Practicing Peace in Urgent Times

With so many recent headlines pointing to global, corporate or personal conflicts, it seems particularly appropriate to be thinking more about peace and how to promote it. In preparation for the International Day of Peace on Sept. 21, 20013, representatives from Gordon’s faculty and staff have planned a week of conversations, vigils and discussions. Special guests will be on campus to talk about peace efforts and the role of faith in promoting peace. The Week of Peace is a combined effort of the Gordon College Initiative for the Study and Practice of Peace led by Daniel Johnson, professor of sociology; the Balkans Semester; the Peace and Conflict Studies program; and the U.S. Institute of Peace Public Education for Peacebuilding.

“At a time when the world is looking at the crisis in Syria, it is crucial that our  students are prepared to consider alternative strategies that can deter war, and create opportunities for peace,” said Judith Oleson, professor of social work and director of the Peace and Conflict Studies minor. “With our mission to prepare students to be global leaders and our unique ethical frame as a Christian college, we’re in a unique position to explore issues of peacemaking in this urgent time.”

The Week of Peace events include the following:

Monday, Sept. 16, 12:00-1:30: ”Philosophy, Faith, and the Practice of Peace”— Why this is important to Gordon College?   A Lunch Conversation with Richard Kearney, the Charles B. Seelig Chair of Philosophy at Boston College.  President’s Dining Room, Lane Student Center.

Monday, Sept. 16, 7:00: ”The Small Work of Peace”—A Panel Discussion with Richard Kearney;  Padraig O’Malley, the John Joseph Moakley Professor of International Peace and Reconciliation, McCormack Graduate School of Policy Studies, University of Massachusetts; and Aida Vidan,  Lecturer, Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures, Harvard University.

Thursday, Sept. 19, 7:30: ”Seeking Peace in Film: Halima’s Path”—A Film Screening and Conversation with the Director, Moderated by Aida Vidan  8:00-10:00 BCA 138

Saturday, Sept. 21,7:00: “Peacemaking and the Spiritual Disciplines”—A Walking Peace Vigil, Chapel Steps.

 

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.”

Gordon Tradition: Moving into the Best Year Yet

 Gordon begins each new academic year with a matriculation chapel and hears from last spring’s distinguished professor. In her talk, “The Best Shape of Your Life,” Valerie Gin, professor /chair of recreation & leisure studies and 2013 Distinguished Senior Faculty,  challenged students to consider how trust and regiments could translate into their best efforts for the new year. Her speech is reprinted below.

“The Best Shape of Your Life”

By Valerie Gin

When I told my Mom I was asked to speak at Matriculation Chapel, she wondered why I was asked.  When I told her it was because I received the faculty award, without hesitating she told me to, “GIVE IT BACK!”  My mom was horrified and worried that I had to speak in front of so many and now I think I should have listened to her. Well, at least I didn’t have to worry about what I was going to wear.

I am here today because I am blessed by faculty and staff colleagues who support, encourage and pray for me; wonderful students and the Lord’s generosity, grace and goodness. I am grateful for the opportunity to teach at Gordon College. I thank you all.

Wouldn’t it be great to start off this year in the best shape of your life and better yet, maintain it?  Perhaps some of you are there, others not quite. Whether you are there or not, Proverbs 3 provides wonderful guidance in how to prolong life, bring peace and prosperity, win favor and a good name in the sight of God and others, be on a straight path and bring health and nourishment to our bones.  Sounds like great shape to me!

How do we get and stay in shape?  Well, you are already off to a good start because you are at a state of the art boot camp/training facility with the best trainers available. The drill sergeants—I mean professors and staff—will provide a regimen so that you won’t easily forget what you have been taught. It’s our job to ensure that you write on the tablet of your hearts and not just your iPads.

We are professors because we profess what we believe.  Our profession of God’s teaching, commands, love and faithfulness are embedded in who we are and what we teach.  The Gordon basic workout/core classes are designed to develop and strengthen your CORE.  This tremendous workout, premeditated by the faculty, ensures that your mental, spiritual, emotional, social and physical muscles are developed in symmetry. Have you ever seen people who only work out their upper body and then have skinny chicken legs? Back problems are at an epidemic because we have stronger quads and weak hamstrings and abs.  But if you work on the CORE regimen and do your daily reps, you will be well balanced and in great shape.

I have had personal trainers before they were in vogue.  I’d like to share part of my training history with you to encourage you in your training.

Read the rest of this entry »

Six Faculty + Summer Grants = Interesting Scholarship, Part III

Each summer at Gordon, the Provost’s Office invites applications for small grants that Faculty can use toward ongoing research and scholarship in between academic years. This summer, six were awarded stipends, ranging in projects from screenwriting and data reviews to humanitarian logistics and fiction writing. Here are profiles of the final two recipients: (Read about the others HERE)

In between travel to scout locations and research, Toddy Burton, assistant professor of communication arts, has been completing a feature screenplay for a spring 2014 production that coincides with her sabbatical then.  In addition to her other scholarship and award winning films, Burton’s current project will explore the genres of drama and comedy. Here’s how she described her creative process for the development grant:The undertaking will involve revising different projects I have been developing, resulting in selection of the script that I will then lock into a production-ready draft. Work will include writing, soliciting feedback and launching of pre-production strategies. Additionally, I am overseeing an independent study this semester (with a film student) to shoot a short based on one of the feature ideas. The resulting film will used in fundraising efforts for the feature. Some of the work this summer will involve completing post-production and distribution on that short film.”

Kaye Cook, professor of psychology, has been continuing her scholarship on, “Teaching Integration, and Understanding Alumni Views of God.”  For her two-part summer project, Cook has been preparing an article for a special edition of the Journal of Psychology and Theology on faith-learning integration in developmental psychology, co-authoring it with Kathleen Leonard (University of Massachusetts—Lowell, Gordon graduate). Their goals are to summarize contemporary perspectives, teaching strategies, and scholarly resources, and to develop materials and propose creative pedagogical strategies for use in the field. Some of Cook’s students are helping with the review of current material. 

Here’s what Cook wrote on the second part of her project: “I have the transcriptions of 120 interviews with Gordon alumni, which current students and I will code for alumni views of God. After a review of the data, I believe they will challenge Chris Smiths’ well-respected description of emerging adult religiosity as marked by MTD (moralistic, therapeutic, deism). MTD refers to a belief in God that God is moralistic (i.e., the source of morals), therapeutic i.e., God is primarily a problem-solver), and deistic (i.e., God as distant and uninvolved in everyday lives). I expect to prepare a publishable manuscript of these data for a peer-reviewed journal and/or write it into a chapter I write on ‘Spiritual Formation in Emerging Adulthood’ this fall.”

Teaching Teachers of French Through Technology and Cinema

Though Emmanuelle Vanborre, associate professor of French and chair of Languages and Linguistics, spent much of her summer in her native country of France, she’ll be bringing her scholarship August 22 to Boston’s French Consulate. In a workshop on cinema and French language acquisition, Vanborre will explore the use of technology in the language classroom through online activities that help students learn language and culture.

As part of an annual summer university co-sponsored by the French Cultural Center and the Consulate, the two and a half day training offers seminars ranging from “Cinema for French Conversations” to the usage of interactive learning sites in the classroom. The equivalent of 15 hours of complete French immersion, the seminar offers intensive training in language and cultural activities to New England French teachers (K-12 – university).

Here’s what Vanborre wrote about her workshop: “Boston College graduate students created a series of web sites for use by middle school to college level students of French, Italian, and Spanish. These sites contain activities written by graduate students that can only be completed by examining existing L2 web pages written for and by L2 speakers. My presentation will concentrate on French sites. It will explore numerous ways to make students proficient readers and writers, and to integrate art, culture and literature in the curriculum through technology. The strategies I’ll present will facilitate comprehension and expression by focusing on developing reading and writing skills while enhancing background knowledge of culture, history, geography, and politics.”

 

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. 

Six Faculty + Summer Grants = Interesting Scholarship, Part II

Each summer at Gordon, the Provost’s Office invites applications for small grants that Faculty can use toward ongoing research and scholarship in between academic years. This summer, six were awarded stipends, ranging in projects from screenwriting and data reviews to humanitarian logistics and fiction writing. Here are two more recipients, with others to follow:

Mike Veatch, chair and professor of mathematics and computer science, writes about his project entitled: “Airport/Port Congestion During Relief Operations”: “Humanitarian logistics, which concerns the acquisition and delivery of material, is receiving increased attention from aid agencies and academics. Although similar to commercial and military supply chains in their core IT and transportation technologies, humanitarian operations have unique timing, goals, and human factors. This project addresses an aspect of humanitarian logistics that has not received much attention: scheduling an airport or seaport after a disaster. Mathematical models and data from Port-au-Prince airport after the Haiti earthquake are used to test innovative scheduling strategies to allow more aid to be delivered. One or two papers will be submitted to logistics journals.”

Valerie Gin, 2013 distinguished faculty, chair and professor of recreation and leisure studies, and Jo Kadlecek, senior writer and journalist in residence, are co-authoring a novel (tentatively) titled, “When Girls Became Lions.” Here’s their abstract of the story: “A work of contemporary fiction, When Girls Became Lions celebrates the power of women’s friendships against the backdrop of Title IX. Through alternating view points and parallel stories, the novel follows a young woman soccer coach/high school teacher in 2008—herself an ‘entitled’ beneficiary of Title IX—as she discovers the history of her school’s first girls soccer coach, his state championship team, and their corporate legacy. The more she learns what the inaugural team endured just to compete, the more her own perspectives are challenged. The novel’s climax publically honors those first players, who had never received recognition.”

Six Faculty + Summer Grant = Interesting Scholarship

Each summer at Gordon, the Provost’s Office invites applications for small grants that Faculty can use toward ongoing research and scholarship in between academic years. This summer, six were awarded stipends, ranging in projects from screenwriting and data reviews to humanitarian logistics and fiction writing. Here are two recipients, with the others to follow:

For his project called,”Impacts of habitat fragmentation on small-mammal carriers of Lyme Borreliosis, Babesiosis, and Anaplasmosis,” Greg Keller, associate professor of biology  and curator of birds and Mammals, says his summer research will include: “1) an increase in efforts to study small mammals and tick-borne diseases; and 2) an application to the National Science Foundation Research in Undergraduate Institution program for grant support. Habitat fragmentation may impact small mammals and transmission of parasitic diseases they carry. Students and I will live-trap small mammals, collect tissue samples, and collect ticks to analyze for infectious agents of Lyme borreliosis, babesiosis, and anaplasmosis. We will compare four habitats to identify specific types of fragmentation that affect these measures. This project will yield considerable data, incorporate student assistance, result in publication, and foster collaboration.”

For her research entitled, ”Ritualized Interpretations: A Hermeneutic Account of Social Identities,” Lauren Barthold, associate professor of philosophy and coordinator of gender studies minor, describes her abstract this way: “Most contemporary feminist theories of identity tend toward either gender realism, with its untenable metaphysical assumptions, or post-structuralist gender deflationism, with its danger of political quietism. In an attempt to move beyond this polarizing and paralyzing dilemma, my manuscript draws on the resources of the hermeneutic tradition in philosophy, specifically that of Hans-Georg Gadamer, and argues that identities are like interpretations. Conceiving of identities as interpretations affirms their plural, dialogic and ritualized nature and shows how their main function is not to express the essence and meaning of an individual but to foster community creation.”

Grant to Ask New Questions on the Problem of Suffering

How does one address, and think about, suffering in a way that goes beyond academic engagement to practical theology? Ian DeWeese-Boyd, associate professor of philosophy & education, hopes to find out. DeWeese-Boyd is part of a team with two other scholars who have been awarded a $14,260 grant from the Center for Philosophy of Religion at Notre Dame for the formation of discussion groups that will focus on such analytic theology. The grant will help DeWeese-Boyd, Patrick Smith of Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary and Rev. James Arcadi, adjunct instructor of the Great Conversations course at Gordon, explore how contemporary approaches to the problem of suffering might address the existential and pastoral dimensions of this problem. They expect to form the group in the fall of 2014 and bring Eleonore Stump and Oliver Crisp as guest speakers. Here’s the team’s abstract:

“In addressing the problem of human suffering, analytic philosophers have traditionally been accused of doing little to comfort those actually enduing suffering. However, recent work on the problem of evil has begun to recognize the existential limits of responses to the problem of evil that focus exclusively on the reasons justifying God’s allowance of evil.  This new line of thinking holds that to respond fully to the problem of human suffering, we must expand beyond typical limits to address deeper questions than merely, ‘How can God allow this to exist?’ Eleonore Stump and Marilyn Adams suggest that responses to the problem of suffering must offer alternate routes to consolation for those suffering the heartbreak and horrors of this world. Stump focuses on how the biblical narrative provides what she calls second-personal knowledge of God. Adams focuses on how the person and work of Christ provides a redemptive identification with humans that engulfs the experience of horror. Both approaches offer substantial material for thinking about how to console suffering Christians.

“We will form a Cluster Group of seminary theologians (who specifically train those who minister to the suffering) and philosophers trying to connect theoretical discussions to the concrete struggles of those in their communities. We aim to bring these rich discussions of analytic theology to those who can benefit practically in their encounters with suffering. For this reason, we also hope to include the voices of those directly ministering to the suffering (e.g., local clergy, campus counselors, hospice workers) as we consider the pastoral significance of these contemporary analytic theodicies.  We will engage these discussions with consideration of the nature of God’s self-revelation in, through, and in spite of human suffering. We plan to discuss our epistemic access to God through Scripture, Christ, and the Sacraments as means of knowing God in the face of experiential counter-arguments. In this way, we hope to highlight the personal and practical significance of analytic theology.”

Christian Scholars Address Ethics Crises

Whether there’s a new cultural crises in ethics or such crises have simply become more public through the information age, the need to address them is real. At this year’s interdisciplinary  Christian Scholars Conference in June and around the theme, ”Crises in Ethics: Theology, Business, Law and the Liberal and Fine Arts,” two Gordon professors travelled to Nashville to present papers on panel discussions.

Joining two other bible scholars on a panel called, “Old Testament Theology of Prayer,” Elaine Phillips, professor of biblical studies and Christian ministries, discussed, “The Prayer of the Upright:  Confession, Petition, Accusation, and Intercession in Wisdom Literature.” There are several studies on prayer in the Psalms or on select prayers within the Old Testament, but little in the way of a comprehensive exploration of the theology of prayer in all the Old Testament.  Her session was the second in a three-year project to examine the theology of prayer in the various sections of the Old Testament with the intent of providing the groundwork for a canonical Old Testament theology of prayer. 

Across campus, Jonathan P. Gerber, assistant professor of psychology, discussed the recent number of high-profile lapses in research ethics, where many of these cases emerged due to new analytic techniques for detecting and managing fraud, techniques which are broadly applicable to other empirical disciplines. Gerber’s peer-reviewed panel discussed the impact of recent cases of social psychological ethics, the techniques used to uncover fraud, the role of Christian institutions in maintaining research integrity, and the application of these techniques to other disciplines.

Specifically, Gerber addressed the fraud of Diederik Stapel and whether it led to calls to revise research practices in psychology.  Gerber’s paper—entitled, “Did Stapel’s research fraud lead to knowledge distortion or reputation reduction?”—provided the preliminary results of a 60 year meta-analysis of social comparison research, including over 600 research papers. Gerber said, “The effect sizes in Stapel’s work were not significantly different to other researcher’s findings, suggesting that knowledge about social comparison has not suffered from Stapel’s misconduct, even though the field’s reputation has. It appears that, sometimes, you can fake too well.”