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A Level Playing Field?

Sociology professor Matthew Hughey Matthew Hughey of the University of Connecticut will deliver a lecture on Monday, Nov. 30, about how media coverage of athletics perpetuates the myth of "black brawn vs. white brains."

The free, public lecture, titled "A Level Playing Field? Zombie Theories of Athletics, Genetics and Race in Media," starts at 7:30 p.m. in Joe Rosenfield '25 Center, Room 101.

Black and white image of Jesse Owens racingHughey will discuss the role the news media play in perpetuating the myth of "black brawn vs. white brains" – that blacks have an inherent biological disposition toward athletic excellence. Despite biological and sociological evidence that debunks this theory, Hughey contends that many still believe in a link between black athleticism and biological determinism. He will argue that while empirically impossible, this thesis is a zombie theory – an idea that just won't die.

The author of several books, Hughey has written extensively about race, including The White Savior Film: Content, Critics and Consumption and  White Bound: Nationalists, Antiracists and the Shared Meanings of Race. He also serves as co-editor of The Obamas and a (Post) Racial America?

National media outlets such as NPR, ABC and CBS frequently call upon Hughey for his sociological expertise. He also is a contributing writer to The New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Today, and the Huffington Post, among others.

Hughey has received numerous honors throughout his career, such as the Distinguished Early Career Award from the American Sociological Association's Section on Racial and Ethnic Minorities. Hughey is a member of both the Africana Studies and American Studies departments at the University of Connecticut.

Assistant Professor Casey Oberlin, sociology, is organizing the event. Co-sponsors are the Office of Diversity and Inclusion; the Center for Humanities; the Rosenfield Program in Public Affairs, International Relations, and Human Rights; the Instructional Support Committee; the Gender, Women's, and Sexuality Studies Department; the Department of Sociology; and the Department of Anthropology.

Grinnell welcomes and encourages the participation of people with disabilities. Rosenfield Center has accessible parking in the lot to the east. Room 101 is equipped with an induction hearing loop system. You can request accommodations from the event sponsor or Conference Operations and Events.

Clark Lindgren, Iowa Professor of the Year

Clark Lindgren, Patricia A. Johnson Professor of Neuroscience and professor of biology, has been selected as the 2015 Iowa Professor of the Year.

The U.S. Professors of the Year Awards Program honors excellence in undergraduate instruction, recognizing professors who profoundly influence the lives and careers of their students. Lindgren is one of 35 state winners from across the nation.

A member of Grinnell's faculty since 1992, Lindgren has strived, as both a professor and an adviser, to help students from groups traditionally underrepresented in the sciences overcome external challenges and find success in scientific fields. He served as an early faculty director of The Grinnell Science Project, which is designed to increase retention and success of science students from backgrounds underrepresented in STEM fields.

Clark Lindgren talking with Yang Chen '17The former students who wrote letters of recommendation for Lindgren have been successful despite external challenges they faced because of their background. Lindgren said, "For each student I try to be appropriately demanding and yet encouraging at the same time, and that to me is really the essence of what good teaching is about – finding that balance."

Lindgren has continued to advise these students past graduation. One former student and nominator, who described herself as "woefully unprepared" to meet the expectations of the biology department when she arrived at Grinnell, said she owes much of her success to Lindgren. By graduation, she had been selected as a Rhodes Scholar, which she applied for at the encouragement of Lindgren, and later went on to the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, the Bloomberg School of Public Health, and the Johns Hopkins Sydney Kimmel Cancer Center.

"I have achieved more, reached further, and contributed that which I would not have been able to otherwise because of Professor Lindgren's investment in me as a teacher and as a mentor," she wrote. "I would not be the learner, the teacher, or the cancer doctor I am today, were it not for him."

In addition to helping students pursue their goals in and out of the classroom, Lindgren is a pioneer of engaging, authentic, and interdisciplinary biology teaching methods. He was a co-architect of the upside-down biology curriculum, in which students are immersed in research from their first biology course. Now emulated across the country, the biology 150 course is, according to a colleague and nominator, "an important transition from faculty-centered teaching to student-centered learning."

Lindgren also helped create Grinnell's neuroscience concentration, now one of the largest concentrations on campus. The neuroscience concentration's curriculum, which attracts students from all majors and divisions, is interdisciplinary, including courses from biology, psychology, social sciences, and the humanities.

A celebrated professor and adviser, Lindgren is also being recognized for his scholarship. For the past three decades, he has been working to understand the remarkable ability of chemical synapses, the nexus between individual neurons, to change their behavior in response to the activity they experience. He has authored articles in 16 peer-reviewed publications.

Lindgren includes students in his research. Since arriving at Grinnell, he has worked closely with 64 undergraduate students researchers, almost 70 percent of whom have gone on to graduate school in neuroscience or a related field.

An engaged member of the Grinnell faculty, Lindgren has served as the chair of the biology department twice, the chair of the science division, and on various college-wide committees, such as the Personnel Committee and Executive Council, a faculty advisory committee to the president and dean.

For Lindgren, this award is a testament to the outstanding students and colleagues he works with each day at Grinnell.

The Council for Advancement and Support of Education launched the U.S. Professors of the Year Awards Program in 1981. That same year, the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching began hosting the final round of judging, and in 1982, became the primary sponsor.

The program awards four national winners and one winner from each state every year.

Professors are judged on four criteria:

  • impact on and involvement with undergraduate students;
  • scholarly approach to teaching and learning;
  • contribution to undergraduate education in the institution, community, and profession; and
  • support from colleagues and former undergraduate students.

The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching is an independent policy and research center that supports needed transformations in American education through tighter connections between teaching practice, evidence of student learning, the communication and use of this evidence, and structured opportunities to build knowledge.

Culling the Masses

David Cook-Martin, SociologyCulling the Masses: The Democratic Origins of Racist Immigration Policy in the Americas, co-authored by Associate Professor of Sociology David Cook-Martín, has won several national awards. Cook-Martín wrote the book with David FitzGerald, associate professor of sociology at the University of California, San Diego.

“Grinnell College and its students have played an important role in the development of this book,” Cook-Martín said, citing institutional support and undergraduate research participation funded by the National Science Foundation. In addition, he noted that at least eight students participated through Mentored Advanced Projects, other students served as research assistants, and still others critiqued drafts used in the classroom.

The Book

Culling the Masses explores how governments in the Americas have deliberately chosen their populations by ethnically selective immigration and nationality laws. The book, published by Harvard University Press, challenges the widely held belief that democracies “naturally tend toward welcoming policies of equality and anti-racism.”

“Today, the idea of choosing individuals based on perceived race is repugnant to our ideals of equality and fairness,” Cook-Martín added. “Generations of scholars have argued that racism was an aberration that democracies eventually worked out of their laws.

Culling the Masses challenges this assumption by showing how governments in the Americas have deliberately chosen their populations by ethnically selective immigration and nationality laws. In fact, the governments that were most inclusive, whether democratic or populist, were most likely to select by race. The biggest exemplar of liberal democracy was the United States, which had the longest period of uninterrupted racial exclusions (between 1790 and 1965).”

The Honors

The book has received the following honors:

  • The 2015 Best Scholarly Contribution Book Award from the American Sociological Association’s Political Sociology Section;
  • The Thomas & Znaniecki Best Book on International Migration Award from the American Sociological Association; (Cook-Martín’s other book — The Scramble for Citizens — received this same prize in 2014;
  • The 2015 Best Book Prize for Books on Migration and Citizenship from the American Political Science Association; and
  • Honorable mention for the 2015 Theodore Saloutos Book Prize from the Immigration and Ethnic History Society, for best book about U.S. immigration history published in 2014.

Applying Anthropology in the Community

Students in professor J. Montgomery Roper’s Practicing Anthropology class took their studies to the community in the fall semester, performing studies on behalf of local organizations. They used surveys, interviews with local experts, focus groups, archival research, and hours of observation to help suggest improvements at service organizations, for example.

"The course is about learning by doing,” Roper said. “In particular, the students are learning about anthropological methods, policy-making at the community level, and the Grinnell community.”

“My belief is that knowledge builds greater roots when instilled through practice, particularly when the practice involves addressing real-world problems in our own community,” he added.

 One of the six student groups in the class looked into how a local food pantry could increase the frequency of donations.

The Mid-Iowa Community Action (MICA) food pantry in Grinnell has a problem. While the need for food remains fairly consistent throughout the year, donations fluctuate a lot.

Grinnell students Sara Hannemann ’14, Eva Metz ’14, and Gina Falada ’16 conducted in-person interviews with staff, volunteers, and local experts and surveyed community members to determine why giving varied, and to look for steps MICA could take to make donations more consistent.

They found that most community members donate food rather than money, but some don’t consider the needs of the food pantry. The students suggested that the pantry get the word out about its specific needs using social media, while radio and newspaper ads, and church-bulletin items. By increasing its profile, communicating its needs, and informing the public, MICA could improve its standing supply of food and lessen the need for emergency food drives, the students found.

Rachel Porath, the Poweshiek County Family Development Director for MICA, worked with Hannemann, Metz, and Falada in the early stages of the project. “It was a pleasure working with the students,” she said. “I will absolutely use some of their ideas moving forward.”

 Porath suggested community members the students could interview, and provided the students with information detailing the food pantry’s donations. She hopes the suggested changes will increase donations both in Grinnell and at other MICA food pantries in the state.

Other students in the class looked at issues such as assessing the need to enhance teen and tween programming at the local library, or to back a supported employment program for those with intellectual disabilities in Grinnell.

In addition to poster presentations, each group sent formal reports of their research findings to their community organization.

Successful World Coups 1946-2012

As a post-baccalaureate fellow at the Data Analysis and Social Inquiry Lab (DASIL), Adam Lauretig ’13 is making it easier for others to visualize complex datasets.

Lauretig was first introduced to the Polity IV project — run by the Center for Systemic Peace — in Danielle Lussier’s political science course Democratization and the Politics of Regime Change.

Using data from the project, he’s created an interactive map illustrating successful coups d'état that occurred from 1946 to 2012. “This particular map would be useful for anyone interested in political instability or development, since it makes geographic trends in coups visible in ways that might not be apparent simply by looking at a spreadsheet, he says. “For example, the high frequency of coups in South America becomes clear, as does the fact that by the end of the Cold War, coups became less frequent.”

The map allows you to select a year or range of years to see which countries had coups during that time, or to “play” the map to view the year-to-year changes in where they coups occur. The map, Lauretig says, “does not indicate the length of the resulting regime, seeking instead to visualize frequency.”

“The most interesting part of the project was noticing trends in the data and learning more about what ArcGIS (our mapping software) could do,” says Lauretig, “I was working alone, and the data had to be put together by hand: matching coups with the shapefile (an image of the country linked to tabular data) for the country where they occurred.  What stood out to me was how a country that underwent one coup was likely to undergo another, and they often occurred within a decade of each other, suggesting that instability begets instability.”

About the Map

The map: Successful World Coups 1946-2012

The Polity IV codebook defines a coup d'état as “a forceful seizure of executive authority and office by a dissident/opposition faction within the country’s ruling or political elites that results in a substantial change in the executive leadership and the policies of the prior regime.” In a successful coup “authority must be exercised by new executive for at least one month.” 

Data compiled by:

  • Adam Lauretig '13.

GIS shapefiles created by:

  • Nils B. Weidmann,
  • Doreen Kuse, and
  • Kristian Skrede Gleditsch.

Data sources/Works cited:

  • Marshall, Monty G., Donna Ramsey Marshall. 2013. Coups d'Etat 1946-2013. Center for Systemic Peace.
  • Weidmann, Nils B., Doreen Kuse, and Kristian Skrede Gleditsch. 2010. The Geography of the International System: The CShapes Dataset. International Interactions 36 (1).

How We Die Now: Intimacy and the Work of Dying

Karla Erickson, sociology, began work on her newest book — How We Die Now: Intimacy and the Work of Dying — after she observed the spiritual, physical, and emotional support hospice workers provided her dying grandparents.

Erickson, a feminist ethnographer of labor, immerses herself in the occupational and social worlds she studies. To develop a deep understanding of the working lives and occupational wisdom of end-of-life workers, she trained as a nurse’s aide.

She and 12 of her students partnered with a retirement community, using participant observation and interviews with administrators, nurses, chaplains, volunteers, residents, and family caregivers to understand the dynamics of aging and preparing for death in an elder community. Grinnell is a destination for retirees and has several excellent elder communities. Grinnell’s trusting, small-town culture welcomed Erickson and her students; participants gave them intimate access to the final chapter of life.

How We Die Now book cover

“In the 21st century, many of us are living longer, dying more slowly, and more important, dying differently than our ancestors,” she says in an article in the fall 2013 issue of The Grinnell Magazine. In it Erickson offers eight lessons she’s learned to help those “navigating the transition from life to death.”

She joined Charity Nebbe in an interview on Iowa Public Radio to discuss the book and current elder and hospice care.

Her earlier book, The Hungry Cowboy: Service and Community in a Neighborhood Restaurant, is a behind-the-scenes look at class, community, and gendered labor in a Tex-Mex restaurant.

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