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Dean’s Newsletter: Spring 2020

At the end of every academic year, we celebrate the accomplishments of the students, faculty, and staff who exemplify our Experiential Liberal Arts mission.

Dear CSSH Faculty, Staff, and Students:

I want to thank you all for your resilience and creativity during the trying time of the COVID-19 pandemic, while we have had to switch most of our work to remote interactions – with you, our students spread all across the globe! Especially as we navigate these uncertain times, there is so much to be proud of in the work and achievements of our community.

Let’s start with a selection of student distinctions over this past year. A double major in civil engineering and economics, Michael Tormey ’20 is the most recent NU winner of the prestigious Marshall Scholarship. The scholarship will support his work studying transportation in the United Kingdom for the next two years. Kathryn Garcia (cultural anthropology) has won one of the university’s highest honors for graduating seniors, the Hodgkinson Award. She dedicated her time at Northeastern to addressing one of the defining issues of our time—migrants and the complexities of the U.S/Mexico border— combining her coursework with research on Immigration Policy and Border Communities supported by a National Science Foundation Research Experience for Undergraduates and Northeastern’s Brudnick Center on Conflict and Violence.

Sharon Kim (political science and business administration combined major) and Timothy Fraser (doctoral student in political science) won Fulbright Scholarships, enabling them to research, study, or teach English abroad. Sharon will use the translating skills she developed growing up with her Korean family to share American language and culture with Spanish students as a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant. Timothy will map the social networks of Japan’s solar, wind, biomass, and geothermal power plants with host communities, companies, landowners, politicians, and environmental NGOs.

Two CSSH doctoral students earned Northeastern Outstanding Graduate Student Awards. Molly Nebiolo (history) won the Outstanding Graduate Student Award for Humanics for her work in the digital humanities, and Matthew Hitchcock (English) won the Outstanding Graduate Student Award for Teaching for his engaging skills in the classroom.

Please read more about our long list of student and faculty accomplishments in this issue’s Endnotes.


Confronting COVID-19

I have been proud to see the many ways in which our academic community has tackled the diverse and substantial issues raised by the pandemic, engaging both within CSSH and with broader audiences across the world. Among the COVID-19 research and engagement initiatives taking place across the college, I’d like to highlight a few.

Sari Altschuler, Associate Professor of English, and Elizabeth Maddock Dillon, Distinguished Professor of English, are leading the development of a crowdsourced public syllabus on pandemics, community, and health in the context of COVID-19. Victoria Cain, Associate Professor of History, is leading a multi-generational team of students that is collaborating on “A Journal of the Plague Year: An Archive of COVID-19,” a collaborative and multi-institutional effort to crowdsource images, oral histories, videos, and stories about the global experience of COVID-19.

Steve Vallas, Professor of Sociology, and H.C. Robinson, Associate Professor of Law and Sociology, and colleagues across Northeastern University received funding from the Northeastern Provost’s office to expand the work on an existing grant from the National Science Foundation, titled “Work Situations of the Logistics Workforce Under Emergency Conditions.”

Alicia Sasser Modestino, Associate Professor of Public Policy and Economics, together with Jamie Ladge (DMSB) and Alisa Lincoln (Sociology and Health Sciences), is leading a study  entitled “Making Families More Resilient: The Role of Employer Practices and Public Policy on Household Well‐Being during the COVID-19 Pandemic.” The team seeks to understand how families adjust and manage the division of both childcare and work within the household in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, while assessing the role of employer practices and public policy.

Rebecca Riccio, Director of the Social Impact Lab, is leading 41 students and alumni to make a difference through the Social Impact Lab (SIL) and Human Services Program Social Impact-athon for COVID-19. On Friday, May 1, the group will award $10,000 to a Boston nonprofit helping low-income and at-risk families to cope with the pandemic.


An Accomplished Faculty

CSSH faculty continue to win many important awards and honors. We’ve collected such faculty accomplishments in one place, including published books, major articles, and fellowships and awards. There are many such achievements to celebrate, including significant research grants. For example, Anthony Braga, Distinguished Professor and Director of the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice, received funding from PayPal for researchers from the Center on Crime and Community Resilience to leverage data about gun sales and types of payments to examine how firearms are illegally trafficked on the company’s platforms.

Many colleagues won National Science Foundation (NSF) grants to study a variety of subjects, from “The Creation and Diffusion of Gender Equity Ideas in Universities” (Kathrin Zippel and Laura Nelson) and “Understanding the Algorithmic Workplace” (H.C. Robinson, Steve Vallas, Michael Bruce Kane [COE], and Ozlem Ergun [COE]) to “Power in Puerto Rico” (Jennie Stephens, Laura Kuhl, and Ryan Nelson Ellis [CAMD]) and “Catching up the Science of Problem Properties” (Dan O’Brien). Other faculty honors include Kathrin Zippel (Professor of Sociology) winning the Humboldt Alumni Award for Innovative Networking Initiatives. Rod Brunson (Thomas P. O’Neill, Jr. Chair of Criminology and Political Science) was elected a Fellow of the American Society of Criminology, while David Lazer (University Distinguished Professor of Political Science and Computer Science) was elected a fellow of the National Academy of Public Administration. Philip Thai, Associate Professor of History, won a Burkhardt Fellowship for recently tenured faculty from the American Council of Learned Societies for his work on “Underground Economies across Greater China during the Cold War.”

Carie Hersh, Associate Teaching Professor in Sociology and Anthropology,  is one of the inaugural recipients of a Northeastern University Full-time Non-Tenure-Track Faculty Fellowship. She will develop an applied anthropology introductory course, Making Anthropology Public, and create an Experiential Public Anthropology lab space to teach students how to write and produce media-rich dossiers as applied anthropologists.

Alicia Sasser Modestino, Associate Professor of Public Policy and Economics, has received a Northeastern interdisciplinary sabbatical, during which she will join colleagues in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering in the College of Engineering, to advance a collaborative study of the “Future of Work.


Staying Together Virtually

As the work of our students, faculty and staff has mostly moved into remote formats, so too has our college’s slate of events and gatherings. CSSH’s 6th annual Undergraduate Research Forum (URF) featured the research of 10 undergraduate students with over 100 audience participants over the course of two days. The first day included projects that addressed mass incarceration, the history of single-use plastics, and the effectiveness of the international criminal courts. Day two included research on escapism in anime, Saudi women in the workplace, and methods of rural protest. Undergraduates joined graduate students and faculty in an inaugural, research-focused event: The Multi-generational Research Teams Forum 2020. The program funds faculty-led research projects that engage students from multiple levels, including graduate students, and undergraduate students. The first forum featured a variety of work, including “The Early Caribbean Digital Archive”, “Assessing Multilingual Writing”, “Letterpress Goes 3D”, and “How Shifting Public Policies Influence Healthcare Access for Latin American Immigrants.”

In Teaching Before and During COVID-19, four of the college’s Outstanding Teaching Award Winners held a Zoom conversation with other CSSH instructors about the challenges and silver-linings of teaching and learning remotely. Professors Kay Mathieson and Dan O’Brien gave virtual lectures, and the School of Public Policy and Urban Affairs held an Earth Week panel on “Climate Action & Social Justice During COVID19: A Time for Transformation.” During a CSSH Staff Town Hall, we recognized the accomplishments of the 2020 Outstanding Staff Award Winners:

  • Kirsten Bilas – Administrative Assistant – Department of History
  • Janette Briceno – Administrative Coordinator – Department of Political Science, Lazer Lab
  • Jacquaetta Hester – Graduate Administration Coordinator – Department of Economics

During this time of great difficulty, we know that liberal arts capacities, such as taking a historical perspective and using ethical reasoning, are crucially important, along with other key capabilities in the language arts that we teach in the social sciences and humanities. These capabilities also include, for example, economic literacy and global perspectives, as well as engagement with different forms of data to answer social or policy questions. I am inspired to see so many of you, students and colleagues, portray our mission to admitted students in literally dozens of webinars, even while we have been unable to gather on the campuses of Northeastern’s global university network. And I am equally inspired to see how many of our faculty are drawing on their fields of expertise to shape broader conversations.

I have been proud to see the many ways in which our faculty, students and staff have sustained and built intellectual and social communities during the pandemic. We are extending these efforts of building and sustaining community into the summer with virtual meetings, events, and more casual virtual forums for togetherness. For example, Writer’s Week, sponsored by the English Department, Writing Center, and Northeastern’s Office of City and Community, will take place May 11 – 16 via Zoom. We look forward to learning more about gatherings big and small that you all are participating in and guiding. Please remember to submit those that are open to others to our weekly good news and virtual events newsletter here.

Given the grace under pressure that I see every day from students, faculty and staff, and from our numerous external partners, I am confident that CSSH and Northeastern University will adapt and continue to support our communities, whatever the future looks like.

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

To all of you, stay safe!

With best wishes,

Uta Poiger
Dean, College of Social Sciences and Humanities

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