Provost’s Colloquium Showcases Faculty Accomplishments

By Dan Verderosa, September 24, 2018
Faculty returning from sabbatical present their work to the campus community.

The first in a new series of events highlighting the work of faculty who have recently spent time on sabbatical featured Yiddish singing with piano accompaniment, 18th century British portraiture and invasive plant life in the Caribbean.

Organized by the Office of the Provost and the Center for Faculty Excellence, the Provost’s Post-Sabbatical Colloquium Series gives faculty the opportunity to share the research or creative activity they engaged in during their sabbaticals. The first colloquium was held on Thursday, September 20, and featured presentations by Deborah Martin, professor of music; Jennifer Germann, associate professor of art history; and Peter Melcher, professor of biology. Dana Professor Stephen Sweet served as moderator.

Melcher said the colloquium showed the range of scholarship that students have access to at the college. Presenting his own research helped him to consider how to relate his work to a general audience.

“When you’re being asked to give a presentation to your colleagues and to the campus, it elevates the way you think about what you’re doing and how to present it in a different or new way,” Melcher said.

Martin discussed planning the opening concert of the 2018 Finger Lakes Environmental Film Festival. Using video clips and infographics, she explained how she wove together several diverse pieces of music into Russian composer Modest Mussorgsky’s “Pieces from an Exhibition” to create an uninterrupted, 75-minute concert. She invited Brad Hougham, associate professor in the Department of Performance Studies, to sing one of the pieces from the concert — a Yiddish song by French composer Joseph Maurice Ravel — while she played along on piano.

“It’s important for us as faculty to share our research with our colleagues across campus to make connections between different schools and departments.”

Timothy Johnson, professor of music theory, history and composition

Germann presented her research on the portrait of Dido Elizabeth Bell and Lady Elizabeth Murray, a British painting depicting two nieces of William Murray, the first earl of Mansfield. Germann discussed how the portrait’s portrayal of Bell — a mixed race woman — provides insights into shifting views on race in 18th century Britain.

Melcher discussed his research on Scaevola taccada, a non-native coastal plant that is competing with a similar species in Puerto Rico. Melcher has been taking trips with student researchers to discern whether the plant has invasive traits, meaning it would drive its native competitor into extinction. Based on his research, he said S. taccada is likely invasive and recommended the Puerto Rican government remove it.

One faculty member who attended the colloquium, professor of music theory, history and composition Timothy Johnson, said such events help to build community among faculty from the college’s five schools. “It’s important for us as faculty to share our research with our colleagues across campus to make connections between different schools and departments,” he said.

The next colloquium will take place at 4 p.m. on Thursday, September 27, in the McHenry Lobby on the fourth floor of the School of Music. Presenters include Mary Ann Erickson, associate professor of gerontology; Raj Subramaniam, professor of health promotion and physical education; and Shaianne Osterreich, associate professor of economics. Additional events are scheduled for October 8 and 25, November 12 and 29, and December 10.