Tuesday, August 19, 2014

"Why do I need to take this class?"

In her "From the Editor" column in the Summer 2014 issue of Diversity & Democracy, Kathryn Peltier Campbell writes the following:
The idea that components of one’s education are boxes to be checked seems most fitting if higher education is simply a series of training modules preparing students for the workforce. But higher education must be so much more than this. As Michael S. Roth recently recounted in The Chronicle of Higher Education (2014), American luminaries from Thomas Jefferson to Martha Nussbaum have conceived of liberal learning in college as necessary to prepare students for the messy unknown that is life, not simply the specific requirements of a job. As Roth argues, a narrowly practical approach to higher education will do nothing less than “impoverish us.”
 Last Saturday a colleague and I were discussing how society has lost sight of education as a public good. In higher education, so-called "general education" has been the chief casualty, its erosion hastened by budgetary challenges and--more importantly--by the hesitation of its professed proponents to accept the challenge of asserting its relevance.

We in the humanities, arts, and social sciences need to accept that challenge. We may not see ourselves as agents of "workforce preparation" as such, and we are certainly not just that. But let's not shy away from it either. We know that in the "messy unknown that is life" our future leaders--including those sitting in our classrooms next week--will need to make decisions drawing not only on their own experiences but on an unpredictable collection of facts, ideas, and dreams to which we introduce them, the experiences of historical figures and of those who never existed outside the pages of a novel. In response to challenges we cannot even imagine, they will need to exercise the creativity that was nurtured and challenged on our stages and in our classrooms and studios. They will need to apply the intellectual rigor they sharpened against scientific and abstract philosophical concepts as well as the compassion that comes from understanding the plights of others.

The future depends on it.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Gender Studies Student Wins "Emerging Scholar Award" at Feminism Conference in Akron, Ohio

Wheeler (left) and Whitman (right) with keynote speaker Vanessa Valenti (center)
(photo courtesy of Ferda Asya)
Albra Wheeler and Jacqueline Whitman, two Gender Studies Minor (GSM) students, presented their papers at a conference titled The Multiple Faces of Activism: Feminism in the 21st Century, at the University of Akron, in Akron, Ohio. Both students are recipients of the student professional development awards from the College of Liberal Arts.
Wheeler's paper, "The Wonderbra: Oppression vs. Liberation in a Patriarchal Society," traces the evolvement of modern brassieres and looks at the bra through historical and feminist perspectives and aims to establish whether the “Wonderbra” signifies submission to or emancipation from the patriarchal society.

Whitman's paper, "Womanhouse: Opening the Closed Door," is a study of three bathrooms, “Nightmare Bathroom,” “Lipstick Bathroom,” and “Menstruation Bathroom,” which symbolically represent the anguish women endure in their private lives.

Wheeler with her award
(photo courtesy of Ferda Asya)
At the conference, Wheeler won the "Emerging Scholar Award,” which is given in recognition of a student who displays exemplary scholarship as demonstrated in research, education, and related academic activities that seek to further feminist research, practice, teaching, and/or activism by the Committee for Research on Women and Gender of the University of Akron. This award also recognizes a student with a demonstrated commitment to women's and gender issues.

Wheeler's achievement is especially outstanding considering that the conference was open to graduate and undergraduate students from several states, including Kentucky, Michigan, New York, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.

“Frankly, when I conveyed the ‘call for papers’ of this conference to the GSM students, I expected them to deliver successful papers, but I did not predict that one of them would receive this prestigious award,” said Dr. Ferda Asya, associate professor of English and Director of Gender Studies Minor.

Congratulations, Albra and Jacqueline!

Friday, July 11, 2014

BU Prof Awarded Phi Kappa Phi Literacy Grant

Congratulations to Dr. Mary Katherine Waibel Duncan of the Bloomsburg University Department of Psychology, recipient of a Phi Kappa Phi Literacy Grant in support of “Handmade Literacy for Our Hometown." Working with the BU Toy Library, faculty and students from the university’s chapter of Phi Kappa Phi will educate elementary and middle school-aged children about the needs of the community and engage the children in literacy-based service projects. The literacy projects will include fashioning inspirational banners to adorn the rooms of residents at assisted living facilities and nursing homes, handcrafting cards for displaced children and their families residing at local hospitality houses and creating informational posters to share the stories of animals awaiting adoption at local shelters.

The Phi Kappa Phi Literacy Grant program was initiated in 2003 to provide funding to Phi Kappa Phi chapters and active members for ongoing projects or new initiatives that reinforce part of the Society's mission "to engage the community of scholars in service to others." Drawing from a multi-disciplinary Society of students and scholars from large and small institutions, applicants are encouraged to consider literacy projects that have creative relevance to their disciplines and to the needs of their communities.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Scholarship Takes to the Stage

Scholarship takes many forms. For David A. Miller, assistant professor in the Theatre & Dance Division, scholarship includes directing professional theatre and this summer he is doing just that: directing The Nosemaker's Apprentice: Chronicles of a Medieval Plastic Surgeon for Amphibian Stage Productions in Fort Worth, TX. The play, according to its authors, is part Monty Python and part Airplane. Fans of Mel Brooks and South Park will also delight in the particular brand of humor in this play.

 Alexandra Lawrence as Amelia and Scott Weinrich as Gavin
in technical rehearsals for 
The Nosemaker's Apprentice.
About The Nosemaker's Apprentice: "A father weaves a magic tale for his daughter to justify his unlicensed plastic surgery practice, tracing the origins of cosmetic surgery to craftsmen in medieval Europe. The hero of this tale is Gavin, a young orphan rescued from a dismal existence in the Ivanhoe Workhouse for Criminally Impoverished Boys when he is apprenticed with the local Nosemaker, and who eventually becomes one of the finest surgeons in Vienna, cradle of quack medicine." (Samuel French, Inc.)

It's not the first visit to Cowtown for Miller. Over the course of the past 10 years, David has directed 6 full productions and 4 staged readings for Amphibian. He first connected with Amphibian company members through colleagues in graduate school at Rutgers University, where he earned his MFA in Directing. His most recent Amphibian productions include a reading of On the Ceiling, about two artisans at work on the Sistine Chapel, and a production of Wittenberg, about Hamlet's senior year at Wittenberg University where his professors are Martin Luther and Doctor Faustus.

Bloomsburg University audiences will have a chance to see The Nosemaker's Apprentice when it is performed as part of the BU Players' 2014-15 season. For more about the BU Players' season, visit http://www.bloomu.edu/buplayers-current. For more about the Fort Worth production and Amphibian, visit http://www.amphibianproductions.org/2014-Nosemakers_Apprentice.htm. For more about David's professional work, visit http://mrdavidamiller.com/.

Photo: Alexandra Lawrence as Amelia and Scott Weinrich as Gavin in technical rehearsals for The Nosemaker's Apprentice.  

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Students Inducted into Anthropology Honor Society

On May 2, 2014 twenty-five Anthropology students were inducted into the Lambda Alpha National Collegiate Honor Society in Anthropology in the Schweiker room of Andruss Library.  Gabrielle Vielhauer was recognized as Outstanding Senior in Anthropology, Erika Maxson was awarded the Wymer and Warner Anthropology Scholarship, and graduating seniors, conference presenters, and student scholarship and grant recipients were recognized in the annual anthropology honors reception and induction ceremony. 

Below are some photos of the event. Congratulations to all!

Monday, June 30, 2014

We Make History, Part 2: History Professor Michael Hickey on his Fulbright Senior Specialist fellowship in Smolensk, Russia

Students stand up at their desks when the professor walks in to the classroom at the start of a lecture at Smolensk State University in the Russian Federation.  They then wait until the professor says “good morning” to be seated.  It is an old practice, a nineteenth century holdover no longer common in Russia’s main metropolitan centers like Moscow and St. Petersburg, but indicative of the strength of traditions in provincial Russia.   And yet the classrooms there are nothing if not modern, equipped with “smart boards” and various other computer technology.  It is one of the many contrasts one encounters in teaching at Smolensk State University—or SmolGU—one of Russia’s oldest public institutions of higher education.  SmolGU is the largest of the two dozen universities, colleges, and technical institutes in Smolensk, a city of about 300,000 people that this year is celebrating its 1,175th anniversary.
    Since the late 1980s I’ve spent so much time in Smolensk working on research projects that the assistant director at the regional historical archives jokes about my being a member of her staff.  I’d given public talks at SmolGU and occasionally sat in on the courses of friends who teach there, but I’d never formally presented a series of lectures there.  That is, until this May and early June, when I had the honor of being a Fulbright Senior Specialist at Smolensk State University.

Courses at SmolGU meet twice a week, for 90 minutes per session.  My hosts at the university organized my schedule so that I could sandwich lectures into my daily research visits to the region’s historical archives.  I presented two sets of lectures on very different topics to students in two very different programs—history students studying in the faculty of History and Law, and English language students studying in the faculty of philology and foreign languages.  Each lecture was followed by a long and spirited question and answer period, which sometimes had to continue in the hallway so that students and faculty in the next period’s courses could use their classroom.

In courses for the Department of History and Law, my talks focused on English-language historical writing about modern Russia.  These were divided into presentations on three different themes:  the events of 1914-1921 (World War One, the 1917 Russian revolutions, and the Russian civil war); the collectivization of agriculture and its consequences in 1929-1934; and the origins of the Great Terror of 1936-1938.  I presented these talks for students enrolled in “special topics” history courses, with about twenty students in each course.  Inevitably, students’ questions led to discussions of US-Russian relations during and since the Cold War.  After my first lecture, two students in particular pushed me to explain and defend what they described as “aggressive” and “inappropriate” US policy towards Russia during this year’s crisis in Ukraine—a moment that tested my ability to construct precise diplomatic Russian sentences.   After I explained that President Obama rarely calls me on the phone for advice on policy matters, the mood lightened considerably (and I faced no subsequent questions on the topic).  As a rule, students asked excellent questions about historiography and historical methods and sources, and were particularly interested in my own research.  More than anything, though, they wanted to know why an American would spend his entire adult life studying not just Russian history, but the history of their home town….

The second series of lectures, for students studying English, had a very different tone.  These lectures were open to all students, with the result that the room—which held 75 students--was packed past capacity for each session.  Since the students were studying English, I was asked to speak in English (which, frankly, was a great relief).  And because the students were preparing for general examinations that include sections on the American and British educational systems, I was asked to focus on education in the US.  I organized my presentations around three interrelated themes:  ethnic, racial and cultural diversity as a defining aspect of US culture; the constitutional division of power between federal, state, and local governments in the US; and the organizational and funding structures of K-12 and higher education in the US.  These talks led to very lively discussions in which students asked me, for example, to explain what is distinctly “American” about American culture.  Most of all, though, students wanted to know about college life in the US and about the relationship between their own experience and the experience of students at Bloomsburg University.

During my visit, BU and SmolGU began discussions towards setting up a new student exchange program.  So perhaps in a year or two, students from SmolGU can learn firsthand what life is like here in Bloomsburg—where they will find that students do not stand at attention when the professor enters the classroom.  And BU students will have the amazing opportunity to study Russian language and culture in the beautiful ancient city of Smolensk.

Michael C. Hickey
Department of History

Friday, June 27, 2014

We Make History: Student Receives Best Article Award

Congratulations to Rebecca Anderson, a "remarkable" student according to Dr. Jeanette Keith of the History department. Rebecca is finishing her M.Ed at BU and is currently enrolled as an undergraduate in the Nursing program(!). Rebecca was recently selected as the recipient of the Nebraska State Historical Society's James L. Sellers Memorial Award for 2014. An independent panel of scholars selected her article "'Grandma Gabel, she brought Ralph': Midwifery and the Lincoln, Nebraska Department of Health in the Early Twentieth Century" as the best article published in Nebraska History during 2013.