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    Dillard gets $243,000 grant to help public housing residents PDF Print E-mail
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    Dillard University Campusweb

    By John Pope, | The Times-Picayune

    Dillard University has received $243,000 from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to connect public housing residents with services they can use to improve their lives.

    The grant will hire coordinators whose job will be to let people know about available services and opportunities. These people also will work with elderly and disabled people to help them maintain their independence.

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    DU Psychology Professor Gives Insurance Advice PDF Print E-mail
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    This article appeared at

    Wismar-FinalQ: Insurance companies often give car insurance discounts to people in certain professions. How do certain professions attract "less risky" personalities?

    A: The research and theory in the area suggests that the effects are actually reversed. Persons tend to choose less risky professions as a function of their personality traits.

    Personality traits include components such as sensation seeking vs. sensation avoidance and therefore those opposing types choose professions that better match their behavioral tendencies, skills and reward structures. Research over many years and different research techniques have demonstrated a repetitive pattern of personality traits that emerge from large group descriptive studies. 

    These traits are often referred to as the "Big Five Personality Traits": Extraversion, Agreeableness, Neuroticism, Conscientiousness and Openness. Even though these traits are apparently good descriptors of behavior, they have not been very effective in predicting specific behaviors because of the many interacting influences (such as the immediate environmental contingencies) that also influence behaviors in addition to internal personality traits. 

    Q: Why don't insurers make drivers take personality assessment tests, the way many Wall Street companies do when vetting potential hires? Do you think these are accurate at profiling personality traits? Why or Why not?

    A: My understanding of the use of such information to set insurance rates is based not on predictions but actuarial tables that are based on large numbers of cases of behavior patterns of the past (accident rates, claims history, etc.).

    The risk levels are determined by actual patterns of accidents of persons in different categories such as age, gender, and professions) from a large sample of claims. Actuarial patterns of past behavior patterns are excellent predictors of group membership risk (therefore helpful in setting rates for insurance for a group of similar individuals) but are less successful in predicting individual behaviors. Insurance companies are more interested in reducing losses based on knowledge of personality traits rather than the prediction of individual behavior.

    Also, issues of privacy become prominent when attempting to seek persons who require car insurance. If an insurance company becomes too intrusive, the clients will not participate if the payoff is not high enough for such sharing of personal information.

    Psychologists are more interested in the unique factors that can be measured within an individual to predict a specific set of behaviors at a given time in the future. These different approaches often lead to complaints by individuals who are charged higher insurance rates because they fall into one of the "risky classes" even though they have never had an accident.

    The value of such personality trait data is limited without additional information that improves the prediction of different levels of behavior such as job success. Personality traits are only one small part of many interacting components that hiring agencies use as a hiring profile of skills.

    Q: Are some people pre-determined to have higher levels of comfort with taking risks (such as speeding on a winding road)? Is there any sort of genetic component?

    A: There is limited evidence that some of the Big Five personality traits may have some genetic component, but the current data are very limited in terms of predicting specific behaviors such as the one mentioned in your question.

    Psychological research generally concludes that some percentage of causation may be influenced by genetic trends but no clear link has been established between a genotype and a specific set of behaviors at a specific time. To the extent that knowledge of personality factors improves decision making by some measurable amount, you will see an increase of the use of such information, but only if it is reliably and validly measured to assess its actual cost-benefit ratio.

    Dillard Builds Diversity Base With Brazillian Brains PDF Print E-mail
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    BrazilliansStudents at Dillard University, a small, historically Black university in New Orleans, welcomed a new crop of scholars this year from an unlikely place: Brazil.

    As part of an agreement between the Historically Black Colleges and Universities Alliance and the government of Brazil, Dillard was one of the first universities to receive students from a competitive scholarship program, the Brazil Scientific Mobility Program. President Obama and Brazil’s president, Dilma Rousseff, agreed to a study abroad program for more than 100,000 Brazilian students. So far, an estimated 5,000 students have come to the U.S. under the program.

    Dillard started a pilot program with just 12 Brazilian students in January 2013 and was the first university in the U.S. that offered English as a Second Language classes to these students.

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    United Methodist HBCUs Are Striving to Recruit More Minority Students in STEM Programs PDF Print E-mail
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    African American News

    Dillard University in New Orleans has been ranked by the National Science Center for Engineering as the #50 producer of black STEM doctorates amongst all universities in the nation, #21 HBCU producer of black STEM doctorates and #2 in producing the most African-Americans with bachelor's degrees in physics, according to the American Institute of Physics.

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    Negative Qualities Ascribed to Blacks at Root of Discrimination by White Greek-Letter Groups PDF Print E-mail
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    by Lekan Oguntoyinbo 
    Diverse Issues in Higher Education

    The University of Alabama’s Greek system, which dates back to the late 1840s, is one of the largest and oldest in the country. With its lengthy track record of dominating student government, which for nearly 100 years has served as a training ground for many of the state’s leading politicians, the system has one of the highest profiles in the country.

    The overwhelmingly White system is also one of the most controversial for famously refusing to accept Black members. The system’s determination to exclude Blacks has been a source of controversy for decades and has been the subject of stories in several prominent national news outlets, including Esquire magazine and NPR and a major embarrassment to a university with a turbulent racial history.

    The system may soon put that dubious history behind it. Prodded by University of Alabama President Judy Bonner, some White sororities offered bids to several Black students last month. The developments came following a story in the university’s campus newspaper that alumni and advisors of some White sororities had pressured the chapters to deny bids to Black members. The revelation was another black eye to the university, which is commemorating the 50th anniversary of its integration this year, and which has struggled to live down its reputation as a racist institution. A student and faculty march on campus that attracted attention from the national media further fanning demands for change.

    But many observers and experts on Greek life point out that stories of racial exclusion among White Greek-letter organizations are not just an Alabama phenomenon. They note that Black fraternities and sororities are actually more likely to accept people of other races.

    “First you have to consider that many White fraternities and sororities had Whites-only clauses until the ’70s, so you’re seeing the legacy of that historical racism,” says Dr. Matthew Hughey, an associate professor of sociology at the University of Connecticut in Storrs and a member of the university’s Institute for African-American Studies. “Alabama has been called out for years for this semi-secret group [of fraternities and sororities] called the Machine. But this happens all over the United States. It’s easy to call out flagship schools in the South. But they function in the same way all over the country.”

    He points out that a fraternity and sorority at Dartmouth recently got in trouble for holding a Crips and Bloods-themed party over the summer. According to published reports, racially insensitive language was used at the party.

    Adds Gregory Parks, an assistant professor of law at Wake Forest University, who closely follows issues of legality regarding Greek-letter organizations: “Most people have automatic subconscious anti-Black biases, and they play out in various forms of behavior. The story doesn’t surprise me. I’m sure if you ask these alumni, they will say they have no ill will, but that doesn’t mean they don’t ascribe negative qualities to African-Americans.”

    Hughey says that, in many instances, the exclusion of students of color from these powerful White Greek organizations effectively denies them access to resources and networks that could be helpful to them in college and beyond.

    Ron Binder, associate dean of students at the University of Pittsburgh at Bradford and co-chair of the Fraternity and Sorority Knowledge Community for the National Association for Student Personnel Administrators, says he’s noticed a trend of more racial, ethnic and religious diversity among White Greek fraternities and sororities — as well as a trend in the emergence of more Greek letter groups that cater to Asians, Hispanics, American Indians and Christians.

    “We see a lot of diversity in terms of religion and sexual orientation,” adds Binder, a 30-year student affairs veteran whose resume includes stints as Greek adviser at the University of South Carolina, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the University of Georgia.

    But, he adds, “one group where we’re lagging behind, in my opinion, is African-Americans.”

    That opinion comes as no surprise to Hughey at the University of Connecticut.

    “African-Americans are still seen as the ultimate type of other in this country,” says Hughey, adding that many Whites still view Blacks as dangerous, dysfunctional and not good enough. Many White fraternities and sororities simply do no form of outreach to this population, says Hughey, a White man who pledged Phi Beta Sigma in college. “Campuses themselves are very segregated entities. The color line is quite stark.”

    If anything, Black fraternities and sororities are more likely to accept people of other races. Alpha Phi Alpha initiated its first White member in the 1940s, at the University of Chicago, according to Walter Kimbrough, author of Black Greek 101 and president of Dillard University in New Orleans. At the University of Alabama, Zeta Phi Beta, a Black sorority, initiated a White member in 1986. The following year, Phi Beta Sigma initiated a White member. A White sorority didn’t initiate its first and only Black member until 2003.

    “Historically African-Americans, despite our history, have been some of the most welcoming people in the country,” he says. “We’ve always been more diverse and inclusive than other groups. [In the fraternities and sororities], there were never were any rules that prohibited non-Blacks from joining.”

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