2019-20 Sabbatical Abstracts

Rich Allen, Department of Mathematics, Statistics, and Computer Science
Convergence of Functional Programming and Logic Programming
Mathematical function composition provides a basis for functional programming and logical deduction a basis for logic programming. Scheme is a primary example of functional programming and Prolog is one for logic programming. A convergence for these two programming paradigms has been achieved in the small logic programming language miniKanren which is implemented in Scheme. The first goal of this project is to create a miniKanren interface to implement a subset of standard Prolog problems and carry out a comparison of the miniKanren and Prolog solutions for human interaction efficiency and overall robustness. The main project goal will be to implement a reversible theorem prover in miniKanren similar to the one implemented in GDRev, a reversible dynamic geometry microworld which is implemented in Prolog.

Mark Allister, Department of English
I will begin the research for and begin the writing of my next book, on the relation of Transcendentalist writings to contemporary American culture. Many of the issues facing American writers and thinkers of the 19th century are still with us. The United States in the 1830s and 1840s faced startling changes: rapid rise in industrialism, the speeding up of life due to technological advancements, the development of a moneyed class, regional divisions that were dividing the nation, and threats to the landscape. Emerson, Whitman, Fuller, and Thoreau, among others, responded to these changes and perceived threats with some of the wisest and most influential American books. Ideas first argued by the Transcendentalists have influenced the popular culture of the late-20th century and 21st century America. I will examine the Transcendentalist influence in three areas: contemporary nature poetry, popular music, and self-help books.

Kathryn Ananda-Owens, Department of Music
During this sabbatical, I will complete an initial draft of a book-in-progress, Half Life of an Injury. An outgrowth of my work in the field of performing arts medicine, Half Life of an Injury chronicles the impact of a performance-related injury on the life, health, and career of an elite classical musician, and delves into what performing artists know and don’t know about the anatomy, function, care and maintenance of the human body. Ranging from explications of medical jargon to performance psychology to recent findings in the study of injury prevention, the book seeks to educate readers who are not health care professionals about the human body and what it takes to keep an instrumental musician in peak performing condition. At the same time, Half Life provides a needed window for health-care professionals into the unique experiences of musician patients.

Francesca Anderegg, Department of Music
The main focus of my sabbatical will be giving professional performances of a new violin concerto written for me by composer Reinaldo Moya. Reinaldo Moya and I have collaborated on many world premiere performances, often writing and revising music together. The process of study and refinement of this new piece will add to my professional profile as a soloist and performer of contemporary music. In addition to learning and performing the work with professional orchestras, I will create a “performer’s edition” of the new concerto.

I will also explore new opportunities for the Bridge Chamber Music Festival, of which I am the newly named artistic director. This festival, based in Northfield, presents nationally and internationally recognized guest artists in collaboration with Minnesota musicians. I plan to explore new granting opportunities and new infrastructure for the festival.

Seth Binder, Departments of Economics and Environmental Studies
My sabbatical time will be dedicated to three projects, in descending order of priority. The first and primary project is a book proposal—including rationale, description of the target market, detailed synopsis, chapter headings, and sample draft chapters—on the topic of sustainable development. The proposed book will address the question “What does sustainable development require?” from three perspectives: ethics, economics and ecology. My second project continues my work exploring the limits of sustainable human population on Earth. I will extend an already-developed, spatially explicit model to explore trade-offs between sustainable population levels and per capita economic welfare under different technological scenarios. My third project builds on my recently published work on the value of grassland biodiversity (Binder et al 2018). I will begin to develop a “mechanism design” model to find how best to achieve biological diversification goals when both the government and private landholders are information-constrained.

Maggie A. Broner, Department of Romance Languages – Spanish
A Dual Approach to Innovative Spanish Programs: Post-Communicative Teaching and Learning/ Ecolinguistics and Environmental Literacy
My sabbatical project is twofold. The first is to continue the work started in 2017 of a book with the working title Foreign Languages and the Liberal Arts: Teaching and Learning in a Post-Communicative Context, co-authored with Gwen Barnes-Karol. This book looks at specific questions related to the acquisition of Spanish language in post-communicative language classes—classes that require development of communicative competence alongside critical thinking skills, language complexity, and advanced literacy—and situates language teaching within the larger goals of a liberal arts education. The second focus of my sabbatical project is to explore a relatively new area of study in linguistics known as ecolinguistics. Ecolinguistics uses tools of linguistic analysis (e.g. critical discourse analysis) to describe and evaluate the narratives (cognitive frames) that are embedded in different stories a society presents (or tells itself) about ecology. The interest in connecting environmental literacy with linguistics comes, in part, as a way to address changing student demographics who have, for some time, asked for more course offerings bridging STEM and Spanish.

Heather Campbell, Department of Education
During my sabbatical, I propose to complete two projects. I will write and submit an article to a peer-reviewed journal that reports on research I’ve conducted with a colleague over the past several years on the effectiveness of Northfield Public School’s Professional Learning Communities. Additionally, I will conduct research on the Spanish and English reading and writing growth of students in a Northfield public elementary school immersion classroom. Both projects contribute vital information to the Education Department’s most important school partner and will allow me to continue researching and publishing in two areas of strong interest – teacher professional learning communities and language development of English learners (in both their first language and in English).

Doug Casson, Department of Political Science
I plan to complete a book project which is under contract with Lexington Press. The title of the monograph is Amicable Collisions: Liberty, Civility, and Honor in Early Modern Political Thought. This book offers a new approach to ongoing debates over the role of democratic norms in sustaining constitutional regimes. I argue that current appeals to shared norms often ring hollow because they are in tension with liberty understood as the absence of external restraint. By tracing the development of democratic norms of civility as well as modern notions of liberty, I show how tension between the two emerged in the early modern era and point to an alternative path in which liberty is understood not as an absence of restraint but the recognition of a shared commitment to a continually contested notion of honorable conduct. Stable democratic government rests on this shared recognition of non-legal norms.

Jeane Delaney, Department of History
An Oral History of Cuba’s “Special Period”
For my sabbatical, I propose to study how different generations of Cubans remember the profound economic crisis of the 1990s known as the “Special Period.” Using the methods of oral history, I plan to examine how people of different age cohorts remember these years. In particular, I want to focus on their memories of: (l) the hardships themselves (2) the effects of the crisis on relationships with family and neighbors (3) the measures the Castro regime took to assist the population and to resolve the crisis itself. By conducting oral history interviews with individuals of varying ages, and drawing on research regarding age-specific memory formation, I want to look at how people at different life stages were affected by the the Special Period and how their memories of this period have shaped their present-day political attitudes.

Steve Freedberg, Department of Biology
Computer Simulation Modeling of Species-level Selection
I plan to spend my sabbatical year expanding my research program into computer modeling of evolutionary processes. I am seeking a full-year sabbatical release in order to develop Python-based computer models that will address key questions in evolutionary biology, and to write and submit an NSF RUI (Research at Undergraduate Institutions) grant proposal. The proposal will aim to develop future research projects that will be highly amenable to the inclusion of St. Olaf students as significant contributors and serve as model for this type of research at other institutions. Because I have recently completed several projects that highlight the importance of exploring multi-species interactions in population genetic models, I feel the timing is ideal to allow me to make a case for the value of this approach.

Dana Gross, Department of Psychology
I will conduct statistical analyses and disseminate findings from a multi-institution survey of faculty members who have led off-campus programs at selective liberal arts colleges. Completing analysis of quantitative and qualitative data from this project has the potential to benefit student learning by identifying strategies and best practices to enhance the experience and knowledge of faculty who lead off-campus programs. I will also disseminate the results of an ACM FaCE grant-funded project, Making the Most of Immersion: Maximizing Off-Campus Experiential Learning. The expertise gained through this project will enable me to help students become more aware of how to learn, and to articulate what they have learned, through immersive experiences (defined broadly as off-campus study, internships, and academic civic engagement). In conjunction with planned travel, I will explore possibilities for collaborative research with psychology colleagues in India. I will also pursue enhancements of my teaching, both on and off campus.

Anne H. Groton, Department of Classics
A Commentary on Menander’s Aspis (“The Shield”) for Use in Undergraduate Greek Courses
I will finish writing a book-length commentary on Menander’s Aspis (“The Shield”), an ancient Greek comedy. Dating from 300 BCE, it was discovered on papyrus sheets in Egypt during the 1950’s and first published in 1969. The commentary, being considered for publication by Oxford University Press, is designed for undergraduates taking Greek at the intermediate level. Its aim is not only to help them translate the 544 existing verses of the play but also to help them appreciate Menander’s artistry and his importance in the history of drama, while introducing them to the subfields of papyrology, metrics, and textual criticism.

Bob Hanson, Department of Chemistry
The proposed sabbatical will involve a number of projects, primarily of a software development nature. Fields of interest include molecular visualization, bioinformatics, physics education, and materials science informatics. All involve development of highly interactive educational and research tools that can be used by educators and scientists anywhere in the world to develop novel, dynamic high-impact web-based applications. These projects involve substantial international collaborations and are expected to provide numerous opportunities for presentation and publication.

James Hanson, Department of Religion
In my previous sabbatical (Spring, 2013), I researched and wrote a solo play on the life of the Apostle Paul; I performed the piece on campus in the fall of 2013, at the Minnesota Fringe Festival in the summer of 2015, and in some other settings (e.g., churches). For this sabbatical leave, I plan to revise the script and write a substantial commentary on it for publication. The commentary will set the piece in the context of “Biblical Performance Criticism,” explain the dramatic and theological choices made in the script, and discuss the outcomes of the whole project in terms of insights achieved through it that impact and advance our understanding of Paul’s life, thought, and significance. The goal will be the production of a manuscript fit for publication by the end of the leave (February, 2020), pitched for an audience of both biblical scholars and lay students of Paul.

Paul Jackson, Departments of Chemistry and Environmental Studies
The Contested and Collaborative Intersections of Environmental Sustainability
The activities in my sabbatical plan take the form of discovery, creative professional development, and dissemination. Each aim intersects with the theme of environmental sustainability. The proposed work has two overarching goals: 1) to develop additional expertise in fostering environmental sustainability in local communities and institutions of higher education; and 2) to invest time and energy into disseminating works bridging off-campus study, environment, sustainability and chemistry. In the last decade I have globalized my teaching and research, spending time in Australia, New Zealand and Japan in addition to work in the USA. This sabbatical extends my work into another environmentally active region, that of western Europe, making use of connections at the Danish Institute for Study Abroad, now known as DIS. The experience and skills acquired will impact my future teaching and scholarship, providing greater exploration of systems thinking, student centered environmental learning, and an expansion of my global connections into Europe.

Anna Kuxhausen, Department of History
My primary sabbatical project, “The History of Marginalized Gender and Sexual Identities in 20th-Century Russia: A Public History Project,” grows out of my CURI research project from this past summer. This project focuses on recovering, translating, contextualizing and publishing the voices of people who have often been hidden from history in the Russian historiographical tradition. This work is particularly urgent as the current regime in Russia has passed legislation allowing print and digital media relating to homosexuality to be suppressed. The highest secular and religious authorities in Russia condone homophobia and actively deny human rights for sexual minorities. Putin would like to deny the history of Russia’s gay culture, which survived the worst eras of persecution and thrived whenever censorship and persecution relaxed. This project will work to preserve and to publicize the history of the LGBTQ communities in Russia. My secondary sabbatical project, which I will work on concurrently with the primary, involves reworking an article manuscript for publication.

Steven C. McKelvey, Department of Mathematics, Statistics, and Computer Science
The primary project I would undertake is the creation of commercial grade software, released under an open source license, for the solution of nonlinear complementarity problems and nonlinear variational inquality problems. These mathematical structures have a wide range of applications in economics, game theory, transportation flow theory and other areas of applied mathematics and engineering. These structures were the theoretical basis of my PhD dissertation and, 30 years later, no commercial grade software exists for their solution. I hope to remedy this situation.

In addition to this primary project, I hope to resurrect a research project concerning an exotic pathogen threatening oak trees throughout North America and Europe. A draft paper has been written and I hope to submit a revision for publication. I also hope to master the stochastic calculus and engage in some outreach to under-represented communities during my leave.

Justin Merritt, Department of Music
My sabbatical project will include 3 elements:

  • Acting as the composer-in-residence for the Madison Choral Project. This will include composing a new work while in residence at the Copland House and overseeing the performance of several works.
  • Composing, compiling, and notating material for the second edition of Comprehensive Aural Skills with David Castro.
  • Composing a new multimedia work, Double Feature.

León Narváez, Department of Romance Languages – Spanish
Abstract: Reflections about a Bilingual/Bicultural Life in and outside the United States
A collection of my writings in Spanish for classroom use will be revised and divided into categories: 1. leading a bilingual/bicultural life in the United States, 2. trends and values in the U.S. (the growing “Latinization” of the U.S, etc.); 3. comparative analysis based on my experiences living abroad. While reading these selections in Spanish, students will be asked to provide correct verb forms based on the infinitive. Their reading skills and grammatical control will be strengthened.

My second goal is to write an extended essay, using my collected writings and other material, about what it has meant to me to be a bilingual/bicultural professional in this society. I will write about my nuclear family, my extended family and the communities in which I have lived and the pattern of living that led to a fully bilingual/bicultural lifestyle and how it is increasingly possible to replicate what I have done.

Peter Nelson, Department of Art and Art History
I plan to accomplish two broad goals during my sabbatical year: (1) research and begin work on a new film project that critically examines race, specifically focusing on whiteness and privilege, and (2) explore emerging art practices and technologies with the goal of incorporating them into the courses I teach. I will begin by researching works of literature and art that critically examine whiteness, conduct and transcribe my own interviews in rural Minnesota, craft a script based on the readings and interviews, and then work with a cast and crew to create a visually rich film that I can submit to festivals and galleries. The second goal will involve attendance at a week-long workshop at Anderson Ranch, experimentation with technology I recently acquired, and reading and viewing work that is part of an emerging genre of art practice called relational aesthetics and social practice.

Marc Robinson, Department of Russian Language and Area Studies
I continue to work on a large project that targets directors whose work is quite different from that found in the US or the West. Utilizing the database in Elevator developed in a CURI project, I will continue to expand the number of directors included. I will also work on specific issues related to the database, such as permissions, translations and subtitles. Time spent in Russia (and Germany) will afford time to connect with the individual directors as well as with the theaters that stage their work. I plan to be in contact with colleagues in Russian Studies and Theater to find ensure that the database is useful for them as well so that they can become acquainted with contemporary Russian theater. I hope to work with other professors and schools to “crowdsource” some of the work to make the database more complete over time.

Charles Taliaferro, Department of Philosophy
Is God Invisible? An Essay on Religion and Aesthetics
A book under contract with Cambridge University Press that examines the aesthetic and philosophical nature of different concepts of God and the sacred. The largest section of the manuscript will consider the Abrahamic religions, but there is a chapter on Hindu and Buddhist aesthetics. To answer the question in the title, it will be argued that while there can be a proper attribution of invisibility to the God of theism, this is misleading (suggestio falsi, a suggestion of the false), just as it is misleading to think of God as a supernatural or non-natural, disembodied person. A (generally speaking) Platonic form of theism in the tradition of Cambridge Platonism will be articulated and defended. The book will extend the work of the books The Image in Mind and The Golden Cord, but not presuppose readers are acquainted with that earlier work.