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Washington State University
College of Arts and Sciences Humanities

Dr. Universe: How do places get their names?

Dr. Universe: a cat in a lab coatOne way a place might get a name is from the person who explored it. The Americas are named after an Italian explorer, Amerigo Vespucci. But Amerigo wasn’t the first person to explore these continents, and people living there when he arrived.

For the most part, people name things because they are claiming possession of a place. Because of that, sometimes the original names of places are lost or erased.

That’s what I found out from my friend Theresa Jordan, a history professor who teaches a geography course at » More …

French Film Festival brings cultural diversity

Sabine Davis.For the tenth year in a row, the Palouse French Film Festival offered students and local community members the opportunity to experience a slice of European culture.

“Some of our films get more toward the history of France, some are more modern and [delve into] culture or today’s French society,” said Sabine Davis, clinical professor of French and co-organizer of the festival. » More …

Fulbright summer award leads WSU sophomore to Wales

Ava Beck Linguistics major and Spokane native Ava Beck will study at Aberystwyth University in Wales for three weeks this summer, thanks to a Fulbright Summer Institute award.

Beck is one of approximately 60 U.S. students selected to undertake academic and cultural programs at any of nine hosting institutions throughout the United Kingdom. At Aberystwyth, Beck will join fellow Americans exploring contemporary issues in identity and nationhood “through the lens of Wales.” She will attend classes in the university’s Dept. of International Politics, explore the city, visit the National Library of Wales, and learn » More …

English professor chronicles Arctic residency adventure

the AntiguaSailing aboard the Antigua, a traditionally rigged tall ship specially outfitted for sailing in the high Arctic,   writer and Regents professor of English Debbie Lee chronicled her experience as a member of the Arctic Circle Artist Residency Program.

One of thirty artists from every part of the world sailing the west coast of Svalbard toward the North Pole while working on individual and collaborative projects, Lee teamed up with a glass sculptor, » More …

Data analysis, text mining drives literary research

outdoor portraitEnglish major Matthew Jockers wasn’t always a computer whiz. The new dean of the WSU College of Arts and Sciences recalls a class in high school in which he struggled to program a mainframe to print out his name. “It was that tricky,” he says.

A love of reading, writing, and literature led him to become a very good coder indeed. Jockers is an expert in R, a programming language he uses to write the pattern-detecting algorithms at the heart of his research. Jockers uses it to analyze texts—lots and lots of text. One wag wrote that Jockers may be the only literature professor to assign 1,200 novels in a single class. » More …

Art for Social Change showcase and winners

Monica Ward plays the piano.The annual Art for Social Change Competition and Showcase shines a light on local artwork that express the significance of social justice, community building and black history. This year, accepted works were featured in a public exhibition in the Fine Arts Gallery 3 and awards presented by co-sponsoring departments across campus.

Students from all campuses were invited to submit creative work in one of four categories: Remembering MLK, Social Justice in » More …

Single mom earning degree while raising her son

Ana BetancourtFor the average college student juggling school, classes and a job can be a difficult feat in itself. WSU Vancouver, however, is not a campus filled with traditional students. It is a commuter campus and sees everything from parents to long-distance commuters attending classes.

Ana Betancourt is a WSU Vancouver junior majoring in sociology and minoring in history. Off campus, her primary job is photography. On campus, » More …

Foreign language study leads to success

Student and instructor printing Chinese characters with ink.Kevin Simeon (’17 Chinese) has traveled to distant continents, made many new friends, and established an international business based around his knowledge of Mandarin Chinese. He attributes his success to enrolling in Chinese 101 at WSU.

It wasn’t until my sophomore year on the Palouse when I decided to take on the daunting challenge of learning Mandarin Chinese. It would later become one of the best decisions of my life. » More …

Undergraduates contribute to academic research

Students holding new Electronic Literature Lab t-shirts.Seven undergraduates worked in Electronic Literature Lab during the fall semester. They ranged from sophomores to graduating seniors, with hard skills in coding, videography, multimedia design, and animation. All of them excellent writers and verbal communicators, and  some of the best problem-solvers I’ve ever worked with. All of them Digital Technology & Culture majors enrolled in the Creative Media & Digital Culture program at WSU Vancouver.

All of them also helped to turn out numerous and very important academic resources for scholars in digital humanities: » More …

WSU undergraduate receives Sigma Xi research grant

Sigma XI logoAnnMarie McCracken, a student at WSU Pullman, has been awarded one of only 17 undergraduate research grants from the international scientific research honor society Sigma Xi  and its Grants‑in‑Aid of Research program.

McCracken is pursuing a double degree and plans to graduate with bachelor’s degrees in anthropology and French. She will receive financial support from the program’s ecology category for » More …