Every Monday at noon, Conversations About Our Scholarly Lives 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). 12:00-1:00 in room 309 in the Library.

January 30 - Katrina Phillips (History)
"The Great Pretenders: Playing Indian in Tecumseh!'
Since 1973, the Scioto Society of Chillicothe, Ohio, has staged an outdoor drama called Tecumseh!, based loosely on the Shawnee leader's life and tragic demise. Phillips' research examines how the drama's continued use of non-Native actors alters the narrative arc of the production and colors the audience's perceptions and understandings of Shawnee history. She analyzes the ramifications of these casting decisions, questioning how actors in redface -- or, more specifically, the same shade of Disney-fied-colored makeup -- become enveloped in the discourses surrounding these performances of indigeneity and Native history.

February 6 - Julia Manor (Psychology)
"Timmy's in the Well: The Search for Empathy in our Canine Companions"
Professor Manor will discuss recent research that she has completed with students on empathetic responses in dogs. The research includes two studies that many Macalester faculty and staff participated in with their dogs. Come and find out if your dog really knows how you feel...

February 13 - Devavani Chatterjea (Biology)
"Viva la vulva! Our bedside to bench story of trying to solve the mystery of a secret disorder"
The Chatterjea lab studies the intersection of allergies and chronic pain with a focus on vulvodynia - a poorly understood pain condition that affects a surprisingly large number of women. The lab uses a pre-clinical disease model to discover the identities and roles of immune cells and molecules that orchestrate this disease process. Professor Chatterjea will share the labpublished stories and ongoing work.

February 20 - Aida Martinez-Freeman (Multicultural Life)
"When My Wild Tongue Speaks: An Autoethnography of Resistance in the Doctoral Classroom"
From its beginning, doctoral education has been designed to serve largely a white male student population, which has resulted in prescribed forms of scholar identity, teaching, and scholarship (Gardner, 2009; Berelson, 1960). This prescribed norm persists today even as doctoral education continues to diversify its faculty and student populations. As part of her dissertation, Martinez-Freeman used autoethnography as a way to weave together her personal narrative in the context of the doctoral classroom by examining what it meant to be a first generation, low-income, Latinx woman in the doctoral classroom. In the words of Audre Lorde, “this is how I know suival is survival and not just a walk through the rain.”

February 27 - Jerald Dosch (Biology)
"Macalester's Ordway Field Station: 50 years and Going Strong"
Macalester established the Katharine Ordway Natural History Study Area in 1967. Professor Dosch will provide a brief overview of the Ordway Field Station's first 50 years and share ideas on how you might be able to incorporate this wonderful college resource into your teaching, research, and retreats. Bring your questions. Bring your ideas. Let's work together to get Ordway's second half century off to a fantastic start.

March 6 - Chris Willcox (Art and Art History)
"Landscape Painting Rebooted: Troubling a Familiar Genre"
It’s difficult to believe in landscape anymore. The scenic beauty of the past, the same one that the Hudson River School painters made famous, has been supplanted with undeniable facts about global warming, the disappearance of bees, and the continued destruction of various ecosystems. With an eye to these realities, Professor Willcox paints the land anyway. She's drawn to the eerie remains of structures—bridges, train tracks, abandoned houses left to rot deep in the woods. By transforming familiar landscapes with the use of use of spray paint (a conspicuously contemporary medium), she makes a sci-fi-like creation which references the past but also imagines a future world. Willcox will discuss paintings from her latest exhibition, “The Beginning (Again).”

March 20 - Lesely Lavery (Political Science)
"Power, Process, Personnel: Unionization in the Charter Sector"
"Just like Israelis and Palestinians, Crips and Bloods, Yankees and Red Sox, teachers’ unions and the charter movement simply don’t like each other,” (Isquith, 2015). Animosity between teachers’ unions and the charter movement is often assumed by the popular press, policymakers, and the public. But today’s competitors have not always been so anchored in opposition. Lost in the headlines are the roots (charters as a union idea) and offshoots (novel governing arrangements granting unions a seat at the bargaining table in the charter sector) of the relationship between modern adversaries. Lavery combines interview data from teachers at two recently unionized Minnesota charter schools with minutes from school board and parent teacher organization meetings, local newspaper coverage, and the contract ultimately negotiated between one charter school’s teachers and board to explore the factors that incite collective organization and the ways in which the process of unionization alters operations and relations. 

March 27 - Eric Carter (Geography)
"The Health of the People: A History of Latin American Social Medicine"
Carter explains what he was doing during his sabbatical year in Argentina, Chile, and Costa Rica: research for a new book project on the development of social medicine, a public health philosophy and political movement that has influenced health and social policy across Latin America.

April 3 - Peter Bognanni (English) and Duchess Harris (American Studies)
"Seeing Your Work on the Silver Screen"
It's not every day that our colleagues' work finds its way into Hollywood movies. But that is exactly the situation for Macalester Professors Duchess Harris and Peter Bognanni. Harris' book Hidden Human Computers: The Black Women of NASA, tells the story of her grandmother, one of the first African-American women to work for NASA as a human computer. The story of these remarkable female mathematicians was chronicled recently in an Academy Award-nominated film, Hidden Figures. Professor Peter Bognanni's award-winning first novel, The House of Tomorrow has been turned into a Hollywood film (not yet released to the public) and stars Asa Butterfield and Ellen Burstyn. The novel and the film tells the story of futurist, architect, and inventor R. Buckminster Fuller though the experience of two disaffected teenagers hoping to become punk musicians. Join us as Harris and Bognanni discuss their experiences in seeing their scholarly and artistic works turned into popular films.

April 10 - Karl Wirth (Geology)
"Unskilled and Unaware of It. Or Are They?"
In a 1999 study that become a cult classic, Kruger and Dunning argued that those who are most unskilled are also the least able to judge their own competence. Using data from paired, national science literacy and knowledge surveys, Wirth and an interdisciplinary team are the first to document evidence for the growth of self-assessment. As an essential skill for lifelong learning, shouldn’t we devote more explicit attention to self-assessment in our curricula?

April 17 - Megan Vossler (Art and Art History)
"Terra (In)Firma: Art, Land, Water, and Dante's Inferno"
Last year, Megan Vossler completed a body of artwork that was inspired by Mary Jo Bang's translation of Dante's Inferno. Over nearly two years of research and execution, she created a ten-foot-wide, intricate graphite drawing which references the entire Inferno narrative, through depiction of its landscapes, waterways, weather systems, and occasional occupants. Companion pieces in sculpture and drawing further explored the theme of water, especially it's very real duality as both a conduit of passage and a source of danger. Vossler will discuss her creative processes, including working from a literary text, moving beyond illustration, and expanding an idea into multiple media, including cast bronze.

April 24 - Britt Abel (German and Russian Studies) and Ron Joslin (Library)
"An Open Educational Resource (OER) Collaboration: Grenzenlos Deutsch and the creation of an OER toolkit for Macalester faculty"
In the fall of 2016, Britt Abel, German and Russian Studies, began working with a colleague from Central College in Iowa on an online, open-access curriculum for introductory German language and culture courses. Grenzenlos Deutsch will create an inclusive and interactive learning experience that is intended as a no-cost alternative to current traditional textbooks in the field. When completed, this full-year curriculum will mix materials from real-world, contemporary communication scenarios, multimedia content, and online learning activities. At the same time, Ron Joslin, Library, was exploring ways to overcome obstacles that might deter faculty from the creation and adoption of OER. A collaboration was born! Together Ron and Britt successfully obtained funding from the Mansergh-Steussy Fund for College Innovation to support the development of a resource toolkit to help faculty in the creation and adoption of open textbooks and other open educational resources. Ron and other library staff are working with Britt and her colleague, documenting the creation process and helping identify tools and resources to support their work. In this session, Ron and Britt will discuss their collaboration, including support for a project that spans the research/teaching divide and the toolkit that will be able to assist faculty on campus in the future.

May 1 - Bret Jackson (Mathematics, Statistics, and Computer Science)
"The Allegory of the CAVE: Designing a Virtual Reality Display for Immersive Applications in Science and Art"
The future of visual computing will rely on displays that can immerse a user in virtual worlds. What will make these “holodecks” so compelling is not just the visual quality, but the hands-on 3D user interfaces that react as if a user is really present in the virtual environment. In this talk, Bret Jackson will discuss the design and construction of a room-sized computer display called a VR CAVE to support this new type of interaction. Examples from his current work using the CAVE will be demoed to the group.