Apply     Visit     Give     |     Alumni     Parents     TCNJ Today

tcnj wordmark

Letters From the Dean

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

This Week - Oct. 19, 2014

We’re in the midst of midterm season and this has me thinking about an old poser.  It goes something like this:

Your instructor announces that there will be a SURPRISE QUIZ sometime within the next two weeks.  This means that the QUIZ will come during one of the next four meetings of the class.  But, you might think that, if it is truly a SURPRISE QUIZ, it cannot be given during the fourth (i.e. last) session; for, after the first three sessions are completed, the students would know that the QUIZ is due to be given during the fourth session and, thus, it wouldn’t be a SURPRISE.  So, the fourth session is ruled out.  But now, with the fourth class meeting being excluded, you might think that a SURPRISE QUIZ cannot be given during the third session; for, after the first two sessions are completed, knowing that the fourth session has been ruled out, the students would know that the QUIZ must be given during the third session and, thus, it wouldn’t be a SURPRISE.  With the same sort of reasoning we can go on to exclude both the second session and the first session.  Thus, you might think that a SURPRISE QUIZ is not possible!  So, why did the instructor say that there would be one?

Yet, what does ‘SURPRISE QUIZ’ actually mean?  Is it a QUIZ that the students think is more likely not to be given than to be given during a specific meeting and, so, they feel a sense of SURPRISE when it is given?  Is it a QUIZ for which the instructor has not indicated an exact date?  Can a SURPRISE QUIZ be a SURPRISE for the instructor?  What if she puts her lecture notes for the class meetings into four separate piles on her desk, leaves her office, and invites a colleague to bury a bright red Post-it – upon which is written ‘give the SURPRISE QUIZ today!’ – in one of the piles?  Not knowing which set of notes includes the directive to give the QUIZ, will the instructor be SURPRISED when, during one of the four class sessions, she comes across the directive and consequently gives the QUIZ?

Something to ponder during your next study break.



John E. Sisko
Faculty Fellow in Humanities and Social Sciences
Professor of Philosophy
Coordinator of Classical Studies
Social Science Building, room 309


Please take 15 minutes to fill out the annual HHS student survey and help all our faculty and staff do what we can to make HSS an even better place.  Your individual link to the survey has been provided to you in an email sent by Dean Rifkin on October 6th. Four students who complete the survey will win $50 gift cards for Amazon!


Congratulations to Andrea Mystrena (English Secondary Education, ’03).  Andrea is the Mensa Foundation’s 2014 Distinguished Teacher Award winner.

Congratulations to the Assistant Dean of HSS, Dr. Rosa Zagari-Marinzoli, who, together with her co-presenter Dr. Martha Stella, assistant dean of TCNJ’s School of Engineering, was recognized for an extraordinary presentation on advising, selected by the conference committee from among many competing entries, at the recent annual conference of the National Academic Advising Association in Minneapolis.

Congratulations to Catie Rosemurgy, Associate Professor of English, whose poems “Who Are You and What Are You Joined?” and “Town Picnic” were recently published in Southern Review (autumn 2014).

Congratulations to Dr. Matt Bender, Associate Professor of History, and Dr. Michael Robinson, Professor of English, whose comments on undergraduate research at TCNJ were featured in a recent article, “How College of New Jersey rethought faculty work with student success in mind,” in Inside Higher Education.

Congratulations to TCNJ!  The College is ranked in the top 10% (#45 out of 539 institutions) in the Social Mobility Index: the rankings are meant to highlight “schools that do the best job of helping disadvantaged students graduate with the ability to start a career free of crushing levels of debt.”  Harvard is #438 in the rankings.


Consider writing for TCNJ’s Journal of Student Scholarship (JOSS).  For more details, see  The deadline to submit is October 27.


Tues., Oct. 21  11:30am-2:00pm  Alumni Grove (between TCNJ Library and Eickhoff)
Faculty-Led Study Abroad Program Fair
Faculty program directors and program alums will be present to promote Maymester and Summer study abroad opportunities.
Rain Location: Brower Student Center – Vendor Tables

Tues., Oct. 21  12:30-1:30pm            Social Science Building 223
Politics Forum (Lecture): “Implementing the Right to Rescue,” Dr. Mort Winston, TCNJ Philosophy.
For more information on the Politics Forum, please see

Wed., Oct. 22   2:00-3:00pm             Social Science Building 130
Study Abroad Info Session  (2:00-2:30)
Presentation: “Study Abroad 201: Preparing for Departure – Visas” (2:30-3:00)
Sponsored by the Center for Global Engagement

Wed., Oct. 22   3:30-5:00pm             Education Building 115
Film Screening: “Here One Day”
Come watch an emotionally candid film about a woman coping with mental illness, her relationships with her family, and the ripple effects of her suicide on those she loved.
Presented by CAPS Peer Educators

Wed., Oct. 22   4:00pm  AIMM 125
Opening Lecture: “Invention and Appropriation in 20th-Century Picture Book Art”
Dr. Nick Clark, Chief Curator of the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art.
Followed by a reception (5:00pm) in the TCNJ Art Gallery

Wed., Oct. 22   5-7pm                   Education Building 115
Bilingual Poetry Reading and Flamenco Performance.
Sponsored by the Department of World Languages, the School of Humanities and Social Sciences, and the Center for Global Engagement.     Light refreshments served.

Thurs., Oct. 23         6-7:15pm        Mayo Concert Hall
Lecture: “Between Us and the World: Ferguson, USA and the Lynching of Michael Brown.”
Dr. Jelani Cobb, Associate Professor of History and Director of the Africana Studies Institute at the University of Connecticut, and frequent contributor to many media outlets including The New Yorker, The Washington Post and The Daily Beast.
Sponsored by the Department of African American Studies, the Department of English, the Department of History, the Department of Women’s and Gender Studies, the School of Humanities and Social Sciences, the Black Student Union, the Alan Dawley Center for the Study of Social Justice, the Office of Institutional Diversity, the Cultural and Intellectual Community Program Council, and the New Jersey Council for the Humanities
There will be a reception in Dr. Cobb’s honor prior to his lecture in the Social Science Atrium 4:30pm – 5:30pm

Fri., Oct. 24   12:30pm Mayo Concert Hall
Lecture: “Art and Creativity Transforming Trenton”
Presented by Mr. Lauren Otis of Art All Day
Hosted by the Department of Art and Art History

7ads6x98y Top