college of liberal arts

OSU faculty member wins prestigious art grant

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Julie Green, associate professor of art at Oregon State University, has been awarded a prestigious grant from the Joan Mitchell Foundation.

Green is one of 25 contemporary artists to receive the $25,000 award, which is granted annually to acknowledge painters and sculptors nationwide creating work of exceptional quality. 

Green is most widely known for her project called The Last Supper, a series of painted plates that illustrate final meal requests of death row inmates in the United States. To date, she has painted almost 500 final meals and the project has received national media attention in outlets as diverse as National Public Radio and the magazines Ceramic Monthly and Gastronomica magazine.

In addition to her work on The Last Supper, Green spends her time on narrative paintings that observe contemporary society.

“Joan Mitchell was an important abstract painter; she was one of only a handful of women artists to receive international recognition in the 1950s,” Green said. “I am deeply honored to be given this award which brings recognition to our painting program and to Oregon State University.”

Green’s work has been included in 25 solo exhibitions in this country and abroad. Green lives in Corvallis with her husband, artist Clay Lohmann. She has a Masters in Fine Art from University of Kansas and has been at OSU since 2000. She teaches classes on painting and drawing.

The Joan Mitchell Foundation was established in 1993 as a nonprofit corporation following the death of celebrated painter Joan Mitchell in October 1992. The foundation strives to fulfill the ambitions of Joan Mitchell to assist the needs of contemporary artists and to demonstrate that painting and sculpture are significant cultural necessities. For more information, visit: www.joanmitchellfoundation.org.

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Julie Green, 541-737-5012

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Wall of plates from "The Last Supper" plates
Examples of two of Julie Green's plates from "The Last Supper" Julie Green
Portrait of Julie Green. Photo credit: Cheryl Hatch

Child support forgiveness programs can be effective in reducing debt

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Sometimes getting something is better than nothing. That’s the aim of a pilot program that allows parents with large child support debts to reduce their overall debt if they pay back at least some of what they owe in child support.

Families and states are burdened with millions of dollars in unpaid child support, and the program may help ease some of the financial strain on both parents and the government.

As of 2009, there was more than $100 billion in unpaid child support debt owed nationally. According to Brett Burkhardt, an assistant professor of public policy at Oregon State University and one of the study’s authors, much of that debt is owed by low-income noncustodial parents who are unlikely to ever pay back the full amount.

“Custodial parents are not receiving much-needed income that they should be, and much of this debt is just uncollectable,” he said. “In addition, government agencies are strained because they have to put a great deal of resources into trying to collect what is owed, and then enforce it and penalize those who do not pay.”

Burkhardt conducted the study as part of a group of researchers at the Institute for Research on Poverty at the University of Wisconsin. Led by lead author Carolyn Heinrich, now at the University of Texas at Austin, and joined by Hilary Shager, of the Wisconsin Department of Children and Families, the scientists were charged with studying the effectiveness of a multi-year pilot program called Families Forward in Racine County, Wis.

The program targeted noncustodial parents with more than $2,000 of debt. For every $1 of child support paid, the program forgave 50 cents of debt toward the family and another 50 cents toward the state debt.  Forgiveness of family debt required the permission of both custodial and noncustodial parents.

More than 120 people completed the program. The noncustodial parents in the Families Forward program contributed, on average, more than $100 more per month than similar parents who did not participate. Overall, they also paid down their debt at a higher rate than those who did not participate and made more payments (8.5 percent increase) than non-participants.

“Implementation of the program was the most challenging part,” Burkhardt said, citing bureaucratic problems and reluctance on the part of the custodial parent to agree as some of the key issues with the program. “Still, we did see the intended result, which was to get parents paying more on their child support debt.”

Burkhardt said some states, including Wisconsin and Texas, are considering adopting similar child support forgiveness models on a larger scale.

The researchers published their findings in the current issue of the Journal of Policy Analysis and Management.

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Brett Burkhardt, 541-737-2310

Chris Anderson to read from poetry collection on Dec. 2

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Oregon State University faculty member Chris Anderson will read from his newly-released poetry collection “The Next Thing Always Belongs,” on Friday, Dec. 2 at 7:30 p.m. in the Journey Room of the Memorial Union; a book signing follows. 

The poems of “The Next Thing Always Belongs” juxtapose unlikely images to explore mysteries through the logic of dreams. From ukuleles to wrestlers, merit badges to galaxies, the images of Anderson’s poems reveal an imaginative landscape which can be both emotional and playfully ironic.

The latest release from the Willamette Valley’s award-winning publishing collective Airlie Press, “The Next Thing Always Belongs,” has been called by author and editor Brian Doyle, “Odd, thoughtful, darting, swirling, funny, poignant, startling.”

Anderson is author of several books including “Teaching as Believing: Faith in the University” (Baylor University Press) and “Edge Effects: Notes from an Oregon Forest” (University of Iowa Press), a finalist for the Oregon Book Award for creative nonfiction.  He is a professor of English at OSU and a Catholic deacon.

The Literary Northwest Series is co-sponsored by the OSU Beaver Store and the OSU English Department, and celebrates regional literary achievement.

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Rebecca Olson, 541-737-1648

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Chris Anderson
Chris Anderson

"The Next Thing Always Belongs"

OSU forensics team places at Linfield

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Oregon State University’s forensics team attended the 81st Annual Mahaffey Memorial Tournament at Linfield College in McMinnville last weekend.

The tournament featured more than 20 schools, including East Texas Baptist University, Carroll College (Helena, Mont.), and Utah State University.

“It is nice to see both a seasoned veteran and a promising newcomer hold their own against such a strong field,” said Mark Porrovecchio, director of the team. “But these wins are a team effort. They help and support each other.”

Senior Kyle Bidwell, of Sumner, Wash., judged individual events at the tournament. And he also took home a second place award in the professional division of international public debate, winning an impressive five out of five preliminary rounds. The professional division, a special feature of this form of debate, is open to anyone, including students, coaches and judges, who want to compete. OSU team newcomer Julie Colvin, of Portland, received a semi-finalist award in the novice division of international public debate. This was her first tournament with the team.

The travel squad was rounded out by Jana Hodgins of Clackamas, Ben Wreath of Cottage Grove, Kelly Cundiff of Sisters, Esther Rodriguez of Woodburn, Kody Lawrence of Bandon, and Jamil Barbar of Portland. The team was coached by graduate assistants Kori Thornburg of Kennewick, Wash., and Forest Ledbetter of Sheridan, Ore.

Now in its 119th season, OSU Forensics is one of the oldest clubs on campus. The team is open to all students in good academic standing. For information, contact Porrovecchio at mark.porrovecchio@oregonstate.edu

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Mark Porrovecchio, 541-737 8230

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OSU Forensics

The kindness of strangers: caring and trust linked to genetic variation

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Scientists have discovered that a gene that influences empathy, parental sensitivity and sociability is so powerful that even strangers observing 20 seconds of silent video identified people with a particular genetic variation to be more caring and trusting.

In the study, 23 romantic couples were videotaped while one of the partners described a time of suffering in their lives. The other half of the couple and their physical, non-verbal reactions were the focal point of the study. Groups of complete strangers viewed the videos. The observers were asked to rate the person on traits such as how kind, trustworthy, and caring they thought the person was, based on just 20 seconds of silent video.s

“Our findings suggest even slight genetic variation may have tangible impact on people's behavior, and that these behavioral differences are quickly noticed by others,” said Aleksandr Kogan, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Toronto and the study’s lead author.

The study builds on previous research conducted by Sarina Rodrigues Saturn, an assistant professor of psychology at Oregon State University. In that study, Saturn and her colleagues linked a genetic variation that affects hormone/neurotransmitter oxytocin's receptor to empathy and stress reactivity. Saturn is senior author on the new study, which is in the latest issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

“It was amazing to see how the data aligned so strongly by genotype,” Saturn said. “It makes sense that a gene crucial for social processing would yield these findings; other studies have shown that people are good at judging people at a distance and first impressions really make an impact.”

Before the videos were recorded, the scientists tested the couples and identified their genotype as GG, AG, or AA. Individuals homozygous for the G allele (carrying two copies of the G version of the gene) of the oxytocin receptor tend to be more “prosocial,” defined by researchers as the ability to behave in a way that benefits another person. In contrast, the carriers of the A version of the gene (AG or AA genotypes) tend to have a higher risk of autism, as well as self-reported lower levels of positive emotions, empathy and parental sensitivity.

Oxytocin has already been significantly linked with social affiliation and reduction in stress. It is a peptide made in the hypothalamus and has targets all over the body and the brain. It is best known for its role in female reproduction and is associated with social recognition, pair bonding, dampening negative emotional responses, trust and love.

Out of the 10 people who were marked by the neutral observer as “most prosocial, six carried the GG genotype associated with the oxytocin receptor; of the 10 people who were marked as “least trusted,” nine were carriers of the A version of the gene. The people carrying an A version of the gene were viewed as less kind, trustworthy and caring toward their partners in the video.

“The oxytocin receptor gene in particular has become of great interest because a select number of studies suggest that it is related to how prosocial people view themselves,” Kogan said. “Our study asked the question of whether these differences manifest themselves in behaviors that are quickly detectable by strangers, and it turns out they did.”

What is not known, however, is what occurs from the genetic level to the behavior – that is, the exact way the gene affects the biology underlying behavior is still poorly understood and remains a major topic of inquiry. Saturn, for one, believes that people can and do overcome their genes all the time.

“These are people who just may need to be coaxed out of their shells a little,” she said. “It may not be that we need to fix people who exhibit less social traits, but that we recognize they are overcoming a genetically influenced trait and that they may need more understanding and encouragement.”

Kogan said that many factors ultimately influence kindness and cooperation.

“The oxytocin receptor gene is one of those factors – but there many other forces in play, both genetic and non-genetic,” he said. “How all these pieces fit together to create the coherent whole of an individual who is or is not kind is a great mystery that we are only beginning to scratch.”

Laura Saslow at the University of California at San Francisco, Emily Impett with the University of Toronto, Christopher Oveis with University of California at San Diego, and Dacher Keltner with University of California at Berkeley contributed to this study.

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Sarina Rodrigues Saturn, 541-737-1366

Romantic comedy, “Almost, Maine,” opens Nov. 10 at OSU Theatre

CORVALLIS, Ore. – John Carinai’s romantic comedy, “Almost, Maine” kicks off Oregon State University Theatre’s 2011-12 season.

The quirky play will show Nov. 10-12 and 17-18 at 7:30 p.m. and Nov. 20 at 2 p.m. on the Withycombe Hall main stage, located at 30th and Campus Way on the OSU campus.

“Almost, Maine” is set in a fictional town near the Canadian border – at 9 p.m. on a Friday night in February. The play is divided into nine separate scenes with single couples and explores the beginning, middle, and end of relationships. The emotions range from the broadly absurd to deeply poignant and reveal unique aspects of love ringing with truthful compassion.

According to director and scenic designer George Caldwell, this all-ages show will bring out the romantic in everyone.

“The play is about love, old love, new love, and almost love,” he said.

The cast of “Almost, Maine” features OSU students Alex Johnston, Alexandra Shireman, Brittany Potter, Caleb Lewis, Dani Potter, Grace Goodman, Jessica Baker, Mason Atkin, Megan Grassl, Megan Haverman, Nicole Snyder, Sierra Hodges, Thomas Severs and Tucker Minnick. Corvallis community member Noah Schoenfeld also joins the cast.

Tickets are $12 general, $10 senior, $8 student/youth, and $5 for OSU students and are available through the OSU Theatre box office at 541-737-2784 or http://www.oregonstate.edu/dept/theatre

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George Caldwell, 541-737 4627

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"Almost, Maine" poster

Fatherhood can help change a man’s bad habits

CORVALLIS, Ore. – After men become fathers for the first time, they show significant decreases in crime, tobacco and alcohol use, according to a new, 19-year study.

Researchers assessed more than 200 at-risk boys annually from the age of 12 to 31, and examined how men’s crime, tobacco, alcohol, and marijuana use changed over time. While previous studies showed that marriage can change a man’s negative behavior, they had not isolated the additional effects of fatherhood.

“These decreases were in addition to the general tendency of boys to engage less in these types of behaviors as they approach and enter adulthood,” said David Kerr, assistant professor of psychology at Oregon State University and lead author of the study. “Controlling for the aging process, fatherhood was an independent factor in predicting decreases in crime, alcohol and tobacco use.”

The study was published in the current issue of the Journal of Marriage and Family. Collaborators included the Oregon Social Learning Center in Eugene, Ore., and the University of Houston.

The researchers also found that men who were well into their 20s and early 30s when they became fathers showed greater decreases in crime and alcohol use, compared to those who had their first child in their teens or early 20s. Men who had children at a more developmentally-expected time could have been more able or willing to embrace fatherhood and shed negative lifestyle choices, Kerr said.

“It is hopeful that for both older and younger men, tobacco use tended to decrease following the birth of a first child,” Kerr said. “This kind of change could have important health consequences for men and for their families.”

The study adds to a body of research pointing to key periods when men from disadvantaged backgrounds may be ripe for intervention, Kerr said.

“This research suggests that fatherhood can be a transformative experience, even for men engaging in high risk behavior,” he said. “This presents a unique window of opportunity for intervention, because new fathers might be especially willing and ready to hear a more positive message and make behavioral changes.”

Deborah Capaldi, Lee Owen and Katherine Pears with the Oregon Social Learning Center and Margit Wiesner with the University of Houston contributed to the study. The research was supported by awards to the Oregon Social Learning Center from the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

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David Kerr, 541-737-1364

Speakers to debate basis for morality at Nov. 14 event

CORVALLIS, Ore. – The Oregon State University Socratic Club will sponsor a debate on the topic, "Is There is an Absolute Basis for Morality?" on Monday, Nov. 14, on the OSU campus.

The free, public event will start at 7 p.m. in Milam Auditorium Room 26.

The speakers are Lucas Laborde, a Catholic priest, and Daniel Barker, an outspoken atheist. They will debate whether there is any basis for determining what is right and what is wrong. Looking at how morals and ethical values change over time, the two speakers will debate whether there can be an objective standard for morality.

Laborde studied theology at San Carolos Borromeo Seminary and was ordained to the priesthood in 2005. For five years he was campus minister at the OSU Newman Center; he now is director of the Portland State University Newman Center and pastor of St. Patrick Church in Portland.

Barker is co-president of the Freedom from Religion Foundation, a national organization of atheists and agnostics working to keep state and church separate. He is author of “Godless: How an Evangelical Preacher Became One of America's Leading Atheists” (2008) and “The Good Atheist: Living A Purpose-Filled Life Without God” (2011).

The Socratic Club is beginning its 10th year as a student organization at OSU. It offers a forum for a variety of points of view on subjects at the intersection of Christian belief and contemporary culture. For more information visit http://oregonstate.edu/groups/socratic

Many of the debates are available on YouTube.

Story By: 

Gary Ferngren, 541-752-7224

Scott Nadelson to read from short story collection on Nov. 18

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Award-winning short-story writer Scott Nadelson will read from his newest collection, “Aftermath,” on Friday, Nov. 18, at The Valley Library’s main rotunda on the Oregon State University campus. The reading begins at 7:30 p.m.; a book signing follows.

Nadelson, who graduated from OSU’s creative writing program in 1999, won an Oregon Book Award in 2004. He holds the Hallie Ford Chair in Writing at Willamette University.

Set primarily in Nadelson’s native suburban New Jersey, “Aftermath” explores the complexities of love and change. The characters in each short story search for answers in the wake of great disappointments: from a married couple testing out a trial separation to a 13-year-old boy on a trip to Israel with his grandparents reflecting on his father’s abandonment.

“Scott Nadelson writes brilliantly about the many forms of ambivalence that love can take,” wrote novelist Margot Livesey.  “‘Aftermath’ is a sophisticated, emotionally complicated collection with an exhilarating undercurrent of danger.”

Nadelson is also the author of “The Cantor’s Daughter,” winner of the Samuel Goldberg & Sons Fiction Prize for Emerging Jewish Writers and the Reform Judaism Fiction Prize; and “Saving Stanley: The Brickman Stories,” winner of the Oregon Book Award for short fiction and the Great Lakes Colleges Association New Writers Award.

The Literary Northwest Series is co-sponsored by the OSU Beaver Store and the OSU English Department, and celebrates regional literary achievement.

Story By: 

Rebecca Olson, 541-737-1648

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Scott Nadelson
Scott Nadelson front-cover-aftermath-622x1024
"Aftermath" cover

Popular novelist Aimee Bender comes to OSU on Nov. 11

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Fiction writer Aimee Bender, celebrated for her unique style and use of magical elements in contemporary settings, will read from her recently released novel, “The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake,” on Friday, Nov. 11 at Oregon State University.

The free public event begins at 7:30 p.m. in The Valley Library’s main rotunda; a book signing follows.

“The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake” tells the story of Rose Edelstein, an unassuming yet extraordinary nine-year-old, who discovers that she has the magical power to taste emotions after biting into her mother’s lemon-chocolate cake. Her miraculous gift reveals the emotional secrets of those around her as she eats her way toward an understanding of the power and burdens of knowing too much about other people.

The Los Angeles Times described Bender as the “master of quiet hysteria” and People magazine called her newest novel “moving, fanciful and gorgeously strange.”

Bender is the author of four books including “The Girl in the Flammable Skirt” (1998), which was a New York Times Notable Book, “An Invisible Sign of My Own” (2000), a Los Angeles Times Pick of the Year, and “Willful Creatures” (2005), which was nominated by The Believer as one of the best books of the year. She lives in Los Angeles and teaches creative writing.

Bender’s appearance is part of the 2011-12 Visiting Writers Series, and is made possible by contributions from The Valley Library, the OSU Department of English, the Office of the Provost, the College of Liberal Arts, Kathy Brisker and Tim Steele, and the OSU Beaver Store.

Story By: 

Rebecca Olson, 541-737-1648

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Aimee Bender
Aimee Bender