RJ Fellows are invited to attend one of two planning lunches to help the Center for Ethics brainstorm programming ideas for next year’s series Ethics of Space / Power of Place programming series (see below for the description).

We’ll meet on Tues, Feb 3 and Wed, Feb 4 in Seegers 109 from noon till
maybe 1:30.  A buffet lunch w/ a vegetarian option will be served.  

Please feel free to come and go as your schedule permits.  If you absolutely know you can make it, please drop me an email at ridner@muhlenberg.edu or call me at x3326.  If you’re not sure, please try to come anyway–no reply is necessary.

We really hope to see you there.  We’d very much like to get ideas from students about the kinds of programming they would like to see as part of this exciting series.

Many thanks.   Judy Ridner, Department of History, Director of the Center for Ethics

Series Description:

Ethics of Space / Power of Place 

Space.  We know it when we see it-or so we think.  There are the
physical spaces we inhabit, like our homes, dorm rooms, classrooms,
workplaces, sidewalks and streets.  We experience them everyday.  But
how often do we acknowledge these spaces as bounded entities shaped by
the constraints of culture and race, class and gender, economics and
politics, ideology and style?  And how often do we recognize them as
components of the real and metaphoric local, state, national, and
global communities that surround them?  Then, too, we also talk of
outerspace,cyberspace, and virtual space.  These common terms denoting the
unbounded, even limitless, distances in-between bodies express the
abstract nature of space, while hinting at the scientific and
technological tools used to measure or create them.  Space, in short,
is a complex concept that raises myriad ethical questions.  What is space?
How do we measure it?  What boundaries delineate it?  Who or what
regulates it and who has access to it?  How is it contested?  This
year-long programming series will foreground Muhlenberg College as an
experimental space through which students, faculty, staff, and
community members will engage these questions.


Please read this important post from Stephanie Flackman, RJ class of 2010:


As a firm believer in the power of humanity to initiate positive change, I have found my experience as an RJ Fellow in the Class of 2010 to be transformational and thought provoking.  Dr. Taub’s entry, “Change is not a spectator sport” motivated me to share some information about a special opportunity, strongly connected to the RJ mission of change. 


A unique RJ-designated course, entitled Environmental and Cultural Conservation in Latin America, is offered in the spring semester by Dr. Niesenbaum, followed by a 2-week service-learning and research experience in Costa Rica that empowers YOU to create change in a focused and impactful setting. 


What do I mean by this? 


Students prepare, through discussions and study of the ecological diversity, political, cultural, and social issues of Costa Rica, to ultimately descend upon the rural community of Las Juntas de Abangares as a team focused on change.  Students develop research projects (ranging from topics in biology, environmental studies, and public health, to economics, sustainability, cultural preservation, studio art (NEW!), and more)!  My own experience last spring was focused on a public health issue — the effects of pesticides on the well-being of farmers (who, due to a long history of pesticide use for sustenance, do not acknowledge the correlation between specific ailments and documented pesticide hazards).  Participants in this course also engage in service-learning.  Teaching English at a private school gave me a special opportunity for immersion, putting my command of the Spanish language to the test and permitting me to delve into the culture and see the dynamics of the community from an insider’s perspective.  Other types of service include beautification, river clean-up, assisting at a women’s recycling cooperative, and many other worthwhile efforts where students are continually surprised by the gratitude of the community!  The local population is often inspired to make positive changes too; working side by side with the students to improve an aspect of their society, we planted trees to prevent runoff pollutants from contaminating the watershed in an aesthetically pleasing way.  This course is something you can do to meet the needs of a community, where you will see and feel the impact of your efforts, while gaining an appreciation for a way of life that is amazing and so different from our own. 


Why did I mention all of the above details?  


Because I want to encourage you to learn more about Muhlenberg’s Interdisciplinary Study and Exploration in Costa Rica (the course code is EST 350, in the course catalog).  Students from the 2008 program, including myself, will be presenting their research and service-learning experiences in a seminar to be held on Thursday, October 16th at 4:30pm in Shankweiler 440S.  


Please note that I did not even mention the FANTASTIC field trips.  I cannot do justice to the supreme beauty of a Cloud Forest or flora and fauna that are beyond exotic.  You must see it to believe it!


Interested yet?  I hope so.


For more information, please go to the following website for a database of prior research projects as well as the application and more in-depth information:


Flyers with pictures from the 2008 experience will also be posted around campus so you won’t forget the details of the seminar! You can contact Dr. Niesenbaum (niesenba@muhlenberg.edu) or me – Stephanie Flackman (sf235082@muhlenberg.edu) with any questions.   As we contemplate how to create change, as members of the RJ community, I strongly suggest not letting this extraordinary opportunity pass you by!


This Wednesday, bloggers around the glob are uniting to raise awareness and conversation about poverty.  The RJ Fellows blog will participate.  The organizers say, “…the blogging community effectively changes the conversation on the web and focuses audiences around the globe” on the issue.  Check back Wednesday for a new post on poverty, and take a look at the Blog Action Day website.

New Endowed Chair Announced

October 11, 2008

Deepening their support for the RJ Fellows Program and Muhlenberg College, Mr. Joseph and Mrs. Rita Scheller have made an extraordinary gift to create an endowed chair for the RJ Fellows program director.  RJ Fellows heard the announcement for the first time at the annual RJ dinner, on September 22.  Mr. and Mrs. Scheller were present at the annual event and shared their great hopes that the endowed chair would help create exciting new possibilities for growth and innovation within the program.  As the RJ Fellows program director, I am very honored to be the first holder of the Joseph and Rita Scheller Chair and excited to begin envisioning how to enhance the RJ Fellows program.  The endowment, crucially, will give me more time to devote to RJ fellows, to the program, to research on issues of change in my own area of scholarship, and to development of new RJ courses.  This is the College’s fourth fully endowed professorship.  The Morning Call covered the story on October 8.

Training for Change Workshop

September 29, 2008

The Center for Ethics invites students, faculty, staff, and interested members of the local community to attend a public activism workshop this Saturday, Oct 4th as part of the fall programming series 2008: Politics, Ethics & Citizenship.



Hosted by Training for Change

 Saturday, Oct 4th


Miller Forum, Moyer Hall


Since 1992 Training for Change has been committed to increasing capacity around the world to help groups stand up more effectively for justice, peace and the environment.  This day-long activism workshop is open to the campus and larger Lehigh Valley community.  The workshop will focus on an introduction to non-violent direct action for social justice.
Lunch will be provided to all workshop participants.
Participants must register in advance.  To do so, please contact Judy Ridner (ridner@muhlenberg.edu) or Michele Deegan  (deegan@muhlenberg.edu).

An evolving system

September 22, 2008

Thanks everyone for making tonight’s dinner event awesome.  David Cooper (’11) and Sarah Sansolo (’09) served up an incredible menu (great call on the peanut butter cream pie!).  The a cappella groups helped make things festive–and I didn’t realize so many RJs are in these groups (confirming my sense of the talent in this community).  And the Provost’s announcement made an already wonderful evening even more amazing.  I can only imagine that the Endowed Chair will open up new opportunities–for all of us.  I know that I will welcome the additional time to reflect (chapter 5 of Mr. Scheller’s updated edition of Think, Decide, Do) on the program, incubate new activities, and keep the program continually evolving.  You’re part of this living, breathing system.  Mr. Scheller encouraged everyone to share your assessments, ideas, suggestions, and wishes with me.  By creating this blog I hope you have an accessible way to do just that.  My door is always open–here, electronically, and in Walson 200.  How can we make this year matter?  What can we, as a community, do to make a real difference?

Hello, change agents!

In keeping with our program’s theme, the look and layout of this blog will be changing soon to accomodate more information about the program and its participants. If things seem a little strange visually (in terms of colors or layout) for a little while, it will get better — I promise!

Looking forward to keeping in touch with our honors community. 

All the best,

Sean Killeen
RJ Webmaster

Sports for Change

September 22, 2008

I’ve been thinking about the RJ athletes, many of whom have games/practice tomorrow evening that will prevent them from gathering at the RJ annual dinner.  These students often link to sports-focused community service activities, like Second Mile, or organize the sports activities for Jefferson Field Day.  This post honors the athletes within the RJ community and recognizes that sports provide spaces for positive change as well.  Just consider Right to Play.  This is an international humanitarian organization that uses sport and play programs to improve health, develop life skills, and foster peace for children and communities in some of the most disadvantaged areas of the world.  Right To Play trains local community leaders as Coaches to provide sport programs in more than 20 countries affected by war, poverty, and disease in Africa, Asia and the Middle East.  The organization focuses on four strategic areas:  basic education and child development, health promotion/disease prevention, conflict resolution and peace education, and community development.

“When children play, the world wins.”

Stories for Change

September 17, 2008

Tomorrow I join the RJs in their First Year Seminar, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” to introduce them to digital storytelling.  It’s become a focal point of the RJ capstone experience in senior seminar to create a digital story.  Building on student enthusiasm for the work and the really great storytelling that’s come out of the senior seminar, FYS instructor Chaplain Bredlau and I decided to try digital storytelling in the first year as well.  Most RJs are familiar with my research and practice in digital storytelling, especially with community teens.  After more than a decade of digital storytelling with youth, and about six years of digital storytelling with Muhlenberg College students, I’m deeply convinced that these digital media technologies and practices hold out real potential for documenting and creating change. A new website, www.storiesforchange.net, explores these possibilities and offers many useful resources that RJs can draw on in their digital storytelling work.  A goal is to create a website with all of the RJ digital stories that have been created in the last three years and into the future.  I look forward to watching the graduating seniors stories take shape (and sound), and now I am eager to see how the work takes shape with the first year RJs.

Change, baby, change!

September 14, 2008

Have RJs noticed that our program’s focus on change is at the center of both presidential candidates’ PR efforts?  “Change we can believe in,” and “Real change.”  An opinion piece in the New York Times today really brought this to my attention.  In “Making America Stupid,” Thomas Friedman argues that “Unless we make America the country most able to innovate, compete and win in the age of globalization, our leverage in the world will continue to slowly erode.”  He’s writing here about the innovation required to design a new energy policy, one that isn’t dependent on “drill, baby, drill!” Friedman asks, “why not throw all our energy into innovating a whole new industry of clean power with the mantra “invent, baby, invent?” The 21st century technologies of renewable energy, that is.  For people who spend a lot of time thinking about change (RJs), how do we do more than create mantras and slogans and really effect positive change in the world?