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Dean’s Newsletter: Spring 2019

Dear CSSH Faculty, Staff, and Students

Every year as Commencement approaches, we celebrate the accomplishments of the students, faculty, and staff who exemplify our Experiential Liberal Arts mission. For example, several CSSH students have won prestigious Truman and Fulbright Awards. Juan Gallego, a political science major studying abroad in Spain this semester, is one of two Northeastern students named Truman Scholars. Juan distinguished himself, among other things, through the founding of a human rights commission in his hometown of Chelsea, MA. Among the CSSH winners of the Fulbright Scholarship are four graduating seniors: Ngenyi Stephanie Beja (international affairs), Tim DiFazio (English), Cathy Tripp (international affairs), and Eleanor Patten (political science and marketing). Kathleen Brody (international affairs and human services) won one of the university’s highest honors for graduating seniors, the Hodgkinson Award. She’s dedicated her time at Northeastern to addressing sexual and reproductive health and rights, combining her coursework with two co-ops, an international service trip, and the co-founding of a nonprofit. Emma Fridel, a doctoral student in criminology and criminal justice, earned Northeastern’s Outstanding Graduate Student Award for Research.

CSSH faculty have won many important honors, including significant research grants. For example, Heather Streets-Salter, professor of history and chair of the department, received an American Council of Learned Societies Fellowship, while Eunsong Kim, assistant professor of English, received a Ford Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowship from the National Academies. Anthony Braga, Distiguished Professor and Director of the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice, received a large grant from the Laura and John Arnold Foundation, which will fund a project developing new tools to fight the opioid epidemic, and Shalanda Baker, Professor of Law and Public Policy, received support for the Energy Justice Institute from the Kresge Foundation and the Surdna Foundation. David Lazer, Distinguished Professor of Political Science and Computer and Information Sciences, has been appointed University Distinguished Professor, the highest honor Northeastern can bestow upon a faculty member.

Please read more about our long list of faculty, student and staff accomplishments in this issue’s Endnotes. There is much to be proud of in CSSH!

Ethics and Technology

Hardly a day goes by without new reports about the complex ethical issues that new technologies are raising: from the use of machine learning for sentencing recommendations, to the circulation of misinformation about vaccines, to the potential uses of autonomous weapons systems, to the spreading of hateful speech on social networks. An increasingly important feature of our work in the Experiential Liberal Arts and Humanics — the integration of classical liberal arts capacities and new proficiencies — is the development of ethical frameworks for engaging new technologies. Earlier this month, Kay Mathiesen (Philosophy) and the Ethics Institute, together with colleagues from Khoury and the School of Law, hosted the 17th Annual Information Ethics Roundtable. The three-day event convened 60 scholars and community members to discuss “Justice and Fairness in Data Use and Machine Learning.”

With multiple Ethics Bowl teams hosted by the Ethics Institute, students together with faculty advisors are likewise fostering ethical thinking in cross-disciplinary collaborations. Since the launch of the original team in 2017, the Ethics Bowl program – a collegiate debate competition in which teams of 4-6 students present arguments on specific real-life cases and practical ethical dilemmas – has expanded to include a Bioethics Bowl team, which competed most recently at an inter-college event April 5-6 at the University of Alabama, and a Tech Ethics Bowl event, which was started by undergraduate students and has grown into a student-run intramural competition.

Led by Ronald Sandler, Professor of Philosophy and department chair, colleagues from the Ethics Institute are also expanding curricular offerings in ethical reasoning, increasingly with colleagues across Northeastern, and are collaborating with external partners on creating new frameworks for ethical design and decision-making. Students from across the university are filling classrooms for the Technology and Human Values course, and ethics modules will soon be integrated into many computer science courses. The Department of Philosophy and Religion is also expanding its engagements with the D’Amore-McKim School of Business and the College of Engineering.

European and Global Connections

As the semester comes to a close, so too does our first ever Semester in London program, a key feature of our strategic partnership with London’s New College of the Humanities (NCH). Eight Northeastern undergraduates, from a variety of majors, participated in “Data, Ethics, and Culture” – a unique program designed to foster humanics integration and co-taught by CSSH, Khoury, and NCH faculty using a hybrid on-ground/online model. SCCJ graduate student (and Outstanding CSSH Teaching Award winner) Ieke DeVries spent the semester in London teaching the Humanities and Social Sciences practicum of a data science course, and supervising individual projects. Edward W. Brooke Professor and Associate Professor of Political Science Mai’a Cross participated in a Brexit conference at NCH that was live-streamed on Facebook for broad audiences and that was also one key feature of a pop-up course on Brexit, in which she led 19 Boston students in developing scenarios for a post-Brexit world.

Furthering the relationship between Northeastern’s Global Resilience Institute and Fraunhofer EMI (part of the Fraunhofer Society, Europe’s largest organization for applied research), the Global Resilience Research Network (GRRN) hosted its 2nd annual summit at Fraunhofer EMI and the Albert Ludwigs University, Freiburg on April 10-11. The event brought together many of the world’s top academics, researchers, and industry experts to exchange novel approaches for responding to a growing array of shocks, disasters, and protracted disruptions. Building on the GRI/Fraunhofer collaboration, I was delighted to sign a new partnership agreement between Northeastern and Albert Ludwig University, a premier research university in Germany – and the university that sent me to Massachusetts as an exchange student over three decades ago. The two institutions announced the first Young Researcher Mobility Stipend, which will enable two researchers (Ph.D. and Post Doc) from Freiburg to conduct short-term research projects around resilience at Northeastern.

Holocaust and Genocide Awareness Week

Our spring semester has been filled with many important conversations led by our CSSH colleagues, from the Women of Color in the Academy Conference to “Touch this Page! A Symposium on Ability, Access, and the Archive.” Affirming its long-standing and deep commitment to commemorating the Holocaust, CSSH and the Humanities Center hosted for the university and Boston communities a renamed Holocaust and Genocide Awareness Week from April 1 to 5. The week—with the theme “From ‘Never Again’ to Again and Again” – began with a talk on the 1994 Rwandan genocide by Adama Dieng, the UN Secretary-General’s Special Adviser for the Prevention of Genocide. Historian Omer Bartov (Brown University), a leading authority on genocide, delivered the 27th annual Robert Salomon Morton Lecture entitled “Anatomy of a Genocide: Lessons of Studying Mass Murder from Below.” The Holocaust Awareness Committee also marked the week with the launch of a digital archive that preserves the videos, photos, flyers, and programs from Northeastern’s previous Holocaust commemorations, which began in 1977.

I look forward to congratulating each of the graduating CSSH students at the graduation ceremonies next week, including the second annual CSSH Masters Graduate Commencement Ceremony on Monday morning (with our commencement speaker the Honorable Roderick Ireland, Distinguished Professor of Criminal Justice and former Chief Justice of the Commonwealth’s Supreme Judicial Court), the Ph.D. hooding on Wednesday, and the Undergraduate Commencement at TD Garden on Friday morning. I also look forward to meeting graduating seniors and their families at our CSSH reception next Thursday evening at the beginning of CommencementFest.

Congratulations to all of you in CSSH on a successful year. To our graduates, best wishes on your future endeavors, and please stay in touch with your college!

With best wishes,

Uta Poiger
Dean, College of Social Sciences and Humanities

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