Thursday Forum Presentations

Thursday, January 25
Sunil Chetty
Gorecki GDCC Pres. Dining Room at CSB
Arithmetic as `pure' and `applied'

One often hears mathematics classified into two categories: pure or applied, abstract or concrete, elementary or modern. We will explore how arithmetic can dismantle such highly artificial distinctions. More specifically, we will play with tiles and draw pictures to highlight how arithmetic can be good mental exercise and a very useful tool for modern communication.

Thursday, February 8
Emily Kuffner
Gorecki GDCC Pres. Dining Room at CSB
Women's Lives in Sixteenth-Century Spain: Narratives of Pregnancy and Childbirth

Many women are now turning to midwives or home births as a more natural option for childbirth than hospital deliveries. But what was women's experience of pregnancy, childbirth and new motherhood before the age of modern medicine? This presentation will present preliminary findings from archival research in Madrid's National Library, examining household recipe manuals and midwifery manuals from sixteenth-century Spain in an attempt to reconstruct women's experience of maternity, relying as much as possible on their own narratives. This presentation seeks to uncover the daily life of women in the Renaissance while also placing their experience in dialogue with current debates over what it means to have a 'natural' birth and women's autonomy over the birth process.

Thursday, February 15
Christi Siver and Claire Haeg
Little Theatre (Q346) at SJU
The Drunkard's Search: Student Evaluation in Assessing Teaching Effectiveness

As social scientists, we understand the problem of the Drunkard's Search -- the lure and perils of using easy-to-obtain but irrelevant data -- yet we are employed by institutions that are clearly searching under the lamppost for data to use in employment decisions. Researchers from various disciplines have studied and lamented the biases inherent in student course evaluations. Studies have found that these evaluations show systematic bias against women and people of color. They also may mask poor teaching practices as they are better measures of popularity than teaching effectiveness. Each year another study is released, leading to momentary hand wringing about the weakness of course evaluations as a means of assessing faculty and warning against their use in tenure and promotion decisions. Rather than adopting alternative means of evaluating faculty teaching and thinking creatively about student feedback, administrators and faculty leaders default to these surveys, claiming there is no other way to collect data on teaching. These course surveys continue to be used despite the mounting evidence that they provide not only no evidence of teaching effectiveness, but bad evidence that does damage to faculty both directly and indirectly. In an effort to raise the profile of these discussions and push for tangible change, we offer a comprehensive literature review of the existing research on student course evaluations and their biases.

Thursday, February 22
Tony Yan
(with Michael Hyman, Marketing Department,New Mexico State University)

TRC Board Room - Main Building at CSB
Interpretative Defense and the Building of an Ethical Chinese Pawnbroking Image (before 1949)

This study examines the way that Chinese pawnbrokers strategically applied certain solutions to change the negative image of Chinese pawnbroking, translating to an increased business legitimacy of this business. Based on the analysis of historical data and documents, this study explores economic, social, and moral rationales behind these image-making strategies and highlights how an ethical image could enable a socially criticized, if not denied, industry to survive and develop in a hostile environment.

Thursday, March 1
Kate Graham, Annette Raigoza, and Catherine Bohn-Gettler
TRC Board Room - Main Building at CSB
The Effects of Tutoring on Self-Efficacy and Identity as a Scientist

The CSB/SJU Department of Chemistry has developed an extensive tutoring program for all foundational courses in the curriculum. Student access to tutoring is well known to contribute to academic and attitudinal gains, including improved grades and attitudes about self and field of study. Previous studies on the benefits for the tutor emphasize academic gains, but less is understood about the additional changes occurring in the students who tutor, particularly for under-represented students. There is some evidence that working as a tutor enables stronger feelings of self-efficacy and identity in the field. An increase in self-efficacy and identity as a scientist can be particularly important for the retention of under-represented groups in STEM.

In an effort to explore the impacts of tutoring beyond academic gains, the current study seeks to explore the impact of tutoring on achievement, self-efficacy, and identity as a scientist, among tutors and non-tutors in chemistry. We have explored how these changes occur in tutors and compare with a control group of students in an introductory chemistry class who are not involved in tutoring. An extension of the project included revising the tutoring materials and tutor training to include teaching metacognitive skills. Our goal is to ascertain how the change in tutoring impacted achievement, self-efficacy, and identity as a scientist, among tutors and non-tutors in chemistry. The results from these studies will be presented.

Thursday, March 15
Rachel Marston
Quad 264 at SJU
How to Speak to God: A Fictional Exploration of Nuclear Testing in the American West

My novel-in-progress, "How to Speak to God," explores the mythological, religious, and political narratives surrounding nuclear testing in the American West. It weaves the story of Annie Klein, a pregnant woman from a family deeply afflicted by nuclear testing, with that of Erik Daniels, a modern-day prophet. Annie bears the history of nuclear testing in her genes. She struggles with her fears for and ambivalence toward her unborn child, the loss of her Mormon faith, and the impending death of her beloved grandfather, a former physicist at the Nevada Test Site. Erik grapples with the burden of his faith, even as he urges his followers to see the awe-inspiring power of the atomic bomb as a manifestation of God on earth.

The formal structure of the novel expresses the fragmented imagination and complicated ethics of nuclear testing and the narrative of nuclear testing. Interspersed between the primary narratives are sections using the language of Cold War propaganda, eyewitness accounts of nuclear test, and declassified government documents. In some sections, I combine text from loosely transcribed Department of Civil Defense films with the protagonist's account of her family's nuclear experiences. In other sections, I write collective third person accounts set in small Nevada and Utah towns in the 1950s, where Cold War paranoia takes hold and strange creatures lurk in the desert. In form and content, my novel reflects the tension between public and private consciousness and investigates the ways we challenge and maintain perceived boundaries of narrative authority and convention.

Thursday, March 22
Larry Schug

Gorecki GDCC Pres. Dining Room at CSB
New Poems

A reading of new original poetry, with some accompanied by music from his cigar box guitar.

Thursday, April 5
Gorecki GDCC Pres. Dining Room at CSB
The legacy of the Emperor Akihito as the twilight of his reign

The Heisei Emperor (Akihito) has announced his retirement date in just over a year from now, April 30, 2019, the first abdication of a modern emperor, which in turn has triggered a series of debates and renewed discussions about the emperor's role in contemporary Japan. This presentation begins with an introduction to the "emperor system" in Japan during the modern era (from the Meiji Restoration of 1868), and delves into contemporary debates surrounding the nature of the Japanese emperor. Examining the legacy of the Emperor Akihito begs comparison with his father, Emperor Hirohito, whose legacy too is being examined in Japan at the end of his son's reign. Part of my comparison will look at each emperor's place in history in relation to nuclear disaster.

Thursday, April 12
John Hasselberg
Gorecki 204A at CSB
Glocal Gotland: A Case Study in Self-Reliance & Submission in the 21st Century

The island of Gotland, situated in the Baltic Sea, has been cross-roads of trade and culture in the region for thousands of years. Today it is a province in Sweden, however its long-term inhabitants retain a fierce sense of independence and autonomy. It simultaneously pursues energy and economic sustainability goals and is caught up in the global geopolitics of US, NATO, and Russian power plays in the region. While interest grows in its traditional language and culture, it embraces its status as a meeting place for the region and the world. Thus it is a fascinating case study for how impulses toward self-reliance and engagement play out in our ever more globally connected, local-identity-focused world.

Thursday, April 26
Chris Conway
Gorecki GDCC Pres. Dining Room at CSB
Dis/robing for the Divine: Virtue as a Means and an ‘End’ to Union with God

Beginning with Paul's epistles, the Christian tradition has used the language of clothing oneself in virtue as a metaphor for spirituality. Whether donning armor against evil or a gown for a holy wedding, the wearing of virtue symbolizes spiritual growth and maturation. To be fully clothed is to be clothed in Christ. While some theologians see this as the pinnacle of the spiritual life, others like the Mechthild of Magdeburg (1207-1282 CE) view it as a penultimate, and perhaps even problematic, For Mechthild true union with the divine necessitates disrobing - the taking off of virtue - so as nothing remains between the soul and God. Here virtue is helpful until it is not. This talk will trace the development of the metaphor of dis/robing in the Christian tradition and bring it into conversation with the Hindu Vaishnava tradition centered on the Bhagavata Purana. Through a comparative tehological reflection, we will examine how Krisna's encounters with the gopis of Vrindavan - particularly his stealing of their clothes - may help illuminate a Christian reflection on wearing and not wearing virtue. Moreover, and perhaps more importantly, what might a radical reconsideration of virtue mean for moving away from ego-centeredness and towards Other/others-centeredness. This a movement away from proper and decent towards right and just.

Thursday, May 3
Catherine Bohn-Gettler
Gorecki GDCC Pres. Dining Room at CSB
Feeling Hot Under the Collar: The Development of a Framework for Understanding How Emotions Influence Learning

Too often, instructional designers and education experts conceive of students' minds and actions as separate from their contexts and emotions. For example, behavioral theories describe how reinforcements and punishments lead people to behave in particular ways, without considering how students think or affect-infused learning environments. As another example, many cognitive theories describe "cold cognition", in which students' minds encode, process and store information, much like a computer. However, descriptions of how such processing might be equally influenced by emotions and context is limited. Although such research has made important contributions toward documenting strategies, behaviors, and processes associated with successful learning and comprehension, learning in real-world settings is multifaceted and often charged with emotion. For example, learners' emotions can influence their attention and strategy usage, content can be emotionally charged, and instructional contexts induce particular feelings. In short, emotions and learning are intricately connected in a myriad of ways. However, the study of emotion on learning remains a muddle, with conflicting findings regarding how, when, and why emotions can help and hinder learning. This presentation will describe a developing framework for understanding how emotions influence learning by considering interactions between the learner, the content, and the context. Such work will help us to understand how to holistically support students (and ourselves) during isolated and life-long learning endeavors.