The collective excellence of Woodrow Wilson's partners and Fellows shapes the Foundation, touches the lives of millions, and creates educational opportunity for generations to come—as these profiles of selected Fellows and partners suggest.
Doris Duke Conservation Fellows
Kristen P. Patterson, a 2002 Doris Duke Conservation Fellow at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, is now in Madagascar doing cutting-edge environmental work—combined with cutting-edge work in population and health.
As the Population and Environment Program Officer for SantéNet (Health Net), Ms. Patterson works with Champion Commune, which encourages behavior changes that integrate improvements in health, environment, economic development, and governance. “I contribute towards the institutional development of three Malagasy NGOs that are implementing partners for the health and environment components of Champion Commune,” she said. She also is collaborating with regional officials and a Peace Corps volunteer to foster water, sanitation, and hygiene initiatives in the moist forest biological corridor near Fianarantsoa, where she lives.
Ms. Patterson’s work in Madagascar is supported by a two-year Population-Environment Fellowship from the University of Michigan, which promotes linked approaches to population, health, and environmental issues in the developing world.
It is the third time that Ms. Patterson has worked in Africa. She served two years as a Peace Corps volunteer in a village in Niger after graduating from Colby College in Maine, where she returned after master’s degree studies to work for the International Livestock Research Institute.
At Colby, earning a bachelor’s degree in biology with a concentration in environmental science, Ms. Patterson spent a lot of time studying off-campus—far off-campus, in Anguilla, the Mojave Desert, and Palau, among other challenging locales. “I [also] spent summers in college working for the U.S. Forest Service, first in Utah and then California, searching for spotted owls,” Ms. Patterson said.
After her Peace Corps service, she earned an M.S. in Conservation Biology and Sustainable Development, plus a certificate in African Studies, from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The interdisciplinary CBSD program allowed her to meld her interests in conservation and international development.
Based on her experience, Ms. Patterson has this advice for those starting out in the field: “Don’t worry if you don’t fit into a specialized niche. My interests have always been interdisciplinary, and I used to long to be a specialist in some conservation-related field. Now, I have a job that requires me to work across different sectors, which suits me well.”
As to the next step in her career, she says, “I’d like to stay involved in interdisciplinary work, either abroad or in the U.S., perhaps with a U.S.-based foundation. I also remain interested in outdoor education opportunities for urban youth in the U.S.”
The Doris Duke Conservation Fellowship, she adds, gave her an important boost. “The Fellows’ gathering was invaluable. I imagine that being a Doris Duke Conservation Fellow helped me attain my current position, and I hope that it bears fruit in future job searches as well!
Doris Duke Conservation Fellow Jocelyn Tutak, currently enrolled in the Conservation Science and Policy program at Duke University, has a longstanding interest in environmental conservation.
Ms. Tutak, who earned a B.S. in Natural Resource Management from Rutgers University in 2003, said, “I grew up in a very urban area—Kearny, New Jersey, right outside of New York City—and that industrial, urban landscape somehow really instilled in me a love of all things green and wild after seeing the impact humans could have on the environment. My parents are compassionate people who always taught me, through both words and actions, to leave a place better than I’d found it. I was also lucky to have an outstanding 8th-grade science teacher who taught his biology class from an environmental perspective. That really inspired me, and helped me to realize that this could be a career.”
In her program at Duke, Ms. Tutak particularly enjoys studying and using geographic information system (GIS) software and technology as a support tool for conservation planning.
She writes that she was drawn to the program at Duke “because it combined my strengths in science and research with a policy and community-based aspect—I thought that would be a practical combination in the real world of conservation.”
Even before beginning her master’s program, Ms. Tutak had already worked in the conservation field. She spent three summers doing restoration field work in New Jersey’s Hackensack Meadowlands—an area that is exceptionally degraded—monitoring vegetation as it colonized restored sites. She also spent a summer in the Sonoran Desert in Arizona working as a telemetry intern tracking the endangered Southwestern Willow Flycatcher.
In this position, she says, she learned an incredible amount about how conservation research takes place in the field. “I also saw here for the first time the intense level of conflict such a conservation effort can provoke in the surrounding community.”
Ms. Tutak, who expects to graduate from the Duke program in spring 2007, is thinking of pursuing a job at a nonprofit land conservation organization, particularly one that uses innovative conservation methods and involves local communities in developing conservation strategies.
The Doris Duke Conservation Fellowship, she says, “really gave me the ability to just call prospective employers and talk to them about internships and advice. I think without the confidence boost and summer funding, I would have been slightly more hesitant. Because of that I found an excellent summer internship with the Nature Conservancy of Washington.”
Rachel Carson’s book Silent Spring was the “epiphany” for Steven Yaffee, who read it in middle school and has pursued an education and career in the environment ever since.
After an undergraduate education in aquatic and wildlife science at the University of Michigan, he earned a Ph.D. in Environmental Policy and Planning from MIT (1979).
“Having both science and policy in my background has been critical to my understanding of the issues and—I believe—my effectiveness as a teacher, scholar, and practitioner,” writes Yaffee, who is the faculty advisor for the Doris Duke Conservation Fellows Program (DDCF) at the University of Michigan.
With 30 years of experience in the environmental field, Yaffee says the biggest change from the early 1970s to today lies in the amount of influence by non-governmental organizations.
“When I started working on endangered species and land use issues in the 1970s, most of the environmental groups had ramshackle offices on Dupont Circle in D.C., and agency decisions were incredibly opaque,” Yaffee writes. “Today, environmental organizations are much more professional and strategic, and agency decisions are documented in impact statements and other documents and are able to be challenged on scientific and procedural grounds.”
As the Theodore Roosevelt Professor of Ecosystem Management at the University of Michigan, Yaffee utilizes role-playing and case studies to place students in the position of real-world decision makers facing difficult choices.
“People remember things they experience, and they remember stories and anecdotes more than anything else,” Yaffee says. “We’ve been programmed by thousands of years of cultural history to do so. Hence, providing students with simulated experiences and case studies, with written assignments that reinforce those experiences, tends to make the material �sticky.’”
Yaffee has been the director since 2000 of the Ecosystem Management Initiative at Michigan, which studies and supports community-based partnerships that utilize shared decision-making to resolve land-use issues.
“Many of these groups are like the Applegate Partnership in southern Oregon,” Yaffee states, “which has brought together agencies, community members, timber interests and environmentalists to work on natural resources issues. In doing so, they have transformed their communities from hostility and conflict to more productive relationships.”
As a longstanding participant in the Doris Duke Conservation Fellows Program, Yaffee notes that the program is equally transformative. “There’s no doubt that the program has hugely changed some of our Fellows’ lives. For example, Joe Short did his summer internship with the Northern Forest Center in New Hampshire, and then was offered a full time job. He also married Liz Hamilton, another Duke Fellow!” Yaffee writes that “Joe, Liz and the other Fellows are not just being transformed by the program; they themselves are causing real change on the ground.”
The Early College High School Initiative
Twenty years before she began working with the Early College High School initiative, Roberta Matthews was already committed to school-college collaboration. During the 1980’s, Dr. Matthews worked with the American Social History Project to develop a team-teaching model that brought college faculty and high school teachers together to teach American history, literature, and writing to high school students. The model also reflected Dr. Matthews’ long involvement in the national learning community movement.
“The project was based on mutual respect and joint faculty development, and it had a lot of success,” she recalls. “What began as a local project with funding from a small local foundation expanded exponentially into a national project with funding from several national foundations.”
Dr. Matthews is currently provost at CUNY’s Brooklyn College, where she uses her experience in school-university partnerships on another initiative: the STAR [Science, Technology, And Research] Early College High School, located on the campus of Erasmus High School in New York City. Students attending STAR “are on the college campus from the beginning,” she says. “As freshmen, they cycle into activities in the library that are connected to research in social studies classes, and they also spend quality time in our science labs. During the second semester, they participate in hands-on and interactive noncredit workshops taught by college faculty, to introduce them to the excitement of scientific discovery.”
Summer courses are also offered to students. Some prepare students for high school, others for college courses. During one, the chairperson of the anthropology department conducted an archeological dig at Erasmus, one of the oldest high school sites in the country. “Now,” Dr. Matthews says, “we have students who are passionate about anthropology and archaeology.”
STAR offers underserved students an opportunity to earn college credit during high school. By graduation, many will have earned at least one year of credit, in disciplines like science and math that may be poorly supported in inner city districts.
STAR’s first class will graduate in spring 2007 and already, Dr. Matthews says, “college recruiters are camping out at STAR. Our students are being actively wooed by other colleges,” but some may be interested in Brooklyn’s competitive B.A./M.A. program, which guarantees 15 high-achieving students admission to the Downstate Medical College in Brooklyn. “We believe there will be several students who will qualify for this prestigious program,” she says.
STAR is part of the national early college high school program that aims to give students the background, experience, and credits to support their timely graduation from college. But Dr. Matthews says it has become clear that students have aspirations beyond college: “They want to be doctors, they want to be researchers, they want to be teachers and health professionals, they want to go to graduate school,” she explains.
“Early exposure to college facilities and classes has a tremendous impact on students,” she continues. “Brooklyn College has a beautiful new state-of-the-art library, for example, and to bring an urban public school student into such an environment and say �go for it—this could all be yours’ makes a tremendous difference in broadening the aspirations of young students.”
When Don Shalvey founded Aspire Public Schools in the California Bay area, he named the charter school system for what he was trying to do: “Aspire to create private school opportunities in public school settings, for students who have been underserved.”
After teaching middle school, earning a doctorate in education leadership from the University of Southern California, and serving as the superintendent of a Bay Area school district for a decade, he recalls, “it became obvious that in a blessed community, things happen for kids without much trying.”
California had recently passed a law allowing 100 charter schools to be created in the state, but Dr. Shalvey and his Aspire co-founder Reed Hastings, also the creator of Netflix, were thinking bigger. After collecting nearly 1.2 million signatures, they petitioned the state to allow for an unlimited number of charter schools, where administrators would have maximum flexibility in design and curriculum. The law passed, and Dr. Shalvey and Mr. Hastings opened California’s first charter school in 1992.
“We had a couple of design principles,” Dr. Shalvey recounts. “The first theory was school size—we thought it mattered. If you look at private schools, they’re small. Also, every youngster had to be well known, having the same teacher for at least two years.”
Another key principle was to get students to think about attending college from an early age. Classrooms in the schools are named after colleges, so that “students say �I’m at Stanford, or UC Davis,’ instead of a room number.” On casual dress days, students can wear any type of clothing so long as it has a college logo on it.
Today Aspire’s system has 14 schools; 3 of them will be Woodrow Wilson Early College High Schools by fall of 2006. By 2015, Dr. Shalvey plans to have 52 schools enrolling 17,000 students. The schools are all located in neighborhoods where students are already receiving free or reduced lunch, and attending students are selected through a lottery. Siblings of attending students are allowed to enroll in Aspire schools as well.
“We had our first graduating class last year,” Dr. Shalvey says. All 16 graduating students were accepted to four-year colleges, and next year, 55 students will graduate. The end goal, Dr. Shalvey says, is to have every student who goes through the Aspire school system graduate from college by age 26.
“I love teaching. I loved being a principal,” Dr. Shalvey says of his 40 years in education. “I think the work is noble and satisfying and challenging, and I can’t think of a profession I’d rather be doing. I think what we’re doing matters for the kids we serve and to the profession we’re involved in. This is our attempt to dent the universe as we know it.”
MMUF Dissertation Grants
As a professor of African-American and Diaspora Studies at Vanderbilt University, Anastasia Curwood (MMUF Dissertation’02) researches and teaches twentieth-century African-American social, cultural, and intellectual history, including the history of the black family and African-American gender and sexuality.
The appeal of history, she says, is in “all these interesting stories and narratives, finding out how things became the way they were. It’s not inevitable, but very contingent. I like the fact that anything could have happened.”
Studying history as a doctoral student at Princeton University also gave her a chance to combine her academic interests with a personal story—her family’s history.
“While I was in college, my aunt gave me the love letters my grandparents wrote to each other in the 1930s,” Dr. Curwood says. “I realized that the tools for analysis I was learning in history could be used on the letters, to find out the historical context” of the place and time they lived.
It was the “performative aspect of the letters” that first interested her historically, she recalls. Her grandparents showed their ideal versions of themselves in the letters, “who they wanted to be” as opposed to who they really were. The marriage fell apart, with Dr. Curwood’s grandfather committing suicide and her grandmother going back to graduate school.
“I saw the tensions in their relationship and realized that they were trying to fulfill an ideal,” Dr. Curwood says. She used the letters in her dissertation to discuss how, during the New Negro movement of the 1920s and 1930s, African-American couples felt social pressure to have idealized marriages—matches based on both love and equality of class identity, ambitions, and outlook.
“At the time, African Americans were very racially self-conscious,” she explains. “They were taking a fresh outlook on race relations and becoming more militant, less fearful, more politically aware, and more cosmopolitan. This idea came from New York and Chicago, that African Americans were going to shape their own image and be politically and socially active.”
Dr. Curwood used two other case studies in her dissertation: the relationship between Harlem renaissance author Jean Toomer and his second wife, Marjorie Toomer, and Robert Flippin’s marriage to Katherine Stewart Flippin, a leading figure in the San Francisco school system. Considered together, Dr. Curwood says, the three relationships are “fascinating because the public and private spheres were so intertwined in such different ways.”
Currently, Dr. Curwood is working on a book from her dissertation, titled Stormy Weather: The New Negro Marriage and the Creation of a Modern Race.
While working on her doctorate in historical musicology at Harvard University, April Lynn James (MMUF Dissertation ’01) “stumbled upon” her dissertation subject one day during her course on manuscripts. The professor had pulled from the Eda Kuhn Loeb Music Library an opera by Maria Antonia, the 18th-century Electress of Saxony, whose work hadn’t been performed since 1767.
“I was very interested in women composers, in restoring their work to the living repertory,” Dr. James explains. “That was part of the reason why I chose her.”
Dr. James is a performer as well as a scholar—she sings as a soloist and was in the Harvard University Choir during graduate school. Part of the appeal in studying Maria Antonia’s music, she says, lies in how it is meant to be performed.
“What I really like about her operas is that they’re scored for female voices,” she explains. “I love performing 18th-century opera, partially for the style of the music, but also because 18th-century operas offer more opportunities for women to have diverse roles on stage.”
This diversity, she says, “has to do with the basic belief in the fluidity of gender in the 17th- and 18th-centuries. They were not quite as rigid in gender as we are on stage today—they had both female sopranos and castrati [boys who were castrated to prevent their voices from changing]. Women often sang the role of primo or secundo uomo, but at the same time, women and castrati could play male or female characters on the stage, and that’s what I really like and find fascinating about 18th-century opera.”
Dr. James spent a year on her dissertation research in Dresden, accessing archives on Antonia’s operas in German libraries. She completed her doctorate in 2002, with assistance from an MMUF Dissertation Grant, and became the first person in the history of Harvard’s Music Department to perform as part of a dissertation presentation.
In 2003, Dr. James put together an exhibit of opera manuscripts at Harvard’s Loeb Music Library, titled “In Her Own Hand: Operas Composed by Women 1625-1913.” Seeing how much of the music by women composers wasn’t being performed, she says, “I thought, I’ve got to do something about this.”
So in 2004, she founded an opera company called the Maria Antonia Project, which recently performed excerpts from Maria Antonia’s Il trionfo della fedeltà (1754). At present, she is a visiting scholar at the Aaron Copland School of Music at Queens College, where, she says, “I get to visit and be scholarly.” She plans to continue performing Maria Antoina’s music both as a soloist and with her company.
“There are lots more women singers out there than male singers, and I think these operas offer an opportunity to for more women to perform,” she says. “It’s a feminist enterprise, getting women on stage doing things that may be considered nontraditional, but that expand women’s opportunities to be heard.”
MMUF Travel & Research Grants
Studying American civilization as a doctoral student at Brown University has given Stéphanie Larrieux (MMUF T&R ’05) “the flexibility to explore all my interests,” which range from history and Americana to film.
That flexibility also allowed her to choose an interdisciplinary topic for her dissertation, Racing the Future: Hollywood Science Fiction Film Narratives of Race.
“I look specifically at �city of the future’ films from the Civil Rights era to the present,” she explains, “using key films that demonstrate particular trends, tendencies, and representations of race in the U.S. over time and how that’s been changing.”
Ms. Larrieux, who studied film, anthropology, and French at Wesleyan University before enrolling at Brown, has long been interested not only in science fiction—her 8th-grade teacher named her “most likely to need space boots”—but also in analyzing culture.
“My family is from Haiti, so I learned American culture from the outside,” she explains. “I guess I’ve been doing this for a long time. My favorite films growing up were Star Wars and The Princess Bride, so I started pulling that thread, teasing it a bit.
” In 2005, with assistance from an MMUF Travel and Research Grant, Ms. Larrieux went to California to research in Hollywood’s film archives. She narrowed her list of 200 films down to just handful that trace American attitudes toward race over the past 30 years, including Alien Nations, Blade Runner, Omega Man, I, Robot, Demolition Man, and the Matrix trilogy.
“When I tell people about my topic, they inevitably respond, �So there are black people in science fiction?’” she laughs. “But for me, race doesn’t necessarily only mean black people. When I talk about racialization, people in the U.S. context are all raced in some way. I’m interested in how Hollywood deals with it.”
Although much has been written about race and film separately, few scholars have combined the two, and Ms. Larrieux “is trying to fuse these bodies of knowledge together. It’s exciting to make a fresh contribution,” she says, “but it’s a little daunting, too.”
As a freshman at Rice University, Fay Yarbrough (MMUF T&R ’01) made a list of courses she wanted to take during college. When she realized the majority of those courses were in history, she decided that would be her major.
“It was pretty pragmatic,” she laughs, “but I found I loved history and especially southern history. They were classes that I never saw in high school, on slavery and women and gender, material I had never been exposed to.”
Now an assistant professor at the University of Kentucky, Dr. Yarbrough says the study of history, particularly slavery and the history of interracial marriage, also held a personal lure. Coming from a mixed-race family—her mother is from South Korea and her father is African American—she says, “It’s material that seems to have to do with who we are today…I think we often study people with whom we connect in some way.”
This interest inspired her graduate research as well. While reading slave narratives compiled by the Works Progress Administration during the 1930s, she realized that “over and over again you see slaves talk about being part American Indian.”
“A lot of times, what slaves used as evidence of being part American Indian, because there were no records of marriage, was physical appearance,” she explains. American Indians had been enslaved next to African Americans until the mid-1700s, but the mixed-race appearance of mid-nineteenth-century slaves could as easily have been from white ancestors as American Indians.
“What makes this more interesting,” Dr. Yarbrough says, “is why this would be really attractive to claim.” One motive, she offers, was that this claim could revise family history: Ex-slaves assumed that interracial sex between an African slave and a Native American would have been consensual, while a relationship between a slave and a white person would have been forced.
Claiming descent from a freed American Indian was also “a way to claim freedom,” Dr. Yarbrough points out. In addition, because of American Indians’ willingness to fight back against white settlers, they were often described as rebellious and independent—two characteristics that were very attractive to ex-slaves.
With assistance from a MMUF Travel and Research Grant, Dr. Yarbrough was able to study over 2,000 Cherokee marriage records at the Oklahoma Historical Society and travel to the Tennessee State Library and the National Archives in Washington, D.C. The research, she says, was important because it gave her a chance to find and tell the American Indian perspective on marriage with African slaves.
“On one hand, ex-slaves were claiming Cherokee heritage, and on the other hand, the Cherokee nation had outlawed marriage with African Americans” starting in 1824, she explains. Making marriage to slaves illegal, she says, was a move by the Cherokee to protect their sovereignty in the eyes of the U.S. government.
Dr. Yarbrough is currently working on turning her research into a book manuscript, titled Disgracefull and Unnatural Matches: Interracial Sex in Cherokee Society in the Nineteenth Century.
The Charlotte W. Newcombe Doctoral Dissertation Fellowship
While growing up in Jerusalem, and then as a student at Jerusalem’s Hebrew University, Yaakov Ariel (CN’85) watched Christians evangelizing the inhabitants of the city, and promoting the idea of the Second Coming of Jesus to earth.
“I encountered groups even in my small neighborhood who were evangelizing,” he recalls. “I could not tell what they were teaching, and had no idea where they came from.”
Now a professor of religion at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, specializing in the relationship between Judaism and evangelical Christianity, Dr. Yaakov says his work is, “in some ways, the fulfillment of a dream to make sense of where the groups I had encountered in my childhood came from and why.”
Supported in part by the Newcombe Fellowship, Dr. Yaakov wrote his dissertation and book, On Behalf of Israel: American Fundamentalist Attitudes Toward the Jewish People and Zionism, from his research on these groups. He followed it with a second book, Evangelizing the Chosen People: Missions to the Jews in America, 1880-2000, and is currently working on a third installment.
Millions of Christians, he explains, have come to Jerusalem over the past few decades to visit and live in the city. Members of Holiness, Pentecostal, Baptist, and other conservative evangelical Churches, he says, “tend to read the Bible more literally, to take seriously the prophetic passages in the New and Old Testaments, and consider the Holy Land and the Jewish people to be very important to the drama of Salvation.”
“In contrast to classical Christian claims to having inherited the Jews, these groups see Jews as the heirs to the biblical promises to the Children of Israel,” he explains. “On the one hand, they see the Jewish unwillingness to accept Jesus as a mistake, but at the same time they see the Jews as people with the potential to resume their role as God’s chosen people, and believe they can help the Jews resettle the land and prepare themselves for the return of Christ.”
These Christian Zionists have sought to help the Jews establish a commonwealth in the Land of Israel, as a preparation for “the arrival of the Lord and the establishment of the kingdom of the Lord on earth, with Jerusalem as its capital.”
“The relationship between the Jews and evangelical Christians is very complex and ambivalent,” Dr. Yaakov explains. “I found out that these interactions brought both sides to modify their attitudes and perceptions of each other—it creates a unique moment between the two communities of faiths.”
Dr. Yaakov’s research has also revealed how Israeli Judaism has copied aspects of American Judaism, including the movement of Jewish Renewal, Conservative and Reform Judaism, as well as the effect of the women’s movement on contemporary Jewish religious life.
It is a result, he says, of how “America invites people to create and celebrate their faith. I think religious freedom is part of the American story—in fact it’s the American story. America has built a legal, political system that encourages religious creativity, especially within the Christian realm; but as a result of that atmosphere, American Judaism is also creative.”
Renewed fears of terrorism, harsh exchanges over religion and war, ongoing concerns about climate change: It’s easy to imagine why, in late summer 2006, major media outlets would consider timely a new book titled Pessimism: Philosophy, Ethic, Spirit.
But, says author and 1991 Newcombe Fellow Joshua Foa Dienstag, he formulated his project—the subject of a July interview on BBC Radio 4, a New York Times editorial commentary in late August, his own op-ed in the L.A. Times in early September, and a subsequent talk show on U.S. radio’s syndicated On Point—“in the late nineties when the Dow was soaring toward ten thousand and the economy was humming along.”
What’s more, the UCLA political theorist is quick to point out, pessimism as a political philosophy has nothing to do with moods or the temper of the times. Rather, the book’s opening chapter characterizes pessimism as “an entire tradition of thought [that] has gone missing from our standard histories of political theory”—but one that “has been hiding in plain sight.”
“On several occasions,” Dr. Dienstag explains, “Nietzsche calls himself a pessimist, but few people have picked up on that, and I wondered why. As I did some research, I also realized there were a number of people who didn’t fit well in any of the obvious traditions of political theory—liberalism, Marxism, pragmatism, and so on—and wondered if there was something in common.”
Such thinkers as Rousseau, Schopenhauer, Freud, Camus, and Foucault, he soon realized, were also “suspicious of the idea that reason can deliver us to happiness, in the form of either science or philosophy or historical understanding. All of these things at various times have been sold to us as the key to human contentment; optimists promised that these disciplines, through reason, could solve our problems. Pessimists don’t think so.”
In an era when, as BBC Radio’s Laurie Taylor commented, “anyone who dares to suggest that notions of progress and advancement might be mere delusions is likely to be described in terms that suggest a character fault,” observers could well mistake pessimism for inaction or nihilism. Dr. Dienstag, who now considers himself a pessimist, argues to the contrary.
“Pessimism doesn’t have to lead to quietism or passivity or anything like that. It does lead you to place certain limits on what you might imagine is possible,” he says. “In a way it’s actually empowering to liberate yourself from the burden of having to live out a certain kind of history that’s already pre-scripted. [This approach] leads to a focus on the present, on alleviating actually existing suffering rather than enabling structures to be built that would to lead to some fantastical future.
“And the next question would be, do I have children? Yes, I do!”
Pessimism, Dr. Dienstag adds, also requires recasting optimistic assumptions about needs, rights, and entitlements. “We really have no idea what people will do with the freedom and opportunity we’re given, and we shouldn’t expect to have any idea of what they should do or want to do. So we have to be careful about what we say people might need or want out of government or education or the economy or anything like that. We can’t assume that every human being has the same trajectory and will travel in the same way.
“It’s very hard not to think that we know what’s best for people, and it’s very hard to ground a politics on the idea that every individual is radically free to travel his or her own path, but it’s important that we do it.”
As an undergraduate music major at Penn State University, Sarah Eyerly (CN’05) discovered that her singing voice, soprano with a fast vibrato, was better suited to historical performance than to modern music.
“Italian music from the seventeenth century felt better to me than the typical nineteenth- and twentieth-century art song and operatic repertory,” she explains. She became interested in learning more about historical performance—a field of scholarship that reconstructs from archival records how music was meant to sound at the time it was written—and went on to earn a master’s degree in the discipline from the Mannes College of Music in New York.
Ms. Eyerly is now a doctoral student in musicology and criticism at the University of California, Davis. With support from a Newcombe Fellowship, she is writing her dissertation—Singing from the Heart: Memorization and Improvisation in the Eighteenth-Century Utopian Communities of the Moravian Church—on historical performance practice.
“What I’ve found is that eighteenth-century Moravian congregants cultivated a style of improvisation that was only possible in a literate context through the use of a memorized library of compositional techniques as well as memorization from written sources,” Ms. Eyerly says. She has found “written sources that talk about how they practiced musical improvisation,” including transcriptions of improvised worship services, improvised songs, and manuals on how to improvise, as well as “hundreds of church documents, communal diaries, and descriptions by observers of improvised music.”
To gather these documents, Ms. Eyerly traveled to the town of Herrnhut, a corner of modern Germany bordering the Czech Republic and Poland. There, during the early 1700s, the Lutheran minister Count Zinzendorf offered sanctuary to refugees fleeing the reign of the Hapsburgs. The community he fostered on his estate became the Brüdergemeine, better known in America as the Moravian Church.
“People have speculated in the past on how Moravians accomplished improvisation, but no one has been able to recreate it because they hadn’t found the documents I’ve been able to find,” Ms. Eyerly explains. “The town and the archives are still there, and they’ve had an archivist since the mid-eighteenth century. I actually took out the entire card catalogue, drawer by drawer, looked at every card and found documents that hadn’t been looked at before.” Each day in Herrnhut, she photographed thousands of pages, and at night the mother of her German host family helped her translate the archaic German script.
From these documents, Ms. Eyerly has been able to understand that the Moravians improvised their music through “a very consciously learned process…every community member had to memorize thousands of pre-existing hymns, and then meditate on a spiritual concept or Bible verse to create a hymn-sermon. Community members would sing to each other when they greeted each other on the street,” she says. “Song was really integrated into their everyday life—their whole concept of society was based around song.”
Even while writing her dissertation, Ms. Eyerly is working on recreating Moravian improvisation with her own church choir, and hopes to conduct a historically accurate performance of a Moravian worship service in 2006.
As an undergraduate at Yale in the mid-1990s, Sarah Jacoby studied abroad for a semester in India, Nepal, and Tibet. While doing fieldwork for a research project in a rural area in the Kathmandu Valley, she studied with one of the most famous old-school (Nyingma) Tibetan Buddhist teachers living today and his family.
Years later, as a doctoral student in religious studies at the University of Virginia, she discovered that this teacher possessed a manuscript which scholars of Tibetan Buddhism had been trying to get hold of for years—the autobiography of Dewai Dorje, also known as Sera Khandro (“the dakini [female wisdom being] of Sera”).
Born in 1891, Sera Khandro is one of the few known female treasure revealers in Tibetan Buddhism. The tradition of treasure revelation recalls the story of how Buddhism was first brought to Tibet in the 8th century by the Indian master Padmasambhava. Padmasambhava and his consort, Yeshe Tsogyal, were said to have hidden scriptures across Tibet that were meant to be discovered and interpreted over time by treasure revealers and their consorts.
Because treasure revealers are usually men who have female consorts, the story of Sera Khandro, as a female treasure revealer with a male consort, has the potential to change how scholars look at the tradition of treasure revelation, and how Tibetan Buddhism interprets gender and sexuality.
“Because of this divine couple metaphor,” Ms. Jacoby says, “the situation of Sera Khandro is a reversal of what you would see with a male revealer, in that Sera Khandro describes needing male consorts in order to reveal treasure. You can read her work as a love story, because she’s writing this really beautiful love story about her consort. I think that here, love becomes a metaphor for enlightenment.”
Ms. Jacoby approached the owner of the manuscript, who, now at 95 years old, had himself been one of the disciples of Sera Khandro.
“I asked to be able to read it, and I commented that it’s such an amazing text,” she recalls. “He asked me why I wanted to publish it, and I responded that I felt it would be of benefit to the English-speaking world to have access to this text.” He gave Ms. Jacoby a photocopy of the handwritten manuscript, which she has translated and is now using as the basis for her dissertation. She describes her discovery of the text as “just sort of serendipitous.”
Ms. Jacoby has been approached by editors interested in publishing both her translation of the autobiography and her dissertation, which she is currently writing with help from a Charlotte Newcombe Doctoral Dissertation Fellowship.
“When I think about having a Newcombe, I’m just happy to have this opportunity to devote time to what I really care about—my project and my writing,” she says.
Although he successfully entered the field of business journalism after graduating from Morehouse College, Terrence Johnson felt something was missing from his life and career.
“I wanted to pursue something different,” he recalls, “and I always had an interest in religion.” He made the move to Boston to earn a master’s of divinity degree from Harvard University, with a plan to combine his interests in religion and journalism.
But his experiences while at Harvard changed his interests and direction. He pursued ordination as a minister in the African Methodist Episcopal Church, joined a silent prayer group, and worked at a hospital intern—an experience that “opened up a different world for me.”
One morning at the hospital, he met a young man who had just come out of a car accident a quadriplegic. The meeting inspired Mr. Johnson to begin working with other young accident victims: “I’d have these academic moments at Harvard, and then go out and meet people trying to piece together their lives after horrific accidents—those are moments I’ll never forget.”
Today Mr. Johnson is a graduate student in the Religious Studies Department of Brown University. With support from a Charlotte W. Newcombe Doctoral Dissertation Fellowship, he is spending 2005-06 at Princeton University, working with associate professor of religion Eddie Glaude, Jr.
“I’m interested in working on how we deal with religion in a radically changing world,” he says, describing his current research on race, religion, and democracy. “How can a diverse society engage each other, given our radical differences in religion? How do we mend this divide between religion and politics, and how do we talk about basic issues around individual needs and wants without denying religion?”
Alongside his doctoral studies, Mr. Johnson has tackled some of these issues directly over the past three summers by working with the Pre-college Leadership Program at Morehouse College. The program fosters discussion among 30 upper-level, African-American high school men, about half of whom enter Morehouse in the following year.
“We try to show how you remain committed to your community and also to the world,” Mr. Johnson explains. “How do you promote diversity and pluralism, and how do you build the beloved community?”
After he receives the Ph.D., Mr. Johnson plans to pursue a tenure-track teaching position. But at the same time, he hopes to “keep my feet in both the academy and the public world. I’m hoping my academic life can help me make scholarly contributions, but I hope I don’t have to divide between the scholarly world and the broader world.”
Partnerships for College Success
One hundred percent of students who graduate from University Park Campus School in Worcester, Massachusetts, go to college, and in the nine years that the school has been operating, only three students have dropped out. According to UPCS principal June Eressy, these numbers are particularly impressive considering that many of the students who attend the school would be unlikely to graduate from high school, were they left in a large traditional comprehensive high school.
“The high expectations of the school” make UPCS different from the surrounding public school system, according to Mrs. Eressy. What she calls the school’s “culture of achievement” is fostered by UPCS’ relationship with nearby Clark University, supported by the Nellie Mae Partnerships for College Success program.
Students from the surrounding urban neighborhood are chosen to attend UPCS by lottery, and 44 enter the school’s seventh-grade class each year. They arrive at the school with varied levels of literacy, and so their first two to three years at UPCS are spent in a full-immersion reading, writing, and speaking program designed by Mrs. Eressy.
Throughout their six years at UPCS, students are mentored and tutored by volunteer and work-study students from Clark, who interact with them at school and on the Clark campus. UPCS students have access to Clark’s library and other facilities, and during their junior and senior years can take elective classes at the college.
“A lot of times,” Mrs. Eressy says, “our students are more conscientious and successful than the Clark students. They consider it a privilege to take classes at the university.”
Because students at UPCS take their upper-level elective courses at Clark, the school has a chance to focus its resources on the literacy program and core courses, resources that would otherwise have to be spent on offering a range of electives at the high school. The resulting model—a small school with an intense focus on achievement in a few core disciplines—has won acclaim from educators. In 2005 UPCS was named the highest-performing urban high school in Massachusetts by Newsweek magazine.
UPCS hosts professional development institutes during the summer for educators who want to replicate the UPCS model at their own schools. Mrs. Eressy says UPCS is always evolving, and notes that “the beauty of being a small school is that we can personalize to meet student needs.”
But for now, she says, “I’m just so happy to be able to make a difference for these kids. We’re working on making them more successful in college, and that’s why we’re involved in Partnerships for College Success. We want to figure out ways to make them as successful in college as they are here.”
Pickering Foreign Affairs Fellows
After spending a year in Damascus, Syria—her second as a Foreign Service officer—Ana Escrogima says the best part about her job is “people-people relations.”
"That’s my job, that’s what I’m here for,” she explains. “To teach people about Americans. The most fulfilling thing, as a woman of color, as a Latina, is to show people in Syria that diplomats come from all backgrounds and colors. People question whether I’m American, and I get to say that there are a lot of people like me. That’s the best part about being here and doing what I’m doing.”
Ms. Escrogima was awarded a Thomas Pickering Foreign Affairs Fellowship during her sophomore year at Brown University, where she studied international relations. The Fellowship funded her master’s degree in international affairs at Columbia University and then ushered her into the Foreign Service.
“When I was in the summer of my sophomore year, I was looking for scholarships for people interested in traveling,” she says. “It never occurred to me that I would join the Foreign Service…but it fit into my area of interest in international affairs. When you’ve signed a contract at 18 for the next 8 years of your life, only as you progress along do you really understand what you’re doing.
Now, she says, “I’m 25, I have a master’s degree, I have an amazing job. I’m doing exactly what interests/motivates me…all in a pretty short time to do all this. For having made the decision so long ago, if I had to do it all over again, I would make the same choice.”
Ms. Escrogima says she was first drawn to the Foreign Service by issues close to home—her parents, who immigrated from the Dominican Republic to the lower east side of Manhattan. Ms. Escrogima studied immigration abroad in Paris as an undergraduate and wrote a thesis from interviews with North Africans resident in France. The experience, she says, helped her “realize that issues like that are universal.”
“I think the Europeans face a whole other series of issues, but it is the same [as in America] as well: How do you create a national identity out of this diverse group of people?” Ms. Escrogima asks. “These issues are everywhere…that’s why crosscultural study is important. The USA is not the only one with these issues, and we have a lot to share in how to integrate immigrants.”
In her current rotation in Damascus, Ms. Escrogima has covered the war in Iraq, regional women’s issues, and other topics, and has developed contacts for the American embassy. She describes her work as “kind of like grad school all over again, but with less time to produce your papers.
“We write cables that inform people about what’s going on, you have local contacts. You present it and analyze it and give Washington a better look at what’s going on in the country.”
Syria, she says, “is really a front-runner. There’s not a lot of information on Syria out there, so it’s very interesting.”
“People (in the Middle East) are so hospitable, so friendly,” she says. “They love American people, but are very clear about not liking (American) foreign policy in the region. It puts you in a position where you have to explain and defend your (position) on foreign policy. I try to focus on the positives, on what people like about America.”
Ms. Escrogima, who has traveled to Jordan, Dubai, and Turkey and studied Arabic in Tunisia, hopes to land her next post in Egypt, a country that is less stable than the authoritarian state of Syria, but where she will get “a totally different experience.”
“The Foreign Service is interesting because you get to try different jobs and countries,” she says. “I think the Pickering program is wonderful. I’m very proud that the program has become so mainstream, financially and morally supported by the higher-level people at the State Department. I hope it continues.”
Long before she received a Thomas R. Pickering Foreign Affairs Fellowship, Antoinette Hurtado (Pickering Undergrad ’00) knew that she wanted a career in international affairs and diplomacy.
“It started with growing up in a family that was not too well off and wanting to travel the world and experience different cultures,” she says, “since I never could afford to do so as a kid. I thought that by working in the policy field, I could also make a difference, however small, in the world.”
As an undergraduate at Georgetown University, she earned a bachelor’s degree in “science, technology, and international affairs,” and when she decided to pursue a master’s degree from Harvard University, she concentrated on international security studies.
“I have always been interested in the fields of terrorism, intelligence, and national security,” she explains, “and wanted to pursue them on a higher level so I could apply that knowledge to understanding terrorism and how to combat it.”
The Foreign Service, she says, offered “an amazing opportunity to be a face of America to the world, a face that perhaps not too many people associate with America. I wanted to challenge people to think of America differently. Since 9/11, the U.S. has a real challenge in explaining itself, good and bad, to the world, and I thought that I could help be a part of that process, and help prevent anything like 9/11 from happening again.”
For her internship abroad, Ms. Hurtado was posted at the U.S. embassy in Athens, Greece. Currently, she is a political and consular officer at the U.S. embassy in Canberra, Australia. The Foreign Service, she says, has allowed her to see much more of the world than she would have been able to otherwise, and to “follow and report on issues I focused on in my higher education, including counterterrorism—a topic I never would have envisioned covering as a first-tour junior officer.”
“The Pickering Fellowship is an amazing opportunity for talented young people to experience the world and have a chance to influence policy,” she says. “The Foreign Service is an opportunity to serve on the frontline in the war on terror and in the advancement of democracy and freedom around the world. This is our moment to take part in history and the development of the U.S. as a nation. I consider it an honor and am grateful for the incredible experiences I have had as a Pickering Fellow.”
Abdul-Rahman Kenyatta received the Pickering Undergraduate Foreign Affairs Fellowship in 2001 and graduated from Morehouse College in 2003 with a degree in International Studies. He says, “I knew I wanted to work abroad, and my interest in travel was what led me to consider a career in the Foreign Service.”
During his junior year, Mr. Kenyatta studied abroad for a semester in Cairo, Egypt, as part of the fellowship program. “I was amazed,” he recalls. “The study abroad experience at the American University in Cairo allowed me to explore the rich culture and history of Egypt.”
Cairo was also where Mr. Kenyatta met his wife, Tammy Crittenden, herself a recipient of the Pickering Graduate Foreign Affairs Fellowship. The couple enrolled in graduate schools for international affairs in Washington, D.C.—Abdul-Rahman at American University, where he received his graduate degree in international communications, and Tammy at Johns Hopkins’ School of International Advanced Studies, where she is a degree candidate.
“The Pickering Fellowship provides exceptional professional development opportunities. I had terrific internships as a Pickering Fellow,” says Mr. Kenyatta, who spent the first of his two required Pickering summer internships in the State Department’s Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs. “Working in the Office of International Visitor Leadership Programs allowed me to work directly on exchange programs for artists, journalists, teachers, lawyers, etc. from the North Africa/Near East/South Asia regions.”
The following summer, Mr. Kenyatta was assigned to the U.S. embassy in Kuala Lumpur. “My favorite part of the internship in the Public Affairs Section,” he recalls, “was coordinating a multi-city university tour. Meeting with Malaysian students helped me learn about common interests and also the cultural diversity of the society.
“Both internships enhanced my appreciation for outreach and exchange. Technology presents many opportunities to communicate across national boundaries. The Internet and digital video conferencing make it easier to connect people with the hope of understanding different perspectives.”
The Kenyattas look forward to beginning their Foreign Service careers as junior officers in Cairo. “Egypt has many recreational and educational activities to offer for the family,” Mr. Kenyatta says. As to the future, “We’re keeping an open mind. There are so many interesting places to serve.
“Representing America abroad as a Foreign Service officer is the best part of the job. I believe that the diplomatic corps reflects the dynamism and diversity of America. The Pickering Fellowship is an incredible network that continues beyond graduate school and entry into the Foreign Service. I have developed personal friendships with officers who serve throughout the world.”
The Thomas R. Pickering Graduate Foreign Affairs Fellowship
When Kevin Lewis (Pickering Grad ’00) graduated from Morehouse College with a major in international studies, he thought he was going to become a teacher. When he heard that he had been accepted into the Pickering Foreign Affairs program and the Maxwell School at Syracuse University, he says, “I was like, wow, do I go ahead and teach, or take advantage of this opportunity? I thought, this is once-in-a-lifetime, and I took it.”
Today, Mr. Lewis is a Foreign Service officer, serving in a rotational program in U.S. offices in Venezuela. His experience there has been challenging in the country’s current political climate, he says—just going to the grocery store, “you can definitely feel the tension.”
Still, he says working in the Foreign Service “is great. I’ve had the opportunity to do things that I just never would have imagined I’d be doing, and it’s been a chance to serve the country.”
The international experience that Mr. Lewis brings to the Foreign Service runs deep. His father is from Trinidad and Tobago, and during high school he spent a summer working on a kibbutz, an agricultural commune in Israel.
“It was a great experience,” he recounts, “not just working on the kibbutz, but having the opportunity to interact with people of various cultures. There were always debates and discussions, and I learned so much about the importance of constructive dialogue.” During college, Mr. Lewis worked for the International Affairs Center. “It brought foreign affairs to life for me,” he says. He even studied for a semester in Ghana.
Since receiving the Pickering Fellowship, Mr. Lewis has interned in Bangkok and worked in the consular section in El Salvador and Venezuela. He went to Argentina to support the president’s visit to Summit of the Americas, and hopes to work in South Africa or Mozambique someday.
At some point, he adds, he would still like to try teaching.
“I’d like to have my own school,” he explains. “That’s a dream of mine. It would be a school that would bring people from the African Diaspora together, and blend my love of teaching with my love of international affairs. It’s a lofty idea, to open a school, but definitely a dream worth pursuing.”
Teachers As Scholars
As Executive Coordinator of Notre Dame’s Teachers As Scholars program, Elizabeth Jane Doering says she has seen “just an abundance of evidence” that the program’s seminars for teachers have been successful.
“The teachers are thrilled to be back on the other side of the desk, to sit there, observe and learn,” she says. “It reminds them of why they went into teaching in the first place.”
As an educator, Dr. Doering can appreciate the importance of teachers continuing to learn throughout their careers. With her background in French at Douglas College in New Jersey and the University of Paris-Sorbonne, Dr. Doering taught French language and literature courses in college preparatory schools before completing her doctorate at Northwestern University. Today, she is researching and writing on 20th-century French philosopher Simone Weil and teaching in the College Seminar Program at Notre Dame, even as she coordinates TAS at Notre Dame.
Both the doctorate and her teaching experience have “really been of enormous value to what I’m doing with TAS,” she says. “I have always valued the opportunity to continue my own education over many years. I cherish the enrichment learning has brought me and am thrilled to be able to share this opportunity with colleagues by organizing TAS seminars for our local K–12 teachers.”
Notre Dame’s TAS seminars—totaling roughly 60 since the program’s inception in 2000—have ranged from “Burning Passions: Re-Discovering Silent Cinema” in 2002, to “Gregorian Chant and Medieval Polyphony” in 2003, to “News Without End: Navigating Today's Media and Their Messages” in 2006.
For a 2005 seminar, Dr. Doering recalls, American studies professor Thomas Schlereth led a discussion on nature in America using readings, slide lectures, fieldwork at Notre Dame’s herbarium, and visits to the university art museum and a nearby municipal Japanese garden. Several of the participating teachers were inspired to invite Dr. Schlereth to visit their schools and assist students in planning school gardens and in learning “about nature in all its aspects.”
At the same time, she has seen the TAS seminar experience give new perspectives to the university professors who teach them. “Through all 60 seminars,” she says, “the professors have reacted enthusiastically to the new dimension of teaching fellow educators.”
“The teachers have consistently expressed their delight in all that TAS at Notre Dame offers them: personal enrichment, new ideas on teaching, and new knowledge on a particular subject,” Dr. Doering says. “TAS has created a collegial relationship between the local educators and the professors. Notre Dame, as a private university religiously oriented, can give the impression of being exclusive. What I think TAS has done is to open the teachers’ understanding that they are very welcome here. In fact,” she adds, “several teachers who have participated in Notre Dame’s TAS seminars have since brought their own students to campus for films, lectures, art shows, and concerts.”
“We are very grateful to the Woodrow Wilson Foundation for having initiated such a fine innovative program that has surely improved K–12 education in America in many subtle ways.”
The Puget Sound Teachers As Scholars program was started in 2000 as a joint venture between the University of Washington’s Simpson Center for the Humanities and Seattle Arts and Lectures, a nonprofit organization that raises appreciation for the literary arts in the Puget Sound region.
The partnership not only engages the university and the organization, but extends into the community as well. Seminars are designed to complement the plays, museum exhibits, and performances in the surrounding area, building relationships with and between local cultural organizations
“When we started Puget Sound TAS…we had a mandate to build bridges to the community and to find ways to work with K–12 schools,” explains Margit Rankin, executive director of Seattle Arts and Lectures. “We believe that if national efforts to raise standards are to succeed, teachers must be reinvigorated as academic thinkers and leaders, and they must also be supported by resources within the larger educational and cultural community. Developing a TAS program seemed like one of the best and most elegant ways to accomplish some of those goals, to bring university faculty and K–12 educators together to focus on content-rich seminars, which we could also develop to complement what was going on at local arts and cultural organizations.”
Nearly 60 seminars have been taught through the Puget Sound program so far, on topics ranging from “Irish History and Modern Irish Writing” to “The Blues: As Form, As Genre, As Feeling” to “Colonialism and Performance Art in Islamic Asia” during 2005-06.
According to Dr. Rankin, approximately 97% of participating teachers report the seminars to be excellent or above average. One teacher who participated in a 2001 seminar titled “Japanese-American Cultural Landscapes,” which included a trip to the historic Panama Hotel bathhouse in Seattle’s former Japantown, reported, “I hoped to deepen my knowledge of the Japanese-American people and history. My expectations were not only met, but also surpassed… The seminar infused my teaching with great new energy.”
“By incorporating local cultural events and sites,” Miriam Bartha, assistant director of the Simpson Center, says, TAS “offers teachers ideas about how to make connections between the subjects they study, the subjects they teach, and the particular historical, cultural place where they live.”
Dr. Rankin came to Seattle Arts and Lectures with a background in education—she holds a Ph.D. from Princeton University in comparative literature and has taught both college and secondary school. In her experience, she explains, most teacher professional development programs tend to focus on pedagogy or standards at the expense of intellectual stimulation.
“I recalled how important it was for me as a teacher to immerse myself in new learning periodically,” she says. “TAS seemed like a great way to provide access to those kinds of opportunities to local teachers.”
Dr. Bartha, who also has teaching experience, notes that teachers can feel isolated in the “loneliness of the classroom.” What she appreciates about TAS is the chance for teachers to gain “a much-needed opportunity for intellectual and social exchange among peers.”
“I have been consistently impressed by the creativity, knowledge, and artfulness of individual faculty, by their passion for their subject and their ability to connect to others through their subject,” Dr. Bartha continues. “I’ve also been consistently impressed with the appetite and insight the schoolteachers bring to the seminars as well.”
The Woodrow Wilson Doctoral Dissertation Fellowship in Women's Studies
When the Danforth Foundation funding that supported Susan Casteras (WS’75) through graduate school at Yale University ended, and she began looking for grants to support her dissertation research in women’s studies, she found that “there were very few options for someone trying to investigate a feminist-related topic, and receiving funding to do so.”
Her dissertation, titled Down the Garden Path: Courtship Culture and Its Imagery in Victorian Art, was on the representation of women in 19th-century art, but “at the time there was no comparable scholarship on this subject,” she recalls.
Women’s studies and feminist studies were just beginning to be explored by scholars during the mid-1970s, and “it was both a plus and a minus to be involved in what turned out to be such a nascent field,” she says. Dr. Casteras found the emerging discipline blended well with her passion for Victorian literature and art—and, she says, she was drawn to the interdisciplinary nature of the fields.
Dr. Casteras earned her bachelor’s degrees in English literature and art history from Vassar College, and after becoming one of the first recipients of the Woodrow Wilson Doctoral Dissertation Fellowship in Women’s Studies, received her doctorate in art history. Specializing in Victorian visual culture, she served for nearly 20 years as curator of paintings at the Yale Center for British Art and is currently a professor of art history at the University of Washington in Seattle.
Victorian art, she explains, interests her for “the depth and richness of this strand of imagery, particularly in terms of the gendered roles and spaces involved in certain courtship rituals.” She has conducted research on “the Victorian lady in the parlor, the Victorian novice and nun, the cult of girlhood, the wayward woman, and the feminine aesthete,” from which she wrote her first book, Images of Victorian Womanhood in British Art.
“I can honestly say that feminism has been a vital force in my scholarship overall,” she says.
Dr. Casteras has also served on selection committees for the Women’s Studies Fellowship, out of a “desire to repay the Woodrow Wilson Foundation for their faith in my work,” she says. “Because someone 30 years ago believed in my potential, I was able to complete my dissertation and enjoy a very productive career as a curator, scholar, and professor.”
Serving as a reader has also enabled her “to witness the ways that feminism has been transformed—in positive ways—in many interdisciplinary directions.”
When Brenda Dixon Gottschild graduated from New York’s City College in 1963, she had no idea that her interdisciplinary major, Contemporary Culture, would be her keynote in a world that was about to change dramatically. “In my professional life I journeyed from a career as artist-performer to writer-scholar, from practitioner to observer—and lately, a combination of both,” she explains.
Coming of age in the Civil Rights era and the free student movement helped to shape Prof. Dixon Gottschild’s commitment to intellectual, political, and artistic pursuits, which she points to as the three driving forces in her professional and personal development.
“Through many years of practice and study, I try to mend the Cartesian mind-body duality by presenting my research as a living, visceral experience and my performance as politically and intellectually engaging.” In the same breath she talks about the Africanist love of improvisation, which dovetails with her own experience in the improv-based avant-garde New York theater movement of the 1960s. (She was a member of The Open Theater, one of the groundbreaking experimental theater groups of that era.)
Her approach to life and work honors “the psychic and somatic as well as the intellectual. You acknowledge and honor improvisation, intuition, and the insight that comes from within.”
After completing her undergraduate studies, Prof. Dixon Gottschild was a professional dancer/actor. She later enrolled in the Performance Studies Department at New York University, where the curriculum allowed her to “put one foot in front of the other” and create a sociopolitical dance dissertation that was later published as her second book, Waltzing in the Dark: African American Vaudeville and Race Politics in the Swing Era. The dissertation earned her a 1980 Woodrow Wilson Dissertation Grant in Women’s Studies.
Prof. Dixon Gottschild continues to research the Africanist presence in Europeanist arts and culture. She also performs with her husband, choreographer/dancer Hellmut Gottschild, in an innovative form of physical and research-based collaborative work for which they have coined the term “movement theater discourse.”
“Women’s issues go hand-in-hand with my commitment to issues of race and identity,” she explains. Prof. Dixon Gottschild has returned to the Woodrow Wilson Foundation as a reader on the selection committees of both the Charlotte W. Newcombe Doctoral Dissertation Fellowship and the Women’s Studies Fellowship and was a Wilson Visiting Minority Scholar in 1989 and 1991.
“After all that the Woodrow Wilson Foundation did for me, in recognizing and awarding my scholarship at the dissertation stage,” she says, “that’s the least I could do in return.”
For her 2003 book, Drag Queens at the 801 Cabaret, which she co-wrote with Verta Taylor, Leila Rupp went undercover as a drag queen.
Currently a professor of women’s studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara, Dr. Rupp has watched the discipline of women’s studies evolve over the past 30 years, developing, she says, “in enormously complex ways, including, perhaps most prominently, deconstructing the category �woman.’”
It was partly these changes that led Dr. Rupp to research and write the book and an accompanying article—in an anthology of essays by former recipients of the Woodrow Wilson Dissertation Fellowship in Women’s Studies, titled Exploring Women’s Studies: Looking Forward, Looking Back.
“Tension between the fluidity of gender and sexuality and the rigidity as sometimes experienced in the lives of drag queens made me realize, if I had not before, how complex these deeply felt aspects of our identities can be,” she wrote for Exploring Women’s Studies.
Dr. Rupp first began her research in women’s studies, she says, when in the summer of 1969 she “first saw a poster about �female liberation’ and read Simone de Beauvoir’s The Second Sex, and it was as if everything fell into place for me.” She later wrote her dissertation in women’s studies—on the mobilization of German and American women during World War II—with support from a Woodrow Wilson Women’s Studies Fellowship.
While Drag Queens may sound like a leap from her earlier work, Dr. Rupp describes her research for the book as “an interdisciplinary project in the tradition of women's studies, despite its focus on men.”
After attending drag shows in Key West and interviewing both the performers and audience members, Dr. Rupp was persuaded to dress as a drag queen in public. She describes being taught to walk in five-inch heels—“Oh no, don’t walk on the heels, girl! Walk on your toes! Walk like this! Walk on your toes!”—and how it wasn’t until she joined the drag queens on the street that she “really understood the gender and sexual dynamics of their interactions.”
The experience, she wrote, taught her “a lot about what makes a man a man and a woman a woman.”
“It can be hard to teach social contructionism to students who feel that their sexuality is fixed and biological,” she says. “Learning about drag queen sexual and gender identity helped me to understand that it might help to teach concepts of social constructionism through such identities and categories as �drag-queenness.’”
Leila Rupp also serves as a reader for the Woodrow Wilson Dissertation Fellowships in Women’s Studies.
Growing up in Korea, Sarah Song (WS’03) says she listened to her grandmother “tell stories about living in Japanese-occupied Korea and about the hardships that came after her husband disappeared during the Korean War.”
The family immigrated to the United States when Dr. Song was six years old, and she “often wondered how and why we were able to immigrate when we did, who made the immigration rules and how they were made. My father was a minister of a Korean immigrant church, and some of his parishioners ran small businesses in poor communities, which made me wonder about where new immigrants fit into the socioeconomic and political landscape of America.” Considering how much politics had shaped her personal history, it’s a small wonder that she decided to major in social studies at Harvard University.
“It was in college that I took several courses in political theory, and they opened my eyes to concepts and categories whose meaning and importance we tend to take for granted—concepts such as democracy, rights, freedom, and equality,” she says. “The professors I had really sparked an interest in me to pursue the study of political thought. I got a fellowship to study at Oxford, and I spent two years there reading political theory. At the end of those two years, I felt I'd found my vocation, and I returned to the U.S. to do my Ph.D.”
Now a professor in the Political Science Department at MIT, Dr. Song studies the theory and practice of minority rights groups, focusing on tensions between cultural rights and women’s rights. Her dissertation, titled Culture, Gender, and Equality and supported by a Woodrow Wilson Dissertation Fellowship in Women’s Studies, allowed her to ask questions about “what might it mean for women to be equal with men—equality of what in virtue of what—and was this a desirable goal?” and look at the impact of granting group rights on different members of minority groups, particularly across gender lines.
“I found that in a range of cases women are made more vulnerable by group rights,” she explains, “and I considered how democratic states might respond in such cases.”
Dr. Song also received the Newcombe Doctoral Dissertation Fellowship, but had to decline it. The Women’s Studies Fellowship, she says, helped her make a great deal of progress on her dissertation, which she is currently revising into a book manuscript, and also helped her in another sense: “reading about the projects of the other fellowship recipients and being part of a community with them was incredibly inspiring.”