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College of Arts and Sciences seabertson

Dr. Universe: What’s the best story ever made?

Dr. Universe: a cat in a lab coatHumans have been telling stories for thousands of years. At first, they told these stories out loud, then they started to write.

There are more than a hundred million published books on our planet now and to find out which one is best, I visited my friend Matthew Jockers. He’s a professor at Washington State University who combines his love of stories with computer science to research what makes some books bestsellers. » More …

Unlocking secrets of the ice worm

A close up shot of a human finger with mud and sand covering the tip. In the mud is a tiny black worm.The ice worm is one of the largest organisms that spends its entire life in ice and Washington State University scientist Scott Hotaling is one of the only people on the planet studying it.

He is the author of a new paper that shows ice worms in the interior of British Columbia have evolved into what may be a genetically distinct species from Alaskan ice worms. » More …

Dr. Universe: Why do people litter?

Dr. UniverseThere is a lot of litter on our planet, but it hasn’t always been that way. For most of human history, people made stuff out of things they found in nature. They might make tools out of rocks or sticks. These things break down and become part of the soil again.

It wasn’t until the invention of new materials, like plastic, that we started creating more litter. In fact, along with the rise of these new materials came the word “litterbug.”

That’s what I found out from my friend Erik Johnson. He’s a WSU sociologist who is really curious about culture, the ways people interact and live together, and » More …

Passion for service leads to faculty development role

Melanie NeuillyAssociate Professor Melanie Neuilly knows a thing or two about managing personal and professional challenges.

When she landed a WSU seed grant that would fund a summer of research in Nice, France, she dreamed of an enriching research experience by day, romantic dinners on café terraces, and strolls on Mediterranean beaches by night. But once she began her research project, reality set in. » More …

Dr. Universe: Why do we dance?

Dr. UniverseIf we traveled around the world, we would see all kinds of dancers. We might see classical ballerinas in Russia. We might see break dancers performing on the streets of New York. We might even see tango dancers in Argentina.

While the exact reasons we dance remain a mystery, there are a few theories about it.

That’s what I found out from my friend Ed Hagen, an anthropologist at WSU who has researched the roots of dance. » More …

Leading WSU UCORE general education program

Clif StrattonHistory professor Clif Stratton has been named the new director of WSU’s University Common Requirements Program, known as UCORE.

“It’s a great honor to lead UCORE,” Stratton said. “It is central to the mission of the university. It touches virtually every student on every campus, regardless of their major, from their first-year through capstone courses.

“UCORE meets students’ academic needs by advancing knowledge, understanding, and skill development. It helps them make connections across disciplines. In many ways, UCORE provides a foundation » More …

A point of reference

A waterway at Meyer's Point“There are oysters out there,” says Ed Bassett, “and they are good.”

Out there are the mudflats of Henderson Inlet where a thriving community shellfish garden supplies delicacies for neighborhood parties and celebrations. Bassett (’89 Ed.) is standing in the eelgrass on the shoreline of WSU’s Meyer’s Point Environmental Field Station. He’s a science teacher at nearby Olympia High School (OHS), and he, his students in the OHS Earth Corps, and Meyer’s Point facilities manager Chuck Cody (’84 MS Hort.) have been planting native trees here since » 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 …

Book review: Baseball in a Grain of Sand

A baseball player holding a bat casts a shadow across the orange gravel of the playfield.Baseball, writes Bill Gruber (’79 PhD English), evokes a literary state of mind. Now an English professor at Emory University, he explains that the suspense, narrative, soaring victories, and crushing tragedies of stories also appear in baseball, perhaps more than any other sport.

In Baseball in a Grain of Sand, Gruber explores baseball history and drama through one summer season of an American Legion team in Moscow, Idaho, the Blue Devils. Along the way, he meets and introduces fascinating people, many of whom share Gruber’s unabashed sentimentality for the sport. » More …

Examining churches’ role in fighting poverty

Book coverA new book by a WSU Tri‑Cities associate professor of history examines the complex relationship between religion, race, and government‑led antipoverty initiatives, and how this complex dynamic resonates in today’s political situation.

In his book, titled Fighting to Preserve a Nation’s Soul: America’s Ecumenical War on Poverty, Robert Bauman explores organized religion’s role in the struggle against poverty and its impact on social movements, the on‑going “War on Poverty” (initiated by President Lynden Johnson in 1964), and the power balance between church and state. » More …