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Enhancing research, creative activity in the arts and humanities

Eleven of Washington State University’s most innovative scholars and artists have been selected for faculty fellowships and mini-grants from the Center for Arts and Humanities (CAH) and the Office of Research.

Todd Butler.

“We are excited to support faculty as they advance not only their academic fields but also the communities we serve,” said Todd Butler, director of the center, associate dean in the College of Arts and Sciences, and professor of English.

Funded by a five-year commitment from the Office of Research and its strategic research investment program, the center’s grant programs strengthen and enhance research and creative endeavors across WSU. Any faculty member pursuing arts and humanities-related work, regardless of rank or home department, is eligible to apply.

“This year, almost all of the arts and humanities departments—as well as associated faculty working in the social sciences—were represented in the proposals submitted, testifying to the ongoing vitality and reach of these disciplines at Washington State University,” said Butler.

Reflecting upon her CAH experience, School of Music instructor and 2019 faculty fellow Melissa Parkhurst said, “The CAH Faculty Fellowship put me in regular communication with a group of dedicated interdisciplinary scholars. I gained a vital support network, valuable feedback, and ideas for future projects.”

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WSU Insider

Opinion: Improving conditions of race and poverty require proactive policies

By Mark Mansperger, associate professor of anthropology and world civilizations, WSU Tri-Cities
There doesn’t need to be as much strife and poverty as exists in contemporary America. In some nations, such as New Zealand, city residents will not understand a question about avoiding the “bad part of town,” for they have no such areas.

Mark Mansperger.

Economic inequality in the U.S. has soared over the past 45 years. What sense does it make to fault people for being poor while at the same time supporting policies that transfer increasing amounts of wealth to the richest Americans? Governmental policies need to structure a more equitable social environment and encourage more generosity among the aristocracy.

Our approach for too long has been to use the police to hunt down those who don’t behave lawfully, to ignore racial inequities, and to blame people for their own impoverishment, without realistically evaluating the underlying causes. Providing good schools, jobs, and addressing the issue of rising economic inequality can vastly improve matters. There’s plenty of wealth in America, among high-income individuals and corporations, to attain the same beneficial social results that citizens in other countries achieve.

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Tri-City Herald

New collaborative to study impact of COVID‑19 on moms, babies

Having a baby is a life-changing event that brings joy, but for many women also comes with stress and anxiety. The restrictions and uncertainties associated with the current COVID‑19 pandemic are undoubtedly adding to those fears and worries, so more than a dozen WSU researchers recently joined forces to form the WSU COVID‑19 Infant, Maternal, and Family Health Research Collaborative.

Courtney Meehan.

“We are exploring how maternal COVID‑19 infection is related to overall breastmilk composition and infant health and wellbeing. Specifically, we are interested in potential protective effects of breastfeeding during this time,” said WSU lead investigator Courtney Meehan, an associate professor of anthropology and associate dean of research and graduate studies in the WSU College of Arts and Sciences. “It is essential that we get this information quickly and accurately so we can better inform the public, as well as those who create policy,” she said, pointing to the varying recommendations that are currently being put forward by agencies such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, World Health Organization, and UNICEF.

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WSU Insider


2020 Excellence in Online Teaching Award winner announced

Jack McNassar.

Jack McNassar, a Washington State University Global Campus anthropology instructor, is the winner of the 2019-20 Excellence in Online Teaching Award. The student-nominated annual award is sponsored by Academic Outreach & Innovation.

The award, now in its fourth year, seeks to acknowledge and reward WSU faculty members teaching on Global Campus who employ best practices to engage, inspire, support, and show care for students in an online environment. He will receive $3,000 in faculty development funds and a trophy in recognition of his win.

“Professor McNassar continually inspired me and the other students in the course,” said one of his nominators. “He is open for questions, and he always responds in such a kind and caring way … his encouraging words made everyone want to be a better student and do their best work.”

McNassar earned his doctorate in anthropology from WSU in 2016 and has been teaching online through WSU Global Campus for five years.

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WSU Insider

Information drove development of early states

Who could imagine a 21st century without data? Sophisticated information processing is key to the way societies function today. And it turns out it was also critical to the evolution of early states. According to new research led by an SFI team, the ability to store and process information was central to sociopolitical development across civilizations ranging from the Neolithic to the last millennium.

Tim Kohler

“There’s a fundamental relationship between the way in which societies process information and how large they are able to become,” says SFI External Professor Tim Kohler, an archaeologist at Washington State University and an author on a new paper published this month in Nature Communications.

Kohler and his colleagues—a range of SFI resident and external faculty and researchers—dug into what’s called the Seshat Global History Databank, a massive assembly of historical and archaeological information spanning more than 400 societies, 30 regions, and 10,000 years of human history.

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WSU Insider