Library News

Colloqium: Gauging and Strengthening Quantitative Skills at Entry

Please join us this Friday, November 8th at 2:00 pm in the Library’s Hatfield Room for a special presentation by Margot Black, Director, Symbolic and Quantitative Resource Center, Lewis & Clark College. James Friedrich (Department of Psychology) is sponsoring Professor Black’s presentation.Margot_Black_sm

Title: Gauging and Strengthening Quantitative Skills at Entry: New Options for Improving Students’ Course Placement and Academic Success

Abstract: Mathematically underprepared students are a large and growing concern in higher education. This can pose special challenges for small, liberal arts colleges with limited course offerings. Identifying and addressing the needs of these students enhances their success across a wide range of courses in the sciences, humanities, and arts. Doing so also contributes to broader institutional success in terms of graduation rates and retention. If a college admits students with such varied quantitative preparation, I suggest that it bears the responsibility of providing certain resources necessary to help them be successful in their courses. In this talk I will discuss how Lewis & Clark College handles math proficiency and placement testing as well as options for remediation for those students who need it most. Such placement and support efforts ultimately contribute to the academic success of all students, including those initially seen as having strong quantitative preparation.

Dynamics and Problems of Using Games to Teach

Please join us this Friday, November 1st at 2:00 pm in the Hatfield Room for a presentation by Frederick J. Oerther, III, Visiting Assistant Professor of Economics.

Title: Dynamics and Problems of Using Games to Teachoerthersmall

Brief Description: This presentation will argue for the usefulness of games as an educational device. We begin by discussing the nature of games and describing the student’s “game experience” in the classroom. Then we will make some assertions about how the game experience might be expected to contribute to the learning process – including the leveraging of scholastic motivations that games may offer on the basis of social and phenomenological factors. The features and properties of a specific form of game, which may be most useful in the classroom, called the “Fully Human Interactive Game,” are surveyed. We conclude with a discussion of some of the problems which may accompany using games to teach.

Haiyan Cheng: How to Forecast What We Can’t See

Please join us this Friday, October 25th at 2:00 pm in the Library’s Hatfield Room for a presentation by Haiyan Cheng (Assistant Professor of Computer Science).

Title: How to Forecast What We Can’t See
Abstract: In chess, each player sees the positions and moves of his or her opponent. In card games, each player sees his or her cards, and possibly the used cards, but does not see unused cards of the opponent. We say that chess is a fully observable system, and card games are partially observable systems. There are many partially observable systems in nature. For example, in a weather system, we can measure specific quantities at specific time and location, such as temperature, wind speed, but the continuous true system state is unobservable due to our incomplete knowledge about the nature and the errors in modeling process. In a stock market, the stock prices are observable, but investor beliefs, which help drive prices, are not observable. In target tracking applications, the data collected through sensors is observable, but the dynamic position of the target is unobservable.

Professof Cheng will talk about the application of mathematical and statistical techniques to the estimation and forecasting of the unobservable part from the observable part, when both parts evolve randomly over time, and will report on her research in this area.

Faculty Colloquium: Leveraging the New to Showcase the Old



Please join us this Friday, October 11th at 2:00 pm in the Library’s Instruction Room for a presentation by Mary McRobinson, University Archivist, and Michael Spalti, Associate University Librarian for Systems.


Title:  Leveraging the New to Showcase the Old


Brief Description:  Archival repositories collect “old stuff” but the methods used to preserve, promote, and provide access to the materials are cutting edge. Learn how Willamette’s department of Archives and Special Collections and the Hatfield Library Systems Division are utilizing the latest technologies to increase access to collections, provide undergraduates more opportunities to conduct original research, and showcase their scholarship.


Getting a Read on Writing Letters

Please join us for a panel led by Monique Bourque (Director, Student Academic Grants & Awards Adjunct Professor of Environmental & Earth) this Friday, October 4th at 2:00 pm in the Library Hatfield Room. The title of the panel is: Getting a Read on Writing Letters. Bourque_F

Getting a Read on Writing Letters:

Old faculty and new–have you struggled with writing recommendation letters? I can’t give you more time to manage the process, but we do have a small panel of folks who write great ones, to help you grapple with that pile of requests for a wide array of programs and projects. Your colleagues will talk about issues of concern: making connections with students you might not know very well so as to be able to write effectively, getting a ‘read’ on the requirements of the particular program or funding agency, etc. We will discuss the problems and issues faced by recommendation writers, and perhaps collaborate on ways to get the best information out of our students! Join us for this opportunity to exchange ideas, strategize, and of course, kvetch (it is Friday, after all).

Ancestral Voices: From Slaves to Matriarchs

Please join us for a presentation by Andries Fourie (Dept. of Arts) this Friday, April 12th at 3:00 pm in the Library Hatfield Room. The title of his talk is: “Ancestral Voices: From Slaves to Matriarchs”

In 1652 the Dutch East India Company (VOC) established a colony at the Cape of Good Hope. The VOC almost immediately began importing slaves, about half of which came from South and South East Asia (primarily Sri-Lanka, Indonesia, Malaysia, Bengal, the Coromandel Coast and Malabar Coast of India). Male colonists vastly outnumbered women in the early part of the colony’s history. Consequently male, white colonists frequently purchased, manumitted and married Asian slave women (the average Afrikaner today has about 8% Asian ancestry). In this way several slave women became the matriarchs of today’s Afrikaner families, and played an important role in shaping Afrikaner culture.

In this talk Andries Fourie will discuss his research on this subject and his recent installation and performance that explore the role of South and Southeast Asian slave women in shaping Afrikaans language, culture and foodways.

Topology, Homology, and Applications to Data

Please join us for a presentation by Inga Johnson (Dept. of Mathematics) this Friday, April 5th at 3:00 pm in the Library Hatfield Room. The title of her talk is: Topology, Homology, and Applications to Data

Abstract: Topology is the subfield of mathematics that is concerned with the study of shape. Mathematicians have studied topological questions for the past 250 years. However, in just the past 15 years topology has been found to have many different applications to real world problems. One of these is to use a topological tool called persistence homology to understand and analyze high dimensional and complex data sets.

This talk will be an introduction to topology and the concept of homology. We will then use homology to a look at examples of how topological ideas can be used to give new and surprising insight towards understanding data. This talk will emphasize examples and concepts. Prerequisites will be minimal.

As always, light refreshments will be provided.

Faculty Colloquium: From Clay to Music

Title: “From Clay to Music: Making and Playing a 7000-Year-Old Xun Musical Instrument”

Presenters: Juwen Zhang, Dept. of Japanese & Chinese / Heidi Preuss Grew, Art Department

Date/Time: Friday March 15, 2013, 3:00 PM

Location: Room 212, Art Building


The xun (塤; xūn) is a Chinese globular flute made of fired clay. It is one of the oldest Chinese instruments with a history of over 7,000 years. This presentation will discuss why the xun was essential to Chinese cosmology and cultural values, how it has become a core marker in the construction of Chinese national identity, and why the instrument has recently been revived in China and in the United States in Salem, Oregon. Guests to the lecture will see and hear the pieces Prof. Grew and Prof. Zhang made together that push the traditional xun form into artistic representations of the earth, the heavens, and animals. Willamette students will also participate in the musical presentation from these creations. “The xun replica Juwen Zhang first brought to the ceramics studio was a modest, egg shaped form,” Professor of Art Heidi Grew recalls, “but the audible projection from that humble object was simply remarkable. The entire atmosphere of the studio dramatically changed with its penetrating sound. Those gathered were silenced, transfixed, and transported to another place. We were in China.” Thus began the ongoing collaboration between two faculty members from the Art Department and Department of Japanese and Chinese. We look forward to sharing this work with the Willamette community.

As always, light refreshments will be provided. See you on Friday.

Bill Kelm and Stasinos Stavrianeas
Faculty Colloquium Coordinators

Kama Ginkas and Contemporary Russian Theater

Please join us for a Faculty Colloquium with Sarah Bishop (Russian) who will present her talk titled: “Kama Ginkas and Contemporary Russian Theater”

My talk will introduce the work of Kama Ginkas, one of the most celebrated theater directors currently working in Russia, as well as provide a general sense of the vibrant and diverse theatrical scene in Moscow today. Born in 1941, Ginkas survived his early childhood in a Jewish ghetto in Lithuania and moved to Leningrad to study directing in 1962. His independent, innovative style made finding work difficult, and he nearly gave up on the theater in the 1970s. With a move to Moscow and the new openness of perestroika in the 1980s, however, Ginkas found his place in the Moscow Theater of the Young Spectator (MTiuZ).

Since the mid-1980s Ginkas has rarely staged traditional plays. Instead he has created his own shows based on literary texts, primarily prose. Rather than simply portraying the action of the text on the stage, however, Ginkas plays with the language itself. I will discuss Ginkas’s innovative use of language, and I will place him in the broader context of contemporary Russian theater, particularly the “new drama” movement of the late 1990s and early 2000s. Video clips from a variety of productions will be shown.

The talk will take place on Friday February 22at 3 p.m. in the Library Instruction Room. As usual, cookies and refreshments will be served.

The Struggle for Equality: A Concise History of European Socialism

Please join us for a Faculty Colloquium with Bill Smalldone (History) who will present his talk titled: “The Struggle for Equality: A Concise History of European Socialism”

European socialism arose in the maelstrom of the industrial and democratic revolutions that transformed Europe after 1750. Striving for sweeping social, economic, cultural, and political change, socialists were a diverse lot, but were generally united by principles asserting the social and political equality of all people, ideas that won the adherence of millions and struck fear in the hearts of their numerous opponents. This textbook shows how, over the course of 200 years, socialists successfully promoted the democratization of European society and a more equitable division of wealth. At the same time, it illustrates how conflicts over the means of achieving their aims divided them into rival “socialist” and “communist” currents, a rift that undercut the struggle against fascism and helped lay the groundwork for Europe’s division during the Cold War. Although for many the end of the Cold War, the Soviet Union’s dissolution, and the rise of neo-liberal ideology pointed to the demise of socialism as a potent political force, recent developments show that such a judgment was premature. The growth of new socialist parties across Europe indicates that socialist ideas remained vibrant in the face of capitalism’s failure to solve chronic social and economic problems even before the onset of the deep global crisis of 2008-2009.

Combining an analytical narrative with a selection of primary texts and visual images, this textbook provides undergraduate students with a brief, accessible history of European socialism. It includes a concise overview of how socialist political movements have evolved over time and stresses the rich diversity that characterized socialism’s intellectual and social foundations from its beginning.

The talk will take place on Friday February 15 at 3 p.m. in the Hatfield Room. As usual, cookies and refreshments will be served.