Our program contained a misnomer this year, as 111 Church Street was closed, and we were all working from home. Nonetheless, our Fellows met every other week to share their projects, which included book chapters, articles, and grant proposals. This group of scholars provided more than typical workshop advice, though that is always very helpful (especially when it comes from such an interdisciplinary group). They also generously offered much-needed emotional and intellectual support, as Spring Fellow Theresa Donofrio shared with us.
Donofrio arrived to her Fellowship questioning the value of scholarly contribution to the world at this moment and found a receptive audience in the other Fellows:
“I had written my proposal confident that I was going to commit my time and energy to a program of study that I’d already invested years of work and research into, but…showing up in January 2021 and putting my head down to work on that project felt disingenuous to what was going on in the larger world around me.”
- Chloe Angyal, Independent scholar — Fall 2020 & Spring 2021
A journalist from Sydney, Australia, who lives in Coralville, IA, Angyal completed a book, Turning Pointe: How a New Generation of Dancers is Saving Ballet From Itself (Bold Type Books, 2021).
- Lucas Carr, Human & Health Physiology, CLAS — Fall 2020
Carr designed and tested physical activity interventions to advance the health and well-being of populations at risk for sedentary-related diseases.
- Shuang Chen, History, CLAS — Fall 2020
Chen wrote an article, “Demography of Qing China,” that has been accepted for publication in the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Asian History. It provides a comprehensive review of up-to-date research and findings about the demography of the Qing dynasty. She also researched primary sources for her book project, from published official histories to administrative documents and legal cases preserved in local archives.
- E Cram, Communication Studies, CLAS — Fall 2020
Cram, who works at the intersection of sexuality, land use, violence, and environmental memory, drafted an essay about the photography of so-called megafires and how these images can be used to communicate the cultural histories of landscape, labor, and intimacy. They also responded to readers’ reviews of their forthcoming book, Violent Inheritance.
- Rodica Curtu, Mathematics (CLAS) and Iowa Neuroscience Institute — Fall 2020
Curtu analyzed behavioral data collected by a colleague’s neurology lab from rodent experiments on how the brain evaluates the passage of time.
- Theresa Donofrio, Communication Studies (Coe College) — Spring 2021
Coe College faculty member Donofrio reconsidered her work on memorials and drafted an essay in the area of care studies.
- Kendall Heitzman, Asian & Slavic Languages, CLAS — Fall 2020
Heitzman focused on two projects: a study of a group of 1960s UI International Writing Program poets from Japan and the history of resident Japanese writers during the early days of the IWP.
- Eric Hirsch, Earth & Environment (Franklin & Marshall College) — Spring 2021
Hirsch drafted an essay, “Neoliberal Adaptation: Climate Change and the Reinvention of Development in Peru” and completed revisions of his forthcoming book Investing in Indigeneity (March 2022).
- Juan Pablo Hourcade, Computer Science, CLAS — Fall 2020
Hourcade worked on revisions to the second edition of his book, Child-Computer Interaction, which will be published in 2022.
- Michael E. Moore, History, CLAS — Spring 2021
Moore worked on chapters of his book project, The Cadaver Trial of Pope Formosus: The End of Carolingian World Order.
- Jason Rantanen, UI College of Law — Fall 2020
A patent scholar, Rantanen analyzed the rise in writs of mandamus in cases involving big tech, which some view as aggressive attempts to move these cases to areas less familiar with their technicalities.
- Carol Severino, Rhetoric, CLAS — Spring 2021
The director of the UI Writing Center, Severino analyzed student writing samples, tutorial recordings from the English and Spanish Writing Centers, and UI survey results on writing across the curriculum.
Fellows in the News
Exploring the Echo Chamber: Brian Ekdale PI on $1M Grant to Study Social Media Algorithms & Extremism
The problem, explains Brian Ekdale, associate professor in the UI School of Journalism and Mass Communication and PI on a new $1 million grant from the Minerva Research Initiative, is that “social media algorithms tend to reinforce our personal biases. There’s a big difference between scrolling through a news feed online—which is targeted at you, specifically—and picking up a copy of the Des Moines Register, where there’s a mix of content that both reinforces your preexisting beliefs and challenges them.”
Wise and Valiant: Ana Rodríguez-Rodríguez celebrates forgotten women authors
“It’s one thing to be recognized by your academic peers, but to have regular people who don’t know much about the subject get really excited by it is so satisfying,” she says with characteristic ebullience. She admits that on a number of occasions, she quietly visited the exhibit to watch people interact with the materials on display: “Once, there were two high school girls reading the labels, and you could see their reaction: ‘Look at what this lady was doing this in the seventeenth century!’ I could tell that their minds were blown and that they felt so happy and empowered as women.”
Patent Warrior: Jason Rantanen’s projects seek to help patents serve people
It’s this emotional element of patents, he believes, that gives them their power to inspire: “If we just think of a patent as a cold equation, then we lose what excites and spurs innovation. If a corporation can get a patent instead of individual people, then we remove the human side of it.”
Rural Life, Capitalism, & Solidarity: Eric Hirsch on the challenges of climate change & entrepreneurship in highland Peru
Earning trust is especially crucial for ethnographers working in communities with a traumatic colonial history like the Colca Valley, where people still face significant structural racism and strong anti-rural prejudice. To conduct culturally sensitive, responsible ethnography, Hirsch says, “You first need to learn the basic aspects of the history, traditions, present-day and local political situations of the community you’re studying.” You also need to be self-aware, he indicated, of the immense power and privilege you bring to the space.
Brain Time: Rodica Curtu, Mathematical Biology, & the Perception of Time
“To tackle complex problems, we need experts in different areas working together. That’s what they’re doing in industry,” she says—but it’s not yet a common practice in academia. Still, she’s optimistic: “If we encourage more scientists to see and think in this [interdisciplinary, open-to-learn] way, more will become enthusiastic about working in teams.”