Meeting of the Minds: Class Faculty Share Research

By Dom Fonce

English professor Tiffany Anderson speaks about her research into the topic of guilt on Monday as part of the CLASS Faculty Scholars Forum.

The newly formed CLASS Faculty Scholars Forum offers faculty in the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences the opportunity to share their research with their peers across departments.

The forum was created by Helene Sinnreich, director of the Center for Judaic and Holocaust Studies, and takes place in the CLASS Dean’s conference room at 4 p.m. on the first and third Monday of each month.

One of Sinnreich’s main goals is to build connections between CLASS scholars for the sake of research.

“I wanted to increase the presence of awareness for what we’re doing to each other in CLASS and to the community,” Sinnreich said. “As we’re sitting here in our offices, going about our day-to-day businesses, we’re not sharing our scholarship with each other.”

Another major goal is for faculty members to get immediate feedback on their work.

“I like to go meet with my colleagues informally to go over papers, but with the forum we can have respectable, immediate feedback from scholars of other departments for work that hasn’t been published yet,” Sinnreich said.

The forum began its first session on Sept. 14, with a presentation on Estonia by Tomi Ovaska, an economics professor.

Ovaska said he wants to look at what steps Estonia has taken to become one the fastest rising nations in the world after breaking free from the Soviet Union in 1991.

He said the forum will help him find scholars in other CLASS departments with helpful knowledge.

“We all work in the same building here, yet there isn’t so much interaction between departments,” Ovaska said. “I don’t necessarily write papers together with the sociologists and the philosophers, but there’s no reason why not.”

Ovaska said the forums will tremendously help faculty members improve their work.

“If we get all these interdisciplinary scholars together, get them talking, for sure every paper that’s presented will get better,” Ovaska said. “This project deals a lot with history and foreign languages, and I plan to talk to faculty from those departments soon.”

Sinnreich will be presenting “Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur in Auschwitz: An Encounter with Mengele” on Oct. 26, and Deborah Mower, professor of philosophy and religious studies, will be presenting “Motivating Civility” on Nov. 9.

“Motivating Civility” will take a look into what motivates people to be civil in arguments when being uncivil almost always gives an advantage.

“What I will be presenting isn’t my full-blown work,” Mower said. “It’s only my initial thoughts for moving forward with research. I think that’s what is so great about what Dr. Sinnreich did. It gives faculty an opportunity to show early work. Possibly someone from psychology will be able to give me feedback before I dive in completely.”

Sinnreich said any students with a desire to attend these forums should just come in and sit down.

“The idea is for students to have an opportunity to see what it is we do as scholars,” Sinnreich said. “At the end of the day, we’re not interested in our students learning how to regurgitate facts, we’re interested in our students to learn how to learn for their own future research.”