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Bringing New Ideas Back to the Classroom

Every year, Dartmouth faculty members are recognized with prestigious awards and fellowships.

Larry Polansky, the Jacob H. Strauss Professor in Music, was awarded a New Directions Fellowship from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Beginning next winter, Polansky will spend time studying at Northeastern University in Boston, Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C., and the Sign Language Center in New York City.

Professor of Computer Science David Kotz '86, named a Fulbright Scholar by the U.S. Department of State's Council for International Exchange of Scholars, will work at the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore from August 2008 through June 2009.

Professor of Religion Susannah Heschel, the Eli Black Professor in Jewish Studies, was one of 20 Carnegie Scholars appointed by the Carnegie Corporation of New York. She will begin her two years of research this fall, following her participation in the religion department's study abroad program in Edinburgh, Scotland.

Enrico Riley '95, senior lecturer in studio art, was awarded a fellowship from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation. Beginning in the summer of 2009, Riley will travel to Oxford University and Native American lands in the Arizona and Utah.  

"Our faculty conduct innovative research with international significance, and it is wonderful to see their contributions and artistic works singled out by these prestigious awards," says Carol Folt, dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences. Dartmouth Life asked them about their scholarship and how it complements their teaching.

-David Kotz group picture
Professor of Computer Science David Kotz '86 (right) teaches a computer science seminar. From left: Susan Mlodzianoski ‘08, Lars Mortimer ‘08, and Senate Taka ‘08. Kotz and his students study ways to improve wireless networks; Kotz recently received a Fulbright to support the development of wireless communications in rural India. (Photo by Tilman Dette ′10)

Could you tell readers something about your work and the new directions it might take you?

POLANSKY I'm greatly improving my skills towards a goal of someday examining American Sign Language (ASL) poetry in terms of rhythm and formal structure, not just semantics. I  will attempt to bring my musical expertise to the consideration of ASL poetry and performance. And, though I venture into this with great humility and caution, I hope to help establish a few more creative and scholarly bridges between the world's Deaf and hearing artists and teachers.

KOTZ With my students, I seek new ways to make wireless networks-such as the ones you might use in the office or a coffee shop-more efficient, more secure, and more useful. I plan to work with faculty in Bangalore to improve our understanding of the technology and to support their efforts to develop wireless communications in the rural villages of India.

HESCHEL My research up until now has focused on Jewish scholarship, particularly how Jewish historians have written about Christianity, and how Christian historians have written about Judaism. But recently I've found that it's especially intriguing to talk about how Islam hovers over it all, and how it is imagined and studied by Jewish scholars, who have studied Islam since the 19th-century.  

RILEY I try to bring viewers into my work and to emphasize that they are actively looking at something. I'm interested in mapping concepts and am currently generating paintings inspired by sheet music, such as jazz scores and star navigation charts. More formally, my work also has a lot to do with subtle shifts in color, patterns, and the use of opaque and transparent light.

 

How does your scholarship shape your teaching?

Larry Polansky
Larry Polansky received a New Directions Fellowship from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. (Photo by Joseph Mehling '69)

POLANSKY Everything I do as a scholar and artist finds its way into my teaching. And beyond that, I may initiate new classes, conferences-maybe even a festival-related to my explorations into Sign and its art forms.  

KOTZ I work individually with undergraduate and graduate students in my research, and I find this to be a particularly rewarding form of teaching. Also, I have integrated new wireless network content into courses such as Computer Networks.

HESCHEL All my study has a deep connection to teaching. Talking about Judaic and Islamic studies in the classroom makes them part of one conversation, rather than existing, as they do now, as separate entities with little contact. Having this public discussion is important.  

RILEY As you continue to work, your approach evolves. These changes that happen while working alone in the studio also come through in the classroom. Also, you're creating work that you're asking students to create, so you can relate to them very specifically.

What is it about Dartmouth that fostered your work in this area?

Susannah Heschel
Susannah Heschel was one of 20 Carnegie Scholars appointed by the Carnegie Corporation of New York this year. (Photo by Joseph Mehling '69)

POLANSKY I am appreciative of the tremendous amount of freedom and support the College gives its faculty. Also, the interdisciplinary collegiality we have tends to facilitate this intellectual curiosity of the best kind, and I think one finds it all over the campus.

KOTZ Dartmouth is a true leader in the use of computing technology, the first in the Ivy League to deploy a campus-wide wireless network. Because of that early leadership, and a strong collaborative relationship with Peter Kiewit Computing Services, we have been able to conduct large-scale wireless network research not possible anywhere else in the world.

HESCHEL The College has given me the funding and support to attend conferences on a range of topics such as Biblical studies, German studies, and the Holocaust. Interacting with colleagues, and learning about new material makes me think about issues in new ways, and leads me in new directions of thought.

RILEY The overall environment. The members of the studio art department are incredibly supportive and encouraging. We are all active artists, working in different ways, and we are all teaching. I am lucky to have these colleagues. 

 

Any words of advice to students who aspire to careers  like yours?

Enrico Riley
Enrico Riley '95 was awarded a fellowship from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation. (Photo by Joseph Mehling '69)

POLANSKY Be as passionate as you can about ideas, knowledge, and creativity. Be ambitious only about the truth. Don't take anything as a given. Consider the possibility that teaching has as much to do with excitement for learning, and doing, as it has to do with content.

KOTZ Talk to the faculty, and ask to get involved in a research project-even in your first year.  Take advantage of the Presidential Scholars program or the Women in Science Project. Work with more than one professor in more than one project, to get a feeling for different kinds of research.

HESCHEL Academic life is a vocation. You need an inner drive, a passion, to be willing to give up anything and everything for it. It's like entering a convent. It's also incredibly rewarding. 

RILEY You're here to learn, and that's what you should do. Foster your own intuition, and your own personal way of learning and this will guide you to where you want to go.

By STEVEN J. SMITH

Questions or comments about this article? We welcome your feedback.

Last Updated: 6/23/08