New Frontiers: Faculty Expand Their Influence

Gordon has long recognized the impact and influence of its professors beyond the classroom and into the broader academic landscape. Recently, four professors took on new opportunities.

While on sabbatical this semester, Tim Sherratt, professor of political science, was named as a Fellow at the Center for Public Justice in Washington, D.C. His role there will be to continue writing and creating interactive content about the political values of the CPJ.  According to the CPJ announcement, “The primary project Sherratt will complete as a CPJ Fellow first will engage local congregations—particularly those who say they don’t have a reason to have a Christian perspective on politics—to generate questions.”

Though she’s also on sabbatical, Janis Flint-Ferguson, professor of Education and English, has been invited to speak at the national convention for the National Council of Teachers of English on Nov. 23. Building on the conference theme of “Re-inventing the Future of English,” Flint-Ferguson‘s talk address the integration of ELA and history using genres to teach reading and writing in middle school.

Patricia Anders, part-time instructor in the Department of English Language and Literature, is now an associate editor at Hendrickson Publishers. One of her roles will be acquiring new titles for the Hendrickson list, and she hopes to guide faculty with appropriate book proposal. (A Gordon alumna who works at Hendrickson Publishers wrote the press release on Anders’ new role.)

John Sarrouf, adjunct professor of Peace and Conflict Studies as well as communication arts, directs The Family Dinner Project for The Public Conversations Project, a local non profit grassroots movement of food, fun and conversation. He was recently invited to pen the organization’s most recent family blog post, “Don’t Yuck on my Yam: A Mantra for the Table and Beyond.”

Writing the Personal and the Profound

For most professors, writing and publishing in their disciplines is a regular extension of their scholarship. But when writing becomes personal—and passionate—it has a different impact on both the audience and the scholar. Recently, three Gordon professors saw such pieces published.

In the current issue of Commonweal Magazine, Agnes Howard, associate professor of English and history, explores the difficult but crucial topic of coping with miscarriage. Her article, “Comforting Rachel: How Christians Should Respond to Prenatal Death” provides an insightful guide on the profound emotions around losing a baby as well as a context for Christian communities.

Denise Frame Harlan, adjunct professor of English, takes on the many challenges of the writing life itself, from health and relational disruptions to how aging and physical space affect the very act of putting words to paper. Her essay entitled, The Swing,” appears in Ruminate Magazine.

And as a favor to an administrator, Dorothy Boorse, professor of biology, had the difficult task of watching and reviewing a DVD series that addressed her passions: evangelical faith, science and truth. It wasn’t an easy writing project, given the contentious and often tense perspectives from within the various groups. This month, BioLogos posted her essays Science and The Truth Project, part one and two” on its web site.

Screwtape on Stage, Thanks to Jones and Stevick

Norm Jones

The imperfections of the human soul provided British writer C. S. Lewis plenty of fodder for his classic novel The Screwtape Letters, a humorous story told by a tempter in Hell offering instruction on the art of deception. Now, to mark the 50th anniversary of Lewis’s death and to celebrate his life and works, Theatre Arts Professor Norm Jones has teamed up with English Professor Mark Stevick to present The Screwtape Letters on stage, opening Oct.  25.

“Lewis has had such a profound influence on so many of us in the Gordon community,” Jones said. “We wanted to honor that impact by staging this unique and insightful adaptation of his novel to correspond with this anniversary.”

Mark Stevick

Adapted by Stevick and directed by Norman Jones, the production integrates three works by Lewis: The Screwtape Letters, The Great Divorce and Poems. The staged version dramatizes a series of letters written in Hell—where the souls are food and the stakes are high—by a senior tempter, the rigorous and ironic Screwtape, to her niece Wormwood. It features a cast of 17 student actors, some of whom play several characters. Jones’ production transforms The Screwtape Letters into an 80-minute cosmic—and often comic—tour of the battlefields where the struggle for souls is waged. 

The show opens in the Margaret Jensen Theatre of the Barrington Center for the Arts on Friday, Oct. 25 and runs through Saturday, Nov. 2 with nightly performances at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday matinees at 4 p.m. Tickets are $12 for general admission, and $8 for students, senior citizens, and faculty/staff of Gordon College. Tickets can be purchased here.

Gordon Scholars Explore: Rejection and Cinema, Values and Mentoring

Around the world and across the Internet, Gordon professors continue to offer their expertise and scholarship for the greater good. Here are more examples of recent contributions from Gordon faculty at the start of a new academic year:

Jonathan Gerber, associate professor of psychology, continues his scholarship on rejection with an article in The Journal of Social Psychology on, “Clarifying the Relationship Between Ostracism and Relational Devaluation,” which recently went online.  In it Gerber and co-author, Ladd Wheeler, examine “how three perspectives on relational devaluation relate to needs that threat following ostracism. In two experiments with 179 first-year psychology students, distress was greatest when participants were ostracized without any prior throws, and distress decreased linearly with increasing prior inclusion.”

In this month’s print and online edition of Texas Monthly Magazine, filmmaker and communication arts assistant professor, Toddy Burton, offered her expertise in an article exploring Christians in cinema. The story is entitled, “Americas Next Top Mogul: Why Rick Santorum Decided to Leave Politics (for now) and Become the CEO of a Texas-based Christian Film Studio,” and Burton is quoted about the growing number of filmmakers who are also Christians who “understand the rigor of doing (film) well.”

Bert Hodges, professor of psychology, just returned from a symposium at the University of Southern Denmark (Odense, DK), entitled “Values and Systems in Interactivity, Language and Cognition,” which brought together scholars from Denmark, Poland, Russia, England, and Sweden,  around his work on values-realizing theory (Hodges, 2007, 2009; Hodges & Baron, 1992). Each speaker described his or her own theoretical or empirical work and related it to values-realizing theory. Hodges also presented a paper, “Breaking the symmetry: Realizing values in remembering, trusting, and learning,” and held a one-day workshop before the symposium on values-realizing theory for faculty and advanced graduate students at the university.

At the Dallas Institute of Humanities and Culture, Dan Russ, academic dean and professor of English, recently gave a key note address at a two day gathering called, “The Education Forum: What is a Teacher?” His talk, “The Gift of Blind Hope: The Teacher as Seer”—which was an excerpt from a book chapter he wrote of the same name and around the same question of what is a teacher—focused on the story of Athena’s guiding young Telemachus in the guise of a king Mentor, the origin of our word mentoring.

Visiting the Land of Peter Rabbit and His Creator

Janis Flint-Ferguson in Ambleside, England.

As many fans and scholars honor the 70th anniversary of Beatrix Potter’s death, Janis Flint-Ferguson, professor of English and education, visited the author’s home in June to see first hand the setting that launched such works as “The Tale of Peter Rabbit” and “The Tale of Gloucester.” A lecturer with Wisconsin Lutheran College for its “Best of Britain” course, Flint-Ferguson, along with 11 undergraduate students, spent four days in Ambleside of the Lake District north of London. With dozens of walking paths, trails and hills, the rural beauty of the Lake District is both a tourist destination and the inspiration for much of Britain’s best literature, especially, Flint-Ferguson said, from the Romantic period. The class visited William Wordsworth’s home as well as the property and home of Potter (1866-1943). Here’s what Flint-Ferguson, whose expertise includes children’s literature, said about Potter:

“At the 70th anniversary of Potter’s death, it was particularly interesting to visit her home and land. As the grandmother of children’s literature, she revolutionized the genre through her illustrations and stories. For instance, as a natural scientist and conservationist, she studied all of the mold and fungi in the Lake District’s wooded areas, fields and pastures so as to draw them in detail, using her scientific skill and knowledge to capture them in illustrations. Many of these drawings as well as her journals were on display at her home this past summer, which we got to see.

At Potter’s home.

“The Lake District is also home to the sheep industry in England—Potter herself owned some 270 sheep farms in the region—and when she died, she left all of her property to the National Trust of England, which virtually opened up the Lake District. She wanted people to be able to come and see, to walk and enjoy the area as much as she did. But in terms of her literary contributions, she wrote in good, standard, proper and appropriate English, even though some of her editors felt she should ‘dumb down’ a bit for children. But she absolutely refused. And as a result it was one of the first times in England that parents were reading to their children, not in simplified English but in good standard English. There’s some tough vocabulary in her books. She would also sometimes ask caretakers to bring  dead animals to her—mice, rats, rabbits—where she would set them on the desk in front of her to draw them. So when you’re looking at the illustrations in her books, you’re not only seeing the setting in her home but every animal drawn anatomically correct because she studied them so carefully. She was a woman far more intelligent and curious about the natural world than we often give her credit for being.”

Public Scholarship: Faculty Lend Expertise to the News

July has been a busy media month for several Gordon professors as they’ve discussed their expertise with national and regional journalists, and offered unique perspectives for the public with their observations on current issues. Here are a few examples of how Gordon professors are helping shape public discussions:  

On July 19, Ruth Melkonian Hoover, chair and associate professor of political science and international affairs whose most recent scholarship focuses on evangelicals and immigration, discussed her perspective on the immigration reform efforts in Congress with a national reporter with the Religion News Service. The story also appeared on the Washington Post’s On Faith blog.

On July 18, Chemistry Professor Irv Levy discussed Gordon’s commitment to green chemistry and its inclusion with only a select few other colleges and universities in the nation for a story in GreenBiz.Com.

Dorothy Boorse, professor of biology, was quoted July 10  in a Sojourners Magazine article regarding a recent letter sent to Congress from evangelical scientists on climate control.  

On July 8, Political Science Professor Timothy Sherratt wrote an opinion column on the Supreme Court’s recent ruling on marriage that ran in the Salem News.

That same day in the Salem News, English Professor Mark Stevick was the focus of a front page story regarding the two decades success of his play “Cry Innocent” and its adaptation to film, which the paper also endorsed later that week in its own editorial page. Stevick’s new play, “Good Night, Captain White,” an historic comedy of one of Salem’s most notorious murders, opens this weekend July 26 at the Griffen Theatre and has also received positive press, including this prominent story in the July 25 edition of the Salem News. 

An Innovative Slave Narrative Affects Popular Culture

Andrea Frankwitz

William Wells Brown, one of the country’s first African American writers to publish a variety of creative works, was also a slave. As part of her ongoing scholarship on slave narratives, Andrea Frankwitz, associate professor of English, will present on Brown’s literary contributions at the Popular Culture Association and the American Culture Association’s annual conference in Washington, D.C., March 27-30, 2013.

Here’s Frankwitz’s abstract of her talk, “Mastering the Picaro: Rhetorical Reversals in the Narrative of William W. Brown, A Fugitive Slave”:

“Notable for being the first African American to publish a novel, a play, a travel narrative, and a history of black soldiers, William Wells Brown rose to prominence while still legally a slave, having become a popular speaker in the abolitionist circuit.  What naturally followed from this was the publication of his own slave account, Narrative of William W. Brown, A Fugitive Slave, Written By Himself (1847).  Though by this point in time, the slave narrative genre had further developed from its Middle Passage and action-oriented beginnings in the eighteenth-century to then, in the midst of the Romantic era, a more thoughtful and introspective first-person story, Brown may almost appear to have reversed course.  Departing a bit from the prototypically autobiographical story of enslavement that Douglass provides, Brown, instead, seems novelistic in approach.   Despite its being a best seller in its day, Brown’s Narrative now receives far less critical attention than his novel, Clotel.  It may well be, though, that Brown’s innovations in his slave narrative have resulted in critics’ being confused about its genre classification, seeing it as having an identity crisis of sorts.  

“While, admittedly, his story seems far less autobiographical than that of Frederick Douglass or Harriet Jacobs, Brown may well have sought to complicate his rendition of the slave narrative. In Narrative of William W. Brown, A Fugitive Slave, Brown draws upon but re-appropriates the picaresque tradition to rewrite the master’s property book, thus rhetorically repositioning himself and his former slave-owner(s) and inverting their power relations.”

Faculty Kudos: Essays, Books and Professional Contributions

As the fall 2012 semester came to a close, there was much to celebrate with our faculty’s many recent contributions in their respective fields. Here’s a very brief overview:

Provost Curry

The Chronicle of Higher Education published an essay by Provost Janel Curry this week in its careers section. The essay entitled, The Education of a Provost” chronicles Dr. Curry‘s path to her position at Gordon and reminds readers that no part of their journey is wasted. 

Craig Story

Craig Story, associate professor of biology and advisor for Gordon’s health professions, and Justin Topp, associate professor of biology, recently received news of a generous grant from the BioLogos Foundation to “build an international network of pastors committed to increasing their scientific literacy.” (A formal announcement will be forthcoming.)

Assistant professor of English Chad Stutz just signed a contract for a book published by British house Paternoster Press as part of their Studies in Evangelical History and Thought series. With a tentative title, Evangelicals and Aesthetics from the 1750s to the 1930s, the book provides an intellectual history of a largely forgotten tradition of aesthetic discourse among British and American evangelicals between the time of the first awakenings of a modern aesthetic consciousness in the eighteenth century to the fundamentalist-modernist controversy of the early twentieth century.

Gordon education students with students from Lynn Classical High

Gordon education students in the course, Understanding the Context of the Urban School and ESL students from Lynn Classical High collaborated on an interactive field trip exploring the benefits of higher education, thanks to adjunct professor of education and alumna Melissa Winchell who organized the event.

Judith Oleson, professor of social work, supervised nine social work students in field placements in Romania, San Francisco, and throughout Boston’s North and South Shores. Students served in various councils on aging, youth and family services agencies, Catholic Charities, and specific intervention programs.

In an essay entitled, “More Powerful Than Words” and published in the Huffington Post, Brian Glenney, assistant professor of philosophy, explored the impact of symbols through his Accessibility Icon Project

Professor of history Jennifer Hevelone-Harper wrote an editorial entitled, “How St. Francis Made Christmas New and Smelly” that appeared on the opinion page of the Salem News, a regional newspaper that reaches several thousand in circulation across the North Shore of Boston.

Studying the Craft of Writing for Greater Conversations

Denise Frame Harlan

Writing is hard work, and reading great stories can be as inspiring as it is instructive for the aspiring writer. That’s why Denise Frame Harlan, adjunct professor and committee member for The Great Conversations courses at Gordon, models the writing life to her students. This month, for instance, the Englewood Review of Books invited Frame Harlan to reflect on a classic for its Advent print edition; she chose “The Complete Stories of Flannery O’Connor,” reviewing it under the title, “Sometimes it Takes a Lifetime to Read a Book.”

The High Calling—a daily blog for Laity Lodge in Texas—has published a series of Frame Harlan‘s stories about her parents and their work. The first   and second stories were published this summer. This month, The High Calling published her third story, which is about working with her brother at a resort over one Christmas break when they were college students.

Frame Harlan also has reviewed several books on the Englewood Review of Books site which she says, “would make excellent Christmas presents for readers who happen to be creative people, creatively tired people, or overwhelmed parents who wonder how to return to creativity and faith.”  To learn more about her work, visit her website.

Theatre in Scotland & England: ‘A Crucible of Culture and Conversation’

Professor Mark Stevick, center, with students at All Soul’s Church in London.

If all the world’s a stage, the United Kingdom is the host and this year marks the 18th consecutive theatre trip there for Gordon professors and students. From August 10-26, 2012, Mark Stevick, associate professor of English, and Norm Jones, professor of theatre arts, will lead 30 students—the most enrolled since the course began in 1995—for a week in Edinburgh, Scotland, and a week in London, England. This year also celebrates the 300th student to participate in the study abroad seminar.

What began as a two-credit elective course has now grown into a four-credit interdisciplinary exploration of such subjects as history, art, English, creative writing, theatre, psychology, and communication, which fulfills core requirements for the aesthetics theme in the Gordon core. Here’s how poet and creative writing professor Mark Stevick reflected on the history of the class as well as their upcoming trip:

“The two-week trip is a crucible of culture and conversation, one that inspires the leaders for another year of making art, and makes some indelible life memories for the students.

We used to travel right after commencement, and in those years our itinerary included places like Dublin and Galway (Ireland), and in England, Bath (with its Royal Crescent and Pulteney Bridge—twin to the Ponte Vecchio in Florence), Stratford-Upon-Avon (home of three very different theatres and to the Bard’s crypt), Oxford (with a cooling pause at the Inklings’ Eagle & Child pub), and Cambridge (there to savor an evensong at King’s College Chapel)—and, always, London.  Day trips have taken us to Salisbury (tallest spire in the UK—at 400 feet) and nearby Stonehenge (big gray stones; little red poppies), to Ely (named for its eels, and home for a decade to Oliver Cromwell), to Coventry (with its massive Graham Sutherland tapestry behind the altar of the 1962 cathedral, itself verging on the ruins of the Nazi-bombed 14th-century cathedral), and, in Ireland, to the Aran Islands, to James Joyce’s tower in Sandycove, to Glasnevin Cemetery, chaste resting place for the 19th century’s greatest English poet, Gerard Manley Hopkins, and to the village of Kinvara.

In 2004, we switched to an August trip to take advantage of the thousands of theatre, dance, music, spoken word, and nearly unclassifiable performances in the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, the world’s largest arts festival. We see as many as we can in one week: Jeff Miller, professor of theatre arts, manages three shows a day on most days.

We’ve honed our approach, so we can offer a lot of culture for a little green. Classes occur in the morning, usually with a latte, often in one of the several lobbies of London’s Royal National Theatre, or in an atrium at the foot of Arthur’s Seat at the University of Edinburgh. Continue reading