2017-18 Sabbatical Abstracts

Lisa Bowers, Department of Biology
I’m applying for a sabbatical leave for Fall 2017 through January 2018. During this leave, I’ll work on three separate projects. First is my research on nutrient uptake and the role of TonB Dependent Receptors in an aquatic bacterium. Recently, I’ve made progress in defining the role of two TBDRs as carbohydrate transporters. I’ll complete the necessary experiments this summer and write a manuscript this Fall. Second is an “inter-species competition” lab that I’m currently collaborating with Professor Eric Cole to optimize. This experiment involves competition between a bacterium, Caulobacter crescentus, and a single-celled eukaryote, Tetrahymena thermophila. After optimizing this experiment, we’ll write a manuscript for Life Sciences Education. Third, I’ll finish a manuscript describing the “cross-disciplinary” teaching lab I’ve created with Professor Olaf Hall-Holt. During this project, students in Microbiology and Computer Science work together to identify and characterize a bacterium isolated from the students’ environment.

David Carter, Department of Music
I will be applying for an academic year sabbatical for 2017-18. My proposed activities are in 5 distinct but related areas: 1. Continue my observation of master teachers, including faculty at the New England Conservatory, the Juilliard School, Rice University, and colleagues in Minneapolis-St. Paul, 2. Begin learning viola da gamba, including a study of selected solo and ensemble literature, with experts locally and at the University of Colorado-Boulder, 3. Continue study of Baroque cello and Baroque string performance practice, with Julie Elhard, St. Olaf Collegium co-director, 4. Begin study of jazz and rock improvisation styles, as performed on electric cello and 5. Continue study of Alexander Technique with practitioners in Minneapolis and an internationally-known clinician.

Christopher Chapp, Department of Political Science
I seek support for a one-year sabbatical to investigate the causes of voting/non-voting in low-income communities. Political science has a limited understanding of why turnout rates are comparatively low in under-resourced communities, and why many electoral innovations designed to improve turnout (i.e. all mail voting) are ineffective in said communities.  I will address this gap by examining turnout in “over-performing” communities, that is, communities that vote at a higher than expected rate given their demographic profile.  I do so by using statistical techniques to identify key covariates of turnout in low-income communities, and by conducting qualitative interviews with key civic mobilizers in over-performing communities.  This project will address an important gap in political science research, generate high-impact research opportunities for students, improve my abilities as a teacher, and address an important problem in American democracy.

Irve Dell, Department of Art/Art History
For this sabbatical, my plan is quite simple, I propose to work primarily in two areas. I would like to spend a great deal of time (approx. 3/4) in my studio reacquainting myself with my own studio practice. And I will be working (1/4) on the Gymnasium’s next critical steps towards sustainability. In my classes, I often talk about the need for pure open-ended artistic play to discover new creative goals to pursue.  After helping others play, I need to practice what I preach and play too.  I feel a very strong calling to rediscover my own creative voice. The Gymnasium, a consortium for creative risk-takers that I helped found, just received its final two-year round of funding from the McKnight Foundation. In order for the Gymnasium to continue, we will have to actualize our goal of becoming self-sustaining and less dependent on grant funding.

Alison Feldt, Department of Music
I am applying for a 2017-18 academic year sabbatical leave. I intend to continue the work begun by my colleague Dan Dressen: to create a repository of Nordic solo vocal music, recordings, and reference materials located in St. Olaf Halvorson Music Library. I will arrange extended time to meet with targeted experts in Norway, Sweden and Denmark. I will collect suggestions for repertoire, recordings, and reference materials to add to the St. Olaf inventory. In addition, I will collect their recommendations for teaching the repertoire to St. Olaf students, as well as additional resources for continued study of the repertoire, and I will conduct in-depth research and begin preparation of targeted vocal works for a public performance and possible recording project and journal article.

Carlos Gallego, Department of English
My current research explores the ubiquity of psychopathy in U.S. popular culture. Specifically, I am interested in studying intersections between the contradictions of late or neo-liberal capitalism and the rise in representations of criminal psychopathy in U.S. culture. This connection between the sociopolitical tensions created by capitalism and the pathological behaviors that arise from such tensions, particularly as it is expressed in U.S. culture, constitutes the focus of my current work. Since economic necessity is a primary form of disciplining communities into specific behavioral patterns, I am interested in how the psychology of financial success (and the steps, mindset, and actions needed to ensure such an achievement) permeates the rest of society, especially our collective understanding of what is healthy, appropriate, or ethical. More specifically, I utilize a psychoanalytic-Marxist methodology to analyze how pathology gets normalized in capitalist cultures and how such pathologization obstructs or corrupts collective attempts at social justice, thereby arresting social progress.

Jeanine Grenberg, Department of Philosophy
I will write a book employing Immanuel Kant’s moral theory to analyze Jane Austen’s novels. The book will reveal new depths of Austen’s moral commitments via Kant’s moral ideas, and interpret Kant’s virtue theory more deeply by appeal to Austen’s novels.  The book will thus appeal to scholars of Kant and Austen alike.  I have already argued that Kant’s ethics is grounded in the common sense morality of his time (Grenberg, 2013); this book will further that thesis by revealing, versus Aristotelian- and Humean-inspired interpreters of Austen, that Kant’s ideas are at the core of the common moral worldview enlivening Austen’s novels.  Ultimately, bringing Kant’s ideas to an interpretation of Austen deepens our understanding of both authors by revealing their shared moral worldview.

Olaf Hall-Holt, Department of Computer Science
We propose to design, implement, and field test a new approach to learning algebraic thinking that is suitable for second graders. The children will use tablet computers (possibly iPads) to interact with visualizations designed to provide access to essential algebraic elements, such as numbers, variables, compound expressions, functions, and graphs. The approach is a continuation of the work that Ryota Matsuura and I have been building for the last two years. I anticipate using the framework developed during the sabbatical as the basis for numerous undergraduate research projects, as I did for my last sabbatical. This time also represents a substantial shift in my research activity, from computer vision to mathematics education.

Bruce Hanson, Department of Mathematics
I propose to spend January-July, 2018 at Eotvos Lorand University in Budapest doing mathematical research in Real Analysis with Dr. Zoltan Buczolich, Professor in the Analysis Department of the Institute of Mathematics at the University.  I have applied for a Fulbright to supplement my St. Olaf salary during this time, but plan to go to Budapest regardless of the decision of the Fulbright committee.  In Budapest, Buczolich and I will investigate lip f and Lip f for continuous real-valued functions f defined on the real line.   I will also meet with administrators at the Fazekas Mihaly Gimnazium to make plans for a cooperative learning program that will pair Hungarian students with St. Olaf Students while they are enrolled in Math 239: Number Theory in Budapest during January interims from 2019 onward.

Ashley Hodgson, Department of Economics
Project title: Aggressive Imaging/Testing, Diagnosis and Medical Spending
Project Abstract: Health economists have worried about over-testing that happens when doctors fear malpractice lawsuits.  More recently, public health academics have begun to worry about the harmful effects of over-diagnosis.  Over-diagnosis can result in patients receiving risky and harmful care for conditions that were never significant enough to receive treatment (Welch, 2015).  Economists have documented large geographic variations in doctors’ practice patterns.  Some doctors treat more aggressively than others.  This project will utilize patient-level data to identify doctors who make the heaviest use of imaging and diagnostic technologies to look at the patient outcomes and medical spending for their patients.  Additionally, I will look to see if the doctors’ aggressiveness changes when that doctor changes to a different hospital and is immersed in a different medical culture.

Dipannita Kalyani, Department of Chemistry
I plan to conduct my sabbatical stay (Interim/Spring 2018) at Merck Pharmaceuticals, NJ. The four primary goals of my sabbatical are to: (i) begin collaborations with Merck on my NSF funded research projects, (ii) gain an understanding of the drug manufacturing process, (iii) work with the computational chemists at Merck to hone my prior expertise in this field, and (iv) initiate new ideas for projects in my research group. These efforts will assist in establishing exciting long-term collaborations between Merck and my research group at St. Olaf College and will lead to new proposal ideas for future grant applications. Additionally, the proposed collaborations might lead to internship opportunities at Merck for St. Olaf students.

Judy Kutulas, Department of History
With my manuscript on the popular culture of the 1970s coming out in March 2017, I intend to spend my academic year sabbatical, 2017/8, working on two articles growing out of that work.  The first, “Coming Out: Depictions of Gay Masculinity in Television Dramas and Sitcoms in the 1970s” explores the bifurcated sense of modernity that emerged after the many revolutions of the 1960s – and especially the emerging gay subculture – as either another element of “diversity” or a threat to American traditions.  The second, “Was it California”: The Changing Reputation of the Golden State, 1960-1980,” also looks at modernity, this time its undersides as represented by manifestations of evil in California, including terrorist groups, serial killers, and cults.

Elizabeth Leer, Department of Education
I intend to pursue two related scholarly projects during my 2017-18 academic year sabbatical. I plan to compile and prepare for publication a volume of essays focusing on the question of how to promote reading among adolescents in an increasingly digital world. This pursuit will engage me with current scholarship on reading pedagogy and practices, and therefore enhance my capacity as a professor of English education and reading. I also plan to begin a qualitative research study that seeks to identify knowledge, skills, and dispositions that effective English teachers share.  Specifically, I plan to visit classrooms of identified master teachers, conducting observations and interviews, and developing an understanding of the common attributes of effective language arts teachers. These networking and research activities will further improve my competence as the Communication Arts and Literature specialist in the Education Department.

Jeremy Loebach, Department of Psychology
Cochlear Implants: Rehabilitation and Auditory Cognition

The goal of my research is to better understand the variability in outcome, satisfaction and benefit among cochlear implant (CI) users, and how it can be eliminated via training. Although most CI users acquire the ability to perceive sound, some struggle to understand spoken language under the best listening conditions, while others are indistinguishable from normal hearing listeners. Differences in auditory/cognitive abilities prior to implantation may contribute to this variability, and we have developed a test battery to assess this. I also plan to disseminate an online training program that we developed to help CI users hear better with their devices. Both of these goals will be achieved as I work as a visiting scientist at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester. I also plan to go to Norway for a month in the summer to study auditory rehabilitation practices at the Oslo University Hospital, the single site for implantation in Norway.

Anthony Lott, Department of Political Science
Seeking Security: Herz, Bunche, and the Remaking of World Order
I propose a one-year sabbatical to complete a book manuscript that weaves together the lives of John H. Herz and Ralph J. Bunche.  Little literature exists that explores refugee scholars who sought safety in the United States prior to WWII. Even less literature explores the role that historically black colleges and universities played in welcoming some of these refugee scholars with teaching and research positions. Still less literature examines the intellectual relationships that some of these refugee scholars had with their academic hosts. One of the most remarkable and understudied intellectual friendships of this time is that between John H. Herz and Ralph J. Bunche. The political oppression, marginalization, and bigotry that both men endured focused their intellectual curiosity on the sources of insecurity for those without social and political power. This manuscript explores these shared intellectual foundations by linking the racism and militarism pervasive in the United States with that in world affairs after World War II.

Gary Muir, Department of Psychology
My major goals for the proposed fall/interim sabbatical are:

1) Design and initiate a research program for the next six years to further examine firing properties of Head Direction cells. This sabbatical comes at a time where we are concluding a major project in the lab, and I am ending my six-year term as CILA Director. This sabbatical period is, therefore, the perfect time to reassess the direction of the lab, become current again with the literature in my area, and generate a comprehensive plan for a research program over the next six years (i.e., until my next potential sabbatical).

2) Prepare for leading the Environmental Science in Australia program in spring, 2018. Because the content of the program is, however, well outside my disciplinary expertise, I intend to spend a substantial amount of time during the fall/interim becoming more familiar with the content of the courses students will be taking on the program (i.e., cultural anthropology, marine biology, terrestrial ecology, and environmental policy).

Sian Muir, Department of Economics
I have been approved as the Assistant Field Supervisor for the Environmental Science in Australia program which will occupy the period of time of my professional leave in spring 2018. The Environmental Science in Australia program fits well with my continued interest in environmental entrepreneurship and innovation. I will be interested to explore how Australia is attempting to solve their environmental problems and how it intersects with entrepreneurship. According to the Global Innovation Index, U.S. is ranked 4th, and Australia is ranked 19th. My goal will be to investigate the programs and infrastructure in Australia to compare and contrast systems that support innovation in different nations. Ideally I will then be able to incorporate best practices into my teaching and administration on my return.

Gregory W. Muth, Department of Chemistry
The proposed sabbatical leave will allow for continued professional development in two areas the first in international scholarship through the Fulbright Specialists Program (FSP).  FSP pairs US scholars in their areas of expertise with international host institutions seeking development in these specific areas.  Project typically run 2-6 weeks.  I am particularly interested in host institutions in sub-Saharan Africa and am hopeful to find a position where development of innovative biochemistry teaching would be valued.  The second area of professional development is to more formally establish my current collaboration between St. Olaf, the Mayo Clinic and MNPharm, a developing biotech company in St. Paul.  I will be submitting an NSF GOALI proposal to support this collaboration with the hopes of establishing a pipeline for St. Olaf students to progress into the biotech industry.  Even without grant funding both Mayo and MNPharm have expressed interest in having more of my time dedicated to developing their proposed novel therapeutic agents.

Diana O. Neal, Department of Nursing 
Research Dissemination and Professional Development in Holistic Nursing

My proposed leave is to: 1) participate in a Scholarly Writing Retreat, 2) submit manuscripts for completed research, 3) take Holistic Nursing and Healing Touch courses, 4) complete a certification examination in holistic nursing, and 5) attend an American Holistic Nurses Association Conference with presentations at this and other conferences as time and finances allow. 

The first manuscript will compare the results of a Tanzanian study completed during my last sabbatical with those of a Minnesota multi-site study that I co-authored and published in 2014.  Because of requests from editors and researchers around the world for an article I published in 2008, the second manuscript will include findings from my dissertation research presenting evidence that supports the use of music with preterm infants.  The courses and certification will enhance my ability to prepare nursing students to provide holistic nursing care in alignment with the St. Olaf nursing program mission statement.

Jonathan O’Conner, Department of Spanish
My proposed sabbatical project broadens a new line of work that I began with a presentation in Spring 2014, continuing with an article in progress. Beginning in the 1990s, historical novels have undergone a boom in the Spanish-speaking world. Many of these best-selling novels focus on dictatorships of the 20th-century, employing fiction as a means of recovering the memory of silenced victims. Scholars have devoted significant attention to that tendency. However, much less attention has been given to the nature of the many works set in the more distant era of Spain’s conquest and colonization of the Americas. The dramatic global transformation of that era is fundamental to many narratives of national identity on both sides of the Atlantic. My sabbatical project will significantly expand initial work I have completed on this topic and aims to build the base of a research agenda that will culminate in a book project.

Mark Pernecky, Department of Economics
I propose to update and revise a book draft I have written on the attempt to apply economic theory to Christian behavior.  The Economic assumption of “utility maximization” contains important flaws.  Humans cannot cognitively process the amount of information it assumes, nor do Christians exhibit the type of hedonism theorized.  Also, economists miss-specify the constraints that Christians face, assuming autonomy in light of God’s providence.  Still, the assumption that individuals seek their own “happiness” can provide a useful theoretical construct in understanding Christian behavior and doctrinal acceptance. Modeling individuals this way, and subject to information-bounded rationality, where autonomy remains subject to God’s providence and hedonism is capable of reflecting delight in God, can prove useful in utilizing economics to examine issues concerning Christian behavior.  Delineating the “end” which the utility seeks, the nature of the utility, and the variables in the utility function (including their endogeneity or exogeneity), proves key.

Rebecca S. Richards, Department of English
During my year-long sabbatical in 2017-2018, I propose to work on my current book project, Not Playing Around: Feminist and Queer Rhetorics in Videogames (working title). I will research at the Learning Games Initiative Research Archive (LGIRA), the world’s largest videogame archives, for which I have already applied and received a letter of support. I am applying for grants for this project, but at the very least, I plan to request the St. Olaf 20% of salary support for my sabbatical. In addition to this book project, I also intend to continue work on my digital archive, Women Heads of State, as well as develop teaching materials for English 285 and 286, as both courses relate to my book project.

Greg Walter, Department of Religion
Project Title:  The Hidden God, Trinity, and Pluralism

This project proposes how to articulate Christian claims and arguments about God that are open to contemporary pluralism.  Christians need to make claims that God is hidden, meaning that God has an identity, being, and activity not exhausted or firmly established by God’s self-disclosure as the God of Israel who raised Jesus of Nazareth from the dead.  With this account of God both hidden and as Trinity, Christians can act and think in a way much more open to the pluralism of claims, practices, and beliefs of the contemporary world.

Tom Williamson, Department of Sociology & Anthropology
During this sabbatical, I will complete some already started research work on the history of medicine and mental health in Malaysia.  I will also work on a teaching-related writing project and revise one of my courses.

Karen P. Wilson, Department of Theater
An exploration of the relationship between theater and film noting similarities and differences, technical crossovers and audience relationships.  I would like to develop a new class focusing on this relationship between theater and film encouraging our students to understand the distinctions and similarities between the two art forms. Begin making connections in the film industry and attend an international conference in film (perhaps the Sydney film festival).  This will have a secondary benefit of assisting with the further development of our Interim class, the Arts and Literature of Australia and New Zealand strengthening and expanding our connections in Australia and New Zealand with a view to adding new dimensions of film to this abroad program. Secondary: continue to work on various creative projects as well as continue work on course revisions.