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Updated: 1 hour 31 min ago

St. Olaf researchers map the historical sounds of a city

Thu, 07/30/2015 - 2:40pm

St. Olaf researchers (from left) Katharina Biermann ’17, Natalie Kopp ’16, Assistant Professor of Music Louis Epstein, Breanna Olson ’16, and Philip Claussen ’16 are using mapping technology to bring music history to life.

What if a map could not only help us visualize what Paris looked like nearly a century ago, but help us hear the sounds of the city, too?

A team of St. Olaf College researchers, led by Assistant Professor of Music Louis Epstein, is using mapping technology to create a multi-sensory, interactive tool to illustrate the musical geography of 1920s Paris in ways that a book, recording, or paper map could not do alone.

“We want viewers to experience Paris in 1924 — to see physically where concerts were held, listen to a concert program, follow paths historical figures might have taken,” says Natalie Kopp ’16, one of the student researchers working on the project.

The project is part of both the Digital Humanities on the Hill initiative and the college’s Collaborative Undergraduate Research and Inquiry (CURI) program.

Using this type of technology to bring music history to life has only rarely been done before, Epstein says.

“Most historians and scholars use static, paper-based maps that tend to show things such as political, geographical, or topographical context for music history, but these maps tend to be silent and difficult to relate to how music sounds,” Epstein says.

A tool to see and listen
A historical musicologist whose research focuses on the intersections between music, patronage, and politics in France during the 19th and 20th centuries, Epstein earned a B.A. in music from Princeton University and a Ph.D. in music from Harvard University.

For this project, he chose 1924 Paris because of the city’s status as the capital of the music world in the early 20th century, particularly in the post–World War I years. Paris also hosted the 1924 Summer Olympics, an event that drew visitors from around the world to the already vibrant city and encouraged musicians to perform for a wider audience.

This map — one of several on the research team’s public website — visualizes the locations of various musical venues around the city of Paris in 1924, with each category of venue represented by a different layer.

Using mapping platforms like Google Maps and ArcGIS as well as previously non-digitized, historical maps of Paris, Epstein and the student researchers are creating a public website that enables users to see and interact with several different aspects of the city’s musical geography.

One map represents the various performance venues where music was performed — concert halls, theaters, café-concerts, public parks, private salons, etc. Another map offers a way to explore the locations and programs of dozens of performances of a single composer’s works over the course of one year. Yet another map makes it possible to hear the concert programs performed across the city on a specific date. Altogether, there are currently ten maps with which users can interact, with more on the way.

Through a few clicks of the mouse, users can see and hear the music that was performed in a particular venue, on a specific date, nearly 100 years ago.

Adding narratives
Site users can also get a glimpse into the life of a 1924 Parisian through The Unsuspecting Tour Guide, a set of short stories written by student researcher Katharina Biermann ’17.

Using historical data, Biermann recreates the atmosphere of 1924 Paris through a set of fictional first-person narratives.

“I try to present as accurate as possible an image of what it was like to be in Paris in 1924,” she says. “This is especially important in pedagogical terms, because not all students glean equally from images of graphs and statistical analysis. Stories, though, are so distinctly human that they will reveal what graphs and charts cannot.”

Biermann’s short stories are an important part of the project’s larger goal of making music history more accessible to more people.

“Rather than looking at these data to create a thesis or make a comparison, we’ve been trying to piece together enough facts to form a sort of narrative or story — ultimately to recreate a world,” Kopp says. “I hope our project inspires others to create data-narratives as well.”

Why music on a map matters
Epstein says this project provides an opportunity to open music history scholarship to a much wider audience.

“They won’t get the most sophisticated insights through a map, but what they will get is an experience of what it was like to be in a place at a certain time. They can also better understand the context for any kind of music being performed, since most scholarship focuses on art music rather than popular music and the sounds in the street,” he says.

Student researcher Philip Claussen ’16 says while scholars have made interactive academic maps in the past, it hasn’t been done in the field of music history, and certainly not with the kind of scope this project has.

“We are ultimately bringing the musical culture of 1924 Paris back to life in the 21st century, and in a format easily accessible to 21st-century scholars, students, and amateurs alike,” he says.

Epstein hopes this project is a stepping stone for similar — and even larger — projects in the future. And the team agrees that they would like to see other scholars bring their work to life in this way.

“I hope that more academics will consider adding visual elements to their research in order to facilitate the depth of comprehension of that data they are presenting,” student researcher Breanna Olson ‘16 says. “Frankly, an interactive map is a much cooler way to learn than a huge textbook.”

Student connects audiences to art through Boston museum internship

Thu, 07/30/2015 - 1:58pm

St. Olaf student Taylor Davis ’16 outside Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts, where she is interning this summer.

Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts, home to one of the most comprehensive collections in the world, welcomes more than a million visitors each year.

And this summer St. Olaf College student Taylor Davis ’16 is working to ensure that those visitors get the most out of their experience.

As part of her internship at the MFA, which is supported with a grant from the St. Olaf Piper Center for Vocation and Career, Davis is helping facilitate the museum’s various educational programs. This includes special museum tours for toddlers, art-making activities for children and their families, and drawing in the museum galleries for adults.

“Helping run these programs has given me valuable insight into the behind-the-scenes work of museum programming, and has allowed me to observe how diverse audiences interact with and respond to the collections of the MFA,” Davis says.

The MFA’s encyclopedic collection includes nearly 450,000 works of art, ranging from ancient Egyptian artifacts and French impressionist paintings to the largest and finest collection of Japanese art outside Japan.

Beyond educating children and guiding visitors, Davis is also working with the museum’s Head of Gallery Learning, Brooke DiGiovanni Evans, to create an Art Connections Card for MFA’s younger visitors. Art Connection Cards are self-guided activity sheets that children and their families can pick up at the museum to help guide their visit.

“The theme of my Art Connections Card will be bugs. I’ll be guiding children on a hunt for bugs depicted in artworks from several different cultures, including an ancient Egyptian heart scarab and a tiny gold beetle on a 17th-century German automaton,” Davis says.

The world of fine art is an essential part of this Tallapoosa, Georgia, native’s life. An art history major at St. Olaf, Davis will be conducting independent research about “Art and Feminisms” this fall.

Her passion for working at an institution like the MFA has grown as she has learned more about museum education, a branch of museum operations that she believes is one of the core functions of all museums.

Davis says she is constantly inspired by both the people with whom she works and by the artworks and exhibits she is able to experience at the MFA. This inspiration has, in turn, enhanced her interactions with the museum’s diverse visitors.

“Undoubtedly, one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned is that I absolutely love museums,” Davis says. “I knew I loved them as a visitor. But the opportunity to work at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston has shown me that I love being part of what makes it all work even more.”

St. Olaf names Ryan Bowles as athletic director

Thu, 07/30/2015 - 11:36am

St. Olaf President David R. Anderson ’74 has announced the appointment of Ryan Bowles as the college’s athletic director.

Bowles, who is currently the associate athletic director for administration at the University of Maryland, will join St. Olaf on September 1.

Bowles has an extensive background in college athletics, both as a student athlete and administrator.

In his current position at the University of Maryland, where he has been a member of the athletic department staff since 2003, he oversees 11 varsity sports and serves on the department’s leadership team. He is also the liaison to the Athletics Council, a group of faculty, staff, and students that advise the President’s Office on matters regarding intercollegiate athletics at Maryland.

Bowles also oversaw Maryland’s transition last year from the Atlantic Coast Conference to the Big Ten, and he currently serves on the Big Ten’s Sports Management Council.

In his prior roles at Maryland, Bowles directed the NCAA and conference championship events hosted by the university. He also played a leadership role in the development and rollout of a five-year strategic plan for athletics at Maryland.

Bowles began his intercollegiate athletics career as the Asa S. Bushnell Intern for Championships at the Eastern College Athletic Conference in Massachusetts. There he was also involved in event management and was the liaison for a number of championship committees.

He holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from McDaniel College, where he was a four-time letterwinner for the men’s soccer team.

“St. Olaf is committed to achieving excellence in everything we do, including athletics,” Anderson says. “Ryan’s passion for Division III athletics, born of his experience as a student-athlete at a respected liberal arts college, combined with his demonstrated leadership in an excellent Division I program, equip him well to lead the athletics program at St. Olaf. We look forward to his arrival on campus.”

St. Olaf sponsors 27 varsity sports, more than any other school in the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (MIAC), and competes at the NCAA Division III level.

As athletic director, Bowles will be responsible for maintaining and enhancing the integrity and competitiveness of the intercollegiate athletics program at St. Olaf, including recruiting and retaining an exceptional coaching staff and promoting the success and physical well-being of the college’s student-athletes.

“St. Olaf has an outstanding tradition of academics and athletics, and the college’s values match my own,” Bowles says. “I look forward to serving the St. Olaf family as we continue the tradition of graduating student-athletes, developing leaders in life, and competing for MIAC and national championships.”

Student group nurtures alternative music scene on campus

Mon, 07/27/2015 - 3:15pm

St. Olaf students (from left) John Kronlokken ’16, Christian Wheeler ’16, and Colin Loynachan ’16 are the organizers of DNNR PRTY, a student-run record label that has helped cultivate an alternative music scene on campus.

Many people know that St. Olaf College has a renowned music program, with choral and instrumental ensembles that tour internationally. What most don’t know is that for the past two years a new project named DNNR PRTY has started to shape and cultivate an alternative music scene on campus.

DNNR PRTY is a student-run record label that encourages musicians to share and work on original music. The group has successfully recorded, mastered, and released 23 songs from 19 different student music groups and individuals.

Started by Horacio Lopez ’14, DNNR PRTY is focused on cultivating a campus band and singer/songwriter base unlike the traditional ensembles St. Olaf is known for.

“We’re here for people who are dedicated to music beyond the classical realm,” says Colin Loynachan ’16, one of the organizers of DNNR PRTY.

The group’s goal is to cultivate an alternative music scene and provide students with the resources they need to work on their music.

“I think it has also become a place for established artists and upcoming artists alike,” says John Kronlokken ’16. “There is a network of support, and I think this is really important.”

DNNR PRTY is focused on cultivating a campus band and singer/songwriter base unlike the traditional ensembles St. Olaf is known for.

Since its founding, DNNR PRTY has released a 14-track record and a video session series.

First Feast, DNNR PRTY’s first project, is a compilation CD featuring campus bands and individual artists. For some, the recording provided an opportunity to share their work for the first time. For others, it was a chance to explore a new music genre.

Fox example, Michael Betz ’15, a member of the St. Olaf Orchestra and St. Olaf Band, was well known on campus for his classical music compositions. DNNR PRTY gave him an opportunity to showcase a different side of his composing.

“There were a lot of people who hadn’t heard Michael Betz’s electronic stuff,” says Christian Wheeler ’16. “A lot of people freaked out at the 8-bit vibe.”

This year’s DNNR PRTY project focused on recording live sessions. This meant a smaller group of campus artists, but still a strong compilation of the talent St. Olaf has to offer.

The response to the project has been overwhelmingly positive. Support from the St. Olaf Music Department, Broadcast Services, the Admissions Office, and other student organizations — like the Music Entertainment Committee and KSTO Radio Station — have helped integrate DNNR PRTY into campus life, and the group’s Facebook page is well-supported by students.

Last year 89.3 The Current highlighted DNNR PRTY in a piece showcasing the strong campus band scene at St. Olaf.

The college’s Admissions Office recently sent out the Oles Rock CD, which features four songs recorded by DNNR PRTY, to approximately 1,500 prospective students.

In addition to its recording projects, DNNR PRTY  has hosted songwriting workshops and collaborated on events with MEC and KSTO.

This fall, for example, Minneapolis-based singer/songwriter Jeremy Messersmith was on campus leading a songwriting workshop where students brought questions and their music. During the spring semester, Chris Koza ’01 hosted a similar workshop and performed.

And DNNR PRTY isn’t just for musicians, but also those who play a behind-the-scenes role in music-making. Last year this involved a lot of filming and video editing for the “Live in Studio A” music videos. The whole video compilation is available online on the DNNR PRTY website and on the group’s Youtube channel.

“It’s also an experience for us,” says Kronlokken. “I want to do this as a job for the rest of my life, so this is a great and unique way for me to gain experience in a nontraditional way.”

Norwegian professor talks to Chicago Public Radio about country’s police

Wed, 07/22/2015 - 11:08am

Professor of Norwegian Margaret Hayford O’Leary spoke to Chicago Public Radio from Norway, where she is teaching a course on Norwegian life and society.

St. Olaf College Professor of Norwegian Margaret Hayford O’Leary recently spoke to Chicago Public Radio about new data on how Norwegian police use guns.

A report released by the Norwegian government shows that in 2014 the country’s police threatened to use their weapons 42 times, but only two shots were actually fired during the entire year. Nobody was killed or wounded in either incident.

Speaking to WBEZ’s Worldview program from Norway, where she is teaching at the Oslo International Summer School, O’Leary noted that only in recent months have Norwegian police even been allowed to carry guns while on patrol — a change that has been controversial.

“It just hasn’t been a tradition here in Norway,” O’Leary says. “There’s a high level of trust of police officers in this country, and I think many people feel that if they start carrying weapons, there would be more of a nervousness and a fear that something accidental would happen, that somebody would get hurt.”

O’Leary, the author of Culture and Customs of Norway, has taught at St. Olaf since 1977. She is currently teaching a course on Norwegian life and society at the Oslo International Summer School, a program that has had strong ties to St. Olaf for more than 65 years.

English professor’s book examines women who hold political power

Tue, 07/21/2015 - 8:59am

In her new book, St. Olaf College Assistant Professor of English Rebecca Richards examines the rhetoric surrounding women from around the globe in national political leadership.

The book, titled Transnational Feminist Rhetorics and Gendered Leadership in Global Politics: From Daughters of Destiny to Iron Ladies, closely examines different women who have held political power, some for the first time in their country, and how gender expectations have affected their leadership.

“Rhetoric is the study of how meaning is made, and gender is one of the primary ways in which people make meaning of their lives — making gender inherently rhetorical. Rhetorical studies slows down this interpretive process and analyzes how gender is performed and understood in a social context,” says Richards.

In her book, Richards analyzes four rhetorical situations — autobiographies, organization, biographical films, and media representations — in order to conclude that when people think of political women, they invoke the discourse of women world leaders, which limits the potential for women to be world leaders.

“One of my arguments is that we often think of the same few women when we think about women as heads of state — Margaret Thatcher, Benazir Bhutto, and Golda Meir, just to name a few,” Richards says. “I wanted to make sure that I accounted for the variety of women and their politics. Still, as a book it cannot account for everything and everyone, so there are figures that still go under-explored in my book. That gap was hard for me to wrestle with because it is the same gap that I critique in my book.”

Although Richards did not plan on the book commenting on Hillary Clinton and the upcoming election, as it was written after the 2008 election and before Clinton announced her plans to run for president in 2016, the epilogue points out that gendered frameworks are still deeply ingrained in U.S. politics and media, and that Clinton’s campaign doesn’t point to any radical political agenda or proof of gender equality.

Richards has presented her work at conferences, resulting in people wanting to share their own experiences with political figures. Since many of the women Richards wrote about came from smaller nations, it is not unusual for the people she meets at conferences to have had a personal encounter with these political figures.

“Their stories kept me focused on the fact that these political women were and are real people who have friends and loved ones, who have awkward moments, dreams, and anxieties. Even if they become powerful cultural icons, they are still flesh and blood,” Richards says. “This is important to remember when writing about other people’s lives.”

This isn’t the first time Richards has written on the topic. An essay of hers was featured in Political Women: Language and Leadership, an anthology examining women and political rhetoric. Another essay, titled “Who Runs the World?: Hillary Clinton and the Use of Pop Feminism as Rhetorical Strategy,” will be published this fall in an anthology titled Hillary Rodham Clinton and the 2016 Election: Her Political and Social Discourse.

Richards hopes that readers of her new book will not only learn about women who have held political power, but also become critical of political leadership.

“I hope that readers challenge the notion that leadership is a masculine trait or position,” she says. “We need broader, more inclusive understandings of what it means to lead so that we don’t keep associating national leadership only with military power, aggressive violence, and disembodiment. As long as we hitch leadership to such limiting notions of masculinity, we cannot expect even the most ethical political woman to change the geopolitical system to be more peaceful, egalitarian, and humane. Electing a woman to executive leadership doesn’t inherently change the system.”

Researchers examine the importance of emotional development

Thu, 07/09/2015 - 4:12pm

Associate Professor of Psychology Grace Cho (right) and student researchers Joy Smith ’17 (center) and Anna Johnson ’16 review some of their findings on the way emotions are socialized and expressed in families with young children.

Think back to a moment in your childhood that is particularly tinged with emotion — the anxiety of getting on the bus by yourself for the first time, for example, or the fear of moving to a new town and the sadness of leaving your friends behind.

How did your parents help you? Did they provide comfort? Did they talk about the experience with you? Did they validate your feelings and help you to express them effectively? Or did they minimize the experience and leave you to figure things out on your own?

And who was there for you to help you with your emotions? Your mother? Father? Both?

St. Olaf College Associate Professor of Psychology Grace Cho and two students are spending the summer analyzing this particular part of family life in an attempt to provide more insight into children’s emotional development.

The project, part of the college’s Collaborative Undergraduate Research and Inquiry (CURI) program, examines the way emotions are socialized and expressed in families with young children.

The research team is analyzing parents’ beliefs about emotions and their interactions with children, particularly how elaborative parents are when talking to children about their emotional experiences. The team is also looking at the role of sociocultural factors (e.g., parent and child gender) in the patterns of emotion socialization.

“In the broad psychological literature, there is a lot of attention focused on children’s cognitive and literacy development. The way children become emotionally literate has often been neglected, but it is equally important,” Cho says.

Indeed, research finds that early emotional competencies are linked with greater well-being and positive outcomes later in life.

Cho notes that when developing good socioemotional skills and emotional maturity are sacrificed in pursuit of cognitive and academic excellence, there may be negative consequences. Some researchers have proposed that this trend, for example, may lead contemporary students to have higher levels of anxiety and depression.

The importance of emotional development
Cho says the preschool years are vital for emotional socialization, as this is the time when a child’s awareness of the complexities of emotions really burgeons. The socioemotional skills children learn during this period of time, including how they understand, regulate, and express their emotions, can help them to develop into emotionally competent and healthy beings.

Joy Smith ’17, one of the students working with Cho this summer, says this research is relevant to parents as much as to psychologists, since they are the primary influence on their children during their early years of growth.

L-R) Joy Smith ’17, Associate Professor of Psychology Grace Cho, and Anna Johnson ’16: “Children who understand and express emotions more easily have better empathetic and social skills, which can help to build relationships,” Johnson says. “They even do better academically.”

“Everyone expresses emotion, and emotion is a key part of our everyday lives and interactions with people. Studying how children and their parents communicate about emotion can give us better insight into how children learn and develop emotions,” she says. “How they talk about emotions with their child can have implications for their child’s emotional competence, social skills, and relationships.”

Anna Johnson ’16, the other student researcher, says the project has taught her a lot about the methodology involved in developmental psychology research, along with how vital it is for children to learn to express their emotions.

“Children who understand and express emotions more easily have better empathetic and social skills, which can help to build relationships. They even do better academically. Even before children enter school, they are taught which emotions are appropriate to express and how they should express them,” Johnson says. “If children aren’t able to understand and express emotions, it can affect a lot of different areas of their lives. They are likely to have lower-quality relationships and it can even contribute to disorders such as depression.”

Looking at it from different lenses
Cho earned her Ph.D. and M.A. in developmental psychology from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She teaches courses in child and human development, diverse families, and research methods at St. Olaf.

Her research is located in the intersections of developmental and cultural psychology and family studies. She is concerned with better understanding and enhancing children’s socioemotional development and examines them within the contexts of the family and the broader culture. What is the role of parental beliefs and practices, and how do parents nurture and shape their children’s emotional selves?

Cho also considers how cultural values and norms influence parent-child interaction. Toward this end, she is collaborating with her counterparts at the Catholic University of Korea to examine whether Korean parents express emotions with their children similarly or differently than American parents.

Cho asserts that gender may also affect emotional socialization. There is an assumption in the larger culture that mothers — and women in general — are more emotional and have the ability to express their emotions more freely. This may affect the ways in which mothers and fathers talk about emotions with their daughters and sons.

There is also a cultural assumption that mothers may be more influential to children’s development than fathers, which has led fathers to be understudied historically in the field. However, Cho argues that fathers are as essential in the emotional development and upbringing of a child as mothers. She added that it is important for research studies to give equal attention to fathers and mothers since there are things that fathers may do differently than mothers.

The pathway to emotional competence
Cho hopes that her research will prompt a shift toward a more balanced and holistic approach to child development.

“We should not be only concerned with how quickly children are learning to read, or how well they solve math problems, but we should also be concerned about their emotional well-being too,” she says.

She hopes her research can bring serious consideration into the ways caregivers and educators can better nurture their children’s emotional skills, helping them to effectively manage and express their feelings as they grow. “Caregivers can help children in their path towards emotional competence by providing them with ample opportunities to discuss the variety of emotions they may experience in their everyday lives, by elaborating on the emotions and utilizing rich emotion language while doing so,” Cho says.

“Children benefit when they have developed adaptive strategies and appropriate vocabulary to express their emotions.”

A summer internship that brings artificial intelligence to (campus) life

Wed, 07/08/2015 - 10:35am

St. Olaf College student Mary McManis ’17 (front row, second from left) and other IBM interns pose with one of the company’s robots (center) and Watson (behind them).

From winning Jeopardy to becoming a cancer specialist, IBM’s Watson has already made a name for itself.

The artificial intelligence computer system, which processes information more like a human than a computer, has taken on roles that usually requires the work of hundreds, if not thousands, of people.

And this summer one of the people working with Watson is St. Olaf College student Mary McManis ’17. As part of her internship at the IBM research lab in Austin, Texas, she is “teaching” Watson about the intricacies and inner workings of the higher education system.

The whole purpose, McManis says, is to create a Watson platform that can improve the student experience by answering questions a student might have about a school, its campus services, campus life, etc. And this is not the same as searching with Google or Yahoo.

“Where search engines provide you with sources that probably have what you are looking for and require a lot of reading to find your answer, Watson provides answers directly in a user-friendly, conversational format,” McManis says.

Bringing that conversational ability to Watson is where McManis plays a significant role. She is working in the Watson Engagement Advisor, a software that has an in-depth understanding of context and dialogue. This system automates customer interaction by answering questions in natural language with informed and evidence-based reasoning.

McManis is currently starting to develop Watson’s comprehension of the higher education system. This is done through a process where she and the other interns gather questions a person might ask in a normal conversation. Then they establish a set of knowledge — or answers — that Watson would read, interpret, and use to create hypotheses. Watson then scores its confidence on each hypothesis before providing a conversational response that was configured by McManis and the other interns.

And Watson is not a system that is still in the testing stage.

“For starters, Watson is in the kitchen, health care, medicine, banks, and robots. Higher education is another great avenue. Hopefully we can keep making cognitive computing more accessible because this is a technology that can really make a difference in our world,” says McManis, who is majoring in English with a management studies concentration.

Coming from a family of engineers and growing up in Silicon Valley — home to many of the world’s largest high-tech corporations — has given McManis a deep appreciation for technology. She’s put that passion, together with the communication and teamwork skills she’s honed in her management studies classes at St. Olaf, to good use in what she calls a “once-in-a-lifetime” internship experience.

“I only just finished my third week, but it has been a great experience and I am meeting a lot of new people in all parts of IBM,” McManis says.