Center for Excellence in the Arts and Humanities Announces Research, Symposium, and Planning Grants

The Office of Vice President for Research

Twelve researchers in the arts and humanities at Iowa State University were awarded research grants, three were awarded planning grants, and one was awarded a symposium grant by the Center for Excellence in the Arts and Humanities (CEAH).

“With projects from such diverse fields as philosophy, communication, history, English, art, and languages, these Iowa State scholars examine some of the most pressing issues of the current day, often with reflection on the ways they intersect with challenges of the past,” said Sarah Nusser, vice president for research.

Michael Bailey, CEAH interim director, noted the incredible breadth and depth represented in the CEAH grant winners.

“These CEAH grants are an excellent representation of the outstanding arts and humanities scholarship being conducted at Iowa State right now,” he said. “CEAH is pleased to support these projects, as just one of the many ways we support Iowa State’s arts, humanities, and design faculty in their important work.”


CEAH research grant recipients

Amy Bix (History), “Recruiting Engineer Jane and Astrophysicist Amy: American STEM Advocacy for girls, 1965-2015” Bix is visiting major archives to study historical documents and conduct oral history interviews with key figures in the story of how, when, and why K-12 advocacy for girls in STEM fields developed. She will examine the factors, assumptions, programs, activities, and toys that contributed to the transformation of STEM in K-12 classrooms.

Ted Grevstad-Nordbrock (Community and Regional Planning), “The Heritage of Diplomacy” 

As part of the Iowa State/U.S. Department of State Cultural Heritage Documentation Project and a related book he’s editing, Grevstad-Nordbrock will conduct research at the United States embassy in Canberra, Australia. This 1940s embassy building will serve as a case study to explore historic preservation in an international, multi-state context. For this research Grevstad-Nordbrock asks the question: What national values are communicated by the U.S. government when it opts for preservation over new design and construction?

Bonar Hernández (History), “Saving People, Not Souls: Religion, Community, and Politics during Guatemala’s Cold War”

Hernandez will travel to Guatemala City to do archival research on Catholic Action, a major religious group that operated in the western highlands of Guatemala during the 1960s and 1970s. His research examines the role of the Catholic Church and Maya communities in bringing about social and political change in rural Guatemala during the Cold War.

Tracy Lucht (Greenlee School), “Doing It Themselves: Theorizing Agency in the Careers of Midwestern Women Broadcasters, 1922-1972”

Lucht will collect, analyze, and interpret primary data about women at radio and television stations in the Midwest during the most influential years of American broadcasting. Women broadcasters and producers, largely working from their homes, played a significant role in the development of broadcasting in the U.S., as Lucht’s archival research will show.

Lawrence McDonnell (History), “Chasing Dave: The Unbelievable Life of an American Scoundrel”

McDonnell will travel to archives in New York, Massachusetts, South Carolina, and Louisiana to examine confidence man “Dr.” David Theophilus Hines. McDonnell will write a book about the implications of the success of this man who fooled presidents, impersonated clergymen and financiers, seduced women, and cheated men while earning national fame, including how Hines’ life connects to our modern views of identity and success.

Amy Rutenberg (History), “Making Citizen-Civilians: Cold War Military Manpower Policy and the Origins of Vietnam-Era Draft Resistance”

Rutenberg will travel to the Wisconsin Historical Society in Madison to research the development of the resistance to the draft during the Vietnam War. She argues that middle-class men were able to use the military’s own policies to avoid the draft, as military policy in the 1950s and 1960s normalized deferments among middle-class “heads-of-household” but targeted poor men for military service in order to teach them middle class values.

Linda Shenk (English), “The Role of the Humanities in the New Community-Engaged, Data-Driven Science

Shenk will produce two articles, one as lead author and one as sole author, about the transdisciplinary methodology she is developing — socio-technical storytelling — that integrates community engagement with data analytic technologies. Her approach calibrates the lived experience of residents with the systems-level needs of science and city decision-making, thus bringing diverse stakeholders into partnership to co-create more livable, equitable cities.

Matthew Sivils (English), “The Seductive Land: Sexuality and the American Environmental Fantasy, 1787-1881”

Sivils will produce a book building on the way American writers have historically talked about nature and the non-human, natural world as sensual. Sivils will examine the works of authors published in the late 1700s to the late 1800s such as William Bartram, Leonora Sansay, Edgar Allan Poe, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Walt Whitman to show how they created an increasingly sexualized portrait of the natural world.

Olivia Valentine (Art and Visual Culture), “Between Systems and Grounds: A Generative, Sonic Textile Construction and Installation”

Valentine is working in partnership with a composer/sound artist on a performance and installation project. “Between Systems and Grounds” creates a feedback loop between textile construction processes and feedback-based electronic music, resulting in both sonic and textile elements. In the current phase of the project, a standalone installation utilizing a constructed textile score and custom electronic components will be developed, along with an audio publication.

Stacey Weber-Fève (World Languages and Culture), “Restaging Comedy: Comic Play and Performance in Women’s Contemporary Cinema in France”

Weber-Fève will continue work on her second book: a study of women’s comedy filmmaking in France. The book will take a specialized look at women’s primary and secondary roles in the evolution of French cinematic comedy by studying both women filmmakers and female comedy stars. Weber-Fève will also address race and ethnicity, gender, class, and sexuality in contemporary comic discourse and its implications for French culture.

Andrea Wheeler (Architecture), “A New Ecological Aesthetics of Nature in Architecture”

Wheeler will produce two journal-length manuscripts and a book proposal that discuss the work of two world-renowned philosophers: Gernot Böhme, whose work is celebrated for its philosophy of architectural atmosphere, and Luce Irigaray, whose work focuses on a culture of two subjects, masculine and feminine, something she explores in a range of literary forms. Wheeler will engage with both these living philosophers to publish works of interest to the field of sustainable design.

Jeremy Withers (English), “The Wheels of Chance: A New Edition

Withers will produce a new edition of a novel by H.G. Wells, who many people consider the father of science fiction. The book, “The Wheels of Chance,” is a cycling novel written by Wells in 1896, but is no longer in print. In addition to the text of the novel, Withers will write a substantial introductory essay to the book, add explanatory notes throughout the text, compose discussion questions for classroom use, and so forth.


CEAH planning grant recipients

Chiu-Shui Chan (Architecture), “New Methods of Developing a Virtual Reality History Book Library”

Chan, with help from Jelena Bogdanovic (Architecture) and Vijay Kalivarapu (Virtual Reality Applications Center), will create an international virtual library showing the evolution of buildings over time and around the world – and in turn giving viewers a richer understanding of civilization through the history of architecture. His work will build upon a library established at Iowa State in 1997, a necessary evolution of the project due to advances in technology, the opportunity to expand its content, and the need to open up the virtual library to the public.

Kathleen Hilliard (History), “Bonds Burst Asunder: The Revolutionary Politics of Getting By in Civil War and Emancipation, 1860-1867”

In her book, Hilliard will present a new argument about how the street-level economy of “getting by” during the Civil War and emancipation eventually shaped the transition to capitalism in the American South. It was the mundane market exchanges during these times that proved “politically revolutionary,” she argues, yielding a postwar economy forged from exploded old bonds and strange new ties – moments that she says historians have previously missed or ignored.

Pamela Riney-Kehrberg (History), “When a Dream Dies: Agriculture, Identity, and the Farm Crisis of the 1980s”

Riney-Kehrberg will explore the agricultural collapse of the 1980s and its long-term social and political impacts on Iowa children, families, communities, and development of the Midwest. Her research will also add to the timely discussion of America’s increasing urban-rural divide and the corresponding cultural and economic rift.


CEAH symposium grant recipient

David Marshall Miller (Philosophy), “Revolutions in the History of Early Modern Philosophy and Science”

Miller will organize a conference of international scholars who are contributing to a volume of original essays about philosophy during the Scientific Revolution. This conference will help develop a new methodological consensus in the historical study of philosophy and of science, while promoting humanistic engagement with science.