Fall 2022 Schedule

AUG 26     John Halfman (Environmental studies)

Student Researchers. It takes an army to get things done.

Halfman has worked with over 100 students since coming to HWS to gather and analyze data from the Finger Lakes with a focus on Seneca and Owasco Lakes. Most of these independent study, honors or summer research students have presented at local and national conferences (182 abstracts), and many were co-authors on various reports (53) and/or peer-reviewed (35) manuscripts. Most have gone on to great careers. This list excludes the number of students he’s taught in various classes where the class “lab” had specific educational merit and but also maintained critical long-term water quality datasets, and presentations he made to watershed, environmental, water quality and other groups in the region. Most of his $5.9 million in research support was from a variety of sources like NSF, EPA, NYS DEC, NYS DOS, Counties, local watershed groups, and national and local foundations (17 awards). Don’t be too impressed; unfortunately, most of the equipment purchased by these awards have outlived their useful lifetimes, or crashed, or were swept away by a flood, or …, and some of the funds supported the development of the Finger Lakes Institute. He’s most thankful to the Provost’s Office who, e.g., has supported numerous students to work in his lab and eat ice cream during the summer months. This talk will highlight his life at HWS.

SEP 2     Erin Pelkey (Chemistry)

Exploring the synthesis of biologically active heterocycles with an undergraduate-centered research program

Abstract: Our synthetic research program at Hobart and William Smith Colleges has two main goals: (1) developing new methods for the preparation of biologically active heterocycles including aryl-substituted furanones and pyrrolinones; and (2) cultivation of an active undergraduate-centered research program where undergraduates make key intellectual contributions that help push the program forward.   The latter goal is not straightforward and takes a lot of effort to be fully realized and sustained.  Our key finding is that undergraduate engagement requires both longevity of effort and peer continuity.  The combination of longevity and peer-to-peer mentoring provides a framework to support the professional development of students from novice beginner to independent chemist.

Sep 9     Charity Lofthouse (MUsic)

Dreams Realized: Expression and Polystylism in the Art Song Settings of Langston Hughes’s “Dream Variation” by Florence Price and Margaret Bonds

Abstract: This paper explores the long-neglected works of two American composers, Florence Price (1887–1953) and her student Margaret Bonds (1913–1972), through analysis of their settings of a poem by Langston Hughes (1902–1967). Both composers completed advanced degrees and had prolific careers in performance and composition despite facing numerous race- and gender-based social barriers. Crossing paths with many notable artists, writers, and musicians of the Harlem Renaissance and later the Chicago Renaissance, both knew Langston Hughes personally and corresponded with him regularly about their art song settings of his poetry.

Price and Bonds actively incorporated African-American musical idioms into their late-Romantic palette, resulting in distinctive expressions of polystylism in these settings: poetic imagery of day/night and white/black is represented via tonal juxtaposition in Price’s setting, eventually switching roles and symbolizing hope as the protagonist seeks acceptance within white society. Bonds employs polytonality to express a sense of longing for a dream deferred, leaving a melodic dissonance gloriously unresolved at the work’s end. Positioning these two songs side-by-side invites a closer examination of the musical connections between Price and Bonds and provides rich examples of their musical innovations.

SEP 16        Chris Fietkiewicz (Mathematics & Computer Science)

Using Robotics to Study Brain-Body Functionality

Abstract: Neuroscientists use computer models to study how the brain and body function together. Neural simulations can even be connected to living humans and animals to test hypotheses from the models. The use of robots has emerged as an alternative to the use of living organisms for such experiments, due to certain advantages. Neural control of robotic devices is also an active field of study in other applications, such as artificial intelligence and robotic prosthetics for patients with paralysis and amputation. This talk discusses how combining neural simulations with robotics can advance the field of neuroscience. A new research project is described which involves HWS students from the Joint Engineering Degree program, as well as the newly formed HWS Robotics Club.

Sep 23        Matt Crow (History)

Canons: Justice and the Good

Abstract: This talk will briefly introduce a developing idea of the curricular grant-funded program Canons, proposed with colleagues from History, Politics, Economics, Religious Studies, Sociology, and eventually, we hope, all around campus. The initial goal is to develop bi-disciplinary courses that immerse students and faculty in core, transformative primary texts around a given theme or concept. We use and interrogate the idea of canons advisedly, critically, and we insist on its plurality. The broader goal is to create a curricular program that would lead to a certificate in the liberal arts attached to a student’s undergraduate and/or graduate degree, with courses spanning a student’s time at the Colleges and capped off in the final year by something like an S-SEM, where students reflect on their journey through the curriculum. There is an opportunity to apply for external grants and we know the idea has strong support among alums and trustees, so other possible goals in support of the program include a website and podcast, post-doc positions, and a center. The over-arching idea of Justice and the Good allows students and faculty alike to ask fundamental questions about meaning in a world where many are looking for more of it. We think that this program can reinvigorate the liberal arts mission of the institution at all levels and across disciplines. We think that it can be a boost to recruitment and retention efforts, and just as importantly, we think it can foster an intellectual culture that resists cynicism and despair.

Sep 30        Alden Gassert (IRP)

An introduction to our first-years

Abstract: Each year, our new incoming students take an entry survey to share information about themselves, why they came to HWS, their interests, and their aspirations.  I will share some data and observations about our two most recent incoming classes and provide some comparisons to peer institutions.

Oct 7      Zaina Dali (Asian Studies)

Linguistic Human Rights Education in Secondary Moroccan School System

Abstract: Several social and political conflicts are deeply rooted in language issues, especially in multilingual societies. Language policy related issues have been a significant driving factor in numerous cases of political conflict and social injustices throughout history. Although multilingualism has numerous benefits, it often results in social and political conflicts. The most widely spread of these is linguicism. The inability to promote multilingualism, especially in education, stands in the way of respecting linguistic diversity and achieving language tolerance. Morocco is a multilingual country that suffers from linguicism. This research investigated the issue of linguicism in the Moroccan secondary education system and it attained three main objectives. The first objective was to identify the causes of linguicism in Moroccan schools on a social level. The second objective investigated the effects of linguicism on secondary schools’ students. The third objective aimed at suggesting practical educational procedures that can be integrated into Moroccan schools to eliminate or reduce linguicism, enhance language tolerance and promote linguistic human rights.

Oct 14      Beth Belanger (American Studies)

Mapping Working Class Women’s Activism: Interdisciplinary Methodology at Work

Abstract: In this presentation, I demonstrate the methods I used to uncover the histories of seven black working-class women who sued St. Louis’s street car companies during Reconstruction.  Blending the tools of micro-history with historical Geographical Information Systems (GIS) and theories from international relations and data science allowed me to chart the social and spatial networks between black working-class women and black middle-class civil rights leaders.  Mapping these ties revealed the links between everyday acts of resistance and organized efforts of African Americans to carve out a space for themselves in the restructuring city and made visible a collective activism that crossed class and racial boundaries.

Oct 21       Jon Forde (Mathematics & Computer Science)

Data Analytics at HWS

Abstract: Over the past couple of years, group of faculty from across departments and divisions have worked to develop and implement a new minor in Data Analytics. The first course in the minor is being offered this semester. This presentation address the design, intended audience and educational goal of the minor. We will also discuss what it means to interpret and communicate with data in a liberals arts setting, and how the minor might differ from what one first thinks on hearing “data analytics.”

Oct 28      Chetan Cetty (Philosophy)

Social Media, Smoking and Use-reduction

Abstract:It is generally agreed that social media use has deleterious effects on our mental health. Experts suggest that it has made us sadder, lonelier, more anxious, and less satisfied than we were before its advent. This is particularly true for those who grew up using it. Studies have shown that social media use activates our brains in much the same way that narcotics do. Its effects on teenage girls have been widely reported. Similarly, social media use has been cited as a major reason for the erosion of democracy and the rise of populism globally. Seen initially as something that gave voice to ordinary citizens, it is now viewed as being the source of misinformation, distrust and division.

How should we combat the problems posed by social-media use? Two approaches are popular today: harm-reduction and abolition. Many states have imposed regulations limiting certain forms of speech and online activity on social media sites. Relatedly, many social media companies like Facebook and Twitter regulate their own users, forbidding hateful and misleading content. A more extreme variant of this is outright prohibition. For instance, countries like China, India, and Iran have banned at least one major social media platform, ostensibly to prevent the spread of dangerous falsehoods. While harm-reduction and abolition might have seemed promising initially, neither have been particularly successful for two main reasons: (1) the ease of access to social media platforms, and (2) the addictiveness of social media use. Internet users can easily circumvent state-imposed lockdowns of social media sites, and even content banned by social media companies can spread on other platforms. Meanwhile, given social media’s addictiveness, policing harmful content is an uphill battle.

In this talk, I argue that a more promising approach to addressing the harmful effects of social media use is use-reduction. State governments and public health agencies should launch nationwide campaigns that aim at two things: (1) informing the public about the dangers of social media use, and (2) persuading them to limit their use of these platforms. To achieve these aims, I propose that we apply lessons learnt from public education campaigns run on smoking. Many countries launched anti-smoking campaigns that while initially slow, later proved highly successful at curbing tobacco-use. Today, not only is smoking cigarettes no longer associated with being “cool”, its use is viewed negatively in large part due to those campaigns. Similarly, I argue that such campaigns can be used to develop robust social norms that repudiate both heavy social media use and lifestyles built around such use. In particular, I appeal to Cristina Bicchieri’s idea of “trendsetters” to show how such healthy social norms could be developed. According to Bicchieri, since norm change has the structure of a collective-action problem, what we need is a first-mover who has sufficient social influence and is willing to risk breaking existing norms in order to create new ones. I explain how influential public figures can help promote healthy internet use in order to facilitate use-reduction.

NoV 4        Robinson Murphy (Environmental studies)

"Beasts of the Southern Wild: A 10-Year Retrospective"

Abstract: Beasts of the Southern Wild: A 10-Year Retrospective” tracks the many critics who argue for the film’s conservatism and proclivity to romanticizing, and insists that such critics undermine the progressive politics they purport to uphold by overinvesting in the normative domestic unit. Instead of romanticizing bourgeois suburbia as the relational model Hushpuppy and her fellow Bathtub inhabitants should aspire to, this project readsBeasts of the Southern Wild as a queer text that propounds an ecofeminist politics. This project moreover makes use of recent developments in critical race studies—namely, Tiffany Lethabo King’s The Black Shoals (2019), Jayna Brown’s Black Utopias (2021), as well as a consideration of Beasts of the Southern Wild as an Afrofuturist text—in order to demonstrate that the film does, in fact, speed a decolonial politics. Against the orthodox critical position, this project thus argues that Hushpuppy and her trans-generational, trans-species, multiracial, non-normatively female-led kinship unit posits an actionable critique of white heteropatriarchy.

NoV 11        Brad Cosentino (Biology)


Abstract: TBA

NoV 18        Jack Harris (Sociology)


Abstract: TBA

Dec 2        TBA


Abstract: TBA