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Dean’s Newsletter: Winter 2019

With the fall semester at a close, I wish you a happy and restful winter break.

Dear members of the CSSH community,

I hope you will take a few moments to reflect on the many ways in which students, faculty and staff are moving our college forward. Global engagement and research are two crucial aspects of our Experiential Liberal Arts mission, as we explore the past, present, and future of human and technological interactions. Let me highlight a few key developments in these areas.

Partnerships with NCH and Atlantic Connections

Spring 2020 sees the second cohort of students arriving at Northeastern’s London campus and partner institution, the New College of the Humanities, for a semester in the Data, Ethics, and Culture (DEC) program. Thirteen students from across the university will study the human implications of technological developments, apply data science methods in projects of their own choosing, and immerse themselves in London’s culture and history. In and outside the classroom, they will forge new connections with NCH and Northeastern students and faculty.

The spring DEC cohort joins fourteen students entering their second semester at NCH in a new program there — the Global Engagement Program (GEP). This invitational program, currently open to majors in business or business combined with economics or political science, is for students pursuing twenty-first-century intellectual and professional paths across multiple continents and cultures. Having spent their entire first year at NCH, GEP students will continue their Northeastern experience in Boston and at other Northeastern network nodes such as San Francisco.

Faculty researchers in Boston and NCH have also begun collaborating on ethical issues related to online information networks. Their work involves defining phenomena like fake news, information bubbles, and echo chambers to better analyze and develop ethically responsible strategies for responding to them. A conference on this topic – The Ethics of Belief in the Age of AI – featuring researchers from both campuses will be held at NCH in London in the spring.

Also in spring, history PhD candidate William Whitworth will be working on the “Mapping Black London in World War II” digital history project at NCH, led by NCH faculty member Dr. Oliver Ayers. In collaboration with the NULab for Texts, Maps, and Networks and NU Library’s Digital Scholarship Group, William will trace historical networks in wartime London that have received little prior attention, exploring the potential of digital tools to open fresh avenues of analysis. William will also collaborate on workshops to strengthen connections in the Digital Humanities between Boston and London.

Also highlighting our students’ transatlantic pursuits, congratulations are in order for Michael Tormey, a civil engineering and economics double major, who was recently awarded a Marshall Scholarship. After graduating in May 2020, he will continue his studies into urban transportation systems for two years in Leeds and London in the United Kingdom.

Major Spring Conferences and Events

Once again this spring, our faculty are convening international conferences on the Boston campus on significant questions of our day. On March 11 and 12, the Brudnick Center on Violence and Conflict, the Humanities Center, and the International Affairs program will sponsor “Forced Displacement and Inclusion of Refugees,” a conference open to the public and addressing the refugee crisis in host societies. Organized by Berna Turam, International Affairs and Sociology, and other CSSH colleagues, the conference will feature international public figures – including the mayor of Palermo, Italy, and the former mayor of Athens, Greece – as well as members of NGOs, a member of Boston Mayor Martin Walsh’s office, and scholars from throughout Northeastern.

Closely linked is a second international conference taking place from March 13 to 15. Global Structural Injustice and Minority Rights is led by Serena Parekh, Philosophy and Religion, and sponsored by the Philosophy and Religion department in partnership with UiT The Arctic University of Norway and the Globalizing Minority Rights Project. Keynote speakers from University of Victoria, University of Washington, and McGill University will address the concept of structural injustice in the context of global and social political challenges with a particular focus on minority rights.

During Northeastern’s Holocaust and Genocide Awareness Week, on March 26, the organizing committee, led by Simon Rabinovitch, History and Jewish Studies, presents the 28th Robert Salomon Morton Lecture featuring Canadian author, academic, and former politician Michael Ignatieff. The basis for Ignatieff’s lecture will be his recent Atlantic article on Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s “war on intellect.” Please check our events page to see these and many other events that our colleagues are organizing for the spring semester.

The Myra Kraft Open Classroom also returns this spring with an in-depth and timely exploration of climate change. As its name suggests, “Climate Change: A Course for Everyone” is free and open to all and will promote climate change education, resilience, and action. Sessions will cover the basic science of climate change; its local and global impacts on nature and humans; and strategies for preventing its worst outcomes while preparing for those we can no longer avoid. The Open Classroom takes place on Wednesdays in spring 2020.

Research and External Grants

It’s an exciting time for research in CSSH. The College is pleased to launch the CSSH Multi-Generational Research Teams Pilot Program with four funded pilot projects:

  • “The Early Caribbean Digital Archive ” led by Nicole Aljoe, Associate Professor of English and Director of the Africana Studies Program
  • “Letterpress Goes 3D” led by Ryan Cordell, Associate Professor of English and Graduate Program Director
  • “How Shifting Public Policies Influence Healthcare Access for Latin American Immigrants” led by Tiffany Joseph, Associate Professor of Sociology and International Affairs
  • “Assessing Multilingual Writing: A Design for Outcomes and Opportunity” led by Mya Poe, Associate Professor of English and Director of the Writing Program

The program supports PhD candidates to work with faculty mentors to conduct projects that engage undergraduate as well as graduate student researchers.

In addition, the college has revamped its undergraduate research website in order to alert faculty and students to the opportunities for faculty/student research, such as the Undergraduate Research Initiative and other undergraduate research opportunities at both the college and university levels.

Our faculty and graduate students continue to receive many highly competitive grants, and I am delighted to share a few of the recent awards, many of them with multi-disciplinary teams:

  • Regulating and Managing the Algorithmic Workplace (Hilary Robinson, Law and Sociology; Steven Vallas, Sociology; Michael Bruce Kane, Civil and Environmental Engineering; Ozlem Ergun, Mechanical and Industrial Engineering; funded by the National Science Foundation)
  • Coordinated Interdiction for Disruption of Labor Trafficking in the Agricultural Sector (Kayse Trine Maass, Mechanical and Industrial Engineering; Amy Farrell, Criminology and Criminal Justice; Shawn Bhimani, Supply Chain Management; funded by the National Science Foundation)
  • Synergistic Anticipation of Geopolitical Events (David Lazer, Political Science and Computer and Information Sciences; Nick Beauchamp, Political Science; funded by the University of Southern California)
  • Co-worker Robots to Impact Seafood Processing (CRISP): Designs, Tools and Methods for Enhanced Worker Experience (Taskin Padir, Electrical and Computer Engineering; Kristian Kloeckl, Architecture; Kemi Yaakov Jona, CPS – Administration and Operations; John Basl, Philosophy and Religion; Alicia Modestino, Public Policy and Urban Affairs and Economics; funded by the National Science Foundation)
  • Social Construction of Legal Exclusion in an Indian Slum (Liza Weinstein, Sociology; Alisa Lincoln, Health Sciences and Sociology; funded by the National Science Foundation)

Economics doctoral student Urbashee Paul and Alicia Modestino were awarded a mentoring grant from William T. Grant Foundation to conduct research related to a multi-year evaluation of the Boston Your Summer Employment Program.

We have much to celebrate in CSSH as we close out this decade and look forward to the 2020s, the college’s second decade. I hope that you have an energizing break and return to campus inspired to tackle challenges, effect change, and move CSSH and the Experiential Liberal Arts forward in the new year!


Uta Poiger
Dean, College of Social Sciences and Humanities

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