “Trying to relate their own story.” “Minimizing the situation.” “Trying to fix the problem, telling you what to do or think.”

What’s the difference, he asks, between the helpful responses and the hurtful ones? Discussion flows during The Healer’s Art, a course that Rakel has led for thirteen years as an associate professor of family medicine at the UW School of Medicine and Public Health. Before saying anything, he tells his students, a physician must be present with a patient, fully engaged, and sympathetic. “Most people’s intentions are good,” he says. “But remember this when you have to go and tell someone their loved one has just died.” The course, now offered at some ninety medical schools in the country, is helping to create a generation of more reflective physicians. Knowing themselves better can help physicians to understand their patients better — going beyond the symptoms to explore hopes and fears. And that, in turn, can lead to improved health and longer lives.

“Where do you carry your stress?” Rakel asks as he continues to push his students to be more aware. “In your neck? In your head? Turn toward it. Don’t ignore it. Turn toward it. This is evidence-based medicine. This process improves fibromyalgia by about 35 percent. Learn from your symptoms. Don’t just take an ibuprofen to mask the pain.”

For Rakel, a long-term goal for the class is producing “healthier physicians, less burnout, less suicide, and stronger relationships.”

The course “has shaped most of the ethics in my career,” says Jensena Carlson ’06, MD’10, an assistant professor of family medicine who now teaches the class with Rakel. Being exposed to these concepts as a first-year student “put names on the reasons I had been drawn to medicine in the first place … I felt like I had a place, like I belonged in medicine.” Each year, about one-third to one-fourth of the entering class signs up for the course. There have been periodic discussions about making it mandatory, but faculty have concluded that the class means more when students choose to participate in it.

As she works with patients, Carlson keeps an eye out for other physicians wearing a small gold lapel pin with a heart on it that signifies they’ve completed the course, knowing they will share her focus on the bigger picture. Physicians can also continue class discussions through an informal national network, allowing them to reinforce the concepts they learned in the course.

This community of practitioners is a relatively new movement, says Christina Puchalski, director of the George Washington Institute for Spirituality and Health in Washington, D.C. Although she has been teaching about spirituality in medicine since the early 1990s, she says the topic gained national momentum in only the last five years or so. The Healer’s Art course is one instance of a broader movement to form more self-aware, integrated physicians and to build a community around the shared values of being in a service profession.

“A lot of patients feel very lonely,” Puchalski says. “We take care of their physical needs, but do nothing for their spiritual or existential distress.” Physicians who are attuned to that distress can help patients to better cope with their illnesses, she says.

The growing interest in integrated care for the whole person is also connected to the Affordable Care Act, Rakel says. Since Medicare and Medicaid are beginning to pay health care providers based on results, rather than on services rendered, the industry has had to reassess how it delivers care and how best to measure wellness rather than illness.

When Rakel was a medical student in the 1980s, he felt that something was lacking. After a full day of filling his brain with random facts, he remembers, he turned on the TV and found The Sound of Music. “I had seen it like thirteen times,” he says, “but this time, when the von Trapp family got over the mountain at the end, I was crying like a blubbering idiot. I was out of balance.”

Being in balance, for a doctor, still means a large main course of science and rigor, but awareness is growing that the humanities and other disciplines are an important side dish. Rakel believes that in recent decades, medical schools have improved at acknowledging self-care and holistic well-being, but that the profession as a whole still needs to do a better job of recognizing emotional intelligence. If practitioners are aware of their patients’ emotions, for instance, they might notice when a patient is withdrawn or scared and alter their words and tone accordingly.

Part of wellness rests in patients becoming active participants in their health care. Along with the typical approaches of improving diet and exercise, nurturing a healthy emotional state — such as forgiving someone who hurt you — has also been shown to lengthen patients’ lives.

Yet, Rakel notes, “It’s harder to reimburse better health. It’s not black and white; there are no widgets to count.” Eventually, he says, the profession must figure out how to treat people as “bio-psycho-social-spiritual beings.”

Carlson, for one, sees The Healer’s Art as a critical counterpoint to the hierarchical, high-tech model of medicine that developed over the past century. Every year, hundreds of the course’s graduates across the country receive MDs or move from residency into private practice. But changing the U.S. health care system is considerably slower and harder than, say, turning around an aircraft carrier.

Back in the classroom, Rakel asks students to consider, Why do you want to be healthy? If you have your health, what are the most important things that will enable you to do?

That sense of meaning and purpose in their lives is their spirituality — an idea that is clinically separate from religion. Some people find fulfillment in church or prayer, some in family, and others in nature or in a hobby. Having a purpose “is what gets people to get up and move,” Rakel says. “You can’t do health without that. You can do disease. Health unites; disease segregates.”

Kristin Brown Lipanot MDx’18, a second-year student who took the class last year and is now a teaching assistant, says the class helped her answer a critical question: What are the things in life that keep me going when things get hard? For her — aside from helping others — the list includes family, nature, exercise, and a sense of balance in life.

“It’s very easy, in a busy medical student’s schedule, to not take time to reflect on what brought me to medical school, and the parts of me that are not science- and medicine-driven,” she says. Those parts of the psyche are fully engaged in a class session on mystery and awe, which concentrates on “what science can’t explain,” she says. “Honor that, and be okay with it. Some things just happen.”

That is an important lesson when a patient doesn’t respond to treatment. It’s easy for a physician to get frustrated in that situation, possibly even to the point of wanting to avoid the patient, Carlson says. Remembering mystery, in more prosaic terms, may help a doctor to say, “Here’s what could be going on, but it’s possible I’m missing something.”

Medical education can be dehumanizing, says medical student Katharine Kelly MDx’17, who also is a teaching assistant in the class. The Healer’s Art gives students a chance to explore their emotions and “maintain a sense of wholeness and humanity alongside our newfound clinical medical knowledge.” Kelly particularly values the small-group discussions that conclude every session. When a few students and a faculty member or community physician talk in a confidential setting, “you’re not trying to fix other people, but you listen and support your peers,” she says. “It’s a warm environment. It’s really welcoming.”

Away from class, as students go about their days, learning to become healers, they carry with them tangible reminders of the concepts they are learning. When they reach into the pockets of their white coats, they find a small stone — what Rakel calls “a meanings anchor” — passed out during the first class session to remind them of what gives them strength in the face of difficulty. They also find a colorful plush heart that nudges them to remember what to call upon as they greet the next patient: empathy.

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Musical Theater Performance http://onwisconsin.uwalumni.com/exhibition/musical-theater-performance/ http://onwisconsin.uwalumni.com/exhibition/musical-theater-performance/#respond Fri, 27 May 2016 14:27:24 +0000 http://onwisconsin.uwalumni.com/?p=17550

The rules are the same for every audition. Enter the room when called. Hand your sheet music to the accompanist and hum a few bars to set the tempo. State your name. Sing.

Karen Olivo knows these rules inside and out. She is a bona fide Broadway star who won a 2009 Tony Award for playing Anita in West Side Story. In 2013, she left New York to join her then-fiancé (now husband) in Madison and began teaching musical theater performance classes at the UW. This spring she put nineteen students in her Theatre and Drama 440 course through the paces of putting on a show: auditioning, getting cast, and learning choreography and songs.

“When we start staging things, if you don’t know your lyrics, you are going to get killed,” Olivo warns during an intense mid-semester rehearsal lab, when the focus shifted to dance steps. “The moment you get nervous, you’re going to forget. You should know this in your sleep.”

It’s pure tough love.

The UW doesn’t offer a musical theater major, but the class teaches hard-earned lessons about how to be a consummate professional, on or off stage.

“She doesn’t baby us,” says Kaleigh Sullivan ’16, a kinesiology major. “She’s just putting us into this and saying, ‘If you went to Chicago or New York, this is what you’d be doing.’ ”

Olivo’s connections secured Sullivan and classmate Alyssa Beasley x’18 — a civil and environmental engineering major — the chance to audition for the twentieth-anniversary national tour of Rent. While doing so, Beasley says, they marveled, “Karen was so right. It’s the same thing. We’re just in New York.”

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Paul Robbins ’89 http://onwisconsin.uwalumni.com/conversation/paul-robbins-89/ http://onwisconsin.uwalumni.com/conversation/paul-robbins-89/#respond Fri, 27 May 2016 14:27:24 +0000 http://onwisconsin.uwalumni.com/?p=17588 Paul Robbins

Bryce Richter

The grass may be greener on the other side of the fence. But is that a good thing? By surface area, lawns — including golf courses — could be considered the single largest irrigated crop in the United States. Paul Robbins, director of the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies and author of Lawn People: How Grasses, Weeds, and Chemicals Make Us Who We Are, has studied America’s fixation with them — and the ecological fallout.

When did you first become interested in people’s attitudes about their lawns?
It was when I first bought a house — 1999 — in Clintonville (Ohio). My neighbor leaned over my fence one day and said, “What are you going to do about that creeping charlie?” I realized it’s a common property problem. If people let their lawns go in one part of the neighborhood, the other part of the neighborhood gets upset about it.

Where did the idea of a lawn being a symbol of a well-kept neighborhood get started?
Lawns don’t actually appear in a big way in the United States until the 1950s. It’s an old idea that well-cultivated, tidy landscapes make for tidy citizens, but it lives on. People would tell me when we’d interview them, “You know what’s going on inside a house by what you see outside the house.”

What are the main ecological effects of the quest for the perfect lawn?
People use [chemicals] in quantities ten times more per square area in a lawn than they do out in the countryside. And so the impacts are pretty high; you see these chemicals in urban waterways. The big [impact] now is water demand. In Las Vegas, they’re buying back lawns. In Los Angeles, the city pays you per square yard that you surrender of your yard.

Why do people still try to achieve this ideal?
We surveyed people all over the country. We asked them whether they think lawn chemicals are bad for water quality, for their children, for their health. People who say they use lawn chemicals are more likely to say that they’re bad than people who don’t use lawn chemicals. If they had a choice, they would do something else, [but] they feel like their neighbors will look down on them, their property values will fall, it’ll be a sign of being a bad community member.

Short of letting a residential lawn revert to a natural prairie, how can people reduce the environmental impact?
Have your lawn where your kids can play soccer, but don’t worry as much about the weeds and dandelions. Relax your aesthetic and appreciate the diversity.

Interview conducted, edited, and condensed by Greg Bump.

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Goodspeed Family Pier http://onwisconsin.uwalumni.com/destination/goodspeed-family-pier/ http://onwisconsin.uwalumni.com/destination/goodspeed-family-pier/#respond Fri, 27 May 2016 14:27:24 +0000 http://onwisconsin.uwalumni.com/?p=17578

A magnet for nighttime relaxation since opening in 2013, the pier honoring the family of Mary Sue Goodspeed Shannon ’81 replaced the aging stone-and-concrete structure below the Alumni Center.

Swimming isn’t permitted near the pier (the Memorial Union has a swimming pier nearby), but these two undergraduates still used it as a jumping-off point to greet the sunrise over Lake Mendota last summer.

Up to seventeen boats can tie up at the dock, made of massaranduba — a hard, reddish wood from Central and South America that’s also known as bulletwood. In season, the pier is open from six in the morning to midnight.

The pier has more than 330 feet of boardwalk and will link the future Alumni Park — a gift to the campus from the Wisconsin Alumni Association — with Lake Mendota when it opens later this year.

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