2011-12 Sabbatical Abstracts

Carolyn Anderson, Department of Sociology/Anthropology
I plan to complete research and writing for a book comprised of five chapters on Eastern Dakota ethnohistory. The topics of the chapters are: (1) the social and cultural organization of the Dakota people in the late 17th century through the 18th century; (2) the social, political, and cultural effects of the American regime on the Dakota people, 1803-1862; (3) Dakota space-time; (4) Dakota religious beliefs and practices; and (5) the Dakota wakan wacipi, or Sacred Dance. This project may include trips for research in several relevant archival collections.

Chris Aspaas, Department of Music – Interim & Semester II
The orchestra represents an area of conducting in which many in the field of choral music struggle, and fail, to attain a respectable level of competency. During this sabbatical, I want to explore the realm of choral/orchestral literature, orchestral conducting technique, score analysis, and orchestral arranging through the exploration of conducting texts, current conducting research, and residencies with Dr. Jeffery Meyer of Ithaca Conservatory of Music and Dr. Geoffrey Boers of the University of Washington School of Music. Ultimately, I intend to focus my sabbatical studies on the preparation and performance of Benjamin Britten’s War Requiem in the spring of 2013 (the hundredth anniversary of his birth) with the St. Olaf Chapel Choir, Magnum Chorum and the St. Olaf Orchestra.

Christopher Atzinger, Department of Music – Interim & Semester II
I plan to study piano works of Johannes Brahms and Carl Vine. While Brahms needs no introduction, Carl Vine is a prominent Australian composer who continues to earn accolades from performers, conductors, and journalists around the world. The British music critic, Michael White, states that “Vine is a major talent just waiting to be discovered here in the Old World. ‘Radically tonal’ (his phrase), the music is accessible but vital, richly colored with a true, distinctive gift for melody, and somehow fresher than most current European writing.” During this sabbatical, I intend to do a careful study of the Brahms Piano Concerto in D Minor, Op. 15 and the Piano Concerto (1997) of Carl Vine, with the goal of preparing these works for performance with orchestra.

Jolene Barjasteh, Department of Romance Languages, French – Semester I & Interim
Abstract: I propose to do further research on the literature(s) of terrorism in general and Algerian writer Yasmina Khadra’s terrorism trilogy in particular as background for a comprehensive article on Khadra’s Les Sirènes de Bagdad (Sirens of Baghdad) that I will submit for publication. In the article, I depict Khadra as one who embraces a Camusian-like humanism without illusion at the end of the novel. In the final analysis, though, I believe Khadra takes a position that reaches beyond the morality of understanding we see in Camus’s existentialist humanism or perhaps one that even reaches back to Enlightenment views of an overarching moral community that supersedes any community bounded by geographical or socio-politico-cultural constraints.

Linda Berger, Department of Music – Semester I & Interim
My sabbatical leave will allow me to continue my work toward becoming a trainer for Cognitive Coaching, with St. Olaf College as my agency. As an “agency trainer” my services will be available to the Education Department, where we have incorporated the use of Cognitive Coaching with our students, but also across the campus as needs and interests arise. My goal: becoming skilled in facilitating planning, reflecting and problem-resolving conversations, and in teaching others to do so as well . I will co-train Cognitive Coaching Foundation Seminars with Loretta Norgon, attend a January Symposium where Trainers share best practices and ideas, and attend an Advanced Training session. The second facet of my sabbatical will allow me to connect with current best practices in music teacher education through attendance at the Greensboro SMTE Symposium, and through working with our Minnesota Music Teacher educator group toward implementation of the new Teacher Performance Appraisal tools.

Brian Borovsky, Department of Physics – Academic Year
During my sabbatical leave year, I will research the physics of friction using experimental apparatus housed in my laboratory on the St. Olaf campus. I will perform experiments on carefully controlled systems that replicate the operating conditions of microscopic mechanical devices. This work is part of an ongoing collaborative effort, funded by the National Science Foundation, involving colleagues at the Luther College department of physics and the Auburn University department of chemical engineering. The motivation for our project comes from the emerging fields of micro- and nano-technology, in which the guiding vision is to construct intricate machines, smaller than the width of a hair, to perform a wide range of useful functions. A much better understanding of friction on small length scales will be needed to fully realize this vision. My activities during this year of research will combine data taking, analysis, manuscript writing and publication, presentation of results to external audiences, and grant seeking.

Maggie Broner, Department of Romance Languages, Spanish – Academic Year
I intend to analyze the promotion and development of language and content in intermediate-level I Spanish classes. Spanish 231 focuses on exploration of the human and material diversity present in the Spanish-speaking world through the analysis of cultural “texts.” One type of “text” is visual images. Looking at oral data collected during the academic year 2009-2010 and the fall of 2011, I am interested in examining: the development of students’ language use as they process visual images; to what extent the use of these images helps students reach deeper understandings of course content; student use of textual evidence to develop critical thinking and increasing complexity in language use; and to what extent students’ oral language proficiency develops throughout the semester as they hone in on their linguistic and analytical skills in Spanish. This research falls under action research (Alwright 2000), and seeks to understand how our own pedagogy (content based instruction) affects student learning.

Richard Brown, Department of Mathematics, Statistics, and Computer Science – Semester I
My proposed sabbatical project will investigate three aspects of Beowulf cluster computing: (1) interdisciplinary applications of cluster computing, including the map-reduce computational model, to large-scale computational problems in diverse fields of study; (2) exploration of the potential of Beowulf clusters for studying computer science challenges in many core computing; and (3) development, of the HiPerCiC initative, bringing the results of high-performance cluster computations into science classrooms and teaching laboratories by producing convenient user interfaces with server support.

Kevin Crisp, Department of Biology – Academic Year
Biogenic amine neurotransmitters play a vital role in coordinating rhythmic movements in animals. In the annelids, for example, dopamine induces crawling in the leech and serotonin sets the pace for the heart beat in the worm. For my sabbatical, I will complete my third year of NSF-funded research on the biophysical mechanisms by which dopamine activates crawling circuits in leeches, and apply for continued funding on this project. I will also collect preliminary data to submit another NSF grant to investigate the regeneration of serotonin fibers and recovery of normal heart rate after injury in the worm. By these activities I hope to advance my research program, obtain extramural funding to expand my research program, and develop research projects that undergraduates of diverse backgrounds can engage in. Finally, I will use my sabbatical to write up and submit for publication data from projects that have already been completed.

Alison Feldt, Department of Music – Interim & Semester II
The focus of this sabbatical is to expand my knowledge of solo vocal repertoire both broadly and narrowly. My knowledge of Spanish language solo vocal repertoire is much more limited. I will spend the first part of sabbatical reading as much Spanish language songs as possible, document appropriate and quality repertoire for future use, and collect a database of resources. The second part of the sabbatical will continue research begun on my last sabbatical on the Austrian composer Joseph Marx. This research will take place in Vienna and Graz, Austria. The final part of the sabbatical will take place in Freiburg, Germany where I will teach and coach opera and German lied through an intensive summer program.

Michael Fitzgerald, Department of History – Academic Year
My project is to finish my fourth book, a study of emancipation and Reconstruction in Alabama after the Civil War. The central emphasis is on the connection between racial justice and economic development, especially railroads, during this brief moment of bi-racial democratic rule. This represents the culmination of decades of my work in the field. I have completed the bulk of the research, and written two chapters, and expect to complete the remainder of the book over the course of the year. In terms of the college, I should point out that I teach a number of classes directly relevant to this project: African American History, Civil War and Reconstruction, and topical seminars on subjects like slavery and civil rights. This project will directly benefit my teaching in these areas.

Kristina Garrett, Department of Mathematics, Statistics, and Computer Science- Academic Year
I plan to focus on two separate projects during my sabbatical. First, I plan to pursue my research interests in enumerative combinatorics. I am currently working on two collaborative projects that I expect to complete. The first, the Combinatorics of Generalized Stirling Numbers; and the second is a project in Generating Functions and Dynamical Systems. I will finish both projects during the sabbatical year and submit the results for publication. I will also participate in a research workshop at the Banff International Research Station where I will be paired with an experienced research mentor. The second focus of my sabbatical involves my new role as North American Director of the Budapest Semesters in Mathematics program. During my sabbatical I will travel to Budapest and use the time to develop a stronger relationship with the Hungarian Director of BSM, meet the faculty and staff, and work on my Hungarian language skills.

Amy Kolan, Department of Physics – Academic Year
During my sabbatical I will work on three projects. The first project is writing an updated text for the course “Chaos and Computers” with Leo Kadanoff (University of Chicago emeritus). The second project is creating an analytical solution to a problem of interest to Multek (formerly Sheldahl), a local industry. In particular, I will use a Schwartz-Christoffel transformation to help find the resistance of a conducting strip with a tear. Third, I will continue my work with Bill Titus at Carleton on finding a simple physical system obeying a non-linear wave equation. The goal of this third project is to make a strong and simple link between the mathematics and physics of solutions.

Karen Marsalek, Department of English – Academic Year
During my sabbatical I will complete two editions of sixteenth-century plays. The first, The Famous Victories of Henry the Fifth, was an important source for several of Shakespeare’s history plays. This collaborate edition will be published both online at Internet Shakespeare Editions and in print by Broadview Press. My responsibilities are the old-spelling text, an introduction, the bibliography, and appendices of the play’s sources. Other colleagues will contribute a modernized text and notes on a 2007 performance, including video clips. My materials will be ready for online publication in December 2011. The second project, an edition of Gammer Gurton’s Needle, was commissioned by the Consortium for the Teaching of the Middle Ages for its Middle English Text Series, published in print and online. The first English comedy, Gammer Gurton’s Needle was produced by Cambridge University students in the 1550s. My edition will emphasize staging issues, drawing on my experience of acting, directing, and teaching the play. I’ll complete this edition by May of 2012.

James May, Department of Classics – Academic Year
I am applying for a full academic year’s sabbatical leave, 2011-2012, in order to work on several projects: (1) a program of reading relevant literature in the field of ancient rhetoric and oratory published during the past decade; (2) final publication of A Cicero Reader, under contract with Bolchazy-Carducci Pulbishers, and near completion; (3) and the commencement of one or two long-term, book-length projects: beginning a collaboration with Professor Anne Groton on a Greek Reading Text to accompany her popular textbook, From Alpha to Omega; translating into English Enrica Malcovati’s monumental collection, Oratorum Romanorum Fragmenta, with supporting notes and appendices.

Joseph Mbele, Department of English – Semester II
I am planning to produce a book on the Swahili epic of Liongo Fumo. For over two decades, my research has focused on epic folklore, particularly the epic of Liongo Fumo. Based on that research, which included fieldwork on the Kenya coast, I published a number of papers in leading journals such as Research in African Literatures and Kiswahili: Journal of the Institute of Swahili Research. My work is influential as is attested by books such as Liongo Songs and Archetypal Criticism in Kiswahili Poetry, both published in Germany. I want to produce a book on the Liongo epic, which would be more easily accessible than the academic journals.

Gary Miessler, Department of Chemistry – Academic Year
Goals of this project are to develop new instructional materials to focus on contemporary developments in chemistry and use modern technologies to enhance the teaching of molecular structures, chemical bonding, and related topics. The first aspect of this work will be to prepare materials based on the current chemistry literature to inform students about the most recent developments in chemistry, especially those that may have important applications, for example in medicine, energy, and the environment. In addition, contemporary electronic tools will be used to bring molecular images “to life,” to enable students to use 3-dimensional visualizations to help them understand topics that cannot be adequately represented on a printed page. Results of this work will include preparing both printed and electronic materials, primarily to be used in teaching first year chemistry.

Xun Pomponio, Department of Economics – Semester II 2012 – Interim 2013
During the sabbatical year I will engage in research and professional activities in the areas of China rural sustainable development and international economics, focusing on the following two projects. First of all, I shall conduct research on the lives of farmers in arid and semi-arid rural areas in Northwest China asking one central question: Is their economic development sustainable and/or equitable? Secondly, I’ll conduct research on the recent US financial crisis (2008-10), focusing on its impact and lessons for developing countries in particular, with special emphasis on how they can best proceed should they choose to open their financial markets to the rest of the world

John Schade, Department of Biology – Academic year
I plan to use my sabbatical to consolidate a number of independent research threads, with the common objective of enhancing student research and developing plans to infuse research more sustainably into my teaching. My specific goals include field research activities both on and off campus, publication of research results from the last few years, method development on new instrumentation, and developing collaborations with Norwegian scientists. The majority of my time will be spent completing two research projects on campus, both focused on biogeochemical cycling of carbon, nitrogen, and phosphorus in ecosystems on our campus’ natural lands. The first is focused on the effects of changing snowpack depth on soil processes in our restored prairies; the second is focused on the effects of changing hydrology of our restored wetlands on microbial processes. I also plan to spend a substantial amount of time developing applications and standard operating procedures for our new Stable Isotope Ratio Mass Spectrometer, which will enhance research and course curriculum for myself and a number of my colleagues in the sciences.

Charles Taliaferro, Department of Philosophy – Academic Year
I propose to commission and co-edit edit with Professor Chad Meister (Bethel College) seven volumes of a philosophical history of evil for Acumen Press. Each volume would have a dozen or more chapters that would be written by scholars from around the world. Each volume would also have an individual editor who would work under the general editorship of Taliaferro and Meister. The readership would be scholars and students.

Charles Umbanhowar, Department of Biology – Calendar year 2012
I will spend the sabbatical year working on five projects. The first project, if a Jan 2011 proposal to NSF is successful, will be focused on understanding the impact of livestock on nutrient distribution and transport from terrestrial ecosystems to lake ecosystems in western Mongolia. This will involve a month of field work during the summer of 2012 followed by extensive lab work. The second project is a continuation of the ‘Nicollet Project’. I will update the taxonomy of over 450 plant specimens collected by Charles Geyer in 1838-1839 and will prepare a manuscript describing an unpublished paper by Geyer detailing the flora of the Upper Midwest. The third project involves preparation and submission of several manuscripts reporting the results of the last three years of work on lakes and soils in the Manitoba tundra. This work will culminate with submission of a grant renewal in Jan, 2013. The fourth project will be to assist with a study of sediments in bays around Isle Royale. In addition to field work, I will be analyzing charcoal taken from the sediment. Finally, I intend to spend a lot of quality time with the stable isotope mass spectrometer learning more about how to fully use the machine.

Greg Walter, Department of Religion – Academic Year
The challenge of hospitality to the other is embedded in religious discourse. Christian tradition foregrounds Jesus’ discourse on the other in Matthew 25 as well as Sarah and Abraham’s hospitality in Genesis 18 as the key texts for thinking about the other. These two writings require close attention to the way they shape practices of service to the other or thought about the other christologically. This further requires demonstration of the relationship between hospitality and modern cosmopolitanism and the relationship between the other and the discourse of the neighbor. It finally will afford theological reflection on the significance of the neighbor for an understanding of Jesus. I will consider these texts and the practice of hospitality phenomenologically, considering them as instances of gift-exchange and promise.