Sabbatical Abstracts 2014-15

Beth R.J. Abdella, Department of Chemistry – Academic Year
This sabbatical leave will be spent reorganizing and expanding the introductory chapters of the general chemistry textbook authored by Gary Miessler and myself.  These chapters are currently in use in Chem 121/123 and Chem 125, and have occasionally been used in CH/BI 125.  One of the goals is to adapt the textbook to the “atoms first” curricular approach currently used in CH/BI 125.  In this approach, atomic structure is confronted early, followed by molecular structure and then additional chemistry topics such as stoichiometry, reactivity and equilibrium.  This order of chapters is also currently being considered for Chem 121/123 and Chem 125.  A second goal is to add appropriate biochemical topics to the book so that it could serve as a stand-alone textbook for the first course of the integrated chemistry-biology sequence (CH/BI 125).

Karen R. Achberger, Department of German – Academic Year
My sabbatical project is the final revision of an annotated translation of the volume Ingeborg Bachmann. Critical Writings to be published at Camden House. I plan to complete this work during 2014-15 at my home office in Northfield, MN with one possible trip to Syracuse University to confer with my co-editor and co-translator, Dr. Karl Solibakke. Our agreement with Camden House is to deliver the final book manuscript by June 1, 2015.

This collaborative work will challenge me both linguistically and intellectually as I attempt to articulate in English Ingeborg Bachmann’s deeply-held beliefs on the aesthetic and ethical issues of her time and to mediate these also through annotations to an American readership. Completing this long-overdue project after three decades of specialization in Bachmann’s writings will greatly enhance my professional qualifications as a teacher of German and Austrian language and literature at St. Olaf College.

Mara Benjamin, Department of Religion – Academic Year
I request a sabbatical leave to complete a draft of my second book, a constructive investigation of the theological and ethical significance of childrearing and how it can inform contemporary Jewish thought. The traditional categories of premodern and modern Jewish theological and ethical reflection lend themselves to engagement with philosophical considerations of childrearing, such as obligation, asymmetry in relationships, and the priority of praxis. However, while Christian feminist theologians and secular theorists of culture have wrestled with the implications of contemporary literature on childrearing, Jewish thinkers have not. My volume will be the first to examine key modern Jewish religious thinkers, as well as tropes from the premodern Jewish religious corpus these thinkers engage, through the lens of parental care and obligation. This innovation in contemporary Jewish thought is tethered to the Jewish theological tradition and builds new bridges to contemporary religious studies.

Karen Cherewatuk, English Department – 2/1/2015 – 12/31/2015
I will write two scholarly pieces on Arthurian audiences.  First, I will examine references in Thomas Malory’s 15th-century Morte Darthur, made by the author or by readers through manicules (pointing hands which highlight important passages) and compare these to the first two printed editions (Caxton’s and de Worde’s). My purpose is to uncover what the Morte’s textual and visual versions reveal about audiences’ experiences of reading during the transition from manuscript to print books. The second project examines the relationship between Edwin Austin Abbey’s “The Quest of the Holy Grail,” fifteen paintings installed in the Boston Public Library (in 1895 and 1901), and the guidebook which explained the Grail story to the American public, who displayed prints of Abbey’s paintings in their homes and churches.

Additionally, I will write a reflection on “The Epic and Tears” which is for a general audience, examining the way scenes of lament in classical epic reflect the reader’s grief and offer proof of the continued relevance of great books.

Grace E. Cho, Department of Psychology – Academic Year
I will work on three projects during my sabbatical that will enrich my professional development.  (1) My Emotion Socialization Across Cultures project examines parents’ emotion-related beliefs, behaviors, and interactions with children, with a comparative focus on South Korean families. After spending a few weeks in Seoul, S. Korea to meet with my collaborator Dr. Jeong, I will conduct data analyses and write up project findings.  (2) I will complete my book, Enhancing Children in the Age of Self-Esteem: How American Families Imagine, Enact, and Personalize a Cultural Ideal, co-authored with Drs. Miller and Bracey and under contract with Oxford University Press. Based on ethnographic research in Illinois and Taiwan, the book examines self-esteem through the periscope of families with young children.  (3) I will also spend time culling research materials for a new interdisciplinary course exploring childhood across cultures and in historical context.

Arthur Cunningham, Department of Philosophy – Semester I
I propose two distinct projects for the sabbatical. The first is an article on the Everett interpretation of quantum mechanics. I will argue that Everett’s notion of an observer as a physical system capable of forming stable records plays a crucial but underappreciated role in his interpretation. This will provide an improved account of the treatment of measurement at the heart of Everett’s interpretation, and will help to resolve current debates about Everett’s notion of branching. The second project is a pair of related articles drawing on and explaining Boethius’ treatment of the problem of theological fatalism, also known as the puzzle of freedom and foreknowledge. One article will argue that Boethius actually identifies two distinct puzzles, and formulates two solutions; the other will develop one of Boethius’ solutions into a decisive response to the argument for theological fatalism now current in the philosophy of religion literature.

J. Patrick Dale, Departments of Political Science and Russian Studies – Calendar Year
My calendar year 2014 sabbatical leave project will be all or most of a draft of a manuscript on the political ethics of Czech playwright, dissident and President, Vaclav Havel, I am being encouraged by Charles Taliaferro. Cambridge UP is interested in submissions on the political ethics of modern political leaders. Vaclav Havel was a political man without political ambitions. He was a universal critic of state socialist and democratic social orders. For him, Western consumerism did not offer a better path to true civilization than did socialist anti-culture. He argued that individual identity is the sum of one’s responsibilities. His solution to social malaise: take responsibility, participate in civil society. He presented a new conception of the latter. I will be located in Slovenia where I have social and scholarly communities. This will ease access to the Havel Library in Prague and enable interviews with personalities once around Havel.

Dona Werner Freeman, Department of Theater – Semester II
During my special appointment leave, I plan to pursue growth as a stage director by serving in that capacity for a production at Minneapolis’ Theatre in the Round.  I have also been offered the position of assistant to the Artistic Director for Frank Theatre’s spring, 2015 production.  To strengthen my teaching, I will study Viewpoints theater techniques with the Saratoga International Theater Institute, and ready myself to lead St. Olaf’s interim Interdisciplinary Studies 258: Theatre in London by travelling to London theatres and by working with one of the course’s current instructors, Dr. Karen Wilson. I will foster my continued growth as a stage actor by auditioning for Twin Cities professional theaters as scheduling around the projects listed above allows.  Along with these pursuits, I will increase my awareness and application of instructional technology in my classes, specifically expanding my use of pages and video technology for my course offerings.

Ron Gallas, Department of Art and Art History – Academic Year
I am requesting a sabbatical leave beginning September 2014 through fall and spring semesters. This sabbatical leave will allow me the opportunity to pursue personal studio art advancement and interactive art collaboration residency.

The interactive art collaboration residency will culminate in a featured exhibition entitled COLLECTION 45 at Flaten Art Museum in fall of 2015. This exhibition will consist of over 250 ceramic works from my personal collection of colleagues, students and prominent contemporary artists that I have acquired from The University of Minnesota, Penn State University, Macalester College and St. Olaf College over the past 45 years.

Also, the exhibition will include a personal body of new endeavors completed during the sabbatical, as well as, previous collaborative work from two art residencies.

I have been in contact with Flaten Art Museum Director, Jane Becker Nelson. We both believe this is a good time period allowing for the preparation and launch of an exhibition of this magnitude.


Joan Hepburn, Department of English – Calendar Year
I have three projects on which I plan to work during my sabbatical year. The first is to transfer from VHS my original footage of major Nigerian writers, Yoruba Festivals, and title ceremonies. I collected footage of such artists as Tutuola, Soyinka, and Osofisan but also captured images of chieftaincy, coronation, and seasonal events. My second project is about black child entertainers of the 1950s and 60s, and it will focus on my older brother Philip’s stage, television, and film career. Finally, I want to continue my work on the African Burial Ground in New York.

Paul T. Jackson, Department of Environmental Studies – Academic Year
The activities comprising my sabbatical plan take the forms of discovery, creative professional development and dissemination.  Each aim builds upon the theme of environmental sustainability.  Four goals from the proposal: 1) to assess the material and energy balances in undergraduate chemical education, starting with our own green chemistry program; 2)to develop additional expertise in fostering sustainability at the institutional level in higher education; 3) to work with community partners to support the on-going monitoring and implementation plan proposed in the 2013 Rice Creek Watershed assessment report; and 4) to invest time and energy into developing and publishing environmental education modules which emphasize civic engagement and global perspective.  The experience and skills acquired during my sabbatical leave 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 East Asia, primarily focused on Japan.

Kari Lie Dorer, Department of Norwegian – Academic Year
During my proposed sabbatical I plan to update and expand the Sett i gang curriculum. Sett i gang is the most widely used beginning level Norwegian curriculum in North America, but in order for it to maintain its relevancy, it needs to be revised and updated.  Sett i gang was first co-authored by me and Nancy Aarsvold.  However, I will complete the majority of the updates and expansions to the curriculum.  The proposal involves a four-part plan that includes updates to the two textbooks, expansion of the curriculum, a new digital workbook, and explorations into e-book technology.

Kim Kandl, Department of Biology – Calendar Year
I am applying for sabbatical leave for January 1 – December 31, 2014. There are several projects that I will undertake during this time. These projects vary in scope and duration. The four main projects are to develop the nematode worm C. elegans as a research organism, further develop and assess the intermediate genetics C. elegans labs, write and submit and RCN-UBE grant to NSF and process years of assessment data from my courses. I have included a timeline that includes additional planning that I will do in preparation for my sabbatical. Altogether, these projects will help me to wrap up unfinished projects (the assessment data), regenerate my research program, and strengthen the courses and laboratories that I offer St. Olaf students.

Heather Klopchin, Department of Dance – Academic Year
The main focus of my sabbatical leave project is to intentionally reflect upon, integrate, and make connections between my skills and interests as a dance performer and as a dance educator.  The time provided by sabbatical leave will allow me to intensively further my development as a dance performer by performing with Minneapolis based dance/theater company Stuart Pimsler Dance and Theater and to gain more information about somatics and the language used in somatics by taking master classes and workshops in somatic practices.  This sabbatical leave will also allow me to intentionally look at how these two personal interests of dance performance and dance education interplay with one another and how they impact my teaching.

Jennifer Kwon Dobbs, Department of English – Academic Year
During sabbatical, I propose to return to two book-length projects and a co-translated volume of poetry begun prior to my sixth year at St. Olaf College. Generally speaking, all three projects emerge from my ongoing interests in Korean diaspora, biopolitics, translation, fragmented histories, and kinship—themes that I previously explored in my first poetry collection, Paper Pavilion, and in critical essays recently published in peer-reviewed journals and presented at international conferences and festivals. The first project, Three-Legged Bird, is a manuscript in progress extending my completed chapbook, Song of a Mirror. The second project, a lyrical essay collection, similarly builds upon an existing chapbook of prose. Likewise, the third project, a translation of Nam Jin Woo’s A Lion at Three in the Morning, needs time for completion per the guidelines of the Daesan Foundation translation grant, which I received in 2009. Although I have previously published individual poems and essays since 2008 from the above projects, I simply require more time to write in the gaps, pulling together manuscripts for submission to publishers. The completion of publishable manuscripts will immeasurably strengthen my reputation as a poet, memoirist, and translator and enable me to make significant contributions to Asian American literature and contemporary Korean poetry in translation.

Sharon Lane-Getaz, Departments of Mathematics, Statistics, and Computer Science and Education – Academic Year
I have three potential projects to undertake during sabbatical. First, develop an Intermediate Statistics for Social Science Research course pack as a step toward creating a textbook. Second, advance my research agenda, examining how students reason about inference and whether different teaching methods have a differential effect. Third, lead a collaboration between St. Olaf statistics faculty and Advanced Placement (AP) teachers to develop a post-AP Statistics mini-course. Many students receiving college credit through AP get off to a slow start in our rigorous second course. The slow start may stem from conceptual gaps or from using graphing calculators rather than modern statistical software—as is common in high school. To address these gaps, mini-course students from area high schools will use standard statistical software to run and interpret regressions, randomizations and simulations. I will pursue external grant funding for the AP mini-course as well as an internal grant.

Eric Lund, Department of Religion – 2/1/14 – 12/31/14
I am preparing an annotated version of Martin Luther’s 1535 text, “A Simple Way to Pray” for Fortress Press’ six volume study edition titled “The Essential Luther”.  I am also contributing a number of articles to Baker Books’ forthcoming Dictionary of Luther and the Lutheran Tradition.

In addition I plan to write an article on Christliche Wanderschaft, a 1675 text by a jurist in Königsberg, Reinhold von Derschau, which is an interesting Lutheran contribution to allegorical pilgrimage literature. This text appeared three years before John Bunyan’s better-known “Pilgrim’s Progress” and has a curious indebtedness to a classical work, the Tabula Cebetis, that is worth further investigation.

I also plan to catch up on reading in my field that I have been unable to do while serving as Director of International Studies.  I hope this will lead to another book-length project on reform currents within several church traditions in seventeenth century Europe.

Timothy Mahr, Department of Music, Interim and Semester II
The sabbatical leave would provide time for work and completion on a number of projects rather than a single endeavor:  creative work in music composition and writing, structured observations leading to course refinement and development, and various conducting opportunities.  The primary project would involve substantial work toward the creation of my first symphony.

Kent McWilliams, Department of Music, Semester I and Interim
As part of my development as a pianist, I would like to take the time necessary to add a few new solo pieces to my repertoire. The process of learning large, challenging solo selections requires focused commitment, the sort of time that is very difficult to find during a regular semester of teaching and administrative responsibilities. Having five solid months of uninterrupted time will allow me to thoroughly study and prepare of an entirely new solo piano program. After learning this program, I hope to perform it at various venues across the U.S., including a solo recital at St. Olaf College.

David Nitz, Department of Physics – Academic Year
I will measure a new and comprehensive set of atomic transition probabilities for the rare earth element gadolinium using a spectroscopic method known as Boltzmann Analysis.  These data are of interest to astrophysicists who incorporate them into detailed theoretical models of stellar atmospheres, where the relative abundances of rare earth elements provide important clues about the processes which contribute to heavy element nucleosynthesis in the galaxy.  I have applied to the Fulbright Scholars program for support to carry out most of this project at Lund University in Sweden, where there is an active atomic astrophysics research group and specialized laboratory instruments needed for data collection.

Maggie Odell, Department of Religion – Academic Year
This project examines Ezekiel’s treatment of child sacrifice in order to contribute to current theological discussions of Carl Schmitt’s doctrine of sovereignty. The project develops a rationale for approaching child sacrifice as a theopolitical problem before delving into the particular issues related to child sacrifice itself. It will be argued that child sacrifice was not practiced for its own sake in this period but was, rather, incorporated into Assyrian and Babylonian strategies for ensuring compliance among its vassals. Ezekiel would have understood the laws concerning child sacrifice as an acknowledgment of YHWH’s claim to human life (Ezek 20:25-26). Invoking that claim in the context of political oath taking would therefore set absolute limits on human political ends.  Yet when that claim is invoked in order to force Judean compliance to sovereign claims other than YHWH’s, human life becomes a means to preserving power, not an end. In this scenario, breaking the oath constitutes the Schmittian exception, an attempt to suspend the rule of law for the sake of preserving sovereignty. And, since breaking the oath necessarily entails the sacrifice of children, it poses the central problem of sovereignty and its relation to life. Whereas human sovereignty seems always to contain a core element of violence such that life must be sacrificed in order to preserve life, Ezekiel’s understanding of divine sovereignty seems to suggest a radical alternative, in which the deity does not desire the death of anyone (cf. Ezek 18:32).

Steve Reece, Department of Classics – Academic Year
At the end of several of his letters the apostle Paul claims to pen a summary and farewell greeting in his own hand.  These claims raise several technical issues about Paul’s letter-writing practices: did he write any complete letters himself, or did he always dictate to a scribe?  how much did the scribe contribute to the composition of his letters?  did Paul read through and correct what he had dictated?  what was the intended effect of Paul’s autographic subscriptions on his readers?  The best sources of answers to these questions surely lie among the primary documents that have survived from around the time of Paul: several dozen letters from the caves and refuges in the desert of Eastern Judaea (in several languages), several hundred letters from the remains of a Roman military camp in Vindolanda in Northern England (in Latin), and several thousand letters from the sands of Middle and Upper Egypt (mostly in Greek).  I intend to examine all these documents, many of them unpublished, in order to shed some light on these technical aspects of Paul’s letter-writing practices.

Matt Richey, Department of Mathematics, Statistics, and Computer Science – Academic Year
During my year-long sabbatical leave, I propose to collaborate with researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health on a modeling project focused  on prescription drug abuse.  Prescription drugs, abused or otherwise, are a data rich area due to the extensive tracking and reporting required of pharmacists. Researchers are just recently starting to look closely at patterns of use and abuse, particularly as a function of local conditions (set as state laws, social-economic factors, and other demographics).  Oddly, one challenge has been the volume of data. Unlike in gun policy research (where access to data has been severely restricted due to the influence of lobbying groups such as the NRA), every pharmaceutical transaction in the United States is recorded and, under certain circumstances, accessible. I am fortunate to have personal connection through which will give me access to much of the available data. The challenge, at least initially, will be to develop systems to handle the large amount of data and to integrate it with existing demographic data sets. Once this is done, there are essentially unlimited interesting and important public health questions that we can ask and, hopefully, answer.

In addition to contributing to the professional discussion of this important issue, my work on a project such as this would also be a boast for the college’s efforts to expand in this very important area. I would expect that upon my return, I would be in an excellent position to help my colleagues develop more data-intensive aspects of our curriculum.

Matthew Rohn, Department of Art and Art History – Interim and Semester II
My sabbatical will have me creating a “Grant Wood Reader,” anthology manuscript ready for publication. The major tasks will include my: making final decisions about publications and archival material to include among the wealth of material I already have; making final decisions about how anthology’s structure; continued pursuit of leads about material; and, drafting commentary.

This builds on research I pursued in my last sabbatical and should contribute to the new interest scholars have shown in the complexity of Grant Wood and his art. This began at the outset of the postmodern era and has intensified this past decade. The anthology should be a boon to scholars because of its inclusion of obscure writings by the artist and its coverage of poorly known interests of his. It will also be of value in teaching about Grant Wood and this period of American art and thought.

John Saurer, Department of Art and Art History – Semester II
It is my intention to use spring semester of the 2014-15 academic year to further my artistic study in the three major areas I routinely work: drawing, printmaking and sculpture.  Typically my work in these areas has been non-objective – creating images and installations based on the more formal elements of process, material, content – and less on specific, identifiable image.  I would like to compliment this tradition and develop elements from a more realistic observation.  This intention is inspired, in part, from my recent teaching of Art 106 “Drawing from Nature in the Bahamas” (an interim off-campus class I will be teaching again January of 2015).  The timing of this sabbatical is ideal in many ways.

Doug Schuurman, Department of Religion – Academic Year
The first project is to contribute to and edit a book tentatively titled Vocation in Interreligious Perspectives. With Anant Rambachan’s help, I will invite leading theologians of the world’s major religious traditions to articulate how their tradition treats what the Christian tradition means by vocation. I will write the introduction and the chapter on vocation in the Christian tradition. Anant has already agreed to treat the Hindu tradition. Other religious traditions will include Jewish, Islamic, Buddhist, Confucian, and Secularist. Jon Pott, Editor-in-Chief at Eerdmans publishing company has already expressed interest in publishing the volume.

The second project is a co-written book tentatively titled Vocation, Ethics, and the Professions. For two and a half years I have been meeting at St. John’s Collegeville Institute for Ecumenical Studies twice a year with five other scholars to read and discuss this topic. This project is funded by the Lilly foundation is soon entering into the writing stage. My contributions will focus on the meaning and significance of vocation and ethics for professional life. Other members have much greater expertise on the rise and current nature of the professions in the USA.

David G.L. Van Wylen, Department of Biology – Interim and Semester II
For my sabbatical, I will pursue several research collaborations.  First, I will collaborate with Jay Demas doing research on melanopsin retinal ganglion cells, looking at the sensitivity of these cells to low oxygen environments.  I will also collaborate with Shelly Dickinson to establish the brain microdialysis technique to monitor changes in neurotransmitter levels in the brains of the adolescent and adult mice that she studies as part of her addiction research program.  A third potential collaboration is with Jim Pokorny, a local Northfield entrepreneur who is currently pursuing a cardiac assist device to treat heart failure patients.  I also hope to continue working with Mary Walczak to assess the effectiveness of Regents Hall.  I may also spend a portion of my sabbatical consulting with Uppsala University in Sweden as they establish a liberal arts college within their university or at Tumaini University in Iringa, Tanzania as they set up a science education program.

Alberto Villate-Isaza, Department of Romance Languages – Academic Year
I am planning to use the 2014-15 academic year sabbatical leave to complete a draft of a book manuscript tentatively titled Inner Colonization and The Ambiguities of History in the Baroque New World. I examine how seventeenth-century historical accounts of the Spanish colonies in the Americas represent some of the first examples of discursive forms aimed at controlling the behavior of individuals involved in the colonizing enterprise. I demonstrate that the rhetorical system of seventeenth-century historical accounts of the New World function as a sort of secular evangelization, with the historian playing the role of the missionary priest to the Spanish and Creole subjects. However, I also argue that, in spite of the historian’s efforts, historical instruction is never tightly controlled and the regulation of behavior is not achieved satisfactorily. Having drafted a substantial portion of the manuscript, I will concentrate my efforts during the sabbatical leave in drafting the second section of the manuscript.  Finishing the book manuscript will allow me to begin the process of publishing the manuscript as a book, as well to disseminate my research broadly in the scholarly community.

Kathryn Ziegler-Graham, Department of MSCS – Academic Year
I propose to work on two projects over the course of the 2014-15 academic year, should my sabbatical leave be approved.  The first project is to continue with my ongoing collaborative research at the Mayo Clinic with the Rochester Epidemiology Project; the second project is to co-author an Introductory Biostatistics textbook for undergraduates.

As part of my ongoing collaboration at the Mayo Clinic I am working with data from the Oophorectomy Cohort (part of the Rochester Epidemiology Project) examining the relationship between naturally occurring estrogen exposure and health related outcomes.

My goal is to use our current work as a basis for grant-funded sabbatical research, which would involve analyzing statistically challenging data that is a part of larger, interesting, and meaningful research.

The introductory biostatistics textbook would fill a gap in the undergraduate biostatistics curriculum. This text has largely been developed around a course at St Olaf for students who have a demonstrated or emerging interest in public health, and have completed an introductory statistics course.  We will work on a module-based textbook of ten modules where instructors can select modules most appropriate to their specific audience and interests.