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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 Week -  August 24, 2014

Dear Students:

Welcome to our freshmen and our new transfer students and welcome back to all our continuing students.  I hope those of you who have moved or who are moving today are all settling into your new academic-year residences. I also hope that our freshmen are making new friends, feeling more comfortable on our campus (our = your!) with every passing hour. As you settle (back) into place, please be sure to check in with our website,, and follow us on Facebook and Twitter, to make sure you are up to date on all HSS events and activities.

I also take this opportunity to welcome two new tenure-track faculty members: Dr. Tao Dumas, in the Department of Political Science, and Dr. David Mazeika, in the Department of Criminology. They will be profiled soon on the HSS website.

The summer has certainly been (and continues to be) aboil with trauma and conflict here and abroad and turmoil in the context of American politics.  We’ll have events throughout the semester to help us all better understand what’s been going on in the world.

I hope that trauma, conflict, and turmoil were not the focus of your summer.  Indeed, I hope your summer was everything you hoped it would be and more:  I hope you recharged and reconnected, enjoyed time with old friends and made new ones, noticed beauty in the world around you and cherished time with loved ones.

As for myself, I have enjoyed watching the ocean, the super-moon, and the stars; I visited New York and Washington, DC, enjoyed museums, theater, monuments, bridges, and skylines.  I have read serious and silly, watched some old Russian films and some new American ones, caught up with old friends from college, welcomed a new baby into our extended family, and supported family members struggling with ill health.  In short, it’s been a summer.  One of my favorite bits of wisdom from my reading this summer is this:

At the moment you are most in awe of all there is about life that you do not understand, you are closer to understanding it all than at any other time. – Jane Wagner and Lily Tomlin, The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe. 

Now our community is reconvening.  The faculty and staff of the School of Humanities and Social Sciences are as excited as you are to start the new semester:  new courses, new experiences to share, new ways to see the world, new ways to gain in understanding and to recognize all there is about life that we do not understand.

As you start the semester, I urge you to take some time to reflect on what you want to accomplish this semester in your courses and beyond.  Don’t let college just “happen” for you:  make it happen!  Articulate your goals and pursue them.  Consider an internship, look for an undergraduate research opportunity, or start planning your study abroad experience in Beijing or Buenos Aires, Strasbourg or Heidelberg, Moscow or Casablanca, London or Johannesburg.  I also urge you to be compassionate to yourself and to others as we begin the ascent on this wonderful roller coaster ride of the academic year.

And of course:  I wish you success in all your new endeavors.


Your friendly neighborhood dean,


PS I will start lunches with students this week, so please watch your e-mail for an invitation to sign up to join me for a meal.  I will have one lunch or dinner per week (on average).

Benjamin Rifkin
Professor of Russian and Dean
The School of Humanities and Social Sciences
The College of New Jersey

Ranked #1 for Commitment to Undergraduate Education


Important Deadline

Don’t forget that Wed., Sept. 3 is the add/drop deadline!



Congratulations to senior Steven Thompson, who won the 2014 Alan Dawley Prize in May 2014 for his essay “A Very Grim Affair from All Perspectives: The Dakota War and Mankato Executions.”

Congratulations to English Secondary Education alumnus Dave Knecht, who was chosen as Burlington County’s teacher of the year:

Congratulations to Professor Jess Row (English) whose new novel, Your Face In Mine, was reviewed in the New York Times, among other places:

Congratulations to Jackie Cornell Bechelli, WGS & WILL alumna, who was appointed Region II Director of the US Department of Health & Human Services.  (New York, NJ, Puerto Rico, and the US Virgin Islands).

Congratulations to 2014 graduate Alyvia Miller who is on a scholarship to earn an MBA at Shanghai University of Finance and Economics, one of the most prestigious institutions in China.

Congratulations to Dr. Jason Dahling (Psychology) whose presentation, with coauthors, of a paper on emotion management of people juggling two jobs in customer service won an award for best paper at the international conference at which it was presented.

Congratulations to International Studies & Psychology Alumnus Bryan Furman, who has won a Pickering Award.  This nationally competitive scholarship supports graduate study (in a master’s degree program) for individuals who, upon completion of their master’s degree, enter the US Foreign Service.  Bryan will begin his MA program at Georgetown University’s Center for Eurasian, Russian, and East European Studies this week.

Congratulations to Dr. John Sisko (Philosophy, Religion & Classical Studies) and Dr. Nicholas Toloudis (Political Science / International Studies), who won a grant from the NJ Council on the Humanities to run a series of events related to our annual campus theme of justice all year:  stay tuned for announcements about these exciting events.

Congratulations to International Studies alumna Wiktoria Leja on being accepted into the Peace Corps; she will begin her posting in March 2015.

Congratulations to Drs. Ashley Borders, Lisa Grimm, and Shaun Wiley (Psychology), Marla Jacksh (WGS), Emilie Lounsberry (JPW/English), Michael Marino and Robert McGreevey (History), and Moussa Sow (AAS/World Languages & Cultures), all of whom were promoted to associate professor effective this semester.  Congratulations to Drs. Diane Bates (Sociology), and Jean Graham and Glenn Steinberg (English), who were promoted to full professor effective this semester.

Congratulations to alumna Marci Zane (English) who has just begun a tenure track position as education librarian right here at TCNJ.  She was named the NJ Association of School Librarians’ Outstanding Library Media Specialist of the Year in 2012 and as an Emerging Leader by the American Library Association in 2013.  We are very lucky to have her right back here at TCNJ!



Please visit the atrium gallery in the Social and Behavior Sciences Building to see the new photo exhibit, “Restoring the Jersey Shore: Asserting Community after Sandy.” The show is composed of a series of photos of public arts and other images created by Jersey Shore residents in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. These photos were taken and collected by Jessica Scardino ’14 and Dr. Elizabeth Borland, professor of sociology, as part of a Mentored Undergraduate Summer Experience (MUSE) project in Summer 2013. The accompanying text is drawn from interviews with the artists, and will also appear in a forthcoming book chapter in an edited volume on Hurricane Sandy.

The Career Center is holding many events this fall to help you find your way to an internship or a job:

LionsLink Workshops on 8-28 at 11, 9-3 at 1, 9-9 at 1, 9-15 at 10, 9-26 at 9, and 9-30 at 2 pm.  All workshops in Roscoe West 102.

Other Career Center Professional Development Workshops:

9-16 Job Search and Embracing Disability 2 – 3:30 pm Roscoe West 102

9-16 Grad/Professional School Workshop 3:30 – 5 pm Roscoe West 102

9-17 Customer Service Workshop 3:30 – 4:30 Library Auditorium

9-23 Prepare for the Fair 12 to 1:30 pm, location tba, check website

9-25 Prepare for the Fair 12 to 1:30 pm, location tba, check website

10-3 Fall Opportunities Fair 11 – 2 in the Rec Center

For the latest news on Career Center events, see the website at:

Speaking of careers, the MidJersey Chamber of Commerce (formerly Mercer Regional Chamber of Commerce) has 3internship opportunities, one each in Economic Development, Legislative Research, and International Trade.  All of these internships expect 10-15 hours per week and can be credit-bearing.  See this webpage with more information including details about how to apply:

The Center for Global Engagement is running information sessions about the Boren Scholarship, a prestigious nationally competitive scholarship for study abroad for American students seeking to work for the federal government after completing their degrees.  (These scholarships are not applicable to study abroad in Western Europe, North America, Australia or New Zealand.)  Come find out what it’s all about at this website: and come to an info session:

Tuesday, Sept 9, 1:00-2:00 in Bliss Annex 145

Wednesday, Sept 24, 11:00-12:00

Friday, Oct 10, 1:00-2:00

Locations for Sept. 24 and Oct. 10 sessions will be announced in the weekly message prior to those events and at the CGE website.

In addition, the Center for Global Engagement is co-sponsoring an information session about the spring 2015 study abroad program in Alcala de Henares, Spain on Friday, Sept. 5 at 12:30 in Education 212.

Change your life in only a few hours a week!   TCNJ’s Institute for Prison Teaching and Outreach is recruiting students, staff, and faculty to volunteer in local prisons.  Volunteers will either tutor inmates to prepare for the GED exam or assist them with legal research in the law library.  If you would like to volunteer, please attend one of the following orientation meetings scheduled in Forcina 320:

Tuesday, September 2 at 11:30 am

Wednesday, September 3 at 12:30 pm

Thursday, September 4 at 11:30 am

Friday, September 5 at 11:30 am

If you are not able to attend one of these sessions, please contact us at Please also visit our website to learn more about how you can change a life.

The Senators of Humanities and Social Sciences are proud to present the new HSS t-shirt. This t-shirt was designed and created as a way to boost HSS pride and to give a cohesive identity to the largest school at TCNJ. Purchasing a t-shirt will allow the members of HSS to show that they are proud to belong to the School, and most importantly, it will build the name and face of the School of HSS within TCNJ. The Senators of HSS will begin selling the shirts in the beginning of the Fall 2014 Semester. More details to come soon, so please be on the lookout for the new HSS t-shirt, with announcements coming in a future weekly message and on the HSS website

TCNJ’s Society for Parliamentary Debate invites all students to become involved in competitive debating and improve their public speaking abilities. All skill levels are welcome. The first meeting of the semester will be September 4th at 7 p.m. in the Social Sciences Atrium. For more information, contact Steven Schwering at  or



Fall events will be unfolding starting next week so that we can all focus on getting into the rhythm of our new class and work schedules for the Fall 2014 semester. Please be on the look out for announcements for the following series of events:

Politics Forum

Close Readings

Visiting Writers

International Film Festival

Exploring Justice Series

1989 Commemorations

Study Abroad Fair on Wed., Sept. 10 from 11 am to 3 pm

And more!

In the meantime, please visit TCNJ’s 2014 Art Alumni Exhibition in the Art & Interactive Multimedia Building.  The exhibit opens on Sept. 3 from 5 – 7 pm and will be on display through October 9.