Finding your purpose shapes how you age
Partnering for restorative justice in University City schools
From the Himalayas to Mars
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The Ampersand magazine shares stories of incredible people, research, and ideas in Arts & Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis. It is published semiannually and distributed to alumni, faculty, students, staff, and friends of Arts & Sciences. EMAIL email@example.com WEBSITE artsci.wustl.edu/ampersand DEAN Feng Sheng Hu PUBLISHER Ebba Segerberg EDITOR Crystal Gammon EDITORIAL DIRECTOR Claire Gauen PUBLICATION DIRECTOR Rachel Schultz CREATIVE DIRECTOR Nate Sprehe DIGITAL EDITOR Jennifer Ferguson LEAD PHOTOGRAPHER
Sean Garcia CONTRIBUTING PHOTOGRAPHERS Joe Angeles
Undergraduate Angelina Minocha, Class of 2023, installs a gas absorber in the lab of Johanna Nagy, assistant professor of physics in Arts & Sciences. The gas absorber helps advanced refrigeration equipment in the lab maintain a vacuum while cold. The white pellets function as a molecular sieve that efficiently absorbs gas at cold temperatures. A black glue holds the pellets to a copper plate, which acts as a heat sink and mechanical support. The new equipment will aid the Taurus research project, which was recently awarded a five-year NASA grant. (Photos by Sean Garcia)
James Byard CONTRIBUTING WRITERS Shawn Ballard, Simone Becque, Keishi Foecke, Claire Gauen, Susan Killenberg McGinn, John Moore, Talia Ogliore, Liam Otten, Sara Savat, Rachel Schultz EDITORIAL ADVISORS Ignacio Sánchez Prado
Cover: “Evolving Internal Palette” (iStock.com/agsandrew)
Deborah Stine Abram Van Engen
Welcome to the Ampersand magazine. As I begin my second year as dean of the faculty of Arts & Sciences, I’m constantly reminded of what a privilege joining this community has been. Not only because I’ve found it truly welcoming and supportive – I’ve encountered those qualities in spades – but because, in this community, we challenge ourselves to discover, engage, and create meaningful change. Our Guiding Principles
Academic Distinction Growing a world-class research enterprise that fosters discovery and innovation
Excellence in Education Advancing our reputation as a first-rate liberal arts college that prepares students to change the world
Diversity, Inclusion, and Access Fostering a diverse and inclusive community where all faculty, staff, and students can fulfill their potential
Learn more about Dean Feng Sheng Hu: artsci.wustl.edu/DeanHu
Help us fulfill our mission: artsci.wustl.edu/Support
I see this spirit on our campus as faculty, students, and staff undertake the vital work of creating new knowledge and sharing it with the world. I also see it throughout our global network of alumni, which is filled with examples of groundbreaking innovation and tenacious service. Washington University is a private school with a public-serving mission, and the Arts & Sciences community embodies this ideal each day. This year is an audacious one for Arts & Sciences. We are in the midst of planning for a future that builds upon our strengths and pushes our school to new heights. We are investing in our students and faculty and garnering new expertise in data analytics and digital technologies that will drive transformative change across the humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences. In doing this, we aim to become a global model for liberal arts education that is guided by three key principles: academic distinction; excellence in education; and diversity, inclusion, and access. Indeed, I believe this year marks the launch of the decade of Arts & Sciences at Washington University. As we enter this pivotal era, I’m thrilled to share stories of our success and growth. The title of this magazine and our suite of digital publications is a nod to our school, Arts & Sciences, and to a concept we hold dear: that we are strongest when we combine our expertise and expand our horizons. The ampersand is a recognition that growth derives from collaboration, that innovation lies at the intersection of ideas, and that depth and breadth are the lifeblood of a liberal arts education. As you explore this issue of the Ampersand, I hope the stories you encounter will inspire you to reflect on your ties with this exceptional school and celebrate our achievements. It is truly an honor to lead Arts & Sciences and to have you as a partner in our mission. Warmly,
Feng Sheng Hu Dean of the Faculty of Arts & Sciences Lucille P. Markey Distinguished Professor Washington University in St. Louis
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Table of Contents
Partnering for restorative justice in University City schools Since 2014, University City High School has dramatically reduced suspensions and changed its school culture. Rowhea Elmesky, associate professor of education, helped make it happen.
The science of living with purpose Patrick Hill, associate professor of psychological and brain sciences, investigates the effects of living purposefully on health, wealth, and wellness – and how to maintain one’s purpose through life’s transitions.
From the Himalayas to Mars Meenakshi Wadhwa, PhD ’94, directs the School of Earth and Space Exploration at Arizona State University and was recently named the Mars Sample Return program scientist. Her fascination with Martian meteorites began at WashU.
Around the Quad 6
Notes of Gratitude
The Gratitude Project
Thank you, Georgie W. Lewis
Perspective: The humanities – A beating heart of scholarship
Arts & Sciences
Racial violence & mental health Department of Sociology
‘Musical Lunch Box’ video series Department of Music
Like humans, electric fish pause before communicating key points
30 The power of a city Quinton Lucas, AB ’06, reflects on his time at WashU, the role of American cities in politics, and how his background prepared him to be the mayor of Kansas City.
Ignacio Sánchez Prado
Department of Biology
An audacious moment – strategic planning for A&S Arts & Sciences
New vice dean of undergraduate affairs Arts & Sciences
Where writing comes alive
Study Session: Building a COVID-19 archive
Department of English
Corinna Treitel, chair and professor of history, led a student effort to document university life during a pandemic.
New faculty-authored titles delve into 1960s rock, myths of the modern economy, the life of Tennessee Williams, and more.
Take me back to the ballgame Department of Mathematics and Statistics
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I K E
Around the Quad
News, milestones, and spotlights from across Arts & Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis
Arts & Sciences
Academy honors A In 1780, John Adams and 61 other forward-thinking citizens founded the American Academy of Arts & Sciences. The academy continues to recognize scholars, leaders, artists, and innovators around the world, and this year, five professors from Arts & Sciences joined their distinguished ranks. Psychological and brain sciences professors Deanna Barch, John Baugh, and Pascal Boyer were elected along with Chancellor Andrew D. Martin, a political scientist, and former provost Holden Thorp, who holds faculty appointments in both chemistry and medicine.
Top left, clockwise: Deanna Barch, chair of Psychological & Brain Sciences and the Gregory B. Couch Professor of Psychiatry; John Baugh, the Margaret Bush Wilson Professor in Arts & Sciences; Holden Thorp, the Rita Levi-Montalcini Distinguished University Professor; Andrew D. Martin, chancellor of Washington University in St. Louis; Pascal Boyer, the Henry Luce Professor of Collective and Individual Memory.
Department of Music C
Lunch with a side of music
Adapted from iStock.com/curtoicurto Department of Sociology
Racial violence B and mental health Black Americans experience an increase in poor mental health days during weeks when two or more incidents of anti-Black violence occur and when national interest surrounds the events, according to a recent study coauthored by Hedwig Lee, professor of sociology and co-director of WashU’s Center for the Study of Race, Ethnicity & Equity. The researchers identified 49 incidents of highly publicized anti-Black violence between 2013–17 and analyzed mental health data from sources including the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, the largest continuous health survey system in the world. The study is the first to examine the impact of such events on Black Americans’ mental health on a national scale.
“If we want to improve the health of our population, we must dismantle racism.”
Live concerts are a staple of campus life, and even in a year of physical distancing, musicians found ways to bring events to music lovers near and far. Every Friday at noon throughout the spring semester, viewers experienced student, faculty, and ensemble performances by tuning in to the “Musical Lunch Box” video series. All performances are still available to enjoy online, preferably with your favorite sandwich. https://music.wustl.edu/ musical-lunch-box
National ranking of the graduate program in the Department of Political Science, according to U.S. News and World Report Hedwig Lee Professor of Sociology and co-director of WashU’s Center for the Study of Race, Ethnicity & Equity
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Department of Biology
A rightly D timed pause
Mormyrid Brienomyrus Brachyistius; adapted from Carl Hopkins, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0
Electric fish and today’s TED talk speakers take a page from the same playbook — they pause before saying something meaningful. Biologist Bruce Carlson and colleagues recently tracked electric fish banter and found that fish in pairs paused their electric output more often than solo fish. Pauses as short as about one second allow neurons in the fish’s midbrain to recover from stimulation, the study revealed, making the following message as clear as possible. The same mechanism may play a role in human communication.
“The right word may be effective, but no word was ever as effective as a rightly timed pause.” — Mark Twain
Photo courtesy of Madison Hughes Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences
What’s in a name – on Mars? E Graduate student Madison Hughes has gained a distinction few can boast: She recently named a canyon on Mars. The geographic feature, now officially named Sakarya Vallis, is located in Gale Crater. Working with renowned planetary scientist Raymond Arvidson, Hughes studies the flow of past water on Mars. “Getting to name the landmark you’re working on is a special opportunity for any geoscientist,” Hughes said. “I’ll always be deeply connected to this place, even though it’s on another planet.”
Film and Media Studies
Introducing F Global Studies
Video games and the digital transformation initiative G
This fall, students looking for courses in International and Area Studies or East Asian Studies will need to look under a new program: Global Studies. The renaming isn’t simply cosmetic; it represents a series of exciting changes that will provide students with greater flexibility and more opportunities to study issues that spill across borders. Alongside existing focus areas, Global Studies will offer a new concentration in Global Asias, reflecting the importance of the Pacific Rim in the global political economy.
If you’re a fan of video games or frequent reader of The Atlantic, you likely already know the name Ian Bogost. The internationally recognized media studies scholar and video game designer will become a familiar face on campus this fall, as he joins the Arts & Sciences faculty as director and professor of film and media studies. The appointment is part of the Digital Transformation Initiative in Arts & Sciences, which includes 14 approved faculty searches aimed at increasing strengths in data analytics and digital technologies.
Dean Hu issues the strategic planning charge in this video:
Arts & Sciences
An audacious moment
This spring, Dean Feng Sheng Hu announced a five-phased strategic planning process for Arts & Sciences. Through the 10-month effort, Arts & Sciences will define a vision for the school’s future that centers on three principles: academic distinction; excellence in education; and diversity, inclusion, and access. The process is aligned with ongoing university-wide strategic planning. “I believe this is a pivotal moment for Arts & Sciences,” said Hu, “and I am hoping that the 2020s will go down in WashU history as the decade of Arts & Sciences. Our strategic planning process will be a critical step forward in articulating our vision and garnering the resources and support we need.” The strategic planning process hinges on thoughtful, authentic engagement with all of Arts & Sciences. In April and May, the steering committee gathered comments through a community-wide survey, in-depth interviews with campus leadership, and 60 small focus groups. The focus groups invited community members with common interests – like directors of graduate study, recent alumni, or undergraduates in the social sciences – to hash out existing strengths and new opportunities. In the next phases, faculty leaders will synthesize the feedback, identify strategic options, align goals with the university’s vision and mission – and create a roadmap for the future of Arts & Sciences.
“I am hoping that the 2020s will go down in WashU history as the decade of Arts & Sciences.”
Feng Sheng Hu Dean of the Faculty of Arts & Sciences
5 Phases 10 Months
60 Focus Groups
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Two classes. Six Arts & Sciences Commencement ceremonies. On campus. Congratulations to the classes of 2020 and 2021! H
Photos by (top) Joe Angeles; (bottom) Sid Hastings
Arts & Sciences
New leadership for the College I On June 1, Erin McGlothlin officially became vice dean of undergraduate affairs in Arts & Sciences. As vice dean, McGlothlin is a key member of Dean Feng Sheng Hu’s leadership team, with responsibility for the strategic oversight of undergraduate curriculum planning, pedagogy, course development, program evaluation, and new educational initiatives. She is a professor of German and of Jewish, Islamic, and Middle Eastern studies, and has held numerous leadership roles at the university.
“An Arts & Sciences curriculum is more critical than ever, and in fact is being desired more than ever by employers.” — Erin McGlothlin Department of Mathematics and Statistics
Take me back to the ballgame K
Renowned mathematician John McCarthy grew up playing rugby in his native Ireland. Recently, more than 30 U.S. sports organizations and governments have consulted him on how to help keep fans safe in the COVID-19 era. McCarthy and collaborators published a mathematical model that can be used to estimate relative infection risks at sporting events. So when are fans truly safest? Based on the model, McCarthy believes that venues should require all attendees to be either vaccinated or very recently tested for COVID-19.
Number of accolades won by faculty in the Department of Psychological & Brain Sciences over the past year Honors include: National Academy of Medicine elected Deanna Barch a member American Association for the Advancement of Science selected John Baugh as a fellow Psychonomic Society recognized Jeffrey Zacks with its Mid-career Award and Henry Roediger with its Clifford T. Morgan Distinguished Leadership Award American Academy of Arts & Sciences added three professors to its ranks (p. 6) American Psychological Association awarded Henry Roediger the 2021 Award for Distinguished Scientific Contributions Association for Psychological Science named Zachariah Reagh a “Rising Star”
Department of English
Where writing comes alive
According to acclaimed author Kathryn Davis, creating a novel means adopting the nature of a mule plodding up a mountainside – it requires daily persistence. Shortly after joining the English department faculty in 2005, Davis began inviting groups of student novelists to her apartment to talk through works in progress. Over time, the informal workshop developed into an integral part of the university’s nationally recognized graduate program in creative writing. The kind of flexible and tailored experience offered in Davis’ workshop, along with the opportunity to work closely with renowned poets, novelists, and nonfiction writers, has made the MFA in Writing one of the university’s most vibrant and selective programs. From 2017–21, applications increased by 86%, with over 500 talented applicants vying for just 15 spots each year. In 2020, the program accepted 4.1% of its applicants. WashU’s world-renowned medical school has an acceptance rate of 8.2%. “Recent alumni of the program have exploded onto the national stage,” said program director David Schuman, “winning prizes like the Whiting Award and the National Book Award, and publishing some really important and well-reviewed books. It’s sort of amazing when you consider the size of our program and compare it to that sort of success.”
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Meenakshi Wadhwa (age 2) with her mother, Asha, and father, Jawahar, at the Taj Mahal in Agra, India.
From the Himalayas to Mars Meenakshi Wadhwa’s path to becoming a Martian geologist Story by Shawn Ballard Photos courtesy of Meenakshi Wadhwa
Meenakhsi Wadhwa on ‘Visitors from Another World’: artsci.wustl.edu/Wadhwa
n her day job, Meenakshi Wadhwa, PhD ’94, directs the School of Earth and Space Exploration at Arizona State University. In the coming decade, her days will get even more interesting: Wadhwa was recently appointed as the Mars Sample Return (MSR) program scientist. The MSR mission, planned jointly by NASA and the European Space Agency, will return samples collected by the Perseverance rover from the surface of Mars to Earth as early as 2031. Wadhwa will work closely with other leading scientists to shape the scientific strategy and ultimate execution of the MSR campaign. Earlier this year, Wadhwa also received the 2021 J. Lawrence Smith Medal. The medal, awarded every three years by the National Academy of Sciences, recognizes Wadhwa’s significant contributions to cosmochemistry, solar system chronology, meteoritics, and trace element geochemistry. Of the 27 awardees since 1888, Wadhwa is only the second woman to receive the medal, following Hiroko Nagahara in 2015. She is also the fourth winner associated with Washington University’s McDonnell Center for the Space Sciences. In this Q&A, Wadhwa reflects on her journey to becoming a geologist on Mars and shares her insights about the future of planetary exploration.
How did you first get into space rocks? I grew up in north India, in the shadow of the Himalayas. I’ve always loved the outdoors, and was fascinated by the workings of the natural world since I was a little girl. In college at Panjab University in India, I majored in geology, with minors in physics and chemistry, and so I understood how terrestrial rocks can provide a record of Earth’s history. I didn’t really think about space rocks until I began to consider what I wanted to do for my graduate studies. I thought about how wonderful it would be if there was a way for me to use my geological training to understand other rocky planets in our solar system. I remember writing to Ghislaine
Robert Walker, who was the McDonnell Professor of Physics and director of the McDonnell Center for the Space Sciences, supported me in my professional and personal life and have been like family to me. Finally, my husband, Scott Parazynski, always inspires me to be a better scientist and explorer, and just a better human being.
What upcoming projects are you most excited about?
Who have been your most important mentors? My mother was a huge influence on me. In her generation, especially in India, it was not so common for women to get a degree in science – but she did. She always told me and my sister that we could be whatever we wanted to be in this life. And then my graduate advisor, Ghislaine Crozaz, was very influential in my early academic career. I learned so much from her, especially about being a good mentor. She and her late husband,
I wish everyone knew and appreciated how much of the history of our solar system and Earth we understand just from studying space rocks – that is, meteorites. These materials are truly like the Rosetta Stone in helping us to decipher the clues to all that happened in our solar system 4.6 billion years ago, and even before that time!
Right now, I’m most excited about NASA’s recently announced plans for Mars Sample Return (MSR). I have studied Martian meteorites as part of my research program to understand the geologic history of Mars and the history of water on that planet, but there are limitations to what can be learned
“It blew my mind when I first learned that we had actual meteorites here on Earth that most likely originated on the red planet!” Crozaz, who was then a professor in the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences at Washington University. She was the one who introduced me to the Martian meteorites – it blew my mind when I first learned from her that we had actual meteorites here on Earth that most likely originated on the red planet! That’s when I realized I could vicariously be a geologist on Mars by studying the mineralogy and geochemistry of these rocks.
What’s one incredible or beautiful thing about our solar system that you wish everyone knew?
Meenakshi Wadhwa in the School of Earth and Space Exploration at Arizona State University in 2017. (Photo: ASU)
from these meteorites. So, I am incredibly excited about the possibility of returning actual samples from Mars that we will be able to analyze in detail in laboratories here on Earth! I’m looking forward to serving as MSR program scientist and helping to bring back samples that could finally help us to answer some fundamental questions about Mars: How did Mars evolve as a planet? Did life ever exist there? How did its climate evolve through time?
How does it feel to have an asteroid named after you? It’s such a thrill. It is especially wonderful because 8356 Wadhwa has an orbit that comes close to that of Mars, and so maybe sometime in the distant future this asteroid will impact the red planet! I certainly hope to have an impact on understanding the history of Mars – especially by contributing to future analyses of returned samples! – so it feels very meaningful to me.
Meenakshi Wadhwa and her Washington University graduate advisor Ghislaine Crozaz in Brussels, Belgium, in 2010. Crozaz is now professor emerita of Earth and planetary sciences.
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Inspired by trees Illustrations by Erin O’Connell As an ecology technician, Erin O’Connell leads projects at Tyson Research Center, Washington University’s sprawling, 2,000-acre environmental field station. As an artist and illustrator, she brings new perspectives to her observations of the natural world. At Tyson, O’Connell works with a lab led by Jonathan Myers, associate professor of biology. Their research site is part of the Smithsonian’s ForestGEO network, the largest systematically studied network of forest-ecology plots in the world.
Erin O’Connell (Photo: Tyson Research Center)
Missouri Fall Leaves (top); Winter Buds (bottom) Photosynthesis for Dinner (above) - What does a plant eat for dinner? A healthy serving of thin air (carbon dioxide, represented by blue sweeping swirls) seasoned with nutrients and drizzled with sunlight (vertical yellow beams), and a tall glass of water (underground blue droplets) to wash it all down – or perhaps up. Tyson Research Center ForestGEO (opposite) - In late fall at the Tyson Research Center ForestGEO plot, a forest dominated by oaks and hickories, most of the deciduous leaves have been shed and only the withering leaves of the oaks remain.
Ten common species in the ForestGEO research plot (clockwise from top center): Red oak (Quercus rubra), paw paw (Asimina triloba), sassafras (Sassafras albidum), white ash (Fraxinus americana), slippery elm (Ulmus rubra), shagbark hickory (Carya ovata), Carolina buckthorn (Frangula caroliniana), red maple (Acer rubrum), flowering dogwood (Cornus florida), and downy serviceberry (Amelanchier arborea).
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Building a COVID-19 archive In an entry-level history course, Corinna Treitel’s students created a digital archive of the COVID-19 experience at Washington University. Story by John Moore
hat was life like at Washington University as the 1918 influenza pandemic swept the globe? Surprisingly, no one really knows. The university’s archives have very little information on the period, and according to Corinna Treitel, chair and professor of history and director of the medical humanities minor, that gap limits what historians can learn. This spring, Treitel taught a 100-level course on health and disease in world history. She invited university archivist Sonya Rooney to talk with the class about the dearth of information related to the 1918 pandemic on campus and what materials could have been preserved from that time. The conversation quickly shifted from theoretical to practical. For their final project, the students created their own COVID-19 archive. They recorded video and audio conversations with fellow students, collected official messaging from the university and local government, interviewed scientists researching COVID-19 and creating health guidelines, and documented how peers addressed mental health and social justice. They then compiled these materials into a series of StoryMaps, web-based visual archives often used by museums and libraries to collect archival material into a narrative for the public. Many of Treitel’s students focused their projects on how their peers coped with physical distancing on campus. A series of anonymous interviews with current students document public health protocols from a student perspective. One interview subject described the isolation of living in
quarantine housing after a positive COVID-19 test, while another described their reasons for staying home during the fall and spring semesters. “In an entry-level class, students come in thinking that history just lives in a file cabinet up in the sky, and that your professor has access to the folder,” said Treitel. “But history is built from primary sources. It’s a data-driven discipline, just like the natural sciences. History starts through the collection of evidence.”
WHAT GOES INTO AN ARCHIVE? In 13 StoryMaps created for the course “Health and Disease in World History,” students gathered a range of materials about university life in a pandemic. Here’s a sampling:
Profiles of student artists and musicians document the significance of creativity during lockdown. Anna Riek, Class of 2023, created collages throughout the summer of 2020.
In an interview, Holden Thorp, editor of Science and the Rita Levi-Montalcini Distinguished University Professor, discussed the importance of fact-based guidance during the pandemic.
MENTAL HEALTH CHECKS Students reflected on how the pandemic affected their mental health and shared the tools they’ve used to cope.
“The loneliness of not having people around my age began to take a toll.” — Barry Henaku, Class of 2023, mathematics and classics major
RESPONSE COMMUNICATIONS University communications, from emails to signage, tell the story of how campus responded to the public health crisis.
IMAGES Photos of campus recreation facilities, dining halls, and pop-up tents reveal the changing spaces on campus.
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OF LIVING WITH
PURPOSE Patrick Hill investigates the effects of living purposefully on health, wealth, and wellness – and how to maintain one’s purpose through life’s transitions.
Story by Claire Gauen Photos by Sean Garcia Illustrations by iStock.com/agsandrew
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hether you spend your weekdays as an employee, retiree, caretaker, student, or something else entirely, a typical morning likely includes some familiar components. Wake up, perhaps have a cup of coffee, and make a plan for the day. What do you intend to accomplish? What tasks, professional and personal, need to be checked off your list? Patrick Hill, associate professor of psychological and brain sciences in Arts & Sciences, has spent the last decade studying the often-unnoticed background noise behind the sounds of coffee brewing and to-do list scrawling. Hill and his collaborators examine the big picture of why people set goals and seek to accomplish them – in other words, what it means to live with purpose. In the Purpose, Aging, Transitions, and Health (PATH) lab, Hill examines a wide range of questions relating to purpose. He and his students want to know how people find their purpose, how purpose relates to health and wellness, and, most recently, how life transitions like retirement affect a person’s ability to live purposefully. The work has real-world implications for just about anyone, at just about any phase of life.
Graduate student Gabrielle Pfund outlines her strategy for a new research project.
THE MULTIFACETED BENEFITS OF PURPOSE Hill describes purpose as a framework that helps individuals identify what is personally important. For some, the prospect of professional advancement conveys a sense of purpose. For others, it’s a broad desire to help those in need. In any
Patrick Hill, associate professor of psychological and brain sciences, directs the PATH lab, located in Somers Family Hall.
case, purpose imparts direction and structure to both daily life and long-term plans. Through his work in the PATH lab and partnerships with researchers across the world, Hill has found that purpose correlates with life outcomes far beyond expected areas like career success. People with a greater sense of purpose are healthier overall. They tend to have more satisfaction in their romantic relationships and more positive attitudes toward diversity. They even get better sleep, according to a forthcoming paper from the lab that connects purpose with more granular health benefits.
agreement to statements like: I have a sense of direction in my life; or, some people may wander aimlessly, but I’m not one of those people. Importantly, these surveys allow respondents to express having a sense of purpose even when they aren’t able to define exact life goals. Associating purpose with health outcomes often requires large datasets. In addition to conducting his own surveys, Hill taps into data collected by major collaboratives around the world. The quest is ever-expanding.
THE CASE OF RETIREMENT The benefits of purpose are especially pronounced for older adults. Those who report having higher levels of purpose tend to have fewer health problems, including depressive symptoms and cognitive decline. However, adults tend to report declining levels of purpose over time. Because of the opportunities to impact so many lives, Hill identifies his studies on aging and retirement as among the most urgent in his lab. “It’s something I think about as my own parents are retiring,” Hill shared. “It’s really important to me to figure out who wants a purpose in retirement and what we can do to help those individuals.” One study on this topic, — Patrick Hill published last year in Psychology and Aging, examined how participation in leisure activities, from gardening to games, relates to a sense of purpose. Using a sample of more than 7,000 participants who took part in earlier longitudinal surveys, Hill and coauthor Nathan Lewis found substantial results. Overall, those who participated more frequently in leisure activities reported a higher sense of purpose. Those who engaged in cognitive activities daily – tasks like puzzles or word games – were less likely to experience the typical decline in purposefulness across time. Also, when respondents reported having recently participated in more
Across numerous populations, age ranges, and geographic locations, an overarching theme remains: ”Having a sense of purpose seems to be valuable for health and well-being.”
PURPOSE UNDER THE MICROSCOPE To make these kinds of discoveries, Hill and colleagues have had to find ways to bring scientific methodology to something that is by nature highly personal and often nebulous. “I started out thinking, is this even something we can study?” Hill recalled. “It’s such a big, crazy thing that differs so much from one person to the next.” As indicated by the PATH lab’s numerous publications and ongoing projects, the researchers have found successful strategies for approaching the subject. “Part of the answer is you have to do it several different ways,” Hill explained. “There’s no one method or methodology that’s going to lead to being able to capture all that there is about purpose.” Questionnaires often prove a helpful tool for studies in the PATH lab. Such surveys ask respondents to rate levels of
“A lot of my work recently has been trying to go outside of the samples that we’ve been using in the past,” Hill shared. “We have a couple papers on sense of purpose among an ethnically diverse sample in Hawaii. It’s always an interesting step in these directions because you first have to figure out what purpose means in different contexts.” Across numerous populations, age ranges, and geographic locations, an overarching theme remains. “It’s still the case that having a sense of purpose seems to be valuable for health and well-being,” Hill said.
Purpose, Aging, Transitions, and Health (PATH) lab - Learn more about lab members, current projects, and more. pathlab.wustl.edu
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Psychology and Aging
physical activities than usual, they reported higher levels of purposefulness. The results point to potential strategies for retirement communities to help residents maintain a sense of purpose and, by extension, possibly a better quality of life overall. As Hill and Lewis note within the study: “These findings underscore the potential for leisure activity interventions to help older adults compensate for loss of work-related roles and maintain purposefulness into retirement.”
THE PATH FORWARD NEW RESEARCH
Those who participated more frequently in leisure activities reported a higher sense of purpose.
Those who engaged in cognitive activities daily were less likely to experience the typical decline in purposefulness across time.
Respondents who recently participated in more physical activities than usual reported higher levels of purposefulness.
“Does Being Active Mean Being Purposeful in Older Adulthood? Examining the Moderating Role of Retirement” http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/pag0000568
Back when Hill first began studying purpose as a graduate student at Notre Dame, he and a research partner joked that “this can’t be as good as it seems.” A decade later, he remains amazed by the many ways purpose intertwines with so many facets of life. “I think that’s been the a-ha moment for me,” he said. “There’s only a couple times in which we’ve found that having a sense of purpose isn’t positively related to something.” The topic has proved fascinating for students at both the undergraduate and graduate level, and their interests shape much of the lab’s work. Hill makes a habit of involving his students in ongoing studies and encourages both undergraduate and graduate students to pursue their own research questions. In the PATH lab, doctoral student Gabrielle Pfund, MA ’21, focuses her work in part on how universities can help students develop a sense of purpose. Fellow lab member Megan Wilson, MA ’21, is interested in identifying the factors that lead an individual to engage in activism as their purpose in life. Rachel Best, AB ’20, completed a senior thesis last year that focused on how to assist retirees in maintaining a sense of purpose during the retirement
transition. As with many alumni of his lab, Hill has continued to collaborate on projects with Best after she started graduate school. “I think that’s one of the great things about running a lab here,” Hill shared. “Everybody can attach to the concept in a new way that gets you excited and energized to do something in a new direction. If you had asked me a decade ago, I would not have expected to still be talking about purpose – but there’s so much left to learn.”
4 PM CDT | WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 20, 2021 EV
Learn more about purpose and the PATH lab. Join us for a Q&A with Patrick Hill, hosted by University Advancement.
For more details and to RSVP, visit: artsci.wustl.edu/Purpose
PATH LAB MEMBERS & RESEARCH AREAS
Associate Professor of Psychological & Brain Sciences
Doctoral student in Psychological & Brain Sciences
Doctoral student in Psychological & Brain Sciences
The role of individual differences in promoting healthy aging
Day-to-day variability of purpose and what predicts daily stability
The relationship between discrimination and purpose in life
How to promote positive transitions across the lifespan
The interconnectedness between social connections and sense of purpose
Factors that lead an individual to engage in activism as their purpose in life
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Story by Keishi Foecke, AB ’21 Photos by Sean Garcia
Since 2014, University City High School has reduced suspensions by more than 40% and dramatically changed its school culture. Rowhea Elmesky, associate professor of education, and Olivia Marcucci, PhD ’19, helped make it happen.
26 The Ampersand | Fall 2021
Rowhea Elmesky’s long-term collaboration with University City High School has contributed to a fundamental shift in school culture.
ust two miles from Washington University’s Danforth Campus lies University City High School, a stately Art Deco-styled brick building that first welcomed students in 1930. Today, the school serves some 800 students, many of whom are low-income and approximately 90% of whom are students of color. Rowhea Elmesky, an associate professor of education in Arts & Sciences, first entered the high school’s doors back in 2014. At the time, administrators were working through a seemingly intractable problem. “The district’s concerns were largely achievement-based, as they wanted to make sure that their high school students would be able to pursue different academic pathways or just be successful as individuals,” Elmesky said. “They started to notice, however, that a barrier standing in the way of this goal was the overall school culture.” In the three years leading up to 2014, UCHS recorded approximately 4,000 disciplinary infractions, including a significant number of suspensions. In one class Elmesky observed, the teacher was unable to talk over or even make eye contact with students. Simply put, the school’s culture was in need of a fundamental shift.
A budding partnership Recognizing the scope of the problem, former assistant superintendent Chauna Williams reached out to Washington University’s Institute for School Partnership (ISP) with the seed of an idea: Perhaps through a collaboration with WashU, researchers and school staff could help identify solutions to revitalize the culture at UCHS. Victoria May, ISP’s executive director and assistant dean in Arts & Sciences, in turn reached
University City High School has served students since 1930. Classes have been held remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic.
out to Elmesky, whom she knew as both an education researcher and personal friend. “It's interesting how it began, because I'm a science educator by training,” Elmesky recalled. Alongside her teaching experience, her research background was a strong fit for a partnership with UCHS. “I consider my expertise to be inner-city school environments and the sociocultural dimensions of classrooms and schools,” she explained. In her research, she uses qualitative methods to do long-term ethnographic studies through an anti-racism and equitycentered lens. Her work focuses on not just understanding problems, but enacting change. After an initial hand-off meeting with May, Elmesky and doctoral student Olivia Marcucci, now an assistant professor of education at Johns Hopkins University, got to work. They conducted focus groups with as many stakeholders as they could find: students, student groups, administrators, teachers, and staff. With each group, they sought to answer a simple question: Why do you think this is happening?
In 2016, Elmesky and Marcucci submitted a report to the University City school district. Their recommendations were promptly translated into action, including initiating classroom “restorative circles” to encourage students to talk openly, offering an elective course on restorative justice, partnering with nonprofits to train staff in trauma-informed care, establishing mentorship programs, and hiring a restorative justice coordinator. Elmesky and Marcucci also led a summer teacher residency program on the Washington University campus where UCHS teachers developed research skills by analyzing focus group transcripts and classroom instruction videos. “When we submitted that report to the district, I gave specific recommendations of how the school district itself could make changes, how the high school itself could make
A trust problem The focus groups revealed that a basic lack of trust affected nearly every facet of school life. Students felt distrusted and disrespected by teachers, and vice versa. In some instances, relationships between teachers and administrators felt similarly strained. In one case, a student shared her experience as a recent immigrant for whom — Rowhea Elmesky on the effectiveness of small group discussions to empower English was a second language. To help in instructors and students to develop more respectful and trusting relationships. writing-based courses, the student’s parents found a writing and grammar tutor who was able to provide excellent support. When the student’s writing drastically improved, however, her teacher changes, and how teachers and students could make changes,” accused her of plagiarism and penalized her grade. The student Elmesky shared. “Whenever you want transformation, you discussed how much this affected her self-confidence and how really have to go across all levels. You can't tell the teachers, she felt disrespected by her teacher. ‘oh, you have to do things differently,’ if at a more macro level “There really was not a feeling of trust, responsibility, there's not that continuity of vision. So a lot of what we did and respect,” Elmesky recalled. With this background in place, initially was to try to establish a collaborative approach to she, Marcucci, and UCHS staff prepared to put knowledge building that vision.” into action. “We all said, let’s cogenerate this. Let’s do it In some instances, Elmesky was directly involved in the together. Let's find a series of mechanisms that will allow transformation. She and Marcucci supported Bishop Baker, us to shift the culture from one that's more punitive to one CEO of the nonprofit Man of Valor, as he led weekly student that's more restorative.” leadership programs at UCHS, piloting many of the restorative
I remember that the teacher told me that it was the first time she had ever seen her students' eyes...in that small circle she felt like it was the first time she was able to connect with her class.
“Let’s do it together” With this sentiment in mind, the partnership was named “Cogenerating a Community of Trust, Respect and Shared Responsibility.” Throughout several phases over the next seven years, the project has focused on school change initiatives through restorative justice efforts, which seek to respond to conflict and disciplinary issues through understanding and cooperation.
justice practices. Elmesky and Marcucci also cotaught one academic class for almost three months, dividing the classroom into three restorative circles. The smaller groups and focused time empowered the instructor and students to develop more respectful and trusting relationships. “I remember that the teacher told me that it was the first time she had ever seen her students’ eyes,” Elmesky recalled. “In that small circle she felt like it was the first time she was able to connect with her class.”
28 The Ampersand | Fall 2021
Matt Tuths, who teaches Latin and participated in Elmesky’s summer residency program, set aside the last 15 minutes of his classes to show clips of classroom videos back to his students. Students would then reflect on what was going well or not going well in class. In some cases, this opened up conversations on important but sensitive topics, like the role of race at the school, Elmesky said.
Transformative change Catalyzed by the WashU research collaboration – and nourished through the dedicated commitment of staff, administrators, district leaders, and community partners like ABCToday – the transformation is evident. Suspensions are down by 41% and absenteeism has decreased by 7%. In 2019, the school board passed the “Resolution to Humanize School Climate Through Restorative Practices and Social Emotional
“It is exciting to see the culture of our school grow healthier and healthier,” Peoples said. “Our students increasingly feel they have a voice, and that builds confidence to collectively do things to change school systems and traditions to better meet their social, emotional, and learning needs.” Going forward, UCHS hopes to see a continued shift toward not only a restorative community with fewer disciplinary infractions, but also one with more equitable post-secondary outcomes – change that will not happen overnight. “We still have a lot of growth to do, but we would be so much further behind if it wasn't for Rowhea getting that work started,” Hill said.
It is exciting to see the culture of our school grow healthier and healthier...our students increasingly feel they have a voice, and that builds confidence to collectively do things to change school systems and traditions to better meet their social, emotional, and learning needs. — Michael Peoples, Principal of University City High School
Learning,” the first resolution to address student well-being, equity, and the school-to-prison pipeline in Missouri. Susan Hill, the former principal of UCHS and now the University City school district’s director of college readiness, says the shift in school culture has been drastic. “Our school is now a more student-centered place that honors student voice and choice,” Hill said. “The relationship between the student and the teacher is more positive, in part, by being less punitive and giving students more of a voice when there's a conflict.” Now in its seventh year, the partnership is ongoing, ebbing and flowing as the school requests additional support, such as for identifying ways to promote student wellness in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. The current principal, Michael Peoples, has carried forward and expanded the efforts. Elmesky describes Peoples’ leadership style as “all about relationships and socio-emotional learning.” His initiatives include ‘Lunch with the Principal,’ where he invites students who are often absent from school to a special lunch. At first students worry that they are in trouble, Elmesky said, but they soon realize that Peoples genuinely wants to know how the school can help them return to and stay in class.
The power of cogeneration According to leaders and participants from both UCHS and WashU, the project’s success is largely due to its collaborative nature. At every step, the effort has been a true partnership. “Rowhea’s research ethos is such that she truly views the people that we work with at University City High School as co-researchers and collaborators,” Marcucci said. “She has invested so much of her time into University City High School, not for her own ego or own research agenda, but because it is action for social justice. Anything that promotes high-quality schooling is something that she wants to invest her time in.” Tuths, who in addition to Latin now teaches restorative justice practices at UCHS, echoed the sentiment. “Rowhea brings her own expertise to the table and wants to share that with you. But she also wants you to share the things that you bring to the table and put that all together so that we're all benefiting from each other's perspectives and expertise,” he said. “She asks you questions, and you feel like she is listening to every single word that you're saying – not just because she feels like she should, but because she actually wants to hear.”
Select Project Highlights
Quantitative analysis of student discipline trends at University City High School Focus group discussions with UCHS administrators, teachers, guidance staff, and students to discuss discipline trends
Student restorative justice leaders facilitate small discussion groups in classes throughout the school. (Photo: University City High School)
Teacher-researcher residency held on WashU campus
In St. Louis, for St. Louis Though some refer to education as the “great equalizer,” in reality, American schools often have limited power to combat the deep social inequities that plague the nation. Elmesky’s partnership with University City High School demonstrates how – through collaboration, trust, and true commitment – education can, in fact, be leveraged as a powerful tool for social change. It also reflects Washington University’s increased focus on being, as Chancellor Andrew Martin has emphasized, “in St. Louis, for St. Louis.” “Using language that says we care about the community, and we want to be part of making this better, I think is the first step,” Elmesky said. “Next, we need to continue mobilizing resources to make that vision a reality.” Marcucci, who wrote her dissertation on this project, has continued focusing on racial justice and equity in schools as a member of the faculty at Johns Hopkins University. Looking back at her doctoral work, she sees the partnership with University City schools as an example of how universities can meaningfully interact with their neighbors. “It’s one small step in shifting how the university relates to its community,” she said, “and one that emphasizes humanity first.”
WashU submits findings and recommendations to UCHS for “Cogenerating a community of trust, respect, and shared responsibility”
Classroom videotaping, co-teaching, and restorative circles conducted at UCHS Joint research meetings held with administrators, staff, and students, with a focus on transforming UCHS school culture WashU hosts a forum with UCHS called “Bridging the theory and practice divide: Honoring high school- and university-based researchers”
The School District of University City passes “Resolution to humanize school climate through restorative justice and social emotional development”
Creation and facilitation of student-led advisory committee to UCHS administration, with a focus on holistic student wellness
On Principal Michael Peoples’ conference room door, a poster illustrates the school’s commitment to restorative justice principles.
30 The Ampersand | Fall 2021
Mayor Quinton Lucas visits Saint Luke’s Health System to discuss vaccine distribution in February 2021.
The power of a city Quinton Lucas on WashU, American cities, and his role as mayor of Kansas City
Story by Rachel Schultz Photography by Lilly Tighe (above) and Fengxue Zhang (right)
Wednesdays with WashU video series: A Conversation with Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas artsci.wustl.edu/MayorQ
uinton Lucas, AB ’06, thought he was just keeping a journal about his internship in the Kansas City mayor’s office for class credit during his junior year at Washington University. Then Beth Wilner, a postdoctoral lecturer and the pre-law advisor at the time, suggested he turn his notes into a paper and submit it to an academic journal. Intrigued, Lucas began polishing his thoughts. He met with Wilner several times that semester to get his paper in shape for possible publication. “I still remember she taught me a new word. She said, ‘What’s the dénouement?’ And I was like ‘the what?’” Lucas said, laughing. “I had to look it up first.” He says that conversation got him thinking – what was the point he was trying to make? “I’ve thought about this in my writing ever since – as a lawyer, in my speeches as a politician. What is the point? What am I trying to get to?” Wilner, who is now the director of college counseling at a high school in Concord, North Carolina, fondly remembers her interactions with Lucas. “Quinton had an under-the-radar intensity,” she said. “Each time he entered my office, he wore a huge smile and offered pleasantries to ask how I was doing. Once we moved past the greetings, his intensity would come out. He would methodically outline his thesis, the data, his thinking around what he was observing, and any updates he had discovered in the interim. It was compelling to listen to Quinton. I remember wondering if I was even helping him!”
Before attending WashU, Lucas had spent most of his life in Kansas City’s urban core, raised by a single mom. And although he had moved often as a child and experienced homelessness, he remained focused on his schoolwork. In fact, the youngest of three earned the nickname “professor” at 10 years old. Lucas’ paper on value politics in Kansas City was successfully published in the Journal of Politics and Society, and that experience solidified his identity as a scholar of the American city. Now, as the mayor of Kansas City, Missouri, Lucas believes strongly that cities have the power to make a real and lasting impact on the world. He points to the strengthening influence of city politics in response to fluctuation in state and federal power over the past century. “I think part of it is because the public really wants things done, but in a different way,” he said. “They want us to address homelessness. They want us to address violent crime. They want us to address business development, and equity, and housing. And those are areas where the solutions are really rising up from cities.” He also believes part of his role as mayor is to shine a light on the problems in Kansas City. He publicized racially charged death threats he received to show any doubting citizens that racism is prevalent in the region. He directed the city manager to highlight any discriminatory language in the city’s code of ethics. He worked to remove marijuana violations from the code of ordinances and to create a system in which unpaid parking tickets no longer lead to incarceration – both issues that disproportionately harm poor Kansas Citians. “We have to show our current DNA,” he said. “If we’re going to be proud of our Chiefs, we also need to recognize our blemishes.” This belief stems partly from his time spent studying in Cape Town, South Africa, as an undergraduate at WashU. Many of his classmates had lived through apartheid, and racial inequities were clear to everyone and
freely discussed. Sugarcoating wasn’t really an option, and Lucas appreciated that. While in South Africa, Lucas would wake up early and listen to NPR News and the BBC World Service. He heard the coverage of Hurricane Katrina hitting the Gulf Coast from his dorm room in Cape Town. “It was interesting catching American news and hearing everyone else respond,” he said. “You learn so much about your own country’s strengths, but also our shortcomings when you go somewhere else.”
“But one thing I’d want to be consistent is the intellectual rigor that I had. I think it has made me a much better mayor, consumer of information and entertainment, and human being.” When Kansas City was hit with the COVID-19 pandemic just six months after Lucas was sworn in as mayor, he was thankful to have staff with backgrounds in the arts and sciences. “We had to step back, and we had to think, and we had to think creatively,” he said. Historians looked up the 1918 flu pandemic, mask mandates, and
“The public wants us to address homelessness. They want us to address violent crime. They want us to address business development, and equity, and housing. And those are areas where the solutions are really rising up from cities.” “I got to engage on issues that we spoke about in the classroom in St. Louis, but when you live with people whose experiences are different – you’re talking to someone from Somalia about American intervention or a woman whose dad was killed in Mogadishu – those types of conversations really changed my perspective.” Lucas hopes that one day his son, who was born in April, will have the same type of intellectual encounters he had studying in South Africa and at WashU. “There are always things you’d change in college – like to win a bunch of awards or something,” he said.
the politics at the time; sociologists advised on how to get messages out to a fearful community; and mathematicians created statistical models. “There are so many tools you learn from a liberal arts education.” For Lucas, the pull toward public service started while he was in South Africa and never went away – even after stints as a lawyer and a professor at the University of Kansas. “I had lived in a small town in Kansas, lived in the inner city of Kansas City, experienced homelessness, I went to this great university at WashU,” he said. “I had so many experiences in so many crowds that I thought it was vital for me to do that connecting for our society.”
Mayor Quinton Lucas tours the Lykins neighborhood in northeast Kansas City to gather input from residents on crime prevention strategies.
32 The Ampersand | Fall 2021
You’re Paid What You’re Worth And Other Myths of the Modern Economy By Jake Rosenfeld By Sara Savat
our pay depends on your productivity and occupation. If you earn roughly the same as others in your job, with the precise level determined by your performance, then you’re paid market value. That, at least, is how many of us tend to think. But, we need to think again, according to Jake Rosenfeld, associate professor of sociology. With his new book, You’re Paid What You’re Worth, Rosenfeld challenges the idea that we’re paid according to objective criteria, while placing power and social conflict at the heart of economic analysis. “The core question that animates me — at least in my day job — is who gets what and why? This is the book I’ve been thinking of writing for a few decades now, and my hope is that I’ve provided a new perspective to everyone out there who has ever wondered about what determines that number on their paycheck,” Rosenfeld said.
Department of Music
Tear Down the Walls: White Radicalism and Black Power in 1960s Rock Patrick Burke
Browse more books on the digital Arts & Sciences faculty bookshelf.
Department of Germanic Languages and Literatures
Ottoman Eurasia in Early Modern German Literature: Cultural Translations Gerhild Williams
Department of Anthropology
A Simpler Life: Synthetic Biological Experiments
John C. Danforth Center on Religion and Politics
Department of Germanic Languages and Literatures
Making the World Over: Confronting Racism, Misogyny, and Xenophobia in U.S. History
The Mind of the Holocaust Perpetrator in Fiction and Nonfiction
R. Marie Griffith
Performing Arts Department
Blue Song: St. Louis in the Life and Work of Tennessee Williams
Henry I. Schvey
34 The Ampersand | Fall 2021
Martin Israel in the Crow Hall observatory with his niece and her son in 2006.
MEMORIES & MILESTONES
Half a century Marty Israel retires after more than 50 years in Arts & Sciences By Claire Gauen and Susan Killenberg McGinn Photos courtesy of Martin Israel
artin H. Israel, professor of physics and longtime administrator, retired July 1. Israel first joined the Washington University faculty in 1968. As a fellow of the McDonnell Center for the Space Sciences and a leader in the Cosmic Ray Group, he spent much of his research career studying galactic cosmic rays, highly energized atomic nuclei that shoot through space at nearly the speed of light and originate from elsewhere in our Milky Way Galaxy. Over the course of his career, Israel and colleagues developed innovative instruments that have been sent aloft in spacecraft and on high-altitude balloons to measure the composition and energy of heavy cosmic rays. One of many successful experiments, dubbed SuperTIGER, involved a record-breaking, 55-day balloon flight over Antarctica. Beginning in 1987, Israel spent a decade in university administration, serving first as dean of the faculty of Arts &
Sciences and then as vice chancellor with special responsibility for the research office. “The best thing about being dean of Arts & Sciences was getting to know many of our outstanding faculty members and learning about their exciting research,” Israel said. “A&S is such a wonderfully diverse organization, including areas with which I was already familiar, like physics and other natural sciences, as well as areas in which I had much to learn – from philosophy and economics to performing arts and music, to name just a few.” When he returned to teaching and research in 1997, Israel taught all levels of courses in physics and astronomy, “from courses aimed at non-science majors to courses for advanced physics majors and grad students, as well as mentoring many PhD students,” he said. In addition, for more than 20 years, he has been giving guest lectures in the Department of Biology on Fragile X Syndrome (FXS), the most common inherited cause of cognitive impairment. At age 5, Israel’s son was one of the first children diagnosed with FXS. In his lectures, Israel brings to students both his family’s personal experience and his extensive knowledge of FXS and related disorders. In recognition of his service to Arts & Sciences, Israel was awarded the Dean’s Medal in 2018. His legacy continues throughout the school, especially in the physics department, where a new generation of researchers continues to peer into the universe using high-altitude balloons.
Israel and his wife, Margaret, in 2008.
Front to back: Physics professor Joseph Klarmann, staff engineer John Epstein, and Martin Israel at work in 1978.
Portrait of Israel in 1986, one year before he became dean of the faculty of Arts & Sciences.
Next-gen balloon mission
Johanna Nagy on a research trip to Antarctica. (Photo courtesy of Johanna Nagy)
Following in Martin Israel’s footsteps, Johanna Nagy, assistant professor of physics, recently won a five-year grant from NASA’s Astrophysics Research and Analysis (APRA) program to support a collaborative research project known as Taurus. Taurus is a super-pressure balloon-borne telescope mission designed to map the polarization of the microwave sky. These measurements will allow physicists to examine what happened when the first stars formed by looking at photons that have been traveling for nearly 13 billion years – the oldest light in the universe.
36 The Ampersand | Fall 2021
Visit the Gratitude Project: artsci.wustl.edu/GratitudeProject
NOTES OF GRATITUDE
The Gratitude Project By Rachel Schultz
aunched in spring 2021, the YouTube show the Gratitude Project highlighted feel-good stories of how faculty, staff, and students supported each other during the COVID-19 pandemic. And the stories did, in fact, make people feel good, said Tim Bono, host of the show, assistant dean for assessment in Student Affairs, and lecturer in psychological and brain sciences. “Overall, I had a number of people reach out to me with very nice things to say in response,” he said. “Even the Chancellor tweeted about it.” The program, inspired by actor John Krasinski’s “Some Good News” web series, was developed to share inspirational stories of people doing important work in the university community. “We wanted to celebrate their contributions and share hope during a difficult time,” Bono said. Bono, who teaches undergraduate courses related to positive psychology and well-being, believes that celebrating
small kindnesses and sharing pieces of good news is vital to our mental health – especially during a pandemic. In one episode, the show highlighted the innovative ways the Performing Arts Department delivered theatrical and dance productions this year. Although professors and students were without access to physical theaters, they still showcased an impressive slate of dance and drama performances that included a mix of Zoom-only events, filmed productions, and even a mobile pageant wagon based on medieval outdoor spectacles. Jeff Allen, the manager of the Harvey Media Center, produced the series and oversaw the technical elements. Each episode opened with a recording of undergraduate Ashley Zhu painting Brookings Hall and the ginkgo trees on campus. Episodes often ended with music performed by students, alumni, or faculty. In the last episode, Bono said, “I hope that one of the things this past year has taught us is that even amid
really challenging times, there are still silver linings that are also worthy of our attention and of our gratitude.” Although the Gratitude Project ran only one semester, Bono hopes the spirit of gratitude and drawing attention to the good will continue.
“I hope that one of the things this past year has taught us is that even amid really challenging times, there are still silver linings that are also worthy of our attention and of our gratitude.” Tim Bono Assistant Dean, Office of the Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs; Host, the Gratitude Project
NOTES OF GRATITUDE
Thank you, Georgie W. Lewis By Rachel Schultz
hanks to a recent gift from Georgie W. Lewis, LA ’47, historians Douglas Flowe and Anika Walke have been named as the first Georgie W. Lewis Career Development Professors. These threeyear endowed professorships are in recognition of Flowe’s and Walke’s demonstrated excellence in research and teaching and their strong records of professional service. Lewis’ gift to Arts & Sciences was driven by her deep family ties to the university and to St. Louis. She was born in St. Louis in 1922, the daughter of Eugene F. Williams, a prominent banker, and Marie Wight Williams. The family’s ancestors include Pierre Laclede, who founded St. Louis with Auguste Chouteau around 1764. Lewis
Douglas Flowe Assistant Professor of History
has a passion for education and believes strongly in the value of studying the humanities, specifically history. Her hope is that the succession of scholars who hold professorships in her name will make vital contributions to their fields of study while developing the leaders of tomorrow. These new positions stand out from WashU’s other endowed professorships, which typically honor the distinguished careers of more senior faculty. Instead, a career development professorship supports exceptional, mid-career scholars with recognized promise at a crucial time in their careers. “I am deeply grateful for Georgie’s contribution,” said Dean Feng Sheng Hu. “This professorship will help us support some of our rising stars in the humanities, which is vitally important to the continued success of the university.”
Flowe’s research focuses on themes of criminality, illicit leisure, and masculinity, and how they converge with issues of race, class, and space in American cities. His first book, Uncontrollable Blackness: African American Men and Criminality in Jim Crow New York, analyzes Black crime within the prism of masculine identity, migration, the varied uses of urban public space, and racialized supervision. His work has gained attention in and outside of the academy.
Anika Walke Associate Professor of History
Georgie W. Lewis graduated in 1947 with a degree in liberal arts. Her gift was driven by her strong family ties to Washington University and St. Louis. Help us fulfill our mission: artsci.wustl.edu/Support
Walke’s scholarship in modern Russian and Eastern European history, which focuses on questions of persecution and resistance, gender and political activism, and mobility and migration, has garnered international recognition. Her first English-language book, Pioneers and Partisans: An Oral History of Nazi Genocide in Belorussia, examines how the first generation of Soviet Jews experienced the Nazi genocide and how they remember it in a context of social change.
38 The Ampersand | Fall 2021
The humanities– A beating heart of scholarship By Ignacio M. Sánchez Prado The Jarvis Thurston and Mona Van Duyn Professor in the Humanities
y decision to pursue a career in the study of literature and cinema was never easy. I was raised in Mexico City, and my college and major choices took place in the wake of the largest economic crisis my country of birth had ever experienced. I am the son of a single mother who was only able to finish elementary school and worked her entire life so I could have a profession. Therefore, I’m all too aware of the fears held by families and students that the humanities are a set of fields with uncertain professional prospects and limited social utility, and that pursuing the humanities as a course of study necessarily involves many risks, both personal and financial. I think about these perceived risks every time I mentor my undergraduate students and see them wondering whether their parents will be unhappy if they declare a Latin American studies major, or if they will have a career when they switch their premedical trajectory to focus on studying Spanish, film, or comparative literature. It really pains me to see them struggling with the false choice of either building a resumé or exploring subjects meaningful to their identity and intellectual life. The beauty of a university like ours is the ability to do both. In the 15 years I have spent as a humanities professor at Washington University, I have seen many of my
former students flourish in all kinds of careers. Sometimes their paths are directly related to their training; other times humanities students are empowered by their education in fields where qualitative skills are increasingly valuable: developing content in media and advertising, engaging with minority and immigrant communities in medicine and business, or working in transnational agencies and enterprises with greater knowledge of the cultures of the world. My former students have fulfilling careers as professors, as producers
careful study of histories, identities, and cultures. It is hard to argue that our topics of inquiry are not relevant. In a world where books and media are a core part of our lives and the conversations in our public sphere, and in which history and identity are essential to our political struggles and goals, the humanities that my colleagues and I know and practice are lively and deeply relevant. They equip our students with essential tools to navigate the hypercultural societies of today. In fact, the way in which our society has become polarized and full
It really pains me to see them struggling with the false choice of either building a resumé or exploring subjects meaningful to their identity and intellectual life. The beauty of a university like ours is the ability to do both. in media companies, as physicians in high-immigration areas, and as policymakers in international organizations. Their edge in securing those jobs was the result of the robust humanities education offered by our university and the fact that they successfully competed against applicants who lacked their humanities background. Yet, the humanities are often misunderstood, falling prey to stereotypes, outdated understandings, and the polarizing discussions surrounding culture wars. Most of us in the field do not feel represented by these images. The humanities are engaged in the
of misinformation can only be countered if we provide students at all levels with more media and cultural education, so they can face the challenges of a world constantly bombarded with images and information. Culture is a tool of emancipation and power, and an instrument of cultural diplomacy and representation, showing the depth and complexity of our societies to the world. Many Latin American societies built their humanities and arts institutions under the belief that culture, both elite and popular, is the inalienable right of a people and that intellectuals must consistently work
toward its spread and its democratization. In Mexico, for example, the humanities have been used historically to build a strong sense of society and community. I was educated under the idea that a Latin American intellectual must never be exclusively bound to a discipline – that intellectual curiosity and erudition should be the obligation of people with access to the privilege of a higher education. As a member of the Latin American humanities tradition and an immigrant to the American tradition of the liberal arts, I am now a dual citizen not only of both of my countries, but also both of my traditions. I admire the United States’ tradition of the humanities as it exists today, balancing the traditional fields that guard the patrimonies of the past with those that seek to study the
urgent questions of the present and the future. The humanities at Washington University are exciting and aligned with the principles of academic excellence, from the scholars constantly publishing groundbreaking books to the initiatives that connect, through our Center for the Humanities and other spaces, the knowledge we produce with local, national, and global communities. Humanities scholars of the 21st century study elite and popular culture, the traditions to which they belong, and those to which they are foreign. The humanities serve three essential functions in the university and in the public life of society, which no other discipline can fulfill: We are tasked with the formation of archives and traditions that must be preserved and expanded for the development of our present ideas
and future challenges; we interpret and make sense of the ways in which identities and ideologies are formed in relationship with culture and history; finally, and perhaps the reason why our work can be controversial at times, the humanities provide the laboratory in which societies work through counterintuitive ideas by critiquing power structures and challenging existing forms of common sense. The humanities are an incubator for the kind of thinking that leads to social change and transformation. They are one of the beating hearts of scholarship and higher education, and my colleagues and I remain committed to developing cutting-edge, future-oriented humanities research and teaching at Washington University.
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Students on Mudd Field this spring watch a traveling campus production inspired by the 14th century York Cycle plays. The Performing Arts Department’s mobile stage, new for the 2021 season, recalls the medieval pageant wagons on which the York Cycle was originally performed. (Photo by Whitney Curtis)