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Fall 2023

Peg O’Connor, Professor in Philosophy
"The Moral Crisis of Childhood Trauma: Hindering the Essential Arts of Personhood"
Friday, September 22 at 4:30 pm in the Interpretive Center

We have known for decades that childhood trauma and adverse experiences are pervasive and arguably one of the biggest on-going health crises. The pandemic was an accelerant on an already existing fire. More children became vulnerable and those already vulnerable became more so. The American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, and the Children’s Hospital Association declared a national emergency in 2021. This increasing crisis is multilayered; personal and interpersonal dimensions are woven tightly with social, political, and economics dimensions. There are moral dimensions as well, though these have received scant attention. There is a variety of moral dimensions including the reasons and the ways that individuals, groups, and institutions perpetuate trauma. My focus is on the complex ways that trauma experienced by children affects not only their present well-being but their well-being into adulthood. What are the compounding effects and the legacies of trauma? My claim is that many of these children now and as adults in the future are hindered in becoming, being treated, and recognizing themselves as full-fledged persons. “Person” is a normative category; it is not merely descriptive. A person is one who has cultivated certain skills or what Annette Baier calls “essential arts,” to navigate and engage with others in the world. There are many essential arts one needs to acquire and practice in order to be regarded as a person. The ones on which I focus are imagining, having empathy, hoping well, having bodily dominion, and maintaining self-possession. These skills form a constellation, which others can recognize and respond to with respect. These arts also are necessary for a person to develop self-respect and exercise agency. Self-respect includes a sense of intrinsic worth and dignity. Agency is the ability to form intentions, deliberate, and act and respond appropriately. When these essential arts are hindered as they are in children who have been traumatized, there may be millions of people who do not see themselves as persons or who are not treated as persons. This is a full-blown moral crisis.

Lisa Ortmann, 
Assistant Professor in Education
"Theorizing literacy: contextualizing an elusive concept in education"
Friday, October 13 at 4:30 pm in the Interpretive Center

Since the 19th century, being literate has been synonymous with being educated (Muhammad, 2018). For many marginalized communities in the U.S., the fight for the fundamental human right of a free public education has included the right to learn to read (Weaver, 2022). When this functional view of literacy is applied in educational contexts today, literacy appears to be in decline. Achievement measures of 3rd and 8th grade students show a statistically significant drop in literacy both locally and nationally (MN Department of Education, 2023). Additionally, an estimated 32 million adults in the U.S. are functionally illiterate, which is about 14% of the population (U.S. Department of Education, 2023). However, expanded theories of literacy that seek to include the multiple ways individuals express and communicate knowledge in today’s diverse and 21st century society can help us better understand the disconnect between measures of literacy ability and the literacies individuals use in their daily lives. In this talk I will share examples from my research of pedagogies that apply expanded theories of literacy to contexts for learning across academic disciplines and age levels. I will share how a historically responsive literacy framework (Muhammad, 2020) can help educators reconnect students with their literacy identities.

John Bailey, Visiting Assistant Professor in Environment, Geography, and Earth Sciences
"The Rise and Fall of Volcano John and the Geospatial Stories from Mars"
Friday, October 27 at 4:30 pm in the Interpretive Center

For most of human existence our view of the planet we live in was restricted to a close-up, in-person, ground-based viewpoint. The stories and explanations we crafted about the world around us could only be given from that perspective. But with the development of cameras and an ability to “get up in the air” (balloons, aircraft) this perspective began to change. Then the launch of Sputnik I, and the subsequent space race, led to an explosion in space-based viewing technologies and everything changed. The famous “Earthrise” photograph captured by William Anders during the Apollo 8 mission probably did more to inspire a generation of would-be scientists, explorers and environmentalists than decades of STEM initiatives ever could. However, mankind has never been satisfied with just being curious about our planet. Ever since we realized there are other planets in our solar system (and beyond) we have wanted to explore those too. On Earth the satellite perspective of the landscape can for the most part be “ground-truthed” through in-person visits. But for places like Mars, despite advanced technologies now delivering high-quality images, uninhibited but by pesky things such as clouds or vegetation, there is still the lingering question: how do we know what we’re looking at? And more interestingly, what geospatial stories are those images telling us about those landscapes and the planet? My academic work and career – through a mostly unplanned and unexpected pathway – has helped play a role in answering parts of those questions. I will explore and explain this research and illustrate the powerful connection between landscapes and storytelling, all through the lens of explaining my own story. 

Colleen Stockmann, Assistant Professor in Art History & Arts Administration
"Weeds: A Social History of Pernicious Plants"
Friday, November 17 at 4:30 pm in the Interpretive Center

Weeds earn that moniker for a variety of reasons that all stem from their behavior. The idea of a plant being “invasive” came about in the United States over the nineteenth century alongside notions of anti-immigrant nativism. Concerns such as the rate of reproduction or how quickly they established deep roots were wielded against migrating flora and human immigrants alike. Using plants as a proxy for social debate was common at the time, yet the overlapping visual and verbal rhetoric of horticulture and human belonging remains under-examined. This book demonstrates how the debate about noxious weeds was quietly visible alongside and in tension with abolitionist politics in the art of botanical texts, drawing instruction manuals, and almanacs. Vernacular publications were pervasive sources of implicit politics through which notions of weediness and analogs of violent removal circulated. Reading maps and root systems in conversation with lithographs and drawings, this book charts a new visual history of the environment, pivots the genre of American landscape art from gallery to footpath, and demonstrates troubling tensions in the rhetoric of weeds that lingers today. 

Angelique Dwyer, Associate Professor of Spanish
Title: "Measuring Intercultural Competence via Community Engagement"
Friday, December 1 at 4:30 pm in the Interpretive Center

As a result of the Presidential Faculty/Student Collaboration Award, K. Angelique Dwyer (Spanish & LALACS) will share findings regarding the intercultural skills tracked via community engagement by Gustavus students enrolled in Spanish classes during 6 sequential semesters from fall of 2016 to the spring of 2019. Dwyer and two students: Cosette Melton-Hanily'25 (Psychological Science) and Lauren Lambert'26 (Statistics) analyzed anonymous course-embedded student reflections against the AAC&U Intercultural Knowledge and Competence rubric. Findings will feature areas of growth in specific intercultural skills, service placement type, and on a longitudinal scale. 

Spring 2023

Jeff Jenson, College and Lutheran Church Archivist / Associate Professor in Library
"Crotalus horridus: A History of Destruction in the North Star State"
Friday, February 16 at 4:30 pm in the Interpretive Center

Minnesota represents the northern extent of the timber rattlesnake (Crotalus horridus). This long-lived species resides in only a handful of Minnesota’s eighty-seven counties limited entirely to the state’s southeastern corner. At the time of statehood, these snakes might have lived in a slightly greater set of counties, and their numbers were so robust that many thousands died decade after decade due to human persecution. Subsequently, the range of these snakes contracted towards the southeast as their overall population plummeted. By the mid-1990s, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources listed the timber rattlesnake as a threatened species that was likely to become endangered without better management and protection. Through this work, I examine the historical relationship of Minnesotans with our most venomous reptile and offer some insight into future possibilities.

Lai Sze Tso, Research Professor (Population Studies and Demography), Assistant Professor in Sociology and Anthropology, and Faculty Affiliate in Scandinavian Studies and Gender, Women and Sexuality Studies 
Friday, March 1 at 4:30 pm in the Interpretive Center


Angela Walczyk, Visiting Assistant Professor in Biology
Friday, March 15 at 4:30 pm in the Interpretive Center


Hagar Attia, Assistant Professor in Communication Studies
"The Rhetorical Ancestry of Fundamentalist Arguments"
Friday, April 5 at 4:30 pm in the Interpretive Center

Fundamentalism and ideas about fundamentalism can be significant obstacles to dialogue, deliberation, and democracy. Some scholars define fundamentalists as people unable, or unwilling, to cope with the conditions of modernity and therefore turn to scriptural literalism, separatism, and traditionalism to maintain their sense of identity. This paper proposes understanding fundamentalism as a rhetorical concept—a type of argument—with themes and strategies that perform specific types of work in the world. This paper explores the features of this rhetorical form by tracing it to its origins—a set of publications issued between 1905-1910 titled The Fundamentals: A Testimony to the Truth. This analysis of The Fundamentals finds fundamentalist arguments as emerging out of a concern for defending what is believed to be the fundamentals of identity. Those issuing fundamentalist arguments conclude that without the fundamentals of identity, a cherished identity would be profoundly compromised. The ultimate calls to action in fundamentalist argument are to preserve, protect, and restore the integrity of the fundamentals. Establishing a rhetorical understanding of fundamentalism allows scholars to engage and critique such arguments while avoiding the essentializing tendencies of psycho-social definitions.

Darío Sánchez-González, Associate Professor in Modern Languages, Literature, and Cultures; Spanish; Gender, Women and Sexuality Studies; and LALACS
"Gay Club: Queer Representation, Popular Film and National Belonging in 1980s’ Spain"
Friday, April 19 at 4:30 pm in the Interpretive Center

Many debates were aired in Spain between 1975 and 1982, during the country’s transition from Francisco Franco's one-party military dictatorship to a parliamentary democracy. The list includes the decriminalization of homosexuality by repealing a 1970 law, as well as the piecemeal devolution of political autonomy to Spain’s regions. Gay Club (1981), a film by Ramón Fernández—one of Spain’s most popular filmmakers in that period—advocates for the former in spite of the conservative stance of Fernández's prior work. Less noticeably, Gay Club also hints at the regional question: its protagonists are trying to set up a gay club in a small town in Andalusia, a community whose acquisition of autonomy was hotly disputed. Both “gay rights” (queer or LGBTQ rights in modern parlance) and the demand for local government seem to go together in the protagonists' utopian pursuit, often played for laughs, but ultimately triumphant. Gay Club has been out of distribution for decades, and there are no article-length academic pieces on the film. My talk seeks to fill that gap by conveying the relevance of this film within queer-themed European film. I will also raise bigger questions (which I will likely fail to answer): how queer (pun intended) is the relation of queer folks with national identities and national belonging, in Spain and elsewhere?

Martha Ndakalako, Assistant Professor in English
Friday, May 3 at 4:30 pm in the Interpretive Center