The College has recognized six scholars with endowed chairs.
Every year Dartmouth names a few of its top faculty to endowed professorships, recognizing their scholarship, teaching, and service to the College community as models of Dartmouth’s liberal arts ideal.
This year, six members of the Faculty of Arts & Sciences have been appointed to endowed chairs:
The Kathe Tappe Vernon Professorship in Biography
In my work on the era of the American Civil War, I have long been intrigued with the individual life stories of soldiers, slaves, and national leaders. Being named the Kathe Tappe Vernon Professor in Biography is quite an honor, and I am especially thrilled to follow previous holders, whose work I much admire.
The professorship will provide me the opportunity to be more self-conscious in framing my research and teaching around biographical themes. Over the next couple of years, I plan to complete a study of Confederate vice president Alexander H. Stephens, who was featured not long ago as the most memorable villain of Stephen Spielberg’s movie Lincoln. The book will focus on Stephens’ largely successful attempt to rehabilitate Confederate reputations after defeat, as he returned to sit in Congress for several terms in the 1870s. I highlight in my Civil War class how Stephens transformed himself from a captive awaiting a treason trial to a spokesperson for a lost cause. I’m looking forward to spinning out this story in book-length form.
The Ralph and Richard Lazarus Professorship in Psychological and Brain Sciences and Human Relations
It’s amazing that the three-pound mass of cells and tissue that we know as the brain gives rise to our behavior, our emotions, and in particular, our memories. I want to understand how that happens. Memory is not only important for survival, but also defines who we are as individual human beings. Sadly, that means that aging and illnesses of the brain that impair memory lead not only to difficulties in daily routines, but also in our recognition and understanding of ourselves and others. My hope is that studying the brain mechanisms that give rise to learning and memory will help us better understand what goes wrong when an individual experiences memory impairments, in hopes of developing new means of intervention and prevention.
My approach to teaching is based on two main goals: to have students take ownership of their learning and be actively engaged in the learning process. With information now readily available via the Internet and other sources, my approach has shifted from delivering the knowledge itself to guiding what students do with that information. Perhaps my favorite aspect of working with students is exposing them to new ways of thinking, seeing them become passionate about a topic, and providing them with the experience of discovering new knowledge themselves.
The William R. Kenan Jr. Professorship
I’m fascinated with the question of how communities—especially democratically governed communities—form, cohere, and disintegrate. My research specialty is the history of ancient Greece, with a particular focus on Sparta and ancient Greek athletics, and the relationship between sport and political systems in the ancient and modern worlds.
The chair means a great deal to me, not least because it was previously held by John Rassias. It is impossible to replace John Rassias, but I am excited about doing my best to honor his memory by bringing the same kind of passion to my teaching. I see teaching as a cooperative exercise in which everyone in the room—both teachers and students—works together to explore a subject and share their perspectives and insights.
The Albert Bradley 1915 Third Century Professorship
I am humbled to follow in the footsteps of the incredible faculty that previously held this position, including Miles Blencowe in physics, Peter Winkler in mathematics, and Karen Wetterhahn in chemistry.
My primary research is in digital forensics. My group is developing mathematical and computational techniques to determine if an image (or audio or video) has been altered from the time of its recording. We also study how well the human visual system can differentiate the real from the fake. The mathematics and computational aspects of our research are beautiful. At the same time, our research has many real-world applications in national security, law enforcement, journalism, finance, and beyond. The combination of basic and applied science is particularly rewarding to me.
Each fall I teach “Computer Science 1” to around 200 students. For many, this is their first introduction to programming, and about half are first-year students taking their first Dartmouth class. This is an awesome opportunity and responsibility to expose students to the power, creativity, and beauty that underlie our field. My goal is not to pump out more computer science majors, but to show all students—from the humanities, social sciences, and sciences—how computing can be leveraged to further their interests and passions, whatever they may be.
The John G. Kemeny Parents Professorship in Mathematics
Mathematics plays a critical role in addressing problems that we as humans feel are important. It provides the rigorous foundation to ensure we can trust our hypotheses and results. Moreover, it’s just exciting to think about new ideas, to break down barriers and move beyond previous limitations, and studying mathematics continuously allows one to do that. I work in applied mathematics, focusing on numerical modeling and reconstructing images from sensor data. Much of my work involves developing high-order numerical methods for applications such as medical imaging, synthetic aperture radar imaging, climatology, electrical engineering and fluid dynamics.
Many of my research collaborators have been current or former graduate and undergraduate students and postdoctoral fellows. Working with undergraduates is especially satisfying because they are able to develop analytical and computational research skills that they would never acquire in the classroom and, as a result, will be much better prepared for graduate work or highly technical careers. In the classroom, I discuss my research so students see mathematics as an integral part of practical science. It’s rewarding when students make the connection between the seemingly abstract concepts of mathematics and real-world problems.
Frederick Sessions Beebe ’35 Professorship in the Art of Writing
Receiving the Beebe Professorship registers as a vote of confidence, not only in my work, but also in the College’s commitment to creative writing. We have a strong program, and I’m glad to help represent the work of all our writers. This appointment comes just as I am beginning my Guggenheim Fellowship year, so I’m going to have time to look carefully at ways to renew and invigorate my work and my teaching. With a new book (Terra Nova, Crab Orchard Poetry Series Editor’s Selection, Southern Illinois University Press, February 2017) and two chapbooks coming out this year I feel I’m at a point between completion and new vision.
Teaching generative workshops in the community is one way I test and expand new ideas for moving beyond the traditional classroom into more collaborative and original structures in which participants have a much larger role in the direction of the class. I will use these ideas when I return to my undergraduates in 2017.