Totality exhibition drew thousands

Fairbanks Hall was a-buzz with activity this weekend. 

The weekend before the August 21 eclipse, our usually-sleepy summer campus was bustling with life.  And that Fairbanks Hall, home of the Art Department, was a hub of excitement in the midst of the scientific phenomenon, was inspiring.

Curated by Associate Professor of Photography and New Media Communications Julia Bradshaw, the Totality Exhibition brought together a variety of works by locally and nationally recognized artists.

When Julia first learned of the eclipse, she seized on the idea to show the public how artists contribute to the conversation.

“With this exhibition, and the companion arts activities, I bring together artworks and artists who put us in touch with our human relationship to the Cosmos in some manner.”

Art in-progress

Together with the gallery exhibition, Julia scheduled workshops and performances on photography, print making, and poetry writing for the throngs of eclipse visitors who descended on our sleepy campus.

Eclipse visitors making mono-prints.

Artist events showcased work-in-progress style forums, where visitors watched and learned and practiced art.  Artist events included a performance piece by Kaitlyn Wittig- Mengüç and a poetry writing workshop led by Qwo-Li Driskill.

Eclipse visitors watch a performance art piece unfold.

Visitors watched mural painter Johnny Beaver at work, helped children’s author Eric Wayne Dickey write his next book, and listened to musicians Ryan Biesack and Mike Gamble improvise work inspired by the cosmos.

Mural artist Johnny Beaver talks about his process with visitors.

Julia was certain that the Totality art show would have appeal.

“That the eclipse is happening in our back yard is very special, but everyone’s reasons for viewing it is different. Our relationship to the Cosmos is like that: some are interested in space as a vehicle for fantasy and some are interested in space as a vehicle for scientific exploration.”

And she was right!  Fairbanks Hall saw an estimated 1,000 visitors on Saturday, and approximately 2,000 on Sunday.  It was wonderful to see so many visitors on campus.

Visitors make their own cyanotype sun prints.

A Lasting Effect

The Totality events catered to the young and old, and it added context to a truly extraordinary cosmological event.  I am certain the eclipse itself will leave lasting memories in the millions of people who witnessed it across the country.  I am equally certain that the Totality exhibition and events helped the thousands of visitors to our state and to our campus think about the significance of the eclipse on their daily lives.

I, for one, am still buzzing with inspiration.

Photos by Julia Bradshaw.  To see others, click here.


Liberal Arts 2017 funding summary

Prior to my appointment at the beginning of fiscal year 2015, CLA didn’t have a research program manager.  Faculty were on their own when it came to submitting grants.

For my first project, I studied the funding history of CLA and looked at eleven years of data, all the data available to me, from 2004 to 2014.  Over those eleven years, the college averaged 8.7 funded projects per year.  The report can be viewed here.  Slide four shows a table of the data, and slide seven summarizes and averages the data.

What’s the deal?

I am happy to report that for 2017, a whopping 30 projects were funded. That’s a 245% increase! Wow!

I am looking forward to the future and the opportunities for funding for CLA faculty, to whom I say, “Come see me!  I am here to help you succeed.”

Humanities, funding, and James Comey?

The humanities are at the center of the happenings going on in our nation’s capitol. As a grant writer for the College of Liberal Arts, it’s important to recognize.

I visited the National Endowment for the Humanities earlier this year.  My host there commented on the heightened security. She attributed to it the presence of the Federal Trade Commission, and “the lawyers,”  she groaned as she rolled her eyes.

I responded with a, “Oh, I don’t know, isn’t it ‘first kill all the poets?'”

My host smiled and said, “maybe so.”

I don’t know to whom that saying is attributed.  Whether it was poets or lawyers, either way, I was in a building with both.

Despite all the craziness coming out of DC, I was struck by how a recent press briefing focused on the interpretation of a poem.

On my other blog site that I keep for my personal writing, I just wrote a piece about the James Comey testimony and its Chaucerian significance.  The piece itself  bridges my personal and professional interests.



Ecampus Research and Liberal Arts at Oregon State University

My colleague and friend, Dr. Katie Linder, is the Ecampus research director at Oregon State University.   Her work there inspired me to start this blog to help document the research efforts happening in OSU’s College of Liberal Arts.

Ecampus Fellows Program

One of the many things happening at Ecampus Research is their Fellows program.  It’s been a real benefit to CLA faculty. Past recipients include folks from Psychology, History, and Anthropology.  The fellows program seeks “to support the research, development and scholarship efforts of faculty and/or departments in the area of distance/online education.” It’s a great new program, and I advise my readers here to keep an eye on it.  But their fellows program is not the focus of this blogpost.  I want to bring your attention to Dr. Linder’s podcasts.

Liberal Arts Research and Podcasts?

Her podcasts are of particular relevance to me and my work, and can be a great resource for CLA faculty.  Research in Action is a weekly podcast on topics related to all things research. Such a wealth of information in those podcasts, I often just listen in as I am working.  After all, I seized on the idea of Research in Action and sheepishly stole its namesake for the title of this blog, Liberal Arts Research in Action.  The quote “good poets borrow, better poets steal” is often misattributed to T.S. Eliot, and it hasn’t stopped me yet!

You can find a list of past RIA episodes here.  Many provide insight to issues relevant to Liberal Arts research.

A recent RIA podcast highlights the challenges faced by humanities and text-based research, and explores the work of biblical studies scholar, Dr. Nyasha Junior, an Assistant Professor of Hebrew Bible in the Department of Religion at Temple University in Philadelphia.

Highlights from Dr. Junior’s interview:

“It’s difficult to apply for external funding….  I don’t really need things, I don’t need a particle accelerator, or a lab, or… whatever it is that people in science do.  What I need is time and space, and maybe a library assistant to go get me some books.”

Other challenges faced by researchers:

“I’d say finding funding is tough, also communicating what we do to people who are outside of the field.”

Time, space, funding, and communicating are indeed challenges.  Listen to the RIA podcast with Dr. Junior here.  And be sure to listen to the whole podcast; Dr. Junior talks about ways to market your work.

photo courtesy of

What’s the Connection to OSU CLA?

The 60th episode of RIA features an interview with Dr. Christopher McKnight Nichols.  Dr. Nichols is the Director of the Center for the Humanities at OSU.  In this podcast, Dr. Nichols talks about his research, the importance of the humanities, and the Center.

You can listen to the podcast here.  Highlights include:

“… we don’t talk about data, per se, though we clearly have a data set”.

Liberal Arts data doesn’t seem like a thing, but it is.  Often times, Liberal Arts research isn’t valued because it’s not hypothesis driven.  Katie asks a great question very relevant to almost all tracks of humanities research:  “I’m curious to what degree your work, and the different things you’re looking at, is exploratory.”

Dr. Nichols responds with how he had to first come to understand his field of study before he could start asking specific questions.  Research questions, he states, are bound by historical moments.

The Center for the Humanities

“So, one thing that’s important for me as an advocate for the humanities here at this institution is to keep bringing up the amazing work that’s going on here in the humanities.” – Dr. Nichols

Meeting space at Oregon State University’s Center for the Humanities. Photo courtesy of the Center’s website.

Like Dr. Junior, Dr. Nichols acknowledges that time is one of the most important components of developing strong humanities research.  It takes time “to write good humanities work.” And time and space are something that the Center provides.  He then adds that creating institutional infrastructures and a culture of support for humanities work is also vital.

Be sure to listen to the whole episode. There is a bonus clip at the end where Dr. Nichols’ talks about his Carnegie Fellow recognition.

Thanks, Ecampus!

Special thanks to Dr. Katie Linder for running this podcast series and for recognizing the importance of humanities based research. Her efforts of sharing information about her work is inspiring.  She recently welcomed Dr. Mary Ellen Dello Stritto to the Ecampus research team.  Mary Ellen, Katie, and I, together with Susan Emerson, Research Development Associate for the OSU Research Office recently held our first university-wide grant writing workshop.  It was a remarkable success!

What’s next for the LARA blog?

I intend to write a post about my experience at a recent conference where I accessed a wealth of knowledge from other research coordinators.

I have another post forthcoming about the 2017-2018 College of Liberal Arts Research Awards.

Demystifying the NSF Process

Chasing butterflies in the Mountains
photo courtesy of

National Science Foundation Research in the Liberal Arts

Sometimes chasing after grants feels like a frivolous waste of time, especially when proposals go unfunded.  Navigating requests for proposals can be frustrating, and understanding guidelines can be an exercise in futility.  While there may be no magic net, so to speak, understanding the process and following the guidelines to the letter will help.

Dr. Anita Guerrini recently published a piece in the History of Science Society Newsletter about navigating the National Science Foundation (NSF) submission process.  In so doing, she created a valuable resource for understanding NSF from a humanities perspective.

Understanding the Proposal Process

From conceptualizing the project to interpreting the daunting 180 page Proposal and Award Policies and Procedures Guide (PAPPG), from writing to revising, and from submitting to the review process, Dr. Guerrini shares her experience and insights.  She writes:

“The Project Description should be as precise as possible about two main things: what you are going to do during the period of your grant, and what the final products of your research will be.”

In 2015, assisted Dr. Guerrini with an NSF submission titled, The Bone Collectors: Life, Death, and Commerce in Early Modern Europe.  The project was “to complete research and begin writing a book on the making and collecting of skeletons and bones in early modern Europe (1500-1830).”  The project has “implications for public policy, anthropology, archaeology, and preservation by museums and collectors of human remains.”  Thanks to careful and advanced planning, the proposal was funded.  The project is still in process and I recently met with her to assist with the project reporting requirement mandated by NSF.

She closes her piece in the History of Science Society Newsletter with some really great advice:

“Funding of all sorts is uncertain in our current political climate. But simply the act of writing a proposal is a very useful exercise—small consolation, to be sure, if you do not get funding. Your program officers work very hard to help applicants with the process, and many times will man (and woman) a table at the HSS annual meeting to talk over proposals. They will also give feedback on preliminary proposals. Take advantage of this, even if your next proposal is months or years away. And don’t give up.”

While following this advice is not a magic net, you will certainly experience the thrill and the rewards of research in action.  And maybe, just maybe, you’ll dig up a few bones or even catch a few butterflies.

Thanks to Dr. Guerrini for letting me share this on the LARA blog.

To read the full text:

Published in the History of Science Society Newsletter


What is the CLA-Research Office Research Award Program?

Oregon State University, students
OSU students, unite!

When I first joined the CLA Dean’s Office in 2014, I was asked to manage the CLA Research Award program.  The fund is provided by the OSU Research Office.  The Dean’s office and the Schools match to bring the total available funding to $40,000.  The funds are to support Liberal Arts research activities.  After learning the details and the process, I am grateful for the opportunity to manage the program.

As stated on the CLA Research website, the awards are primarily intended to assist faculty members in the initiation of new creative or scholarly activities and for projects that will result in further external funding, or improve the position of the faculty member in applying for funding.  Furthermore, the project must culminate in a concrete result (a peer-reviewed journal article submitted for publication, a performance, a professional exhibition, a grant proposal).  And moreover, preference is given to projects that enhance the status and visibility of the College and the University. The program helps highlight the research and scholarship efforts of our fellow faculty members. Because at the end of the day, there’s actually quite a lot of liberal arts research happening here at OSU.

2016 CLA Research Awards

In 2016, we received eleven applications.  After a review by a four-member committee, eight proposals were selected for funding.  The projects included research about a film director, another about perception and cognition, others  about identity, pollution, and how cultural capital can help college student success.   We even selected a creative writing project to help an author meet a publisher’s deadline, and a project to collect scholarly essays by OSU CLA researchers on coastal culture resiliency to be published by a leading academic press.  All very exciting and much needed work!  Here is the list of the 2016 funded projects, with links to the researchers’ websites.

  • Nabil Boudraa, Algeria on screen: The Films of Merzak Allouache
  • Nick Dybek, The End of a Perfect Year: A Novel
  • Allison Hurst, Measuring the Acquisition and Deployment of Social and Cultural Capital among First-Generation College Students
  • Christina Leon, Dusty Skin: Manuel Ramos Otero’s Queer Self-Translations
  • Lisa Price, Heritage and Resilience of Coastal and Marine Culture: Views from the Liberal Arts
  • Christopher Sanchez, Enhancing creative cognition via manipulations of perceptual fluency
  • Adam Schwartz, Talking about race with white-identified, U.S.-born Spanish faculty
  • Bryan Tilt, China’s Air Pollution Crisis:  Public Perceptions and Responses

Several of the 2016 awardees have already submitted their reports.  So far, I can say that the award program is doing what it’s supposed to do.  I am looking forward to receiving the other reports.  And I look forward to writing a future blog post detailing the success of some of those projects.

What’s next?

I am looking forward to announcing the 2017 CLA Research Awards.  The deadline just passed.  While I can’t say much about the proposals now, I can say that we received eleven applications again.  Is eleven a magic number?  I thought it was three?

Look for a future blog post on the 2017 awardees.

-Eric Wayne Dickey, CLA Research Program Manager

A new day for Liberal Arts Research

What is Liberal Arts Research?

“Liberal Arts” and “research” are rarely used in the same sentence.  Or are they?  Maybe research and exploration have always been here, and we are simply not trained to see it as such.  Data collection and reflection have always been a part of liberal arts.  Maybe it’s the word “research” itself that has become too narrowly defined.

reflection pool
photo credit: Eric Wayne Dickey

Why blog?

This blog will serve as a platform to showcase the many research activities happening at Oregon State University’s College of Liberal Arts.

What’s next?

The next blog posts will contain information about the open call for proposals for the 2017-2018 CLA Research Awards Program.   I will also post information about the progress and outcomes of the 2016-2017 CLA Research Awards projects.  The award program is co-sponsored by the OSU Research Office, the CLA Office of the Dean, and each of the Schools within CLA.

From Psychological Sciences to Public Policy, Anthropology to Communication, History, Music, Literature, and more, Liberal Arts research is alive and well!