Fall 2011 / Spring 2012

LAS News

Photo: Gary Adonis Morton (BA ’12)
Photo: Gary Adonis Morton (BA ’12)

Cultural Studies Conference One for the Record Books

During the week of Spring Break, the college made history … twice. The Cultural Studies program was the first undergraduate program selected by the Cultural Studies Association (CSA) to host its yearly conference. The event was also the largest in the history of the CSA, drawing an estimated 540 attendees to the campus to participate in more than 600 events and presentations. More than 30 countries and an estimated 400 colleges, universities, and institutions were represented.

“It was remarkable to have hosted the largest and, in my opinion, one of the best—if not the best—organized CSA conferences,” said Dr. Jaafar Aksikas, Associate Professor of Cultural Studies at Columbia, and Chair of the CSA Organizing Committee and Local Host Committee. “This was an excellent opportunity for our students, especially those with their eyes on graduate school, to interact and network with scholars and graduate students in the field. Not only that, but over twenty of our faculty members—including several from outside the Cultural Studies program—benefited from this great event.”

The conference, which was the CSA’s ninth, featured plenaries, panels, seminars, workshops, roundtables, divisions, debates, and exhibits that covered a variety of cultural, artistic, economic, and political issues. The theme, “New Directions in Cultural Studies,” aimed to reflect the significant economic, political, and cultural changes taking place abroad and in the United States.

“It was quite important that this Cultural Studies conference address these issues because, as an academic discipline, Cultural Studies is particularly engaged in articulating the political, economic, and culture conjectures that allow for social changes,” said Dr. Ann Gunkel, Director of Columbia’s Cultural Studies program. “Tracing and understanding those conjunctures is central to scholarly work in Cultural Studies and, therefore, is essential work at the CSA.” Formed in 2003, the CSA aims to provide a forum for scholars in the field of Cultural Studies to share their work and ideas across various disciplines.

The organization’s annual conferences previously have been held in Pittsburgh, New York, Boston, Arlington, Tucson, Portland, Kansas City, and Berkeley. Dr. Patricia Ticineto Clough, President of the CSA and Professor of Sociology, Women’s Studies, and Intercultural Studies at Queens College and the Graduate School of the City University of New York, said this year’s conference was undoubtedly a successful one because of the effort put forth by the Columbia community. “I was so pleased with the strength of the presentations and the span of topics taken up,” Dr. Clough said. “Surely the hard work of the local organization committee and the generosity of Columbia College administrators and faculty went a long way in making the conference the successful one it was.”

Photo: Brent White (BA '10)
Photo: Brent White (BA '10)

Jim DeRogatis Delivers Fall 2010 LAS Dean’s Lecture

About 200 people gathered in Columbia’s Film Row Cinema for the Fall 2010 LAS Dean’s Lecture, which featured renowned author, music critic, “Sound Opinions” co-host, and Department of English lecturer Jim DeRogatis. DeRogatis’s lecture, “Meet the New Media … Same as the Old Media?” addressed how recent and profound changes in media, and the ways in which we digitally communicate, have only enhanced the importance of good writing, critical thinking, careful editing, and being well read on a variety of topics.

“The lecture was an honor and a privilege, and one more example of how the Columbia College Chicago community could not have made me feel more at home and welcome in my role as a full-time lecturer in the Department of English,” DeRogatis said. “Although I must confess: I was a bit nervous. I am not used to frequenting such classy venues—dive rock bars being my usual milieu—and talking to an audience with sharper questions than, ‘Hey, dude, what’s your problem with the Kings of Leon?’”

DeRogatis also told stories about his start as a writer, one of which included interviewing Lester Bangs, a seminal figure in music criticism who died two weeks after the two met in the spring of 1982. DeRogatis authored the definitive biography on Bangs: Let it Blurt: The Life and Times of Lester Bangs, America’s Greatest Rock Critic.

Photo: Jacob Boll (BA ’12)
Photo: Jacob Boll (BA ’12)

Graduate Student Wins Fellowship through the State of Illinois

Micah McCrary, a graduate student enrolled in the new Creative Writing–Nonfiction graduate program in the Department of English, has received a selective fellowship from the Diversifying Faculty in Illinois (DFI) Program. The fellowship includes a $10,000 annual grant, and fellows have the option of reapplying for another academic year.

The DFI Program is administered by the Illinois Board of Higher Education and aims to help students in underrepresented groups earn graduate degrees as they work toward careers as faculty or staff members at institutions of higher learning in Illinois. Of the 286 applications this year, only 130 students received fellowships through the program. In fact, it is uncommon for MFA students to receive this fellowship, as the bulk of recipients are enrolled in doctoral programs.

McCrary, also a freelance journalist, said that his career goals are “exactly in line with the DFI program,” and receiving this fellowship will certainly help him with his future teaching endeavors. “I’d ultimately like to work in higher education; teaching, research, and administration are all interests of mine at the moment, and that’s something I’d very much like to see through,” he said. “[But right now], I’ve been having a great time being embedded in the academics of my program at Columbia.”

Photo: Matt Soria (BFA ’11)
Photo: Matt Soria (BFA ’11)

Spring LAS Dean’s Lecture Shows Connections between ‘Hip-Hop, Honky-Tonk, and the American Dream’

Dr. Stephanie Shonekan, Associate Professor of Humanities and Ethnomusicology in the Department of Humanities, History, and Social Sciences, delivered the Spring 2011 LAS Dean’s Lecture to a packed house in the Music Center Concert Hall on February 24.

Her lecture, “Hip-Hip, Honky-Tonk, andthe American Dream,” examined how the power of popular music provides a foundation with which to analyze matters of race, class, religion, and patriotism in modern day America. Her lecture also featured musical performances by Columbia students Lili K., Dylan Weschler, and Green Wilder.

“I was thrilled to present my thoughts on how popular culture in hip-hop and country music shape our various understandings of the American experience,” Dr. Shonekan said. “The performers who joined me on stage were fabulous and helped to exemplify the aesthetics of the two genres. I also thoroughly enjoyed the discussion that emerged from a very engaged and thoughtful audience. They gave me much more to think about in my future research on the topic.”

Dr. Shonekan’s lecture was recorded by Chicago Access Network Television (CAN TV). It was the third consecutive Dean’s Lecture to be recorded by CAN TV and broadcast on the station’s five local, non-commercial channels. CAN TV reaches more than one million Chicago households.

Photo: Courtesy of the Department of Science and Mathematics
Photo: Courtesy of the Department of Science and Mathematics

In Memoriam: Dr. Cynthia Gerstner

The Department of Science and Mathematics lost one its most beloved professors over the Spring semester. Dr. Cynthia Gerstner passed away in April after a four-year battle with cancer. She was 43.

As an associate professor of biology and ecology, Dr. Gerstner was known as a fast-paced, task-oriented colleague to her fellow faculty members—a brilliant scientist and professor who designed and taught new courses, revived the department’s Environmental Studies minor, and worked on the Science and Mathematics curriculum committee. To her students, she was a mentor and an outstanding professor who was devoted to seeing them succeed.

Dr. Gerstner’s scholarly work and professional interests centered on fish ecology and conservation, tropical biology, fish biomechanics and their swimming behaviors, and science pedagogy for non-science majors. She held the PhD in Aquatic Ecology from the University of Michigan. Her work took her abroad many times, including to Peru, where she studied the swimming patterns of catfish. Dr. Gerstner also earned a number of grants for her work, including grants from the John G. Shedd Aquarium and the MacArthur Foundation. Outside of teaching and her scholarly work, Dr. Gerstner loved sailing, scuba diving, and photography. She leaves behind a sister and two brothers; a daughter, Sarah; and her husband, Alfredo.

Twelve in LAS Receive Rank of Professor

Eleven faculty members in the School of LAS, as well as Dean Deborah H. Holdstein, were evaluated and granted the rank of full Professor by the college over the last academic year. Among those who received the title are faculty members in the Departments of Humanities, History, and Social Sciences (HHSS), Science and Mathematics, and English. This evaluation of faculty members took place in all three Schools (LAS, SMA, and FPA) at the college. In the Department of HHSS, the honorees were Dr. Stephen Asma, Dr. Joan Erdman, and Dr. Dominic Pacyga.

In the Department of Science and Mathematics, Dr. Charles Cannon and Dr. Pan Papacosta earned the title of Professor, along with Dr. Constantin Rasinariu, who chairs the department. The honorees in English were Garnett Kilberg-Cohen, Dr. David Lazar, Dr. Karen Osborne, Dr. Jeff Schiff, and Dr. Tony Trigilio.

“The faculty members in LAS who earned the rank of Professor this academic year represent some of the college’s most brilliant instructors and scholars,” Dean Holdstein affirmed. “Instituting a rank system at Columbia provides them, and future Professors, with a recognizable title that makes them more visible in our community and among peers at other institutions of higher learning.”

Under the direction and leadership of Steven Kapelke, (now former) Provost, and Senior Vice President, Dr. Louise Love, Vice President for Academic Affairs/Interim Provost, and others, the college instituted a faculty rank system over the Fall 2010/ Spring 2011 academic year for its full-time, tenured, and tenure-track faculty members. Developing a faculty rank system aligns Columbia with most institutions of higher learning, and, among other benefits, helps end the confusion of faculty titles at the college.

In an email sent to faculty members, those who earned the rank of Professor were commended for demonstrating “excellence through their sustained efforts as teachers, artists, and scholars.” All who earned the title, the notification continued, are “individuals with strong records of service to their professions, their communities, and Columbia College Chicago. In this, each has also contributed significantly to the creation of a firm foundation for the college’s faculty rank system.”

Photo courtesy of Dr. Anne Becker
Photo courtesy of Dr. Anne Becker

Art Educator of the Year Award Goes to Faculty Member in Education Department

Dr. Anne Becker, Associate Professor in the Education Department, was named the Higher Education Art Educator of the Year for 2010 by the Illinois Art Education Association (IAEA). The prestigious honor is awarded annually to recognize teachers in Illinois who display an exceptional commitment to both their students and the profession of art education.

“This was a tremendous honor for me … it’s very humbling,” Dr. Becker said. “One of my former Columbia graduate art students nominated me, and I have been a member of this professional organization for my [entire] art teaching career. What an honor to know that your peers and your students feel you are a quality art educator.”

To choose the recipient of the Higher Education Art Educator award, the IAEA looks for art educators who show a record of success as an art educator; who are active in their professional lives outside of art education, such as in studio exhibitions, publications, community service, and service to the IAEA; and who are recognized leaders at their level of education.

In its award letter to Dr. Becker, the IAEA said that she “is an exemplary model for her dedication to providing a well-rounded art education to enrich the lives of the students in her school.” The award letter also cited her work inside the classroom and her coordination with other teachers in the field as providing “a valuable education for the students at Columbia College.”

Amanda Kurzawski, Vice President of the IAEA, said the organization was particularly impressed by Dr. Becker’s “activities outside the classroom, in the field, and for the Illinois Art Education Association, [which] have benefited many people.” The IAEA gives out thirteen awards annually to art educators from elementary school through higher education. The organization began in 1935 and promotes quality art education for children and adults in the state of Illinois.

Photo courtesy of the Department of English
Photo courtesy of the Department of English

Department of English Selects next Elma Stuckey Liberal Arts and Sciences Emerging Poet in-Residence

Poet, professor, scholar, and performance artist CM Burroughs has been selected as the 2011–2013 recipient of the Elma Stuckey Liberal Arts and Sciences Emerging Poet-in-Residence award.

A native of Atlanta, Georgia, Burroughs earned a BA in English and Creative Writing from Sweet Briar College and an MFA in Poetry from the University of Pittsburgh. Her poetry has appeared in numerous journals, including Ploughshares, Callaloo, jubilat, VOLT, Bat City Review, La Fovea, and Eleven Eleven. Her first book, The Vital System, will be published by Tupelo Press and released in 2012. She is also a Pushcart Prize nominee and the recipient of numerous grants and fellowships.

As the next Elma Stuckey Liberal Arts and Sciences Emerging Poet-in-Residence, Burroughs will teach two courses per semester in the Department of English and give public readings of her work, among other roles and responsibilities. The Elma Stuckey Liberal Arts and Sciences Emerging Poet-in-Residence award is named for Elma Stuckey, author of The Big Gate and The Collected Poems of Elma Stuckey, who was born in Memphis and lived in Chicago for more than forty years.

The position was created and named in 2008 by the School of Liberal Arts and Sciences and the Department of English as a way to highlight poets from underrepresented communities and to showcase diverse cultural, ethnic, theoretical, and national perspectives. The application process is highly competitive; the position has proven to be an important step toward other prestigious positions at noted colleges and universities. Former recipients of the award are Jaswinder Bolina (2010–2011), Sandra Lim (2009–2010), and John Murillo (2008–2009).

Education Department Creates New Minor

With the success and popularity of its course “The Teaching Artist in the Schools” in mind, the Education Department, in collaboration with the LAS Office of the Dean, has created a new minor: the Teaching Artist.

Launched this Fall, the Teaching Artist minor provides students with the opportunity to build the necessary skills to work in a variety of settings, including after-school programs and community-based arts programs that don’t require a teaching certificate. “The most important fact about this important program is that it creates opportunities for students to work in community, arts-focused programs,” Dean Holdstein said. “It’s a wonderful addition to the many great minors we in LAS offer, but it is not at all intended to compete with or challenge traditional certification programs that provide teachers with jobs at public and private schools.”

The courses that comprise the minor provide students with a broad base in child and adolescent development, theories of education, and the role of art in development. To complete the minor, students must earn eighteen or nineteen credit hours, depending on the requirements of an internship. All of the courses in the minor, with the exception of student internships, are drawn from the Early Childhood Education program curriculum—a curriculum with a unique arts-based approach that prepares educators working with children to use the multiple modalities made possible by the arts.

The new minor represents the twelfth LAS minor available to undergraduates at Columbia. Among others, they include American Sign Language Studies, Black World Studies, Women’s and Gender Studies, Literature, Mathematics, Poetry, and Professional Writing.

Photo: Jacob Boll (BA ’12)
Photo: Jacob Boll (BA ’12)

Associate Professor in Cultural Studies Receives Second Fulbright

Dr. Ann Gunkel, Associate Professor in the Cultural Studies program in the Department of Humanities, History, and Social Sciences, received a lecturing award through the Core Fulbright Scholar Program. From September 2011 through February 2012, she will serve as Visiting Professor at the Institute for American Studies and Polish Diaspora at Jagiellonian University in Kraków, Poland.

The Fulbright Scholar Program is an educational exchange program administered by the Council for International Exchange of Scholars and sponsored by the U.S Department of State’s Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs. This is the second time Dr. Gunkel has been awarded a Fulbright.

In their invitation letter, university officials at Jagiellonian said they selected Dr. Gunkel because of her leadership in directing Columbia’s Cultural Studies program, her research and service in the field of Polish American Studies, and her extensive teaching background. Her proposal was entitled, “American Cultural Studies in Transnational Context.” “As teaching is my passion, this award is a particularly meaningful honor,” Dr. Gunkel commented. “The Fulbright experience of teaching and learning abroad will allow me to bring new models of learning and delivery to our Cultural Studies program and to the larger college community.”

While at the Institute for American Studies and Polish Diaspora, Dr. Gunkel will teach two semester-long seminar courses: “Food & Culture,” which is an interdisciplinary seminar in Cultural Studies, and “Philosophical Issues of American Film,” which examines American media texts and practices. She will also offer a lecture series for faculty development at the institute.

“Receiving an additional Fulbright grant is clearly a mark of distinction,” said Andrew Riess, Interim Director of Outreach and Public Affairs at the Council for International Exchange of Scholars, which administers the Fulbright Scholar Program on behalf of the U.S. Department of State. “There is no question that the barrier is set higher for a second grant. Favor is always given to first-time grantees, so anyone applying for a second grant needs to demonstrate the value of the first, as well as the added value that will accrue through a second grant.”

Dr. Gunkel received her first Fulbright award in 1992 while completing her PhD in philosophy at DePaul University. The postgraduate study research award allowed her to travel to the Albert Ludwigs Universität in Freiburg, Germany, where she had access to the university archives and focused on the texts of Plato, Heidegger, Derrida, and Irigaray.