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Where in the World is Dr. Beal? October Update

Hello from Hong Kong!

Plenty to learn about the differences here: learning a few Cantonese phrases, learning how to cope with the brutal humidity, learning the customs and etiquette. Examples of the latter include what Seinfeld fans would call “close talking” or asking for a check at a restaurant by making a writing gesture in the air.

One of my favorite customs is this: when giving and receiving items, each party uses both hands. This is especially true of giving and receiving gifts, but it also characterizes mundane transactions such as swapping business cards. It’s not totally unique to Hong Kong, appearing also throughout China and across East Asia—for instance in Korea, I’ve heard. Not everybody does it, and certainly not everyone does it all the time, but it stands out when it takes place.

I haven’t seen an explanation for this custom—not in the way that we mythologize the custom of shaking hands as proof that we come in peace, that we’re not harboring a weapon. Perhaps a reader can enlighten me about the origins of the two-hand transaction. But whatever the origins, the custom has this effect: it demands that you give someone your full attention, full respect, even if only for a moment.

I encourage you to try it sometime. The next time you’re ordering a coffee, for instance, you might offer your card to the barista with both hands and receive your coffee with both hands. You might find that there’s an extraordinary amount of things your off hand wants to do—reach for your keys, move your wallet about, scroll through messages on your phone. And bringing that off hand into the transaction, while probably unnecessary in the most pragmatic way and likely to earn you a sideways look, will require you to focus your attention in ways that may be a little uncomfortable at first.

Because Hong Kong is settled on such mountainous terrain, you’ll see a lot of sidewalks like this one, open to a street on one side and with a retaining wall on the other. It has the look of an urban terrace, often because that’s precisely what it is. Trees grow along these walls, spreading their roots down in search of water, creating a very Hong Kong tableau of city hustle and persistent nature. (Remind me to tell you some time about the wild boars.)

Until next time.

Wesley Beal is an associate professor of English at Lyon College. This fall he is serving as a Fulbright U.S. Scholar at the University of Hong Kong, where he teaches two courses in American literature and continues a study of the campus novel genre. Please reach out to him at if you have Hong Kong- or Fulbright-related questions for him to investigate. He’ll do his best to oblige in subsequent blog posts.

at Thursday, October 11, 2018

Lyon College Radio is Live

On Monday, October 8, students, faculty, and staff gathered to celebrate the launch of the new Lyon College radio station, KILT. Those attending enjoyed pizza and refreshments as they discussed the success of current shows on the station as well as plans for new ones.

Lyon’s Director of Institutional Research Andrew English played his guitar live on the air during the event.

Junior Miguel Hernandez is thrilled that Lyon has started a radio station. He has plans of participating in a show called “Sad Boi Hour” that will be airing on Wednesdays and Fridays from 7-8 p.m.

“I think it’s really neat that we finally have a radio platform,” said junior Navy Griffin. “I am really excited about it! I think that it’s a great way to have our students’ voices be heard.”

KILT’s faculty advisor, Dr. Radek Szulga, is pleased with all the interest the campus community has shown in KILT so far.

“We have eleven shows right now,” said Szulga. “Some are live, and some are pre-recorded, and everyone is super enthusiastic. We’re having a lot of fun.”

KILT is an online radio station, so anyone anywhere can listen. Check out KILT at For more information, contact Szulga at

at Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Dr. Tharanga Wijetunge Discusses Data Collection in Faculty Colloquium

On Friday, October 5, Assistant Professor of Mathematics at Lyon College Dr. Tharanga Wijetunge presented the second faculty colloquium of the semester. In his talk, “Qualitative and Quantitative Research in Mathematics Education,” Wijetunge described various ways to collect data in a classroom.

At the beginning of his talk, Wijetunge demonstrated a teaching tool he uses in his classroom: the device uses SMS text or wifi to submit answers to his questions. He posed a question to the audience and requested that they answer it; as the answers came in, they were displayed on the projector screen at the front of the room, and Wijetunge read them off and addressed them.

This tool, commonly known as a remote “clicker” has in recent years been adapted for compatibility with cell phones and other portable wifi devices. This method allows students in larger classes to connect in a more direct way with the professor. This method also allows a professor to easily collect data in the classroom.

In the pursuit of understanding what kind of feedback he can give to best aid the students’ learning, Wijetunge analyzes exams and carefully notes the most common student mistakes.

Caleb Ray, a sophomore mathematics major with a computer science minor and a secondary education concentration, said that he “enjoyed seeing the process [Wijetunge] uses to determine the outcomes of the test on the effectiveness of feedback.”

When testing these effects in the classroom, Wijetunge says he “cannot ethically design a study knowing that feedback is important and knowing that some students would possibly have a negative effect.”

To further the research without ethically compromising it, Wijetunge must come up with “creative ways of giving different types of feedback” and observe which types yield the most consistent and positive results. For instance, he may give one group a hint, one group a complete answer, and one group he may instruct to redo the problem with guidance.

This semester’s faculty colloquium series continues to consistently draw large crowds of about 25-30 attendees and reaffirm Lyon’s commitment to the liberal arts, demonstrating to its students the importance of its interdisciplinary sharing and strength.

“The Lyon College community is vibrant and close-knit,” said Visiting Assistant Professor of English Dr. Cori Gabbard, “but its size also means that there is either one or few faculty members on campus in any given field. The colloquia therefore provide an opportunity for faculty to expand and deepen the intellectual connections they create on campus through increased familiarity with one another's scholarship.”

at Monday, October 8, 2018

Where in the World is Dr. Beal? September Update

Hello from Hong Kong!

Briefly delayed by Super Typhoon Mangkhut, the family has arrived. And they arrived just in time for Mid-Autumn Festival, a family holiday synced to the full moon. It’s an opportunity to spend time with your loved ones, gaze at the moon, take in the lanterns that decorate the city, and enjoy a mooncake or two.

One of our son’s favorites from this weekend was the Fire Dragon Dance in the Tai Hang neighborhood. As the story goes, years ago the Tai Hang neighborhood was threatened with plague, and community leaders were instructed to conduct a fire dance to ward off danger. The result today is a dragon body that winds for two blocks or more, topped off with burning incense, all of it carried by dancers through the streets while a drum corps provides a steady, thundering beat. The sidewalk was so thick with people that we could scarcely move, but our son came away from it mesmerized. “Wait till I tell everybody at school that I saw a dragon,” he kept saying afterward.

The study-abroad experience is really something to see when your kids come along. There are several times, of course, when we’re all tired of walking or dehydrated or experiencing some sensory overload. On the other hand, it’s warming to see that both our 7- and our 2-year-old are making friends with Cantonese speakers on playgrounds, and that they’re already in the habit of saying mm-goi (“thank you”) when getting off buses or leaving restaurants—our daughter saying it several more times, and with increasing volume, if she gets positive attention for it.

Here’s a picture Courtney took of me and our kids next to some graffiti we found off of Pottinger Street. More like a sidewalk than a street, Pottinger runs uphill roughly parallel to the Central-Midlevels escalator system. It’s a pedestrian throughway, lined with stalls selling clothes, watches, and whatnots. During October, it’s also a staple destination for Halloween shopping.

Until next time.

Wesley Beal is an associate professor of English at Lyon College. This fall he is serving as a Fulbright U.S. Scholar at the University of Hong Kong, where he teaches two courses in American literature and continues a study of the campus novel genre. Please reach out to him at if you have Hong Kong- or Fulbright-related questions for him to investigate. He’ll do his best to oblige in subsequent blog posts.

at Friday, October 5, 2018

Lyon Shooting Team Hits the Target

On Saturday, September 15, part of the Lyon College Shooting sports team won the open division at the first annual Dan Burton FCA Trap Shoot in Fort Smith, Arkansas. The team shot a 232/250. Senior Blake Caldwell shot a 44 out of 50. High school students Ryan Bowen and Paige Hanna shot a 48 and 47 respectively. Head Coach Dalton Lamons shot a 47 while his father, Randy Lamons shot a 46.

“The targets were tough and the competition was even tougher,” said Lamons. “We have had one tournament so far and one win, so that's a good direction to be heading. I'm hoping for big individual success this season.”

Upcoming competitions for the fall include an ACUI shoot at the Central Midwest Conference Championships in Sparta, Illinois and the ACUI Easter Super Shoot in Tillar, Arkansas.

The Lyon College Shooting Sports Program, formerly known as the Lyon College Trap Team, is an independent student organization that participates in multiple clay target disciplines, including Bunker Trap, American/International Trap, American/International Skeet, Sporting Clay, and 5-stand. For more information, please contact Dalton Lamons at

at Friday, October 5, 2018