Join some of Middlebury’s expert and engaging faculty members for interactive talks—from home.

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Faculty at Home extends Middlebury’s academic reach to our community around the world. This webinar series invites you to engage in the digital space, to stay connected with faculty members, with big ideas, and with each other.

Moderated by Caitlin Knowles Myers, John G. McCullough Professor of Economics and Sarah Stroup, Associate Professor of Political Science, this series will stimulate thought-provoking online conversations for the benefit of the Middlebury community far and wide. Faculty at Home is supported by numerous staff members—almost all of whom are working from home.

Zoom webinar details will be provided after you register. 

Please note, all times listed are Eastern (EDT).  Recordings of previous webinars will be posted below several days after the event. 

September 24

The Accessibility of Big Data  

Jason Grant and Alex Lyford
Jason Grant and Alex Lyford

Jason Grant and Alex Lyford

Big data are ubiquitous. Although this may not come as a surprise, you may be surprised at how easy these data are to access without any specialized technical skills! In this talk, we’ll begin by showing the power of accessing big data and the ease at which it can be done by the layperson. We’ll then discuss the pros and cons of the availability of such data and provide examples of each. Finally, we’ll talk about decision-making based on big data in facial recognition and how it will affect the future of humankind.

Jason Grant is an Assistant Professor of Computer Science. His research areas include computer vision and biometrics, with emphasis on detecting dangerous and abnormal crowd behavior in large crowds, especially at sporting events and mega-concerts.

Alex Lyford is an Assistant Professor of Mathematics, and he has been at Middlebury College since 2017. He recieved a Ph.D. in Statistics from the University of Georgia, and his research areas of interest are machine learning, text analysis, statistics education, and math games.

Hosted by Caitlin Myers, John G. McCullough Professor of Economics.

This session is part of the 2020 Clifford Symposium

October 16

“Black Lives Matter” and Abortion at the Movies  

Natasha Ngaiza

Natasha Ngaiza

How does one write about challenging political issues for a medium that is primarily consumed as entertainment? How do we balance the specificity of a fictionalized story about individual characters with broader national issues like “Black Lives Matter” and abortion? After viewing my film, A Mother, I’d like to use it as a foundation to talk about trends in current representations of Black lives on film and the “burden of representation.” A Mother is a short film about a Black woman contemplating an abortion while juggling motherhood and a growing interest in a racially charged report about the disappearance of a little Black girl.

Natasha Ngaiza is an assistant professor in the department of Film and Media Culture at Middlebury College, where she teaches film production and Black cinema classes. Her short narrative films have screened at various international festivals and art venues and all center Black mothers as their protagonists. She is currently in early pre-production for a feature film project about bananas, set in her family’s ancestral home in Northwest Tanzania.

Hosted by Caitlin Myers, John G. McCullough Professor of Economics.

Link to Register

October 19

Sleuthing from Home: How To Use Technology to Monitor Nuclear Weapons Programs Around the World Without Ever Leaving Monterey  

Jeffrey Lewis

Jeffrey Lewis

The James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Institute uses technologies such as computer models and commercial satellite photographs to study nuclear weapons programs around the world.  The results look like the work of an intelligence agency, but they are done entirely by faculty, staff and students using open information.
Jeffrey Lewis (B.A., Augustana College; PhD, University of Maryland) is the Director of the East Asia Nonproliferation Program and has taught at Middlebury Institute of International Studies since 2012. He is an expert in nonproliferation and arms control issues in Asia, the role of intelligence, and applying new tools to open source intelligence.  He teaches courses on arms control issues in Northeast Asian and Chinese nuclear policy. 

Hosted by Sarah Stroup, Associate Professor of Political Science.

November 2

A Woman In Charge: Magic, Politics, and Discrimination in the Classic Maya Lowlands  

James Fitzsimmons

James Fitzsimmons

The kingdoms and other principalities that dotted the Yucatan in the seventh century were, in terms of everyday governance, patriarchal. Consequently, female rulers existed but were rare. This talk explores the life of one such rare individual: Wak Chanil, a woman who once ruled what is today the archaeological site of Naranjo, Guatemala. Like many powerful women in antiquity, Wak Chanil was a politically ambiguous figure: she was a ruler, but not formally invested as a king or a queen. Unlike most people in her position, however, she was also a usurper and an unapologetic sorcerer. In a time of extreme social and political divisiveness, she was a competent figure. Beloved by her friends and hated by her enemies in a time of extreme social and political divisiveness, Wak Chanil became one of the most successful leaders of her era. Yet, in the end, no women followed her example. She was the last of her kind; this is her story.

James L. Fitzsimmons (PhD, Harvard University) is a Mesoamerican archaeologist. His research interests include the anthropology of death, the rise of complex societies in Mesoamerica, and the origins of writing. Dr. Fitzsimmons has either directed or been a member of several archaeological projects in the United States, Guatemala, and Honduras. He has worked at many sites in the Maya area, including Copan, Cuello (ongoing), Piedras Negras, Tecolote, and Zapote Bobal. In addition to his journal articles and book chapters, Professor Fitzsimmons is the author or co-author of six books, the most recent of which is Classic Maya Polities of the Southern Lowlands: Integration, Interaction, and Dissolution (co-edited with Damien Marken; University of Colorado Press 2015).

Hosted by Sarah Stroup, Associate Professor of Political Science.

November 19

The Forest, The Trees, and How We See Them: Perspectives on a tree planting boom in Uganda  

Jessica L'Roe
Middlebury Geography faculty and students survey recent plantings of Eucalyptus with community members in Western Uganda.

Jessica L'Roe

“Help the planet–plant a tree” campaigns are a common environmental initiative. Particularly in the tropics, tree-planting promises to tackle dual challenges of deforestation and climate change. The validity and equity of these types of initiatives depends on who plants the trees, what they replace, and how they impact the communities around them, but local views are often missing from slogans and headlines. Middlebury students and faculty have been working on a collaborative project to understand the shifting trajectory of a rural landscape in Western Uganda and hear the perspectives of people living in the thick of a tree-planting boom. Join faculty Jess L’Roe and student team members Derrick Burt ’20, Jacob Freedman ’21, and Kate Talano ’22 to explore the more complicated story of tree-planting and rural development.

Jessica L’Roe is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Geography. She works to understand the implications of shifting land rights and livelihoods in rapidly changing rural regions in the tropics. Her research is sited in biodiversity hotspots in Peru, Brazil, Uganda, and the DRC and is geared toward informing environmental policy. She teaches courses on research methods and geographic perspectives on environmental change.

Hosted by Caitlin Myers, John G. McCullough Professor of Economics.

December 3

The US Gender Gap: Past, Present, and Future  

Tanya Byker
Professor Byker on a research trip in South Africa.

Tanya Byker

You may have seen gender gap described in the media this way: “Women are only paid 82 cents for every dollar paid to men.” We will talk about where that measure comes from and how it relates to gender discrimination. Professor Byker will discuss how the gender gap has evolved since the 1980s and where it may be going, particularly in light of the Covid pandemic.

Tanya Byker (B.A., Swarthmore; PhD, University of Michigan) joined the Middlebury Economics faculty as an assistant professor in the fall of 2014. She teaches courses in regression, and the economics of gender. Her research falls under the categories of labor and development economics and focuses on the interrelated choices individuals make about education, work and parenthood. She has studied how birth-related career interruptions in the US vary by mother’s education, and the ways that parental leave laws impact those labor-supply decisions. In a developing country context, she has studied how access to family planning impacts fertility and longer-term outcomes such as schooling and employment in Peru and South Africa.

Hosted by Sarah Stroup, Associate Professor of Political Science.

December 7

When Galaxies Collide  

Eilat Glikman
Professor Glikman on the summit of Mauna Kea in Hawaii (14,000 ft elevation) during an observing run with two NASA Keck telescopes.

Eilat Glikman

The galaxies we see in the universe today formed through a hierarchical process of smaller galaxies merging together, often multiple times, over billions of years. During these mergers, the supermassive black holes residing in the galaxies’ centers also merge. In 2015, the LIGO experiment detected, for the first time, gravitational waves from the mergers of small black holes–but what about the supermassive ones in the centers of merging galaxies? How will we detect those? And where should we look to find these events? Professor Glikman will present a new project that she is developing to answer these questions and identify merging galaxies and their supermassive black holes.

Eilat Glikman (B.A., Rutgers University; PhD, Columbia University; NSF Astronomy and Astrophysics Postdoctoral Fellow, Yale University) is an astrophysicist who has been on the faculty at Middlebury since 2013. She uses observations from ground- and space-based telescopes across the electromagnetic spectrum to study how black holes grow in distant galaxies and their impact on their environment. She has published dozens of peer-reviewed articles on this subject and was featured in a PBS-NOVA program on black holes in 2018.

Hosted by Caitlin Myers, John G. McCullough Professor of Economics.

Zoom webinar details will be provided after you register.

Please note, all times listed are Eastern (EDT). 

Recordings of previous webinars are available below.

Additional talks by Middlebury faculty are also happening this fall through the Institute’s WorldViews Series.

Fall Series Recordings

Peter Nash Stavros webinar from September 9 will be posted soon.

Summer Series Recordings

Abenaki, In Relation to the Language

This summer, Middlebury added a pilot program in Abenaki to the Language Schools.  For the last three decades, Jesse Bowman Bruchac and Conor McDonough Quinn have worked both together and individually in Abenaki and other Eastern Algonquian language revitalization efforts.  They see this work as not only about language, but also about the strengthening of culture and community.  These efforts have led Dr. Quinn to develop and implement an Indigenous inspired relational approach to teaching language, in concert with Jesse’s culturally guided incorporation of music, and technology.  During their Faculty at Home presentation, they will be discussing formative experiences and methods, as well as reflecting on their extremely successful first session at the new Middlebury Language School of Abenaki.
In his quest to revitalize Abenaki, Jesse Bowman Bruchac has created multiple ways to make the language accessible including a website, a YouTube Channel, and recordings of teaching songs.
Jesse Bowman Bruchac is a Nulhegan Abenaki Citizen.  He is a traditional storyteller, musician, and educator.  He is the co-director of his family-run education center Ndakinna. He and Dr. Quinn co-teach a Wabanaki Language course at the University of Southern Maine.  He has also worked as a consultant, translator, composer and language coach for programs on AMC, National Geographic and PBS.
Conor McDonough Quinn received his PhD from Harvard University in Linguistics in 2006.  He is a sought after speaker and lecturer and currently teaches at the University of Southern Maine.  He has also taught at St. Thomas University and McGill University, University of Nizwa, Oman, and the University of California, Berkeley.  He has at least substantial working experience in over twenty languages. 

Diagnosing Dissent: Soldiers and Psychiatry in Germany from WWI to the Nazi Era

Unlike in countries such as the United States and Britain, Germany had no process for soldiers to legally express conscientious objection to military service in WWI.  This has led historians to conclude that such dissent in Germany was very limited in comparison, with the isolated cases of Germans who did express such opposition being relegated to the purview of physicians and psychiatric institutions.  It has been seen as one more example of the highly oppressive and indeed brutal system of German military psychiatry in action, the same system that categorically dismissed soldiers suffering from shell shock as nothing more than weaklings or shirkers.  Yet, by examining the actual patient files of thousands of WWI soldiers, Rebecca Bennette reveals that dissent was far more prevalent in Germany than has been assumed and the medicalization of dissenters actually worked to the benefit of these individuals in many cases.  Indeed, dissenters themselves often lobbied to have military psychiatrists become involved in their cases.  While this involvement of physicians during World War One could offer important protections to the soldiers involved, the rise of the Nazi Regime and its institution of eugenics policies changed everything.

Beyond the Page: Using theatre to transform the classroom

Beyond the Page is a new project at Middlebury College started by The Bread Loaf School of English and led by Craig Maravich. This project partners with professional actors/teaching artists, faculty and students to embed theatre arts practices across the undergraduate and graduate curriculum. This talk will explore how this pedagogy fosters creativity and critical thinking, and has the potential to revolutionize teaching in the liberal arts.
Beyond the Page is the evolution of the Bread Loaf School of English’s Acting Ensemble - a cohort of professional actors that serve as part of the Bread Loaf School of English teaching force. The ensemble collaborates with faculty to bring theater arts practices into educational spaces to catalyze cultural and literary inquiry. Watch a short video documenting the work of the Acting Ensemble by clicking the link above.

Assessing coral reef resilience to thermal stress in the face of climate change

Anthropogenic climate change threatens coral reef ecosystems in several ways. By comparing coral samples from a reef that experienced bleaching at high temperatures, and one that did not, we determined biological factors indicating temperature stress resilience. These data improve our biological understanding of these reefs, and provide insight for conservation efforts.

Read presentation slides

Dreams and Deferrals: Listening to Langston Hughes and Toni Morrison

Professor Wood discusses what we may hear when we listen closely to the work of Langston Hughes and Toni Morrison, paying special attention perhaps to what they don’t say. It will also consider the effect of listening with them, tuning in to some of the unforgettable jazz that gave a title to a Morrison novel, and that was never far away from any of Hughes’ poems.

The perils of being black in public: a conversation with Carolyn Finney

A conversation with Carolyn Finney whose piece, “The perils of being black in public: we are all Christian Cooper and George Floyd”, recently appeared in The Guardian.  With Caitlin Myers and Sarah Stroup as moderators, Dr. Finney will address current issues around race and the environment.  Webinar attendees will be able to submit questions before and during the webinar. 

Afterlife: Julia Alvarez in Conversation with John Elder About Her Latest Novel

Julia Alvarez discusses her first novel for adults in fifteen years with John Elder. Afterlife — a novel about what happens when the life we plan goes awry, retirement after a long career teaching, and honoring the diversity in each other and ourselves — is especially timely in this moment in our national and global history. 
In the course of their discussion, John will invite Julia to place this novel in the larger context of her writing, to relate it to the place of Vermont in her life and work, and to reflect upon its implications for the stresses and opportunities of the present moment.

Spring Series Recordings

A Crisis Inside a Crisis: What COVID-19 Might Teach Us About Dealing with Climate

Environmentalist Bill McKibben says there are no silver linings to a pandemic, but if we’re going to go through this kind of trauma we might as well learn some things. Join him as he shares his sense of what we should be thinking as we come out of quarantine.

Coronavirus and the Science of Epidemic Disease

How does the coronavirus epidemic compare to others of the recent past? And how are scientists responding to this situation? Professor Cluss will share insights on the latest virus causing worldwide havoc.

Drum Making as a Way of Life in Southern Uganda

The village of Mpambire in southern Uganda is the epicenter of a vibrant community of instrument makers, musicians, and entrepreneurs. Drum making is a primary source of livelihood, culture, and community. It connects them to their ancestors, both through musical practice and spirit-medium rituals. Drum making also fosters kinship within families, as elders pass down their knowledge of the art. And it promotes cross-cultural and global connections, which sustain Mpambire’s economy and afford drum makers opportunities to gain national and international experience.

Read Presentation Slides

Frankenstein: Still Coming Alive After 200 Years

For 200 years, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein has proven itself a shape-shifting and always-relevant text, providing generations of readers with an allegory for human psychology, class relations, gendered identity, the consequences of colonialism, and racial conflict. Today, it might even have something to say about our struggles with a global pandemic.

The Bonefish—Using Animation to Explore the Emotional Complexity of Abortion Daniel Houghton

How might the visual medium of animation be used to address the complex topic of abortion? When the current national political struggle forces an over simplification of a complex topic, and the ferocity of the debate encourages participants to fully embrace one side or another in the name of political efficacy, something is lost. The director and the two leading undergraduate collaborators, Kaitlynd Collins ‘19 and Lily Shale ‘20, consider ways of inviting new participants to engage in a topic that is so often shrouded in silence or simplified into fighting terms.

Financial Fraud in the Time of COVID

The COVID-19 pandemic has created numerous opportunities for criminal actors—cybercriminals using the pandemic as a ruse for their spearphishing campaigns, fraudsters setting up fake charities or taking advantage of the desperate scramble to acquire medical equipment and protective gear, or criminals using the new state of disorder to move their money with less risk of detection. Bad actors thrive in a state of chaos. Professor Ruehsen will first explain what you can do to protect yourself and then discuss what financial services firms can do to detect this criminal behavior.

Will Coronavirus Reshape Global Order?

The pandemic has and will continue to profoundly impact world politics and the economy. Ideas and policies developed over decades and the competence of national governments and international institutions have been shaken and tested. Join Professor Liang as she discusses what may be permanent shifts in how people (and nations) view sovereignty, freedom, democracy, market, and globalization.

Food System Transformation: What Do We Think We're Doing and Will It Work?

Calls to transform our food system are heard from every quarter now, especially given the connections between industrial agriculture and emergent infectious diseases. But what kinds of transformation are needed and how will they happen? Transformation to greater sustainability is essential for our own health and the health of ecosystems, but we can only accomplish this if we understand and deal with the current forms of power in the food system.

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Why Deny? The Psychology of Science Denial, Doubt, and Resistance

How do individuals decide whether to vaccinate their children, accept human causes of climate change, or practice social distancing during a pandemic? Democracies depend on educated citizens who can make informed decisions for the benefit of their health and wellbeing, their communities, nations, and planet. Understanding key psychological explanations for science denial and resistance can help provide a means for improving scientific literacy and understanding – critically important at a time when denial has become deadly.

The COVID-19 Recession: Economic Fallout and Prospects for Recovery

COVID-19 is first and foremost a public health crisis. The economic fallout from the virus is also staggering, and our economic policy decisions could ameliorate the degree of hardship or substantially impede our eventual recovery. Macroeconomist Andrew Fieldhouse discusses the COVID-19 recession in the United States, recent policy responses, prospects for recovery, and the risks ahead.

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U.S. Politics in a Pandemic

The COVID-19 crisis prompts two related questions for U.S. politics: First, has our system of government performed effectively in the face of a sudden disaster? And second, what will be the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic for elections in November and beyond? Although definitive answers to these questions will only come over time, Professor Johnson will offer some preliminary thoughts on these topics and provide context from the perspective of a political scientist.

Read Presentation Slides

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