Raising the Profile

Faculty in the news

Sarah Niebler and David O’Connell, both assistant professors of political science, discussed the presidential election with Scott Lamar (far left) of NPR member-station WITF during a live broadcast.

Professors reach the wider world through work with the media

by Craig Layne

This past academic year, Dickinson’s faculty were increasingly called on for expert analysis and commentary on a wide range of topics from presidential politics to massive, man-eating snakes. They have appeared in outlets ranging from The New York Times, ABC News and The Hill to National Geographic and Vox. Dickinson professors help journalists tell important stories, and in the process, raise the profile of Dickinson by highlighting the college’s strength to a national and international audience.

The Story That Gripped the Nation

Dickinson’s political science department faculty contributed to dozens of stories over the course of the 2016 presidential campaign. In October, Assistant Professor of Political Science Sarah Niebler shared her social science research on campaign advertising with NPR’s Shankar Vedantam on Morning Edition. Niebler’s work examined how political advertising can influence campaign contributions, even in areas considered party strongholds.

Professor of Political Science James Hoefler penned an op-ed in The Washington Post examining how First Amendment free-speech protections might apply to then-candidate Donald Trump’s comment that “Second Amendment people” could do something about Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

Assistant Professor of Political Science David O’Connell shared his analysis of political polarization and its consequences in a nationally circulated Associated Press report. The Chronicle of Higher Education also interviewed O’Connell about his approach to bringing the election into his classroom.

As the election approached, O’Connell, Niebler and Assistant Professor of Political Science Kathleen Marchetti provided insight for outlets including The Hill, RollCall and numerous Pennsylvania newspapers and TV and radio stations.

When The New York Times asked Visiting Professor of International Security Studies Jeffrey McCausland for his analysis of Trump’s comments on U.S. military efforts to oust ISIS from Mosul, Iraq, McCausland found himself trading barbs with the Republican nominee live on CNN and in outlets like ABC News, The Daily Beast and The Hill.

The Atlantic interviewed Professor of American Studies and Women’s, Gender & Sexuality Studies Amy Farrell about Trump’s comments on beauty queen Alicia Machado’s weight as well as his previous statements about Rosie O’Donnell. Farrell, who is the John J. Curley '60 and Ann Conser Curley '63 Faculty Chair in the Liberal Arts and executive director of the Clarke Forum for Contemporary Issues, explained Trump was “drawing on a long tradition of mocking women if they don’t satisfy a particular standard.” Farrell also provided similar analysis for the HuffPost.

After the election, Assistant Professor of Philosophy James Sias spoke with The Atlantic about the visceral reaction to Trump’s win and why so many refused to even speak Trump’s name. O’Connell offered his insight to CNBC as a historically expensive special-election campaign in Georgia was interpreted as a referendum on Trump’s new presidency.

Big Snakes, Big Headlines

Scott Boback, associate professor of biology, has established a reputation as a go-to scientist for journalists writing about snakes, particularly pythons. Boback’s recent analysis of a python in the Florida Everglades that was found to have eaten three deer garnered coverage in LiveScience, Vox, Miami Herald and several other outlets. National Geographic sought Boback’s expertise when a python was thought to have eaten a man in Indonesia.

A Taste of Jewish Culture and History

Ted Merwin, part-time associate professor of Judaic studies and director of the Milton B. Asbell Center for Jewish Life, dined at Manhattan’s Carnegie Deli with NPR’s Joel Rose for a story on the impending closure of the iconic Jewish business. Rose’s piece aired on All Things Considered. Merwin, author of Pastrami on Rye: An Overstuffed History of the Jewish Deli, has also contributed to articles in USA Today Magazine and Mic, among others.

Tackling Islamophobia

Assistant Professor of Sociology Erik Love’s research on Islamophobia and racism has been featured by Vox. He also discussed his new book, Islamophobia and Racism in America, on Dallas NPR member station KERA’s Think program, and he has written about Islamophobia in a column for the HuffPost.

Investigating International Affairs

Professor of Asian Law and Society Neil Diamant discussed a wave of protests by Chinese veterans with The Wall Street Journal, The Associated Press, Salon, U.S. News & World Report and BBC Worldwide radio, among others. Professor of Political Science Russell Bova outlined sanctions Russian President Vladimir Putin wants lifted and President Trump’s motivation for improved relations with Russia in a HuffPost article.

Seeking out Scholars

Associate Professor of Psychology Suman Ambwani provided expert commentary for a Newsweek report on pro-anorexia websites. Yahoo! Sports asked Associate Professor of Mathematics Jeffrey Forrester to crunch the numbers on the rarity of five NFL players coming from one town with a population of less than 1,000 people in 25 years. Associate Professor of Philosophy Chauncey Maher’s post at The Brains Blog was featured in New York Magazine’s “The Science of Us.” The blog focused on his research on plant memory. A Q-and-A with Professor of Earth Sciences Ben Edwards was featured in NSF Discovery in recognition of Earth Sciences Week. It also was published online by Foreign Affairs. The Christian Science Monitor featured Professor of Biology Tom Arnold’s take on recent research about harmful chemicals banned since the 1970s that are still being found in ocean animals. The Monitor also has reported on the “Supermoon” phenomenon, quoting Professor of Physics and Astronomy Robert Boyle on how the moon’s proximity to Earth would affect tides. Additionally, LiveScience relied on Professor of Chemistry Cindy Samet in an article explaining the thyroid gland’s function and diseases.

Love for the Literary

The New York Times recently ran an essay in its Modern Love section by Susan Perabo, writer-in-residence and professor of creative writing. The New Yorker published “The Lazy Susan,” a poem by Professor of Creative Writing and Poet-in-Residence Adrienne Su. The Wire published Associate Professor of English Siobhan Phillips’ essay on the demise of the hand-written letter.

Highlighting History on TV

Colonial America, Race and the Origins of Country Music,” a lecture presented by Associate Professor of American Studies Cotten Seiler in his course, “Racial Politics of American Popular Music,” was taped by C-SPAN for the series, “Lectures in History.” C-SPAN also included Associate Professor of History and Brian C. Pohanka Chair in American Civil War History Matthew Pinsker in a special called “Teaching Underground Railroad History.” Additionally, Pinsker helped inaugurate The History Channel’s “Sound Smart” series, which offers concise ways to think about major topics in U.S. history. Pinsker was featured on seven episodes from the antebellum and Civil War eras.

Commentary and Columns

Dickinson faculty also often pen op-eds, letters and columns for major news outlets. Neil Leary, director of the Center for Sustainability Education, regularly writes for the HuffPost. Associate Professor of Philosophy Crispin Sartwell is a frequent contributor to The Wall Street Journal, having written four op-eds already in 2017.

Updates on Dickinson professors, students and administrators mentioned in the news are available on the Dickinson website.

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Published June 23, 2017