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.

Curricular Innovation: Wendy Petersen Boring and Marshall Curry

Title: “Curricular Innovation: Sustainability as a Catalyst for Pedagogical Creativity and Institutional Change”

Presenters: Wendy Petersen Boring, Associate Professor of History and Marshall Curry, Senior, Sociology Major


What does it mean to teach with a focus that is simultaneously bio-regional and global? What might a place-based curriculum look like? What good ideas are out there for courses that cross multiple disciplines to address divergent problems, or engage significantly with community partners, or develop student’s ethical, civic preparation, personal growth and self direction? How can universities function as centers for public political discourse and catalysts for political action and social change?

This presentation, which grows out of research for our LARC project (2012), “Ritual, Sustainability and Community” and (Wendy’s) forthcoming book, Teaching Sustainability: Perspectives from the Humanities and Social Sciences, aims to address these questions by surveying a range of pedagogical innovations across the country that fall under the rubric of “sustainability curriculum” Nationally, sustainability has begun functioning as a key innovator and instigator of systemic change across the university, causing a re-orientation of curriculum, research, pedagogy, university-community relationships, organizational change, policy, and institutional ethos. Sustainability curricular projects are on the cutting edge of pedagogical innovation, including project-based learning, place-based pedagogy, transformational learning, and partnerships with community, business, and non-profit partners. Integrating sustainability into the liberal arts provides a particularly compelling opportunity to integrate theory and practice into the liberal arts in a way that addresses increasing need for curriculum relevance, salience, and practicability.

Date/Time: Friday March 1, 2013, 3:00 PM
Location: Hatfield Room, Hatfield Library

Faculty Colloquium: Altman on Myosins

Title: “Regulation of the Motor Protein Myosin in the Cell”

Presenter: David Altman, Assistant Professor of Physics


Generation of force is critical for many processes in the cell. Central to these processes are molecular motors, biomolecules capable of creating directed motion. My lab studies myosins, a molecular motor family with members implicated in processes including muscle contraction, trafficking of cargo in the cell, and cell motility. Specifically, we seek to understand how the complex cellular environment regulates these motors. To this end, we study both purified myosins outside the cell as well as myosin motors within their cellular niche. This approach requires us to probe myosin activity at a variety of sizes and in systems of varying complexity. For example, we study both the small-scale motions (one-billionth of a meter) of individual motors, as well as the relatively large motions (one-thousandth of a meter) of ensembles of myosins in muscle fibers. In this talk, I will describe some of these studies and discuss how our results are beginning to reveal important factors in the regulation of myosins in the cell.

Date/Time: Friday March 8, 2013, 3:00 PM
Location: Hatfield Room, Hatfield Library

When I was your age…

Please join us for the first colloquium of the Spring semester with Seth Cotlar (History) who will present his talk titled: “When I was your age…”: Nostalgic Representations of the Recent Past in American Children’s Literature, 1830-1850

This talk is part of a book project on “The Cultural History of Nostalgia in Modernizing America, 1776-1860.” I delivered this talk last summer and over the next few months I need to transform it into an essay for inclusion in a collection of essays on children’s literature in the nineteenth century. I focus primarily on Samuel Goodrich, one of the most widely-read children’s authors of the antebellum period. I pay particular attention to how he depicts the environmental destruction that has accompanied the rapid economic development of the 1820s and 30s, and I also discuss his surprisingly sympathetic depictions of displaced Native Americans.
The talk will take place on Friday February 1 at 3 pm in the Hatfield Room. As usual, cookies and refreshments will be served.

Faculty Colloquium: Meredyth Edelson

Please join us on Friday, November 30th at 3 p.m. in the Hatfield Room for this week’s Faculty Colloquium being presented by Meredyth Goldberg Edelson, Professor of Psychology.

Why have all the boys gone? Gender differences in prosecution acceptance of child sexual abuse cases.

Cases of child sexual abuse (CSA) referred to the District Attorney (DA) are not necessarily accepted for prosecution. Two pilot studies sought to investigate whether there were gender differences in whether cases of CSA referred to the DA’s office were accepted by the DA and, if they existed, what might account for gender differences in decisions to accept cases and file charges. The results of the first study indicated that cases involving male victims were significantly less likely to be accepted for prosecution than cases involving female victims. Comparisons of acceptance rates were based on expected frequencies given CSA prevalence rates by gender in the literature and on the proportion of males and females seen at a Child Abuse Assessment Center (CAAC) from where the DA referrals were obtained. The second study assessed both disclosure-related variables (assessed by content analyses of disclosures made at a CAAC) and abuse-related variables (that occurred at or near the time of the abuse) that might explain these differences. Few variables were found to significantly differentiate males’ and females’ cases; these were the relationship of the child to the perpetrator, whether the child was offended by a juvenile, whether the child told someone of the abuse, pornography exposure, whether the child displayed concerning behaviors, and whether the child was questioned about possible abuse. Implications of these results are discussed.