Friday Faculty Lunch

Fall 2021 Schedule

Sept 10     Leah Himmelhoch (Classics)

The Hoplite Shield, Spear, and Ancient Greek Combat: A Black Belt’s Perspective

Abstract: Seldom has any one artifact had as much riding upon our understanding of its origins and use as the double-grip shield (aspis) of the archaic Greek heavy infantryman (hoplite). This is because, strange as it may seem, the aspis is key to an on-going debate about democracy’s origins. For a century-and-a-half, many scholars have argued that the aspis’s introduction revolutionized early archaic combat tactics, thereby catalyzing the rise of the polis and, eventually, democracy. Still others, however, deny that the aspis either radically transformed archaic warfare or jump-started polis culture. Both arguments depend upon reconstructions of the aspis’s use in combat; yet very few of those making the arguments have actually handled a reconstructed aspis. Likewise, very few of them have any practical experience with pre-modern weaponry. But if so, how can they be sure their claims about the aspis are even possible, let alone evidence for or against revolutionary cultural change?

To be fair, most people nowadays have neither access to nor practical experience with early weapons. But I do: I have a black-belt in a traditional Asian combat art that is more than a thousand years old and that traces its practice back another thousand years. True, Asia and the Eastern Mediterranean are geographically and culturally distinct, but my martial art’s combat techniques are verifiably universal. In fact, the differences between Asian and so-called “European” combat techniques tend to be exaggerated, thanks to Orientalism. But the constants of human anatomy and the laws of physics circumscribe all weapons combat. My conclusions, then, are not skewed by culturally incompatible logics.

In this talk, I will first review the previous arguments concerning hoplite combat and its cultural impact. I will then report what the design of the aspis and spear suggests to me about their possible use and investigate whether my reconstructions are supported by our extant archaeological evidence. Finally, I will quickly discuss what my observations suggest about archaic hoplite combat and its cultural impact.

Sept 17     Emily Fisher (Psychological Sciences) and Nan Crystal Arens (Geoscience)

Does a good professor in the classroom matter? Relaxing motivated reasoning around climate change

Abstract: One threat to scientific literacy is motivated reasoning: an individual’s tendency to dismiss or ignore some observations because they conflict with group beliefs or one’s psychological needs. Opinions and knowledge about highly politicized topics like climate change and evolution correlate with political affiliation and individual cognitive preferences such as belief in a just world, authoritarianism (support for traditional authorities), and need for closure. We ask whether motivated reasoning about climate change diminishes during a 14-week college-level geoscience course. We further ask whether being in-person is important to the effect. We use a quasi-experimental design that compared three groups of students: in-person classes focused on climate change (N = 134, taught 2016-17), similar in-person science classes that did not address climate change (N = 94, taught 2016-17), and hybrid versions of the climate change course (N = 114, taught 2020-21). Before and after their courses, students completed surveys that assessed cognitive preferences, political affiliation, general science and climate change knowledge, and opinions on anthropogenic climate change. Students in the 2016-17 in-person classes showed clear tendencies toward motivated reasoning at the beginning of the class revealed as significant correlations (p < 0.05) between climate change knowledge/opinions and cognitive preferences. At the end of these classes, evidence of motivated reasoning diminished, irrespective of the topic of the course. We then used pandemic-induced changes in course modality to ask whether the same material presented in a largely asynchronous, online course would produce the same results. Some declines in motivated reasoning were observed but they were modest compared to those for the in-person courses. However, we observed less motivated reasoning at the beginning of the 2020-21 courses, which complicates interpretation. These data demonstrate that a semester-long course can significantly reduce motivated reasoning around climate change. However, a skilled Professor in the classroom appears key to this effect.

Sept 24     Walter Bowyer (Chemistry)

Old Art Meets New Chemistry; Collaborative Teaching

Abstract: Liliana Leopardi and Walter Bowyer have long been interested in the overlap between art and science and occasionally even talked about it together. In 2018, we applied and were accepted to Yale University’s one-week “Summer Teaching Institute for Technical Art History.” STITAH greatly catalyzed our collaborative teaching and research, including a first year seminar taught by Liliana (assisted by Walter) in fall 2019. In this presentation, we describe the first year seminar as well as other projects that have resulted in the three years since STITAH. The paper will be presented by Walter.

Oct 1         Sooyoung Lee (Economics)

Productivity Gap and Organization of Managers

Abstract: Using a unique matched parent-affiliate FDI dataset from South Korea, we study the gap between a firm’s productivity and the competitor’s productivity as a determinant of hiring local versus expatriate managers in the foreign subsidiaries of multinational firms. We introduce a two-period Cournot model where expatriate managers are relatively more reliable and expensive while local managers are prone to job-hopping. The model shows that the cost of job-hopping increases with the productivity gap. Therefore, as the productivity gap between foreign subsidiaries increases, hiring an expatriate manager is more profitable. The empirical estimation, which controls for the characteristics of parent firms, confirms the negative relationship between the industry-level productivity dispersion and the affiliate-level local manager share. In line with the OLI framework of John Dunning, our paper reveals that the internalization motive of multinational firms to protect knowledge reaches beyond the choice of firm boundaries (FDI versus licensing) to the choice of hiring managers (expatriate versus local).

Oct 8         Sarah Kirk (Provost and Dean of Faculty)

Reducing Barriers in STEM Fields: Progress and Results From an NSF S-STEM at Willamette University

Abstract: While Willamette University’s increasingly-diverse students bring a valuable breadth of experiences to the classroom, they also face unique barriers to persistence and graduation. With support of NSF S-STEM grant funds, we implemented a number of high-impact educational practices that have been found to promote student persistence and success, overall, but particularly for students from historically underrepresented backgrounds. I will present the program development, implementation, and early results following the first three years of a five-year program.

Oct 15       Graham Goodman (Biology)

Scratching the surface of host defense: Itching for evolutionary answers

Abstract: Understanding how organisms interact with each other and their environments is a central goal of biologists. Many of the most intimate interactions found in nature occur between parasites and their hosts. Indeed, nearly all living organisms are associated with parasitism in some capacity, either as hosts or as parasites, or both. Parasites strongly affect the evolutionary biology, ecology, and behavior of the organisms they infect, with the ability to castrate their hosts, reduce the host’s condition, repel potential mates, and directly cause mortality.

Hosts are not defenseless, however, and have evolved a wide range of behavioral, morphological, and immune responses to reduce their parasitic burdens. Behavior is the first line of defense when it comes to parasites and pathogens. In this talk, I explore the role of allopreening (when one bird preens another) and scratching for controlling the ectoparasites of birds.

Oct 22       Karis Jones (Education)


Abstract: TBA

Oct 29       Jon Forde (Mathematics)

Math in the Time of Corona

Abstract: The emergence of COVID-19 in late 2019 and its subsequent growth into a global pandemic gave us all an uncomfortable first-hand experience of the messiness and uncertainty of developing science. It also led to a cottage industry in armchair epidemiology and a vast sea of contradictory opinions. Mathematical models provide a tool for cutting through some of that confusion, though models also have their limits. I will present the results of several mathematical models of COVID-19 epidemiology, testing, and vaccination that I have created over the past year, and discuss some of the challenges of modeling when the current state of knowledge is rapidly evolving.

Nov 5        James Sutton (Sociology)

Surviving Homicide: No Justice, No Peace

Abstract: Survivors of homicide, who are sometimes alternatively referred to as co-victims, invisible victims, secondary victims, and hidden victims, are the family members, friends, and significant others of those who are murdered. This project examines their experiences. Drawing from 29 in-depth qualitative interviews that I have conducted with homicide survivors over the past 4 months, I will provide you with insights into the unbearable pain and other unique challenges that this ignored population is forced to contend with.

While homicide is a common source of fascination and entertainment, it is absolutely devastating for those who experience it firsthand. The survivors that I have spoken with do not believe that they have received justice, and whether the homicide happened 2 months or 40+ years ago, they do not have “closure” and have not lived in peace. I will tell you why on Friday.

With an average time of 2 hours and 38 minutes, my conversations with survivors have been lengthy and comprehensive. A sample of themes that we have discussed in depth includes survivors’ experiences with grief, their difficulties with social interactions and relationships, their struggles with identity, their bereavement over time, their search for answers and meaning, their experiences with the justice system, their perceptions of justice, and their views on the death penalty and other punishments. Interlaced within these conversations have been retellings of difficult moments, including receiving death notifications, witnessing the violent death of a loved one, and facing a loved one’s murderer in court. Suffice it to say, the themes that I will cover on Friday will likely be difficult for many to listen to, which is unavoidable and necessary when giving voice to the experiences of homicide survivors.

Nov 12      Kevin Dunn (Political Science)

School of Global Studies Proposal: a history and overview

Abstract: I will be discussing the development of the School of Global Studies proposal, from its inception to the comparative research on other schools to its current iteration. This umbrella institution seeks to bring together global languages, regional area studies, Anthropology and International Relations at HWS to improve administrative and curricular efficiencies, resulting inbetter coordination among our constituent departments and programs; ranging from the alignment of existing majors with school-level cohort courses to coordination in course scheduling and event planning. The School seeks to build upon on the many well-established strengths of HWS, from its historic dedication to interdisciplinarity and collaboration to its award-winning CGE, to make HWS a more distinctive institution.

Nov 19      Nick Metz (Geoscience)

Rivers in the Sky: A Climatology of Atmospheric Rivers over the Northeast U.S.

Abstract: Atmospheric rivers are long, narrow streams of water vapor in the atmosphere that are associated with large-scale mid-latitude regions of disturbed weather. These have been studied extensively along the west-coast of the United States and are responsible for much of their wintertime precipitation and many types of high-impact weather events in this region. This study is the first to provide a comprehensive examination of these atmospheric rivers in the northeast and was a collaboration with six summer research students. This presentation will reveal the ubiquity of these atmospheric rivers in the northeast and their relationship to precipitation, snowfall, weather warnings, and streamflow.

Dec 3        TBA


Abstract: TBA