2013 Projects in Arts, Humanities, Social Sciences, and Interdisciplinary Studies



Ashley Hodgson – The Impact of California’s Minimum Nursing Law on Mental Health Diagnosis

What difference do nurses make? This project investigates a 2004-2005 change in California’s law which required more nurses per patient in some hospitals. Does hospital data over that time period reveal any subsequent changes in patient treatment due to the productivity of the extra nurses?  We will focus on the effect of extra nurses on mental health diagnosis and treatment. Nurses may have a comparative advantage at uncovering psychological conditions since nurses spend more time with patients and since nurse training focuses more on the whole person rather than targeting a specific complaint. Preliminary work indicates that hospitals most impacted by the law saw a sudden increase in psychological diagnoses, such as depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder. Our work this summer will try to formalize and expand upon this statistical analysis. This project continues work from Summer 2012 with the hopes of preparing a paper to submit to a health services research journal or economics journal.


(see additional Environmental Studies projects on the Natural Sciences and Mathematics page)

Jim Farrell –  Sustaining St. Olaf: Research and Design for Co-Curricular Sustainability Education

During the 2012-13 academic year, St. Olaf introduced a program called SustainAbilities in the residence halls. Sustainability representatives – one in each residence hall – have been using programming created by 2012 CURI researchers Andi Gomoll, Tyler Nielsen, and Lauren Kramer. Next year, Residence Life would like to add a “green dorm,” open by application for students interested in going deeper into sustainability as idea and as practice. This summer 2013 CURI project will be to research and design programming for a “green dorm” through the 2013-14 school year, including research on the environmental impacts of everyday items found in dorm rooms across America (like iPhenomena, TVs, game systems, dorm refrigerators, prescription drugs, and power drinks). We’ll also be looking at ways to communicate persuasively about SustainAbilities both on campus and to other college audiences.

Paul Jackson – Environmental assessments of an impaired brook trout stream

Over the years many of Minnesota’s brook trout have been lost or displaced from their native habitats due to pollution, habitat destruction and competition with non-native species. Several streams in southeastern Minnesota are currently under threat of pollution, nutrients, sedimentation, and E. coli, mostly from surrounding agriculture land use. A local brook trout stream, Rice Creek, is no exception; it is currently listed as impaired for nitrate, turbidity, and E. coli. During the last three years students and local volunteers conducted stream assessment projects on Rice Creek. This summer two students will join in a continuation of that work here as well as examine parallel systems of streams and agricultural/urban land use in Japan. The students will use GPS and GIS to map and evaluate impervious surface in the watershed as well as identify and monitor points of agricultural discharge, nutrient levels and stream structure. Other work will take place on the policy side as we consider future rehabilitation and conservation efforts in and around the watershed. In particular, the team will 1) explore the level of public outreach success the CWP Assessment grant delivered and subsequent recommendations for future volunteer and local governmental unit engagement; 2) recommend conservation and cost-share programs that match well with high priority areas for habitat work; and 3) determine what policy takes precedence in the watershed, especially in the overlap of the agricultural drainage ditch with the DNR designated trout stream. Early in the summer the group will travel to Japan to explore the connectivity of streams, land use (urban ag/rural ag, university campus), and community engagement in watershed protection efforts. The comparison between Japan and the rural Upper Midwest may yield new insights or awareness about each system as well as cultural/social values tied to ecosystem functions.  Students will work closely with local government units, non-profit watershed partnerships, volunteers, Trout Unlimited and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. Having at least one student contribute expertise in any of the following areas is desirable: Japanese language & society/contemporary history, GIS and GPS, ecology or analytical chemistry.


Scott Anderson – Musician Health and Wellness 

In order to keep up to date with current trends in music education at the collegiate level, the St. Olaf music department is seeking to provide faculty and students with a better understanding of health and wellness as it relates to specific challenges for musicians. This project will develop a resource for faculty and students which will present a thorough and comprehensive understanding of the many facets of musician health, ranging from overuse injuries to hearing loss. This resource will provide the education needed to allow both faculty and students to perform music in the healthiest way possible. The student researcher will look into the vast field of health and wellness for musicians, drawing on resources from the Performing Arts Medicine Association as well as numerous recent publications. S/he will also contact local health providers to find out what preventative methods and treatments are currently available to our students and faculty. The faculty mentor will consult about which specialists and resources are most likely to be helpful in the information-gathering phase.. In addition, he will help form an outline for the research and assist in formatting a website that provide an up-to-date resource to the musical community of the college.

Paul Niemisto – Vintage Band Festival: Collaborative Research and Practicum in Arts Management

The Vintage Band Festival is scheduled to take place in Northfield, MN on August 1-4, 2013. The VBF focuses on band music performances of bygone eras and will emphasize the 150th anniversary of the War Between the States, bringing in many Civil War era reenactment groups. The performers will include four international bands, several nationally known bands (including the performers in the recent movie “Lincoln”), and about twenty Minnesota groups representing historical and ethnic traditions. Some thirty bands will present 100 concerts in various outdoors venues over 4 days. This event involves wide collaboration of local community institutions and draws 10,000 listeners to Northfield. As a summer student opportunity, it is an applied research project involving planning, presentation, and evaluation of a major music festival with regional, national, and international orientations. As in 2006 and 2011, the VBF seeks two student researchers to work with music faculty member Paul Niemisto in all of the essential elements of the festival such as comparative research, scheduling, budgeting, audience development, promotion, community collaboration, and an extensive evaluation process.


Mary Trull – Lucretius in Early Modern England

“Atoms and Void: Lucretius and Women Writers in Early Modern England,” a book in progress, explores the impact of De rerum natura on English women writers of the 17th century. I contend that through literary works such as poetry and plays, English women writers creatively respond to an apparently antagonistic worldview, reconciling Lucretian atomism to their own religious and political beliefs. “Atoms and Void” shows that their reactions to the shock of the “new science” included truly innovative artistic responses which did not shy away from overturning traditional worldviews. This project involves close study of Latin texts of Lucretius and early modern English poetry, theology, and translations. The student’s primary role will be to research questions and provide commentary on Lucy Hutchinson’s translations of Latin texts, particularly Lucretius’s De rerum natura and a work by early modern theologian John Owen. We will also look at the Vulgate Bible and other Latin texts that Lucy Hutchinson probably read. Discussions with me will alternate with independent research.


Laurel Carrington – Martin Bucer’s Debate with Erasmus

Prior to Martin Luther’s 1517 challenge to the doctrine and practices of the Roman church, the Christian humanist Erasmus of Rotterdam developed a moderate reform program that voiced many of the same criticisms Luther would express. However, in the aftermath of the Protestant Reformation, Erasmus as a Catholic found himself forced to reconsider his earlier positions. His 1527-1531 dispute with Strasbourg reformer Martin Bucer pitted him against a younger man who had admired Erasmus deeply and still considered him an inspiration. This project incorporates study and analysis of the main documents of this dispute, with the goal of clarifying the relationship between Christian humanist and Protestant approaches to reform. In addition to working directly with the documents that frame the dispute, the student researcher will be expected to develop expertise in the main issues of the period of the 1520’s, particularly the Eucharistic Controversy, as well as a deep familiarity with Erasmus as a reformer and the progress of the reform in Strasbourg under Bucer’s leadership.

Laurel Carrington – A Latin Translation of Martin Bucer’s Epistola Apologetica

Martin Bucer, the chief architect of the Protestant reform in early 16th century Strasbourg, became embroiled in a debate with humanist Desiderius Erasmus, who in 1529 had published an open letter severely criticizing the theology, motives, and morals of the Protestant reformers. In 1531 Bucer responded with a lengthy defense, the Epistola Apologetica. It is one of the most comprehensive expositions of Protestant doctrine and goals from a reformer noted for his irenic temperament and desire for reconciliation. Bucer had been an enthusiastic admirer of Erasmus in earlier years; thus, their debate is a moment of rupture between a moderate Catholic reformer and a leading Protestant. The project involves translation of this important document, a powerful yet difficult neo-Latin text, which even contemporaries considered to be dense. Yet there is great satisfaction in working out his meaning, and in penetrating his highly distinctive syntax and vocabulary, and discussing the best way to render this complex work into English. I have already done a draft translation of a substantial portion of this work, but need someone with recent Latin training and a second pair of eyes to help clear up difficulties and suggest alternative readings. We would begin with several representative samples of Bucer’s work that have already been translated, to get a sense of his use of the language. The student would then move on to examples of passages from the Epistola Apologetica on which I have already worked, with a view to critiquing and polishing the translation. Finally, we would work together on the remainder of the piece, in an effort at constructing a preliminary draft. I am working with a series editor who has a publisher lined up for an English edition of Bucer’s works, of which this would be a part.

Tim Howe – Digital Archaeology

In July and August of 2013, Professor of Art History and Archaeology Michael Hoff from the University of Nebraska, Associate Professor of History Timothy Howe from St. Olaf and 3 St. Olaf research students will collaborate in a joint archaeological research project. The St. Olaf-Nebraska Project will bring together liberal arts and R1 faculty and undergraduates to 1) conduct a high resolution digital survey of the Rough Cilicia region in Turkey to assess possible historic sites of human activity; and 2) create an open source publication for each of these objectives that offers a dynamic digital interface linking high-resolution satellite images, GPS metadata and Reflectance Transformance Imaging (RTI) to document in situ artifacts. The St. Olaf team (1 faculty and 3 students) will work collaboratively 10 hours per day, 7 days per week (including excavation work, artefact identification and conservation, photography, and image processing and editing), for 35 days, July 13-August 20. Because this is an in-country project and will be conducted on-site, 7 days a week, we will be working longer hours per day for a shorter number of weeks than the usual summer project. The team will use emerging digital technology to document both all artefacts uncovered as well as the process of archaeology itself. The team will also be the first to implement RTI in a field environment.


Abdulai Iddrisu – Muslim Women and Herbal Medicine in West Africa

This research project employs archival and life history source material in the interrogation of the complex negotiations and contradictory structures that shaped women’s lives in Muslim societies of West Africa and examines the differing ways they define themselves as Muslim mothers and healers. It focuses on the social experience and voice consciousness of two Muslim women: Madam Taimako, a herbal doctor, adjunct university lecturer, a single mother of five, with no secular education; and Adisah Munkaila, a single mother of two, one of the first females to benefit from secular education in Ghana, a politician, and an opinion leader. To better appreciate what it means to carry the triple epithet of “healer,” “woman,” and “Muslim,” in multiple spaces, the study juxtaposes their experiences with those of a man – a Christian philanthropic medical doctor, often called the “mad doctor” for his closeness to and propensity to feed and cloth the mentally challenged and the destitute in a predominantly Muslim society. Students working on this project will 1) search the available database for literature on women and medicine in Africa; 2) read my life history transcripts to determine sub-themes in the research; 3) align the relevant themes with the archival material from Ghana and London. Students will also select a theme of their choosing from the research to plan a poster.


Todd Edwards – Digital Media Servers, Media Creation, and Playback for Live Performance

This project will explore the different options for media server technology. What type of equipment (hardware) is needed,  and what software options are available for the creation, manipulation and playback of digital media in live performance? We will work to compile lists of hardware and software that are industry standards for live performance, obtain evaluation versions of a selected group, then spend time becoming proficient in the different applications. We will compile a sample presentation using video, audio, and other media resources in a way that would support a live performance or presentation in our campus venues.


Rika Ito – Diachronic change of “hopefully” in the Collection of Contemporary American English (COCA) and Project Gutenberg

This study aims to analyze the diachronic change of “hopefully” as a modal adverb (e.g., “Hopefully, he will come to visit us”) as opposed to a manner adverb (“He spoke hopefully”) by using large digital collections such as Project Gutenberg, the oldest digital library with more than 40,000 books, and The Corpus of Contemporary American English (COCA), 450 million words that represent five different registers of American English (spoken, fiction, magazine, newspapers, and academic writing) from 1990-2012, housed by Brigham Young University. The project will focus on the following questions: 1) Are there any modal “hopefully” tokens in the pre-18th century text?  2) How did the use of “hopefully” change between the first attestation in the early 18th century and the 20th century?  3) What is the distributional difference between the modal and the manner usage during the period? During the summer, the student researcher will complete a thorough literature review to familiarize themselves with the topic; develop coding schemes for the factors that might contribute to “hopefully” as a modal adverb; conduct data mining in both collections (possibly collaborating with a student working on HiPerCiC with Prof. Brown); analyze the results and write a report; and prepare an abstract for a professional conference such as the annual meeting of the American Dialect Society. We will meet daily at first to clarify goals and methodology, and then a few hours a week as the research continues.


Dana Gross – Community-Based Research to Support and Engage Families with Young Children

This community-based project will support early childhood programs in Northfield by contributing to efforts to reach out to and engage families who are not currently accessing programs and resources. Through these contributions, the project will also support the Healthy Community Initiative – the Northfield Promise: Cradle to Career – a new grant-funded and data-driven collective effort to promote healthy development by identifying key community-level benchmarks to help assess the health, well-being, and success of children and youth. After initial orientation to the project and introductions to key community partners, students will meet with me 2-3 times per week to implement the plan developed in consultation with the community partners, evaluate preliminary findings, and share results with key stakeholders. Principal activities will require the ability to work independently and to interact professionally with community partners. Student roles are expected to include conducting literature reviews; evaluating and summarizing academic publications and reports for non-specialist audiences; identifying and helping to adapt developmental milestone benchmark assessments; developing and administering surveys of early childhood educators, families with young children, and other community members; analyzing and presenting data; and carrying out observations in Northfield early childhood programs. Ideal preparation for this project includes: majoring in psychology (or a closely allied discipline), completion of relevant coursework (statistics, research methods, developmental psychology, family studies, and perhaps courses in social work, social policy, or sociology/anthropology), and a strong interest in pursuing postgraduate studies and/or work involving families with young children. Previous experience with academic civic engagement and community-based activities or volunteering would also be helpful.