From Thoreau’s cabin to Wharton’s mansions to Dreiser’s skyscrapers and Ann Petry’s streets, American literature brims with vivid depictions of built environments that strongly influence individual lives, communities, and culture.
Exploring these stories to understand ways architectural elements can shape daily life and society is at the heart of a new certificate program being developed by an interdisciplinary team of WSU faculty in architecture, engineering, and the humanities. Creation of the five-course series is funded by a recent curriculum innovation grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH).
Dwelling in American Literature: An Experiential Program for Architects and Engineers “intends to bridge a significant disciplinary gap between engineering and the humanities for students and faculty at WSU and beyond,” said program co-developers Donna Campbell, professor of English, and Ayad Rahmani, professor of architecture in the School of Design and Construction.
Such transdisciplinary approaches to undergraduate education are vital to produce engineers and architects with a new level of innovation and social responsibility as well as humanists with a new appreciation for the tangible products of the world around them, the professors said.
Empire of Ice and Stone: The Disastrous and Heroic Voyage of the Karluk, by Buddy Levy, WSU professor of English tells the terrifying story of a 1913 expedition gone wrong.
In 1913, the Karluk, flagship of the Canadian Arctic Expedition, became trapped in the Arctic ice. Over months of constant darkness, the old ship drifted away from land, carrying a party of explorers, engineers and Inuit hunters toward near-certain death. With every mile, the ice squeezed harder. And the walls of the ship began to crack.
“She creaked and groaned and, once or twice actually sobbed as the water oozed through her seams,” wrote the Karluk’s captain, Robert Bartlett. “There is nothing more human than a ship in ice pressure.”
Buddy Levy’s Empire of Ice and Stone tells the story of the Karluk, the ice and the 25 people who were trapped between them. It is a sickening, terrifying tale, told in book form more than once before — a testament to the idiotic optimism with which white men first blundered across the Arctic and the sacrifices required to bring them home. Through it twists a single question: How do you prepare for hell?
Lessons from the short-lived Next Generation Humanities Ph.D. program.
In 2016, Todd Butler, an English professor at Washington State University, joined a committee charged with exploring changes in graduate education. At first, the group’s planning sessions felt typical: the slow consensus-building, the circling conversations. But then something shifted. “Two months into our planning process, the dean of the grad school said to all of us who were assembled there, ‘Are we just going to talk about doing something, or are we going to do it?’” Butler perked up: “I was not interested in writing another internal white paper that would get read, be appreciated, and stall out somewhere.” He saw the work as vitally important — an opportunity not just to improve graduate education but to articulate the importance of the humanities to a rural, land-grant university like Washington State.
Butler and his colleagues had received a grant from National Endowment for the Humanities under a new grant program called the Next Generation Humanities Ph.D. Begun in 2015, its mandate was broad, offering funds for graduate institutions to rethink doctoral education in the humanities. The goal was to focus on what the NEH delicately called “disparities between graduate-student expectations for a career in academe and eventual career outcomes,” and to further the role of the humanities in public life. Colleges could apply for either a planning grant, with the NEH matching an institutional commitment of up to $25,000, or an implementation grant of $350,000, to further efforts already under way. In 2016, the NEH awarded an initial round of grants: 25 planning grants and three implementation grants. Grantees planned to study a host of possible changes in doctoral education: practicum internships, curricular reform, professionalization, changes in academic advising and mentoring, and even new dissertation formats.
And then, in 2017, the program was quietly canceled. What went wrong?
The internet has played an outsized and very visible role in the massive political and social gains of transgender people over the past two decades. But while it’s easy to point to modern-day social media and smartphones as instrumental tools for the trans community, trans people have actually been utilizing the internet to connect, learn, and organize since the 1980s.
Dr. Avery Dame-Griff, PhD, is a lecturer in Women’s and Gender Studies and assistant professor of Digital Technology and Culture at Washington State University. He’s also the founder and primary curator of the Queer Digital History Project, an independent project tracking queer* digital culture from the 1980s to the 2010s. His forthcoming book focuses on the relationship between the “two revolutions” of the transgender political revolution and the computer revolution.
Dr. Dame-Griff’s research and archival work digs extensively into the earliest communities of trans people online: BBS or the “Bulletin Board System.” The BBS was a precursor to the modern world wide web and social media. Launched in the late 1970s by computer hobbyists, BBSs allowed users to dial a number through their modem and access an online, text-only “bulletin board” where users could post messages. By the mid-to-late 1980s, as the technology needed to access BBSs became more affordable and accessible, BBS groups focusing on niche interests — including transgender communities — were popping up across the US and, soon, the world.
These early online trans communities were secretive and ephemeral by necessity, Dr. Dame-Griff tells Avast. Trans women in the 1980s were likely to be presenting publicly as men, oftentimes with wives and families, and exposure could result in them losing everything — their jobs, their families, and even their lives. Some lived as “crossdressers,” allowing themselves to dress in women’s clothing at home (maybe with their spouses) but rarely, if ever, in public.
Washington State University math major Annie Lu and alumna and staff member Amethyst Freibott have received Fulbright awards to research and teach, respectively, in Hungary, the Distinguished Scholarships Program said.
“Both Annie and Amethyst have detailed plans for their Fulbright experiences that start this fall, and they will be excellent ambassadors in Hungary for both WSU and the U.S.,” said April Seehafer, DSP director.
“I am flooded with gratitude to have Fulbright support me in this opportunity to do something I love so much,” said Freibott, who received a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant (ETA) award. She works from Boise as assistant director for the top scholars initiative in the Office of Admissions.
“I’m excited to receive the Fulbright U.S. Student award to study and research abroad,” said Lu. “It’s very rewarding to have years of hard work pay off in this way. I’m lucky to get this opportunity and have a platform to show my work and contribute more.” Lu conducts research into computational mathematical biology with mentor Nikos Voulgarakis.