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Letters From the Dean

Check back here every Sunday for Dean Rifkin’s timely message to the School of Humanities and Social Sciences!

This WeekSunday, January 25, 2015

Dear Students:

With this first weekly message of the Spring 2015 semester, I extend a special welcome to our new students.  Wherever you came from, I hope you find what you’re looking for here at the School of Humanities and Social Sciences at The College of New Jersey.  We are a warm and caring community with great faculty, bright students, and small classes in which we challenge one another to learn and grow.

I also extend a warm welcome to our returning students back from winter break.  What did you do during winter break?  Perhaps you were in Cuba or England on a faculty-led study tour.  Or maybe you waited tables at a Jersey Diner (the best in the world).  Whatever you did, I hope you found meaning and that you had a chance to recharge your batteries.

The beginning of each semester is a great moment to think about where we’ve been and where we’re going.  Outside of the college environment, people work 9 to 5 jobs and don’t have nearly the same sense of the flow of the seasons that we do.  This gives us a chance to notice the past, the present, and the future in more deliberate (and deliberative) ways than people in other environments.

You may have already seen a message from Provost Taylor announcing that I have accepted a position at another institution.  It’s true: at the end of May I will be leaving TCNJ for a job at Ithaca College in the state of New York.  I have loved – and continue to love – working at TCNJ and when I leave here, I will leave a piece of my heart behind.  However, this opportunity was too special to pass up.  So right now I feel very much like a member of the Class of 2015, a senior with a clear sense of the end of my TCNJ experience just around the corner.

The fact that “the clock is ticking” here on my job as your dean makes me particularly mindful of the past (six years here), the present (the Spring 2015 semester), and the future (what lies ahead at my new job).  It also reminds me of the fact that life is finite and that when we walk down one path, sometimes it means that we are deciding not to walk down others.

There will be a time for goodbyes, but this is not it:  I want to spend these next few months with you in the present and I hope you will spend them in the present, too.

At the same time, I ask you to (1) reflect on your own past: What worked well for you last semester? What didn’t work well last semester?  (2) Think about the present:  What will you do differently now to achieve new successes?  And (3): dream about your future! What opportunities will you seek out now that will help you launch yourself to the future of your dreams?

Remember that the exciting internship (the one that leads to the great job) will not fall magically into your lap like manna from heaven.  Don’t forget that no one gets to go on study abroad without planning and applying for the opportunity!  Undergraduate research projects don’t materialize when you snap your fingers.  These are among the special opportunities that await you here at TCNJ.  By going out purposefully to find the opportunity that’s right for you, you will be making your own future, rather than letting the future “happen” to you.


Your Friendly Neighborhood Dean


PS  I’ll be having lunches and late afternoon coffee sessions all semester-long starting the week of Feb. 2: look for my invitations to join me!


Congratulations to the members of TCNJ’s Society for Parliamentary Debate (SPD), especially HSS student Zachary Ellis, who had a fine showing at the World Debate Tournament in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, over winter break.  (You never know where debate will take you!  Next year’s world tournament is in Thessaloniki, Greece.) The SPD is always looking for more members, so if you’re interested in participating, contact  By the way, TCNJ’s debate team will be sponsoring two national debate tournaments this semester:  a regular debate tournament January 30-31 and the national championship tournament April 17-18.  This is a great time to get involved with debate at TCNJ!

Congratulations to senior Kristi Marciano and Dr. Simona Wright (World Languages / Italian) who have coauthored a paper entitled “Migrant Crossings: A Politics of the Body As Body Politics” that has been accepted for a conference in Split, Croatia, in June of this year.

Congratulations to the team responsible for our college’s literary journal, Lion’s Eye, on a terrific Winter 2014 Issue:  Rachel Friedman (executive editor), Anna Mitarotondo (Issue Editor), Alena Woods, Danielle Bruno-Arlequin, Alyse Taggart, Julia Woolever, Shannon Kelley, Cynthia Raices, Jody Friedman, Kelly Noll, Kelsey Collins, Nick Sangiacomo, and faculty advisor Professor Hannold.

Congratulations to recent graduate Maria Mastyka and Dr. Harriet Hustis (English), whose coauthored paper on Shalamov’s Kolyma Tales was published last month in The Slavic and East European Journal.

Congratulations to 2014 graduate Erin Shannon (WGS) whose research paper, mentored by former TCNJ Professor Emily Bent, entitled “Disney Princess Panopticism:  The Creation of Girlhood Femininity,” was accepted for publication in Girls Studies.

Congratulations to all our students who participated in this year’s Moot Court competition, under the sage guidance of Dr. Tao Dumas (Political Science).

Congratulations to HSS students Aman Gill, David Sanchez, Erin Shannon, and Natalia Zak who gave papers at this year’s National Women’s Studies Association conference.

Congratulations to HSS alumna Maryan Escarfullett who just completed her master’s degree in International Studies at the Johns Hopkins – Nanjing Center for Chinese and American Studies.  A synopsis of her thesis, entitled “Changes in Chinese Values from 1990-2014: A Study of the World Values Survey,” is available in an English version via The Diplomat at this URL:  Maryan just accepted a new job in the advisory services and forensic services department of PriceWaterhouseCoopers. You can read more about Maryan’s TCNJ journey here:

Congratulations to Megan Osika who organized a series of workshops for education students on sex and gender issues.  And congratulations to Brendan McGrath, TCNJ alumnus with a minor in WGS, who wrote about the workshops for the Times of Trenton and You can read about it here:

Congratulations to HSS Professors Chartock (Political Science / International Studies), Potter (Political Science / International Studies), and Shakow (History / Sociology & Anthropology), who were interviewed about the change in US policy on Cuba.  You can read their comments about this landmark event here:

Congratulations to Dr. Xinru Liu (History), whose coauthored book Worlds Together, Worlds Apart:  A History of the World, has been reissued in a new edition.

Congratulations to Dr. Marla Jaksch (Women’s & Gender Studies), who was co-editor of a special issue of the Journal of Interactive Technology and Pedagogy with a focus on Africa and the African diaspora.  You can see it here:

Congratulations to Dr. Melinda Roberts (Philosophy, Religion, and Classical Studies) who was appointed to Princeton’s University Center for Human Values as Laurance S. Rockefeller Visiting Faculty Fellow for 2015-2016 (while she will be on sabbatical from TCNJ) to work on a project entitled “Modal Ethics and Moral Value.”



The Bonner Center has lots of internships available for you for the Spring 2015 semester, including internships at the following non-profit community partners:  A Better Way, Anchor House, Crisis Ministry, El Centro. Fernbook Farms, Habitat for Humanity, HiTOPS, Isles, Inc., Juvenile Justice Commission, Kidsbridge, Mercer County Reentry Task Force, Mercer Street Friends, MidJersey Chamber of Commerce, Old Trenton Neighborhood Network, Passage Theater, Policy Options, President’s Climate Commitment Committee, Rescue Mission of Trenton, Shiloh Community Development Corp, Trenton Downtown Association, Trenton Health Team, Trenton Violence Reduction Strategy, Trenton Works Gallery, UIH Family Partners, Visitation Home, The Wall, and Westminster Community Life Center.  The internships at each location vary by nature from case management to workforce development to coordination work and more.  To find out more about the internship of your choice and to apply, contact Adams Sibley by e-mail at or in person at 372 Forcina Hall.  Do not apply directly to the community organization.  Work with Adams Sibley to apply.  These are internships that could change someone else’s life … and YOURS, too.

You can volunteer to make a difference in someone’s life through TCNJ’s Institute for Prison Teaching and Outreach.  You can gain valuable teaching experience and help someone further their education.  You have to pass a background check and gain clearance to participate.  In order to participate, you must attend an orientation in Forcina 320 in one of the following sessions:  Wed., Jan. 28 at 11 am; Thurs., Jan. 29 at 12:30 pm; or Fri., Jan. 30 at 2 pm.  For more information about this opportunity, reach out to

There are internship opportunities with the Mid-Jersey Chamber of Commerce!  See the HSS website for details and how to apply.

HSS is a participating member in the McNeil Center for Early American Studies at the University of Pennsylvania, which means that HSS students are eligible to participate in its 7th Annual Undergraduate Research Workshop, to be conducted this semester.  It’s a great opportunity meet like-minded young scholars working on Early American and Atlantic topics culminating in presentation of your work at a conference at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.  The deadline to apply is February 6 and you must work with Dr. Bill Carter of our History Department to apply.  He has all the information about how to apply, what’s required, etc.  So if you’re interested in this terrific opportunity, contact Dr. Carter at right away.

Graduating Seniors:  You can apply to teach English in Vladimir, Russia through the American Home’s Serendipity Program. The deadline to apply is March 1.  You can get all the information here:  This is a program with which Dean Rifkin has worked extensively and where TCNJ students have participated in an alternative break program for the past three years, with another group going this year.

The first week of the semester is always a relatively quiet week for HSS so students can focus on finding their new rhythm with classes and campus jobs and club activities:

Wed., Jan. 28              Study Abroad 101 Info-Session at 2 to 2:30 in Social Science 130

Wed., Jan. 28              Opening of the Exhibition of Danny Lyon’s Photographs capturing compelling moments in the Civil Rights movement, reception from 5-7 pm in the Art Gallery.  (A film by the same artist will be shown on campus in mid-February.)

Thurs., Jan. 29            Career Center Lionslink Workshop from 11 am to noon in the Career Center Library in Roscoe West.  But you have to have a resume checked during weekly open hours before you can register for the workshop.

Stay tuned for exciting events next week and beyond.  Next week we will host speakers about language (Dr. Michael Erard – Feb. 2), gender and film (Dr. Oleg Riabov – Feb. 3), and the relationship between inequality and American democracy (Dr. Dorian Warren – Feb. 4).  Also next week:  Professor Jess Row will read from his novel, Your Face In Mine.

Keep your eye on other events coming later this semester, especially our International Film Festival, Politics Forum, Close Readings, and Exploring Economic Justice series.  In the Exploring Economic Justice Series we will be hosting Mr. Matt Taibbi, author of the New York Times bestseller The Divide: American Injustice in the Age of the Wealth Gap; Dr. Antwi Akom, co-founder of the Institute for Sustainable Economic, Educational, and Environmental Design; Dr. Jagdish Bhagwati, University Professor of Economics, Law, and International Affairs at Columbia University; and Dr. Suzanne Mettler, Clinton Rossiter Professor of American Institutions in the Government Department at Cornell University.


With all these exciting events, this will surely be an exciting semester!

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