Faculty Accomplishments

Check out Occidental faculty members’ scholarly accomplishments from 2019!

Articles, Essays, and Chapters

This year Psychology Prof. Andrea Hopmeyer published three articles.

  • Although peer crowd affiliations have been studied among emerging adults in college, this work has yet to focus in on LGBT-identifying students. Accordingly, Prof. Hopmeyer's current study, "Protester, Partygoer, or Simply Playing It Down? The Impact of Crowd Affiliations on LGBT Emerging Adults’ Socioemotional and Academic Adjustment to College," a) surveyed the peer crowd landscape using a sample of 234 LGBT students (Mage = 19.89, SD = 1.55; 70.51% female, 18.38% male, 11.11% other) at a small, private, liberal arts college in Southern California, and b) explored the relationships between self-reported peer crowd affiliations and LGBT students’ adjustment (i.e., loneliness, belongingness, and academic-, alcohol-, drug-, and sex-risk behaviors). Results point to the existence of four underlying peer crowd dimensions among LGBT students: protester, nonvocal, social, and athletic. Furthermore, affiliation with these peer crowds was found to relate to students’ self-reported loneliness and academic-, drug-, and sex-risk behaviors.
     
  • Social media platforms and instant messaging applications have a widespread presence in today’s secondary schools. However, the implications of these ubiquitous communication technologies for adolescent’s social functioning with peers and academic competence in the classroom are not well understood. In fact, research on adolescents’ digital lives has only rarely incorporated direct assessments of adjustment in school environments. Prof. Hopmeyer's study, "Distinct Modalities of Electronic Communication and School Adjustment," addressed these limitations with a school-based data collection. 376 adolescents (Mage = 14.4; 209 girls; including 29.2% Latino/Hispanic, 27.3% White, 28.2% mixed) were recruited from an urban high school and followed for one year. Social reputations were indexed via peer nominations and electronic communication tendencies were assessed using self-report questionnaires. Grade point averages, disciplinary events, and attendance data were obtained from school records. On a cross-sectional basis, frequent use of fashionable social networks (i.e., Instagram, Snapchat, and Twitter) was associated with popular-aggressive social reputations, poor achievement, and rule-breaking behavior. E-mail use, in contrast, was associated with academic competence. Longitudinal analyses were less conclusive because the examined constructs were highly stable across the period of data collection. The full pattern of findings indicates that electronic communication patterns can be a powerful marker of academic and social functioning at school.
     
  • Although previous research has clearly demonstrated the impact that peer crowd affiliation has on socio-emotional and risk-related outcomes, very few studies have investigated this relation in samples of emerging adults, and even fewer have focused specifically on commuter college students. Accordingly, Prof. Hopmeyer's study, "Commuter College Student Adjustment: Peer Crowd Affiliation as a Driver of Loneliness, Belongingness, and Risk Behaviors," aimed to fill this gap in the literature by exploring the relationship between peer crowds and college adjustment at a commuter school. Participants were 663 students at a large public university in Southern California (campus population of 92% commuters). Factor analytic results indicated the presence of four crowd dimensions on campus: (a) social/partiers, (b) creatives and activists, (c) campus active, and (d) international students. Furthermore, path analysis results indicated that these crowd dimensions predict loneliness, college belongingness, and risk behaviors. Overall, the results of this study indicate the presence of a peer crowd landscape unique to commuter schools that has important implications for student adjustment.

 

In a newly published paper, "Academic Achievement Across the Day: Evidence from Randomized Class Schedules," Economics Prof. Kevin Williams and his co-author study the optimal organization of a school day with respect to the timing and structure of student's daily schedules. They analyze five cohorts of students at a higher education institution which includes data on over 180,000 student-course outcomes. They show that expected performance of two students taking the same class at the same time of day may differ by as much as 0.15 standard deviations, simply due to their prior schedules that day. They show that prioritizing certain student schedules could be equivalent to improving their teacher quality by 0.33 of a standard deviation.

 

Psychology and Cognitive Science Prof. Andrew Shtulman recently published three essays.

  • Research from developmental psychology, cognitive psychology, and cognitive neuroscience reveals that people readily endorse multiple explanations of the same phenomena, even when those explanations are logically incompatible. In a new chapter, "Why do logically incompatible explanations seem psychologically compatible? Science, pseudoscience, religion, and superstition" Prof. Shtulman and his co-author discusses cases of non-scientific explanations coexisting with scientific ones. They ;explore a range of nonscientific explanations, including religious explanations (e.g., attributing illness to God), superstitious explanations (e.g., attributing illness to witchcraft), and pseudoscientific explanations (e.g., attributing illness to behaviors unrelated to germs). We argue that the ubiquity of coexisting explanations across cultures and domains implies that coexistence is an inherent feature of conceptual representations and a regular impediment to understanding science. We conclude by considering several questions about the origin and dynamics of coexistence that may shed further light on our understanding and acceptance of scientific explanations.
     
  • Why are some scientific ideas particularly difficult to grasp? Atoms, germs, heat, inertia, heliocentrism, natural selection, continental drift : these ideas were slow to develop in the history of science and remain slow to develop in the minds of individuals, but the reasons for the historical delay are not necessarily the same as the reasons for the cognitive delay. Scientists and students have different explanatory goals, different empirical concerns, and different background assumptions. In a newly published chapter, "Doubly counterintuitive: Cognitive obstacles to the discovery and the learning of scientific ideas and why they often differ," Prof. Shtulman aims to show how these factors can render the same idea counterintuitive for different reasons. This comparison of scientists’ and students’ conceptual ecologies has implications not only for theories of scientific knowledge but also for the practice of teaching science to nonscientists.
     
  • Belief in supernatural beings is widespread across cultures, but the properties of those beings vary from one culture to another. The supernatural beings that are part of Hinduism, for instance, are represented as human-like, whereas those that are part of Islam are represented more abstractly. In a newly published paper, "When Allah meets Ganesha: Developing supernatural concepts in a religiously diverse society," Prof. Shtulman and co-authors explore how children exposed to both types of representations conceptualize the relevant beings. They administered several measures of anthropomorphism to Hindu and Muslim children (n = 124) from a religiously-diverse community in India. Participants consistently anthropomorphized fictional beings (ghosts and fairies) and Hindu beings (Ganesha and Krishna) but varied in their anthropomorphization of Islamic beings (Muhammad, Allah). Younger participants (aged 8 to 11) anthropomorphized Islamic beings more than older participants (aged 12 to 15), and Hindu participants anthropomorphized them more than Muslim participants. These findings suggest that children initially anthropomorphize supernatural beings but can learn to conceptualize them more abstractly if encouraged by cultural input. They also suggest that abstract conceptions of divine agents are not a universal endpoint in the development of religious cognition.

 

History Prof. Lisa Sousa’s chapter titled “Flowers and Speech in Discourses on Deviance in Book 10” was published in The Florentine Codex: An Encyclopedia of the Nahua World in Sixteenth-Century Mexico. The Florentine Codex is a 12-volume work on Nahua (Aztec) society, religion, political history, and the natural history of central Mexico written and illustrated in the mid-sixteenth century by Nahua noblemen under the direction of a Spanish friar, Bernardino de Sahagún. The article argues that the Nahuatl text, Spanish translation, and indigenous pictorials in the book on society reveal three distinct discourses on deviance. In both the Nahuatl-language texts and images of social deviants, speech and flowers are metaphors for illicit sexuality and immorality, more generally, but these pervasive, powerful Nahua symbols are glossed over in the Spanish translation. When the Nahuatl texts, Spanish translations, and images are read against one another, they reveal how multiple understandings of immorality operated in the early colonial period, and how writers and artists employed a variety of strategies to convey moral danger.

 

DWA Prof. Anthony Tirado Chase's opening chapter to The Organization of Islamic Cooperation and Human Rights (Peterson and Kayaoglu, eds.) presents a theoretical and conceptual framework for analyzing and understanding the Organization of Islamic Cooperation and human rights. Will the OIC’s engagement with human rights advance human rights in the Muslim world or are these efforts a problematic strategy to co-opt or even subvert human rights? And, more broadly, what does the OIC’s engagement with human rights say about the ways in which human rights norms are independently affected by international organizations, either positively or negatively? The argument that follows is that an international organization such as the OIC, dominated by conservative, authoritarian states, is unlikely to create political opportunity structures to advance human rights. Indeed, the OIC’s record shows that, if it has had any independent impact on human rights at all, the effect has been to galvanize regional and international opposition to human rights expansion, particularly in domains of sexuality and economic rights.

 

Biology Prof. Gretchen North and several Occidental students, past and present, are coauthors on two articles published recently, both based at least in part on research conducted at La Selva Biological Station in the rain forest of Costa Rica. The first study, "Disentangling changes in the spectral shape of chlorophyll fluorescence: Implications for remote sensing of photosynthesis," involved leaf-level measurements of photosynthesis and solar-induced chlorophyll fluorescence from tropical trees as well as other plant species, and the second study, "Hydraulic conductance, resistance, and resilience: how leaves of a tropical epiphyte respond to drought," used anatomical, physiological, and genetic methods to analyze pathways of water movement through leaves of a tank bromeliad during drought and recovery.

 

Political parties act as gatekeepers, meaning that electing more women depends on parties’ willingness to nominate women candidates. In a new study by Prof. Jennifer Piscopo (Politics), "Women to the Rescue: The Gendered Effects of Public Discontent on Legislative Nominations in Latin America," she and her co-authors highlight how, when parties make nomination decisions in times of public discontent, women's nominations increase. They theorize that parties hold similar biases to voters: gender stereotypes that regard women as more trustworthy and honest should advantage women as political trust falls and perceptions of corruption rise. Using two waves of data from over 100 political parties in 18 Latin American countries, they find that parties nominate more women when a large proportion of the public distrusts the national legislature.

 

History Prof. Sasha Day's "Peasant" chapter of Afterlives of Chinese Communism traces the development of the historical and political category "peasant" in China. Emerging out of a complex set of often contradictory images of the peasant, a peasant dialectic developed during the Chinese revolution, which explained the conditions under which peasants were either conservative or progressive. Following the establishment of the People's Republic of China in 1949, this dialectic began to breakdown. By the 1980s, a liberal reversal of the peasant dialectic became dominant, setting the stage for discrimination against rural migrants during the Reform Period.

 

In their recently published chapter "Nonideal theory, self-respect, and preimplantation genetic technologies," Philosophy Prof. Clair Morrissey and Elena Neale (Philosophy and Psychology, ‘20) suggest a fuller understanding of the obligation to respect patient autonomy can be gained by recognizing patients as historically and socially situated agents, whose values are developed, challenged, and changed, rather than merely applied, in their decision-making about their use of preimplantation genetic diagnosis or preimplantation genetic screening (PGD/PGS). They ground this discussion in empirical research on the patients’ experiences with these genetic technologies, and suggest that promoting patients’ self-respect is a important ethical standard for PGD/PGS providers and practices to recognize.

 

Prof. Julie Prebel (Writing & Rhetoric)published a chapter titled "Richard Wright's Black Boy: Black Consciousness, Artistic Expression, and Social Justice" in an edited collection on Wright. Prebel's chapter focuses on Wright's autobiography, which chronicles his experiences as a child in the south and his migration north where he begins his writing career, as she shows how Wright's narrative highlights the effects of white supremacy experienced by blacks -- particularly on the development of consciousness and identity. Prebel argues that writing becomes the means through which Wright enacts self-representation, resists racial oppression, and emphasizes the necessity of social justice for blacks.

 

American Studies Prof. Courtney R. Baker's essay, "The Loud Silence of Monuments," was published in the spring edition of the online journal Dilettante Army. The essay considers monuments such as those commemorating the Confederacy as speech acts in the public sphere and how current artists are using scale to provide redress.

 

It is difficult to interpret air quality measures, such as the source of a measured exposure, in areas burdened by multiple sources of pollution or cumulative impacts. In their pilot study, "Distance decay gradients in hazardous air pollution concentrations around oil and natural gas facilities in the city of Los Angeles," Prof. Bhavna Shamasunder (UEP) and co-authors were able to identify several volatile organic compounds that have been linked with oil development operations. This research is a start to help better determine the air pollution burden that oil development operations pose in densely populated, environmental justice neighborhoods such as South Los Angeles.

 

In the United States, 1 out of 4 babies is born at a designated "Baby-Friendly" hospital. However, recent popular press has critiqued "Baby-Friendly" birth practices as failing mothers. In her recent article, "Understanding the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative: A Multi-Disciplinary Analysis," Prof. Erica Preston-Roedder (Philosophy) collaborates with historians and philosophers to contextualize these critiques. While Baby-Friendly practices do fail mothers in certain respects, these same policies are rooted in a tradition of supporting and empowering women. Their article demonstrates how liberatory intentions, when institutionalized by hospitals and other forces, can have unforeseen consequences.

 

Prof. Kristi Upson-Saia (Religious Studies) published a new article, "Gregory of Nyssa on Virginity, Gardens, and the Enclosure of the Παράδεισος" in which she analyzes Gregory's treatise on virginity--and the broader custom of calling ascetic woman a "garden enclosed"--alongside the study of Romans' material garden spaces. Upson-Saia suggests that Gregory capitalized on common views about the supernatural flourishing and everlasting bounty of gardens in order to amplify his argument that virginity, and the Christian garden paradise, served as a limit or boundary to corruption and death. She further argues that Gregory stationed the Christian virgin at the enclosure of the παράδεισος as a replacement of the conventional garden guardian, Priapus, who was known for his permanently erect phallus and his violent sexual threats against those who trespassed into the garden. This juxtaposition pit the asexuality of Christian virginity against the hypersexuality of the “pagan” demi-god and highlighted virginity's role in admitting outsiders into the utopic space over against Priapus's role of restricting access.

 

Profs. John Liu (Sociology) and Yating Chuang (Economics) collected a comprehensive list of twenty-seven introductory economics textbooks in the United States and analyzed their coverage of climate change. Their finding, published in an article titled "Climate Change and Economics 101: Teaching the Greatest Market Failure," show that all texts conceptualize climate change as a problem of carbon emission’s negative externalities and the preferred market-based solutions. Somewhat alarmingly, a small subset of texts deviates from the scientific consensus on the human causes of climate change. Liu and Chuang also provide suggestions for economics educators to innovate the current introductory curriculum to better cope with the climate crisis.

 

Prof. Kelema Lee Moses (Art & Art History) published an exhibition review in The Contemporary Pacific for the show, Holo Moana: Generations of Oceanic Voyaging. The show, housed in the Joseph M. Long Gallery at the Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum, covered a lot of territory: embracing and disseminating indigenous knowledge, exploring the ways in which cultural exchange allows communities to gain a deeper understanding about themselves and the world, and examining the impact of technology on tradition and culture. Moses argues that that the show succeeded in critically “re-awakening, re-activating, and re-envisioning” wayfinding as a means of bringing attention to what Oceanic knowledge teaches us about the Earth and its people.

 

In a new article, "Vintage Birds, Modern Science," in Birding Magazine, Prof. John McCormack (Biology) explains in plain language how the bird specimens in the Moore Lab are helping to answer pressing environmental questions involving habitat alteration and climate change.

 

Prof. Jake Mackey’s (CSLC) new article, “Developmental psychology in the Roman world: continuity and change,” attempts to revise a common view among ancient historians to the effect that Romans ignored children’s cognitive ontogeny, perceiving early childhood as a largely undifferentiated life stage. Prof. Mackey presents evidence from over four hundred years of Roman writing to make three points against Roman neglect of children. First, a consensus about “developmental psychology” prevailed from the late republic to late antiquity. Second, this consensus is consistent with modern findings and theories. The Roman material maps onto a developmental timeline featuring a “2-month revolution,” when the infant engages in dyadic protoconversations with adults, and a “9-month revolution,” when the infant shares attention triadically with adults toward third objects. In the Roman consensus, both dyadic protoconversations and triadic joint attention were central to cultural learning. Third, when the Roman consensus about children’s minds did change, it was because of the Christian doctrine of original sin, according to which even newborns were psychologically corrupt.

 

In urban low-income Los Angeles neighborhoods, children have very few opportunities to engage in physical activity outside of the school campus. Additionally, a majority of play surfaces at Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) schools are asphalt with minimal tree canopy coverage. Kinesiology Prof. Marci Raney published a new article, "Physical Activity and Social Behaviors of Urban Children in Green Playgrounds," that presents the results from a 3-year study conducted at Title 1 LAUSD elementary schools after a large-scale schoolyard greening project at one location. Results from the first longitudinal multi-method controlled research study of schoolyard greening suggest that replacing large areas of asphalt with green space may be an effective way to improve physical activity levels and social interactions, particularly for girls and older students who are typically the least likely to meet federal physical activity guidelines. Read more in the press release linked here.

 

Mathematics Prof. Ron Buckmire's new article, "A Survey of Significant Developments in Undergraduate Mathematics Education Over the Past Decade," appeared in the Notices of the American Mathematical Society. (The Notices is the signature publication of the American Mathematical Society, and goes out to roughly 30,000 subscribers monthly.)

The article is a summary of relatively recent developments in undergraduate mathematics education--describing various pedagogical innovations, demographic changes, expanding career options and new curricular pathways--that mathematics researchers may not be aware of. Prof. Buckmire disseminates information about exciting and innovative projects that he became aware of as part of his work at the National Science Foundation's Division of Undergraduate Education from 2016 to 2018, curating responses to the question "What are the most significant results, events, or developments in undergraduate mathematics education of the last decade?" provided by recognized experts in the field.

Books & Edited Volumes

The term "fanatic," from the European Reformation to today, has never been a stable one. Then and now it has been reductively defined to justify state violence against poor and racialized communities and to delegitimize alternative sources of authority. English Prof. Ross Lerner's new book, Unknowing Fanaticism: Reformation Literatures of Self-Annihilation, rejects the simplified binary of fanatical religion and rational politics, turning to Reformation literature, religion, and philosophy to demonstrate that religious fanaticism was integral to how modern politics and poetics developed, from the German Peasants’ Revolt to the English Civil War.

 

Prof. Kenji Liu (Art & Art History) published a full-length poetry collection, Monsters I Have Been (Alice James Books). It is a timely, critical exploration of masculinities: Toxic masculinity, hyper-masculinity, homophobia, and masculinities considered outside the norm. Cowboys. Samurai. Frankenstein. Man-babies. Emperor Palpatine. Ultraman. Voltron. Prince. J-Pop stars. Using an invented method akin to a cut-up—called frankenpo—the book takes various source texts, puts them in a blender, and reconstructs them as poetry. What happens when you mix POTUS45's inaugural speech with Emperor Palpatine's speech announcing the formation of the Galactic Empire? Poetry that is essentially a discussion of the state, patriarchy, and militarism.

 

Los Angeles is well known as a sprawling metropolis with endless freeways that can make the city feel isolating and separate its communities. Yet in the past decade, as Prof. Jan Lin (Sociology) argues in Taking Back the Boulevard, there has been a noticeable renewal of public life on several of the city’s iconic boulevards, including Atlantic, Crenshaw, Lankershim, Sunset, Western, and Wilshire. These arteries connect neighborhoods across the city, traverse socioeconomic divides and ethnic enclaves, and can be understood as the true locational heart of public life in the metropolis.

Lin argues that gentrification is not a single transition, but a series of changes that disinvest and re-invest neighborhoods with financial and cultural capital. Furthermore, drawing on community survey research, interviews with community residents and leaders, and ethnographic observation, Lin argues that the revitalization in Northeast LA by arts leaders and neighborhood activists marks a departure in the political culture from the older civic engagement to more socially progressive coalition work involving preservationists, environmentalists, citizen protestors, and arts organizers. Finally, Lin explores how accelerated gentrification and mass displacement of Latino/a and working-class households in the 2010s has sparked new rounds of activism as the community grapples with new class conflicts and racial divides in the struggle to self-determine its future.

Grants, Fellowships, & Residencies

Prof. Sabrina Stierwalt (Physics) was awarded a $223,073 grant from the National Science Foundation for research of star formation and gas dynamics in interacting low mass galaxies. This work uses multi-wavelength observations to characterize these interactions and mergers which are ultimately the building blocks for more massive galaxies like our own Milky Way. The grant supports undergraduate research fellowships, including trips to observatories across the globe. The grant also provides funding for a 5-meter portable planetarium for Oxy students to use to engage with the community through astronomy outreach.

 


The National Science Foundation awarded Occidental College a $493,000 major research instrumentation award to purchase a high-performance computer cluster to support faculty research and teaching across the scientific disciplines. Computation has played an increasingly important role in almost all academic disciplines. This cluster will be used by faculty and students to advance research across biology, chemistry, computer science, physics, and economics. The cluster will support on-going research projects that include improving how computers use big data, studying chemical reactivity, and understanding heat transfer in fluids. Other faculty in math, cognitive science, sociology, and the media arts will also use the cluster for interdisciplinary research in numerical simulations and data analysis and visualization, as well as in emerging areas in the digital humanities and interactive media. Additionally, the cluster will prepare undergraduates in 20+ courses for future careers in the sciences. Congratulations to the grant PI, Prof. Justin Li (Computer Science) and co-PIs, Prof. Jeff Cannon (Chemistry), Prof. Diana Ngo (Economics), Prof. Janet Scheel (Physics), and Prof. Amanda Zellmer (Biology) for their successful collaboration in procuring this grant!

 

Prof. Ainsley LeSure (Politics) was awarded a $15,000 Woodrow Wilson Career Enhancement Fellowship and a visiting faculty fellowship for the 2019-2020 academic year at the Center for the Study of Race and Ethnicity in America at Brown University. Both of these awards will support her book project, tentatively titled, Why Does Racism Persist in the Twenty-First Century? This project traces how the over-emphasis of the inner states of individuals – like implicit biases, intentions, motivations, sentiments, and aversions – in explanations for the tenacity of contemporary racial injustice blinds us to the racial dynamics that are unfolding right before our very eyes. Largely, through the political thought of Frantz Fanon and Hannah Arendt, this project advocates for a worldly account of racism that emphasizes the impact and significance of what people say and do to develop, not only better explanations for why racial injustice persists, but an egalitarian democratic politics that can end it. Read more here.

 

Chemistry Prof. Jeff Cannon's research group was awarded a $175,000 grant from the National Science Foundation for their research on stereoselective reactions of dianionic enolates. These enolates can be key precursors for unnatural amino acids, and this research is specifically working to control the exact arrangement of atoms in the amino acid products so that the products function properly in biological systems. The grant also provides undergraduate research fellowships in synthetic organic chemistry.

 

Prof. Mijin Cha (UEP) was the principle investigator on a $75,000 grant from the Climate Equity Network. Working with colleagues from USC, UC Berkeley, Oxy colleague, Jim Sadd, and Oxy students Spruce Bohen and Jacqueline Dall, the research team provide a framework for Just Transition in California, as the state looks to move towards a low-carbon future. Just Transition ensures workers and communities are protected in the transition away from fossil fuels. The resulting report can be found here.

 

Prof. Courtney R. Baker (American Studies) was granted a fellowship at the James Weldon Johnson Institute for the Study of Race and Difference at Emory University. She will be in residence for the 2019-2020 academic year to work on her manuscript, Tyranny of Realism: Twenty-First Century Blackness and the Ends of Cinema. The institute describes the goal of the visiting fellows program as "support[ing] research projects across the spectrum of those disciplines that examine the origins, evolution, impact and legacy of race, difference, and the modern quest for civil and human rights."

 

Mathematics Professors Jim Brown (PI), Treena Basu (Co-PI), and Eric Sundberg (senior personnel) have been awarded a $180,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to host a Research Experience for Undergraduates at Occidental College for the summers of 2020 and 2021. The grant will fund nine students chosen from a nationwide search to spend their summer at Occidental conducting research in coding theory, data science, game theory, and number theory.

 

Prof. Kelema Lee Moses (Art & Art History) was awarded a $65,000 ACLS/Getty Postdoctoral Fellowship in the History of Art (2019-2020) to support her book project, Island Modernism/Island Urbanism: Encountering Statehood in Honolulu, Hawai‘i. The project centers architectural modernism in the Pacific Basin in order to explore the ways in which island cities offer a place-based perspective to urban studies, where architects and planners are forced to develop inventive approaches to balance economic interests, environmental issues, and indigenous imperatives. Read the press release here!

 

Prof. Raul Navarro (Chemistry) was awarded a $55,000 grant from the National Science Foundation Petroleum Research Fund. The funds will support fundamental research in Professor Navarro's lab, which focuses on the synthesis of organic molecules that have the potential to serve as new therapeutics for a range of diseases.

 

Prof. Bhavna Shamasunder (Urban & Environmental Policy) and co-PI Janette Robinson Flint (Executive Director, Black Women for Wellness) will serve as the PI for a project titled, "Taking Stock: Product Use Among Black and Latina Women." The project was awarded funding by the California Breast Cancer Research Program ($445,976 over three years) to support research to prevent and eliminate breast cancer. Chemicals found in everyday consumer products are linked to breast cancer. These include mammary gland carcinogens found in spot cleaners, estrogen-like chemicals found in cosmetics, and chemicals that alter mammary gland development in stain repellents. As a result, product use patterns may drive exposure to these important chemicals. Consumer product use may also add to the cumulative chemical exposure burden already experienced by some women. Few studies have addressed inequities in chemical exposures and breast cancer, and the influence of consumer product use. This community-driven pilot study is guided by the overall hypothesis that consumer product use patterns contribute to exposure and health inequities observed in women of color.

 

Prof. Jim Brown (Mathematics) has been awarded two grants to establish a biannual number theory conference "Number Theory Series in Los Angeles" to be held at Occidental College: a $15,000 grant from the National Science Foundation and $11,029 grant from the National Security Agency. Each year the conference will occur over a weekend in the fall and spring. It will feature two plenary speakers as well as a graduate student plenary speaker from outside of Southern California. In addition to the plenary speakers, the main portion of the program will consist of contributed talks by local undergraduate and graduate students, postdoctoral researchers, and faculty at schools without a regular number theory seminar. The conferences will seek to encourage inclusion of these groups of speakers into the larger research community.

 

Performances, Exhibits, Films, Scripts, and Compositions

In August, Theater Prof. Sarah Kozinn had the first public reading of her new play, 21.06, The Lawrence v. Texas Project. The play is based on the events leading up to the 2003 United States Supreme Court Case Lawrence v. Texas. The Court’s decision marked the first major victory towards equal citizenship for LGBTQ Americans by ruling that state sodomy laws are unconstitutional. In 21.06, named after Texas’s Homosexual Conduct Law, Prof. Kozinn takes legal documents, testimony, interviews, and news footage as its primary materials. She weaves together found evidence with constructed history to reinvigorate the story with the lives of the men whose arrest was used to contest the constitutionality of state sodomy laws. By resisting the archive, or troubling it, the play attempts to disrupt the authorizing forces of a particular history by pronouncing, making legible, and dreaming up what the legal record left out.

Prof. Kozinn will also be appearing in an upcoming episode of the new Amazon series Undone. Shot in live action, and then animated over the footage, the show explores the "elastic nature of reality."

 

Art & Art History Prof. Mary Beth Heffernan’s 2015 social practice art response to the West Africa Ebola epidemic is curated in a permanent exhibition entitled Being Human at the Wellcome Collection in London. The PPE Portrait Project humanized healthcare workers by placing adhesive portrait photos on the outside of the frightening hazmat suits so that patients could identify their caregivers. Wellcome’s new permanent gallery opening in September, 2019 will explore trust, identity and health in a changing world.

The New York Times and The Times (London) reviewed the show, with the former including a photo and paragraph describing Prof. Heffernan's work!

 

Congratulations to Prof. Adam Schoenberg (Music) and Christopher Hawthorne (UEP)--for winning Los Angeles Area Emmy Awards for their work on the 2018 television documentary That Far Corner: Frank Lloyd Wright in Los Angeles. Prof. Hawthorne directed and served as the executive producer of the documentary, while Prof. Schoenberg composed the score.

 

Art & Art History Prof. Linda Lyke had a solo exhibition of her work, Field Notes: When Taxonomy Becomes Iconography, at the Muckenthaler Cultural Center in Fullerton. The show of monotyped and silkscreened prints, collages and solar etchings vividly captures the spontaneous and immediate sense of discovery that stems from the close and careful observation of nature. Read more here.

 

Media Arts & Culture Prof. Broderick Fox's feature screenplay Picture Man has won the feature script category in the University Film & Video Association's 2019 Juried Scriptwriting Competition. The script, chosen from a record number of entries, is a World War II period piece that uses the spy thriller genre to address deeper issues of Japanese-American internment, xenophobia, and distorted nationalism. Founded in 1946, the University Film and Video Association is one of the largest professional organizations and annual conferences for film and media studies, focusing on the creative, critical, and pedagogical practices of college and university media professors. Prof. Fox also won the UFVA screenwriting competition in 2017 for his feature screenplay One Degree. This year he shared Best of Conference honors with Michael McAlexander of Cal State Fullerton for his script Lockdown.

 

After We Leave, the science fiction feature film written and directed by Media Arts & Culture Prof. Aleem Hossain had its world premiere at Sci Fi London where it won Best Feature Film. The film tells the story of a man named Jack who has a once-in-a-lifetime chance to emigrate off Earth… if he can find his estranged wife and convince her to come with him. Sight and Sound called After We Leave “deftly handled and moving” and CriticalPopcorn called it a “brilliant debut.” Watch an interview with Prof. Hossain here.

 

Prof. Brian Fitzmorris (Theater) was the Line Producer for the Homeboy Industries Lo Maximo Awards at the J.W. Marriott at LA Live on March 30, 2019. Attended by over 1,200 guests, the event was hosted by Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin, honored Governor Jerry Brown with the 2019 Kinship Award, and Homeboy Industries alum, Fabian Debora received the Homeboy Hero award. Six current Oxy students were hired to work with Prof. Fitzmorris, giving them valuable professional experience and credits. They were joined by 11 Oxy alumni on the crew.

Prof. Fitzmorris was also the Line Producer for the Alzheimer's Los Angeles "An Unforgettable Evening" event on May 5, 2019, featuring Leslie Odom Jr. performing at a private estate in Santa Monica. Prof. Fitzmorris hired current Theater Department staff and students along with Occidental College alumni in support of the event, which raised over $720,000 for the charity.

 

Awards, Appointments, and other Accomplishments

The Institute for the Study of Los Angeles' Prof. Jeremiah Axelrod's article, "Mutiny on the Sofa: Historical Patterns of Patriarchy and Family Structure in American Science Fiction, 1945–2018," was awarded the Outstanding Article Award by the Pacific Ancient and Modern Language Association [PAMLA]. As a benefit of the recognition, the full article is open access this year.

 

Philosophy Prof. Clair Morrissey's collaboration with Biology faculty Prof. Beth Braker, Prof. Gretchen North, and Prof. Shana Goffredi was featured in an interview with Engaged Philosophy, as part of a partnership between Engaged Philosophy and the Public Philosophy Network. In the interview, Prof. Morrissey describes the collaboration as well as her approach to studying and teaching philosophy.

 

In a piece in The Guardian, UEP Prof. Mijin Cha taps into her expertise in climate justice to explain union members' support of climate protection policies and, more broadly, why we should reject the false dichotomy of "jobs vs. environment."

 

Economics Prof. Bevin Ashenmiller was interviewed by reporter Sarah Gonzalez for an episode of NPR’s podcast “Planet Money”, on the economics of recycling.

 

 

In an extended interview with The Fair Observer, DWA Prof. Anthony Chase offers his thoughts on recent developments in Palestinian politics, with reference to Israeli and U.S. policies with a particular impact on Palestine.

 

 

A special dialogue section of the journal Politics, Groups, and Identities was devoted to DWA Prof. Philip Ayoub’s book, When States Come Out: Europe’s Sexual Minorities and the Politics of Visibility. The five articles, with a response from Prof. Ayoub, address a few core themes, including the artificial gulf between research on LGBT politics in the US and outside it; the complexities of the “coming out” repertoire; the pressures of EU accession; and the theory’s applicability to non-LGBT groups (including regressive groups), to other issues (e.g., sex worker rights and abortion), and to contemporary events (e.g., Brexit and anti-immigration populism in Europe). These themes also touch on issues of nationalism, religious-nationalism, and homonationalism as they relate to political science.

 

Congratulations to Geology Prof. Margi Rusmore for being named the first Gibby Professor of Science! ;A Fellow of the Geological Society of America, Prof. Rusmore is an author of more than two dozen publications and dozens of abstracts on her research, which has been funded by the National Science Foundation. She is currently an editor for the American Geophysical Union’s Tectonics, one of the top peer-reviewed journals in the field.

Inspired by their 50th reunion last year, Barbara Gibby, '68 (a religious studies and psychology double major, and a pioneer in public school special education) and Michael Gibby, '68 (a chemistry major who went on to found Arion Systems, an engineering service company) established the professorship “because we really wanted to do was something impactful. We really wanted to hit the core of a liberal arts education.”

 

History Prof. Jane Hong's article, "Manila prepares for Independence: Filipina/o Campaigns for US Citizenship and the Reorienting of American Ethnic Histories," was awarded the Qualey Award from the Immigration and Ethnic History Society for the best article published in 2017 and 2018. The news was announced at the recent Organization of American Historians (OAH) meeting in Philadelphia and came with a small monetary prize.

The article examines the Philippine Commonwealth Government’s role in the success of the 1946 Luce-Celler Act’s provisions making Filipina/os eligible for US citizenship. It argues that Philippine officials at Manila adopted the legislative cause as part of their broader preparations for Philippine independence. They recognized that Filipina/o American communities would be vital to the state-building projects that followed independence, particularly through the remittances they sent back to the islands. Through this support of naturalization rights, Manila officials sought to inculcate in Filipina/o Americans a sense of responsibility to the islands that transcended formal citizenship. A centering of Manila’s role in the Washington-based naturalization campaign reveals Philippine officials’ instrumental understanding of the US citizenship bill as a means to achieve their own national goals. More broadly, it foregrounds decolonization and the dismantling of formal empire as important levers of US exclusion repeal toward Asian peoples.

 

Prof. Lesley Chiou (Economics) was invited by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to present her research on the effects of Internet diffusion on pricing and competition in offline markets. Her presentation was part of the FCC Economic Seminars program, managed by the Economic Analysis Division. The goal of the seminar series is to advance recent economic analyses and to address difficult issues surrounding the emergence of new technologies.

 

Prof. Marla Stone (History) has been appointed president of the Society of Italian Historical Studies for a three year term beginning in January 2019. The Society for Italian Historical Studies (SIHS) is a professional organization designed to encourage the study and teaching of Italian history and culture. It promotes teaching, research, and publication in any period or field of Italian history and culture, awards prizes to students and established scholars for original contributions to these fields, sponsors conferences and lectures, cooperates with other organizations and groups that share its goals, promotes the exchange of ideas and information among all interested in Italian history and culture. The SIHS is an affiliated society of the American Historical Association.

 

Prof. Shana Goffredi (Biology) was interviewed for a piece in the The New Yorker (“The Whale’s Afterlife”) on her research on unusual deep-sea worms that team up with beneficial bacteria to break down mammal bones (primarily whales) when they sink to the ocean floor. These studies, and others like it, help us to understand the cooperative partnerships that enable life to thrive in the most unexpected places on Earth.

 

Prof. Sharla Fett (History) and Dr. Brenda Stevenson, UCLA, have been selected as the 2019-2020 Core Program Professors for the William Andrews Clark Memorial Library at UCLA. They will be organizing three conferences under the theme, “Contested Foundations: Commemorating the Red Letter Year of 1619.” The year 1619 was designated as the red-letter year in Virginia, the first permanent colony in British North America, for three reasons—it marked the beginning of a representative government; the arrival of captive African laborers; and the initiation of a successful plan to encourage permanent family development through the importation of English women. The combination of these efforts, all meant to enhance the lives of the colonial male elite, marked the beginning of a true settler colony for Britain in North America. This beginning came with grim implications for the indigenous populations the British encountered. These experiments in governance, settler colonialism, and a racialized economy also proved to be the characteristic underpinnings of our independent nation two hundred and fifty years later.

 

Prof. Marla Stone (History) was featured in Episode 3 of the new PBS documentary, The Dictator's Playbook as an expert on Mussolini and Italian Fascism. The documentary series focuses on the techniques used by dictators to gain and hold power.