Potash Hill

Focus on Faculty

Faculty Q&A
In December, Danielle Scobey ’22 sat down with American studies professor Kate Ratcliff to talk about oral history, aging, and radical decontextualization in America. You can read the whole interview at potash.marlboro.edu/ratcliff.

Danielle: How would you describe what you teach here?

Kate: My field is American studies, which is the interdisciplinary study of US history and culture. In general, my courses explore the connections between socio-historical forces and forms of cultural expression. Marlboro has been a wonderful place to do the kind of broad, integrative work that defines American studies. I feel incredibly lucky to have landed here 30 years ago, and it’s been an amazingly rich place to teach and grow as an academic.

D: What’s the best part about teaching at Marlboro?

K: Because our jobs are fairly broadly defined, we have space to develop new interests, which is such a luxury, and I think it contributes a lot of vitality to the institution. There really is the sense that students and faculty are continuously learning together and alongside one another.

D: What recent interests are you pursuing in classes?

K: One relatively recent area of interest is oral history. That’s just been so broadening for me. I love archival material, and there’s nothing like dusty documents to make my heart go pitter patter, yet I actually find it much more enjoyable to talk to people.

D: Why is it important to learn about history?

K: So much of history is about learning to see the world through the eyes of other people. I feel like the study of history is critical at this moment. We live in a culture that is ahistorical, and arguably hostile to history. Studying history helps cultivate empathy, nuance, complexity, and an appreciation for both continuity and change.

Photo by Emily Weatherill ’21

“My husband, Brian, and son, Zinabu, cut and sanded the blocks of wood from cherry, locust, white oak, sugar maple, red maple, ash, white birch, and black birch, mostly from around Marlboro,” says Jenny Ramstetter, describing the plaques for Bob Engel’s students displayed during a memorial celebration at Home Days (see page 30). Students in Jenny and Jaime Tanner’s “dedicated hour” groups also helped prepare the blocks, 149 in all. Several staff, students, and alumni were involved in double-checking the names, Plans, and Plan sponsors of Bob’s students. “We know it’s not completely accurate, but close,” says Jenny. Describing the collaborative process, she says, “I came up with the design inspired by a conversation with Mike Auerbach ’97. Dianna Noyes ’80 helped with font, size, and design, and Carol Hendrickson, anthropology professor emerita, cut large sheets of handmade paper from Nepal into printer-friendly size. Sue Borotz ’82 helped me glue the names and titles on, Hall Cushman ’82 supervised, and Christina Scherp Crosby ’89 and others arranged the blocks down in Persons.” Photo by Kelly Fletcher “Different religious traditions have answered basic questions about the same being in different ways and different historical circumstances,” says religion professor Amer Latif in a recent interview on BCTV. “Those answers take different shape, and yet because they are responding to the being that is constant, there is a similarity to them.” Speaking with Wendy O’Connell on Here We Are, Amer discusses growing up in Pakistan, morphing from a science student to a scholar of religion, and the many similarities he has found between Islamic and Christian texts. See the whole interview.

“By treating survivors as capable decision makers and requiring communities to clarify social norms, students who have been harmed by the sexual advances of others will have a much greater chance of healing and getting on with their education,” says politics professor Meg Mott. In a recent editorial in Inside Higher Ed, Meg argued that new Title IX guidelines benefit survivors as well as respondents, and that the rights of both parties are not mutually exclusive. See the article. In October, two days after the Tree of Life shooting in Pittsburgh, Meg orchestrated a “Town Hall” on the Second Amendment at Moravian College, in eastern Pennsylvania. See Meg’s interview on BCTV’s Here We Are, where she speaks about the Commonplace Book, debate, and the need to hear more than one perspective.

Nelli Sargsyan, anthropology professor, had several scholarly works come out recently, including “Ֆեմինիստների և ֆեմինիստական գործելաոճերի` քաղաքական երևակայության ձևավորմանն ուղղված կարևոր գործը Հայաստանում” (The important work of feminists and feminist practices toward cultivating political imagination in Armenia) in the Armenian journal Սոցիոսկոպ (Socioscope). She also published an article in a special issue of History and Anthropology about activist politics in the post-socialist world, titled “Experience-Sharing as Feminist Praxis: Imagining a Future of Collective Care,” as well as an article in Queering Armenian Studies, a special issue of Armenian Review. Her chapter “On the Wings of Communal Bravery” appeared in Counternarratives from Women of Color Academics: Bravery, Vulnerability, and Resistance (Routledge 2018). In September, Nelli gave a talk in Brattleboro titled “The importance of feminist knowledge in political change: The case of the ‘Velvet Revolution’ in Armenia,” part of the Windham World Affairs Council speaker series.

Theater professor Brenda Foley returned from her two-year fellowship as the Carol L. Zicklin Endowed Chair at Brooklyn College this fall, only to share other exciting news: she is editing a new Routledge series focused on equity, diversity, and inclusion in theater and performance. “I’m honored that Routledge has asked me to be editor of this exciting new series, and look forward to encouraging and supporting the work of scholars and artists who have historically been underrepresented in theater and performance publishing,” says Brenda. Her own current book project, A Legacy of Violence: Women, Mental Illness, and Performance (under contract with Routledge), explores the violence inherited from our asylum history in contemporary cultural representation of women and mental illness. Learn more. Smith and Kraus has also selected a monologue from Brenda’s play Camouflage for inclusion in their anthology The Best Women’s Monologues of 2019.

Richard Glezjer, provost and dean of faculty, was part of a team of faculty, staff, and students who tackled the overgrowth of saplings crowding the entrance to Whittemore Theater during Community Service Day in September. Learn more at marlboro.edu/service. Photo by Kristin Horrigan“Brattleboro is one of three locations where we’re gathering Vermonters together,” says management faculty member Kerry Secrest, referring to a Vermont Commission on Women’s Listening Project event titled “The Hidden Side of Women’s Lives in Our Community.” The statewide Listening Project survey asks what needs aren’t being met for Vermont women, what most affects their abilities to provide for themselves or their families, and what can be done to help. “This is an opportunity for community members to shape the work of our commission,” says Kerry, one of the Brattleboro commissioners who hosted the event. “We want to listen to the real-world experiences of women in our community, their stories, and the challenges they encounter in their everyday lives.”

Photography professor John Willis presented an exhibit titled “Mni Wiconi: Honoring the Water Protectors” at Cynthia Reeves Contemporary Art Gallery, in North Adams, Massachusetts; Southeast Florida Community College; Green Mountain College; and Keene State College. In November, John was one of six Vermont artists honored by the Vermont Arts Council at a ceremony in Montpelier. John received the Ellen McCulloch-Lovell Award in Arts Education, named for Marlboro’s retired president. Learn more. But John is most animated about the purchase of a new 3,300-square-foot space in Brattleboro by In-Sight Photography Project, the youth arts program he co-founded. “We will move the program over and have a larger, safer, up to date, and fully accessible teaching space. Marlboro students have been teaching and volunteering there for 26 years and will continue. Yeah!”

Rituparna Mitra, Marlboro’s new professor of writing and literature, presented in two panels at the Modern Languages Association Annual Conference held in January in Chicago. She presented her paper titled “Postcolonial ecologies and embodied memory in Amitav Ghosh’s The Hungry Tide and Akhtaruzzaman Elias’s Khoabnama” on the panel on Textual Transactions in Bangladeshi/ Bengali Literature. Her paper titled “Precarious Duniyas: Posthuman subjectivity and politics in The Ministry of Utmost Happiness” was featured on the panel on The Global South Novel. Also in January, Rituparna presented her paper titled “The ghazal and the gathering of worlds in Ali’s ‘The Country without a Post Office’” at the meeting of the South Asian Literary Association in Chicago.

Rosario DeSwanson, professor of Spanish language and literature and gender studies, presented her new book “¿Y cuál es mi lugar, señor, entre tus actos?”: El drama de Rosario Castellanos (Peter Lang, 2018) at Keene State University and Bennington College. “Although there are numerous studies that engage with the work of Mexican feminist Rosario Castellanos, most center on her narrative prose, poetry, or essays. My book addresses this vacuum, offering scholars a complete study of all of her plays while it traces her ideas regarding the place of female intellectuals within the nation, as her first drama coincides with her decision to become a writer.” The book received advanced praise from Velma Garcia, professor of government and Latin American and Latino studies from Smith College, and from Gene Bell-Villada, professor of romance languages at Williams College. See the book.

In September, students joined politics professor Meg Mott on a trip to University of Massachusetts Amherst to hear a talk by Rev. Dr. William J. Barber, II, architect of the Moral Monday coalition of organizations fighting for civil rights, environmental protection, public education, and universal healthcare. “It’s a place that resonates with these iconic images that are very fertile in the American imagination— the clearing in the woods and the hilltop setting,” says President Kevin Quigley, referring to Marlboro College in a September article in The Chronicle of Higher Education. “Both are rich metaphors for the establishment of a community, particularly a learning community.” The special report highlights Marlboro’s bucolic setting, sense of community, and the ability of students to effect change through shared governance. It also touches on the college’s recent struggles with enrollment and financial setbacks, shared by many other small colleges, but emphasizes the college’s many strengths being brought to bear on issues.

Ian McManus, Marlboro’s new professor of economics, had an article accepted for publication in the Journal of Common Market Studies. Titled “The reemergence of partisan effects on social spending in Europe after the global financial crisis,” the article analyzes how the politics of social spending changed after the Great Recession in Europe and other advanced welfare states. Ian is also working on a manuscript of his dissertation and other articles on the politics of social and economic policymaking across countries. “This work highlights vital issues, including the distributional effects of the Great Recession, the effects of international institutions on domestic policies, the influence of political parties and ideologies on social spending, and the negative effects of inequality on economic growth and social well-being,” he said.

Theater and gender studies professor Jean O'Hara published an article titled “Unsettling the Frontier Fable” in the September 2018 issue of Q2Q: Queer Canadian Theatre and Performance. In November, Jean and her colleague (and last May’s commencement speaker) Shaunna Oteka McCovey were awarded a grant from Theatre Communications Group, as part of its Global Connections program supported by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. “We will create a play adaptation of the book In the Land of the Grasshopper Song: Two Women in the Klamath River Indian Country in 1908-09,” says Jean. “Although the book is a historical account of early contact between the Karuk Nation and European-Americans, it is ultimately written from a white perspective. It is our intention to write it from a Karuk perspective that also includes the Karuk language.” Jean and Shaunna (who is Yurok and Karuk) will co-create the play while also organizing events that allow for Karuk Tribal member participation.

Bronwen Tate, professor of writing and literature, published a poem in the October issue of About Place Journal, which is on the theme of Roots and Resistance, titled “By Gift, Purchase, Capture, or Inheritance." She published a handful of poems in the tiny mag as well, and an essay called “‘The Narrative No Longer Just Contains It Involves’: Frank Stanford’s Collective Visions” in the anthology Constant Stranger: After Frank Stanford. “I also gave poetry readings and talks at the Frank Stanford Literary Festival in Fayetteville, Arkansas, and the Stanford University DARE@10 Homecoming in Palo Alto, California,” says Bronwen.

Philosophy and environmental studies professor William Edelglass has several pieces forthcoming, including “The Ethics of Difference and Singularity: Levinas, Responsibility, and Climate Change,” in Moral Theory and Climate Change: Ethical Perspectives on a Warming Planet, edited by Dale E. Miller and Ben Eggleston, Routledge, 2019; and “Aspiration, Conviction, and Serene Joy: Faith and Reason in Indian Buddhist Literature on the Path,” forthcoming in Beyond Faith Versus Reason: Cross-Cultural Perspectives on the Philosophy of Religion, edited by Sonia Sikka and Ashwani Peetush. William was a guest on a recent episode of the Imperfect Buddha Podcast, and in September his work was profiled in an interview with Richard Marshall in 3:AM Magazine (see an excerpt in this Potash Hill).