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Cougars & Mustangs 

Inspiration strikes from some pretty unexpected places. Like Bubblegum from a rubber substitute, Hagrid from a memorable pub conversation, understanding of a difficult personal inner conflict from a collectible card game, or in today’s example, exoskeletons developed to help those with paralysis walk again also help workers and soldiers lift and carry heavy equipment over greater distance. 

There is actually a great deal of research to be found that begins with or furthers technology developed to aid those with certain needs, but just as understanding of technology is challenged by unique physical circumstances, so too is the understanding of how to treat disabilities in the first place. 

On Friday, Jan. 22, in the Phillips Hall of the Performing Arts Center at Cal Poly, Ashley Shew, professor of philosophy at Virginia Tech and a recent amputee, will discuss these ideas alongside the reality of actual, lived experiences. Her talk will focus on three major themes: prosthetic technologies for limb amputees and exoskeletons for people with spinal cord injuries; the social pressure to walk; and pop culture and media coverage of paralympians, Dancing with the Stars contestants, and others—highlighting tensions between authenticity and enhancement, disability and superability, and being fixed and OK with oneself. The event is free and open to the public and features discussion highlights that can be of use in the inspiration of students from all degrees and walks of life. But there are other ways to inspire one’s work!

The following Thursday, Jan. 28, from 5 to 8 p.m., German stage director Daniel Witzke, who is renowned for his work producing new American musicals in the German-speaking world, will present a vocal master class in which several leading Cal Poly Music Department voice students will perform and be critiqued. Witzke’s approach to master classes of this sort often focus on the ability to tell stories and develop characterization through music, an example being: by helping vocalists connect the story of their music with their own lives and really feel the words. The impact that these sorts of connections with art can make are profound, and even witnessing them occur for other people, much like a yawn, can spread their potency to others in need of a good Eureka! Witzke’s class, as before, is also free and open to the public. Let’s start that new year off with a bang!

The Cougars and Mustangs Operating System is updating from Chris 1.0 to Lola 2.0, but we assure you, she’s the same writer you know and love. Thanks for your patience as she explores! Send her your collegiate news via and enjoy the pretty new sound effects.

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