Each Friday during the Fall and Spring academic semesters, a faculty volunteer gives a 30 minute lunchtime talk on her/his scholarship and/or teaching practices. Faculty members are invited to learn a little more about their colleagues, chat with others that attend the presentations, and enjoy a wonderful buffet lunch. Talks start at 12:30 p.m. and are usually over a little past 1 p.m.

The event is sponsored by the Provost's Office.

Spring 2017 Schedule

Jan 20      Brien Ashdown (Psychology)

Maybe You’re Just Jealous: Predicting Negative Perceptions of Ashley Madison Users After the Recent Hack

Abstract: Recently, Ashley Madison (AM), a website created to facilitate romantic/sexual cheating, was hacked and many users were identified. Although these users are technically the victims of a crime, there was very little empathy for them. In fact, many people engaged in victim blaming and derogation, furthering the victimization. This study examined what individual difference variables might predict blaming and derogation of AM users. Specifically, an online survey measured participants' demonization of the users, related demographics (i.e., gender, religiosity), attitudes toward deception, religiosity, sex guilt, and sexual attitudes and behaviors. I’ll talk about how the findings suggest that jealousy, religiosity, and sex guilt predicts whether a participant demonized the AM users.

Jan 27      Jennifer Biermann (Math & CS)

Graphs and Polynomials

Abstract: A graph is a collection of nodes with edges connecting them. Graphs can be used to model many different real world networks, such as facebook friend networks and city bus routes. In this talk I will show two different ways in which we can associate polynomial equations to graphs which allows us to study graphs via algebraic techniques, or study sets of polynomials using graph theory.

Feb 3       Alan Frishman (Economics)

Evolving Curricula of HWS

Abstract: Two years ago, when several committees were set up to reexamine our curriculum, I decided my contribution to the process would be to go to the registrar’s office and look through every catalogue from the 1940s to the present. I made notes on each curriculum, when it changed and what the requirements were for graduation. I thought an historical view would be helpful for those folks on the various committees who were thinking about a new curriculum. I sent it to CoAA, but I think very few people read it.

Please come to hear about the eight curricula that HWS has used over the past 75 years and how and why the curriculum changed. Interestingly, our new curriculum is essentially like the one that was in place before 1965; the colleges implemented several innovative curricula, but after 52 years, we have come full circle.

Feb 10     Kristen Slade (Chemistry)

Understanding Cancer with Pond Scum

Abstract: Before we can even begin to think about designing drugs to treat or cure a disease, we must first understand how the disease works at a molecular level. In a healthy organism, there is a process by which sick or injured cells kill themselves. If this process stops working, cells can grow uncontrollably, which is one of the hallmarks of cancer. In order to better understand this cell-suicide, one can study an analogous process (the destruction of a nucleus) in a much simpler organism: Tetrahymena (which live in pond scum). This talk will describe the process of characterizing a single Tetrahymena protein, Thd14, a histone deacetylase (HDAC), to illustrate the typical tricks in a biochemist’s toolbox. Understanding the fundamental step-by-step process of how Thd14 helps to destroy the nucleus of a Tetrahymena cell can provide necessary insight about the players involved in cell-death and thus potential targets for future cancer drugs.

Feb 17     Stacey Philbrick Yadav (Political Science)

Advocacy Outside the Academy: Mobilizing Our Resources in Challenging Times

Abstract: In our private lives, many of us engage in a wide range of activist activities, but rarely do so in our "capacity" as academics, explicitly leveraging our scholarship and expertise to advance policy change. In this presentation, I will speak briefly about why we should be more open to doing so, and will illustrate this with some of the work I have done over the past year as a board member of the Yemen Peace Project, a DC-based advocacy organization. While this kind of work is not without its challenges, recent literature on "action-research" as a methodology in the social sciences makes persuasive normative and empirical arguments for civically-engaged scholarship as both academic and ethical practice.

Feb 24     Courtney Wells (French and Francophone Studies)

Should a French Minister Speak Catalan?: Shame and the Politics of Language

Abstract: In this talk I will discuss some of the political, social, and economical implications of speaking Catalan in France and in Spain (two countries where the language is spoken natively). This discussion will be contextualized within the broader discussion of the politics of the use of “minority languages" in countries such as France, Spain, and the United States. More specifically, I will be examining the politics of speaking Catalan in the career of Catalan-born former Prime Minister of France, Manuel Valls, and in the music of the Columbian pop star Shakira. Through an examination of these two public figures’ unduly problematic relationship with the use of Catalan, I will argue that Catalan, unlike French, Spanish, or English, for example, is a language that, when used, subsumes multiple (and unrelated) forms of discourse, whether art, music, history, literature, into the domain of politics.

Mar 3       Ileana Dumitriu (Physics)


Abstract: For the past five years, undergraduate students at Hobart and William Smith Colleges have been involved in multiple NASA competitions. In 2014, HWS students won the first place in National Student Solar Spectroscopy Competition for designing, building and collecting data using a solar spectroscope. During the academic 2015 and 2016 years students designed and built a payload for a sounding rocket launched under the RockSat-C program at NASA’s Wallops Flight Center VA. The students implemented three experiments in their canister – two muon detectors to determine muon flux at various altitudes and a spectrometer to record spectra through layers of atmosphere. In this talk I will describe the RockSat-C program, its impact on the students, and its impact on my research.

Mar 10     Jeffrey Blankenship (Art and Architecture)

Modern Landscapes: Landscape Architecture and Technological Innovation, 1760-1960

Abstract: In this talk, I will discuss the theoretical ideas behind a book project that I am beginning this summer on landscape architecture and technological innovation. The book will present a new approach to the history of landscape architecture, emphasizing the evolving technologies that have shaped the practice of designing and building landscapes over 200-years of urbanization, industrialization and modernization in Europe and The Americas. To do so, the book will trace a history of innovation within the quintessential operations of landscape design that have defined the discipline both in the past and today: measuring land, improving soils, moving earth, draining water, and propagating plants. The key theoretical argument is that landscape architecture in this period was both a product of, and productive of, modernization. That is, rather than representing a passive reprieve from urbanization, landscape architecture was an integral part of city making. My presentation will explore these theoretical ideas and provide some historical examples from my preliminary research.

Mar 24     Lisa Yoshikawa (History)

Mutualism, Parasitism, or Somewhere In-between?: Tourism and Modern Natural Monument Preservation in Japan

Abstract: Tourism has played a significant part in the development of the state-led modern preservation enterprise. The Law for Preservation of Old Shrines and Temples (1897) partly sought to prevent the outflow of antiques, often purchased by foreign tourists. When the central government began to consider broadening its preservation enterprise a decade later, the local elites rejoiced at a possibility of enhancing tourism in their regions and bringing in much-needed income. Scholars, on the other hand, cautioned against the increased attention state-designation might bring to sites and objects, by attracting uneducated or careless tourists who would harm these preservation targets. Following the passing of the Law for Preserving Landscapes and Historic and Natural Monuments (1919), the debate over the benefits and drawbacks of tourism on preservation continued until the eve of the Asia-Pacific Wars. In the postwar decades, some localities came under fire for jeopardizing their own Natural Monuments to enhance tourist attraction. The most famous case is that of Nagano's Tatsuno town, known for its firefly habitats. In its attempt to augment the declining insect population by importing specimens from other parts of Japan, the town drove its native firefly to extinction. My presentation explores this complex relationship between tourism and modern preservation enterprise in Japan, with focus on the case of the Japanese giant salamander.

Mar 31     Kristen Brubaker (Environmental Studies)

Seeing the forest for the trees: using LiDAR to model above-ground biomass in forests

Abstract: Understanding patterns of aboveground carbon storage across forest types is increasingly important as managers adapt to the threats of global change. We used LiDAR—light detection and ranging, to help us understand the patterns of above-ground biomass in a forest by modeling tree and shrub biomass in two contrasting watersheds. In each watershed, we measured the shrub and tree biomass at different topographic positions in the watershed to understand how patterns of biomass vary by topographic position. We then used LiDAR to develop a spatial model of tree and shrub biomass across both watersheds. We found that there is an inverse relationship between tree biomass and shrub biomass across sites, and that LiDAR can be used to model these relationships across a broader, watershed scale. This shows that different forest types have dramatically different carbon storage capacities, and could be important as we try to optimize carbon sequestration of terrestrial ecosystems in light of global climate change.

Apr 7       Lisa Cleckner (Finger Lakes Institute)

Finger Lakes Institute Overview and Update

Abstract: Water resources and natural capital such as landscapes and agriculture are the heart of the Finger Lakes region. The Finger Lakes Institute serves an important role in protecting and promoting these natural assets. In 2016, the FLI was awarded over $1.2M in new funding for projects ranging from managing and controlling invasive species; monitoring waterbodies for the presence of harmful algal blooms, which can impact public drinking water supplies; and developing and conducting educational programs for teachers and grades 6-12 students focused on water quality and service learning. By connecting activities at the FLI and in HWS academic departments to regional, state, and federal needs, the FLI provides (i) relevant, actionable scientific information for the region; (ii) research and professional development opportunities for students, faculty, and staff; and (iii) a place for community and student education about environmental issues including water, food, energy, and waste. An overview of FLI programs and projects will be provided.

Apr 14     Ervin Kosta (Anthropology and Sociology)

The Comparative Remaking of Four Rustbelt Small Urban Downtowns: Urban Restructuring, Retail Specialization, and the Fight for the City

Abstract: This paper presents preliminary research on the commercial transformation of the downtowns of four smaller-size cities in central NY (Geneva and Canandaigua) and western Massachusetts (Greenfield and Easthampton). It looks at four decades of commercial change, attempting to identify some characteristics of emerging post-industrial downtowns in comparative historical perspective. It focuses on several elements of this commercial renaissance: the historical trajectory of ‘walkable’ downtowns in comparison to nearby mall-like shopping areas; emerging types of retail specialization in regional perspective; selective revalorization of ethnic and racial pasts; and shifting focus from luxury housing to upscale retail as urban revitalization strategies. In doing so, this research follows in the footsteps of an important, if somewhat neglected, string of gentrification literature that spans two decades from David Ley (1996) to Bridge and Dowling (2001) to Zukin (2009) that trace the intimate connections between retail consumption scenes, urban conviviality, and the development of new urban middle class identities and lifestyles. While preliminary, this data provides background to ask questions such as whether Geneva is gentrifying; what it means to intervene in retail markets as primary to residential markets; and trace the changing constellation of downtown consumers that may necessitate the question: whose cities are place like Geneva becoming?

Apr 21     Robin Lewis (Environmental Studies) & Brandon Barile (Assistant Dean of Students/Director of Res Ed)

Faculty-Administrator Collaborations: Living/Learning Communities and Beyond

Abstract: In the fall of 2014, the Division of Student Affairs launched a multi-year pilot program to re-envision the first-year experience at the Colleges. A partnership between the Office of Residential Education and the Environmental Studies Program, the Sustainable Living and Learning Community (SLLC) Program capitalizes on the benefits of fusing traditional academics with co-curricular engagement in the context of a living/learning community (LLC) focused on sustainability. This talk will provide insight into what it takes to get a successful LLC up and running on the HWS campus and shed light on the impacts of the SLLC Program on the academic and social lives of our first-year students. We will also highlight the many benefits of administrators and faculty collaborating the creation, day-to-day operation, and assessment of LLCs.

Apr 28      Elizabeth Belanger (American Studies)

Perspectives on Community Engaged Learning and Scholarship at HWS

Abstract: Students, community partners, and faculty affiliated with the HWS’s Service Learning Advisory council will have a panel discussion on service-learning and engaged scholarship. Service Learning provides students with local experiential learning opportunities that foster community awareness, leadership skills and values of service and social responsibility. Community based research provides faculty an opportunity to engage with the surrounding community in meaningful ways. Panelists will demonstrate what benefits to both HWS and the community can arise from such partnerships. The panel will also discuss the nuts and bolts of engaged work- how they have organized and approached projects that include community involvement. Finally, they will reflect on their experiences regarding outcomes, successes, and challenges of partnering with community organizations in research.

May 5       Liliana Leopardi (Art and Architecture)

Collecting Magic: Greco Roman Gems in the Early Modern Period

Abstract: Collecting antique gems and cameos was a passion shared by a number of elite class patrons in the fifteenth- and sixteenth-century. Cyriacus of Ancona, Niccolo Niccoli, Cardinal Pietro Barbo, who became pope Paul II in 1464, Lorenzo dei Medici, and Cesare Borgia, also known as Il Valentino, are only a few of a great number of collectors of that period. Such collectors engaged in collecting gems not only because they represented the hallow past, or because they were a sign of wealth and power, but because the gems were believed to have magical power. Plain and engraved gems were not seen as inert matter that could be categorized, classified and disposed of, rather as living entities in direct relationship with man and most importantly in direct relationship with those occult energies that pervaded the universe. A psychoanalytic approach allows us to see such objects as talismans and fetishes used to navigate social transformations and anxieties: a transitional object used to mediate the relationship of the Self (unmediated experience of body and mind) to the Other (external world). This analysis will evidence the period’s concerns and fears that body and mind could be transformed by images as matter was transformed by the divine energies it absorbed. Furthermore, it will conceptualize the use of such magic objects as engraved rings – a category often dismissed in the art historical literature as a mere curiosity - as an early modern’s attempt to provide a path to psychological integrity for a Self that was understood not as an autonomous and self-contained entity but as porous and fragmented.


Nick Metz ( Yan Hao (


Fall 2016

Spring 2016


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