“One of the striking things for me about Bates faculty is their extraordinary commitment to students,” says Malcolm Hill, who joined the college in July as vice president for academic affairs and dean of the faculty.
Shortly before Hill met a visitor in his Lane Hall office, he had been next door in Pettengill Hall. “I was walking through the hallways, and 90 percent of the faculty that I saw had students in their offices, giving a lot of attention to the students, clearly working side by side.
“That student-centeredness is fantastic, and I think it’s distinctive to Bates.”
That focus is also typical of Bates’ newest faculty members, totaling 21 this year. And overall, says Hill, “they’re an enthusiastic and compelling group of scholars and educators.
“They’re incredibly diverse in the way they approach their thinking about the world, so they fit nicely into Bates’ liberal arts model,” he says.
“Having them here is a testament to the directions Bates is going in.”
That means boosting Bates’ already impressive momentum in areas such as inclusiveness, interdisciplinarity, inventiveness, and collaboration. Or so say the six new faculty who are on the tenure track — but let’s hear it from them.
Name: Carrie Diaz Eaton
Position: Associate Professor of Digital and Computational Studies
Before Bates: Associate Professor of Mathematics, Unity College
Degrees from: University of Tennessee, Ph.D., Mathematics
University of Maine, B.A., M.A., Mathematics
Her work: Diaz Eaton researches approaches to interdisciplinary STEM education, notably best practices in quantitative biology education. She also studies disease ecology and management.
Strength in numbers: An inveterate networker and collaborator, Diaz Eaton has leadership roles in a variety of multi-institution, National Science Foundation–funded projects. She’s director of partnerships for QUBES, a resource for innovative quantitative biology education. And she is co-organizing the April 2019 INCLUDES conference that will explore, as she says, “bringing the conversation about inclusion and data science to environmental science.”
Why Bates? Inclusiveness is intrinsic to Diaz Eaton’s calling. “Thinking about all the different kinds of people at the table, valuing everybody’s contribution, and looking at those differences is something that should be done in a really intentional way,” she says.
And Bates is doing it. DCS chair Matt Jadud “just pulled me right into his vision” for a fundamentally inclusive program. “Where I’m going in terms of my efforts toward inclusivity seems much like where DCS and the college at large are going.”
Finding her path: “In math we often use the term ‘random walk,’” Diaz Eaton says, and her career has had something of that quality. She started out in biology and zoology, but ended up with a Ph.D. in math. “I really loved the questions in biology. But in terms of talent sets, I knew I was not the person who would be in the field studying those things. I’d rather work behind the computer and beside the blackboard.”
“I didn’t know it yet, but I was training myself as an interdisciplinarian, just following the things that I loved,” including a knack for building community around her work. “All of my experiences put me in the right intersectional space for this next challenge at Bates.”
Name: Jiyoung Ko
Position: Assistant Professor of Politics
Degrees from: Yale University, Ph.D., M.A. / M.Phil., Political Science
Korea University, B.A. and M.A., Political Science
Her work: A scholar of international relations, Ko examines security issues related to East Asia. One of her interests is “nuclear forbearance” — a country’s decision not to acquire nuclear weapons, despite the incentives to do so — and ways that patron states like the U.S. can ensure their allies’ nuclear forbearance.
Another interest is popular nationalism and how it can work in surprising ways to bring stability and peace. Nationalistic citizens, Ko explains, favor the use of military force, but do not accept only partial victory in military ventures.
“Using military force can be an attractive option for leaders. But the problem is that once a leader enters into conflict, they have to win. You cannot compromise in front of a nationalistic public because they will try to punish you.” So, in a sense, avid popular nationalism can make armed conflict less likely because rulers will avoid starting fights they might not win.
Why Bates? Bates is “a small but vibrant intellectual community” that is very open to cross-disciplinary collaboration, Ko says. Noting that her research relies heavily on data analysis, for instance, she looks forward to working with the new Program in Digital and Computational Studies.
She adds, “I’m also excited that the politics curriculum has a concentration on identity and interest” — politics majors are required to choose one of five thematic areas of focus. “How national identity influences political attitudes and relations between states is my enduring research agenda.”
Finding her path: Ko was initially interested in becoming a diplomat. “Then, after taking courses on international relations, I realized that I have a passion for research. I was able to read between the lines in current affairs and understand them from my own perspective, and I really liked that” — and she now strives to enable her own students to do likewise.
+Marcelle Medford, Lecturer in Sociology and Mellon Diversity and Faculty Renewal Postdoctoral Fellow
Name: Marcelle Medford
Position: Lecturer in Sociology and Mellon Diversity and Faculty Renewal Postdoctoral Fellow*
Degrees from: University of Chicago, Ph.D., M.A., B.A., Sociology
Her work: Focusing on the intersection of race and urban immigration, particularly black immigration, Medford researches ways in which immigrants use culture to mediate their relationships with other ethnic groups.
For example, she studied a cricket club in Chicago that “very much adhered to a nationality of being Jamaican. They weren’t interested in being West Indian, not even categorizing broadly as black immigrants. It was specifically about being Jamaican — and a certain type of Jamaican that was all about respectability politics,” even as West Indian cricket tends to be much more about “a politics of resistance.”
Why teach? “I enjoy learning from my students,” she says. “I really encourage students to come in, engage, and not expect me to tell them what they need to know — that’s boring, it’s dangerous. Students keep you young: I’m going to get older, they’re going to be about the same age, and so I get to learn about how they interpret the world.”
Why Bates? One draw is Bates’ role in the life of Benjamin Mays, Class of 1920. At Chicago — where Mays earned his master’s and doctoral degrees — Medford received a Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship, designed to encourage students from underrepresented minorities to work toward professorial careers. “Learning about Mays’ connection to Bates, I was like, ‘Oh, this is actually quite amazing,’” Medford says. Purposeful Work was another draw: “This mission of connecting students’ learning with what they feel they should be doing out in the world is crucial.”
Sample lesson: “I sometimes assign my students to bring up a political conversation during Thanksgiving break,” Medford says. It’s an entrée to understanding the connections between social and civic behaviors. “Sometimes they’re surprised to see the logic and reasoning underlying why people close to them hold certain beliefs. It’s not a way of judging people, but it’s a way of showing students how they can be political actors through their social interactions.”
*Mellon Diversity and Faculty Renewal Postdoctoral Fellows become tenure-track assistant professors in their second year at Bates.
Name: Colleen O’Loughlin
Position: Assistant Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry
Degrees from: Princeton University, Ph.D., Molecular Biology
Ithaca College, B.S., Biochemistry
Her work: O’Loughlin researches the human microbiome, the bacteria that populate our bodies and help them function. Her specific interest is the molecular workings of stress and immune responses.
O’Loughlin and her students will study the skin microbiome. By examining genetic mechanisms for enzyme production, she aims to exploit bacterial stress responses in a search for new approaches to creating antibiotics — a pressing need because of the advent of bacteria resistant to existing drugs. A second research focus is the potential for genetically engineering bacteria to produce medically useful compounds, such as the active ingredient in tea tree oil.
What she loves about her work: “One of the cool things about research is you’re doing things that no one else has ever done,” she says. “We don’t know the answer, we don’t know what an outcome is going to look like. That can be challenging because things fail — but then there’s also this moment where all of a sudden you’re like, ‘No one else in the world has ever seen this.’”
Why Bates? “I joke that I’m a biochemist with an analytical chemistry problem” — that is, O’Loughlin’s research straddles both disciplines. “That didn’t seem to scare Bates. The college is excited about having people at the intersection of fields. People are studying interesting questions, and being able to utilize whatever tools you need is really important. Bates lets me do that.”
The light bulb: O’Loughlin found her calling at Ithaca, where, as a teaching assistant, she took part in weekly sessions where groups of students would collaborate to solve chemistry problems. “It was a lot of discussion,” she says. “We walked around and helped out. That experience of being in the classroom, having students immediately learn concepts because of the problems they were working on — I was like, ’Yeah, this is what I want to do.’”
Name: Anelise Hanson Shrout
Position: Assistant Professor of Digital and Computational Studies
Degrees from: New York University, Ph.D., History
University of Chicago, A.B., History
Her work: Focusing on philanthropy in the 19th century, Shrout’s historical research is rooted in data analysis but closely attentive to both the human stories and the social or political structures behind the numbers.
For example, she’s currently working with about 10,000 individual admission records from Bellevue Alms House, the division of the famous New York City hospital dedicated to indigent relief, from 1845 to 1847. This was during the peak of the potato famine that sent more than a million Irish immigrants to the city, and nearly 19,000 of them passed through Bellevue. Shrout looks for patterns in the mass of records that speak to the immigrant experience in the city’s public health system. She seeks to “figure out what forces were working on these people, and then work backward and ask, ‘Okay, where did they have moments of agency in this?’”
Her take on DCS: “What does it mean to do computer science in a place where people care about the liberal arts and humanities? That’s the core of it,” Shrout says. “And how can we build a program that is antisexist and antiracist, and working against the more troubling trends in the tech world more broadly? We have the opportunity to build this from the ground up and be attentive to those problems.” She adds, “I don’t think anyone else is doing DCS the way we are.”
How she teaches: “I like each class to feel like we are a community of inquiry together. They might ask me questions that I don’t have the answer to, I might ask them questions that they know a lot about, and then we can share.” She adds, “The most radical version of that is, ‘We have no syllabus — let’s all build it together.’”
Name: Justine Wiesinger
Position: Assistant Professor of Japanese
Degrees from: Yale University, Ph.D., M.Phil., East Asian Languages and Literatures; M.A., East Asian Studies
Johns Hopkins University, B.A., East Asian Studies
Her work: Wiesinger explores how natural disasters, notably the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami, are reflected in theater and film. “People say that performance can make the invisible visible. I’m trying to determine by what means performance does that,” she says.
“Performance in its use of space, time, and the body, and disaster in its impact on space and time and the body come together in my work.” She adds, “It’s continually inspiring to talk to artists who are suffering still from those events and trying to make sense of them. That’s a strong impetus to keep working and helping however I can.”
Tell us more: “It’s important to study disasters. In an era of climate change and accelerating capitalism, we’re seeing a lot more natural and industrial accidents. It’s also important, in your college years, to develop empathy and understanding of ways that people process tragedy and are resilient in the face of tragedy.”
Finding her path: As a teenager, Wiesinger wanted a challenging language to study, and her high school offered Japanese. A visit to Japan after graduation convinced her she was on the right track. “I was stunned by way some of my fellow teenagers developed during this month-long backpacking trip,” she says. “Jaded kids who didn’t care about anything suddenly became emotional about the kindness of residents they encountered — people they couldn’t have spoken to if they hadn’t studied Japanese. That magical ability to suddenly communicate with a new set of people unlocked not just practical things, but really deep, emotional resources.”
Why Bates? “I love the idea of a small student body that I can get to know, so that I can pay individual attention to learners and give them some of the tips and tricks that I wish I had known when I was their age.”