2019 Back-to-Class Sessions: Reunion I

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The Back-to-Class program is a series of lively presentations during reunion weekend that includes lectures, workshops, demonstrations, and discussions of interest to the alumnae community. The sessions are being continually updated as more sessions are confirmed.



Reunion I: Friday, May 17

Session I (1–1:45 p.m.)

The State of Liberal Education in a Changing World

Jon Western, vice president for academic affairs and dean of faculty; professor of international relations

Join Jon Western for a discussion of the state of liberal arts education in a dynamic and challenging global environment. Western, who is also the Carol Hoffman Collins ’63 Professor of International Relations, will discuss the imperative of liberal arts education in a world with highly complex and interconnected global challenges and will present how a liberal arts education, and an MHC education in particular, is preparing students to understand and confront some of the most pressing challenges of the 21st-century.

Location: Cleveland L2

Documenting Mount Holyoke Student Activism in Archives and Special Collections

Leslie Fields, head of Archives and Special Collections

From “votes for women” student organizations to the protests in the 1990s for cultural houses and need-blind admissions, Mount Holyoke has a long and robust history of student activism. Join Archives and Special Collections for a hands-on look at the letters, documents, photos and artifacts that tell these important stories — and share your own!Due to space limitations, attendance is limited to 20.

Location: Dwight Hall, Archives Reading Room

Cursed Desire: Ill-Fated Heroines and Their Quest for Jewelry in 19th-Century Italian Short Stories

Ombretta Frau, professor of Italian and former chair of Classics and Italian and the Theatre Arts Steering Committee

This session focuses on the sociological and anthropological symbolism of two stories by two engaging Italian-women writers of the 1800s, Contessa Lara and Marchesa Colombi. Both pieces present young women of modest means who are consumed by the desire to possess the jewels that can help them in their search for a husband.

Location: Clapp 407

Session II (2–2:45 p.m.)

A Case for Transitioning from Fossil Fuels: Climate Change Update

Alan Werner, professor of geology and member of the Sustainability Steering Committee

It’s become increasingly clear that climate change is a reality, that it is causing many undesirable consequences and that we must transition to sustainable energy sources. Choices we make now to drastically reduce the amount of carbon dioxide emissions will ultimately determine the rate and the magnitude of warming. This session will review the science behind climate change and the impacts of a warmer world.

Location: Clapp 203

Using Virtual Reality to Study Racial Bias in Police Use of Lethal Force

John Tawa, assistant professor of psychology

In this presentation Professor Tawa will describe his new research program, which uses virtual reality with integrated eye tracking technology, to study how a suspect’s race may bias police officers’ decisions to use lethal force.

Location: Clapp 306

Between Gentrification and Urban Revitalization

Vanessa Rosa, assistant professor of Latina/o studies and former consortium for faculty diversity postdoctoral fellow

This session will explore links between urban revitalization projects, gentrification and nation-state formation. Looking closely at the revitalization of two public housing projects in Toronto, Professor Rosa will discuss how purported efforts to integrate immigrants and culturally diverse groups can (re)produce inequality and reify ethno racial difference.

Location: Cleveland L3

Challenging Narratives: Examining Diversity, Equity and Inclusion within a 21st-Century Liberal Arts Institution

Kijua Sanders-McMurtry, vice president for equity and inclusion and chief diversity officer

Join Vice President for Equity and Inclusion and Chief Diversity Officer Kijua Sanders-McMurtry for a deep dive into diversity, equity and inclusion at Mount Holyoke College. Sanders-McMurtry will explore the efforts of women’s colleges towards the inclusion of non-traditional women’s college students, and the work of engaging across difference within the academy. Participants will also discuss concepts of implicit and explicit bias while developing a deeper understanding of the concepts of history and legacy of women’s colleges and their influence on 21st-century discourses within the liberal arts experience.

Location: Cleveland L1

Session III (3–3:45 p.m.)

Tour of the President’s House

Brenda Adams, house manager

Join Brenda Adams for an engaging tour of the President’s House and for a bit of history about past presidents. Adams has been the house manager for 20 years and will entertain you with stories from her experiences throughout those years. This tour will be approximately 30 minutes, with time for questions afterward. Tours start promptly at 3 p.m. and doors will close once it begins.

Location: The President’s House (Behind Pearson’s Hall)

Campus Sustainability: A Strategic Priority

Nancy Apple, director of environmental health and safety; associate director for sustainability, Miller Worley Center for the Environment

The campus has been actively working to advance our strategic priority of campus and global environmental sustainability. This discussion highlights some of the accomplishments over the past year related to three priority areas: climate action, food justice and sustainability, and campus living laboratory.
In the next session join Carey Lang ’15 for a tour of Mount Holyoke’s sustainability sites, including stops within the campus living lab, the Dining Commons and notable areas of operational sustainability.

Location: Clapp 302

Princesses and Paw Patrol: A Window into the World of Preschool Children and the Collaborative Research Projects They Inspire

Jennifer Wallace Jacoby, class of 1929 Dr. Virginia Apgar assistant professor of education

Parents, grandparents, teachers and friends of preschoolers can attest to how compelling the characters and story lines from popular movies and television shows are to young children. In collaboration with two Mount Holyoke students, Professor Jacoby explored how these characters influenced preschool children’s play and book preferences in two settings: the Gorse Children’s Center on Mount Holyoke’s campus and the Head Start classrooms in Holyoke and Springfield. Their work expanded the previous research on these topics by being among the first to include a socio-demographically diverse group of children. Come hear what they learned about the prevalence of twirling and the appeal of veterinarians who attend to the needs of stuffed pets.

Location: Kendade 303

Entrepreneurship & Business in this Century

Rick Feldman, lecturer in entrepreneurship, organizations and society; entrepreneurship coordinator

Come participate in hands-on, project-based learning that demonstrates the course work and curriculum in Professor Feldman’s field and receive an overview of what the courses and the Entrepreneurship, Organizations, and Society (EOS) initiative at Mount Holyoke has to offer. This includes business economics, global entrepreneurship, social impact enterprises, organizations and their finances, and opportunity discovery.

Location: Kendade 305

Session IV (4–4:45 p.m.)

Transform/Transcribe: A Mount Holyoke History Project

Leslie Fields, head of Archives and Special Collections

Can you read cursive handwriting? If your answer is YES, the Archives and Special Collections needs you! Join them in transforming historic handwritten letters into searchable and machine-readable resources for classes and student researchers. Staff will work with alum volunteers to transcribe documents and excite learning in everyone! Participants may bring their own laptops, if they wish to do so, otherwise one will be provided. Due to space limitations, attendance is limited to 15.

Location: Dwight Hall, Archives Reading Room 

Jean Sammet Was Ahead of Her Time: An Interdisciplinary View of Introductory Computer Science

Valerie Barr ’77, Jean E. Sammet professor and chair of computer science

What happens when you marry together liberal arts and the ubiquity of computing across disciplines? How does that change introductory computer science? Come explore the mysteries of what goes on behind the scenes of the computer and the fun and challenges of working with information from a range of disciplines.

Location: Cleveland L3

Campus Sustainability & Living Lab Tour

Carey Lang ’15, assistant director, Miller Worley Center for the Environment

Join Carey Lang ’15 for a tour of Mount Holyoke’s sustainability sites, including stops within the campus living lab, the Dining Commons and notable areas of operational sustainability.
Note: This tour is tied to Nancy Apple’s 2 p.m. Back-to-Class session Campus Sustainability: a Strategic Priority, however, anyone is free to join regardless of whether they went to the previous session.

Location: Walking Tour, meet outside Clapp

Sand, Slime, Cells and Crowds

Kerstin Nordstrom, Clare Boothe Luce assistant professor of physics“Hard” condensed matter physics has been studied in-depth over the centuries and brought about the computer revolution, among other advances. Professor Nordstrom will give an overview of the newer subfield of “soft” condensed matter physics and will highlight one (or more) specific problems studied in her lab at Mount Holyoke.

Location: Clapp 306