The University of Vermont

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Gathering news & views of life at the University

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photo by Sally McCay

INSPIRING ACTIVISM
Alum returns for Rainbow event

Some have tattoos to look tough or hip, but the ink peeking from under Owen Daniel-McCarter's sleeve is sweet. It depicts a childhood memory of flying a kite with his beloved grandfather, who was gay. The idyllic scene is as you'd expect, except Daniel-McCarter '04 is wearing a dress.

The dress is a universally understood symbol of the sex he was assigned at birth, but Daniel-McCarter now identifies more closely as male than female. It can be a confusing concept for the uninitiated, but a couple hours with this charismatic "trans-identified" activist attorney–transgender, translucent, transgressive–and you may be the one transformed, with a new way of seeing, a new empathy, a new scrutiny of both self and systems that determine how justice is meted out.

It begins with a crucial understanding. Gender (the social construct that defines what's masculine and feminine, separate from anatomical sex) can be as fluid as conversation, with moments of laughter and intensity, sadness and joy.

"It was a struggle for me to get to a point where I can say, 'this is it, this is how I express myself,'" says Daniel-McCarter, who returned to Burlington in April as a guest speaker at the university's LGBTQA Awards and Rainbow Graduation Ceremony.

Dorothea Brauer, director of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Questioning, and Ally Services, created the Rainbow Ceremony in 2002 to celebrate the vitality and spirit, accomplishments, and service of those students, faculty, and staff who fall within that spectrum, to help them see themselves as she does. "Maintaining a marginal identity," she says, "takes something out of a person. This is to acknowledge that, to say, 'we're glad you're here and we're proud of you."

Daniel-McCarter brought a strong activist message to this year's ceremony. "I'm proud of who I am and this is how I feel about the amazing queer people at UVM, finding community through all the struggles, wearing hilarious, beautiful rainbow stoles (awarded at the ceremony). That's fierce. That's adamant survival," says Daniel-McCarter.

As an undergraduate Daniel-McCarter co-founded the annual Translating Identity Conference, which focuses on transgender communities and gender identity. He was president of the Free to Be club for two years; was instrumental in establishing the sexuality and gender identity studies minor; and successfully lobbied for university and statewide gender identity protection.

"I know that queer people, transgender people are coming to the university because it's a safe place for them," Daniel-McCarter says. "People are coming because we have this progressive gender studies program now–it's really changed the climate."

Returning to his hometown of Chicago after graduating from law school in New York, Daniel-McCarter recently founded the Transformative Justice Law Project of Illinois, a collective committed to providing free criminal defense for transgender people, who he views as targets of the criminal justice system. Daniel-McCarter's work is largely on behalf of transwomen (male-assigned at birth but identifying as females) who are inherently unsafe as they get shunted into men's facilities in jail, prisons, sex-segregated homeless shelters.

So he works for victories large and small, short- and long-term, both as a university teacher of gender studies and through his legal work, for which he says he'll never accept money.

"When I make a motion in court for a judge to use gender-affirming pronouns for my client–even if we lose the case–it's a win because she feels humanized for maybe the first time in her life," Daniel-McCarter told those gathered for the Rainbow awards. "That's activism."


[HEALTH]
CAFFEINE'S CLENCH

The regular coffee drinker knows the scenario all too well. Events conspire to delay that morning cup and on comes the pounding headache, a hard slog day. 

We know it happens, but why does it happen?

Stacey Sigmon, research associate professor of psychiatry at the UVM College of Medicine and colleagues at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine provide some answers in the scientific journal Psychopharmacology. The team of researchers looked at brain electrical activity and blood flow during caffeine withdrawal to examine what was taking place physiologically during acute caffeine abstinence, including the likely mechanism underlying the common "caffeine withdrawal headache."

Sigmon and colleagues demonstrated that acute caffeine abstinence increased brain blood flow, an effect that may account for commonly reported withdrawal headaches. Acute caffeine abstinence also produced changes in the rhythms of the brain's electrical activity, likely linked to the common withdrawal symptom of fatigue. Overall, these findings provide the most rigorous demonstration to date of physiological effects of caffeine withdrawal.

The researchers also discovered a provocative and somewhat unexpected finding–that there were no net benefits associated with "chronic caffeine administration." (In layperson's terms: the baristas know you by name.)

"In contrast to what most of us coffee lovers would think, our study showed no difference between when the participant was maintained on chronic placebo and when the participant was stabilized on chronic caffeine administration," says Sigmon. "What this means is that consuming caffeine regularly does not appear to produce any net beneficial effects, based on the measures we examined."

Sigmon, a chronic caffeine administrator herself, has no plans to give up coffee. For those who do, she suggests the research indicates tapering your consumption down gradually is the best way to lessen the suffering.


[CAMPUS PULSE]
MANY-LEGGED MEAL

It's something of a rite of passage in Scott Costa's introductory entomology course. The assistant professor of plant and soil science closes out the semester with the annual Bug Banquet, a chance to fully digest the study of insects. Stir-fried mealworms, spider crackers, chirpie-chip cookies, and the traditional favorite, crickets in chocolate are on the menu. More than 150 students from across the university took part in this year's feast.

ONLINE EXTRA
SLIDESHOW: BUG BANQUET


[ART]

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photo by Sally McCay

MET SHOW INCLUDES FACULTY ARTIST

In April, New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art, not generally regarded as a bastion of contemporary work, ushered the 1970s movement known as the Pictures Generation into its hallowed marble halls. It's the first major museum exhibition to focus on the tightly knit group of artists, which includes Nancy Dwyer, a professor in the UVM art department for the past five years.

The Pictures circle included artists such as Cindy Sherman, Robert Longo, Richard Prince, and Sherrie Levine. They drew energy and ideas from one another–making studio visits, discussing their work and art theory. "We continued a sort of academic practice long out of college," Dwyer says. "I had the kind of fervor about ideas, about what was the 'correct' artwork to be making that one might have about religion. At the time I was just against Expressionism. Expressionism was just bad. Morally wrong." As she often does, Dwyer clears any whiff of pretension with dry humor and a quick laugh. "That seems kind of adorable to me now."

"Cardz" and "Yoga Woman" are the two Dwyer works of the era included in the Met exhibit. The artist created "Cardz," a piece made up of twenty-six small prints, in 1979 while working as a visiting artist at the California Institute of the Arts. Describing her focus at the time, Dwyer says, "I had been doing these very simple outline drawings of people in gesture, kind of an idea of language, pointing to the meaning of human gesture, figurative gesture, without actually defining the meaning."

While a number of the Pictures Generation artists have a higher profile than Dwyer, the show's curator, Douglas Eklund, sought to bring to light some of the more underappreciated art and artists of the era. In an interview in Art in America, Eklund notes of Dwyer, "She's a great artist who is respected by her peers and her work should be better known. To see her work next to Cindy Sherman's–they were best friends–will be illuminating for a lot of people."

While Dwyer's work in more recent years–which includes sculpture, painting, public art, and installations–is frequently rooted in text, she sees a direct connection to what she was doing thirty years ago. "For me it's a straight shot," she says. "I think I was dealing with language all along. I was trying to distill the picture to its essence and to its implied meaning, almost iconic meaning. I was kind of making icons out of pictures. So, what's the most common icon in our world? It's a word."


[LITERATURE]
VOICES OF AFRICA

You won't believe it," says Amaka Azuike, novelist, poet, and senior lecturer of literature in English at the University of Jos in Nigeria. "There are people who actually go to the extent of selling things–cars, property–just to make it here." She's referring to the African Literature Association conference, which held its thirty-fifth annual meeting at UVM in April. The conference is held on the continent every five years, which allows for greater African participation, but universities there often lack the resources to send scholars abroad. And still, when they can, they come.

"You meet different people, from different cultures," explains Azuike, "you share ideas, beliefs. You mingle with great writers, you make friends, you make enemies if you like."

Lokangaka Losambe, UVM professor and chair of English and the organizer of this year's conference, understands. This year's theme was "Africa and Blackness in World Literature and Visual Arts," but ideas about globalization were a strong undercurrent linking the past three gatherings. Absent global exchange, the wide-ranging influences on African and African Diaspora literature would be lost to a world hungry for both shared experiences and understanding of the diversity among peoples with different social and political pasts.

"African literature," says Losambe, "like any other literature, evolves. New works come out, they introduce new paradigms, new perspectives as the world order moves."

The ALA provides a forum for exploring works new and old; this year's conference brought four hundred participants from more than fifty-five countries to Vermont. Among the untold tasks Losambe undertook since UVM won its bid to host this prestigious conference two years ago, was bringing in notable speakers, the people who stir young African scholars like Azuike to sacrifice for the privilege of hearing them. Wole Soyinka, author of the acclaimed Death and the King's Horseman and the first African to win the Nobel Prize for Literature, brought literary star power to the conference with his keynote address.


[CLASS OF 2013]
ENROLLMENT ON THE RISE

Approximately 2,600 new students will make up the first-year class entering in the fall. Vermont students account for 23.5 percent of the class; out-of-state students, 76.5 percent. Overall, ALANA students are 11.6 percent of the incoming class, continuing UVM's advance in diversity. The Class of 2013 boasts a record thirty-three Green and Gold Scholars, recipients of a full-tuition award presented to the top student in every Vermont high school. There are also twelve National Merit Scholars, the most in UVM history.


[STUDENT LIFE]
UVMtv MOVES UP TO DAVIS 

As achievement mantras go, "Don't mess up" isn't likely to be the buzz of the self-help world anytime soon. But senior Greg Schondelmeier '09 admits those three words both haunted and drove him during his past year as president of UVMtv. His goal: relocate the student television station from the hinterlands of the Coolidge Hall basement to first-floor, high-profile space in the Davis Center.

UVMtv, by nearly any estimate, is the kid brother of student media at the university. Chris Evans, staff advisor to the university's student media outlets, says, "The Cynic is sort of the venerable, mature child. WRUV is the rowdy teenager. And UVMtv is, in many ways, embryonic."

When the Davis Center was in planning, UVMtv was little more than a closed-circuit movie channel for residence halls. While the Cynic and WRUV were slated for new, prominent space along the same corridor, UVMtv wasn't in the blueprints. But in the time since, the station gained traction, developed original programming, and the students involved soon started the search for more functional, visible space. Over the course of the past year, Schondelmeier has spearheaded that quest, ultimately landing UVMtv prime space in the Davis Center's "media alley."

Schondelmeier, who is the son of alumni Nina '76 and Robert Schondelmeier '73, focused his academic work in the English Department's film and television studies major. He sought out UVMtv as a complement to the theory of his courses, a chance to gain experience in hands-on production work. His lead role in UVMtv's quest for space took the education of his undergrad years another direction–earning Schondelmeier something of a minor in the art of fearlessly knocking on the right doors, making a compelling case, and building consensus.

Thus: The week before classes ended, Schondelmeier stood in the raw space that would be transformed within a month into UVMtv's hard-won new headquarters in the Davis Center. "I might be able to edit a video here before I leave," he says with a slight smile.

Post-graduation, Schondelmeier planned to move to New York with options open, hopes focused on the creative end of production. He's proven adept at working an alumni connection; he landed a  summer 2008 internship after meeting Matt Sharp '94, founder of the fast-rising television production company Sharp Entertainment, through a UVM networking event. He can envision trying a similar angle again. Referring to the noted film producer and UVM alumnus, Schondelmeier jokes, "I'm hoping Jon Kilik needs a cup of coffee."


[ QUOTE UNQUOTE ]

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photo by Raj Chawla

"What was the gesture for that word again? This could be a long night for you. But maybe not. Maybe you do work signing at a longshoremen's club."

Jon Stewart joking with the sign language interpreter working the comedian's sold-out performance on March 28 at Patrick Gym.


[ANTHROPOLOGY]
BESTSELLER WITH UVM Alumni Association

Notching a long run on The New York Times Best Seller List, author David Grann's The Lost City of Z chronicles generations of Amazon exploration with a particular focus on the ill-fated expedition of the legendary Percy Harrison Fawcett. The British explorer, his son Jack, and friend Raleigh Rimell entered the jungle in 1925 and never returned.

While The Lost City of Z is an armchair adventure page-turner, it also explores a complex and controversial anthropological question–was the Amazon once home to large, sophisticated civilizations or has the harsh environment of the jungle always offered a 'counterfeit paradise' where mankind can scarcely grab a foothold.

Michael Heckenberger '88 and the late James Petersen '79,  a UVM anthropology professor, have been two of the strongest voices posing the theory and offering proof that large civilizations once flourished in the Amazon. The two anthropologists collaborated on Amazon research, a relationship that began when Petersen taught Heckenberger at UVM.

"Jim is an infectious person and teacher," Heckenberger said in the spring 2005 edition of Vermont Quarterly. "He attracts so many people to anthropology. He is without a doubt one of the most powerful and influential teachers I had."

Grann communicated with Petersen as he researched the book and planned his own journey into the jungle. In the acknowledgements, he writes: "I would like to pay special tribute to James Petersen, who was murdered in the Amazon not long after we spoke, depriving the world of one of its finest archaeologists and most generous souls."

Grann's meeting with Heckenberger, a professor at the University of Florida, appears in the book's final chapter. Seeking clues to Fawcett's fate, the author treks to a Kuikuru village deep in the Upper Xingu region of Brazil. There he meets Heckenberger, who lives with the tribe as he continues his research. Heckenberger walks the journalist around, shows him the evidence that supports the presence of an advanced civilization from the past. "To tell you the honest-to-God truth. I don't think there is anywhere in the world where there isn't written history where the continuity is so clear as right here," Heckenberger tells Grann.


[GEOGRAPHY]

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photo by Sally McCay

CAMPUS MOURNS LOSS OF GLEN ELDER

As the campus quieted for summer, the university community was stunned by the death of Glen Elder, associate dean of the College of Arts and Sciences and associate professor of geography. Elder, 42, died unexpectedly on May 21 while jogging near his home in the Old North End of Burlington, leaving a void for his family, friends, and colleagues.

Elder, who was South African by birth, was a gifted teacher and scholar, as well as a committed activist who served on the board of Vermont Cares.

Elder came to UVM as a visiting professor in 1995, earned tenure in 2002, and served as chair of the Department of Geography from 2005 to 2008, when he was appointed interim associate dean, a position that was to become permanent in July.

"Glen was a thoroughly good man: kind, generous, smart, witty, wry, stylish, creative," said Eleanor Miller, dean of CAS.

Elder received the 2003 Kroepsch-Maurice Award for excellence in teaching–a vocation that he approached with enormous passion and for which he was widely beloved –and the Dean's Lecture Award from CAS in 2005.

"Watching him teach was extraordinary," said Beverley Wemple, associate professor and interim chair of geography, who co-taught a course with Elder. "He was performing, and he captivated students' attention, using that skill to help them think about things that they wouldn't otherwise be challenged to think about. He was the consummate academic," she continued. "He loved mentoring, marshalling junior faculty, he loved the research."

A productive scholar, Elder's recent work focused on the effects of post-9/11 border policies–the economic, social, and political realities for people living in border communities, particularly those between Vermont and Quebec. He was also interested in the development of a historical economic geography of HIV/AIDS in southern Africa. Elder's research invariably worked to challenge power structures, exploitation, and marginalization of any stigmatized group.

Elder is survived by his longtime partner, Mick Conley, and father, Peter Elder. A campus memorial service will be held after students return in the fall, on September 25 at 2 p.m. in Ira Allen Chapel.


[3 QUESTIONS]

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photo by Sally McCay

PROFESSOR HILARY NERONI

Hilary Neroni, associate professor of English and director of UVM's film and television studies program, continues to shape a new book begun during a recent sabbatical. The project picks up on groundwork laid in her 2005 text, The Violent Woman: Femininity, Narrative, and Violence in Contemporary American Cinema. Instead of solely examining representations of violence on the big screen, her latest scholarship includes an investigation into the dramatic rise in depictions of torture post-9/11 on television, a phenomenon documented by human rights organizations–and one of much interest to a professor who's still asking questions about on-screen violence.

Q: How did your current book take shape?
A: I kept thinking about the significance of the rise in the amount of representations of torture. There's an obvious correlation you could talk about–it's a discussion in the nation and so popular culture is representing it within our narratives–but I wanted to think beyond that. I was interested in Alias before I realized how interested I was in representations of torture. I had written a significant amount about Alias and Jennifer Garner looking at the rest of her character–not just the violence–and then I had this new lens of thinking about torture. What I ended up with is a comparison in the book of 24 and Alias, and the very basic point coming out of this is that in 24, torture always works (which, as we know, isn't true). I'm working on a theoretical way to think about this. There's an Italian philosopher, Giorgio Agamben, who has come up with an idea that contemporary ideology is dominated by a philosophy of "bare life," where life becomes the only value, where it's only life that matters, as opposed to, say, freedom or equality. So I think the structure of 24 is dominated by this philosophy of bare life and a related masculinist philosophy. The women can be interesting on that show, but they ultimately end up dying or betraying their country. Part of my work will explain the link between this masculinist dimension of the show and the philosophy of bare life, both of which are opposed in Alias.

Q: How is this represented in Alias?
A: In Alias, torture almost never works. What does work are (Jennifer Garner's character's) aliases–her masquerade. When she's undercover, she's dressing up, and it's within this realm of fiction that she finds truth, that she can get truth out of people. And I really like that idea, that within this less masculinist structure, the way that you find truth is through fiction or the turn away from reality. In Alias, she does torture people, but she rarely gets anything out of it. Whereas this fictional space she creates with her aliases is a gold mine! She finds out everything, sometimes within minutes! The masquerades she performs range; sometimes they are complete stereotypes of highly erotic outfits, but they are also often very plain and/or tough and/or tomboyish. It's in disguising life that Garner's character discovers the truth, not in stripping down to bare life, which is what occurs in torture.

Q: You say you've also done a lot of thinking about the Abu Ghraib photos in relation to this work. Tell me about that.
A: Before the T.V. shows, I have a chapter in the book on the Abu Ghraib photos, and I talk about the effect they had on the country and why they were so shocking to everybody. Obviously, it's because they revealed the torture that was going on, but specifically because they revealed this very sexual torture that had little to do with finding out a piece of information. In this way, the photos discredited the mainstream ideology that suggested that you could just torture someone to get information. I'm interested in the photos by Sabrina Harman. She's the one who looks so fresh and bright and Doris Day-ish, and she's smiling, always with the thumbs-up. So, I look at her face as a kind of stain of enjoyment, an indication that something more than the discovery of information is at stake.

Interview by Amanda Waite '02 G'04


WHIRLWIND WOODWINDS

Sometimes a forgotten musical instrument has a way of finding the musician meant to play it.

In fourth grade, Wesley Christensen '10 had thoughts of taking up the saxophone, but his mother steered him toward her high school clarinet languishing in the attic. "If you get any good at it, you can switch to sax," Christensen remembers his mom saying.

For Margaret Roddy '11, her grandmother's clarinet was sitting around the house during her childhood years. Roddy picked it up, "tooted around on it until the fourth grade," then joined up with the school band.

Christensen did, in fact, get good at that clarinet, but the day never came when he wanted to trade it in for the sax. Roddy's early tooting grew more serious as she began to take lessons and developed quickly as a musician.

The two talented clarinetists have shared the stage at UVM–most notably for a UVM Symphony Orchestra performance in March. Conductor Michael Hopkins and Steven Klimowski, clarinet instructor for both Christensen and Roddy, conspired to showcase the duo's considerable skills. The orchestra performed "Il Convegno," a virtuosic showpiece for two clarinets by nineteenth century Italian composer Amilcare Ponchielli.

"It really shows them off, flying up and down the clarinet," says Hopkins. "It's a lot of fun for everyone."

Both Hopkins and Klimowski count the clarinetists among the most talented, diligent students they've worked with. "It's been a real treat for me," says Klimowski, "either of them could be studying in a conservatory."

But a university setting has turned out to be a sound choice, allowing both of the musicians to also pursue broader academic interests. Roddy carries a double major in music and political science; Christensen, in music and economics.

While neither is sure about pursuing a career in music or another path after graduation, one thing seems certain: these are two clarinets that will never be in want of a clarinetist.


[BOOKS & MEDIA]
EXPLORING "MANNY BEING MANNY"

It wasn't until after Jean Rhodes '79 graduated from UVM and established herself as a leading expert on youth mentoring that she fully realized the significance of her own mentor-based relationship with George Albee, longtime UVM professor and pioneer in clinical psychology who passed away in 2006.

That relationship, which included in-depth conversations about psychology at Albee's farmhouse with the professor and his daughter, Marina, inspired Rhodes to pursue an academic career. And it led to a fascination with the role mentors play in the lives of young people–a subject Rhodes explores in her latest book, which focuses on baseball star Manny Ramirez.

Becoming Manny: Inside the Life of Baseball's Most Enigmatic Slugger examines Ramirez's life through unconventional lenses, particularly the role of mentors in his life, offering insight into what the familiar concession "Manny being Manny" might mean. Rhodes, a professor of psychology at UMass–Boston, wrote the book with journalist Shawn Boburg. Ramirez officially authorized the book, which was published in March 2009 by Scribner.

The venture is Rhodes's first non-academic book, following two decades of academic research resulting in hundreds of articles and six books, including 2002's highly regarded Stand by Me: The Risks and Rewards of Mentoring Today's Youth (Harvard Press). Her research focuses on the development of adolescents and young adults with special attention to the role of non-parent adults. Rhodes is currently involved in a range of research projects that address the role of both formal and informal mentors in vulnerable groups including children of prisoners, survivors of Hurricane Katrina, community college students, high school dropouts, and low-income children in after-school settings.

Becoming Manny examines the effects of the most significant relationships of Ramirez's youth, including the crucial male mentorship of youth baseball coach Carlos Ferreira. Rhodes also delves into key female influences such as Ramirez's mother, sister, wife, and grandmother, with whom she became close while researching the book.

"I'd been doing a lot of serious academic work for a long time and wanted to try something different," says Rhodes. "It was a way to bring psychology to people outside academia. I loved writing it."

The relatively positive portrayal of Ramirez hasn't gone over well in some corners of Red Sox Nation. The book was released after Ramirez left Boston for Los Angeles. Rhodes admits she's endured some unpleasantries on talk radio from bitter Red Sox fans who thought her book too kind. This spring, life turned for Ramirez when he was slapped with a fifty-game suspension after failing a test for banned substances.

Rhodes doesn't see a link between Ramirez's mentoring and apparent decision to use steroids. "He's an adult now," she says. "He makes his own decisions."
Jon Reidel G'06


[BRIEFS]

The Lamoille Stories: Uncle Benoit's Wake and Other Tales from Vermont
Bill Schubart '68
White River Press

In 1950s Morrisville, Vermont, stories were shared and gathered as much as scrap metal and tractor batteries at the town dump. The twenty-one stories that follow "Lyle's Dump," the opening tale of Schubart's The Lamoille Stories,  are among the favorites of the seven men (Lyle, Wyvis, Bettis, Charlie, Duke, Pete, and Jeeter) who drink and talk inside the dump's shack on Saturday nights. Their stories (what English professor Philip Baruth calls "Vermont's answer to Chaucer's Canterbury Tales") reveal the character of small town life in Vermont, even as communities were changed and remade by the mid-century influx of out-of-staters.

City of Trees: The Complete Field Guide to the Trees of Washington, D.C.
Melanie Choukas-Bradley '74,
Illustrated by Polly Alexander '76
University of Virginia Press

Sure, everyone knows about the cherry blossoms, but Washington, D.C., offers much more in the way of tree species. In the third edition, the UVM author/illustrator team provides more than four hundred pages of botanical background on the nation's capital.

The Helga Pictures
Linda Kittell '74
Pecan Grove Press

The Helga Pictures engages American painter Andrew Wyeth's series of work known as the Helga Suite, named for the model pictured in nearly all of the 246 pieces. Kittell's book translates Wyeth's work out of his own artistic medium–watercolors, sketches, dry brushes and tempera paintings–and into the poetic form.  In doing so, the poems create a conversation among Kittell, Helga, Wyeth, and his wife–dialogues that reflect the paintings' effects on the poet's imagination.

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