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 Office of Academic and Faculty Affairs.

Spring 2020 Schedule

Jan 24     Jen Biermann (Mathematics)

Map coloring, graphs and polynomials

Abstract: A classic problem in mathematics (dating from the mid-1800's) asks what is the minimum number of colors needed to color a map. I will discuss the history of this problem and how we can solve questions of colorability using the tools of algebra. (Spoiler: the answer is four).

Jan 31     Don Spector (Physics)

Schrödinger's Zebra and the Structure of Space: Adventures in Information and Complexity

Abstract: Combining the mathematical theory of information and complexity with fundamental questions in physics leads to unexpected insights into the foundations of physics. Related mathematical issues also provide something much more concrete, a technique for creating halftoned images. This talk will introduce the mathematical notions of information and complexity, and explain the above-mentioned results and their significance.

Feb 7       Rebecca Burditt (Media and Society)

Rebellious Laughter: Gag Reels and the Hollywood Buddy Comedy

Abstract: This paper explores the function of gag reels in contemporary Hollywood cinema. Gag reels (or outtakes, or blooper reels) are well known for their unique visual aesthetic and celebration of failure. I argue that these qualities act as important points of resistance to the conservative ideologies offered by many mainstream film narratives, especially "buddy comedies" (examples: Lethal Weapon, The Heat, Rush Hour). In this talk, I will first discuss the relationship between the gag reel and the physical "gags" of silent slapstick film, paying special attention to how both provide a space for non-narrative resistance. I will then briefly discuss the 2015 buddy comedy Hot Pursuit and how its gag reel complicates the (problematic) message of the main feature.

Feb 14     Kirin Makker (American Studies), Finn (Clare) Naylor '20, and                Elisabeth Rowedder '20

Who Do You Know Here? A project about social capital among students on the HWS campus

Abstract: Who Do You Know Here? is a student led project looking to address and analyze the role and various effects of social power experienced on the Hobart and William Smith campus. We are hosting a podcast which will document the dialogues held between group members and individuals who are part of groups we have identified as having social power. These groups are Greek members and subsets of William Smith students; these are groups who have social space which transforms into having social capital.

As active participants in social life at Hobart and William Smith, we turned to our own experiences to identify these groups and reflect on these spaces. For this reason, we hold these dialogues in the spaces that are powerful to these specific groups, such as fraternity porches or an off-campus houses occupied by William Smith seniors. Just as we held dialogues in the personal spaces these groups occupy, we chose the medium of a podcast as it allows us to now enter the listener's space. As we talk and reflect on the spaces we are in, listeners will reflect on their own space as well.

By holding these conversations, we hope to explore the relationship between social power and space, providing listeners with insight on these groups we focus on. These groups are seen as their own, powerful entities, yet their power seeps into all other student social spheres at Hobart and William Smith. As these dialogues continued, it became evident that the intersectionality of gender and space was significantly more prominent than once believed. Men have always had space on this campus, in addition to the "neutral settings", as they have the option of joining one of the multiple fraternities, giving them a space, but also an identity. Yet women do not have this, and as a result there is a competition that stems due to feeling the pressure to find a space, or attaching to a group of men that have their own. Ultimately, throughout the dialogues it has become evident that factors such as socio-economic status and peers are not the main forces that define perception, as we initially believed. As space is the ultimate catalyst in forming people's perception.

Feb 21     Marlene Pierce (Assistant Debate Coach)

Grab Them by the Pussyhat: A Feminist Exploration of Visual and Verbal Rhetoric

Abstract: In the lead up to the 2016 election, a 2005 video of a conversation between then presidential hopeful Donald Trump and celebrity Billy Bush was leaked to the public. The two were discussing various rendezvous with women when Trump said he could, "Grab them by the pussy. [he] could do anything." This phrase would soon start a movement that would lead to thousands of women taking to the streets with a large majority wearing pink caps dubbed "pussyhats." The paper I will present explores the juxtaposition between symbols of visual rhetoric and verbal rhetoric. First I'll build a feminist theoretical lens through which to view these events before examining the pussyhat as a visual artifact, discussing the use of the word “pussy” as a form of verbal modality of rhetoric, and finally synthesize the relationship between the two with implications for societal construction of symbols.

Feb 28     David Galloway (Russian Area Studies)

let's start with the triple homicide

Abstract: A falling-out in Virginia. Crashing in the Russian hut. The meaning of children. A warning against time machines. Where the outhouse isn't. The perils of sending cards. When you are sent forth without language. A poem not about oysters. One definition of family. A night in the village. What an old report card fails to tell me. The science of excavation. These are cues to the poems I will read to you.

Mar 6       Tom Drennen (Economics)

Why I'm still optimistic we will tackle climate change

Abstract: Given all the news about climate change and the lackluster national and international response to date, it’s easy to get discouraged about the future. Personally, I have been following international negotiations since 1988 and sometimes it seems like we haven't made any progress. And yet, there are a lot of really positive changes that are often overlooked and which, taken together, tell me that there is still hope. Several cities and states have adopted ambitious clean energy targets in just the last couple years. And colleges and universities, including Hobart and William Smith Colleges, are aggressively pushing to reach carbon neutrality within the decade. At the personal level, we now have more options for making sure our carbon footprint is minimized.

Mar 13     David Slade (Chemistry)

Can we exploit peer pressure to improve student motivation?

Abstract: Historical data for a writing assignment based on compound identification showed that 26% of the students were failing to get the ID right. As there was both a first draft and a final draft required for this report, we hoped that a peer review exercise would help students correctly identify the compound. Unfortunately, only 21% of those who had submitted an incorrect ID for the first draft actually fixed it for the final draft. Disappointed with these results, we brainstormed and settled on two key ideas: 1) The peer reviewers needed to reach a conclusion based on the DATA for the report before reading the report... and 2) the peer review should be double-blind. The plan was laid out for the students in great detail in the syllabus - so that they KNEW they'd be judged by peers who had gotten the identification correct. Suddenly, presumably because they were more motivated, mis-identification rates have dropped to 5% and stayed there.

Mar 27     Susan Hess (Center for Teaching and Learning) and Hannah                 Dickinson (Writing and Rhetoric)


Abstract: TBA

Apr 3       Nicholas Metz (Geoscience)


Abstract: TBA

Apr 10      Anna Wager (Visual Arts Curator)


Abstract: TBA

Apr 17      Robin Lewis (Environmental Studies and Sustainable Community                 Development)


Abstract: TBA

Apr 24      Bob Cowles (Music)


Abstract: TBA

Preparing Students to Lead Lives of Consequence.