Can't read this email? View it in your web browser.

February 2014

The mysterious marginalia

Among the archival and special collections of Pitts Theology Library are close to 130,000 rare books that are available as primary resources to Emory’s faculty and students. Last summer, Emory student Ted Parker and classics professor Garth Tissol undertook a project with two special books from the library’s Kessler Reformation Collection—a 1540s edition of Isocrates’ Orations, bound in pigskin with brass clasps, and a 1570 edition of the Orations by German scholar Hieronymus Wolf. Wolf owned the earlier copy and filled it with marginal notes, leading librarian Pat Graham to wonder if a connection existed between the two volumes.

With support from Emory’s Scholarly Inquiry and Research program, Parker began to connect the dots between the marginalia and Wolf’s editions. He first translated all of the marginal notes, recording all the possible interpretations. Tissol then compared those translations to online copies of Wolf’s editions as well as the one at Pitts Library. Although many of the marginal notes were simply summaries, the two scholars were able to isolate some clues—the omission of a word here, the changing of a participle there—that led to the conclusion that Wolf relied heavily on these marginal notes to make his well-known editions and translations of the Orations.

Tissol and Parker will discuss their collaborative detective work on Thursday, February 27, at 7:00 p.m. at Pitts Library. Register for the free lecture here.

How are we doing? Ask David Jordan

David Jordan can claim to know more about Emory’s goals and achievements than just about anyone on campus. That’s because, as director of Institutional Effectiveness, Jordan oversees the review of annual assessment reports from every academic program and administrative unit at Emory.

Emory uses assessment data for a variety of purposes, including planning, federal reporting, and accreditation requirements. “One of the ways to insure that we offer the best academic programs is through annual assessment,” Jordan says. “That's why Emory faculty and staff carefully measure student learning and engagement every year.”

Before coming to Emory, Jordan taught English composition and literature and regularly assessed his students at both the course and program level. Since then, he has helped hundreds of faculty members and administrators design assessment strategies and put together reports, both at Emory and the University of Georgia, where he also worked on the assessment and accreditation team. “If you want to learn about the nuts and bolts of a university, one place to start is with the Office of Institutional Research, Planning, and Effectiveness (OIRPE). We collect data from every unit on campus, evaluate it, and then communicate the findings,” he says.

One of Jordan’s goals is to continue streamlining the assessment process, making it more efficient and effective. For example, this year OIRPE has helped many administrative units reorganize their reporting procedures, eliminating duplication and reducing the overall volume of reports by 20 percent.

Judy Raggi-Moore, director of the Italian Studies program, acknowledges that making an annual assessment is time consuming. Still, she has embraced the mandate. Why? “It has transformed how we talk about teaching in Italian,” she says.

Meet the new Mellons

Nichole Phillips lives at the intersection of race and ritual. As a Mellon Humanistic Inquiry Fellow in Religion and Human Difference, she is an ordained minister and social scientist who brings interests in pastoral care and practical theology to explore how rituals function as the “social glue” for communities. “Rituals hold promise for razing barriers erected around otherness or difference,” she says. Students in her classes explore big questions such as how do we address interpersonal conflict and how do we celebrate particularities to overcome human difference? What are the resources for redemption once social atrocities have transpired?

The Mellon Foundation Fellowship Program in Humanistic Inquiry (Mellon HIP) supports Emory’s vision to be a leader in re-envisioning the humanities and extending their scope. It is enabling Emory to bring junior and midcareer faculty to foster an interdisciplinary approach to humanistic inquiries. “The Mellon HIP, alongside initiatives such as the Commission on the Liberal Arts, is helping us define the future role of a liberal education at a research university,” says Provost Claire Sterk. “We hope to share our lessons learned to spread the potential of humanistic inquiry and to continue emphasizing the value of the humanities within and beyond the academy.”

All the Mellon HIP fellows bring expertise that bridges the humanities and other areas. Daniel LaChance—who arrives at Emory this fall as a fellow in Law, Ethics, and Society—navigates the fields of history and legal studies. His forthcoming book examines the ideas, myths, and forces that underlay the revival of the death penalty in the United States. Health and Humanities Fellow Alvan Ikoku works at the intersection of literature and medicine and will join Emory in fall 2015. With teaching awards from Columbia and Harvard and two monographs in preparation, he will teach courses in English and health and humanities.

Worth Repeating

“Our library has such outstanding archival collections and is one of the few libraries in the world to draw in undergraduates to use the materials. That should be a great tool for Emory in recruiting students.”

—Ronald Schuchard, Goodrich White Professor of English, emeritus, and general editor, The Complete Prose of T. S. Eliot

On our radar: News from units in the Office of the Provost

Remembering the complexities of Mandela: As part of a big Indian family from South Africa, Sita Ranchod-Nilsson witnessed the transformations the country has undergone through the perspectives of three generations of family members. She gives much credit for those changes to Nelson Mandela. At a memorial for Mandela at Emory on December 10, 2013, Ranchod-Nilsson, who directs the Institute of Developing Nations, expressed hope that Mandela’s “legacy remains grounded in the complex man he truly was, rather than an ideal that is sanitized to forget that anger and violence were a part of the struggle for social justice or that is commercialized into a brand associated with uncomplicated goodness.” Read her remarks and those of others who participated in the remembrance here.

Words for convocation and beyond: At the beginning of the spring semester, Provost Claire Sterk installed three faculty chairs and delivered the convocation address for Candler School of Theology. “Developing a response in the face of ambiguity and pressures to adjust to ‘new’ realities implies that we must be prepared to fill in the blanks in ways that capture our values, in words as well as in actions,” Sterk said. “It also requires that we do so collaboratively through engagement and negotiations. We should expect that process to include healthy debates, including ones in which we agree to disagree. These debates will get us to answers and solutions to challenges. If we agree that something is worth having, we must invest in efforts to make it happen.”