Year in Review: Top Humanities and Social Sciences Stories of 2015
As 2015 comes to an end, take a look back at some of our biggest stories of the year.
As a member of the White House’s Social and Behavioral Sciences Team (SBST), psychology professor Lori Foster aims to help federal agencies increase the efficiency and efficacy of their programs and policies. Foster, who studies how organizations and their employees function, will continue as a team member for the next year before returning to her role at NC State.
While researching the linguistic links between Martin Luther King Jr. and Langston Hughes, English professor Jason Miller discovered a historic recording of King’s 1962 speech in Rocky Mount. Miller is now airing the recording for the world to hear, allowing the public access to the first time King delivered phrases that would ultimately inspire millions.
Building on an award-winning 3-D model of John Donne’s 17th century “Paul’s Cross” sermon at St. Paul’s Cathedral, English professor John Wall and an interdisciplinary team of professors will now expand their virtual work to the interior of the church. The National Endowment for the Humanities, which funded the initial Virtual Paul’s Cross Project, awarded the group a new $324,000 grant in July that will not only broaden the 3-D model, but help create openly available modeling software that other scholars can use.
Chef, restaurateur and TV star Vivian Howard can now add Distinguished Alumna to her long list of achievements. Howard (English, ‘00) was awarded the Humanities and Social Sciences Distinguished Alumna award at NC State’s 2015 Evening of Stars gala.
In November, NC State joined more than two dozen institutions in the Collaborative to Advance Equity through Research, a group that aims to support and improve research about women and girls of color. The collaborative was formally announced at a White House summit, “Advancing Equity for Women and Girls of Color,” where Assistant Dean for Interdisciplinary Studies and International Programs Blair Kelley represented NC State in its commitment.
Despite the significance of Martin Luther King Jr.’s 1960 “Fill up the Jails” speech, which marked the first time the civil rights leader called for direct nonviolent action, no audio or recording of the original has ever been discovered. To more fully comprehend King’s address as an experience, a team led by communication professor Victoria Gallagher created an exhibit that allows viewers to see and hear it for themselves.
As a 2015 recipient of the Boren Fellowship, graduate student Mary Sloan is spending 10 months in Morocco, where she’s researching the region’s remarkably high levels of youth unemployment. Three other recent graduates, Maurita Harris, Megan Hornbeck and Erin Adamson, are also studying abroad after landing Fulbright scholarships.
Dean Jeff Braden and English professor John Wall represented NC State at a Congressional reception in honor of the 50th anniversary of the National Endowment for the Humanities. Congressman David Price invited the college to discuss its latest research in honor of the NEH’s birthday.
NC State’s Department of Social Work is one of several key collaborators across campus that promote and coordinate university-wide suicide prevention efforts. From large-scale events like Packapalooza to #StopTheStigma campaigns and other efforts, the department aims to help educate the community and stop the stigma associated with help-seeking behavior.
Drawing on the only surviving transcript of a court proceeding, old newspapers, an 80-year-old diary and numerous archival documents, recent graduate Micah Khater wrote a paper that uncovers a forgotten event in North Carolina history: a rare civil rights victory orchestrated by African-Americans in the Jim Crow era. The fascinating tale, spun with a historian’s eye for detail and a storyteller’s gift for prose, won this year’s Hugh T. Lefler Award from the North Carolina Literary and Historical Association.
Sarah Bowen knows a lot about tequila and mezcal. Her new book, Divided Spirits: Tequila, Mezcal, and the Politics of Production, explores the complex web of relationships – from farmers to bartenders – involved in transforming agave plants grown in Mexico into high-end spirits and cocktails consumed around the world.
Leigh-Kathryn Bonner created quite a buzz with the organization she founded. Bee Downtown has more than 120,000 bees in various observation hives and recently partnered with Burt’s Bees to open the state’s largest observation hive at Durham’s American Tobacco Campus. Bee Downtown’s purpose is to educate the community about the global concern regarding the drop in honeybee population due to Colony Collapse Disorder.
In his new book, Spirits Rejoice! Jazz and American Religion, religious studies professor Jason Bivins explores a variety of issues, from how jazz musicians have drawn on specific religious traditions to inform their music to musicians who view performance as ritual. Bivins’s background makes him particularly well-suited to explore both subjects. In addition to specializing in the nexus of religion and U.S. politics, he’s also a jazz musician, recording improvisational albums with bands such as the Unstable Ensemble, the Micro-East Collective and the Impermanence Trio.