North Central News

North Central experts dig into major national and global stories

Kelly Murphy

Oct 31, 2022

North Central College subject matter experts (SMEs) took to the national stage this month to provide their expertise in the news of the day from around the world. From international relations to celebrity controversy to archaeological discoveries, the College’s faculty participated in prominent national media outlets throughout the month. In addition to the national stage, North Central experts were featured across every media network in Chicago, weighing in on the forthcoming midterm election. Here are the highlights of North Central in the media in October.

Muck addresses ties between Russia and U.S. in Newsweek

Since Vladimir Putin’s inauguration as president on May 7, 2000, five U.S. presidents have been in the White House, but not all have had a meeting with their Russian counterpart on American soil. The last such encounter occurred more than seven years ago. Putin has made a total of seven American visits as president, according to the State Department’s Office of the Historian. His first trip took place on September 6 and 7, 2000, when he met then-President Bill Clinton at the Millennium Summit at the United Nations headquarters in New York City. Putin’s last visit to the U.S. was in 2015.

Putin’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine this year may have caused relations between Moscow and Washington to descend to an all-time low, but there have been some seemingly cordial moments between the heads of state. Putin had offered his full support to Bush in the wake of 9/11, and his successor Barack Obama also initially tried to forge strong ties when he came into office.

William Muck, professor and chair of the political science department, was quoted in Newsweek, where he discussed how the ties between Russian and American presidents have waxed and waned over the years.

“The relationship between Vladimir Putin and the five post-Cold War presidents has ranged from cautious optimism to frosty mistrust, to even open admiration during the Trump presidency,” said Muck. “At no point were any of these relationships particularly warm, yet early in his tenure Putin was more careful about not alienating U.S. presidents.”

Read the full story in Newsweek.

Keating shares how the railroad age shaped the suburbs we know today in Daily Herald

You can’t tell the history of Chicago’s suburbs for the last 150 years without talking about the railroads. The first railroad, the Galena & Chicago Union, rolled into the area in 1848. It was along this Galena Line that the very first railroad communities emerged.

Ann Keating, Dr. C. Frederick Toenniges Professor of History, interviewed with the Daily Herald, where she shared that suburbs were shaped by the railroads fanning out like spokes from Chicago.

“That really defined regional suburban development from the mid-1800s through the 1920s when the Model T and trucks came along, and that’s how the story changes there,” said Keating.

Read the full article in the Daily Herald.

Simpson discusses true history of Easter Island Moai statue in Newsweek

A viral Reddit post claimed that one of the Easter Island Moai statues was carved, but was never erected, and would have been 72 feet tall. The Moai statues consist of large heads and smaller bodies, which are often buried beneath the ground from the neck down. The statues were built in approximately 1400—1650 A.D. by the natives of the island, known as Rapa Nui, according to the official Easter Island travel guide, allegedly in honor of the chieftain or other important people who had passed away. However, the Reddit post featured one of the Moai statues still laying in the ground.

Dr. Dale F. Simpson Jr., half-time assistant professor of sociology and anthropology, was quoted in Newsweek, where he discussed the laying down Moai statue.

“‘Te Tokanga’ or ‘El Gigante’ is estimated to weigh between 160 - 180 tons,” said Simpson. “To put it into perspective, a Boeing 737 aircraft weighs between 45 - 90 tons depending on how many passengers are aboard.”

Read the full story in Newsweek.

Chod weighs in on impact of controversial comment by Caitlyn Jenner in Newsweek

In early October, Caitlyn Jenner was under fire for critical tweets she posted about transgender athletes in school locker rooms, but others support her political position as a conservative transgender woman. Jenner had been accused of working against the very community of which she’s a member [transgender community]. Jenner’s outspokenness and conservative views have angered many over the years.

The celebrity has claimed that she’ll support former President Donald Trump should he choose to run again in 2024. She’s also aspired to political office, appearing as a Republican on the ballot during last year’s California gubernatorial recall election. Critics accuse conservatives of being the primary drivers behind the effort to rein in trans rights, but Jenner has said she’s pushing the GOP to becoming more inclusive.

Suzanne Chod, professor of political science, weighed in on this controversy when quoted in Newsweek. She shared how Jenner has been condemned by many in her own community for identifying herself with the Republican party.

“Some of her political preferences have seemed incompatible with advocacy for transgender rights,” said Chod. “Her support for President Trump and her short-lived run for California governor for example, caused trans rights groups to question her commitment to trans rights.”

Read the full story in Newsweek.

Caliendo addresses U.K. Prime Minister Liz Truss’ resignation on FOX 32 Chicago

U.K. Prime Minister Liz Truss resigned following a failed tax-cutting budget that rocked financial markets and which led to a revolt within her own Conservative Party. Truss was in office for just 44 days, making her the shortest-serving prime minister in British history. For 10 days of her premiership government business was paused following the death of Queen Elizabeth II. Truss replaced Boris Johnson as prime minister in early September. Johnson was forced out by his party after questions were raised about his character amid a series of scandals.

Stephen Maynard Caliendo, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, interviewed with FOX 32 Chicago, where he put her premiership into perspective for the public.

“It’s bigger than just the 44 days she was at the helm, it’s the turnover over world leaders in such a short period of time—going from Theresa May to Boris Johnson to Liz Truss. It’s been a whirlwind the past couple of years. Now, of course the pandemic plays into that a bit, but that’s not only that.”

Watch the full interview on FOX 32 Chicago.

Caliendo, Muck and Chod shed light on latest Jan. 6 Insurrection hearing

The House Select Committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol held its ninth public hearing, the final one ahead of the midterm elections slated for Nov. 8. The blockbuster Jan. 6 hearings from this past summer each focused on a particular topic as part of the overall effort to overturn the 2020 election results. The ninth hearing, instead, took a “step back" and look at the push to undo President Biden's win from a broader context. However, the biggest surprise was the panel’s unanimous vote to subpoena former President Donald J. Trump for testimony.

As with most of the “news of the day” stories, North Central College’s political scientists were at ready when the media was in search of sources to discuss the developments—pre- and post-hearing. Caliendo, Muck and Chod answered the call for commentary and were featured in news outlets across Chicagoland.

Watch the interviews:


Caliendo and Muck provide analysis on Russia and Ukraine War across Chicago media

As Russia’s war in Ukraine continues to unfold, the world continues to keep a keen eye on the latest developments. The nine-month-long war has generated various ripple effects across the globe. Recently, the United States, France and Britain are dismissing Russia's recent accusation that Ukraine could be planning to use a so-called dirty bomb — an explosive laced with nuclear material — in its own territory.

While developments continue to unravel daily, North Central College subject matter experts (SMEs) continue to stay abreast to the details. Both Caliendo and Muck have participated in multiple media interviews throughout Chicago. Both experts have shared the latest developments taking place between Russian and Ukraine and why those details are pertinent to know for the general public.

Watch their media interviews from across the Chicagoland area:


Muck shares the importance of storytelling and its impact at the U.N. Summit with the Associated Press

At the end of September, the United Nations hosted a Summit where world leaders gathered together. One after another, they took the stage—different leaders from different traditions that, under a single roof, reflected most of the world’s history. All had a fleeting opportunity to craft a story about their nation and the world that would—they hoped—make others sit up and listen.

Even in an era of globalized politics and instantaneous streaming services, storytelling can capture the attention of many. Yet, the dawn of storytelling at scale over the past two decades—regular people amplified globally right next to world leaders, and entire industries devoted to disseminating disinformation across continents—makes it harder for even the most powerful to get their message noticed.

Muck was quoted in the Associated Press (AP), where he discussed how heads of state leverage storytelling at the U.N. Summit in an effort to make a case for their nation or others.  

“They’re still learning. Heads of state are learning how to tell stories, how to use this format to get their message out there,” said Muck. “They’re not always great storytellers,” he said. “But we now have the means and the technology to share those stories. So, somebody who’s adept at storytelling can really thrive in that space.”

The AP piece was picked up in more than 300 additional media outlets across the nation:


Caliendo and Chod provide pre-election analysis across media outlets in Chicago

With only a couple weeks away from Election Day, many Americans have already cast their ballots in the midterm elections. Political analysts project that pre-election voting is on par with this point four years ago—which was the highest turnout for a midterm election in decades.

While it’s too early to predict if 2022 will eventually reach the exceptionally high turnout levels of 2018—and it’s likely voting patterns have changed as COVID pushed more people to embrace voting before Election Day—analysts suggest that so far it appears 2022 has comparable elevated voter interest this midterm.

Caliendo and Chod have been fielding media requests for political analysis in the weeks leading up to the election. From examining recent polls to deciding a winner in the Gubernatorial Debates, Caliendo and Chod have weighed in on what voters should know and expect come November 8, 2022 (Election Day).

Watch more of the media coverage:


Muck examines latest developments in the Russian invasion of Ukraine on WGN-TV

Russian President Vladimir Putin is preparing to annex occupied areas of Ukraine. Russia claims Ukrainians voted to join Russia in those areas; however, Ukraine and much of the west call referendums illegitimate. The voting on the annex was scheduled for September 27, and rumors allege that Zaporizhzhia in Ukraine seeks to be part of Russia, but developments show that the world stage believes it to be a sham.

Muck interviewed with WGN-TV, where he discussed the potential annexation and its impact.

“I’ll start by saying this is not a free election and was it was not a fair election,” said Muck. “It’s in no way legal by international law. So, why is Putin doing this? I think the reason is he wants to flip the narrative and say that up until this point, we’ve talked about Russia being the aggressor invading Ukraine and so what Putin thinks he can do is argue this territory is now legitimately Russia and who’s the invader now; well, in his eyes, it’s Ukraine and NATO that are the aggressor. I don’t think the international audience will buy into that at all and I think they’ll push back. I think in some ways, Putin’s thinking about domestic audience and he’s trying to get support from the Russian people. So, completely illegal, but I think Putin is playing a different game.”

Watch the full interview on WGN-TV.

Caliendo discusses Jan. 6 Insurrection hearing being postponed on FOX 32 Chicago

The House select committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol is postponing its highly anticipated hearing because of Hurricane Ian. The hearing, when rescheduled, could conclude its presentations of investigative findings before a final report due later this year.

The hearing would have marked its first since a series of blockbuster presentations earlier this summer. The hearings saw the panel detail new evidence through testimony from top aides, advisers and allies to former President Donald Trump. The hearings have aimed to show Trump had a much larger role to play in efforts to overturn the 2020 election results and the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.

Since the panel shared those findings, committee members teased more hearings after their August recess to present evidence. However, only one had been set so far, and now the panel will need to reschedule it for a later date.

Caliendo interviewed with FOX 32 Chicago to explain what is to come from the committee hearing and the impact of the postponement.

Watch the full interview on FOX 32 Chicago.