Opera, Hollywood, and Food Science: A Sampling of 2017 Spring Courses

Making ice cream with liquid nitrogen

As the second semester of the school year kicks off, students will be taking an operatic excursion, screening classic Hollywood films, and making their own ice cream. We sat down with faculty members from three different departments to discuss their distinctively interesting course offerings for the spring semester.

Making ice cream with liquid nitrogenCH 122: Chemistry of Food (Chemistry Department)

In a world where a new diet comes out every week, only one class can provide the knowledge to interpret the science behind them; Dr. Carolyn Weinreb’s Chemistry of Food.

Similar to Alton Brown’s popular show Good Eats, this course focuses on the fundamental science behind everyone’s favorite foods. Students will learn about everything from the acid-based chemistry behind milk and cheese to the physical properties and biological components of baking bread.

The course is especially popular with non-science majors, as it fulfills both the Scientific Reasoning and Writing Intensive core requisites. How else can you earn academic credit for making your own ice cream?

Dr. Weinreb explains that “students often don’t realize how much science they’re doing” in her class, which she has been teaching for five years. By examining the correlation between science and food, students of any major gain immediate real-world application to their lessons.

Her semester-long goal is “to help students gain scientific literacy,” a skill students can use to read, understand, and evaluate any scientific articles or data they encounter.

“I want my students to have a basic knowledge of science so they can appreciate [it] in their daily lives,” the chair of the Chemistry department elaborates.

MU 344: Opera and Gender (Fine Arts Department)

Did you know that a group of Saint Anselm students have been exploring the world of opera every Wednesday afternoon this semester? They are studying the art form and exploring gender through the medium with Professor Parr in the Fine Arts department.

The course will be an introduction to opera through the lens of gender. According to Professor Parr, “Throughout its four-hundred-year history, [opera] really plays with gender in a profound way.”

One example of a topic the class will explore is castrati, men who were castrated at a young age to preserve their high voices. This is a practice that lasted for almost 300 years and it is relevant to the class because, according to Professor Parr, “It is really interesting to think about how voices can sound one way and not match with what you see on stage.” The students will discuss this gender crossing and ambiguity within operas and how audiences react to it.

Johanna Materazzo, an English major from the class of 2017 is taking the course and said “I’ve learned so much about history and culture in this class, as well as gender traditions and stereotypes. Each class teaches me something new.”

The class will be attending a live performance of Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro in Boston and will also be viewing five other recorded operas throughout the semester.

HI 150: History and Hollywood (History Department)

Reading historic records and listening to the speeches of the past might not interest all students, but Professor Moore is hoping that the joy of watching movies will draw history majors and non-history majors alike to his History and Hollywood course. Students taking this class will be looking at movies as more than merely a source of entertainment, they will be viewing them as historical primary sources from which to learn about the time period during which they were created.

Students will be watching movies including The Jazz Singer, Casablanca, Rebel Without a Cause, and Saturday Night Fever. Professor Moore shared that although written and oral texts are typically used as historical primary sources, films can also be used to analyze the experiences and the beliefs of people from a certain time period. “Movies reveal what people were thinking, or feeling, what they were concerned about, what they hope would happen.” From this basis, the class will explore American beliefs and how they are either questioned or perpetuated in the films they will watch.

The students in this course will also write a paper about a director or popular movie star. They will analyze that person’s body of work in regards to its social, cultural, and political context. This will hopefully allow the students to delve into a historical period or theme in which they have an interest.

Jonathan Burkart '18 contributed to this story.

Zoos, Music, and WWII: A Sample of 2015 Fall Courses

BI 335: Animal Behavior

Visiting the zoo, learning to play a new instrument, and reading texts about Nazi Germany are a sample of what students are doing at the start of the 2015-2016 school year. Animal Behavior, Reading Seminar: Nazi Germany, and Studies in Music Performance are three courses that are bound to give students an interesting and fun Fall Semester.

BI 335: Animal Behavior

This course offers an introduction to basic animal behaviors and the mechanisms that drive them. Taught by Professor Lori LaPlante, the course lectures cover an array of topics ranging from evolution to neurobiology, genetics, and territoriality.

A unique and major component of the class is a semester-long zoo project at the Stone Zoo. For the project, each student has to complete an observational study on an animal of his or her choice.

The study requires students to develop a research hypothesis, collect observational data, analyze the data, and draw conclusions about his/her animal. According to LaPlante, students have chosen an array of unique and exotic animals including flamingoes, snow leopards, reindeer, and tamarins.

Biology and Psychology major Courtney Russell ’16 chose to take the class last year because she originally wanted to become a veterinarian. For her animal study, she observed the vigilant versus day-to-day behaviors of Cotton Top Tamarins, an endangered species. Although difficult, she was able to support her hypothesis that vigilance occurs more frequently in the wild than in captivity.

She feels that the lectures and project was very beneficial and also helped valuable writing experience needed for other classes.

“I greatly enjoyed having Professor LaPlante as a teacher and taking this class. The information presented was very interesting and presented in a way that was easy to remember,” said Russell.

“I would definitely suggest this class to students majoring in Biology and Psychology as well as anyone interested in animal behavior.”

HI 489: Reading Seminar: Nazi Germany

For many majors, seniors are required to write a Research Thesis in order to finish their degree requirements. However, the History Department offers senior History majors two choices: a Research Seminar or Reading Seminar.

The difference between the two courses is that the Research Seminar allows students to develop, research, and write on a topic of their choosing. On the other hand, the Reading Seminar analyzes and discusses works on an area of historical study as a class. This fall, Department Chair Phil Pajakowski chose a Reading Seminar related to Nazi Germany.

“Nazi Germany is a good subject for such a seminar because this period in German history has attracted enormous interest and study among historians, and has given rise to great questions of interpretation,” Pajakowski states.

“Nazism evokes evaluation of the ways historians come to grips with a difficult subject.”

Unlike most history majors, Kristen Van Uden (’16) is taking both Seminar courses. However, her interest in both World War II and her thesis topic did not deter her from pursuing them.

She explains, “I have always been fascinated by the Holocaust. Taking the World War II class with Professor Hugh Dubrulle last year definitely sparked my interest. I am not afraid of the work so I thought I would take a class that interested me, and related to my thesis.

Throughout the course, students will be reading and discussing a variety of books including Henry Turner’s Hitler’s Thirty Days Power: January 1933, Timothy Ryback’s Hitler’s First Victims: The Quest for Justice, Christopher Browning’s Ordinary Men, Robert Gellately’s Backing Hitler, and Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf.

MU 160: Studies in Music Performance

After offering music lessons for credit in piano and flute last fall, the Fine Arts Department is expanding its program. This semester, students will be able to take lessons in violin, organ, and voice.

Over the summer, the Department hired four part-time faculty members to teach lessons—Liesl Schoenberger Doty (violin), Eric Bermani (organ), Emily Jaworski (voice), and Nick Pothier (piano).

Liesl Schoenberger Doty explains how expanding the music department has been great for students. She says, “It is so great to be offering lessons to students. They are able to take lessons and creatively improve their musical voice. It is the core of what it means to be interested in and play music.”

Students have also found much excitement about the program expansion. “I did concert choir while in high school and have not been able to continue training during college. So I am ecstatic to be doing voice lessons this semester,” says senior voice student Alanna Tremblay.

“Even though I’ve only had two lessons so far, they have already been helpful for noticing what I have to work on as a performer.”

Tremblay also revealed how these new classes will prove beneficial to the college. “Having the opportunity to offer music classes raises the standards of the college. Saint Anselm has expanded their expectations on what a liberal arts college is all about.”

Alongside the new lessons, Professor Sean Parr is also teaching senior Fine Arts majors Billy Endicott and Emily Barrett an Independent Study course in Conducting.

Parr hopes that these new additions will have a positive impact on the Fine Arts Department. He says, “ Hopefully, these chamber ensembles will continue to gain momentum. We’re hoping that the growing interest in music performance at the college will lead to the founding of a new Chamber Orchestra for credit and perhaps even a Band.”

Adding to the individual lessons, Professor Parr has established a new choir for credit—the Chamber Singers. The group, consisting of sixteen students, will be singing a mix of secular and sacred classical music as well as Holiday songs. The singers will be presenting several outreach performances and will perform in a concert at the end of the semester.

History Professor Reflects on Martin Luther King, Jr.

History Professor Andrew Moore

As the country celebrates Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., history Professor Andrew Moore reflects on King’s impact then and now, 46 years later. In the Q&A below, Moore gives historical context to the movement King led, discussing the question of equality, King’s affect on the civil rights acts, and how we can continue to honor his legacy.

Moore, an expert in religion, race and gender relationships post-Civil Rights era, is currently teaching a course on “Contemporary America,” which explores the political, social, and cultural movements since 1945.

History Professor Andrew Moore discusses Martin Luther King, Jr. Q: Why is Martin Luther King, Jr. still relevant in today’s society?

Andy Moore (AM): Americans have always wanted to believe that ours is a country where every one is equal. It makes us unique. King was able to highlight that this talk about equality was just talk. There was not equality. He was able to articulate that reality in a way that got people’s attention.

He’s relevant still because he represents the two different sides of the American idea of equality – equal opportunity and equal outcomes.

On the one hand, the mainstream civil rights movement wanted an end to legal segregation. That is, they wanted the law not to restrict people based on race. The speech that everyone knows at least part of is an example of this. King had a dream that his children would be judged “not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” A lot of people latch on to that quotation and claim that King stood for equal opportunity – and that’s very American. We all expect this equal opportunity. At the very least, the law should be color blind. King and the civil rights movement achieved this, when Congress passed the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

On the other hand, if we look at King’s entire career – especially the few short years after the Voting Rights Act – we hear him saying that equal opportunity (or equality before the law) was not enough. That did not go far enough to achieve actual equality in real life circumstances.  When he was assassinated, he was pushing for an economic version of the Civil Rights Act.  In his Poor People’s Campaign, there was a broader focus on equality—on equal outcomes—so he was arguing that everyone was still not starting from the same place.

He’s still, then, relevant because the question of equality is still an open question.

Q: What about now? How was he successful?

AM: It depends on which side you look at. People who believe in equal opportunity would say we’re on the path moving forward to a color blind society, that legally and culturally there is less awareness of race as a dividing factor. The other side says race is still a dividing factor, there is persistent inequality. They point to economic, education, employment, and crime statistics and say there is not equal opportunity; race still does matter.  There is ample evidence to support both positions.

Q: How do we continue to honor King? 

AM: First, as a historian I think one should learn as much about King’s life and the civil rights movement as possible.  That way we can better understand how the issues King was concerned about are still relevant. For example, we would better understand last year’s Supreme Court decision striking down part of the Voting Rights Act. We could then vote or pressure congressmen in an informed way.

Second, no matter which side of the question of equality we come down on, King and the civil rights movement provide a model for political activity that was effective. Grassroots organizing plus a principled moral stance is a formula for being an engaged citizen. So one could honor King by organizing and pressing for political and moral reform in a way that is always respectful of one’s opponent.

Q: What are the social and political implications of Barack Obama as our first African American President? How has that affected perspectives on race in this country?

AM: I think this is not a straightforward answer – again, there’s something for everyone. People who point to equal opportunity say, ‘hey we elected an African American president. There’s change.’ At the same time, President Obama has not talked about race a lot, but when he has, he has done so in a way that presidents since Lyndon B. Johnson have not. He’s been able to address continued racial inequality and cultural perceptions of race.  He’s been able to articulate the continuing relevance of racial issues in a way others have not.

Q: How are you reviewing Martin Luther King Jr. in your Contemporary America course this spring?

AM: The students will read some speeches by him, and they will learn in general about the civil rights movement. They’ll also read the book, “Coming of Age in Mississippi” by Anne Moody. This was published in 1968. Moody was an African American woman who was active in the civil rights movement but – like other black students and young people who came of age in the late 1950s and early 1960s – was critical of King and other leaders, saying they were not radical enough, they compromised too quickly. She represented a popular sentiment of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) that thought King wasn’t willing enough to be arrested and spend time in jail or spend enough time at local demonstrations.

King was the movement’s national leader. Without his insistence on non-violence and his political skills, the movement probably would not have been as successful as it was when it was. So this book also lets me highlight the tension between grassroots activists and King – with the understanding that the movement was successful because of a powerful combination of King’s national leadership and grassroots activism.

Also, Moody wrote just a couple of years after the Civil Rights Act and Voting Rights Act had been passed by Congress. Still, she ends the book on her way to the 1963 March on Washington. When someone asks her whether the movement song, “We Shall Overcome,” was true (i.e., whether they truly would overcome), she responded,“I wonder. I really wonder.”  She was not hopeful that simply changing the law would accomplish true equality.

Professor Moore is also an expert in the history of the American presidency and presidential politics.

Caitlin McGee '10 Travels to Italy with Research Grant

Caitie Digging in Trench

Caitlin McGee'10, classics major from Nashua, N.H., traveled to Orvieto, Italy this past summer for her third consecutive archaeological dig. However, this summer was unique for McGee. With a $3,500 stipend she won through Saint Anselm's Undergraduate Research Scholar Program (URSP), McGee was able to conduct archaeological research at the college's Coriglia excavation site, about 150 miles northwest of Rome.

"My first year on the dig was my first time in Europe. Italy has allowed classics to come alive for me," said McGee, who discovered her passion for classics on the five-week annual excavation, led by professor David George, Ph.D.

McGee, who intends on attending graduate school, has always been curious about the different kinds of research related to her field of study (classics). Her hopes of taking part in the dig for a third time were high but with her busy schedule during the year, including being a resident assistant, she was unable to work to fund it. The aid from the URSP scholarship has allowed her to literally, dig a little deeper…She returned to Orvieto this past summer with not only the knowledge and understanding from her past two excursions but the will to theorize about her discoveries through a mix of archaeological field work and trips to museums to gather information.

McGee's research was centered on pottery found at the Coriglia site. "I found pottery interesting because of the implications of art, culture, and economy…it is what first caught my eye on the initial dig," said McGee.

McGee spent five weeks at the site, accompanied by 10 other students, all but one from Saint Anselm. The dig began in 2006 with seven Saint Anselm College students. Saint Anselm Classics professor David George, served as McGee's mentor. Dr. Claudio Bizzari, faculty of science and archaeology at the University of Camerino, in his role as co-director of the dig, provided additional guidance in Italy. McGee spent these days digging, photographing the pottery findings, putting it into catalogs with corresponding information, and conducting her own additional research at the end of the day.

In addition to the trip's day-to-day activities and completing her research, McGee was given more responsibility this third time around. She was appointed leader of a trench on site, meaning she was in charge of a particular digging area, given her experience. To her surprise, it amounted to more than just a leadership position. "It aided my research because I became more aware of the locations where certain pieces of pottery were found," said McGee.

This experience gave her the ability to have in-depth conversations with expert staff members about the workings of the site and particular findings. "I learned a great deal about archaeology and envisioning how the site works," she said.

McGee is in the process of turning her research into a paper to be presented to the college and hopefully extended to other venues. McGee believes that this opportunity will give her a competitive edge in graduate admissions. She hopes to attain a Ph.D. in classics where she can incorporate archaeology with an emphasis on language.

The URSP seeks to promote scholarly undergraduate research, inter-institutional mentoring, and increase the number of successful admissions to graduate school for students attending a small, four-year liberal arts college.

Saint Anselm Students Dig for History in Italy

Saint Anselm students and faculty in Italy

Saint Anselm students and faculty in ItalyAbout 75 miles northwest of Rome, a group of 20 Saint Anselm College students and faculty are braving heat and snakes to excavate what they believe is an Etruscan religious sanctuary. [Read more…]

President Obama Should Look to the Past for Guidance

President Obama with Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner

President Obama with Treasury Secretary Timothy GeithnerThe Obama administration should be paying attention to the history books says Professor Andrew Moore, a presidential historian and scholar at Saint Anselm College. In a recent interview, Professor Moore provided his analysis of the first few months of the Obama administration, with an emphasis on historical examples of past presidents governing in tough financial times. [Read more…]