Workplace Civility Expert Christine Porath ’95 Pens ‘A Manifesto for the Workplace’

Author of book touted as a must-read leadership book of 2017 explains why being treated with respect is important for employees
April 28th, 2017 by 

The cover of
The cover of "Mastering Civility: A Manifesto for the Workplace" by Christine Porath '95. Photo by: Image Courtesy of Christine Porath.

The In Your Own Words alumni essay appears in each issue of Holy Cross Magazine. Porath wrote the essay for the Spring 2017 issue based on research for her book, “Mastering Civility: A Manifesto for the Workplace,” which was included on The Washington Post’s list of “10 books on leadership to read in 2017.

The summer after I graduated from Holy Cross, I thought I landed my dream job: helping launch a sports academy. However, I quickly learned that this workplace was rife with rudeness. The actions of a narcissistic, dictatorial boss trickled down through the ranks. He belittled employees, demeaned managers in front of others and barked orders at subordinates. Employees felt disconnected and disengaged. Some intentionally sabotaged the organization; many took out their frustrations on others, disparaging colleagues, making snide remarks to customers and failing to pitch in like good teammates do. This experience led me to study the costs of incivility — defined as any rude, disrespectful or insensitive behavior. My goal was to help organizations build more positive cultures.

The Cost of Incivility

Over the past 20 years, I’ve researched the experiences of tens of thousands of people, across six continents and in nearly every industry and type of organization. I’ve learned that our interactions with people — even our non-verbals — impact others more than we might think. You lift people up by showing people respect: making them feel valued, appreciated and heard. Uncivil behaviors — which vary widely and include ignoring, demeaning or undermining others — hold people down. Incivility is extremely costly to people and organizations.

In a poll of 800 managers and employees across 17 industries that I conducted with Christine Pearson of the Thunderbird School of Global Management, we found that when employees don’t feel respected, they perform worse. About half intentionally decrease the time spent at work, 38 percent said that they deliberately decreased the quality of their work and 66 percent acknowledged that their performance declined. Twenty-five percent admitted to taking their frustration out on customers. Eighty percent lost work time worrying about the incident, and 63 percent lost work time in their effort to avoid the offender. Twelve percent said they had left their job because of the uncivil treatment.

Separate experiments conducted with Amir Erez of the Warrington College of Business at the University of Florida reveal that incivility exacts a deeper toll because of the subtle ways it affects people’s thinking skills and helpfulness. In one study, in which an experimenter belittled the peer group the participants belonged to, participants performed 33 percent worse on anagram word puzzles and came up with 39 percent fewer creative ideas during a brainstorming task focused on how they might use a brick.

In our second experiment, a stranger (a “busy professor,” encountered en route to the experiment) was rude to participants by admonishing them for bothering him. Participants’ performance was 61 percent worse on word puzzles, and they produced 58 percent fewer ideas in the brick task compared to those who had not been treated rudely. In these studies, people were also nearly three times less likely to help the experimenter pick up something that had been intentionally dropped. In subsequent experiments with Erez, I found the same pattern for those who merely witnessed incivility.

Harm in a Hostile Work Environment

Even if people want to perform at their best, they can’t in a hostile work environment. Incivility hijacks focus, decreasing creativity and performance. Just being around incivility shatters focus, stifles success and squashes helpfulness. It shuts people down. People stop speaking up, sharing ideas and discussing issues.

Civility pays. In a social network study of a research and development department of a biotechnology firm, Alexandra Gerbasi at the University of Surrey, Sebastian Schorch at the Universidad de los Andes and I found that people who perceived a colleague as civil — defined as treating someone respectfully, with dignity, politeness or pleasantry — would be more likely to seek that person out for work advice and were twice as likely to see that person as a leader. Those seen as civil performed 13 percent better as rated annually by their manager. By being civil, leaders create a positive cycle in their organization.

In another study in which I surveyed over 20,000 employees across industries, those who felt their leader “demonstrated respect” reported 56 percent better health and well-being, 92 percent greater focus and prioritization, 26 percent more meaning and significance and 55 percent more engagement. In fact, no other leader behavior had a bigger effect on employees across the outcomes measured. Being treated with respect was more important to employees than recognition and appreciation, communicating an inspiring vision, providing useful feedback — even opportunities for learning, growth and development.

Mastering Civility

Little actions you take make work better. Small actions, such as listening attentively, humbly asking questions, acknowledging others, thanking people and sharing credit can give you a performance boost. Yet, when you’re busy or feeling stressed, it’s easy to forget pleasantries, lose sight of our tone, speak brusquely, fail to smile or acknowledge others and ignore other niceties when interacting with your employees, team or others. Becoming more mindful of your interactions and more aware of how you’re perceived are key to mastering civility.

In every interaction, you have a choice.  Do you want to lift people up or hold them down? Who do you want to be?

Take a “Civility Quiz” to assess assess how civil you are towards coworkers, and learn what you can do to improve.

Written by Christine Porath ’95 for the Spring 2017 issue of Holy Cross Magazine.


About Holy Cross Magazine

Holy Cross Magazine (HCM) is the quarterly alumni publication of the College of the Holy Cross. The award-winning publication is mailed to alumni and friends of the College and includes intriguing profiles, make-you-think features, alumni news, exclusive photos and more. Visit magazine.holycross.edu/about to contact HCM, submit alumni class notes, milestones, or letters to the editor.

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Stickwork: Patrick Dougherty, "Just Off the Beaten Track," 2016
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Arts Transcending Borders (ATB)
Lawn by Linden Lane
In September 2016, Arts Transcending Borders (ATB), in association with the Cantor...
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GE On-Campus Recruiting
9/26/2017
Center for Career Development
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center 404
Visit Crusader Connections to learn more about opportunities at GE...
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Nielsen Meet & Greet
9/27/2017
Center for Career Development
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center 406
Meet & Greet to learn about the Nielsen Company and finance internships...
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Meredith Terretta Lecture
9/27/2017
Africana Studies
Smith Laboratories 154
Open to the Public
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Gabrielle Thierry: The Musicality of the Water Lilies
9/27/2017
Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Art Gallery
O'Kane Hall Cantor Art Gallery
The Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Art Gallery will present the paintings...
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Putnam Investments On-Campus Interviews
9/27/2017
Center for Career Development
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center 405
Apply in Crusader Connections for opportunities with Putnam Investments!...
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Stickwork: Patrick Dougherty, "Just Off the Beaten Track," 2016
9/27/2017
Arts Transcending Borders (ATB)
Lawn by Linden Lane
In September 2016, Arts Transcending Borders (ATB), in association with the Cantor...
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Environmental Studies Alumni Career Panel
9/28/2017
Center for Career Development
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center 408(09)
Come hear Holy Cross Environmental Studies alums talk about their...
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Gabrielle Thierry: The Musicality of the Water Lilies
9/28/2017
Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Art Gallery
O'Kane Hall Cantor Art Gallery
The Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Art Gallery will present the paintings...
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Stickwork: Patrick Dougherty, "Just Off the Beaten Track," 2016
9/28/2017
Arts Transcending Borders (ATB)
Lawn by Linden Lane
In September 2016, Arts Transcending Borders (ATB), in association with the Cantor...
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Gabrielle Thierry: The Musicality of the Water Lilies
9/29/2017
Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Art Gallery
O'Kane Hall Cantor Art Gallery
The Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Art Gallery will present the paintings...
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Stickwork: Patrick Dougherty, "Just Off the Beaten Track," 2016
9/29/2017
Arts Transcending Borders (ATB)
Lawn by Linden Lane
In September 2016, Arts Transcending Borders (ATB), in association with the Cantor...
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Gabrielle Thierry: The Musicality of the Water Lilies
9/30/2017
Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Art Gallery Open to the Public
O'Kane Hall Cantor Art Gallery 2
The Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Art Gallery will present the paintings...
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Stickwork: Patrick Dougherty, "Just Off the Beaten Track," 2016
9/30/2017
Arts Transcending Borders (ATB)
Lawn by Linden Lane
In September 2016, Arts Transcending Borders (ATB), in association with the Cantor...
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Male Involvement Coalition (MIC)
10/2/2017
Office of Multicultural Education
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center 320
Open to Campus Community Only
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Women in Finance Panel & Networking Event
10/2/2017
Center for Career Development
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center Suite A/B/C -4th Fl
Hors d'oeuvres and networking following by an alumnae...
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Gabrielle Thierry: The Musicality of the Water Lilies
10/2/2017
Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Art Gallery
O'Kane Hall Cantor Art Gallery
The Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Art Gallery will present the paintings...
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Deloitte On-Campus Interviews
10/2/2017
Center for Career Development
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center 404
Visit Crusader Connections to learn more about opportunities at Deloitte...
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National Depression Screening Day
10/3/2017
Counseling Center
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center Lobby Table 3
Open to Campus Community Only
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National Depression Screening Day
10/3/2017
Counseling Center
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center Lobby Table 5
Open to Campus Community Only
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National Depression Screening Day
10/3/2017
Counseling Center
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center Lobby Table 4
Open to Campus Community Only
See More >>


National Depression Screening Day
10/3/2017
Counseling Center
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center Lobby Table 2
Open to Campus Community Only
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Gabrielle Thierry: The Musicality of the Water Lilies
10/3/2017
Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Art Gallery
O'Kane Hall Cantor Art Gallery
The Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Art Gallery will present the paintings...
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RSM On-Campus Recruiting
10/3/2017
Center for Career Development
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center 408
Apply in Crusader Connections for opportunities with RSM! Open to Campus...
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RSM On-Campus Recruiting
10/3/2017
Center for Career Development
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center 407
Apply in Crusader Connections for opportunities with RSM! Open to Campus...
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Lecture: Julie Rubio on Hope for Common Ground
10/4/2017
McFarland Center for Religion
Carol and Park B. Smith Hall Rehm Lib
In the current political climate, common ground can seem impossible...
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7 C's of Social Change (Event canceled)
10/4/2017
Office of Multicultural Education
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center 304(05)
Open to Campus Community Only
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Gabrielle Thierry: The Musicality of the Water Lilies
10/4/2017
Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Art Gallery
O'Kane Hall Cantor Art Gallery
The Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Art Gallery will present the paintings...
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Silicon Valley Bank On-Campus Interviews
10/4/2017
Center for Career Development
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center 405
Apply in Crusader Connections for opportunities with Silicon Valley...
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Race: The Power of an Illusion Part 2
10/5/2017
Office of Multicultural Education
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center 519
*Episode II – “The Story We Tell” uncovers the roots...
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Gabrielle Thierry: The Musicality of the Water Lilies
10/5/2017
Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Art Gallery
O'Kane Hall Cantor Art Gallery
The Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Art Gallery will present the paintings...
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EY On-Campus Interviews
10/5/2017
Center for Career Development
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center 405
Apply in Crusader Connections to interview on campus with EY! Open...
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EY On-Campus Interviews
10/5/2017
Center for Career Development
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center 407
Apply in Crusader Connections to interview on campus with EY! Open...
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EY On-Campus Interviews
10/5/2017
Center for Career Development
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center 406
Apply in Crusader Connections to interview on campus with EY! Open...
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EY On-Campus Interviews
10/5/2017
Center for Career Development
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center 403
Apply in Crusader Connections to interview on campus with EY! Open...
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Gabrielle Thierry: The Musicality of the Water Lilies
10/6/2017
Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Art Gallery
O'Kane Hall Cantor Art Gallery
The Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Art Gallery will present the paintings...
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Gabrielle Thierry: The Musicality of the Water Lilies
10/7/2017
Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Art Gallery Open to the Public
O'Kane Hall Cantor Art Gallery 2
The Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Art Gallery will present the paintings...
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Finance Boot Camp 2017
10/9/2017
COES Professional Program & Prebusiness Program
Edith Stein Hall 208
Open to Campus Community Only
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Finance Boot Camp 2017
10/10/2017
COES Professional Program & Prebusiness Program
Smith Laboratories 155
Open to Campus Community Only
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Male Involvement Coalition (MIC)
10/16/2017
Office of Multicultural Education
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center 320
Open to Campus Community Only
See More >>


Lecture: Seth Stephens-Davidowitz on Googling for Hate (Event canceled)
10/16/2017
McFarland Center for Religion
Carol and Park B. Smith Hall Rehm Lib
Open to the Public
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Lecture: Kevin Esvelt on Gene Editing
10/16/2017
McFarland Center for Religion
Kimball Hall Seelos Theater
When should we edit nature? Kevin Esvelt, assistant professor of M.I.T....
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Carney, Sandoe & Assoc. Info Session
10/16/2017
Center for Career Development
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center 304
Learn more about K-12 Teaching and Administrative positions at private...
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Lecture: Richard Higgins '74 on the Riddle of Thoreau's Religion
10/17/2017
McFarland Center for Religion
Carol and Park B. Smith Hall Rehm Lib
Holy Cross alumnus Richard Higgins '74 will give a talk titled,...
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Carney, Sandoe & Assoc. On-Campus Interviews
10/17/2017
Center for Career Development
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center 404
Apply in Crusader Connections for K-12 Teaching and Administrative...
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Reading by Adrian Nicole LeBlanc
10/18/2017
English
Carol and Park B. Smith Hall Rehm Lib
Open to the Public
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William James College Info Session - Careers in Psychology and Behavioral Health
10/18/2017
Center for Career Development
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center 407
Come to this info session presented by Dr. Bruce Ecker of William James...
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Conference: Rethinking the Afropolitan
10/19/2017
McFarland Center for Religion
Carol and Park B. Smith Hall Rehm Lib
This conference, being held Oct. 19-21, "Rethinking the Afropolitan:...
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Fidelity Investments On-Campus Recruiting
10/20/2017
Center for Career Development
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center 404
Visit Crusader Connections to learn more about and apply for opportunities...
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Fidelity Investments On-Campus Recruiting
10/20/2017
Center for Career Development
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center 405
Visit Crusader Connections to learn more about and apply for opportunities...
See More >>


Conference: Rethinking the Afropolitan
10/20/2017
McFarland Center for Religion
Carol and Park B. Smith Hall Rehm Lib
This conference, being held Oct. 19-21, "Rethinking the Afropolitan:...
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Conference: Rethinking the Afropolitan
10/21/2017
McFarland Center for Religion
Carol and Park B. Smith Hall Rehm Lib
This conference, being held Oct. 19-21, "Rethinking the Afropolitan:...
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COES Dinner
10/23/2017
COES Professional Program & Prebusiness Program
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center Suite A - 4th Fl
Open to Campus Community Only
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Book Launch: Cambridge Encyclopedia of the Jesuits
10/23/2017
McFarland Center for Religion
Carol and Park B. Smith Hall Rehm Lib
Help us commemorate the newly published Cambridge Encyclopedia...
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Athlete Alumni Networking Night
10/24/2017
Center for Career Development
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center Suite B/C - 4th Fl
The Holy Cross Career Crusaders Networking Night is...
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Athlete Alumni Networking Night
10/24/2017
Center for Career Development
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center Suite A - 4th Fl
The Holy Cross Career Crusaders Networking Night is a...
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Lecture: Charles Camosy Looks Beyond the Abortion Wars
10/24/2017
McFarland Center for Religion
Carol and Park B. Smith Hall Rehm Lib
Charles Camosy, associate professor of theology at Fordham University,...
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Washington Semester Program Information Session
10/24/2017
Center for Interdisciplinary Studies
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center 401
The Washington Semester Program is a highly competitive, semester-long...
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Open Enrollment Assistance
10/24/2017
Human Resources
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center 410 - Computer Lab
Open to Campus Community Only
See More >>


7 C's of Social Change
10/31/2017
Office of Multicultural Education
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center 320
Open to Campus Community Only
See More >>


Lecture: Alan Rosen on Jewish Religious Life and Practice During the Holocaust
11/1/2017
McFarland Center for Religion
Carol and Park B. Smith Hall Rehm Lib
Alan Rosen, Kraft-Hiatt scholar-in-residence, will give a talk...
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Poetry Reading by Gabrielle Calvocoressi
11/2/2017
English
Carol and Park B. Smith Hall Rehm Lib
Open to the Public
See More >>


Black Student Union Presents "Griot"
11/3/2017
Office of Multicultural Education
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center Ballroom & Dunn Rcpt
Open to the Public
See More >>


Open Enrollment Assistance
11/3/2017
Human Resources
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center 410 - Computer Lab
Open to Campus Community Only
See More >>


Lecture: Seth Stephens-Davidowitz on Googling for Hate
11/6/2017
McFarland Center for Religion
Carol and Park B. Smith Hall Rehm Lib
Seth Stephens-Davidowitz, a former Google data scientist and author...
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Creating an Inclusive Campus: Skills and Practice
11/6/2017
Office of Diversity and Inclusion
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center 402(03)
This workshop will take diversity and inclusion from theory to...
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Race: The Power of an Illusion Part 3
11/10/2017
Office of Multicultural Education
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center 519
*Episode III – “The House We Live In” focuses not...
See More >>


Matthew Hughey Lecture
11/13/2017
Africana Studies
Carol and Park B. Smith Hall Rehm Lib
Open to the Public
See More >>


Thuy Linh Nguyen Tu (Event canceled)
11/15/2017
Asian Studies
Dinand Library Levis Browsing Room
Open to the Public
See More >>


Conference: Religion, Protest, and Social Upheaval
11/15/2017
McFarland Center for Religion
Carol and Park B. Smith Hall Rehm Lib
The recent proliferation of social, political, and economic protest...
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"I Can't Remember What I Just Read!"
11/16/2017
Academic Services and Learning Resources
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center 406(07)
Learn strategies to focus your attention and get more out of the...
See More >>


Conference: Religion, Protest, and Social Upheaval
11/16/2017
McFarland Center for Religion
Carol and Park B. Smith Hall Rehm Lib
The recent proliferation of social, political, and economic protest...
See More >>


Conference: Religion, Protest, and Social Upheaval
11/17/2017
McFarland Center for Religion
Carol and Park B. Smith Hall Rehm Lib
The recent proliferation of social, political, and economic protest...
See More >>


Open Enrollment Assistance
11/21/2017
Human Resources
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center 410 - Computer Lab
Open to Campus Community Only
See More >>


Study Smarter, Not Harder!
11/28/2017
Academic Services and Learning Resources
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center 408(09)
Why is it so hard to remember what you just heard in lecture or...
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Lecture: Quayshawn Spencer on a Radical Solution to the Race Problem
12/1/2017
Philosophy
Carol and Park B. Smith Hall Rehm Lib
Quayshawn Spencer, assistant professor of philosophy at the University...
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See All