sealPurdue Lifestyles Briefs

November 1997

Keep Christmas credit problems from stealing holiday spirit

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- Silver bells and silent nights aren't the only sounds of Christmas. An all-too-familiar sound of Christmas in the '90s is the ring of a cash register and that special phrase, "Charge it!"

Barbara Rowe, consumer sciences and retailing specialist in the Purdue University Cooperative Extension Service, says there are several ways to keep control of your credit during the holidays.

If you need to use a credit card for Christmas shopping, she suggests that you limit your spending to one card. This makes it easier to track spending and stay within a budget. She also reminds you to make sure both the pricing and the receipt are correct -- Christmas is a busy time for retailers, and mistakes are easily made.

Don't go to the mall without a gift list. Rowe says it's easy to get caught up in the festive spirit and come home with gifts you hadn't planned on or gifts that are more expensive than you'd planned. And refrain from shopping when you are tired, when your resistance is lowest.

She says mail order catalogs are a reliable way to shop for Christmas. You can shop at home, away from temptation. In addition, merchandise is easy to exchange.

Rowe says some of the most precious and memorable gifts can't be purchased in stores. Gifts of an experience or time together make wonderful presents. Consider tape recordings of grandparents and their life remembrances or even a book of pictures spanning someone's lifetime.

CONTACT: Rowe, (765) 494-8316; e-mail,

Holidays need not be torture for those watching their weight

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- Holidays can be a torturous time for those trying to maintain a healthy weight. Pumpkin pie, peanut brittle and Grandma's famous fudge are tempting delights. However, the next few weeks do not have to be torture, if you plan ahead, says a Purdue University nutrition expert.

Olivia Bennett Wood, associate professor of foods and nutrition, offers two options that can fit into any lifestyle. "You can plan to not gain weight by exercising, eating small portions and eating before going to holiday parties, or you can plan to indulge yourself to a limited extent during the holidays but lose the weight in January," she says.

If you plan to allow yourself to gain several pounds during the holidays, gain only the amount you know you can lose. Wood suggests keeping the indulgence in check so the amount gained can be shed within one month. She advises that you plan the ways you will lose the extra pounds, then set goals for weight loss each week and stick to them.

Avoiding weight gain can be as easy as adding 10 minutes to your regular exercise routine or taking the stairs instead of the elevator.

The abundance of food at many holiday parties can lead to over-indulgence. Here are some sensible eating tips from Wood:

Avoid alcohol. At parties, drink water, tea or coffee instead of alcoholic beverages.

CONTACT: Wood, (765) 494-8238; e-mail,

Students taught to manage biases on the job

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- A college education is designed to broaden minds and expand critical thinking, but it also should teach us how to better monitor what we say. This is especially true on the job, where a conversation about a popular television show can move very quickly from around the water cooler to a court of law.

That's precisely the premise of Gender and Diversity in Management, a senior-level course offered by Purdue University's School of Technology.

"We can't change prejudices with just one class, but we can teach students to manage their biases," explains Janet Achor, associate professor of organizational leadership and supervision. "Lack of tolerance and insensitivity to these kinds of issues can cost you your job."

Gender and Diversity in Management is one of dozens of diversity-related courses offered at Purdue, but its applications for the workplace and the "no holds barred" approach of the instructor make it a popular elective. Achor opens each semester by leading students through a series of questions, the answers to which invariably result in both teacher and students admitting their own prejudices to each other.

"It's a pretty explosive exercise," Achor acknowledges. "But it's designed to get their attention, and the results are accurate and true. We are all prisoners of our past experiences."

Achor started teaching the course in 1986 in response to a need she saw among female students in the School of Technology, home of the Department of Organizational Leadership and Supervision.

"We were finding that young women in our field weren't equipped to deal with the realities of the workplace in terms of gender issues," Achor explains. "Since then the class has evolved into a seminar on diversity, which includes race, religion, sexual orientation, disability, socioeconomic class and education, as well as gender. I also work on issues such as age, language, culture, ethnicity and the concept of time."

The goal of the course is to increase knowledge and awareness, foster appropriate attitudes and assumptions, and eliminate stereotyping, all of which have been shown to improve employee morale, boost productivity and increase creativity in the workplace.

Achor uses a variety of media to spark discussion, ranging from textbooks to popular films to role-playing. She calls the format a potpourri of things designed to make students think, regardless of how narrow or broad their previous experiences may be.

"Most students come into the course believing in the concept of America as a 'melting-pot,' but I urge them to think of it more as a salad," Achor says. "Each ingredient is distinct and retains its own flavor regardless of how much the salad gets tossed."

Because of the nature of the subject matter and the seminar format of the course, Achor says it's important to balance the numbers of men and women in the two classes offered each semester.

"Having an equal number of men and women helps give some balance to the dialogue," Achor says. "We get into some sensitive issues, and it's important that students be comfortable in the discussions."

Though not required for students in the School of Technology, both sections are always filled within the first week of registration.

"It's a popular elective because students recognize the value of this kind of information," Achor says. "They realize that the world extends quite a distance beyond their own backyard."

CONTACT: Achor, (765) 494-7989; e-mail,

Compiled by Beth Forbes (765) 494-9723; e-mail.
Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096; e-mail,

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