Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Art vs. Science?

Dr. Scott Lowe of the Philosophy department sent me the link to an article on the importance of the liberal arts, written by a chemist and published on the Washington Post website: .

Choice excerpts:

" ... if American STEM grads are going lead the world in innovation, then their science education cannot be divorced from the liberal arts."


"Our culture has drawn an artificial line between art and science, one that did not exist for innovators like Leonardo da Vinci and Steve Jobs."

I love this article. Yet the use of the word "training" in its title gave me pause: training, to me, only teaches someone (or something) how to respond to certain stimulus. Ivy can be trained to grow into topiary shapes and dogs trained to obey commands. We do--and should--train students. But more importantly, we also educate them. Regardless of their major, they will as leaders be called upon to go beyond the bounds of training, to use their judgment to apply what they've learned from the arts, the natural sciences, the social sciences, and the humanities--to solve problems and create opportunities we can't even yet imagine.

There's no training for that.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Why So Serious?

A new First Year Seminar course being taught this semester invites students to investigate the question of what makes something funny and the role of stand-up comedy has played as a vehicle for social critique and cultural expression. Taught by Brian C. Johnson, director of the Frederick Douglass Institute for Academic Excellence and faculty member in the department of Academic Enrichment, Make Me Laugh (FYS 112) encourages students to explore humor in American culture.

Throughout the semester, students will explore the elements of comedy in general and will seek to place comedy in the framework of society. Theywill observe and critique comedic routines of the greats and not-so-greats of the past and present. Students will develop materials incorporating humor for specific audiences and will be expected to collect appropriate materials, write original material, and develop these into a routine to be performed later this semester in the KUB Hideaway. The event is open to the campus community. Details are forthcoming.

Johnson has partnered with several members of the COLA faculty who have shared their expertise with the FYS 112 class: Kathryn Hobson (Comm Studies) shared tips on performance and improvisation; Lisa Stallbaumer-Beishline (History) helped students to understand the implications of racial and ethnic humor in her discussion of the Holocaust and humor; and Ruth Beerman and Phil Rippke gave students a "crash course" in public speaking to help students overcome their fear of standing in front of crowds. He has also connected with David Miller (Theatre) and his Fundamentals of Acting students. Since the classes meet at the same time, Miller and Johnson got their students together to work on stage presence and theatricality. The Fundamentals students also served as a practice audience for the burgeoning comedians to try out their new material.

COLA's First Year Seminars introduce incoming freshmen to an interdisciplinary study of topical content with a liberal arts focus and provide writing and research instruction to facilitate first-year students' success at the postsecondary level. For a list of currently available topics, consult the Academic Catalog.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Grad Profile: Chris Ulloth, Professional Playwright & Dramaturg

Alumnus Chris Ulloth writes:

Chris and Dano Madden in a workshop of First Snow
at the 92nd Street Y. 
Photo credit: Miki Murata.
When I graduated from Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania last year, I moved to New York City with my newly-minted BA in Creative Writing and a minor in Theatre Arts.  I came in pursuit of being a playwright but have come to realize there was another career my education had prepared me for in addition to writing.

During my studies, Professor David A. Miller introduced me to his New York City-

based theatrical collective, The Artful Conspirators.  He took a handful of students to the city to experience the collective's Open Rehearsal Series in which a playwright, director, and actors would spend a weekend rehearsing and developing a new work by the playwright.  I do not know exactly why, but the process of developing a new play specifically for the purpose of development, not production, took me by surprise.  Maybe I thought, rather naively, that writing development ceased to exist after college, that you either learn to be a good writer and your works go on to be produced/published, or you don't and that's just too bad.  In any event, I was enamored by the process.  I found myself using the same tools for theatrical and literary discussion I learned at University, but in a professional environment.

After my studies at Bloomsburg concluded, I took an internship with the Seven Devils Playwrights Conference in McCall, ID.  There, I was surrounded by several emerging and established playwrights whose plays were handpicked from hundreds of submissions to be developed at the conference.  I noticed there were people hired by the conference specifically for the purpose of developing the plays and using those familiar tools for discussion.  It was about that time I came to realize my studies had not only prepared me to be a writer, but also a dramaturg.

What the hell is a dramaturg?  Well, the definitions vary based on the needs of the company and/or play, but essentially the function I serve is as an advocate for the playwright.  I assist playwrights with their needs pertaining to their play, which can include anything from researching the play's topics to analyzing the plot structure or character trajectories.  Little did I know, I had begun honing this skill long before I knew what dramaturgy was, back in Creative Writing workshops with Professors Claire Lawrence and Jerry Wemple.

Enamored with and exhilarated by the process of developmental theatre, I came to New York City seeking more.  In NYC I worked with id Theater (the company responsible for Seven Devils) and The Artful Conspirators as dramaturg for BAD HUSBAND, a new play by Dano Madden.  Dano, who I met through Professor Miller, is an esteemed playwright who I am proud to say has become an invaluable mentor and a dear friend to me.

Rehearsal of First Snow at the Seven Devils Playwrights Conference.
Photo credit: Sarah Jessup.
In addition to dramaturgy, I have been using my knowledge base from my studies to create programs that allow others the opportunity to develop and create.  Early in 2014 (with the help of many talented 92nd Street Y residents and staff to whom I owe so much), I started a 92nd Street Y based arts collective called the Resident Artists.  The name was remarkably uninspired for one reason: to let the inspiration come from its members without restriction.  And so, over the course of three months, we held a reading of a new play and screenplay, produced and premiered a short film, and produced a short play festival.  As our members transitioned, so did the company.  Now several of us are working with another company in which I am Co-Artistic Director with fellow Bloomsburg University alumnus Lauren M. Shover.  The company, Elephant Room Productions, will debut its first season this November which includes the development and production of new works.

While developmental theatre is part of my career, I am first and foremost a writer.  Since I graduated, I have written two full length plays which have received professional development and one short play which has received production.  My most notable work has been First Snow, a play which takes place in a town based on Centralia, Pennsylvania, and makes reference to a few Bloomsburg-inspired landmarks.  I submitted this play to the Seven Devils Playwrights Conference, and lo and behold a year after my internship I was invited back to develop this play.  I am currently a playwright intern with Project Y Theatre, a NYC theatre company, where my plays have also been developed with their playwrights group.

Now I am in the midst of submission season—both submitting my own plays to theatres all over the country and working as a reader for Seven Devils—cognizant of the careers I can pursue and grateful to the educational system which has enabled my pursuit.


To learn more about Chris, please visit:

Update: Chris was recently named the Associate Literary Manager for Project Y Theatre Company in New York City and is a semi-finalist for the prestigious National Playwriting Conference at the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015


When the dialogue surrounding public higher education makes reference to the arts and humanities as "luxuries we may no longer be able to afford"--it is a quotation, but I will not attribute it here--it's worth bearing in mind that there are other perspectives: 

"... it’s impossible to put a dollar value on a nimble, adaptable intellect, which isn’t the fruit of any specific course of study and may be the best tool for an economy and a job market that change unpredictably." --Frank Bruni in today's New York Times 

The complete essay can be found here. Thanks, Eric Foster, for bringing it to my attention.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

History Club and Phi Alpha Theta Help Cub Scouts with Citizenship Merit Badge

By Abigail Mercadante

This semester the members of the History Club and Phi Alpha Theta (the Honor Society for History majors) teamed up with Dr. Jeff Long to help a local Boy Scout troop earn their badge in citizenship. During this event the Scouts were taught what it meant to be a good citizen. They were divided into two groups and participated in various activities. One group was taught the proper way to salute and put their creative skills into action as they drew a picture of what the Pledge of Allegiance meant to them. The responses that they came up with, such as protecting our country from the “bad guys” and respecting our nation, represented what it meant to be a good citizen. Another group participated in discussions where they were asked what they thought it meant to be a good citizen and they all agreed that things such as helping the elderly and not breaking the law were at the top of their list. The Scouts were also taught about the rights and responsibilities we have as citizens and were all disappointed they were not able to vote the following day!

Other News From Around the History Department

Dr. Douglas Karsner and Dr. Jeff Long have established a relationship with Temple University which will allow Bloomsburg University students to study abroad in Japan during the summer and transfer their earned credits back to BU. This opportunity allows BU students to take a wider range of East Asian courses as well as experience a different culture.

Dr. Karsner has recently published an article titled, "The Real Bottom Line: A History of Business Executives Move for Vietnam Peace," for Essays in Economic and Business History Society.  In 2014, The Economic and Business History Society awarded Dr. Karsner The Editor's Award for 2013 which "recognizes contributors of multiple articles to Essays in Economic & Business History whose work over several years gave scholarly definition to the journal."

Last spring Dr. Long presented a paper titled, “The Sakka Dōmei’s ‘Greatest Enemy’: Politics, Literature, and Snark in the Criticism of Hayashi Fusao’s ‘Seinen’” at the Bundan Snark: Writing and Fighting in Modern Japan Workshop Conference.  The workshop was held at the University of Iowa on May 10, 2014.

Through the Institute for Culture and Society in the College of Liberal Arts, Dr. Michael Hickey has been working with students on a project for the Magee Foundation to digitize archival documents that have been recovered from the 2011 flood. This project is done by student volunteers and is completely student centered.

Last month Dr. Walter Howard delivered the annual Monsignor Curran Lecture at King's College in Wilkes-Barre, PA. The lecture was titled “Socialist and Communist Labor Organizers in the Anthracite Coal Fields in the 1930s." Dr. Howard has authored several books on this subject.

In 2012, Dr. Hickey received a Fulbright Senior Scholar Award to teach at Smolensk State University (Smolensk, Russia). Recently Dr. Hickey has two essays that will be published:  "Jews in the Revolution," in Daniel Orlovsky, ed., The Oxford Companion to the Russian Revolution and "Smolensk's Jews in War, Revolution, and Civil War," in Aaron Retish, et. al. eds., A Kaleidoscope of Revolutions:  Russia in Regional Perspective (Bloomington:  Slavica, 2015).

In spring 2014, Dr. Nancy Gentile-Ford published an article online for the International Encyclopedia of the First World War titled “Civilian and Military Power (USA)”. During the summer Princeton University hosted the “Patriots or Invaders? - Immigrants in the Military in Modern America” Conference and Dr. Ford presented on “Immigrants in the Military: Regional and Historical Factors.”

Dr. Jeanette Keith’s 2012 book on a yellow fever outbreak in nineteenth-century Memphis titled Fever Season: The Story of a Terrifying Epidemic and the People Who Saved a City is receiving excellent reviews not only from historians but from the medical community as well.