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 28 – Martin Gunderson (Philosophy)
“Untangling the Human Right to Health”
Article 12 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights provides for a human right to “the highest attainable standard of mental and physical health.” Stated abstractly the right to health is appealing, but a number of philosophers argue that a human right to health is not coherent, and many of those who find it coherent argue that it is not financially feasible. Even if it is both coherent and feasible, some have argued that it is not justified because it would lead to unreasonable limitations on state sovereignty. My research is an attempt to find answers to at least some of the problems that vex the human right to health.

February 4 – Ron Brisbois (Chemistry)
“35Breaking 5Bonds: Mac Students Making Molecules”
Our lab’s work focuses on developing new synthesis protocols, constructing molecular cages, and making molecules that exhibit novel interactions with light.  Examples of chemical synthesis from student-faculty collaborative research will be presented.

February 11 – Bill Moseley (Geography)
“Public Scholarship 101”
Now more than ever, public debates need the input and perspectives of engaged scholars. Opinion pieces are long standing features of well-established news outlets, as well as emerging digital media platforms. Characterized by a clear perspective and a well-supported argument, the opinion piece is a critical medium for the public intellectual. However, like any other piece of writing, the practice of crafting an effective op-ed is a skill that must be learned and honed over time. This presentation lays out the key elements of a good op-ed and discusses strategies for getting such pieces published. The talk will also provide real examples of op-eds, from the first draft, through revisions, back and forth with editors, to actual publication.

February 18 – Joan Ostrove (Psychology) and Ruth Janisch (Assistant Dean Educational Partnerships)
“Imposter Syndrome”
Ostrove and Janisch will consider how the imposter syndrome may be experienced in high-achieving environments and how it presents at Macalester. Through interactive small group discussion, this session will serve as a prelude in preparation for Dr. Valerie Young’s visit to campus on 2/25.

February 25 – Victoria Malawey (Music)
“‘Women Who Kill,’ or Speaking the Unspeakable”
How do you express the ineffable, the uncontainable, the unspeakable? As a musician, I try to transform the darkness surrounding us into musical energy through composing and music making. This talk presents some of the new work I wrote and recorded over my recent sabbatical leave, including excerpts from my song cycle titled “Women Who Kill,” and other recent commissions. Composed for soprano, violin, and double bass, “Women Who Kill” is a feminist response to the murder ballad tradition and inspired in part by Lizzie Seal’s Women, Murder, and Femininity, which presents a typology of five archetypes of female murderers in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

March 4 – Tina Kruse (Educational Studies)
“More than a job: Youth social entrepreneurship and social justice”
Youth social entrepreneurship melds together practices of positive youth development, community social change, innovation, and employment education. In her new book, Making Change: Youth social entrepreneurship as an approach to positive youth and community development, Kruse explores this model within the US context, drawing on numerous case examples within the Twin Cities and beyond. This session will also share findings from Kruse’s project with the United Nations that connects youth social entrepreneurship to global goals for inclusive, sustainable development.

March 11 – Jehra Patrick (Curator and Gallery Director for Macalester’s Law Warschaw Gallery)
“Curating Demystified”
In an era of when “curating” can mean anything from making a playlist to organizing a wine menu, the labor of curatorial work, in relation to the arts, is often misunderstood. So, what does a curator do, exactly? In this fast-paced talk, Patrick will share a brief history of the curator and how this role has expanded, dispelling common myths while sharing her philosophy for producing exhibitions, working with artists and publics, and collecting artwork, on campus and beyond.

March 25 – Ruthann Kurth-Schai (Educational Studies)
“Re-envisioning Civic Learning and Life in Dark Times”
In times of division, dishonesty, fear and distrust, democracy is deeply challenged. How did we come to this point? Retreat from quality civic education in the U.S. and democracies abroad is named as a contributing factor. In Thailand social studies education was recently eliminated from Colleges of Education as part of a misguided attempt to shape public education in response to a constellation of social, political, economic and environmental crises—crises very similar to those we now face. In this presentation I will describe efforts to engage with Thai faculty, teachers and students in re-envisioning theory and practice of civic education aimed at developing critical skills including empathy, insight, social inquiry, social advocacy and inspiration. We will then discuss the status of civic education in the U.S. and the role of liberal arts faculty and students in advancing civic education reform.

April 1 – Joseph Benson (Mathematics, Statistics, and Computer Science)
“Measurement of Earth: The continued importance and relevance of geometry”
All high school students in the United States take geometry, but for most of them, this is the last time they will ever seriously think about the subject. Using this as a starting point, I will demonstrate the developments of geometry through the centuries, and I will provide examples of its continued relevance in modern mathematics and science.

April 8 – Cari Gillen-O’Neel (Psychology)
“White Kids: How to Talk about Race with Kids Who Are Growing Up with Privilege”
For children to thrive in our increasingly diverse society, they must be prepared to engage with issues of race and racism. One of the best places for children to learn about race is from their parents, yet White parents in particular, tend to avoid the topic of race. These parents often report egalitarian racial attitudes and want their children to be racially egalitarian as well. Indeed, one reason why many White parents avoid racial discussions is because they believe that their children are “colorblind” and that discussing race will actually cause their children to become racially biased. In general, however, White children do not report colorblind or racially egalitarian attitudes. In fact, by the time that they are six, most White children demonstrate pro-White bias. Furthermore, even when parents hold egalitarian racial attitudes, when these parents avoid discussing race with their children, the children tend to demonstrate pro-White bias. In this talk, I’ll share some developmental research about how racial bias develops and some preliminary results from a recent study of White families’ racial conversations.

April 15 – Claudia Giannini (Spanish & Portuguese)
“Why Google Translate Doesn’t Translate? The never-ending search for universal machine translation”
As new technologies change the way many people think about inter-cultural communication, machine translation (MT) has come to be perceived as the next paradigm. Through a survey of the features that make language at once the most basic human institution and the most complex one, I attempt to show that translation is an inherently human and extremely multifaceted endeavor that goes well beyond the capacities of computers, which, by their very nature, are limited to the manipulation of linguistic symbols –with no access to meaning and intentionality. The success of MT is limited to controlled languages (those with a restricted vocabulary and syntax) and formulaic types of discourse and should not be taken as evidence of the potential that MT may have as a tool for effective inter-cultural communication in the future.

April 22 – No CASL

April 29 – Donna Maeda, Dianna Shandy (Kofi Annan Institute for Global Citizenship) and FDIS participants
“2019 Macalester Faculty Development International Seminar in South Africa. 25 Years after Apartheid: Producing, Masking, and Resisting Inequalities”
In January 2019, a group of 14 faculty and staff traveled to South Africa for the Faculty Development International Seminar (FDIS). Funded by the Mellon Renewed Purpose Grant, the group engaged with how South Africa’s particular historical contexts shape its contemporary realities. The group learned about the remaking-of social institutions and relationships, while also considering resonances with the U.S. and re-imagining our own work. FDIS participants will talk about what they learned on the trip to Cape Town, Durban, and Johannesburg. They will talk about individual projects and engage in a discussion about traveling with colleagues for a deep learning experience.

May 6 – Erika Busse-Cárdenas (Sociology)
“Politics of Abortion in Nicaragua, Peru, and Uruguay: 1995-2015”
This is a comparative and collaborative study of abortion politics in Nicaragua, Peru, and Uruguay. Despite important historical commonalities (e.g. the role of the Catholic church, the presence of an active women’s movement), the countries have recently taken very different steps regarding abortion regulation. Abortion is completely illegal in Nicaragua, whereas in Peru, the practice is legal when the life of the mother is at risk. Meanwhile, in 2012 Uruguay passed one of the most liberal abortion policies in Latin America, making abortion legal during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.

Past research has found that internationally, the depenalization of abortion can be traced to an increased number of women in parliament, a higher number of physicians per capita, and the separation of church and state. However, in our research in Nicaragua, Peru, and Uruguay, these factors did not hold true, at least not by themselves. Through an analysis of each country’s dynamics and history, we also found three other factors which may help us better understand the differences in the legality of abortion: the socioeconomic standing of the country, the political structure, and the presence (or lack thereof) of the Left-oriented party in office.