Summer Scholar: Juliet, Visky and Orvieto, Italy

Gordon students aren’t the only ones who see summer as an opportunity for fun or new experiences; many, in fact, are heading overseas, interning in professional settings or gaining valuable work experiences. (More on those soon!)  Gordon’s faculty are busy too. They use June, July and August for special projects, study trips and ongoing research they’re passionate about. This is the first in a series of stories about Summer Scholars, exploring what Gordon professors are up to in between semesters.

“Juliet, Visky and Orvieto, Italy”                                                                                                                                          By John Skillen, associate dean of European Programs in the Office of Global Education

An exciting project of my summer is to produce, in Orvieto, Italy, a play by one of the most esteemed contemporary playwrights of Eastern Europe, András Visky.

Visky’s play Juliet is a riveting 90-minute solo work, a monologue spoken by the title character in near-delirium as a Job-like cry from the heart at the end of her endurance in a labor camp with her seven young children. The play is based on the experience of the author’s family under the brutal Communist regime in Romania during the early 1960s.

In 1939, Visky’s father had fled Romania for Hungary, where he met his future wife. After World War II, the couple returned to Transylvania, by then a part of Romania. There, Visky’s father, a pastor in the Hungarian Reformed Church, was sentenced to 22 years in prison for the crime of “organization against socialist public order.” Soon after, his wife and their children were themselves deported to a Romanian gulag a thousand kilometers to the east. Visky was only two years old at the time. In 1964, the family was reunited when his father and other political prisoners were released during a short-lived period of relaxation of repression. Visky’s father’s ministry in the Protestant churches of Eastern Europe continued all the more powerfully after his release.

Visky–as poet, playwright and essayist–carries on in a different mode his family’s deep and mature Christian faith. He is the author of more than a dozen plays, staged variously in Romania, Hungary, France, Italy, Poland, Slovenia and the United States. Continue reading

Distinguished: Ivy George, Rini Cobbey Receive 2012 Senior and Junior Faculty Awards

On Saturday, May 19, Gordon held its 120th commencement ceremony to send out the class of 2012. It was also Mark Sargent’s last service as Gordon’s provost and consequently, his last time to present distinguished awards to a senior and a junior faculty member. Here is the text of his introduction to this year’s two recipients, Ivy George, professor of sociology (left), and Rini Cobbey, associate professor of communication arts (right):

The Senior and Junior Distinguished Faculty Awards are given annually to two faculty members in recognition of their teaching, scholarship and service to the institution.  The Senior Award is always presented to a full professor; the Junior Award is presented to an Assistant or Associate Professor.

The awards are based on nominations submitted by graduating seniors and by faculty, and the selection of the final recipients is made from among the group of top nominees by a panel of previous award winners.

This year, the awards will go to the two individuals who did indeed receive the highest number of total nominations in their category.  The faculty on the committee had the privilege of making the choices; it is my privilege, as always, to be able to present them.  And, this year, I am going to do so by traveling around the world—or at least mentioning ethnic restaurants on the North Shore. Continue reading

How Do We Compare . . . And Other Social Constructs

While visiting with family this summer in his native land down under,  Jonathan Gerber, assistant professor of psychology (pictured here), will also be wondering about comparisons. As honorary visiting professor at Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia, Gerber will continue his research by conducting a meta-analysis of social comparison. Here’s how he described his work:

“The meta-analysis addresses some issues that have been investigated for over 50 years in social psychology. Leon Festinger—one of psychology’s greats and also the inventor of cognitive dissonance—published a paper in a small journal that has become a touchstone for nearly every major psychology researcher since then (and nearly everyone in the field has published one paper on social comparison). In it, he suggested that when we are uncertain of where we stand—e.g., am I rich? Am I attractive? What should I wear? What should I believe about Justin Bieber?—we compare with others. Subsequent research has looked at who we compare with and how those comparisons make us feel. For instance, does comparing ourselves with Albert Einstein make us feel smarter or dumber?

There has been a lot of research (on social comparisons) but no proper quantitative summary and that’s what I’ve been working on. Ladd Wheeler, one of the top two experts on the theory and professor at Macquarie, came up with the first experimental test in the mid 1960s and has been at the top of the subject every decade since. This is a chance for me to work with a leading expert (Wheeler) on an important topic. After two or so years, we are almost done with the coding of articles, ready to crunch the numbers and write about our results. I wonder how we’ll compare?”

“All Things Ancient”: Wick Receives 2012 Marv Wilson Teaching Award

One student has called him a “human encyclopedia on all things ancient.” Whether leading seminars to Greece or mentoring students through their own research, David Wick, professor of history, has consistently modeled outstanding and inspiring scholarship. As a result, he has received the 2012 Marv Wilson Award for Teaching Excellence, which each year honors a faculty member from the Humanities Division or the Department of History.

The award was established in 2006 through the generosity of Gordon alumna Betsy Gage Pea ’79 and her husband Barry who wanted to honor Dr. Wilson. While studying as a history major, Betsy took many biblical studies courses from Wilson. In response, she established the gift not only to recognize Wilson for his years of passionate teaching but also to encourage other faculty to strive for similar success in the classroom for years to come.  In addition to having his name engraved on the award plaque in Frost Hall, Wick will receive an additional $1,000 for funding expenses to enrich his teaching and scholarship in the coming year.  Stephen Alter, associate professor and chair of the history department, wrote the following about his colleague:

“Excellent teaching involves content, communication skill and personal relationship. Those who know David and his work are awed by the way that he embodies and balances these several dimensions of the teacher’s craft.

He brings to his teaching a vast knowledge of the ancient Near Eastern and Mediterranean worlds, from religious to scientific to military history. One student recalled of the 2011 “Aegean Seminar” that he conducts to Greece every other summer: ‘Each day I’d find myself gravitating toward our human encyclopedia on all things ancient, Dr. David Wick. He shared with us myriad stories of Greek culture, politics, biography and warfare, creating before our eyes an ancient world for us to walk through.’ Continue reading

Preparing Students to Go Global = A Winning Strategy

NEWS UPDATE: Since posting the below story (on April 12, 2012), Jessica Ventura went on to win a first place award in the Best Professional Paper category at the Northeast ASEE conference, which included a cash prize as well. To read her paper in its entirety, click here. Congratulations, Jessica.

When Jessica Ventura, assistant professor of kinesiology, extended her research by teaching a class in Honduras through Gordon’s Global Education Office (GEO), she discovered more than the mechanical and physiological bases of human movement. She also realized the importance of preparing students for cultural experiences before they embark on overseas programs and to solidify those experiences once they return. As a result, she will be presenting the work Gordon’s GEO does as an example during the American Society of Engineering Education 2012 North East Conference, April 27-28 at U-Mass Lowell. Her paper “Developing Intercultural Sensitivity through Directed Global Education Programming,” will be published with their final conference proceedings. Here’s Ventura’s abstract of her paper:

“In view of the impact globalization has on engineering, many colleges and universities have made global experiences part of their undergraduate programs. When developing a global engineering program, educators should start by assessing where students are on the spectrum of intercultural sensitivity when they enter and thereby determine how the program can best succeed in increasing their sensitivity. If engineers have not been exposed to worldviews that differ from their own, they will assume that everyone holds to similar views. Thus, the first step in attaining intercultural sensitivity is to understand the dimensions of culture. From a different angle, educators should also present students with the stages of intercultural sensitivity, which range from experiences of ethno-centralism to ethno-relativism. Directed programming that brings students into discussions about these points prior to and following global experiences adds significant value to those experiences and can easily be implemented alongside overseas opportunities.”

Exploring the Language of Jesus

Planning for a sabbatical during the 2012-2013 academic year, Jennifer Hevelone-Harper, professor of history, is fulfilling a goal she’s had for a while. She’ll be working specifically with the dialect Jesus spoke as she studies a seventh century manuscript. The work is, in part, an extension of a class she co-taught this past fall and hopes to offer again next year: an introduction to Syriac Language and Literature. The class equips students to participate in her research project. Here’s how Hevelone-Harper described her plans:

“For many years I have desired to do a translation of a Syriac text. Syriac, a dialect of the Aramaic language spoken by Jesus and his first disciples, was used widely by early Christians in the Middle-East as well as in places further East like India and China. I have very recently been offered the opportunity to study the Codex Climaci Rescriptus. This is a key seventh-century palimpsest manuscript from Mt. Sinai, which contains a Syriac version of John Climacus’ two ascetic treatises written over a biblical material originally in Palestinian-Aramaic. John Climacus (579-c.650) is a vital witness to the eastern Christian ascetic tradition in the period when Byzantine rule was eclipsed by the Islamic conquests. The reuse of earlier biblical manuscripts to preserve his texts in Syriac poses intriguing historical questions. With my colleague Dr. Ute Possekel (adjunct professor of history at Gordon), I will help to prepare a translation and historical introduction for the Syriac layer of this manuscript.”