Centre scores five major ACS/Mellon Grants

The Associated Colleges of the South Andrew W. Mellon Faculty Renewal Program has awarded five grants totaling more than $40,000 to projects being conducted by Centre College faculty.
The broad goals of the ACS/Mellon Renewal grants is to enable faculty to explore new possibilities, to expand their backgrounds and skills, and to take advantage of opportunities not otherwise made available.
More specific aims of grants provided by the Mellon Foundation include the following:
• Provide opportunities for faculty to become more effective teachers through faculty renewal experiences
• Make available opportunities for faculty to prepare well for leadership and decision making roles on the campus
• Provide opportunities for personal development, with particular attention to preparation for retirement and making retirement a fruitful and productive experience.
“Systemic Approaches for Creating More Inclusive Campus Climates through Coursework and Cooperation: A Multi-Campus Collaboration”
Professor Beau Weston, John M. and Louise Van Winkle Professor of Sociology, is taking part in collaborative workshops along with faculty and staff from Hendrix, Centenary, Furman, Rollins and Rhodes Colleges titled “Systemic Approaches for Creating More Inclusive Campus Climates through Coursework and Cooperation: A Multi-Campus Collaboration.”
“This [$12,000] grant is actually the second of a pair, both collaborations by several ACS faculty members working on diversity,” Weston says.
The first workshop held at Rhodes College last fall was aimed at faculty members and diversity officers, and was attended by Weston and J.H. Atkins, assistant vice president and associate professor of education. The goal of the workshop was increasing understanding of diversity and privilege at the colleges.
“This same group, more or less, worked on a follow-up grant application, which was award in February,” Weston continues. “In April we’ll hold a workshop aimed at specific ways to teach about diversity and privilege in courses across disciplines. This workshop will be held at Furman University on April 15 and 16. Andrea Abrams, assistant professor of anthropology, and I will represent Centre.”
“Unrolling, Drawing, Translating and Analzying Amulets: A Collaborative Project”
“Unrolling, Drawing, Translating and Analzying Amulets: A Collaborative Project,” was awarded $8,000 for research being conducted by Tom McCollough, Nelson D. and Mary McDowell Rodes Professor of Religion; Beth Glazier-McDonald, H.W. Stodghill Jr. and Adele H. Stodghill Professor of Religion; and Jeff Fieberg, associate professor of chemistry and Centre Scholar.
“Amulets as described in this proposal are tightly rolled sheets of metal (each approximately two inches long and less than one inch in diameter) that are inscribed with protective prayers (or curses!),” Fieberg says. “The amulets (one unrolled and two still rolled) are thought to be of the Byzantine Period [roughly 300 CE to 1450 CE], and were purchased from an antiquities collector in 2008 using funds from Glazier-McDonald’s endowed chair.
“This is a collaborative effort to learn about the Mandean culture and language, as well as the science of artifact preservation,” Fieberg continues. The Mandean are a small Gnostic sect that speaks a form of Aramaic. They originated in Jordan and survive today in Iraq.
Fieberg outlines the following activities:
1) In May the unrolled amulet will be dated using a relatively new technique described by Reich, Leitus and Shalev in the New Journal of Physics (5 [2003], 99.1-99.9).
2) Between April and August the remaining two amulets will be unrolled. Corrosion products will be identified by x-ray fluorescence (XRF) and Raman spectroscopy. XRF is an immediate, non-destructive technique that identifies metals and other elements heavier than magnesium. These analyses help determine the best electrochemical reduction treatment to treat the brittle amulets and make them more malleable for unrolling. The outer copper layers will be removed and the remaining lead products will be reduced to pure lead. Fieberg intends to continue working with Lora Gralheer ’11 and grant funds will provide her with a four-week stipend. Grant funds will also be used to purchase chemicals not currently stocked by Centre that will be used in the dating and reduction treatments.
3) In April, speakers will be invited to campus to extend the impact of the project. Greg Smith, senior scientist of the Conservation Science Laboratories at the Indianapolis Museum of Art, will give a talk on the conservation of artifacts. The College will also host Jorunn Buckley, who has written extensively on Mandean texts and is an advocate for the modern Mandean community.
4) The amulets will be translated using the grant to consult with Aaron Butts, Preceptor in Semitics at Yale University and a Mandean language expert. He will come to campus for a week in mid-June to help decipher the amulet’s script and teach the intricacies of Mandean/Aramaic grammar.
5) Throughout the summer, the inscriptions will be studied in the context of magical incantations from the ancient world, especially Hebrew and Aramaic incantations. In this sense, the project is not only a translation work, but also has as a goal the analysis of the substance of the incantation in terms of magical amulets in general and the Mandean religion in particular.
“Moving Forward on Assessment: Do Students Really Know What We Think They Do?”
Collaborators Keith Dunn, professor of chemistry and associate dean; Stephanie Fabritius, professor of biology and vice president and dean; and January Haile, assistant professor of chemistry and biochemistry and molecular biology, were awarded $7,990 for “Moving Forward on Assessment: Do Students Really Know What We Think They Do?”
“Our Mellon Grant will pay for bringing in four experts on curricular assessment based on student-learning outcomes for a 1.5 day workshop early this summer,” Fabritius says. “As part of our continuing efforts to discover whether or students are ‘really learning what we think they are,’ we hope to gain insight on the best methodologies. We’re well on our way to using this kind of questioning to help guide curricular reform, and this will help to take us to the next step. We hope to have participation from all of our academic programs.”
“Faculty Workshop on Teaching Techniques for Improving Students’ Writing”
Sarah Goodrum, associate professor of sociology; John Kinkade, assistant professor of English; and Helen Emmitt, NEH Professor of English were awarded $4,080 for their proposal, “Faculty Workshop on Teaching Techniques for Improving Students’ Writing.”
“The idea for the workshop started a few years ago, when I had an office neighboring Helen Emmitt,” Goodrum says. “As her office neighbor, I often overheard her paper conferences with students. In those conferences, she always managed to be clear and concise in her evaluations of students’ written work, and the students seemed to leave her office with a firm understanding of the next step in their writing process.
“As a former student,” Goodrum continues, “I found myself wishing that Professor Emmitt had been my English professor in college. As an instructor, I found myself wanting to know more about how she helped students become better writers without actually re-writing their papers for them, which was my approach at the time. I wanted Dr. Emmitt to teach me how to teach students to be better writers. I found that many other faculty members also wanted to be more efficient in how we coached students in their written work—to help them in the current assignment and for the longer term.
“When the announcement for the ACS Mellon Foundation grants came out, John, Helen and I—along with the support of Centre’s English Program—decided to request funds to bring in an expert on teaching writing to undergrads to campus,” Goodrum continues. “With the support of the ACS Mellon grant, we are thrilled to have the opportunity to bring Professor John Ruszkiewicz from the University of Texas at Austin to lead our faculty retreat in August 2011.”
“Civic Engagement in the Classroom”
“Civic Engagement in the Classroom,” a proposal by Kerry Paumi, visiting assistant professor of chemistry; Preston Miles, John C. Walkup Professor of Chemistry; KatieAnn Skogsberg, assistant professor of psychobiology; and Matthew Klooster, assistant professor of biology, was awarded $8,000.
In the summer of 2011, they will host a workshop on civic engagement, providing training to faculty across the curriculum, and particularly in the sciences, on how to incorporate this teaching strategy to the greatest effect. The workshop will include presentations on the application of civic engagement techniques, as well as tutorials to assist with curriculum development. The workshop will be open to all members of the neighboring institutions and the ACS.
In the fall and winter of 2011-12, they will host a follow-up videoconference to report on experiences from the fall term, reflect on implementation strategies and draw conclusions about the long-range value of civic engagement in the curriculum. Centre College faculty will also be encouraged to disseminate their insights with neighboring Kentucky and regional institutions.

By |2011-03-24T16:12:36-04:00March 24th, 2011|News Archive|