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William and Mary Digest: March 1

Professor to talk about how to overcome the subconscious

William and Mary psychology professor Peter Vishton thinks humans have much less control over their lives than many think.

"Most people presume that these conscious thoughts that we have about what we're going to do, what we think, what we say — that they all start with a conscious decision of 'I'm going to do X,'" Vishton said. "It turns out that's wrong. It's not that our conscious thoughts don't influence our actions at all, it's that in many cases — I'll argue in most cases — it's the actions that come first."

Vishon will deliver the college's Tack Faculty Lecture on March 22. Among other subjects, he'll touch on ways to overcome the unconscious mind.

Even something like breaking a habit can be painfully simple, Vishton said.

"Treat yourself maybe in the way you would encourage a 2-year-old to stop eating doughnuts," he said. "One of the big things is you want to put them away; you don't want them to be visible. You want to avoid situations where a short, easy action can cause that eating behavior to occur."

Exhibit showcases life of black soldiers

An exhibit in Swem Library shows the lives of black men who fought for America in the Philippines last century.

"We are thrilled to welcome this exhibit into the library," said Carrie Cooper, dean of university libraries. "It is especially timely as the university is preparing to mark the 50th anniversary of African-American residential students."

Many of the records tied to the men in the exhibit and the details of their lives during the military conflict the Philippine-American War were preserved by a now-defunct African-American newspaper called the Richmond Planet.

"The hardest part of our research was identifying African-American soldiers from Virginia who fought in this war," said Jeffrey Acosta, an adjunct instructor of history at Tidewater Community College and lead historian for the project. "But if it had not been for John Mitchell, Jr., the publisher of the Planet who published letters written to his newspaper by black soldiers serving in the U.S. Army during the Spanish-American and Philippine-American Wars, we may have never known what truly went on. The hunt for and locating of primary and secondary source materials concerning Americans and Filipinos who participated in the Philippine-American War was the most rewarding aspect of this project."

The exhibit was especially important as the country wrestled with its identity, said Francis Tanglao-Aguas, a professor of theatre and Asian and Pacific Islander American studies.

"Seeing that Buffalo Soldiers were used in helping to grow the very same nation that did not even treat them with equal protection under the law is worth examining, particularly at this current moment when we see the leveraging or weighing of American citizenship based on religion, race or nationality," Tanglao-Aguas said.

College names commencement speaker

Those graduating from William and Mary this May will hear from an accomplished journalist and author: Walter Isaacson is the commencement speaker who will address students this May.

"Walter Isaacson's life is a triumph of the liberal arts," said President Taylor Reveley. "In his work as a journalist, scholar and leader of the Aspen Institute, Walter has ranged widely and creatively, tackling some of the world's most thorny issues. He will speak splendidly at commencement."

A New Orleans native, Issacson worked at the New Orleans Times-Picayune, TIME Magazine and CNN during his career. He's now the president of think tank called the Aspen Institute, based in the nation's capital.

Reveley also talked about two others college will recognize at their ceremony.

"We are also delighted to honor Carla Hayden and Paul Verkuil," he said. "Dr. Hayden is the first woman and first African-American to be Librarian of Congress. She is a champion of facts, knowledge and ideas. President Emeritus Verkuil, William & Mary's 24th leader, has contributed richly to the success of his alma mater, as well as that of other institutions, most recently the Administrative Conference of the United States. All three of William and Mary's 2017 Commencement honorees are stellar examples of lives devoted to service."

This story was created with information from William and Mary's News Department.

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