Note From the Chair

CATEGORIES: December 2015

Dear Friends,

As another semester comes to an end, I take this opportunity to thank you all for your tremendous support of the Department of World Languages and Cultures, and to wish you a happy holiday season.

I also want to tell you about an end of an era (of sorts):  Claudia Lemon, our secretary for finance and personnel, has recently taken a position in another office at ISU.  Claudia has worked in WLC since 2002 and long been considered an anchor of the department.  Her experience and expertise has been instrumental in helping countless students and faculty navigate the university administrative structure. We wish Claudia the best in her new position, and thank her for her many years of service to WLC.  She will be missed, but we remain appreciative of her work.

claudia
Claudia Lemon (left) speaks with Prof. Mark Rectanus (right) at a recent department reception celebrating her time in WLC.

 

The other part of my message this month is to continue highlighting faculty research efforts.  Here I offer a brief synopsis on another three faculty members, Rachel Meyers (Classical Studies), Cristina Pardo (Spanish), and Mark Rectanus (German).  As you will see from this interesting summary of their current research, WLC faculty are quite unique and groundbreaking in their explorations of languages and cultures.

 

Dr. Rachel Meyers, Assistant Professor of Classical Studies, is currently working on a book that attempts to understand the multifaceted nature of Roman cultural identity in one region of the ancient Roman Empire. She brings together her expertise in Roman imperial portraiture, architecture, inscriptions, and coinage with her grounding in municipal philanthropy and propaganda in order to examine the life and culture of ancient Roman Spain in the second century. Her book, tentatively titled Imperial Representation and Civic Benefaction: Roman Spain in the Antonine Age, analyzes the representations of the imperial family and of the local aristocracy, while also examining the practice of benefaction in provincial towns. The two lines of inquiry go hand in hand because local benefactors financed and set up statues of themselves and their family members as well as members of the imperial family in the same public spaces. This project continues the trend of pulling away from “Romanization” studies, which have been a common approach in the last 150 years, by considering more than a simple one-way mode of cultural transmission. Yet the research also distinguishes itself from the field in that, rather than being limited to one body of evidence (e.g., only portraits), it brings together a wide body of material evidence and weaves together the threads of imperial portraiture, civic benefaction, and Roman cultural identity.

Last summer Rachel Meyers undertook research on Roman portraits from Sevilla, Spain and surrounding areas such as her work at the Museo Arqueológico de Sevilla.
Last summer Rachel Meyers undertook research on Roman portraits from Sevilla, Spain and surrounding areas such as her work at the Museo Arqueológico de Sevilla.

 

Dr. Cristina Pardo, Associate Professor of Spanish, is currently writing a research paper in collaboration with Dr. Carrillo Cabello about the medium of interaction used in the process of collaborative writing. Writing as a process has been recognized as an important part in first and second language learner language courses. Collaboration has been seen as an essential part of this process. Research in this area has shown that collaboration in the form of peer-review exercises can improve writing outcomes (i.e., quality of the writing product). Even though research in this area has identified some benefits in conducting peer reviews online, these studies have focused on the analysis of improvements in writing skills and on learners’ opinions ensuing from the collaboration process.  What past studies have not taken into account is the medium used in the process of collaboration and how students’ perceptions evolve.  The mixed-methods longitudinal project that we are investigating titled “Writing Spanish in the Digital Age: Facilitating Communication and Collaboration,” aims at examining the change of perceptions of intermediate Spanish learners on in-class and out-of-class writing tasks. The results of Pardo’s study have pedagogical implications not only on the selection of the medium of interaction but also on the use of digital media in collaborative writing assignments for instructors as well as for course and materials developers.

Cristina Pardo (second from left) recently gave a presentation at the 2015 Association for Education Communications and Technology (AECT) conference.
Cristina Pardo (second from left) recently gave a presentation at the 2015 Association for Education Communications and Technology (AECT) conference.

 

Dr. Mark Rectanus, Professor of German and former WLC Chair, has dedicated a great deal of his research on the role of museums in contemporary world culture. His recent research takes a closer look at how museums are reimagining “the museum experience” for visitors and publics beyond museum walls. In several articles Rectanus has suggested that contemporary museums are increasingly “moving out” of their conceptual and physical spaces. This move is not only a result of projects that question the fixity of museum boundaries, e.g., where the museum ends and the outside world begins. It also reflects diverse forms of mobility (including mobile media) that foreground the museum as a portal for experience. For example, BMW Welt (BMW World) in Munich creates a sort of cinematic stage (through the museum’s architecture and design) for experiencing automobiles as part of the urban landscape of Munich. In a very different project, the Jewish Museum Munich collaborated with the artist Sharone Lifschitz to engage pedestrians in seeing the museum and the city from new perspectives by creating texts on the museum windows and throughout Munich that reflect a German-Jewish dialogue. Rectanus is in the process of researching other museums in diverse cultural contexts – ranging from the US to Europe and Israel – that expand how we think about and experience museums. In 2015 he published two articles that explore these questions, which he expects to continue researching during the next few years.

Mark Rectanus investigates how artists use their work to engage with pedestrians and consumers in public spaces such as this design on a Munich window.
Mark Rectanus investigates how artists use their work to engage with pedestrians and consumers in public spaces such as this design on a Munich window.