BETH HANSON, News Editor
On Friday, Feb. 10, the board of trustees approved tenure for five faculty members: Britt Sharringhausen in Physics and Astronomy; Ben Newton in Mathematics and Computer Science; Scott Espeseth in Art and Art History; Beatrice McKenzie in History; and Carla Davis in Sociology. This week, Round Table asked them about their academic and personal interests.
What’s your main research focus?
Britt Sharringhausen: The Beloit Astronomy Research Group (currently me, Michael Crumrine’13, Zoë Batson’14, Sam Storck-Post’12 and Morgan Rehnberg’12) studies the vertical structure of Saturn’s F ring, and structures within the F ring, using observations made by the Cassini Spacecraft which is orbiting Saturn right now.
Scott Espeseth: Right now I am making simple, small drawings using accessible means, usually a ballpoint pen. This could be seen in part as an antidote to a lot of the big-budget, ostentatious art being made right now, but it also meshes with my sensibility for images of commonplace settings that somehow seem charged with a kind of supernatural presence.
Ben Newton: My research is an area of math called ‘group theory.’ I like it because the entire subject is based on three simple rules, but the types of structures that arise from these rules can be beautiful and complex, and they show up in a wide variety of contexts throughout mathematics, as well as in chemistry, biology and physics.
Carla Davis: Social inequalities (race/ethnicity, gender, class).
Beatrice McKenzie: I have two projects underway, a study of changes in U.S. birthright citizenship policy, 1866-2001, and a project on gender and consular work in the twentieth century.
What’s your favorite class to teach?
BS: Oh, this isn’t a fair question! I love them all for different reasons, but probably my favorite is PHYS 200: Topics in Astronomy, because we can go into detail about some astronomical subjects, and the subject matter is different every time I teach it.
SE: Probably ART 200: Printmaking-Etching. Etching was my first love as a student, and I get to share that experience with my class. Etching is such a magical process, and I always feel the students grow by leaps and bounds in their image making by having had exposure to it.
BN: I hope it’s okay if I give two favorites: I like teaching MATH 215: Abstract Algebra because it relates to my area of specialty, which means that I get to bring examples from my own research into my teaching. Hopefully, I am able to give my students a sense that math is a dynamic and evolving subject area, and not something that was completely figured out 400 years ago. I have also really enjoyed being about to teach Math 103: Cultural Approaches to Mathematics, in which we explore various ways that math can be used to describe and gain insight into cultural traditions. Many of the cultural topics that I cover are things that I did not know a great deal about before coming to Beloit, so teaching the course has been a wonderful learning experience for me.
CD: Women, Race, & Class
BM: Whatever one I am in at the moment, especially if students and I have closely read the same material and we have a meaningful discussion. My favorite teaching activity is reading student papers, especially critical reflections that are closely based on the text and that are both honest and meaningful.
What was your favorite teaching moment?
BS: SPOILERS FOR PHYS 130! When we go on to the roof for our first observing lab of the semester for Introduction to Astronomy, there’s a moment when people realize that east and west are reversed on maps of the night sky. They go from looking down on the map […] to realizing that what they have to do is hold the map above them and look *up* at it. It’s just one of many profound shifts in perspective that happen in astronomy!
SE: My favorite teaching moments are when a student who has been having a real hard time with a problem finally “gets it.” Those are some of the few times when I actually feel like I taught somebody something.
BN: Many of my favorite moments happen long after the course has ended. As teachers, we like to think that students are getting something good out of the courses that we teach, but it’s sometimes hard to tell at the time whether or not this is the case. Some of my most gratifying moments have been the times when I have encountered former students who are doing well professionally [and] they still remember and continue to think about the things they learned and did in my classes.
CD: All of my teaching moments are my favorite.
BM: This one changes by the day, too. But last week a prospie dropped by a class accompanied by a parent (usually frowned upon, but what could I do at that moment, order the parent out?) and caught a class in a FABULOUS student-led discussion.
Favorite Beloit restaurant?
BS: I’m a big fan of The Rock because they have sweet potato fries, which are my favorite.
SE: 615 Club, because of the pickled herring.
BN: I have a lot of affection for Neli’s in South Beloit (formerly Max’s) since my wife and my son and I meet up there regularly for breakfast with a group of other parents and kids. Of course, having a place like Bushel & Peck’s downtown is pretty great, too.
CD: The Bistro.
BM: I love Bushel & Peck’s for its community feel and great food.
Favorite movie? (Book? TV show?)
BS: [TV] Right now, I’m enjoying the heck out of “The Community.”
SE: There are few things that I love in such an unqualified way that I want to put them forward as my “favorite.” In general I don’t like those kinds of questions because it feels like someone’s trying to put me in a box.
BN: [TV] I have a 2-year-old at home, so right now I’m pretty into “Peep and the Big Wide World” on PBS, and “The Octonauts” on the Disney Channel.
CD: [Movie] “Ordinary People.” [Book] “An American Tragedy” by Theodore Dreiser
BM: [Book] I have a number of favorite books and I frequently find that the one I am reading becomes my new favorite. This year’s favorite is Annette Gordon-Reed’s “Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family.”
Is there anything else that you want to tell the Round Table readership?
BS: Keep looking up!
SE: Beloit’s a great school. Be proud of it.
BN: Beloit collects a lot of input from current and former students in making tenure decisions, so I’m very grateful to all of those who provided feedback. Having the college community decide to keep me on permanently is truly one of the greatest honors I have ever received!
CD: Nothing else.
BM: I want to thank the current students at Beloit who kept my spirits up through the college’s tenure decision.