RC News 2019 - 2020: A Year Like None Other

Welcome from the Residential College Directors

Left: Catherine Badgley, Director; center: Jennifer Myers, Associate Director for Curriculum; right: Stephen Ward, Associate Director for Faculty

Hello from the Residential College! We hope you'll enjoy this year-in-review packed with stories, photos, struggles, and inspirations, demonstrating above all that the RC community remains strong through all the obstacles we've encountered in recent months.

The word of the year is “unprecedented.” As a microcosm of the U-M campus, the RC has had its share of challenges since the spring, with adjustments to teaching online or in hybrid format; reactions to the strikes on campus in September; and anticipation of the November election. The RC has managed these challenges with vigorous discussions and constructive collegiality. This fall, the RC has a greater percentage of courses meeting in hybrid format (some students present in the classroom, others on the computer) or in person than LSA as a whole, mainly because of courses in the Arts (visual arts, music, drama) that need studios or performance spaces, as well as languages. These courses have been managed skillfully through collaborations between faculty and staff. Although East Quad has seen the number of Covid-positive cases rise, especially in mid-October, the numbers are far lower than in several other large residence halls, and are not associated with classroom activities. Students, especially first-year students, have been appreciative of opportunities for in-person learning and finding ways to create community. Everyone in the RC has been energized about participating in the November election.

- Catherine Badgley

During the opening weeks of the semester, students took action to draw attention to serious health and safety concerns and forced the university to address important questions about the conditions under which many were working and living on campus. The Graduate Employees Organization (GEO) and Resident Advisors (RAs) both held strikes, MDining student employees undertook a work slow down, and a coalition came together as the Students of Color Liberation Front to call for an end to the Michigan Ambassadors Program. Each of these challenged or called into question aspects of the University’s preparations and planning for the fall term in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. Importantly, the calls for change emanating from these actions also spoke in broad and holistic ways to a range of concerns, including U-M’s policing practices. This of course came in the context of the massive protests across the country against police killing of black people, and reflected a desire to push U-M into the emerging national conversation around the need to transform policing. These strikes and other actions by students generated solidarity statements and other expressions of support from staff and faculty across the campus, including members of the RC community who wrote a public statement of support for these various actions. To learn more about how these issues played out, and to get a sense of some responses in the RC to these developments, you can listen to the episode of the RC Podcast (see below).

- Stephen Ward

The RC community is a special one and, you, our alumni and friends, are an integral part of this community. We continue to be grateful for the myriad ways in which you contribute to and support the important work we do in the RC. There are many initiatives that continue to thrive because of robust support from RC alumni. For example, 15 alumni engaged with our students during the 2019-2020 school year as part of the alumni-student mentorship program and nearly double that number are engaged this year (see below). The mentorship program is funded, in large part, by donors and alumni who contributed to the Weisskopf Alumni-Student Engagement fund. Many of you have contributed to the RC strategic and discretionary funds which support study away from campus for RC students and the ever popular Shakespeare in the Arb, to name a few. On behalf of current RC faculty, staff and students, please accept our gratitude and appreciation for all that you do to support the Residential College.

- Jennifer Myers

“U-M Works Because We Do”: RCers on the Fall 2020 Strikes

During summer 2020, U-M communicated a public health-informed reopening plan for on-campus and virtual learning in the fall. Meanwhile, many universities around the country - including MSU, about an hour away - announced plans for a totally virtual fall term to prevent the spread of COVID-19 between students. Long before the first van showed up for residence hall move-in day, some students, staff and faculty sought clarity on testing policies, noticed inconsistent execution, and many voiced worries that their concerns weren't being addressed. Fearful for safety and frustrated by slow communication with U-M leadership, the Graduate Employees' Organization and dozens of resident advisors went on strike, which pressured U-M administration from several directions and in ways not seen in decades. In this episode of the RC Podcast, students and faculty weigh in on the GEO and RA strikes and the demonstration of MDining staff that, collectively, led to important changes for the entire U-M Ann Arbor campus community. (Photo by RC student Cielle Waters-Umfleet)

Longstanding Faculty Retirements

Left: Fred Peters; middle: Susan Walton; right: Janet Hegman Shier (Photo: David Shier)

After teaching for close to 40 years at the RC, Janet Hegman Shier retired in May 2020. Janet began teaching at the RC in 1981 as a graduate student, becoming a Lecturer in 1984, and the head of the German Language Program in 1988. She founded U-M RC Deutsches Theater in 1985 and led numerous plays and workshops for current students, alums of the program, and distinguished visiting artists. Janet collaborated with many RC faculty—including Kate Mendeloff, Barbara Sloat, Ann Savageau, Jennifer Myers, and Olga López-Cotín. Since 2002, Janet led groups of students on study-immersion trips to Germany related to arts, theater, and intercultural dialogue. Over several decades, she also served on many active RC committees and received numerous awards and recognitions for her accomplishments in teaching and mentoring students. In 1990, Janet received the first annual teaching excellence award from the State of Michigan. In 1996 and 2000, she received Excellence in Teaching awards at the University of Michigan. In 2003, she received the U-M Ruth Sinclair Excellence in Advising Award. Janet’s boundless energy and creativity have been a palpable force in the academic and community life of the RC all these years. She leaves a multi-faceted legacy with a lasting impact on the character of the RC.

Susan Walton retired after a 24-year career teaching at the RC. After earning her degree in ethnomusicology from the University of Michigan in 1996, she taught ethnomusicology, gamelan music, and cultural studies as a lecturer. Susan has studied, researched, and performed Javanese gamelan music since 1968, much of it in Indonesia, where she conducted ethnomusicological fieldwork on many occasions. As Director of the University of Michigan Gamelan since 2003, Susan invited numerous Javanese musicians, puppeteers, and dancers, to semester-long residencies at U-M and has produced many concerts involving multiple student dancers, actors, musicians, and puppeteers in performances of traditional Javanese dance drama. She also conducted research on shadow puppet theater in Kerala, India. Susan has become one of the foremost experts in Javanese solo female singing (sindhenan) and has performed with numerous gamelan groups in the US, Indonesia, England, Australia, and New Zealand. She is a cherished teacher of hundreds of students in the RC, and a model of cross-cultural exchange and collaboration.

Fred Peters retired from a career at the RC spanning nearly 40 years. He started college as a pre-med student and graduated with a degree in German. Fred spent several years studying German culture and language at many European universities, earning a Master’s Degree in German Literature and Culture from Columbia University. Then he studied in England for seven years, eventually earning a Phd in Philosophy from Cambridge University. These peregrinations through subjects, countries, and degrees embody his approach to teaching in the RC: he tackled big topics and designed a scholarly pilgrimage for himself and his students to examine each topic from many perspectives. He taught the course, The Western Mind in Revolution, in China for five straight semesters at the University of Shanghai. The college tutorial system he experienced at Oxford and Cambridge strongly influenced his teaching of small classes at the RC. In Kate Mendeloff’s production of a play by Catherine Badgley, he played Bishop Samuel Wilberforce in the famous public debate with Thomas Huxley about the merits of Darwin’s newly published On the Origin of Species. Ever the intellectual adventurer, Fred's international multidisciplinary exploration brought him to the Residential College where he's been both a beloved teacher and an eternal student.

RC Summer Teach-ins on Protest, Restorative Justice, and Prison Reform

Over the summer, in response to the violence against Black people by police officers and the growing demand to address mass incarceration, the RC offered a series of teach-ins for the U-M community and the public, including Uprising Nation: What it Means and Where it Takes Us and Restorative Justice in Practice & Interrupting the School-to-Prison Pipeline featuring RC faculty, alumni and guest speakers. You can watch the videos at these links.

RC Alumni- Student Mentorship Program Successful Launch

Did you know that the Residential College has a pool of nearly 7,000 alumni, more than 1,000 of which live in SE Michigan? In December 2017, former RC Director and Professor, Tom Weisskopf, gave a gift to support alumni engagement and outreach efforts involving students at the Residential College. By January 2019, 112 donors contributed and ensured its establishment as an endowment.

Supported by this fund, the RC Alumni-Student Mentorship program was born in the fall of 2019, in which 15 alums were matched with 15 students for one-on-one mentorship over the 2019-2020 academic year. After the COVID-19 executive orders began, pairs adjusted to meet via online video conferencing, where they established supportive relationships through career advising and promoting approaches to student wellbeing. The second cohort of the program launched in September 2020 and expanded upon the first by pairing 26 alums with 26 students.

RC Staff and Student Highlights

Charlie Murphy (left), Robby Griswold (top center), Lynne Bekdash (top right), Jannah Mandwee (bottom right)

The RC is excited to announce that Charlie Murphy, RC Academic Services Director, and Robby Griswold, our Communications and Outreach Specialist (and Arts & Ideas alum '07), were recently recognized by the LSA Dean's Office with Staff Achievement Awards for exceptional contributions to the success of LSA.

Recent graduate Jannah Mandwee received the prestigious Foreign Affairs IT Fellowship. The fellowship funded the last two years of her U-M undergraduate education and led her directly to a full-time job as an Information Management Specialist at a foreign affairs agency. Jannah grew up fluent in both English and Arabic, and she graduated with a minor in her RC language, French. Her 2020 degree is in LSA Computer Science. FAIT is a natural next step on Jannah's journey to mediate a more positive and productive relationship between Iraq and the U.S.

Congratulations to RC students, RC Creative Writing and Literature majors, and participants in RC courses on your collective 22 Hopwood Awards in the fall and winter award cycles this year! The RC is proud of your incredible literary achievements, Lynne Bekdash, Vivian Chiao, Olivia Evans, Ariel Everitt, Julia Freeman, Kennedi Killips, Elena Ramirez-Gorski, Miriam Saperstein, smitty smith, Grace Toll, Nicole Tooley, Jena Vallina, Kitty Wilcox, Mylicia Williams, and Jade Wurst!

Recent RC Creative Writing grad Lynne Bekdash won the 2020 Academy of American Poets Prize for her poem “Immigrant Daughter Ghazal”. Lynne says she’s “thrilled and honored to receive my first publication from the same organization that gave some of my favorite poets their first recognition, including Sylvia Plath and Ocean Vuong.”

RC Creative Writing majors Andrew Warrick and Marlon Rajan received the 2020 David and Sylvia Nelson Award, which supports RC Creative Writing students performing unpaid summer internships that further their writing education and prepare them for careers in the field.

Some RC alum publishing news!

Emily Pittinos (RC 2014, Women’s Studies, Poetry minor), left, has been awarded the 2020 Iowa Poetry Prize for her forthcoming debut collection, The Last Unkillable Thing (University of Iowa Press, 2021).

Acclaimed Poet Damian Rogers (RC 1993 Creative Writing and Literature), has recently published An Alphabet for Joanna: A Portrait of My Mother in 26 Fragments (center left) with Penguin Random House. The book is a memoir about being raised by a loving but erratic single mother who is today diagnosed with a rare form of frontal-lobe dementia.

Knopf Doubleday will publish RC Creative Writing alumna (’14) Allison Epstein's first novel, A Tip for the Hangman: A Novel of Christopher Marlowe in February 2021 (center right).

Peter Turnley (RC 1977 French) has a new photography book called A New York-Paris Visual Diary-The Human Face of Covid-19”, right. Turnley's photographs have been featured in Newsweek, Harper’s, Stern, Paris Match, Geo, LIFE, National Geographic, The London Sunday Times, VSD, Le Figaro, Le Monde, New Yorker, and DoubleTake.

The RC Alumni Journal, edited by RC Creative Writing alumnus Dan Madaj '82, brings together creative work from RC alumni every year. The Fall 2020 issue, its fourth, is viewable now! Contributors include Peter Anderson, Esha Biswas, Hannah Brauer, Carmen Bugan, Julia Byers, Joseph Stanhope Cialdella, Bob Clifford, Logan Corey, Ellen Dreyer, Melissa Durante, Allison Epstein, Cameron Finch, Dennis Foon, Mary Gallagher, Barry Garelick, Robin Lily Goldberg, Rebecca Growe, John Hagen, John Laswick, Delaney Leach, Hannah Levine, Camilla Lizundia, Dan Madaj, Hannah Nathans, Kathryn Orwig, and Laura Thomas.

Find more about these stories and many others on the RC Writers website.

RC Partner Program Updates

This year marked the 25th anniversary of the Annual Exhibition of Art by Michigan Prisoners, presented by the Prison Creative Arts Project, which showcases and sells art from every correctional facility in Michigan.

The Center for World Performance Studies presents PERFORMING THE MOMENT, PERFORMING THE MOVEMENT, a virtual performer/scholar series this fall. The sessions are free and open to the public with registration required, and past videos are available to watch online.

Semester in Detroit offers two community-based public series this fall: "Policing Black Power - From Watts to Detroit", and "Healing Justice as Building Cultural Resilience", both of which welcome participation by the general public.

RC Faculty Publications & News

RC student Brooke Huizenga's postcard in Toby Millman's winter 2020 printmaking class

RC Visual Arts faculty member Toby Millman's winter 2020 RC printmaking course modeled for the whole U-M community how to creatively adapt during the March shelter-in-place order via a mail art project.

We are excited to announce that the College of LSA has recognized Cristhian Espinoza-Pino, RC Spanish faculty member, with the 2020 Outstanding Contribution to Undergraduate Education Award for helping students bridge the gap between theory and practice in his classes and for mentoring students to support the Latino community in Washtenaw County.

Ashley Lucas, RC, English, SMTD, and Stamps faculty member, has published her book Prison Theatre and the Global Crisis of Incarceration with Bloomsbury, which examines the ways in which arts practitioners and imprisoned people use theatre as a means to build communities, attain professional skills, create social change, and maintain hope.

Arts & Ideas in the Humanities, Afroamerican and African Studies, and Women's and Gender Studies Professor Naomi André has joined with scholars around the world to launch the Black Opera Research Network, which aims to explore the relationship between opera and race. This spring, the Society for American Music awarded Naomi’s book, Black Opera: History, Power, Engagement the 2018 Lowens Book Award. Naomi’s book was also featured recently in The New Yorker.

Jon Wells, former RC Director and faculty member in Arts & Ideas in the Humanities, Afroamerican and African and Studies, and History, has recently released his book The Kidnapping Club: Wall Street, Slavery, and Resistance on the Eve of the Civil War with Bold Type Books. It was positively reviewed by the The Wall Street Journal and the The New York Times.

Far Left: Ashley Lucas, Drama and Arts & Ideas in the Humanities; left center: Jon Wells, Arts & Ideas in the Humanities; center: Xiao Dong Wei, Music; right center: Sascha Crasnow, Arts & Ideas in the Humanities; far right: A. Van Jordan, Creative Writing & Literature

A. Van Jordan, Robert Hayden Collegiate Professor and Laura Kasischke, Theodore Roethke Distinguished University Professor and RC alumna '84, were both featured by the Academy of American Poets for their poetry this year; Van with his poem "Afterward but not Afterword" and Laura with her poem "Prayer".

Heather Ann Thompson, Collegiate Professor in the Residential College, History and Afroamerican and African Studies, has been featured in several major news outlets to comment on protests against police brutality, including Star TribuneWired, ABC News, Vox, and The New York Times. She also published "The policy mistakes from the 1990s that have made covid-19 worse" with the Washington Post.

Angela Dillard, Richard A. Meisler Collegiate Professor of RC Social Theory & Practice, Afroamerican and African Studies, and History is an instructor for the online course Police Brutality in America Teach-Out through Michigan Online, which is free and open to the public. Angela also co-wrote an article recently published in The Chronicle of Higher Education about U-M's race and ethnicity requirement.

RC Social Theory and Practice faculty member, Jane Lynch, received a summer fellowship with the U-M Institute for the Humanities for her research on the history of India’s craft industries. Visual Arts faculty member Isaac Wingfield was one of the inaugural recipients of the Public Engagement Faculty Fellowship from the U-M Center for Academic Innovation.

Kate Mendeloff, RC Drama faculty member, was awarded a grant from The Center for World Performance Studies to support her collaboration with Kenyan playwright Rogers (Aroji) Otieno on an environmental staging of the play "Wangari's Prayer" about Nobel prize winning eco-activist Wangari Maathai.

Far left: Avi Steinberg, Creative Writing & Literature; left center: Naomi André, Arts & Ideas in the Humanities; center: Michael Gould, Music; right center: Angela Dillard, Social Theory & Practice; far right: Heather Thompson, Social Theory & Practice and Crime and Justice

Avi Steinberg, faculty in Creative Writing & Literature, recently published The Happily Ever After: A Memoir of an Unlikely Romance Novelist, his third memoir with Knopf Doubleday. He is currently at work on a biography of the writer and political activist, Grace Paley, which will be published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux, and on a translation of the biblical story of David, which will be published by Norton/Liveright. If you have information on Grace Paley that you'd be willing to share with Avi, email him at avst@umich.edu.

Faculty in the RC and STAMPS, and RC alumnus, David Turnley (RC 1977 French), has been featured along with his students in several publications including the Detroit Free Press, U-M Arts and Culture, and WKRN in Nashville for their photography documenting their lives during the time of COVID-19.

RC faculty in Arts & Ideas in the Humanities Sascha Crasnow has published "The diversity of the middle: mythology in intersectional trans representation" in The Journal of Visual Culture. Her manuscript, The Age of Disillusionment: Palestinian Art After the Intifadas, based on her dissertation, examines the effect of the inter-Intifada period and failure of the peace process on Palestinian art production after 2000 and is currently under review with Duke University Press.

RC and School of Music, Theatre & Dance faculty member Michael Gould’s multimodal exhibition “A World Without Ice” was on view at the Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum this past year.

Far left: Jennifer Goltz-Taylor, Music; left center: Katri Ervamaa, Music; center: Laura Kasischke, Creative Writing & Literature; right center: David Turnley, Social Theory & Practice; far right: Kate Mendeloff, Drama

Katri Ervamaa, cellist, and Jennifer Goltz-Taylor, soprano, both from the RC Music faculty, appear on the latest album The Outer Bar from Brave New Works, a chamber ensemble they co-founded. The album features twenty-first century music by American music composers Andrew Mead and Robert Morris with rich orchestration, deep emotional expression, and intriguing complexity, performed by some of the best musicians the new music world has seen.

RC Chinese Music faculty member Xiao Dong Wei recently performed original and established works on erhu, a Chinese two-stringed bowed musical instrument, for The John F. Kennedy Center of the Performing Arts as part of the “Arts Across America” project. Her performance is available to watch on their YouTube channel.

The Golden Apple Award is the only award at the University of Michigan nominated and decided by students. This year, a record-breaking nineteen RC faculty and associated faculty were nominated for the honor, and they are: Elissa Bell Bayraktar, Mark Burde, Dominique Butler-Borruat, Sascha Crasnow, Herb Eagle, Cristhian Espinoza-Pino, Karein Goertz, Jennifer Goltz-Taylor, Michael Gould, Wendy Gutierrez-Tashian, Janet Hegman Shier, Sarah Messer, Toby Millman, Jennifer Myers, Teresa Sanchez-Snell, Laura Thomas, Heather Thompson, Kate Tremel, and Stephen Ward.

Far left: Sarah Messer, Creative Writing & Literature; left center: Wendy Gutierrez Tashian, Spanish; center: Cristhian Espinoza-Pino, Spanish; right center: Laura Thomas, Creative Writing & Literature; far right: Toby Millman, Visual Arts

The RC Community Members in Memoriam Page lists RC alumni, faculty and staff who have passed away. If known, entries include the years of their life, additional degrees and institutions from which they earned them. Thanks to alumnus Dan Madaj, RC 1982 Creative Writing and Literature, for helping to edit this list. Please let us know if you notice any omissions by emailing us at rc.communications@umich.edu.

The RC Hosts Visual Arts Residencies

Fulgencio Lazo (pictured here in the RC Art Gallery) is a Zapotec/Mixtec artist based in Seattle and his hometown of Oaxaca, Mexico. Fulgencio was an Artist in Residence at the RC in fall 2019. For more than 26 years he has been working with museums, art centers and community groups to create “tapetes” or carpets of colored sand for Mexican Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) celebrations. These installations are collaboratively designed and installed with community members over the course of several days. From September 30 to October 4, 2019, Fulgencio worked with U-M students and community members to design and create two tapetes, one in the RC Art Gallery (seen here) and one at the Ann Arbor District Library.

Elshafei Dafalla (pictured here with RC ceramics faculty member, Susan Crowell) was an artist in residence at the Residential College Art Gallery between October 28-November 1, 2019, working with RC students to realize new work for the exhibition "Blood Underwater". Elshafei used the gallery as a studio space, working primarily with pastels and canvas. He also gave lectures. Blood Underwater aimed to provide a voice for community members and activists, especially from political, national, racial, religious and other minorities, to express their concerns about global suffering through art. Participants gathered around a large canvas with paints and music and were guided through a series of artistic expressions by Elshafei, in a demand for “freedom, peace and justice” -- from San Salvador to Khartoum to Sindh -- and throughout the world.

RC Podcast Addresses Current Issues

RC Life in the Time of COVID-19

In episode 27, the RC Podcast explores how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted people differently within the Residential College community, from a Resident Advisor, to a student studying abroad in Paris, to a student who remained in University Housing after East Quad's evacuation, to a member of the RC intensive language faculty. We investigate family ties, procrastination, the strangeness of seeing other people in real life, and dealing with anxiety during these "unprecedented times", all with humor and vulnerability.

Student-facilitated learning spaces at U-M: RC Forums

Episode 23 explores the RC Forums program, a fully student-initiated and peer-led learning space open to all U-M students that grants Residential College participants credit to learn about a topic like diversity in politics, feminism, art, and dance, without a faculty or staff member in the room. There are currently +/- 12 active forums, but students create new ones or retire legacy ones as their interests fluctuate.

The RC Social Theory & Practice Major (formerly RC Social Science)

In episode 22, the RC Podcast spotlights the RC Social Theory & Practice Major (STP), and how it gives U-M students the latitude to design their own interdisciplinary plan of study, culminating in innovative capstone projects like youth responses to gun violence, or land-based educational practices for people in diaspora. We talked with Mani (Ramin) Samei and Ruby Schneider, two RC STP students from the class of 2020, and STP faculty member Jane Lynch.

Check out all the RC Podcast episodes - including an exposé on what students eat, how two RCers deal with imposter syndrome as women STEM scholars, alumni interviews, and more - on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, or wherever you get your podcasts!

Your gifts keep our RC traditions alive!

We hope you'll consider making a contribution to the RC Strategic or Discretionary funds, which support the core programs of the Residential College and keep its traditions alive and well. We also welcome gifts to our RC Scholarship Fund that supports our students in myriad ways, such as general scholarship funding, support for professional conference travel, and thesis research expenses. If you’d like to make a gift for these or another purpose, please see our list of possible funds at myumi.ch/QApXG or contact us at rc.communications@umich.edu.

Thank you for reading RC News!

RC News was written and edited by Robby Griswold, and assistant edited by Sebastien Butler. If you have suggestions for the editor, email them to rc.communications@umich.edu.

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University of Michigan Board of Regents, effective January 1, 2019 through January 1, 2021: Jordan B. Acker, Huntington Woods; Michael J. Behm, Grand Blanc; Mark J. Bernstein, Ann Arbor; Paul W. Brown, Ann Arbor; Shauna Ryder Diggs, Grosse Pointe; Denise Ilitch, Bingham Farms; Ron Weiser, Ann Arbor; Katherine E. White, Ann Arbor; Mark S. Schlissel (ex officio)

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