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Gill Report, Fall 2004

At every monthly faculty meeting during the school year, Dean of Faculty Donal O'Shea presents brief overviews of recent publications and other achievements by the Mount Holyoke faculty. During O'Shea's current sabbatical year, Acting Dean of Faculty Penny Gill will offer her own periodic report. Here are excerpts from her report for fall 2004.


It has been a good year for grants. We are now receiving more funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF) than any other liberal arts college in the country. That is an extraordinary accomplishment, of which we are rightfully proud.

Four chemists—Sean Decatur, professor of chemistry, Darren Hamilton, associate professor of chemistry, Megan Nunez, Clare Boothe Luce Assistant Professor of Chemistry, and Maria Gomez, assistant professor of chemistry—have received $200,000 from the George I. Alden Trust to purchase chromatography and spectroscopy equipment for the organic and general chemistry curricula. This is especially pleasant to report, because it is twice as much as we have received from them in the past, and $50,000 more than our sister schools—Wellesley and Barnard—have received.

Perhaps the most exciting grant has been from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute—$1.2 million over the next four years, to build stronger curricular and research connections among biology, chemistry, and biochemistry here. It seems like a grant that recognizes the underlying intention of the new Kendade building. Sean Decatur, professor of chemistry, and Craig Woodard, associate professor of biological sciences, will deploy the money to assess and revise the core courses in those three areas so that they reflect current developments in those fields. They will expand the summer student research program to encourage more teamwork and peer mentoring. They will integrate advanced instrumentation into introductory courses and revamp laboratory practices to reduce hazardous waste. They will support a new project through SummerMath for Teachers, to prepare elementary and middle-school teachers to use inquiry-based methods in teaching mathematics and science.

Sean Decatur, professor of chemistry, has received $353,600 from the NSF to continue his work “Peptide Aggregation, Conformation, and Dynamics via Isotope-edited Infrared Spectroscopy.”

Center for the Environment staff member Dori Digenti received $35,000 from the Massachusetts Environmental Trust for “Trichloroethylene in Massachusetts Groundwater: Cumulative Health and Environmental Effects.”

Lilian Hsu, Elizabeth Page Greenawalt Professor of Biochemistry and chair of biochemistry, has received $405,000 from NSF for her work “RUI: Abortive Initiation and Promoter Escape by E. coli RNA Polymerase.”

Professor and chair of theatre arts Vanessa James, not content with gods and goddesses, has taken on another monumental genealogical project, this time, for Shakespeare’s works. And the J. M. Kaplan Fund has granted her $3,500 in support of publication.

Thomas Millette, associate professor of geography and director of the Center for the Environment, has just heard he will be the principal investigator for an NSF grant for $225,416 over four years, to continue his GIS work: “Automated Methods for Generating High-resolution GIS Databases from Remotely Sensed Data for Biodiversity Predictions.”

The Mellon Foundation has continued to support our work most generously, with a $442,000 grant to support Susan Perry’s continuing work for the foundation as it develops the National Institute for Technology and Liberal Education, or NITLE. Second, Mellon is supporting a consortial grant to Mount Holyoke and Oberlin to recruit a more diverse student body to the library profession. Director of Collection Development and Project Planner and Librarian Kathleen Norton heads this $19,865 project here. LITS also received $29,505 from the Center for Educational Technology to assist the work of Owen Ellard, director of researach and instructional support, Mary Glackin, instructional technology consultant, and Tamra Hjermstad, instructional technology consultant for the visual arts, supporting the integration of three-dimensional modeling into the curriculum.

The NCAA has awarded Laurie Priest $5,000 for a project titled “Developing Effective Communication for Tomorrow’s Leaders.”

Sami Rollins, assistant professor of computer science, has received another NSF grant for $11,527 for a collaborative project with the Five Colleges to work on information assurance education, that is, security for computer systems.

Patricia Higino Schneider, assistant professor of economics, received $35,338 from the NSF for her collaborative project with the University of California, Santa Cruz and the University of San Francisco on laboratory exploration of networked markets.

The work of Preston Smith, associate professor of politics and associate director of the Weissman Center’s Community-Based Learning Program (CBL), with CBL and the Puerto Rican Studies Faculty Seminar has come together to bear quite a stunning piece of fruit: HUD has awarded a three-year grant to a consortium of Mount Holyoke, Amherst, and Hampshire Colleges, the University of Massachusetts, and Holyoke Community College. The consortium, known as the Community Outreach Partnership Center, will facilitate better exchanges between Holyoke and CBL classes and provide infrastructure for sustaining their partnership in three main areas: economic development, education, and capacity building. Preston will coordinate the economic development project. Right now he is the only MHC faculty member formally involved, but there will be opportunities for other faculty and their students to get involved as the projects unfold. Congratulations on the vision and institutional cooperation that made this project possible, a perfect example of “purposeful engagement in the world.”

The Mount Holyoke College Art Museum has recently received two grants. The Massachusetts Cultural Council awarded the museum $6,000 a year for three years for operating expenses, the highest possible award for a museum associated with a college or university. Reviewers commented, “phenomenal quality work, important scholarship and terrific exhibitions.” We agree, and salute everyone in the College who has helped with these stunning shows. The second noteworthy grant is $3,000 from the Joseph and Robert Cornell Memorial Foundation to support the conservation of an important piece of Cornell’s that we now own. We were the first college art museum to receive a gift of Cornell boxes and collages, and now are also the first to receive aid for conservation.

Books, Articles, and Essays:

History professor Joseph Ellis’s new book His Excellency George Washington came out this fall. Joe also reports he has written a play entitled Saucy: An Evening with Abigail and John.

Frank Brownlow, Gwen and Allen Smith Professor of English, newly returned from his sabbatical, has been thinking and writing about Queen Elizabeth I’s torturer, or as he was was called, “her enforcer.” Two recent and elegantly written essays feature Topcliffe, and Frank promises a third, “even more hair raising,” for Court Studies. Highly recommended.

“Jewish American Literature, Rejuvenated,” is the title lead essay in the September 17, 2004 The Chronicle Review—the centerfold of The Chronicle of Higher Education—by Don Weber, the Lucia, Ruth, and Elizabeth MacGregor Professor of English and chair of English, in which he ponders how the immigrant experience and the immigrant narrative “may well provide the most enabling, creative source for those writers seeking to engage the New World—any New World.”

Durba Ghosh, assistant professor of history, is excavating the archival records of subaltern Indian women and their engagements with the British colonial institutions in India in the nineteenth century. She has published two articles in the last month. The first, titled “Household Crimes and Domestic Order: Keeping the Peace in Colonial Calcutta, c. 1770–c. 1840,” appears in Modern Asian Studies 38, no. 3 (2004). Although one might expect to find a gap between the rule of law and its practice, despite British rhetoric about both, Durba argues that this is not simply a misfiring of justice or a failure of the state, but precisely the opposite. She shows how “colonial courts were able to create an image of fairness while maintaining hierarchies of gender and race within the domestic order of colonial households.” Her second piece is a chapter in The New Imperial History, edited by Kathleen Wilson and published by Cambridge University Press. She muses on the many practices of naming, especially as they show up in archives. She admits that many she would understand better are literally left nameless—women and subalterns of the region in particular—but she is too good an historian to stop there and admit defeat. She demonstrates how to tease out much more information than at first seems available, while she muses about the very naming practices which seem so casual to a twenty-first century reader. This subtle and beautifully argued essay will lead you to ask yourself some questions about names and naming in your own experience.

Lowell Gudmundson, professor of Latin American studies and history, has finished a major paper coming out of the work supported by his NEH grant, “What Difference Did Color Make? Blacks in the ‘White Towns’ of Western Nicaragua in the 1880’s.” This is part of a major conference Mount Holyoke is sponsoring with Tulane University, Between Race and Place: Blacks and Blackness in Central America and the Mainland Caribbean.

Geography professor Girma Kebbede has contributed a new book to a distinguished series published by the School of Oriental and African Studies and King’s College. Living with Urban Environmental Health Risks: The Case of Ethiopia probes the complex interrelationships between poor public health, environmental degradation, and the nonparticipatory politics characteristic of weak and authoritarian states.

Amina Steinfels, assistant professor of religion, has just published an essay titled “His Master’s Voice: The Genre of Malfuzat in South Asian Sufism” in History of Religions.

Mark McMenamin, geology professor and chair of earth and environment, has been very productive. He has coedited a book, Multidisciplinary Studies Exploring Extreme Proterozoic Environmental Conditions, to be published by the American Geophysical Union this fall, to which he has also contributed a chapter. Also to appear this fall is a translation of a key foundational document in the environmental sciences, “The Chemical Constitution of the Atmosphere from Earth’s Origin to the Present, and Its Implications for Protection of Industry and Ensuring Environmental Quality,” by C.-J. Koene (1856). Lauren Ulm ’05 and Mark have a paper in press on a significant field discovery of Ulm’s, “First Report of the Mesozoic Cycadeoid Ptilophyllum from Massachusetts” in Northeastern Geology and Environmental Science 26, no. 3 (2004).

Tom Wartenberg, professor and chair of philosophy, and three Mount Holyoke students have contributed their reflections on teaching philosophy at an elementary school in Northampton to Questions: Philosophy for Young People, no. 4 (summer 2004). One might wonder who learned the most, the youngsters or our students. It was clearly a profound experience for everyone.

Ying Wang, assistant professor of Asian studies, is also in the midst of a very productive season. She has recently published three essays in literary criticism in English on Chinese literature: “Imitation as Dialogue: The Mongolian Writer Yinzhan naxi (1837-1892) and His Imitations of The Dream of the Red Chamber” in Tamkang Review 34, no. 2 (winter 2003); “ ‘Homing Crane Lodge’ versus The Story of a Palindrome: Different Ways of Redefining Qing and Employing Inversion” in New Zealand Journal of Asian Studies 6, no. 1 (June 2004); and “The Voices of the Re-readers: Interpretations of Three Late-Qing Rewrites of Jinhua yuan,” in Snakes’ Legs: Sequels, Continuations, Rewritings, and Chinese Fiction, Martin Huang, ed., University of Hawaii Press, 2004. And with her coeditor, Carrie E. Reed, Ying has also published a text, Advanced Reader of Contemporary Chinese Short Stories, with the University of Washington Press.

The Library of Congress publishes a stunning engagement calendar each year. I have just received the 2005 edition, titled Women Who Dare, and to my delight, there are two Mount Holyoke women featured with full photographs: Ella Grasso ’40 (M.A. ’42) and Governor of Connecticut 1975–1980, and our splendidly photogenic Vanessa James, professor and chair of theatre arts.


Politics professor Doug Amy wrote an important book ten years ago titled Real Choices, New Voices about the electoral process and proportional representation in the U.S. He heard this summer that the American Political Science Association has given him the George H. Hallett Award for the book, which “has made a lasting contribution to the literature on representation and electoral systems.”

Lowell Gudmundson, professor of Latin American studies and history, has been awarded Honorable Mention for the Robertson Prize, recognizing the best article of the year to appear in the Hispanic American Historical Review. His article is titled “Firewater, Desire, and the Militia Men’s Christmas Eve in San Geronimo (Baja Verapaz), Guatemala, 1892.” This is his second win; the first was in 1989.

Richard Moran, professor of sociology, has been awarded the Hugo A. Bedau Award for “significant contribution to the field of death penalty scholarship.” Massachusetts Citizens Against the Death Penalty, the oldest active anti-death penalty organization in the U.S., recognized Moran’s book, Executioner’s Current: Thomas Edison, George Westinghouse, and the Invention of the Electric Chair.

Performances, Exhibitions, and Presentations:

Wei Chen, associate professor of chemistry, and Megan Nunez, Clare Boothe Luce Assistant Professor of Chemistry, and at least four chemistry students presented posters at the American Chemical Society meeting. They also made a presentation about peer-led tutoring at Mount Holyoke. This summer's research students gave papers and presentations at the end of their eight weeks of directed research at the Science Symposium.

Bonnie Miller, art professor and chair of studio art, had a show up this fall at the Watkins Gallery, in Lenox, Massachusetts. She filled this intimate gallery with Degas-like portraits of horses that are studies of light, gravity, and motion.

The newest studio artist on campus, Assistant Professor of Art Rie Hachiyanagi, has a one-woman show at the Brigham Young University Museum of Art in Provo, Utah. They expect between 50,000 and 150,000 visitors will see her work, both the installation and the performance piece embedded in it. Welcome, Rie!

Tom Wartenberg, professor and chair of philosophy, traveled to Mansfield College, Oxford, this past summer to give a talk and show his video titled Teaching Children Philosophy. His presentation generated such an enthusiastic discussion that Tom has now been invited to a similar conference in Moscow at the end of January 2005.

We had the great pleasure of watching a performance extravaganza before Thanksgiving. Holger Teschke, visiting professor of theatre arts, Jim Coleman, professor of dance, Vanessa James, professor and chair of theatre arts, and Joseph Smith, associate professor of art, staged the premier of a new play by Emily Dickinson Senior Lecturer in the Humanities Mary Jo Salter, Falling Bodies. Lester Senechal, professor emeritus of mathematics, sneaked in under a stage name to give us a most sympathetic Galileo, who did his own figurative dance around a young Milton. Moons, Adam and Eve, telescopes, great poems, and doubles of all manner of images and characters moved through the fascinating evening. Hats off to all of you for the sheer creative richness.

Miscellaneous Achievements and Observations:

Associate Professor of Astronomy and Geology and Chair of Astronomy Darby Dyar’s NSF grant proposal entitled “Improvements in the Application of the Mossbauer Effect to Studies of Minerals” has been recommended for full funding.

Our admiration and gratitude to Cathy Melhorn, Hammond-Douglass Professor of Music and Choral Director, for once again organizing Second*Saturday, the fifth successful year of a project imagined, organized, planned, implemented, and generally shepherded virtually single-handedly by Cathy. This year, despite the tail end of the hurricane, more than 30 projects were done, by 425 students.

Holly Liu, visiting assistant professor of German studies, successfully defended her dissertation in November. Its title, translated from German, is Remembrance as Narrative Strategy: Monika Maron, Helga Schütz, and Brigitte Burmeister Coming to Terms with the Past after Reunification.

The Faculty Grants Committee is pleased to announce they were able to award 16 faculty fellowships. A list of the winners and their project titles will be found at the close of my report.

And last, a note from Lynn Morgan, professor of anthropology and chair of anthropology and sociology, to “fac-meeting" titled “A Propos Herding Cats”:

"The following passage brought to mind [Professor of English on the Emma B. Kennedy Foundation] Bill Quillian's comment in the October faculty meeting that chairing a department is akin to herding cats:

"Anthropologist Gillian Feeley-Harnik writes, in a 1999 article in Comparative Studies in Society and History, that 'human beings project onto animals their concepts of their own social relations.' She continues, 'human beings are most apt to use animal imagery in dealing with moral dilemmas that are sensitive, difficult, or completely insoluble.'”

Fellowships Awarded 2004–2005:

Battaglia, Debbora - Sociology & Anthropology - "Minority Religions and Post-Millennial Personhood: Emergent Genetic Imaginaries from the Raelian Movement"

Bubier, Jill - Earth & Environment - "Strategies for Understanding the Effects of Global Climate and Environmental Change on Northern Peatlands"

Chen, Calvin - Politics Economic - "Reform, Local Networks, and the
Politics of Production in Contemporary China"

Czitrom, Daniel - History - "Mysteries of the City: Politics, Culture, and New York's Underworld in Turn-of-the-Century America"

Durfee, Alan - Mathematics & Statistics - "Polynomial Knots"

Fine, Lawrence - Religion - "Spiritual Friendship in Jewish Mystical Tradition"

Harold, James - Philosophy - "Exploring the Moral Boundaries of Fiction"

Hornstein, Gail - Psychology & Education - "Hearing Voices: Conversations with 'the Mad'”

James, Vanessa - Theatre Arts - "The Genealogies of Shakespeare's Plays"

Lee, Anthony - Art - "When the Cobbling Began: Photography and Visual Culture in a Nineteenth-Century New England Factory Town"

Penn, Michael - Religion - "Imaging Islam: Syriac Christian Responses to the Islamic Conquest"

Peterson, Indira - Asian Studies - "Writing a monograph entitled: Theatre, the Court, and the Public in Eighteenth-Century India"

Staiti, Paul - Art - "American Minds and American Hands: Art and
National Identity in the Age of Jefferson"

Stephens, Michelle - English - "The Woman of Color: Mapping Intersections, Reframing Diasporas"

Sutton, Sean - Physics - "Neutrinoless Double Beta Decay with the NEMO Collaboration"

Young, Elizabeth - English - "American Frankenstein: Race, Sex, and the Politics of Monstrosity"

Read previous issues of:

The December 2004 Gill Report

The May 2004 O'Shea Report

The April 2004 O'Shea Report

The March 2004 O'Shea Report

The February 2004 O'Shea Report

The December 2003 O'Shea Report

The October 2003 O'Shea Report

The September 2003 O'Shea Report

The May 2003 O'Shea Report

The April 2003 O'Shea Report

The February 2003 O'Shea Report

The December 2002 O'Shea Report

The November 2002 O'Shea Report

The October 2002 O'Shea Report

The September 2002 O'Shea Report

The May 2002 O'Shea Report

The April 2002 O'Shea Report

The March 2002 O'Shea Report

The February 2002 O'Shea Report

The December 2001 O'Shea Report

The November 2001 O'Shea Report


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