TCNJ Magazine - Fall 2015 - Faculty Feature

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AQUA CHAMPS Men’s swimming scores two NCAA championships

They’re mum about complex questions that make faculty pull the duvet over their heads in the middle of the night. They’re all zipped lips about the mad pursuit of a result within reach. But mostly they give nothing, absolutely nothing away about the fluid and intense intellectual curiosity that characterizes our faculty. We’re here to remedy that. Turn the page.


FALL 2015


What intrigues chemistry professor Benny Chan? See page 25.


A Curious Bunch.


FALL 2015


Lynn Braender ’82, assistant professor of accounting and information systems

Marci Zane ’03, education librarian

John Oliver ’99, information literacy librarian

Kathleen Fortner Rotter ’72, associate professor of special education, language, and literacy

Ann Marie Nicolosi ’92, associate professor of women’s and gender studies and history

Susan Leonard Mitchell ’76, assistant professor of nursing

Matthew Hall ’00, MEd ’02, assistant professor of special education, language, and literature

Stuart Carroll MEd ’95, associate professor of elementary and early childhood education

John Kuiphoff ’04, assistant professor of interactive multimedia

David Holleran ’95, associate professor of criminology

Jerry Petroff ’75, professor of special education, language, and literacy

Jill Schwarz ’02, MA ’04, assistant professor of counselor education

Colleen Quinn Sears ’01, assistant professor of music

Rosemary (Mimi) Cappelli ’73, assistant professor of nursing

Matthew Wund ’99, associate professor of biology

Jarret Crawford ’03, associate professor of psychology

Margaret Paterson Martinetti ’94, associate professor of psychology

Mind Mapping Throughout the year, faculty lead short-term study abroad programs. Here are a few such journeys. THE MAGIC OF ARCHIVAL RESEARCH IN CORNWALL Faculty: Michele Lise Tarter, English Inspiration: Her decades-long study of the archives in Cornwall’s Museum of Witchcraft. Student takeaway: Delve into centuries-old manuscripts by and about witches, the earliest healers, and connect with the past in meaningful ways. Stay in Tintagel, the birthplace of King Arthur; have class discussions in Merlin’s Cave; hike in Druid forests.

HOLOCAUST AND GENOCIDE STUDY TOUR IN CENTRAL EUROPE AND ARMENIA Faculty: Cynthia Paces, history; Morton Winston, philosophy Inspiration: Marking the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide. Student takeaway: Explore genocide in Germany, Poland, the Czech Republic, and Armenia while examining the relationship between collective memory and national identity.


Central Europe



Galapagos Islands and Ecuador

THE NATURAL HISTORY OF THE GALÁPAGOS ISLANDS AND ECUADOR Faculty: Donald Lovett, biology Inspiration: Lovett always marveled at how much Charles Darwin gleaned from his observations on the Galápagos Islands. Student takeaway: Read Darwin’s works, observe the same things he did, and then come to an appreciation of how evolution explains the existence of the unique species on these islands.


FALL 2015

South Africa

NURSING AND GLOBAL HEALTH IN HAITI Faculty: Sharon Byrne, nursing Inspiration: Byrne’s interest in doing humanitarian work abroad led her to participate in several medical missions with Explorers Sans Frontières, a nonprofit that delivers health care to regions of Port-au-Prince still recovering from the 2010 earthquake. Student takeaway: Examine global health care policy from legal and ethical perspectives, and gain experience providing primary care and health education in a resource-limited environment.

HISTORY OF APARTHEID IN SOUTH AFRICA Faculty: Matthew Bender, history; Mindi McMann, English Inspiration: Bender’s desire to transform the South African history course he’s been teaching on campus into an immersive experience abroad and McMann’s interest in the narratives and ethics of reconciliation. Student takeaway: Understand what apartheid was and witness how its effects reverberate today.

—Susan Cousins Breen and Tony Marchetti

Pop Quiz

First Seminar* courses allow faculty to explore topics and themes outside their discipline. Can you match the course below to the professor who teaches it? Answers are on page 26. (No peeking!) COURSE


A. The Beatles and Their World Changes in pop music and society during the Fab Four’s heyday

1. Timothy Hornberger, elementary and early childhood education

B. Trenton Makes Music The region’s contributions to the music that set the world dancing

2. David Venturo, English 3. Thomas Hagedorn, mathematics and statistics

C. Exploring Amish Culture Perspectives of the ultraconservative Old Order Amish

4. Kathryne Speaker, special education, language, and literacy

D. Dance as an Art Form: From Ballet to Jookin The development and influences of dance

5. Kim Pearson, English

E. Economics and Everything A range of timely topics examined through the lens of economic theory

6. Andrew Bechtel, civil engineering

F. Does What We Eat Matter? The Culture, Politics, and Science of Food How our mealtime choices affect the world around us G. The Cultural Phenomenon of Harry Potter From Beowulf to the boy wizard, an examination of literary heroes

7. Amy Dell, special education, language, and literacy These classes, taken by all freshmen, teach critical thinking skills and foster intellectual curiosity.


The path to professorship can be circuitous.


Life rarely unfolds in straight lines. See what twists these three took.

MICHAEL OCHS Mathematics



Electrical and Computer Engineering

Ochs studied chemistry at Haverford College and

Amtzis attended film school and worked in the

Pearlstein came to TCNJ after a long career in the

Celtic literature at Harvard before completing a PhD

industry through his 20s, even starting a casting

high-tech sector, during which he accumulated

in physics from Brandeis. “I basically always followed

company. But as he approached 30, stability

60 patents. After earning a PhD in electrical

what I thought was the most interesting thing to do,”

beckoned. He tried his hand as a chef, but says the

engineering at Princeton in 1987, he became vice

he says. That approach led him to a large defense

12-hour days “diminished my love of cooking pretty

president of engineering at BioAutomation, where

contractor, a solar energy company, and a lab where he

quickly.” A friend told him about working as a special

he helped develop an automated DNA sequence

studied simian AIDS. Later he conducted statistical

education teacher. “It sounded important and fun,”

reader. While at Hitachi, he chaired the

research on cancer at the Fox Chase Cancer Center

he says. He taught (and was later principal) at a

specialists group that wrote the HDTV video

in Philadelphia and Johns Hopkins School of

therapeutic community for kids with drug and

standard for North America. After that, he looked

Medicine in Baltimore. In 2013 he arrived at TCNJ,

alcohol problems. A doctorate in curriculum and

to make another transition. He knew about TCNJ

where he’s teaching statistics courses and developing

instruction followed, and then, in 2005, an offer from

because his wife had received a nursing certificate

computational statistical methods for refining our

TCNJ. “Teaching,” says Amtzis, “feels like the thing

here. “So I knew what a terrific school it was,” he

understanding of cell signaling.

I was supposed to do.”

says. “I am really thrilled to be teaching here.”

—Christopher Hann


Inquiring Minds Here’s the TCNJ course these professors would take if given carte blanche.



Economics Don Vandegrift’s American Public Policy, which he co-teaches with political science faculty. The applied analytical projects his students work on seem fascinating.


Economics Janet Morrison’s Ecology and Field Biology The systemic quality of interactions among organisms and their environment seems to parallel the behavior of economic systems. Consequently, examining ideas and models from ecology could provide insight on the behavior of economic systems.

Mathematics and Statistics I took History of Jazz with Michael Conklin. I got to study a subject I know little about, and witness a great teacher with a passion for his subject.


Art and Art History Cynthia Paces’ Global Struggles for Social Justice It’s been 25 years since the fall of Communism in Central and Eastern Europe and the Tiananmen Square uprising. Examining what impact those events have had on history would be fascinating.


Biology Deborah Hutton’s Arts of the Islamic World I love art of all types and want to know more about the Islamic world given the current state of political affairs.


Elementary and Early Childhood Education Elizabeth Borland’s Visualizing (In)equality I’ve always been interested in how photography has been and can be used to study human activity.

A Course Not (Yet) Taken

JEANINE VIVONA, Psychology Poetry. I’ve written and spoken about the language in poetry, especially connections between language as used in poetry and language as used in psychotherapy. But I don’t know anything about the study of poetry.


FALL 2015

KEVIN H. MICHELS, Marketing and Interdisciplinary Business Artificial Intelligence. I developed the School of Business’ Center for Innovation and Ethics, and while AI presents unrivaled innovation opportunities, it also presents ethical questions. Will AI eliminate jobs? Or alienate us from our work?


A faculty wish list


Music Cultures and Canons with Piper Kendrix Williams I study African-American culture, and it would be fascinating to learn from someone whose expertise is in the literary canon of the black community.


English I’d study 20th-century German history with Cynthia Paces, because I’m interested in the social and political problems of Weimar and Nazi Germany, and the nature of authoritarian regimes. I’d also take any class with Jo Carney, who has a reputation among students as “the best.” I’d love to learn from her how to be a better teacher.


Sociology and Anthropology Any Asian art history class with Deborah Hutton I want to hear her amazing lectures and see the diverse images she shows in class. Her History of Photography course also sounds fascinating.


History Jo Carney’s Shakespeare class Recently, I read Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall and Bring up the Bodies—modern novels set in Shakespeare’s time—and Jo explained what Mantel was doing with language. My colleague has a warmth and enthusiasm for literature, and I would love to see Shakespeare through her eyes.



English Introduction to Astronomy with Thulsi Wickramasinghe For me, the best part of Boy Scouts was getting my merit badge in astronomy. I’m ready to plunge anew into the wonders of the night sky.

English Michael Robertson’s The Utopian Tradition in Western Literature I want to expand students’ worldviews on race, class, and justice, and my colleague’s course, in which TCNJ students take class alongside prisoners, would immediately help complicate their perspectives.

BENNY CHAN, chemistry Woodworking. I recently discovered that the engineering school has a course to design woodworking projects and train in the machine shop. I haven’t taken any of these courses since middle school and would love to get back into it.


English Any course taught by Jo Ann Gross (history), because I’d learn a good deal about our ever-changing global landscape and because she epitomizes TCNJ’s notion of the teacher-scholar.

DIMITRIS PAPAMICHAIL, Computer Science Number Theory.

It’s just plain fun!

NINA PEEL, Biology Calculus. I neglected math in high school, which was a bad idea. My research students keep encouraging me to take some classes, and I just might when I get time.


Compound Interest

There’s no denying the multidimensional talents of TCNJ’s faculty. THE FICTION-WRITING FORENSIC CHEMIST Professor John Allison had been writing short stories, plays, and monologues for decades when he published his selfdescribed “quirky” first novel, Saturday Night at Sarah Joy’s, in 2013. An avid boater who enjoys sailing Barnegat Bay, Allison donated royalties from the book to Hurricane Sandy relief. “Some people might look at what I write and roll their eyes, but to me it’s an academic endeavor to create something new,” says Allison.


THE GREEN-THUMBED SOPRANO Being a master gardener isn’t unlike being a college professor, says Associate

Associate Professor Dimitris

Professor Suzanne Hickman: Both fields

Papamichail started playing classical

require a love of learning, research, and

guitar at age 9, and later earned a college

teaching. “We answer people’s questions

degree in it. He’s performed in Greece

about turf, trees, shrubs, plants, food

and the U.S., but plays only for fun these

crops, and critters, and our information

days. His favorite musician? Johann

must come from reputable, science-

Sebastian Bach. “Anyone who plays

based sources,” she says. “Educating

music at some point falls in love with

ourselves and the community is our

Bach,” says Papamichail. “His music is

first priority.”

very playful, the way it hides a melody and then revives it. That ingenuity hasn’t been matched since.”



Wagner sings tenor in The Bach Choir of

Associate Professor Jim Bricker, who’s

Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, and has toured

been fencing for 53 years, competes in

nationally and internationally with the

tournaments in the U.S. and Canada; last

ensemble, the oldest such choir in the

winter he won silver in the men’s foil in the

U.S. “After a day of teaching, grading,

Veteran 70s & Older age group at the

reading scientific papers, and preparing

North American Cup held in Dallas.

experiments, singing is a release for me,”

“Fencing is called physical chess,” says

says Wagner.

THE SCENE-STEALING MATHEMATICIAN Associate Professor Cathy Liebars has been acting, singing, and dancing in theater productions for so long that she jokingly calls it her “second career.” She’s picky about what roles she’ll take. “Ultimately I want to learn something from the parts I play,” says Liebars. Take, for example, her recent role as Hermann Goering’s wife in a staged reading of

Bricker, explaining the attraction. “It’s fun

2: Goering at Nuremberg. “I got to study

and exciting, fulfilling and strenuous.”

German accents and research that period of history.”

Answers to the quiz on page 23: A-2; B-5; C-1, D-7, E-6, F-3, G-4.


FALL 2015

—Tony Marchetti

I go to class with a professor. How Socratic is that?

In the Interdisciplinary Faculty-Student Research Seminar, a professor and a student pair up to explore topics around a theme (this past semester, five pairs tackled “Justice”). Once a week, sustained by bagels and juice, the pairs settle in around a conference table as equal partners in freewheeling discussions of their work. We asked collaborators Steven Thompson ’15 and Michael Robertson, professor of English, what the experience is like. ROBERTSON: The seminar has been extraordinary in bringing everybody in contact with people with different perspectives. I, or somebody else, will bring up an issue and Steven will point out, “Well, that’s true from a middle-class perspective. But if you’re poor in this country, your experience is going to be different.” THOMPSON: The thing I love about the seminar is that in terms

of discussion, nothing is off limits. When we start a conversation it can go in any direction and you don’t have to worry about people being uncomfortable or, more importantly, about people being uninformed. Everybody in that room is very intelligent and, above all, eminently curious.

ROBERTSON: What you identified there is that lack of hierarchy where the professor is the authority and everyone else is the learner. In the justice seminar, we’re all learners. THOMPSON: If you have a

ROBERTSON: This seminar is about exposing and illuminating different ideas about justice. It’s not about bringing people toward one, true theory. It’s about a lively, intellectual debate that does not have an easy resolution. It is the most democratic academic space I’ve ever been in. The only comparison I can make: I spent my last sabbatical as a visiting fellow in the Department of Religion at Princeton University, and my only duty was to participate in a weekly seminar of professors and graduate students. This seminar is completely equivalent to the one at Princeton.

—as told to Dustin Racioppi


disagreement with somebody [in the seminar], especially with a professor, you can just

go at it for 20 minutes. And generally the way that breaks down is, nobody emerges a clear winner, but everyone has their understanding of the issue tempered. You are forcibly moderated in the literal meaning of that word. You are left with a more moderate perspective because people force you to look at aspects of an issue that you were not willing to consider before.


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