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ADVANCE director focuses on mentoring female, diverse faculty

Jennifer Thigpen.

As the new director of Washington State University’s ADVANCE program, Jennifer Thigpen wants to help provide female and other under-represented faculty members the guidance and mentorship she felt she missed early on in her career.

“There is a certain value to learning by doing, but I also think it shaved years off my life as I moved towards tenure,” said Thigpen, an associate professor in the WSU Department of History who began her new role at the start of the semester. “A little more formal mentoring with someone who could have foreseen the obstacles I would face down the road would have made my path less stressful and anxiety provoking. The opportunity to make the process smoother for others is one of the reasons why I am passionate about the work of the ADVANCE program.”

ADVANCE at WSU was originally founded in 2008 to remove obstacles to recruiting, hiring, retaining, and advancing female faculty members in STEM fields. According to the National Science Foundation, women comprise only 21% of full professors in science fields and 5% of full professors in engineering despite earning about half the doctorates in science and engineering in the nation.

Over the last decade, the ADVANCE program has received more than $1.2 million in NSF-funding and expanded its scope significantly to support both female and under-represented faculty members (regardless of gender) in all fields of study. The program currently provides WSU faculty with support for work/life balance and leadership training opportunities, such as the external mentor program which connects early career professors with off-campus academic leaders.

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WSU Insider

George Washington (didn’t) sleep here: Quoting the founders in the 21st century

It’s fashionable in some circles today to quote America’s founders to justify a modern viewpoint, lend credence to a personal view, or simply trash someone you disagree with.

Ben Franklin’s remark “A republic – if you can keep it” is commonly deployed to criticize political views on the left and the right. Another quote, attributed to Thomas Jefferson, says one reason for people to own personal weapons is to protect themselves from the government. (For the record, Jefferson never said that.) A handful attributed to James Madison warn readers not to trust the federal system he helped create.

The images – typically following a predictable template of a quote superimposed on an oil painting of a colonial leader – seem to imply that the founders’ generation has a final-word opinion or dark warning that fits every issue modern society faces.

Lawrence Hatter.

But that’s the catch, says Washington State University’s Dr. Lawrence Hatter. The quotes you see on social media to justify everything from banning abortions, to anti-government views, to total freedom for firearms, are often taken out of context, and sometimes – as in the Jefferson example — apocryphal.

“If you had a question about what the founders thought about something, which I think is a perfectly legitimate thing,” Hatter said. “Then begin with a question. Don’t begin with a conclusion.”

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Spokane Public Radio

We the People: Stock market crash not sole cause of Great Depression

Today’s question: When did the Great Depression start?

Although the stock market crash of 1929 is commonly blamed for starting the Great Depression – and would count as the correct answer on the Naturalization Test – the worst economic downturn of the 20th century actually began earlier and had more causes than the crash.

Matthew Avery Sutton.

“There was no start date,” said Matthew Sutton, Berry Family Distinguished Professor in the Liberal Arts and History Department chairman at Washington State University.

The crash revealed other problems in the national and international economy that had been developing during the 1920s, said Sutton, who teaches the Great Depression as part of 20th century history. But while the market would lose almost 90% of its value over the next three years – hitting its lowest point 90 years ago last Friday – tying the depression to the crash is a bit of a myth.

For American farmers, the Depression started well before 1929. Prices for farm commodities had increased dramatically during World War I, a result of heavy demand and poor supply of products from Europe during four years of war.

Profits from the war years encouraged farmers to invest in more land and new machinery to work it. They took on more debt, but when the prices went down because of greatly increased supply and lower demand, they had trouble paying off those loans and many lost farms to foreclosure.

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WSU Vancouver historian explores Oregon pioneers’ legacy of violence

Peter Boag.

Washington State University Vancouver historian Peter Boag’s new scholarly book, “Pioneering Death: The Violence of Boyhood in Turn-of-the-Century Oregon,” is a kaleidoscopic study of the whole societal context surrounding a triple murder in Oregon in 1895. It expands outward from standard criminology turf – the murderer’s troubled psychology, health problems, history of bad behavior and possible domestic abuse by his father – to explore the grinding economic depression of the late 1800s and the complex financial and social pressures felt by Willamette Valley farm families.

“So many things are happening at that particular moment. When the murder happens, it seems to tug on all these strands that are connected outward into society and the nation – and the world,” Boag said.

Violence was an essential part of the pioneer and post-pioneer landscape, Boag writes. At the time, the original Oregon Trail pioneers who were starting to die off both celebrated and whitewashed their own long history of violence.

Boag’s scholarship about the American West often focuses on gender, sexuality and culture. A museum exhibit that he developed in partnership with the staff of the Washington State Historical Society, called “Crossing Boundaries: Portraits of a Transgender West,” won an Award of Excellence from the American Association for State and Local History. The exhibit recently closed after a run at the Washington State History Museum in Tacoma.

Boag’s book “Re-Dressing America’s Frontier Past” provided much of the research for the exhibit, which highlighted the stories of specific transgender people in the American West from 1860 to 1940.

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Nine faculty selected to receive seed grants

The WSU Office of Research has awarded nine faculty with 2022 New Faculty Seed Grants.

The grant program provides support for junior faculty to develop research, scholarly, or creative programs that lead to sustained professional development and extramural funding. The program is sponsored by the Office of Research and the Office of the Provost.

Since the New Faculty Seed Grant program began in 2000, junior faculty have submitted 963 proposals to the program. Of these, 279 awards were given with $4.75 million invested in the program. Over the years, seed grant winners have submitted 734 external proposals related to their projects, bringing in over $49.4 million in externally funded awards.

Jacqueline Wilson.
Andra Chastain.
John Blong.

The 2022 New Faculty Seed Grant recipients in the College of Arts and Sciences include:

  • John Blong, Department of Anthropology, will apply a novel suite of methods to investigate how prehistoric people in the Great Basin region of western North America maintained food systems over millennia of climate change.
  • Andra Chastain, Department of History, will research how urban air pollution is represented, experienced, and ultimately understood as a public health crisis in Santiago, Chile; Mexico City; and Los Angeles.
  • Jacqueline Wilson, School of Music, will create an album of works for the bassoon by Māori composers to bring new depth to the Indigenous representation in the bassoon repertoire, combat monolithic racial depictions, and promote artistic sovereignty.

Full descriptions of these projects are available online.