December 14, 2018

Stommel Op-Ed Appears in Chronicle

An op-ed co-written by Jesse Stommel, Executive Director  of the Division of Teaching and Learning Technologies appeared recently in the Chronicle of Higher Ed. To read the article, visit

Farnsworth Presents Research on U.S. Midterm Elections

Stephen Farnsworth, Professor of Political Science and Director of the University’s Center for Leadership and Media Studies, recently delivered an invited research presentation entitled, “The Trump Presidency in a Divided America: A Midterm Assessment,” at the International Conference on Trump, Canada and the World after the Midterms Elections. The conference was held at the Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM).

Nabil Al-Tikriti Monitors Presidential Elections in Georgia

Associate Professor of Middle Eastern History Dr. Nabil Al-Tikriti served as an election monitor for the second round of the Georgia presidential elections, Nov. 24 – Dec.1. Joining 32 other Americans in the U.S. delegation some 250+ observers total, Al-Tikriti worked as an OSCE (Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe) STO (Short Term Observer) in 8-9 rural villages and the main town in the somewhat remote mountains around Tsagera. His observation partner was a Czech diplomat based in Prague. For more information on these Georgian
elections, and OSCE’s support of these elections, please see:

In the course of his visit, Al-Tikriti also spent two days in Zestafoni, a former industrial base in central Georgia, and  two days in the capital Tbilisi, where observers carried out preliminary briefings. Upon the conclusion of the elections, he spent a day visiting a cave, churches, and historical sites around Kutaisi, Georgia’s second city.

In the election itself, backed by the ruling Georgian Dream party, Georgia elected its first female president, former French diplomat Salome Zurabishvili. She claimed victory over opposition candidate Grigol Vashadze, winning approximately 59% of the vote.

This is the 13th OSCE-monitored election Al-Tikriti has observed since 1997.

McClurken Co-Authors Chapter on Undergraduate Research in Humanities

Jeffrey McClurken, Professor of History and American Studies & Chief of Staff, recently published a co-authored chapter on “Undergraduate Research in the Humanities” in High-Impact Practices in Online Education: Research and Best Practices.  Co-written with Ellen Holmes Pearson of UNC, Asheville, the chapter explores the landscape of digitally enabled undergraduate research in the humanities.  In particular, it details the ways that integrating digital humanities projects into online classes increases engagement, captures many of strengths of the traditional liberal arts classroom, and trains students in an outward-facing approach to undergraduate research.

Blevins Publishes Article on Augmented Reality

Brenta Blevins, Assistant Professor of English, has had her article “Teaching Digital Literacy Composing Concepts: Focusing on the Layers of Augmented Reality in an Era of Changing Technology” published in the December 2018 Computers and Composition journal. In an issue focusing on wearable technologies, ubiquitous computing, and immersive experiences, Blevins’s article addresses the challenges that instructors face in teaching composing using current digital tools, while also supporting students’ future digital literacy acquisition in technologies that do not yet exist.

To address these pedagogical concerns, Blevins’s article explores educational composing in Augmented Reality (AR), a medium in which a digital “layer” is combined with the user’s surroundings. She elaborates the benefits and challenges of a scaffolded, analysis-oriented pedagogy focused on the layer for preparing students to compose in AR for classwork and other purposes. Blevins contends that the concept of the layer extends beyond the visual layers of AR to a composing strategy applicable across media. This approach thus supports composers developing critical media awareness and adaptability for multiple media in current and future contexts. Given our rapidly changing software and hardware technologies, teaching theoretical composing concepts, such as the “layer,” prepares students to become communicators capable of composing in multiple media, those present and those yet to emerge.

Barrenechea Presents at Literature/Film Association Conference

Antonio Barrenechea, Associate Professor of English, recently presented “A Brazilian Cinema of Cruelty: The ‘Coffin Joe’ Trilogy (1964-2008)” at the annual conference of the Literature/Film Association in New Orleans.

Larus Publishes Commentary on 2018 U.S. Midterm Elections and Taiwan

Elizabeth Freund Larus, Professor of Political Science and International Affairs, published the commentary “The Results of U.S. Midterm Elections and its Implications for Taiwan and Cross-Strait Relations,” in Taiwan Insight, the online magazine of the Taiwan Studies Program at the University of Nottingham (U.K.). The article can be found at

Broome Publishes with Ed Alumni in Critical Social Studies Book

John P. Broome, Associate Professor in the College of Education, co-authored two chapters in the new book, “It’s Being Done in Social Studies: Race, Class, Gender and Sexuality in the Pre/K-12 Curriculum,” edited by Drs. Lara Willox (University of West Georgia) and Cathy Bryant (University of South Carolina), and published by Information Age Publishing.

In “Going Beyond the Single Story of Suffrage: Teaching Gender Rights and Protests through Film,” Broome worked with Dr. Lauren Colley (University of Alabama) in a chapter lead by Erin Hill (UMW Political Science ’13 and M.Ed Secondary Education – History and Social Sciences) about how Hill uses documentary film and media to integrate women’s history in to the high school U.S. History curriculum and classroom instruction.

In a second chapter, Broome co-authored with Aurora high school social studies teacher and doctoral student at the University of Colorado-Denver, Colleen Boucher, on “The Aurora Urban Planning Simulation: Teaching About Class through Spatial Inequality in Secondary Social Studies.The piece highlights the intersection of race, space, and class through a simulation on the impact of urban development on spaces of color in the high school classroom.

Dr. Broome’s research interests focus on the intersection of social studies and race/ism, equity, and whiteness. He earned his B.A. in Government from The College of William & Mary, a M.Ed. in Curriculum & Instruction (Secondary Social Studies) from George Mason University, and a Ph.D. in Education (Social Studies Education) from the Curry School of Education and Human Development at the University of Virginia. Before joining UMW, Dr. Broome taught secondary social studies in public and private schools in the Commonwealth of Virginia.

Hirshberg Presents at American Academy of Religion Meeting

Dan Hirshberg, Assistant Professor of Religious Studies and Director of the Contemplative Studies program, presented a new paper, “Where is my mind? Teaching critical subjectivity at an inclusive university,” for the Contemplative Studies Unit at the Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Religion.

The paper highlights the unique features of UMW’s Contemplative Studies program, the roots of which extend back to 1999 with its first practicums offered by Professors David Ambuel and Angela Pitts in 2012, and presently culminates in a minor and two recently approved Special Majors. It then surveys Hirshberg’s contemplative pedagogy for training and sustaining “meta-awareness,” the cognitive ability to establish a critical separation from mental content. Rather than automatically identifying with thoughts and feelings, the meditator centers attention and observes that content as the object of contemplation.

There is consensus in current psychological research that, for many people, mind wandering is closely connected to a range of negative emotional impacts, and that meta-awareness is closely connected to many of meditation’s therapeutic outcomes. Despite the cogency of meta-awareness in the contemporary discourse of the contemplative sciences, its primary functionality is vague and often disputed in classical Buddhist phenomenologies of mind – a topic of Hirshberg’s ongoing textual research.

Hirshberg introduced the acute relevance of these pedagogies for UMW’s current student population, as demonstrated by the results of a 2016-18 controlled study completed with Professors Miriam Liss and Mindy Erchull on UMW’s introductory Contemplative Practice course (CPRD 104). It documents statistically significant decreases in anxiety, depression, and disassociation, and statistically significant increases in attentional awareness, self-compassion, and non-reactivity, among other positive outcomes, for students who completed the course. He also addressed some of the risks of contemplative practice.

The audience of the conference panel (60-80 people) had an especially enthusiastic response to Hirshberg’s design of a contemplative exercise to closely observe the personal impact of smartphones in our present environment.

Al-Tikriti Speaks at MESA Book Prize Panel

Associate Professor of Middle East History Nabil Al-Tikriti spoke about the selection process, and introduced two of the five book award winners for the Middle East Studies Association (MESA) Book Prize panel, entitled: Celebrating Scholarship: MESA Book Award Winners Discuss Their Work.”

The book prize committee was chaired by Prof. Heather Sharkey of the University of Pennsylvania, while other committee members included Profs. Laleh Khalili of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies, Yaseen Noorani of the University of Arizona, and Nancy Stockdale of the University of North Texas. The competition logistics were managed by Sara Palmer of MESA.

For this competition, each committee member received roughly 127 books in April-May of 2018, and took charge of nominating 3-4 texts out of 25 books assigned to them by mid-June. In the second round, all committee members evaluated for final prize consideration the resulting 20 or so texts, by mid-August.

As the MESA website explains further, the following scholars received commendations and/or prizes:

Fatima Mernissi Book Award Winner: Attiya Ahmad, George Washington University: Everyday Conversions: Islam, Domestic Work, and South Asian Migrant Women in Kuwait. Duke University Press, 2017

Nikki Keddie Book Award Co-winner, Orit Bashkin, The University of Chicago: Impossible Exodus: Iraqi Jews in Israel. Stanford University Press, 2017

Nikki Keddie Book Award Co-winner, Kevan Harris, University of California, Los Angeles:  A Social Revolution: Politics and the Welfare State in Iran
University of California Press, 2017

Albert Hourani Book Award Winner, Alireza Doostdar, The University of Chicago: The Iranian Metaphysicals: Explorations in Science, Islam, and the Uncanny, Princeton University Press, 2018.

Albert Hourani Book Award Honorable Mention, J.R. Osborn, Georgetown University: Letters of Light: Arabic Script in Calligraphy, Print, and Digital Design. Harvard University Press, 2017.