O'Shea Report: May 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. Here are excerpts from
his report for May 2004.
Norma Wait Harris and Emma Gale Harris Foundation Professor of
Biological Sciences, received the American Birders Association
Robert Ridgeway Award at a convention in McAllen, Texas (the Lower
Rio Grande Valley), on Friday, April 30. The award is for excellence
in the publications pertaining to field ornithology, and was given
for her books, especially her widely cited masterpiece The
Black-Capped Chickadee: Behavioral Ecology and Natural History,
published in 1991.
visiting assistant professor of film studies, received a $6,000
AAUW (American Association of University Women) Summer Research
grant to finish her anthology about womens experimental
cinema. This is a highly nontrivial achievement. The fellowships
program is the oldest of the AAUW programs and is highly competitive:
only six summer fellowships are available, and there were 106
applications this year. In addition, film is a new academic discipline,
and I dont have to tell you that this did not increase Robins
odds of being funded (quite the contrary, in fact).
McKeever, assistant professor of sociology, and his colleague
at the University of Utah, Nicholas Wolfinger, have just received
a one-year award of $61,629 from the William T. Grant Foundation
to fund their proposal Trends in the Incomes of Never-Married
Mothers. It is well known that single-parent families have
disproportionately low incomes, but there are recently published
figures showing that never-married mothers seem to be faring better
than in previous years. No one knows why, and Matt and his colleague
propose to test a number of hypotheses. Are never-married mothers
getting better educated? Having children later? Living with partners
out of wedlock? They are going to use a huge dataset compiled
jointly by the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Bureau of the
Census (the March Demographic Supplement of the Current Population)
consisting of an annually repeated cross-section of 50,000 households.
They will pull out the records for never-married mothers (about
1,500 per year) for 21 years beginning with 1980, getting a dataset
with 350,000 items. With this data they will study income as a
function of education, occupational status, life cycle factors,
and the like. What is really neat, however, is that they will
use some very recently developed econometric techniques to do
more than just predict income levels. They hope to be able to
gain insight into how labor force qualifications affect womenﾕs
locations within the income distribution. (Standard techniques
can show, for example, that increasing education raises average
income levels, but they couldnﾕt determine whether what
happened was that all never-married mothers benefited
only that the most educated pulled far ahead of the others.) This
sort of work is absolutely critical in understanding inequality
and poverty in contemporary America.
associate professor and chair of chemistry, just received word
that the chemistry and biology divisions of the National Science
Foundation have gotten together to fund his proposal Peptide
Aggregation, Conformation, and Dynamics via Isotope-edited Iinfrared
Spectroscopy. The program offices are recommending that he
receive $353,600 over the next three years. This will allow Sean
and his students to extend their work trying to understand the
formation of peptide sheets. It is an extraordinary endorsement
of the record of Decatur lab.
have appeared by Sam Mitchell, associate professor of philosophy,
Jessica Sidman, Clare Booth Luce Assistant Professor of Mathematics,
Peter Viereck, professor emeritus of history, Robert
Shaw, professor of English, Lynn Morgan, professor
of anthropology, Michael Penn, assistant professor of religion,
and others. More later. Stephen Jones, professor of Russian
studies and chair of Russian and Eurasian studies, is heading
up a program on religious tolerance funded by the State Department
($145,967). The program is cohosted by the Institute for Training
and Development in south Amherst and the Sulkhan Saba Pedagogical
University in Tbilisi. It will bring 12 Georgians to the United
States for a month to participate in workshops and site visits
to human rights and religious organizations, schools, town and
state administrations, etc. and create curriculum units to be
used in Georgia. A number of Peter Vierecks books are being
republished. More on these later.
Finally, I reproduce
below an entertaining, exhortatory short article by Lynn Morgan,
professor of anthropology, and her husband, Jim Trostle
of Trinity College, that appeared in the Anthropology Newsletter
(45 2004). It is their first joint work.
Defense of the Sound Byte
M. Morgan (Mount Holyoke College) and James A. Trostle (Trinity
discussions about public anthropology and engagement coincide
this year with the U.S. election season. We all know that anthropological
insights canﾐand shouldﾐhave a greater influence
on public debate. Why donﾕt they? Perhaps because we are
humble souls, hyper-aware that our perspectives are contingent
and relative. Or maybe we just donﾕt know how.
your own expertise. Surely some of it is relevant to what appears
(or should appear) in the headlines. Do you know something about
cannibalism that could reframe the USDAﾕs approach to mad
cow disease? Something about kinship that could illuminate the
gay marriage debate? Something about substance abuse that could
shed light on pharmaceutical marketing? Something about egalitarianism
that could put the federal deficit into perspective? Our stories
from the field provide the kind of compelling insights that can
shake people out of complacency. At the very least, they will
help people see the world differently.
the time? Youﾕre busy polishing your prose, planning the
next lecture, attending committee meetings, writing grant proposals.
Yet it takes little time to compose an op-ed piece or radio commentary,
even less to dash off a pithy letter to the editor. The payoff
is grandﾐthese venues can reach a much larger and more
influential audience than we meet in the classroom or address
in highbrow journals. Besides, if we donﾕt speak out, we
cede the floor to them.
and relevant: Some folks like to keep a piece ﾒin reserve,ﾓ
ready for the moment their topic hits the headlines. If instead
you are reacting to this morningﾕs news story, submit your
piece promptly by email or fax.
well: Lead with your strongest point. Show your command of
the topic. Avoid jargon. Use short sentences. You may opt to sound
professorial, or you might entertain, provoke, satirize, or incite.
End well, so they remember.
your audience: Pick the appropriate venue for your message
and adjust your style, tone, and vocabulary to fit. You will face
a lot of competition if you aim for the top tier, but start there
anyway. If NPR or the New York Times doesnﾕt want
it, try a regional or local outlet.
the rules: Follow word limits and other submission guidelines.
Op-ed pieces tend to be 600ﾑ800 words, letter lengths vary.
Make every word count.
contacts: If you have access to a communications office, ask
them to help place your piece. Tell editors how to reach you immediately;
they work under tight deadlines.
If your piece gets rejected, send it somewhere else. Once
it is accepted, expect editors to cut and rearrange your prose.
--The April 2004 O'Shea
--The March 2004 O'Shea Report more>
--The February 2004 O'Shea Report more>
--The December 2003 O'Shea Report more>
--The October 2003 O'Shea Report more>
--The September 2003 O'Shea Report more>
--The May 2003 O'Shea Report more>
--The April 2003 O'Shea Report more>
--The February 2003 O'Shea Report more>
--The December 2002 O'Shea Report more>
--The November 2002 O'Shea Report more>
--The October 2002 O'Shea Report more>
--The September 2002 O'Shea Report more>
--The May 2002 O'Shea Report more>
--The April 2002 O'Shea Report more>
--The March 2002 O'Shea Report more>
--The February 2002 O'Shea Report more>
--The December 2001 O'Shea Report more>
--The November 2001 O'Shea Report more>