Gary Evans on the Environment of Childhood Poverty

This week, environmental and developmental psychologist at Cornell University, Gary Evans, paid us a visit at the Athenaeum. Prof. Evans’ talk highlighted that poverty is bad for children mainly because of the confluence of environmental and psychosocial risks it creates.

When it comes to psychosocial risks, it has been proven that low income is associated with aggression, low math scores, deferred graduation, poor language and memory development, higher divorce rates, and frequent corporal punishment. When it comes to increased environmental risks, studies have shown that poverty is bad for childhood development because it leads to smaller access to park spaces and supermarkets (which contributes to higher obesity rates), incomplete bathrooms, lack of central heat and overall low quality housing, higher exposure to allergens, crowded housing spaces, and exposure to sulfur oxides, which have been associated with serious consequences for IQ levels.

On top of these, Prof. Evans’ own studies have indicated that poverty and stress may harm parts of the brain sensitive to cognitive stress, leading to diminished reactivity in the face of life challenges and slower recovery to baseline blood pressure levels. Additionally, it appears that children who have grown up in poverty may develop a smaller hippocampus, which might retard the neurological mechanisms associated with coping strategies.

Hence, poverty is not dangerous for children just because of poverty itself. It is dangerous because of the cumulative risk exposure and confluence of risk factors that it creates. Childhood poverty cultivates a system in which, “when it rains, it pours.”

Good Grades, Social Life, Enough Sleep: Pick Two of Three?

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Throughout high school, I remember a popular dilemma my friends and I faced: choosing between having a social life, getting enough sleep, and obtaining good grades. The joke was that it was only possible to choose two of the three options.  However, though the problem resonated with us back then, college adds another dimension of options to choose from and makes you realize that college life is much more complicated. This was specifically brought up in my conversation with a good CMC friend, Julie Kim, over dinner. What struck me about our conversation is the similarity in our learned lessons, despite having different experiences throughout college. More specifically, we talked about how our four years at CMC, including our semester of study abroad, taught us to understand how to best balance everything.
What is the best way to divide your time between academics, work, friendships, family, social events, working out, extracurriculars, and sleep? The short answer is there is none. Coming into college, it is hard to learn that there are limitations of time when opportunities are nearly endless. Attending an exciting social event, studying for a difficult midterm, and applying for a potential summer internship all add value to your college career. However, though all these activities add value, no one said anything about having the time to do it all (and do it well). Time-management and prioritizing become some of the best lessons learned from college. Both Julie and I learned to stop trying to “do it all” and instead prioritize time for the activities demand the most attention first and then allocate the rest of our time to the other activities.
Of course there are always more things to accomplish, and there is room for improvement in efficiency and skill. However, all this comes from trial and error. The truly great thing about growing up throughout these four years at CMC is becoming confident in committing to our passions and making time for what is important to us.

By: Sharon Chiang

Writing about Writing for Berger: A Meta Post

This semester, I started writing for the Berger Institute. As someone who has always enjoyed writing and is also well-associated with the values of Berger, I thought it was the perfect opportunity to strengthen my passion while giving back to the Berger Institute. When perusing through old posts on the Berger website, I realized though many people have written about experiences they’ve had and what they’ve learned while at CMC. However, none of the posts touch upon what they’ve learned from writing for Berger.

What I’ve learned from writing for Berger this semester is to have a more thoughtful outlook on everyday events. Having a sense of responsibility to write for the Institute puts me in a more mindful perspective, as I look at my daily life through a new lens of curiosity and focus. Though Claremont is a quaint city with beautiful scenery and warm people, it is easy to overlook its charm after nearly four years of being here. However, being in the position of a writer makes me think critically and reflect on seemingly average daily events.

For instance, going to an Ath talk is a great experience, but can easily go over your head if there is no further conversation about it. However, being able to think of which angle to take when writing the post gives me more clarity on the motivations of the speaker and the deeper meaning behind each talk.

The reflections have made me gain an appreciation and mindfulness that makes me cherish the last semester of being in college even more. In turn, that has made me more eager to take advantage of opportunities presented here. I am thankful to have had this opportunity to work with the Berger Institute before graduating in May.

By: Sharon Chiang

Myers-Briggs: How Useful is it Really?

Sometimes in my free time, I enjoy reading articles written on Thought Catalog. Thought Catalog, like other blog sites, hosts a variety of writers as they share their take on the world. A recent trend I have discovered is the constant mention of Myers-Briggs as a topic of interest. “What Each Personality Type Does in Order to Avoiding Breaking up with You,” “How to Approach a Conversation with each Myers-Briggs Personality Type,” “The Myers-Briggs Personality Types when Something goes Wrong.”

The Myers-Briggs is a test that assigns a result from your answers to 1 of 16 personality types. The questions usually ask how you would behave in a scenario or how you perceive a situation. There are four different traits that are accounted for and two variations within each trait. An individual can either be: extroverted or introverted, intuitive or sensing, feeling or thinking, and judging and prospecting.

Despite the commotion around the test, how effective is it really? If one wants to use the test to determine all the tendencies and preferences of an individual purely based on which one of the 16 personality types they were assigned to, then it would not be considered as successful. Each of the four traits of the Myers-Briggs is a spectrum, from one variation to the other. Two ENTJs will usually differ; perhaps one is 95% extroverted while the other is only 51%. Additionally, many people forget to consider that people are fluid, and personality types can differ throughout time or even with different specifications and questions in the test.

However, if the Myers-Briggs is used as a supplementary tool to better understand that people behave and respond to events differently, then it can be an effective way to teach empathy. The concept of empathy is to consider the viewpoints of others, despite not being able to experience the same feelings. I do believe that the effectiveness of the Myers-Briggs test is overhyped, but it does not take away from the fact that the test has value in helping people better understand how to work with others.

What do you think? Comment below if you have any thoughts to share.

By: Sharon Chiang

Storytelling: Not Just for Children

Some of the best advice I have received is from my dear mentor, Sean Chai, on the importance of narrative. This was during my first informational interview with him, in which I was learning more about the company I was applying to. However, our conversation later shifted to talk about our shared passion for TED talks.

What are the elements that make a TED talk successful? Some factors include an interesting topic, a dynamic speaker, and good visuals. However, it can be argued that the most important factor is the narrative and how it is told.

Storytelling is an art in that it highlights the key points of many events and creates a takeaway at the end of it. It does not dump all the information on you at once, but rather slowly builds to the “Why?” question. The satisfaction of listening to a talk, raising questions, and having them answered in the end is unparalleled.

Similar to TED talks, the Athenaeum at CMC hosts a variety of speakers hailing from impressive backgrounds. Many of the Ath talks I sign up for is because of the topic. Surprisingly, though, only a fraction of these talks are fully engaging throughout the whole duration. The key component here is the storytelling. One of my favorite Ath talks from my time at CMC is by Arthur Brooks. What I found most successful about his talk was his setup of a clear question to answer, the buildup to the answer through unique anecdotes, his charismatic use of humor, and most importantly, the questions and discussions he sparked after the talk.

Since my talk with my mentor, I’ve focused more on how to structure the narratives I tell, which has helped immensely in job interviews and also engaging in interesting conversations with peers and strangers alike. It’s been two years since I’ve been given this advice, and I have seen evidence of its effectiveness come into fruition since then.

By: Sharon Chiang