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W&M faculty in the media this month

Following are selected examples of William & Mary faculty and staff members in the national and international media. - Ed.

‘Caitlyn Jenner’ is the 2015 Name of the Year

In a Jan. 11 Time magazine article, William & Mary Law School Vice Dean and Professor of Law Laura Heymann talked about the 2015 Name of the Year.

Each January the American Name Society, composed of experts and linguists, votes on the name that has most proved the relevance and power of naming the year before. The year of 2015 gave them no lack of contenders to debate. But even among Charlie Hebdo, Denali and the new characters in the Star Wars universe, the title of Name of the Year went solidly to… Caitlyn Jenner.  

“It’s really just symbolizing the power of naming and the identity that is connected with a name, and the relationship between the acceptance of a name and the acceptance of a person,” said Heymann, who specializes in intellectual property law and is a member of the American Name Society.

Koko the Gorilla probably doesn't understand climate change

In a Jan. 7 Huffington Post article, Barbara King, chancellor professor of Anthropology at William & Mary spoke about the issue of Koko the Gorilla’s ability to understand climate change.       

According to the article, some scientists are more than a little skeptical of a viral video featuring Koko the Gorilla giving a "speech" on conservation. Koko is known for her purported ability to use a modified version of American Sign Language to communicate with humans, and her trainers say she knows more than 1,000 signs. 

The video, which was released during the COP21 Climate Conference in December, shows Koko signing about the importance of protecting nature.

King who has studied non-human primates for years, believes that Koko certainly has the ability to understand and express isolated signs and strings of gestures but isn’t entirely sure about complex ideas.

“There's a big leap between her basic linguistic skills" and the ability to grasp complicated ecological ideas. There's nothing in the published literature that would support the claim that Koko could understand these concepts," King told the Huffington Post.

Four ways to use social media as an online student

In a Jan. 4 article in U.S News & World Report, W&M Clinical Associate Professor of Marketing Dawn Edmiston spoke about how using platforms such as Facebook will allow online students to connect with classmates and showcase their work.

According to U.S. News, social media is an opportunity for students to personalize and enhance their educational experience - allowing them to interact with classmates, ask each other questions and collaborate on group assignments.

"Your learning experiences are no longer limited to the physical borders of a college campus," said Edmiston. “"Literally the world becomes your classroom, and social media is a great channel for exploring that classroom."

U.S. News also says social media can also serve as a way for prospective students to gain knowledge of online programs by asking current students and alumni questions and checking out the latest program updates. Then, to get the most out of their online education experience, students can use​these platforms to work and get to know fellow classmates and ask their professors questions in real time.

Edmiston went on to say that one of her students once asked a question​on about a social media marketing group on the professional networking site LinkedIn. She received more than 700 responses in just a few weeks.

"Many folks really want to help – to contribute to a student's education," she said.