college of liberal arts

OSU neuropsychologist receives prestigious NSF Career Award

CORVALLIS, Ore. – An Oregon State University neuropsychologist has received a prestigious National Science Foundation CAREER Award designed to support emerging influential scholars and educators.

Sarina Saturn, an assistant professor of psychology, will use the funding to investigate how naturally occurring variations in the oxytocin hormone (also known as the “love hormone”) influence the experience and expression of uplifting emotional states and altruism in young children, young adults and older adults.

The CAREER award is the NSF’s most prestigious award for new faculty members, designed to recognize and support the early career-development activities of the academic leaders of the future.

An integral component of Saturn’s research involves forming a partnership between the College Assistance Migrant Program (CAMP) and the Cross-Cultural Mentorship Program at OSU in order to introduce underrepresented and first-generation college students to a variety of scientific research opportunities on campus.

Saturn holds a doctoral degree from New York University and conducted post-doctoral research at the University of California, Berkeley. She is an expert on the link between genetics and empathy, and is particularly concerned with how oxytocin impacts social connections and behavior.

Media Contact: 

Sarina Saturn, 541-737-1366

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Sarina Saturn

OSU students contribute to online archive of the American Film Institute

CORVALLIS, Ore. – A group of students at Oregon State University is contributing to a project that has been heralded by filmmaker Martin Scorsese as “the most complete and accurate” online archive of American films.

Twelve University Honors College students are cataloging more than 40 movies from the 1980s this term as part of a special project in the class of OSU film professor Jon Lewis. Their work is part of a larger effort on behalf of the American Film Institute (AFI) to document every American feature-length film produced from 1893 through 2011.

The AFI Catalog Academic Network utilizes “the best and brightest” scholars from around the country to provide plot summary and production note information to help flesh out the records of American movies.

OSU is one of the only universities participating in the AFI Catalog of Feature Films project that does not have an established film studies program or major. Lewis teaches in the proposed School of Writing, Literature, and Film at OSU, formerly known as the Department of English.

“This is really a cool honor,” Lewis said. “And if we do it right, it could be something that honors students at OSU might continue to do in future classes.”

Lewis was contacted last year by the AFI catalog’s editor Bob Birchard about the project, which already has completed listings for films made through 1975. Birchard was aware of Lewis’ work as a nationally known American film scholar and offered OSU students the chance to help document American film history.

“Most of the really obvious films from the ’80s like ‘E.T.’ had already been taken,” Lewis said. “I thought this could be an interesting learning experience for the students, a way to introduce them to movies in that era that are overlooked.”

Each student was assigned up to four films to catalog. A typical entry includes an exhaustive list of details, such as the complete cast and crew, a detailed plot description and an examination of the history of the making of the film. The American Film Institute provides a packet, including a DVD of the film, for the student.

Films as diverse as Brian De Palma’s 1981 thriller, “Blow Out,” starring John Travolta, and Ross McElwee’s 1986 documentary, “Sherman’s March,” were assigned to the OSU students, some of whom have never taken a film studies class before.

“It is one of the reasons I wanted this to be an honors class,” Lewis said. “They are dedicated students who know how to do diligent scholarship and work.”


About the OSU College of Liberal Arts: The College of Liberal Arts includes the fine and performing arts, humanities and social sciences, making it one of the largest and most diverse colleges at OSU.  The college's research and instructional faculty members contribute to the education of all university students and provide national and international leadership, creativity and scholarship in their academic disciplines.

Media Contact: 

Jon Lewis, 541-737-1647

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AFI class
Student Dane Heiss presents on the 1979 movie "Hardcore" in Professor Jon Lewis' University Honors College class, which is contributing to the American Film Institute Catalog Academic Network this term. Feb. 2012. Photo credit: Theresa Hogue

Physician adviser for TV show ‘House’ to speak on medical mysteries on March 13

CORVALLIS, Ore. – A physician whose column was the inspiration for the hit television series “House,” will speak on medical mysteries and the art of diagnosis in a lecture at Oregon State University on Tuesday, March 13, at LaSells Stewart Center.

Dr. Lisa Sanders is speaking as part of the OSU Program in Medical Humanities lecture series. The free public event includes a public reception at 6:30 p.m., followed by the talk at 7 p.m.

Sanders’ monthly "Diagnosis" column in The New York Times Magazine was an inspiration for the Fox TV series “House,” which has been on the air since 2004. She is also one of the show’s technical advisers.

She will discuss some of the key messages from her new book, “Every Patient Tells a Story: Medical Mysteries and the Art of Diagnosis.” An interview and excerpt from her book on National Public Radio can be found here: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=111844063

Kirkus Reviews described Sanders book as: “A doctor’s insightful reflections on the disconnect between how physicians should practice and how they actually practice.”

Sanders is a board-certified internist on the faculty at the Yale University School of Medicine.

The lecture is sponsored by the Hundere Endowment for Religion and Culture, the OSU Program in Medical Humanities, Horning Program for Humanities Scholarship, Office of Vice Provost for Student Affairs, and University Honors College.

Media Contact: 

Courtney Campbell, 541-737-6196

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Dr. Lisa Sanders

Student contest calls for writing and video entries on ways to prosper on Earth

CORVALLIS, Ore. – A contest for Oregon State University students invites written works or videos that tell hopeful stories about new ways for humans to prosper on Earth.

“The Great Work: Re-imagining Humanity as the Planet Changes” is sponsored by the Spring Creek Project for Ideas, Nature, and the Written Word, with support from the Student Sustainability Initiative. Winning written entries will be published in an insert in the Daily Barometer, and winning videos will be screened at a special event in the spring. Winners also receive $100 awards.

The deadline for submissions is March 5.

“Turbulent times are coming, bringing climate change, declining cheap energy, and many other environmental, economic and social disruptions,” said Charles Goodrich, director of the Spring Creek Project. “We are looking for new stories that bring our values and aspirations together with our best scientific and social information to create meaningful options for embracing the future.”

The contest takes its title from cultural historian Thomas Berry who wrote that “the Great Work” is for the human species to transform itself from destructive forces into co-creators of the planet’s ecological abundance.

The Great Work is open to written and video entries in any genre: documentary, essay, opinion, and creative. “We want to hear from students in engineering and agriculture, music and creative writing, fisheries, pharmacy, every field,” Goodrich said.

Contest guidelines and submission information can be found on the Spring Creek website: http://springcreek.oregonstate.edu/

Media Contact: 

Charles Goodrich, 541-737-6198

OSU class on Occupy Wall Street explores the philosophy, history behind the movement

CORVALLIS, Ore. – A new class offered this term at Oregon State University puts the Occupy Wall Street movement into a broader context of social movements, historical events and philosophical ideas.

Titled “Political Philosophy of Occupy Wall Street,” the class is the brainchild of OSU faculty members Joseph Orosco and Tony Vogt, who are co-teaching the credited course together.

Both have been involved with the local Occupy Corvallis movement, but Orosco said the course is less about activism and more about educating students about the political, cultural and social underpinnings of social movements like Occupy Wall Street.

“We are really less concerned about what is going on in the Occupy movement itself and more interested in exploring how this is related to American social movements such as the labor and Civil Rights movements, but also global movements,” Orosco said, pointing to the Arab Spring demonstrations of 2010, the workers’ factory cooperatives in Argentina in 2001, and the Zapatistas in Mexico in 1994.

“What social movements can and often do is change the way societies and cultures talk about themselves – they can change the dialogue,” Orosco said. “And we already see that happening with Occupy, because now Americans are talking about issues of class, about inequality and framing it as ‘We are the majority’.”

Orosco, an associate professor of philosophy and director of the OSU Peace Studies program, gave the example of the feminist movement in the United States, which will be discussed in the class. He said people often ask what the Occupy Wall Street movement wants to “accomplish,” but he said such sentiments miss the broader perspective.

“Social movements often don’t change anything politically, at least in the short term,” he said. “Look at the feminist movement – they were not successful in getting an Equal Rights Movement passed. But did that movement change the way we talk about gender and power dynamics? Absolutely there was a cultural shift.”

Vogt said he is excited as an academic to be teaching a class on a subject that is still evolving, and is happening now. Vogt teaches classes both in philosophy and sociology.

“It’s a pretty rare thing to study something as it is happening,” he said. “We’re really interested in the kinds of ideas and philosophies that animate this movement.”

There are about 20 students, both undergraduate and graduate, in the class and they come from a broad range of backgrounds. Sophomore Zack Lee said he is from a privileged background, having attended exclusive private schools in his native city of Bangkok. He said he chose to go to a public university because he wanted to interact with a greater diversity of people.

“I really want to understand more about people from other backgrounds and perspectives,” he said. “I feel like you can’t really know how other people live unless you have tried to put yourself in their place.”

While some of the students expressed solidarity with the Occupy protesters, others said they signed up for the class just to learn more and be better informed.

“Protest is a barometer for a certain point in society where people have really reached their limit,” said senior Natalie Rich. “Even though they may be on opposite ends, both the Tea Party movement and the Occupy movement are, I think, saying that something is not right.”

Media Contact: 

Joseph Orosco, 541-737-4335

Film series celebrating women comes to OSU campus

CORVALLIS, Ore. – A new film series commemorating the centennial of women’s suffrage in Oregon kicks off Tuesday, Jan. 17, at various locations at the Oregon State University campus.

The Woman Citizen Film Series is part of “Woman Citizen: Past, Present, and Future,” a series of events to commemorate the centennial of suffrage in Oregon (1912-2012) by promoting education about women’s history and women’s issues and by encouraging civic and political involvement.

The screenings, all held on Tuesdays through March 6, include:

Jan. 17, Construction & Engineering Auditorium, LaSells Stewart Center

  • 7 p.m.: “Taking Root: The Vision of Wangari Maathai”: This drama tells the story Kenyan Nobel Peace Prize laureate Wangari Muta Maathai who set out to fight both women’s poverty and environmental degradation. Kathleen Dean Moore, distinguished professor of philosophy at OSU, will lead a post-film discussion. This film is co-sponsored by the Spring Creek Project for Ideas, Nature, and the Written Word.

Jan. 24, Owen Hall 101

  • 6 p.m.: “One Woman, One Vote”: Narrated by actress Susan Sarandon, this documentary chronicles the 70-year battle for woman suffrage in the United States. Kim Jensen, professor of history and gender studies at Western Oregon University, will lead a post-film discussion.

Jan. 31, Owen Hall 101

  • 6 p.m.: “Killing Us Softly 4: Advertising’s Image of Women”: Media scholar Jean Kilbourne examines the distorted ideals of femininity found in American print and television advertising and asks critical questions about popular culture’s explicit and implicit messages about sex and gender. Dwaine Plaza, professor of sociology and ethnic studies, will lead a post-film discussion.

Feb. 7, Owen Hall 101

  • 6 p.m.: “Medieval Lives: The Damsel”: “Monty Python” star Terry Jones examines the surprising lives and roles of women in medieval Europe, shattering stereotypes about the “damsel in distress.” Tara Williams, associate professor of English, will lead a post-episode discussion.

Feb. 21, Owen Hall 102

  • 6 p.m.: “Maya Lin: A Strong, Clear Vision”: This Academy Award-winning documentary tells the story of sculptor and architect Maya Lin, who designed the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. amidst great controversy. Flo Leibowitz, professor of philosophy, and Trischa Goodnow, professor of speech communication, will lead a post-film discussion.

Feb. 28, Owen Hall 102

  • 6 p.m.: “Moscow Does Not Believe in Tears”: An Academy Award winner for Best Foreign Language Film, this dramatic comedy follows three Russian women struggling to make it in the big city in the 1960s and 1970s. Bill Husband, professor of history, will lead a post-film discussion.

March 6, Owen Hall 102

  • 6 p.m.: “Autumn Gem: A Documentary on China’s First Feminist”: The remarkable life of Qiu Jin, the “Chinese Joan of Arc,” a champion of women’s rights who defied traditional gender roles and led an armed uprising against the Qing Dynasty, is documented in this film. Shiao-ling Yu, associate professor of foreign languages and literature, will lead a post-film discussion.

The Woman Citizen project is sponsored by the School of History, Philosophy, and Religion, OSU Women’s Giving Circle, the Horning Endowment for the Humanities, the College of Liberal Arts, and the Office of the Vice Provost for Student Affairs.

Media Contact: 

Marisa Chappell, 541-737-1266

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Wangari Maathai
Pictured: Wangari Maathai, star of "Taking Root: The Vision of Wangari Maathai" which shows Jan. 17, 2012. Photo credit: Martin Rowe

Autumn Gem
Pictured: Qiu Jin from "Autumn Gem: A Documentary on China’s First Feminist" which shows March 6, 2012.

Pictured: Maya Lin, star of "Maya Lin: A Strong, Clear Vision" which shows Feb. 21, 2012. Photo credit: Adam Stoltman

Lectures on Shakespeare held Jan. 17 and 19 on OSU campus

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Patrick Spottiswoode, education director for the Globe Theatre in London and the president of the Shakespeare Theatre Association will be at Oregon State University on Jan. 17 and 19 presenting two public lectures. 

On Tuesday, Jan. 17, Spottiswoode will give a talk on “Around the Globe: Shakespeare’s Words and His Theatre” at the Center for Humanities on 8th and Jefferson in Corvallis. And on Thursday, Jan. 19, he will speak about “Creating a Chink in the Wall,” at the Lab Theatre in Withycombe Hall on the OSU campus.

Both presentations are free and open to the public, and begin at 4 p.m.

Spottiswoode joined Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre in 1984 and became founding director of Globe Education in 1989. In 1995 he initiated a 30-year project to stage readings and record actors performing all surviving plays written by Shakespeare’s contemporaries.

Other projects include the first Globe Master of Arts in Shakespeare Studies with King’s College London, a two-year program celebrating Shakespeare and Islam and, more recently, a “Shakespeare is German” series of events including the launch of a book of translations, “Goethe on Shakespeare.”

Spottiswoode is also president of the Shakespeare Theatre Association.

Media Contact: 

Charlotte Headrick, 541-737-4918

Poetry event comes to OSU on Jan. 17

CORVALLIS, Ore. – The Good News Poetry Tour will bring a poetry showcase to Oregon State University on Tuesday, Jan. 17.

The free, public event will begin at 7:30 p.m. in the new Linus Pauling Science Center (Room 125) on the OSU campus.

The Good News Poetry Tour is a team of three award-winning writers and performers. Neil Hilborn was a member of the 2011 Macalester Poetry Slam team, which ranked first in the nation at the 2011 College National Poetry Slam. He was also a member of the Minneapolis National Poetry Slam team, which placed fifth out of 80 teams at the 2011 National Poetry Slam.

Hieu Minh Nguyen co-coached the 2011 University of Minnesota poetry slam team, which placed fourth at the College National Poetry Slam, as well as the 2010 Minneapolis/Saint Paul Brave New Voices team. He was also a member of the fifth-ranked Minneapolis adult National Poetry Slam team in 2011.

Dylan Garity founded the Minnesota-based Macalester Poetry slam in 2008, which he runs. He hosts monthly shows with featured performers from around the country, as well as running writing and performance workshops for the community.

The Good News Poetry Tour’s performance is supported by the Undergraduate Poetry Activities Fund, established by OSU English instructor emeritus Roger Weaver to foster the creativity of undergraduate writers. 

Media Contact: 

Karen Holmberg, 541-737-1661

Poets Geri Doran and Maxine Scates set reading at OSU on Jan. 20

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Two Oregon poets will read from their recent collections as part of the Literary Northwest Reading Series on Friday, Jan. 20, beginning at 7:30 p.m. at Oregon State University.

The reading, which is in the Journey Room of OSU’s Memorial Union, is free and open to the public; a book signing will follow.

Geri Doran will read from her second collection of poems, “Sanderlings” (Tupelo Press, 2011) which was praised by poet Michael Collier for having an “elegant formal intelligence and a quiet, insistent, and probing imagination.”  Doran will be joined at the reading by Maxine Scates who will read from her recent book “Undone” (New Issues, 2011), a poetry collection called “nuanced, mysterious, intimate” by Dorianne Laux.

Doran is the author of “Resin,” selected by Henri Cole for the Academy of American Poets’ Walt Whitman Award. She teaches poetry in the University of Oregon’s Creative Writing Program.

Scates is the author of three books of poetry including “Toluca Street” and “Black Loam.” Her poems have been published widely and her work has received the Agnes Lynch Starrett Poetry Prize, the Oregon Book Award for Poetry, the Lyre Prize, and a Pushcart Prize. She lives in Eugene.

The Literary Northwest Series is cosponsored by the OSU Beaver Store and the OSU Department of English, and celebrates regional literary achievement.

Media Contact: 

Rebecca Olson, 541-737-1648

Midwives use rituals to send message that women’s bodies know best

CORVALLIS, Ore. – In reaction to what midwives view as the overly medicalized way hospitals deliver babies, they have created birthing rituals to send the message that women’s bodies know best.

The midwife experience uses these rituals to send the message that home birth is about female empowerment, strengthening relationships between family and friends, and facilitating participatory experiences that put mothers in control, with the ultimate goal of safe and healthy deliveries less focused on technological intervention.

These are some of the findings from an Oregon State University researcher and licensed midwife who witnessed more than 400 home births in order to document an extensive list of practices utilized by midwives to express the symbolic difference between home and hospital births.

In a study now online in the journal Medical Anthropology Quarterly, Melissa Cheyney, an assistant professor of medical anthropology at OSU, charted specific rituals used by midwives. In addition to witnessing and documenting home deliveries, she also conducted more than 50 in-depth interviews with midwives and their clients.

“This is about invoking the mind-body connection,” Cheyney said. “We know, for instance, that midwives have better health outcomes in some areas, such as reduced rates of surgical delivery and labor induction, than hospitals. But I wanted to examine how ritual might play a part in producing these positive health outcomes.”

Cheyney said evidence shows that hospital births result in about triple the rate of cesarean section for low-risk women compared to midwife-attended home births. Because of her unique role as both a researcher and midwife, Cheyney was able to gain access to hundreds of home births in various parts of the United States, and also witnessed more than 60 hospital births.

What she found was a network of common practices, messages and beliefs that resulted in midwives constructing woman-centered rituals around pregnancy and birth that were set up in opposition to what they believe are the overly medicalized practices of hospitals.

For instance, Cheyney found that midwives conducted many of the same diagnostic procedures as a physician would prenatally, from blood pressure and weight checks to blood testing and fetal heart tone evaluation. But midwives chose to get the entire family involved, often asking the partner to palpitate along with the midwife or allowing older children to hold the equipment used to listen to fetal heart tones.

“The participatory nature was a key component to creating a ritual that empowers the woman and her family to feel in control,” Cheyney said. “Many midwives also downplayed the centrality of monitoring and resuscitation equipment setting them off to the side, or placing them under baby blankets during labor so women would not be reminded of the technology in the room. Mothers and babies were still monitored closely, but the monitoring was not made the central focus.”

The differences aren’t so much in practice, she argues, but in performance.

Cheyney also documented the use of common phrases to create birthing mantras. She lists phrases such as “don’t fight it,” “let your body do it,” “open,” and “let it be strong,” as key components to the home birth ritual. Many mothers that Cheyney interviewed reported feeling strong and capable during their labors, and women who compared their hospital birth to their home birth reported feeling like they were “doing something, rather than just lying there passively waiting.” Midwives also commonly expressed the statement that they were simply “guardians,” and that women have all the tools inside of them to birth their own babies.

Cheyney said she was interested in documenting these home birth rituals in part because past anthropological studies have already looked at the rituals that characterize hospital deliveries. It is Cheyney’s belief that both of these sets of rituals have caused a wide chasm between the 99 percent of the U.S. population that chooses hospital births and the 1 percent who choose home births.

“Just as women and their doctors who deliver in the hospital often feel convinced that their birth was the only safe and ‘correct’ way, women and midwives who deliver at home feel strongly that they have the solution,” Cheyney said. “They believe it with every cell in their body because they have lived it.”

The result, said Cheyney, are two deeply entrenched belief systems that have trouble meeting in the middle, prompting many of the tensions between midwives and obstetricians – a major concern for Cheyney and other researchers as the number of home births in the U.S. is on the rise.

In contrast, countries such as Canada require midwives to be trained in home, birth center, and hospital deliveries. And Dutch physicians are required to complete midwifery training if they want to attend low-risk deliveries.

“How can you speak across divides unless you experience both sides?” Cheyney said. “To use a travel metaphor, it’s easy to criticize a country you’ve never visited.”

Media Contact: 

Melissa Cheyney, 541-737-4515