Conversations About our Scholarly Lives
Spring 2014

Every Monday at noon, CASL provides Macalester faculty with an opportunity to learn about our colleagues’ scholarly work while joining together for lunch and informal conversation. Presenters have 20 minutes to discuss their research in progress, the excitement and challenges of doing research at a small liberal arts college, or their fully formed research products. The rest of the hour will be spent discussing the issues raised in the presentation. Bring your curiosity, collegiality, and your questions; we provide the lunch (no RSVP necessary). 12:000-1:00 at the CST, Room 338 in the Library.

February 3 - Brian Rosenberg, (President, Macalester College). “My First Sabbatical in 22 Years: What I Thought and Wrote About.”
President Rosenberg took a sabbatical leave from his normal Macalester duties in Fall 2013.  His last sabbatical leave was 22 years ago when he received tenure as a professor of English.  Please join us for our first-of-the-semester CASL to welcome him back to campus and to hear about his travels, observations, and the thinking and writing he did during his time away.

February 10 - Karl Wirth (Geology) and Adrienne Christiansen (Political Science).  “Applying Our Research Skills in the Classroom:  Do Students Apply Their Learning in Other Courses?”  
The Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SOTL) encourages faculty to use our research methods to examine the effectiveness of our pedagogical practices. This fall, professors Wirth, Christiansen and Erik Larson undertook a small SOTL project among students enrolled in Macalester's "Supplemental Writers' Workshop." They aimed to determine if students became more self-reflective about their writing processes (metacognitive awareness) and became self-aware about how the lessons of the course might apply to other rhetorical contexts ("writing transfer"). The speakers will describe the Supplemental Writers' Workshop, share initial results from their study, and will reflect on advantages and disadvantages of undertaking SOTL work.

February 17 -  Andrew Latham (Political Science).  “Pursuing Truth through Fiction: A Political Scientist Writes His First Novel”
Latham never dreamed he’d write an historical novel. That changed as he worked on his scholarly book Theorizing Medieval Geopolitics.  “I was interested in the Templars, not because of their supposed secrets or mysteries, or their fabulous wealth and influence, but because of what they were: warrior-monks.” Answering compelling questions about the Templars required reconstructing the imaginative world of these self-styled ‘knights of Christ’.  And the best medium for that sort of project has always been fiction.”  Latham will discuss the process that lead him to write his debut novel, The Quest for the Holy Lance, what he discovered about writing fiction, how he got published, and what the future might hold.

February 24 - Vanessa Rousseau (Art History and Classics). “ Pieces of Paradise: Ornament and the Roman Synagogue at Sardis”
The site of Sardis in western Anatolia was historically important from the Lydian through the Late Roman period, when there is evidence for pagan, Christian and Jewish communities. Sardis’ monumental synagogue, occupied into the early 600s, formed one of the late Roman city’s most complex visual environments decorated with a broad palette of materials and images including geometric and floral patterns as well as images of birds, fish, and other animals. The coordination of representational imagery across different visual media draws on local sources to shape a special language of ornament for the building and its community.

March 3 - Ron Barrett (Anthropology). "The Ancient Determinants of Future Pandemics”
At what point does an infectious disease become an "emerging infection?"  Although many so-called emerging infections are indeed new to our species, the ultimate causes of these infections are ancient and recurring.  They include human food production, settlement and demographic patterns, environmental disruptions, and social inequalities.  Ron Barrett will discuss these issues based on his recently published book:  An Unnatural History of Emerging Infections.

March 10 - Ernesto Capello  (History and Latin American Studies). "Imagining the Equator: Commemorative Geodesic Science in the Andes”
Professor Capello's most recent research treats the visual and allegorical icons that mark tourist landscapes in Ecuador that are related to two French scientific missions undertaken during the 18th and 20th centuries. The first scientific mission attempted to measure the curvature of the of the earth at the Andean equator in order to corroborate Newton's theory of gravity. The second (commemorative) mission helped fix a universal measure of time and established French primacy in geodesic measurement. Professor Capello examines the famous Mitad del Mundo monument but also a series of counter-monuments focusing on indigenous knowledge of astronomy and celestial physics. He treats the familial, societal, and aesthetic tensions still undergirding the commemoration of the measurement of the Andean Equator.

March 17 - Spring Break.  No Program.

March 24 - No Program

March 31 - Brooke Lea (Psychology). "Window to the soul and mind: What Macalester’s new eye tracker can reveal about our thoughts and feelings."
What can we learn by measuring people’s eye movements?  This question is raised every day at Macalester’s new eye-tracking lab. Thanks in part to NSF funding, the iLab ( opened in the Psychology Department two years ago.  The tracker, run primarily by students, is used for both research and curricular development.  Students and faculty from several departments have used the iLab, and it is part of an important collaboration with Augsburg College.  Lea will discuss what he’s learned from an instrument that measures eye movements 2000 times per second, the benefits of collaborating with neighboring institutions, as well as touch on a few lessons learned about the charms and challenges of obtaining external funding.  We will leave time for questions about how scholars from a broad spectrum of disciplines (Art History, Music, Geology, Chemistry, English, to name a few) might benefit by using the eye tracker.

April 7 - Christy Hanson (International Studies) and Libby Shoop (Computer Science). “Battling Worms and Parasites: Engaging Students across Campus.”  
Macalester and the World Health Organization (WHO) have collaborated to create a web-based platform that pairs disease-endemic countries in need of research with a global network of students seeking applied topics for dissertations, theses, and capstones. Called EMPaCT (Enhanced monitoring for prevention, access, control and treatment of infectious diseases), the program allows countries to tap into multi-disciplinary research skills useful for health policy decision making. The first phase focuses on Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs), which affect two billion people globally and contribute to health inequalities.  Through this project, Macalester students participated in UN meetings, co-authored four peer-reviewed journal articles, and designed the web-platform, helping to build a model that could be applied to wide variety of pressing global issues. Macalester is now being considered for official status as a WHO collaborating center.  

April 14 -  Jamie Monson (History), Christopher Schommer (ITS), Yuzhu Xiang, Yezi Yang, Mengdie Wang and Jingjing Yang (Macalester Students).  “Mao's Model Railways”
Our digital humanities project focuses on two railways developed by Chairman Mao during the Cold War, one in Africa and one in China. Using oral history narratives alongside visual objects and literary works, our online book and archive tells the stories of these two trains -- including the unexpected connections between them. Our team has been doing historical fieldwork during the last two years, most recently in Sichuan, China with the support of a Digital Humanities Research Grant.

April 21 - Corie Hammers (Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies). “Re-mapping the Body through Sadomasochism.”
This presentation explores self-identified lesbian/queer individuals who, as survivors of sexual assault, use sadomasochism (S/M) as a means of bodily resistance. These women have experienced rape and see sadomasochism as a positive and empowering practice. Through presenting these women’s narratives Hammers argues that sadomasochism is a form of gender technology, a somatic intervention that restores the survivor’s bodily integrity.  Sadomasochism disables and re-works the negative effects of sexual trauma through its public witnessing, the sharing of bodily intensities, and the pain and pleasure of the S/M encounter. Hammers will present potential broader implications of this work, which is centered around a critique of mind/body dualisms.

April 28 -  Mark Mandarano (Music). “The Maestro: De-Classified”
Mark Mandarano, Director of Instrumental Music, will discuss and disclose many of the unseen aspects of the art of conducting. This wide-ranging talk will cover a issues including programming, interpretation, research, rehearsal, personnel and most of all, the role of the modern professional conductor. Music by Tchaikovsky, Shostakovich and others will be heard, discussed and observed in performance video.