Institute Report March 2014 - page 12

Page 12, MARCH 2014
VMI Institute Report
Reading Group Explores Behavioral Economics
Five 1st Class cadets under
the direction of Lt. Col. Sam
Allen have the opportunity to
practice their critical thinking and
interdisciplinary skills in the field
of economics this semester, thanks
to a grant from the Charles Koch
Allen and Col. Atin Basu, both
of the economics and business
department, were awarded $5,000
grants last year. Affirming VMI’s
strong academic reputation,
the foundation contacted the
professors directly and encouraged
them to apply.
The grant has enabled Allen
to add a one-credit class to his
normal teaching load. In the class, he leads a weekly reading group of
economics and business majors who are discussing 2002 Nobel Prize
winner Daniel Kahneman’s book,
Thinking, Fast and Slow
“Hopefully they are getting some new material – I think most of this
will be new content for them,” said Allen, who pointed out that Kahneman
is a psychologist, so his viewpoint is different from what cadets usually
encounter in their economics classes. “It gives them a chance in a
less formal way to synthesize ideas; they’re talking about behavioral
[economics], they might talk about accounting, they’re talking about
other things they’ve learned along
the way.”
The bridge between economics
and psychology is indicative on a
larger scale of the continuity the
economics and business faculty
are focusing on within their own
“One of the things our department
is working on is … increasing
the interconnectedness of our
courses,” he said. Synthesizing
ideas from different courses is part
of that work.
“The goal is to develop critical
thinking. That is part of the
[bus i ne s s and economi c s ]
department’s mission. That’s a
reflective process that takes time,” Allen explained.
Cadet Zachary Wilkinson ’14 echoed this sentiment. “With a typical
class its more about learning what and not the why. With the discussion
in our independent study we are able to more intensely study the ‘why’
aspect of the concepts we are being taught,” he said. “It’s like the
difference between being able to drive a car and being able to build the
engine for it.”
“From the perspective of the grant, the Koch Foundation is pushing
scholarly engagement … after college,” Allen added. “The better they
Please see page 17
Maj. Sam Allen leads the discussion of
Thinking, Fast and Slow.
VMI Photo by John Robertson IV.
Mass Notification System Upgraded
Upgrades to VMI’s mass notification system are integrating systems
and allowing VMI’s emergency management team to get alerts out
more efficiently in case of crisis. Members of the VMI community
are encouraged to sign up for the alerts at
Emergency Alerts.
“It’s going to help us get better relevant messaging to everybody,” said
Lt. Col. Dallas Clark ’99, Institute planning officer.
The mass notification system utilizes every notification method
available, e-mail, cell phones, indoor and outdoor speaker systems,
and the VMI telephone network.
“Now, we’re able to activate all of our means of communication
through a single screen,” said Clark. “Before, we had five screens to
go through to activate all our systems, so we’re operating a lot more
efficiently and simultaneously with the new system.”
Employing all systems from a single platform ensures that the alerts
are timely and consistent.
The system will also keep users informed past the end of the workday,
automatically sending out certain NOAA statements to alert users to
hazardous weather.
Members of the VMI community will need to sign up in order to receive
alerts via cell phone, even if already registered in Alert Rockbridge.
To ensure that all these components operate according to plan, mass
notification system tests will take place at the beginning of each month.
“This way if someone doesn’t see the alert during that test, then we’ll
know we have a problem,” said Clark. “The tests will also build strength
into the team that’s activating the system because they’re exercising it
more frequently and we’re setting up the complete operations center
on those dates.”
The system is also being tested during drills that will encourage cadets
and employees to think through possible crisis situations. These drills
include exercises to help prepare for tornado, earthquake, and active
shooter scenarios.
“It’s important for people to sign up for the notifications, and it’s
important for people to participate in these exercises,” said Clark. “It
only takes a few minutes and it gives everyone a chance to think through
and talk about these situations.”
This speaker, mounted on
Preston Library, is part of
VMI’s mass notification
– VMI Photo by John
Robertson IV.
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