2012 Faculty Projects

Emily Drew
Emily Drew, Associate Professor of Sociology

“Secure Communities,” a policy of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement in the Department of Homeland Security, is gaining momentum in states across the United States, including proposed legislation right here in Oregon.  Through this practice, people who are suspected of being “criminal aliens” can be stopped, detained and fingerprinted to check their status as citizens.  Police officers are trained to act as ICE (immigration) enforcement under the auspices of and in the name of public safety.  At the present time, the only data that exists about these practices is conducted by statisticians within ICE, and little is known about its effects on local communities and families regarding the policy and its practice.  I am interested in collecting data to find out what the consequences of “Secure Communities” are for the jurisdictions in which it is being enforced in Oregon.  Through in-depth interviews with people in the Willamette Valley who are affected by the policy, I will explore the effects on immigration policy as it is practiced through this initiative.   This is a new project for me and the summer research will allow me to progress in two significant ways: (1) conduct a review of the literature regarding immigration policy effects, and  (2) collect data through qualitative interviews.

Read more


Brianne Davila
Brianne Davila, Assistant Professor of Sociology

Educational outreach programs have relied on the use of data in order to inform their policies and practices.  In an effort to build a community partnership with Willamette Academy, this project seeks to develop a long-term plan for systematic data collection and analysis.  The goals of the project are to better understand the educational outcomes (intended and unintended) that result from participation in the academy for its multiple stakeholders: Willamette Academy students, families, and Willamette University students and identifying ways to improve the services provided to its stakeholders.  This project is in its preliminary stages.  This summer, I will be focused on conducting a review of the literature and collecting qualitative data (observations and in-depth interviews). 

Read more


Alexandra Opie

Responding to Early Portrait Photography

Alexandra Opie, Assistant Professor of Art

I am interested in the perception of time in a photograph and in creating photographs that appear to be simultaneously contemporary and antique.  In my recent photographic work, I have developed a technique for rapidly reproducing the effects of age on silver gelatin photographs.  In this next phase of research, I will examine the visual cues of 19th century portrait photography.  I will study portrait typologies in general as well as representations of sex, class, locale (rural versus urban), and possibly race as they are represented in the portraits.  I will examine portraits made for personal consumption and those made for identification purposes.  I will then respond to those approaches and create a new body of photographic portrait work.  In particular, I will examine and restage the styles of background, lighting approach and personal presentation of the sitters.  I anticipate encountering many interesting conceptual and creative problems in this project. 

Read more


Melissa Michaux

Oregon Health Care Policy

Melissa Michaux, Associate Professor, Chair of Politics

The passage of national health care reform in 2010, known as the Affordable Care Act (ACA), created a number of new mandates for states in order to increase the percentage of Americans with access to health care.  My summer work focuses on the state of Oregon and its creation of a state health insurance exchange and coordinated care organizations (CCOs), legislation for which were just passed spring 2011.  While the state health insurance exchange was mandated by the ACA, the CCOs actually require waivers from the federal government to change the compensation system for doctors away from fee-for-service.  Both developments require public-private partnerships.  I plan to investigate if these partnerships can provide a cooperative model as an alternative to the dominant one of competitive social service delivery (that assumes competition provides better outcomes for consumers).  The cooperative model requires input, deliberation and concessions across a variety of stakeholders.  Understanding the dynamics of those processes--why some succeed and others fail--is critical for any assessment of the programs (how inclusive or democratic are they) but also their likelihood of succeeding in other states. 

Read more


Jade Aguilar
Jade Aguilar, Assistant Professor of Sociology

In summer 2012, I will be conducting a content analysis on the advice column, Savage Love. Dan Savage, the Seattle-based author, has been writing his advice for column for twenty years and it is syndicated in more than seventy newspapers, primarily in alternative weeklies in the United States, with well over one million in total circulation. Despite his popularity, a scholarly critical analysis of his writing and the views that he advocates has never been conducted. "In a culture that is determined to restrict talk about sex, and particularly those sexual practices that are labeled 'taboo,'" advice columns provide a "widely available and culturally mainstream venue for talking, learning, and debating issues of sexuality" (Gudelunas, 2005). I seek to analyze this unique space where sexual behavior and sexual identity/orientation is openly discussed. In particular, questions of how sexual behaviors shape the letter writers' understanding of their sexual identity will be examined.  While my research question is still undefined, I hope to examine how Dan Savage's response to the letters influences the normalizing of deviant sexual behaviors in society, and how his use of common sexual scripts serves to construct socially “appropriate” sexual acts, bodies, and behaviors, thereby also constructing “inappropriate” acts, bodies and behaviors. This is a new project and over the course of the LARC program, I hope to 1) conduct a literature review and 2) conduct the content analysis.

Read more


Allison Hobgood
Allison Hobgood, Assistant Professor of English

In summer 2012, I will be conducting research in the burgeoning field of early modern disability studies.  While contemporary disability studies has thrived over the past twenty years, disability as a conceptual category of difference in pre-modern contexts has gone relatively unexplored.  Many scholars have suggested, mistakenly, that the systems of categorization and stigmatization that inform our contemporary ideas about disability appeared in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.  Recent scholarship has demonstrated, however, that “disabled” was indeed an operational identity category in both the medieval and Renaissance eras.  In so doing, this new work in pre- and early modern disability studies attempts to rescue non-normative narratives out of critical conversations that have often overlooked or misidentified disability in its important historical contexts.  Exploring disability through a focus on medieval and early modern representations of non-standard bodies and minds, this new field asks: how were disabled individuals represented in their respective cultures, both real and fictional?  How did medieval and early modern investments in the “able” body construct the “disabled” body as their oppositional term?  What traditions relating to disability did pre-modern writers inherit from the various theological, political, medical, and legal injunctions of the classical period?   Finally, what medieval and early modern views on disability inform our contemporary moment?  

Working to further solidify early modern disability studies as a vital field of inquiry, I will spend the summer on a project that applies contemporary disability theory to the work of Renaissance poet John Milton; I plan to research and write a journal article that focuses on his epic poem, Paradise Lost, in order to rethink the poem as a narrative about the construction of “normal” in the late seventeenth century.  More specifically, I hope to re-envision Paradise Lost as a radical critique of an early modern cultural imagination that increasingly mandated ability as it conceived of disability as imperfection from which individuals needed salvation.  I am interested in working with collaborators who might participate in the project in these—amongst other—ways: archival work in medieval and Renaissance literature, history, and/or culture (either online or at a relevant institution/library); theoretical reading and conversation in modern and postmodern disability studies; general research on John Milton or on literary representations of non-standard bodies and minds in pre- or postmodern periods; general theoretical work in pre- and postmodern identity histories, especially those deemed “non-normative,” “non-standard,” “abnormal,” or just plain “different.”

Read more


Sammy Basu

Deliberative reason in Weimar and Nazi Germany

Sammy Basu, Associate Professor of Politics

What does democracy require of citizens cognitively, affectively, and aesthetically?  Very broadly speaking, this research agenda explores the interplay between philosophy, religion, propaganda, ideology, art and rival Weltanschauungen (worldviews) in Germany between 1914 and 1945.  I am interested in documenting, on the one hand, some of the ways in which intellectuals and artists sought to defend and bolster the liberal-democratic institutions and values of the new Weimar Republic and, on the other, the extent to which Nazism was itself intended as an intellectually compelling authoritarian aesthetic order.  My particular focus, however, is on the communicative uses of humor and laughter (in essays, cartoons, plays, films, operas, and so on).  I am testing a positive claim: that democratic humor communicatively and deliberatively enabled reflection upon and accommodation of multiple tolerable political perspectives, and a negative claim: that Nazism involved a programmatic desire to have the 'last laugh'.  We will work with significant intellectuals and artists, such as Carl Schmitt and John Heartfield, and primary texts (in various genres) from the period in German and/or in translation in English.

Read more


Wendy Boring

Infusing Sustainability: Tales from the Humanities and Social Sciences

Wendy Boring, Assistant Professor of History

What happens when sustainability issues are cross-pollinated with classes and research in the humanities and social sciences?  How has the current sustainability movement changed education on college campuses?  What do the humanities and social sciences have to offer sustainability?  This summer I am engaging in research for a book, Teaching Sustainability: Perspectives from the Humanities and Social Sciences which will:  1) document innovative pedagogy in sustainability and the humanities and social sciences, 2) provide resources for infusing sustainability into humanities and social science curricula, and 3) create a space for theoretical reflection on how integrating sustainability reconfigures and energizes traditional approaches.  My own research will explore the challenge posed by climate change and the host of current environmental problems we face to historical understanding; eco-narratives of deep history and differing view of the transition to agriculture; and sustainability as a challenge to traditional paradigms of knowledge.  I am seeking student collaborators who want to work creatively and critically on the intersections between sustainability issues and teaching and research in the humanities and social sciences.

Journeys of the Soul:  Gender, Mysticism, and Medieval Critiques of Reason

Late Medieval women mystics wrote treatises of astonishing complexity that not only traced journeys of the soul to spiritual ecstasy, but also openly critiqued male-dominated institutions and paradigms of knowledge.   How did gender shape these journeys of the soul? What themes are shared with male-authored mystical treatises?  How did late medieval mystics experience the limits of human reason?  My research this summer is part of a book project, Wonder, Ecstasy, and Annihilation:  Cognitive Stances in the Late Middle Ages which uses late medieval figures (such as the Franciscans, Bonaventure, Aquinas, Mechtild of Magdeburg, Marguerite Porete, and Dante) to explore three interrelated questions:  how the mystical stances of wonder, ecstasy, and annihilation in these texts arise from and speak back to real communities; how the language of these texts bridges the textual and extra-textual worlds; and how the authors show others a path to knowing that itself disrupts knowledge.  I am seeking student collaborators who want to work creatively and critically on issues of gender, power, and religion in the late Medieval or Early Modern periods.

Read more


Catherine Collins

Vernacular Memorials as a Response to Trauma: The Case of Kyron Horman

Catherine Collins, Professor of Rhetoric & Media Studies

I am interesting in extending research that I have been involved in during the last ten years on visual rhetoric and memorialization to the case of Kyron Horman, age 8, missing for over a year. In particular I want to assess the physical memorial—the Wall of Hope—in Beaverton (its third and now permanent location), the memorial blogs that have been developed in response to his disappearance, and memorial billboards that have been erected. Each of these vernacular memorials acts as a site of memory, and a way to negotiate the trauma associated with Kyron’s disappearance. The “offerings” at the Wall of Hope reflect the fear and loss felt by his parents, classmates, friends, and strangers who leave photographs, letters, drawings, toys, and other memorabilia to add their hope for his save return. These memorials have also captured the attention of the print and electronic media. With each move of the wall, the erection of new billboards, and distribution of Kyron teeshirts and posters, the media continues to respond with print and film accounts of his disappearance and the perseverance of his friends and family to keep the story alive. Memorialization seeks to bridge the past we remember and the future we desire by providing closure to painful events. The same impetus inheres with vernacular memorials. These sites of memory evoke verbal and visual memorialization in an effort to obviate the trauma, in this case the “Endangered, Missing” Kyron Horman.

Read more


Bobby Brewer-Wallin
Bobby Brewer-Wallin, Assistant Professor of Theatre

Our inter-disciplinary research group intends to collaborate together toward the creation of new artworks that are generated through a thoughtful investigation of themes relating to memory, loss, and longing. Our goals include visits to selected museum exhibitions and site research at yet to be determined locations (with possibilities of the United State, Japan, and/or South America).  After our initial investigations, we will return to our studios and begin work on a new body of creative work in our respective fields (ceramics and textiles).  Our meetings throughout the summer will be of a conversation/critique nature as we move toward conclusion of new works.  We plan to exhibit all or portions of the LARC projects in the fall of 2012 in the Art Building student art gallery or the Ford Hall installation gallery.  Exchange between the ceramics and textile studio areas among faculty and student participants will be highly encouraged.

Professor Brewer-Wallin will work with the deconstruction and construction of historic garments while exploring the relationship of our intended themes (memory, loss, and longing) as it relates to clothing.  Visual research (site-specific, and library based), hand and machine sewing, and working with a variety of art materials are some of the ways a student might generate work on this collaborative project.

Professor Heidi Preuss Grew will use memory, loss, and longing as a spring board for new ceramic figurative works that interact within an environment and/or groupings.   A student could consider either vessel work or hand building techniques to pursue their own artistic outcomes.

Read more


Heidi Preuss Grew
Heidi Preuss Grew, Associate Professor of Art

Our inter-disciplinary research group intends to collaborate together toward the creation of new artworks that are generated through a thoughtful investigation of themes relating to memory, loss, and longing. Our goals include visits to selected museum exhibitions and site research at yet to be determined locations (with possibilities of the United State, Japan, and/or South America).  After our initial investigations, we will return to our studios and begin work on a new body of creative work in our respective fields (ceramics and textiles).  Our meetings throughout the summer will be of a conversation/critique nature as we move toward conclusion of new works.  We plan to exhibit all or portions of the LARC projects in the fall of 2012 in the Art Building student art gallery or the Ford Hall installation gallery.  Exchange between the ceramics and textile studio areas among faculty and student participants will be highly encouraged.

Professor Brewer-Wallin will work with the deconstruction and construction of historic garments while exploring the relationship of our intended themes (memory, loss, and longing) as it relates to clothing.  Visual research (site-specific, and library based), hand and machine sewing, and working with a variety of art materials are some of the ways a student might generate work on this collaborative project.

Professor Heidi Preuss Grew will use memory, loss, and longing as a spring board for new ceramic figurative works that interact within an environment and/or groupings.   A student could consider either vessel work or hand building techniques to pursue their own artistic outcomes.

Read more


James Thompson

Ritual, Site, Sustainability and Community

James Thompson, Professor of Art

My artwork of the last several years has been influenced by my research into the landscape of Great Britain where I have investigated prehistoric sites of the ancient peoples of Britain. This included the carved stone symbols of the Picts and ancient dwellings in Scotland and the Orkney Islands. These site-specific structures included hill forts, circular stone structures and arrangement of standing stones that marked out critical sites in the land and culture of the people of prehistory. The physical sites themselves and their specific locations within the landscape started to raise critical questions for me. What was the purpose of these sites? Were rituals performed there by the peoples who built them? How were these sites connected with the culture and community of the people? Did these sites somehow sustain community or promote the cultural or spiritual health and well-being of these peoples? I am looking for a student who wants to work in an interdisciplinary manner to approach the concepts of Ritual, Site, Sustainability and Community where the fruits of our labor and research will produce a site, a place designated for ritual, and a new ritual practice to engage in on the land at Zena Forest, to honor and celebrate community by our collective efforts to sustain the culture of the people who live and labor there and the ongoing endeavors of this place.  This student could either collaborate with me on this project as it is described or develop their own project that would integrate with these themes.

Read more