Clockwise from upper left: Ahlaam Abdulwali ’25 and Mady Chen ’24, Sowinta Kay ’17, Crafting Feminism from Literary Modernism to the Multimedia Present by Prof. Amy E. Elkins, Illmatic Consequences: The Clapback to Opponents of 'Critical Race Theory' by Prof. Walter Greason, and Dr. Kathryn Kay Coquemont

Maccolades is a monthly round-up of the most recent accolades and accomplishments earned by members of the Macalester community. Below are highlights from September 2023. 

Rising stars in STEM research

Macalester students Mady Chen ’24 and Ahlaam Abdulwali ’25 earned first place at the Underrepresented Students in STEM Symposium—Twin Cities. “It was exciting to share our work with other researchers in the STEM field while also connecting with other undergraduate students and learning about their diverse research projects,” said Chen and Abdulwali. “It was particularly meaningful to participate in a symposium that was centered around supporting underrepresented students.”

Chen and Abdulwali are investigating the effects of MI—a chemical preservative widely used in household products such as hand soaps and shampoos—on mast cells. These immune system cells play an important role in inflammation and allergies. “Repeated exposure to MI-containing products has been linked to an increased risk of developing vulvodynia, a chronic pain condition in women,” Chen and Abdulwali said. “Thus, we are trying to understand what happens at a cellular level when mast cells are exposed to MI.” 

The students work in the on-campus lab of Biology Professor Devavani Chatterjea and Professor Elena Tonc, a visiting faculty member in biology, who serves as their research advisor. 

Connecting the dots

Macalester graduate Sowinta Kay ’17 earned a scholarship for the Erasmus Mundus Joint Master’s Degree in international humanitarian action. She will attend at least two European universities for the next two years. “This will be a great way to face new challenges and learn about myself,” she said. The scholarship covers tuition fees, health insurance, and provides stipends to admitted students. Kay said she is excited about the program’s multidisciplinary approach and will take classes in anthropology, management, public health, law, and politics.

“I look forward to learning how they are connected and essential for this field of work,” she said.  She noted that the program may resemble her Macalester experience, where she took classes from a variety of departments. She encourages current students to explore their curiosity by considering courses beyond their major, if possible. 

Unlocking community potential

Dr. Kathryn Kay Coquemont, vice president for student affairs, was selected for the Leadership Twin Cities 2023-24 cohort. The cohort dives into the critical issues impacting the Minneapolis-Saint Paul region with a focus on awareness, systems thinking, and civic action to foster inclusive regional growth. “I am excited to work with people across industries to address gaps or issues in our community,” Dr. Coquemont said. 

Tuning into truth

Dr. Walter Greason, DeWitt Wallace Professor of History, co-edited the recent book Illmatic Consequences: The Clapback to Opponents of ‘Critical Race Theory.’ The book addresses issues such as public health, Black representation, housing, and education, emphasizing culture as a tool for self-determination and self-defense among oppressed peoples. Prof. Greason said he was motivated to lead the project in response to false attacks against educators by the Proud Boys, Oathkeepers, and Moms for Liberty, which he believed threatened the freedom to learn for people in the U.S. and around the world. The book combines multiple approaches to understanding the utility of critical race theory, exposes propaganda deception, and proposes new solutions for freedom and justice. 

“At the heart of the book is the relationship between Black Studies as a field of interdisciplinary study, the emergence of hip hop as the foundation of global culture, and the revolutionary speculative arts of Afrofuturism,” Dr. Greason said. 

Threads of resistance 

English Professor Amy E. Elkins published a book titled Crafting Feminism from Literary Modernism to the Multimedia Present. The book explores how women writers like Virginia Woolf and Zadie Smith have used craft such as needlework and collage as a form of resistance in their work. Dr. Elkins examines various art mediums in literature, including digital design, photography, painting, and sculpture. She challenges traditional notions of artistic authority, pushing for a more inclusive perspective that recognizes the diverse, intergenerational history of craft. Her work is considered groundbreaking in modernist and visual studies, digital humanities, and feminist, queer, and critical race theory. The subject matter closely aligns with her role at Macalester as well. 

“I teach an introductory-level class at Macalester called ‘Craft, Activism, and Subversive Stitchers’ and integrate experiential, hands-on learning in all of my literature courses,” Prof. Elkins said. 

How to be considered for future Maccolades

If you or someone you know recently earned an award, fellowship, or honor and would like it to be considered for inclusion in next month’s Maccolades, please let Communications & Marketing know by filling out this Maccolades form. For recent book publications, please use this book publication form.

September 29 2023

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