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MLK Week Lightning Talks Highlight Faculty Scholarship

Two different days were dedicated to “lightning talks” during MLK Week this year, in which ursinus faculty and staff give short presentations on inclusive teaching and research interests. The talks function as introductions to the range of diversity work going on around campus and are a way to encourage everyone to spend a few minutes listening and learning.

Ralph Brown: Forgotten Histories of Early 20th Century African American Dance

Professor of Dance Karen Clemente shared some of the history of Indianapolis born tap dancer Ralph Brown, who became a symbol of dance over the course of several decades. He spent time at the Hoofers Club in Harlem and was known for developing a practice called “Heelology.” “At the Hoofers Club, the American art form of tap further evolved on the continuum from its early roots in the African American community,” Clemente shared.

Mexican Americans in the Civil Rights Movement

Xochitl Shuru, associate professor of modern languages and inclusive community fellow, spoke of Cesar Chavez, the Mexican-American civil rights activist who encouraged nonviolent protest methods to fight against injustice. “Unfortunately, the African American community and the Mexican American community share a history of discrimination,” Shuru said. Chavez formed the United Farm Workers Union and went on to lead boycotts on grapes and lettuce as the pesticide used on the farms was causing cancer at alarmingly elevated rates for workers and their children.

Soul Food: Negotiating Black Parisian Identity Through Contemporary Food Trends

Sylvia Grove, visiting assistant professor of modern languages, shared that during a recent trip to Paris, she noticed an interesting food phenomenon: American southern comfort food is becoming a trend in Paris. “I would argue that in addition to indicating a greater cultural interest in the south of the United States, this new Parisian trend toward American comfort food may correspond to an increased interest in either asserting or suppressing what it means to be black in contemporary Europe.”

Reflections on Teaching Pre-Columbian Art in the Age of The Wall

Meghan Tierney, an assistant professor of art history, detailed her experience in updating an ancient medieval art history course. The structure of the course followed a chronological look at the foundation of Western art from cave paintings to gothic cathedrals. “Being an art historian of the ancient Americans by training, I inserted the art history of the Americas at the beginning, midpoint and the conclusion of the semester, flipping the dominant narrative of art history that emphasizes it as a discipline and founded in and committed to upholding a Western appeal and dominance,” she shared.

MLK’s Critique of the U.S. Participation in The Vietnam War

Christian Rice, assistant professor of philosophy and the humanities, spoke of MLK’s oft- downplayed feelings on the Vietnam War. King condemned the Vietnam War and, exactly one year after his speech Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break the Silence, King was assassinated. Rice explained that the war disproportionately affected black Americans, with larger percentages of black soldiers fighting and dying in Vietnam for rights that they were denied.

Cultural Differences in Cyberbullying

Lynne Edwards, professor of media and communication studies, explained that cyberbullying is considered repeated bullying over digital devices, the sharing of personal or private information leading to embarrassment or humiliation, and abuse of power. Her focus has to do with the correlation between cyberbullying and self-disclosure—are subjects who post more personal information about themselves online more likely to be cyberbullied? She also spoke about diversity in cyberbullying and how students of color tend to report fewer instances of cyberbullying, considering it “trash talking.”

Academic Wages

Jasmine Harris, assistant professor of sociology, discussed her research on academic versus athletic experiences of Division I men’s basketball and football players. She shared that football and men’s basketball players already report the lowest graduation rates of all student-athletes and non-athlete students; and a lack of compensation while competing at the NCAA level creates difficult economic and educational paths in the future.

Bio101 Recitation: Improving Student Persistence and Performance

An associate professor of biology, Carlita Favero began her lighting talk by sharing that 40 percent of Ursinus incoming first year students enroll in Bio101, but only 20 percent of those students engage with the supplemental resources provided. Favero and her co-coordinator Nick Hanford set forth to pilot a recitation program with a focus on skill building and course content. “Recitation offers students a space to learn and practice skills such as time management, active learning strategies and getting involved in the department as well as the discipline,” Favero explained, adding, “These things are directly relevant to Bio101 but they’re also broadly applicable to all of their courses.” The program also offers students the opportunity to go on lab visits to get a closer look at some of the research labs across campus and have a clearer idea of what to expect in their future in labs. Favero shared that the program showed a notable difference in grades in classes.

Communication and Race

Sheryl Goodman, associate professor of media and communication studies, shared details about her experience through the years at Ursinus and her interest in conversations by students in class, especially communicative dilemmas that students face. “I started studying students’ lived experiences, particularly first year students of color at the college. It’s really important to get students involved in thinking about these issues, especially students who may have never thought about this before.” She studied how students felt “otherized” and how they managed that feeling. Goodman shifted her focus to how to facilitate difficult discussions, particularly about race in the classroom.

Moving Toward Inclusive Excellence: IIE Year-In-Review

Ashley Henderson, assistant director of inclusion and equity, shared the successes and milestones of the Institute for Inclusion and Equity of the past year. The number of programs and initiatives offered by the IIE doubled in 2019 compared to 2018 and students led initiatives like Ursinus Pride Day, Transgender Day of Remembrance and an international opportunities fair. “We really try to help and equip the students with understanding the difference between intersectionality and intersecting identities and being able to really value and cherish you they are.”

Reflections on the HBCU experience

Ava Willis-Barksdale, executive director of corporate, foundation and government relations, provided some of the history of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and her own personal and deep familial connection to them. “They are colleges founded between 1837 and before 1864 whose primary mission was and is to educate black Americans,” she explained. “But what each HBCU shares is history and purpose. They provide a sense of cultural belonging. I am a proud alum of an HBCU and I believe it is more important than ever to have them. It used to be the only choice for black students, now it is a vital choice for black students.”

Kara Walker’s “Resurrection Without Patrons” in the Berman Art Museum

Deborah Barkun, chair if the department of art and art history, shared the latest acquisition to the Berman Museum’s permanent collection, a print by artist Kara Walker—one of the youngest ever recipients of the MacArthur Genius Award. In the 1990s, her cut paper silhouette artwork gained popularity and her work often depicts the history and legacy of slavery and trauma in America. “She often employs racial stereotypes in her works as a way of reclaiming these images and giving them a voice,” Barkun explained. The work was created following a 2016 residency in Rome where she was exposed to many religious and Italian renaissance works. —By Mary Lobo ’15