Just as millions of American women were about to put down aprons and take up riveting guns, the male-dominated world of comic book superheroes was changed forever in late 1941 by the appearance of Wonder Woman. Danny Fingeroth analyzes Wonder Woman in his book, excerpted below, Superman on the Couch: What Superheroes Really Tell Us about Ourselves and Our Society (Continuum, 2004). Fingeroth spoke at a conference held in conjunction with “Faster Than a Speeding Bullet: The Art of the Superhero,” an exhibit featuring more than 150 pages of superhero comic art, on display through January 3 at the UO’s Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art.
Wonder Woman was created by William Moulton Marston, Ph.D., a middle-aged, highly educated, highly accomplished adult. Harvard graduate Marston was a lawyer as well as a practicing psychologist. He was most famous as the inventor of the lie detector.
In his own secret identity, Marston engaged in an alternate lifestyle, offbeat even by today’s standards. He was married to and had two children with his wife, psychologist Elizabeth Holloway Marston, and also had two more children with his assistant, Olive Byrne, who lived with the Marstons. By all accounts, all three adults got along quite well, and when Marston died, the two women together brought up the four children.
Marston was perhaps the first “pop” psychologist in history. According to Trina Robbins in her 1996 book The Great Woman Super Heroes, he was also “a successful advertising man, and the author of popular and scholarly books and articles on psychology.” Other accounts, like Les Daniels in his book Wonder Woman—a book officially sanctioned by DC Comics—describe a man with great ups and downs in his financial fortunes, and who, depending on how it suited his needs, went from being a [vigorous] attacker of comics to a defender of them, going so far as to serve on DC Comics advisory board. Ultimately Marston would become so involved with comics that he would create—with input from legendary DC executive M. C. Gaines (father of Mad’s original publisher, William Gaines)—the first female superhero, the Amazon princess Wonder Woman. Created in a virgin birth—rising from the dust—Wonder Woman came to life. She was birthed from dust, like Adam, the granddaddy of us all. No “Adam’s rib” style, second-thought origin for her!
The mythic hero is usually born from the union of a virgin and a god, and when the virginal Amazon queen Hippolyta desires a child, the goddess Aphrodite instructs her to mold one out of clay, then breathes life into the statue. Thus, Wonder Woman’s divine parent is, in this case, a female deity, and little Diana has two mommies.
Well versed in mythology and fairy tales, Marston (writing under the name Charles Moulton) was able to draw on these primal stories and, with a modern psychologist’s sensibility, give them a twist for the audience of 1942. But like many of the heroes and heroines of her day, Wonder Woman swiftly became caught up helping the allies win World War II, which threatened her idyllic Amazon homeland on Paradise Island. When Steve Trevor, an intelligence officer for the U.S., crashes on Paradise and is nursed back to health by Princess Diana (Wonder Woman), he persuades her to come back to “man’s world” with him and fight the good fight.
Like the Sub-Mariner over at Timely [Comics]—later Marvel—Wonder Woman was able to take whatever ambivalence or outright hostility she might have felt about the world outside her cloistered environment and channel it into Axis bashing. In a sort of variant on Superman’s immigrant status, Wonder Woman, too, is an immigrant from Paradise Island, and becomes a champion of the modern-day Paradise that is America in the eyes of the immigrants who flocked and continue to flock to its shores. The very theme of her costume, with its red and blue, punctuated by white stars, is as American as . . . well, as spinach pie, to continue the metaphor of her Grecian origins.
At their 1940s height, Wonder Woman’s comics sold millions of copies a month. Along with Superman and Batman, she was the only comics character whose adventures have been published continuously since her introduction several generations ago. Certainly, when most people are asked to name a superheroine, Wonder Woman would be the one they name.
Cultural critics like Gloria Steinem have been famously inspired by Wonder Woman. As Steinem says in her introduction to the 1995 Wonder Woman: Featuring over Five Decades of Great Covers:
The lesson [of Wonder Woman] was that each of us might have unknown powers within us, if we only believed and practiced them . . . Perhaps that’s the appeal of Wonder Woman . . . an adult’s need for a lost balance between women and men, between humans and nature.
Further, feminist and women’s-studies professor Lillian S. Robinson comments in ArtForum (Summer 1989):
What enchanted me about Wonder Woman was her physical power. That it was enrolled in the good fight was taken sufficiently for granted that I could concentrate on the power itself. . . .
Wonder Woman merged the natural and the supernatural, without reference to the extraterrestrial. She wasn’t strong the way someone from Krypton would be . . . but she was skilled. She had developed her abilities to a fine, a martial art.
And yet, there always seemed to be something “good for you” about Wonder Woman, as if she were created by a psychologist with a social agenda, as muddled and constantly evolving as that agenda might have been. And since, in a business famous for doing as little expensive demographic research as possible, it’s hard to say if Wonder Woman was read, at its peak, by more boys than girls, or by more children than adults. Certainly, the quantity of “reboots” and reimaginings of the character—she has been goddess, warrior, private eye, and much more—indicates that, while philosophically and commercially the idea of having a major superheroine in play was certainly desirable and even admirable, nobody really knew what to do with her. Again, in the hypothetical woman-on-the-street interview, while everybody knows Wonder Woman, and many could even say she was an Amazon, how many people—how many people reading this very book—could encapsulate her origin the way they could those of Superman, Batman, and Spider-Man? With a very popular 1970s TV series and her famous appearance on the cover of the debut issue of Steinem’s Ms. magazine, Wonder Woman is certainly an icon, an inspiration, and a role model but not necessarily someone with whom you’d want to sit down for a meal. She seems pleasant but not really all that interesting.
Clearly, there are generations of women who were inspired, as Steinem and Robinson were, to a greater or lesser degree by Wonder Woman. No doubt there were many boys who became men with positive feelings about women that stem from Wonder Woman’s adventures. But there isn’t, it seems, the primal feeling about her that we have about so many of the Ur-male heroes. One part of it may be a societal unease, certainly in existence sixty years ago, about putting women in the traumatic positions into which popular culture puts men. Would the world of the 1940s have been able to make an icon of a woman whose parents were brutally murdered before her eyes the way it had of Batman? What about making a hero of a girl infant, rocketed from her doomed planet as the sole survivor the way Superman was? The very emotional savagery of the origins of the male icons, as opposed to the gentler, literally earthy beginnings of Wonder Woman, means that the men’s beginnings would grab you by the throat and not let go. Wonder Woman’s origin—birthed of and exuding good intentions—seems lacking in visceral drama the way the dread of orphandom and abandonment is thrust into a reader’s face in the cases of Superman and Batman. It is the intense emotions these origin tales tap into that make them modern myths, as opposed to the trappings of myth in Wonder Woman’s origin, but without the accompanying emotional terror that makes her primal impetus perhaps less compelling.
People around the world celebrate holidays in the cold, dark depths of winter, and have done so for millennia, often with traditions that echo today. An expert in Greek and Roman culture and literature, UO classics professor Mary Jaeger discusses the Roman Saturnalia in this piece taken from a public presentation she created for the UO’s Museum of Natural and Cultural History.
Around the year 400 a man called Macrobius, who was possibly Christian but certainly a pagan sympathizer, wrote a dialogue called the Saturnalia. The setting was the night before the Saturnalia—Saturnalia Eve, we might call it. And it reports the learned table-talk of a dozen aristocratic Roman intellectuals; most of it is a discussion of the Roman poet Virgil; but the entrance of a Scrooge-like character, called Euangelos, who thinks that the Saturnalia is a bunch of humbug, turns the conversation in the direction of the holiday itself.
Here is a quote from the dialogue: “Of the many excellent institutions of our ancestors, this is the best—that they made the seven days of the Saturnalia begin when the weather is coldest.”
The Saturnalia was the festival of Saturn, which took place on the date we identify as the seventeenth of December. It fell between two other festivals, that of Consus, the Consualia, on December 15, or the Ides of December; and that of Ops, the Opalia, on the fourteenth day before the Kalends of January, December 19. Over time, the Saturnalia expanded from a single day of feasting to a weeklong celebration.
Consus and Ops were gods having to do with the harvest. By the middle of December the grain supply was safely in storage, and one and all should be both rejoicing in abundance, and concerned to keep the favor of the gods that were going to get them through the rest of December, as well as January, February, March—and so on. The darkest part, the turning of the year, was a good time to honor these gods.
Saturn is a very old and puzzling god. He is Italian. His name may, on the one hand, have something to do with the Latin verb sero, which means “to sow”; it may, on the other hand, have something to do with the Etruscan name Satre (indicating a possible Etruscan origin). If the first, celebrating a god of sowing in the midst of celebrations of gods of the stored harvest is not a bad idea: the year turns, and while Consus and Ops suggest completion, the end of one season, Saturn suggests the approach of another. The year keeps turning, one hopes, especially when the days are short, and, for a day or so, the sun appears to stand still.
Saturn is not of the present, but the past, associated with a long-ago golden age of peace and primitive agriculture. His world was seen by Romans of the day in stark contrast to their present, a time with the god Jupiter in ascendency overseeing a society tarnished by the madness of war and a materialistic “love of having.”
This explains something that at first seems odd: the temple of Saturn, right down in the heart of Rome, contained the public treasury. Why put the treasury in charge of Saturn? Macrobius thought that it had to do not so much with the presence of public property as with the absence of private property—together with the greed that made the Romans notoriously obsessed with private property. Inside the temple, the cult image of Saturn was tied up with woolen bands at all times except during the Saturnalia. The festival included the ceremonial loosening of these bonds, a temporary release of the god, and thus a temporary return to the golden age. Jupiter reigned the rest of the year, but for a short period, the golden age could once again be enjoyed.
How was the Saturnalia celebrated? Livy, a historian from the age of Augustus, said that it was in 497 b.c.e. that the Romans dedicated the temple to Saturn, and first established a day of feasting. Sausages may have been a special holiday treat; wine, in large quantities, was definitely part of the celebration. Men wore informal clothing, not the toga. People greeted each other with the cry io Saturnalia! They exchanged gifts. There were games and gambling, which was otherwise illegal in Rome.
Probably the most striking thing about the feasts is the role-reversal by which masters became servants and servants, in a sense, became masters. Slave-owners served food and drink to their own slaves (a holiday tradition echoed many centuries later in the British Army practice of officers serving their men on Christmas Day). Roman masters did this not “from the goodness of their hearts” but because keeping the pax deorum [“peace of the gods”] demanded it. This was religious ritual; and it was for the good of the state. The Romans could tolerate giving up authority, handing it over, undermining it . . . if it were for a limited time. In a slave-holding society, one terrified of slave revolts, and one that fought serious wars against slaves (the Spartacus revolt is the most famous example), this was a means of releasing pressure. For the slaves, this ritually demanded, short-term social role-reversal might have been not much better than a stiff office party.
An element of the festival familiar to us today was the giving of gifts. A Roman writer, Martial, collected a list of 222 gifts including the homey (pens, lamps, wool-lined slippers, pastries) and the oddly practical, such as hair for wigs—a kind of gift still with us in the twentieth century: remember O. Henry’s 1906 short story The Gift of the Magi? Other gifts from Martial’s list sound rather strange—if not offensive—to modern ears: a girl, a boy, a stenographer, a cook, a dwarf.
In her book On Roman Time, Michele Renee Salzman provides a useful overview of how the holiday evolved:
At times it is difficult to determine exactly when a pagan festival ceased to be celebrated, for generally this happened gradually, in different localities and at different times. Many of the festivals, moreover, did not actually die out; rather, their traditional pagan meaning was transformed over time, with the commemoration of these holidays becoming a matter of popular custom, not of religious belief. So, for example, while the Saturnalia, perhaps the best known of the Roman holidays, noted on 17 December in the calendar of 354, was originally intended to honor the god Saturn, Poemius Silvius records one of its distinctive rituals, the role reversal of master and slave, in his fifth-century calendar, and the holiday continued to be celebrated as a popular festival. Other customary aspects of this day, such as the exercise of good will and the exchange of presents, and even perhaps the wearing of paper hats, were continued within a Christian context: Christmas, celebrated in the Latin West on 25 December . . . incorporated rites borrowed from the popular Saturnalia.
Now, to see a literary parallel to the Saturnalia, let’s jump ahead in time to Charles Dickens’ famous work A Christmas Carol, which—odd coincidence!—first appeared in print on a December 17. Set in the industrial revolution, the story is obsessed with time. For Scrooge, time is money, and money—even on Christmas Eve—is not to be wasted. In the context of an oppressive upper class and enslaving poverty, Dickens’ story emphatically pleads for a period of relief for the poor, the manual laborer, even the underpaid office worker such as Bob Cratchit. The agents most pointedly making this argument—Marley’s ghost and the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Yet to Come—are as otherworldly as their supernatural counterparts from the Saturnalia. In the Roman world, the person ignoring the holiday’s message was in grave peril, risking a disturbance of the pax deorum; Dickens’ genius was to raise these unsettled spirits once again.
Where Have All the Lesbians Gone?
Democrat or Republican, country music or rap, Duck or Beaver—each of the things we enjoy, believe in, or identify with help us form our sense of who we are. But what happens when those allegiances shift, when the terms of identity begin to be redefined? Longtime UO sociologist (now at Rutgers University) Arlene Stein delivered the Department of Women’s and Gender Studies’ (DWGS) inaugural Sally Gearhart Lecture in Lesbian Studies, titled “The Incredible Shrinking Lesbian World and other Queer Conundra,” excerpted below. Stein is the author of several books including Sex and Sensibility: Stories of a Lesbian Generation, Shameless: Sexual Dissidence in American Culture, and The Stranger Next Door: The Story of a Small [Oregon] Community’s Battle over Sex, Faith, and Civil Rights. DWGS has recently begun offering a queer studies minor.
Once, many people believed that if everyone who ever had same-sex desires were to come out, the stigma surrounding homosexuality would be erased, and compulsory heterosexuality would come crashing down. Today we are living in a rather less idealistic moment. It is a moment of mixed signals, of a country lurching toward marriage equality that is in the throes of a massive economic crisis, when university curricula are increasingly reflective of diversity, while institutionalized inequalities of all sorts persist. It is a less utopian time, to be sure, but one that is filled with possibility. And still, anxieties abound, shaping the way we speak about the past, present, and future of sexual politics.
During the past few years, for example, there has been a lot of talk about the decline of the lesbian world. Three years ago, The New York Times, a newspaper that is typically not on the vanguard of reporting on the intricacies of sexual politics, ran a story under the provocative headline, “The Trouble When Jane Becomes Jack.” It described a brewing controversy surrounding the increasing numbers of lesbians who have come to identify as transgender, some of whom undergo sex reassignment surgery. The story articulated a sense of unease on the part of lesbians who feel that a growing sector of the community is abandoning them. They see the decision on the part of some butch lesbians to transition to maleness as an act of betrayal, a desire to claim male privilege and power, and they fear for the future of the lesbian world. “It’s as if the category of lesbian is just emptying out,” a prominent gender theorist and professor of literature warned in the article.
The controversy came to a head a year later, when the San Francisco LGBT Film Festival accepted and then banned a satirical sci-fi fantasy short called The Gendercator. The film tells the story of Sally, a sporty dyke who falls asleep in 1973 after too much partying and then awakens, Rip Van Winkle–like, in an America where gender reassignment surgery is compulsory for butch lesbians. Sally’s short hair and propensity for softball make her a viable candidate for “gendercation” (or sex reassignment surgery). So she’s locked in a room with an expert gendercator named Tork, who was born a woman but is now a heterosexual male. In this future American police state, female masculinity—and softball—are prohibited. Tork tries to convince “Sal” that she should turn in her Birkenstocks and change her sex. At the risk of ruining the ending for you, a butch rescue squad saves the day, helps poor Sally escape the clutches of the gendercator, and makes the world safe once again for softball, and Birkenstocks. Lest there be any confusion about the filmmaker’s stance, director Catherine Crouch’s website offers the following analysis:
More and more often we see young heterosexual women carving their bodies into porno Barbie dolls and lesbian women altering themselves into transmen. Our distorted cultural norms are making women feel compelled to use medical advances to change themselves, instead of working to change the world.
In interviews, Crouch explains her position further. “I wonder about the shared agendas of right wing Christians, medical-pharmacy industry, popular culture,” she says, “and out of that wonder comes my film.”
“If the politics of the world go the way I describe in the film,” she suggests, it will “do away with gay people totally.”
Crouch’s promotional materials try to strike a universal chord, lamenting gender polarization in general, including the fact that many feminine women must alter their bodies to be appealing to men. But the film reserves its sharpest critique for female-to-male transsexuals—FTM. When transgender activists and their allies heard about the plan to screen The Gendercator at the annual LGBT film festival, they initiated an e-mail campaign to ban it on the grounds that it demonized trans people and promoted bigotry. The campaign was successful, and the film was removed from the program—the first time this had ever happened in the thirty-three-year history of the film festival.
One might ask, why should anyone care if Jane decides to become Jack or chooses to embrace her inner femme fatale? Isn’t feminism supposed to be about self-determination, and women’s right to do with their bodies what they wish? These kinds of debates barely register in my New Jersey suburb, where the most pressing issues on the minds of gay men and lesbians are the quality of their children’s educations and the robustness of their property values. But in more politicized urban queer centers, these issues can at times seem like matters of life and death. I know this because I lived in San Francisco in the 1980s and early ’90s and followed many of these debates with keen interest. And as I reflected on the current controversy over transgender, I realized that it resembled an earlier conflict that occurred more than twenty years ago. At that time, I began to hear rumblings about lesbians who were going straight. One woman I knew expressed fears about the number of friends she had lost to heterosexual conversions, having become convinced that more and more women were forsaking their lesbianism in exchange for heterosexual privilege. As the panic spread through the community, the alleged turncoats were given a name— “hasbians.”
It was true that a number of women who had been captivated by lesbianism through their involvement in feminism in the 1970s had decided, the following decade, that they were in fact primarily attracted to men. I interviewed a number of these women for my book Sex and Sensibility. And I concluded that for many self-defined lesbians, particularly those who came out in the heyday of feminism, sexuality or affectional preference is often very malleable. Of course, lesbian feminists and gay liberationists knew this all along, but they saw the process as unidirectional: one renounced one’s false, heterosexual self in order to come out as gay or lesbian. They believed that those who would come out would do so permanently. They didn’t imagine that individuals might choose to reverse the political logic of coming out, and that for some women, lesbianism might only be a phase on the way to heterosexuality, or even maleness.
Selected new books written by UO faculty members and alumni and received at the Oregon Quarterly office. Quoted remarks are from publishers’ notes or reviews.
15 Generations of Whipples: An American Story (Gateway Press, 2007) by Blaine Whipple ’59. “More than a genealogy of the Whipple family, it is a fascinating [four-volume] account of American history and weaves stories that are stranger than fiction with heartwarming and often heart-breaking true tales of America’s past.”
A Guide’s Tale (Vantage Press, 2009) by Gerald R. Patterson ’49, M.S. ’51. “This memoir follows the early life of Gerald R. Patterson, a remarkable young man raised in the lake area of northern Minnesota that serves as the portal to the boundary waters canoeing country and the Canadian Quetico.”
Deception in the Marketplace: The Psychology of Deceptive Persuasion and Consumer Self Protection (Routledge Academic, 2009) by David M. Boush, associate professor of marketing, Marian Friestad, vice provost for graduate studies and professor of marketing, and Peter Wright, Edwin E. and June Woldt Cone Professor of Business. “The first scholarly book to fully address the topics of the psychology of deceptive persuasion in the marketplace and methods of consumer self-protection.”
Eden within Eden: Oregon’s Utopian Heritage (Oregon State University Press, 2009) by James J. Kopp ’70. “Looks with rich detail at utopian communities, some realized and some only planned, many of which reflect broader social, political, economic, and cultural aspects of Oregon’s history.”
Northwest of Normal (Barclay Creek Press, 2009), a novel by John Larison ’02, M.Ed. ’05. “Set in the quirky mountain town of Ipsyniho, Oregon—a community of artists and loggers, dope growers and river guides—Northwest of Normal is the humorous story of one village reinventing the American dream.”
Getting Back to Work: Everything You Need to Bounce Back and Get a Job after a Layoff (McGraw Hill, 2009) by Linda K. Rolie ’77. “Looks at career transition and job seeking, especially in light of the current state of our economy. It addresses a wide array of topics that are important for almost every job seeker.”
News, Notables, Innovations
From humble beginnings UO molecular biology institute turns fifty.
Cannon fire could hardly have been a more emphatic wake up call. The eerie and ominous beep-beep of the Earth-orbiting Sputnik spacecraft roused America to an energetic and fear-fueled Cold War imperative: catch up with the Soviet Union’s advanced technologies. The University of Oregon was one beneficiary of the well-funded effort to close the “science gap” and in early 1959 formed the Institute of Molecular Biology (IMB) under the leadership of Aaron Novick. Trained in and an early contributor to the new science of molecular biology, Novick soon gathered a stellar group of IMB “founding fathers”: Frank Stahl, George Streisinger, Sid Bernhard, and John Schellman—three of whom would be elected to the National Academy of Sciences (NAS).
Soon after Novick’s death in 2000, artist and arts advocate Lotte Streisinger, George’s widow, began writing a personal account of the IMB from its earliest days; the result, From the Sidelines (UO Press, 2004). The book concludes with two epilogues, sections of which are excerpted below, by senior IMB scientists Peter von Hippel and Brian Matthews—both NAS members—that trace the later decades of the institute as it grew into the internationally recognized constellation of scientists that it is today.
Professor of physics
[Since those early days] the institute has expanded to a membership approaching two hundred. It has also served as an example for the creation of highly successful interdisciplinary groups at the University of Oregon and elsewhere. Aaron used to say that when he first arrived in Eugene he never had to read a journal. Indeed, there were no journals in molecular biology. His friends sent him preprints of their articles and these were all he needed.
What were the central elements in the transformation from a founding nucleus to a full-fledged research enterprise? A key factor was the arrival of Pete von Hippel in 1967. Separate from his obvious qualifications as a scientist and a teacher, Pete had extraordinary administrative skills. By their own admission, none of the founding fathers of the institute were especially interested in assuming major administrative roles. Pete was the obvious person and within a year or so of arriving on campus was persuaded to become the institute’s director. By the time Pete had served for eleven years in this role, followed by six years as head of the chemistry department, the institute had evolved into its present form.
Pete not only had extraordinary leadership qualities, he also brought unbridled enthusiasm and unbounded optimism—especially important in the early 1970s, as the nation at large and the state of Oregon in particular entered a major recession. Keeping the institute intact during such times required special creativity. Pete was often key in persuading new faculty members to join the institute. Equally, he convinced older members not to leave in the face of inducements elsewhere.
In the late 1980s the institute grew not only into Streisinger Hall, but also into the sunlight of Willamette Hall. During all this Pete was a tireless advocate for the institute and all it stood for.
Pete—together with the other founding fathers, Aaron, Frank, George, John, and Sid—joined the institute as an established investigator. Nearly all subsequent faculty members but one were hired at the junior level. We, the faculty members who came as juniors, had the unique advantage of being nurtured by an extraordinary group of seniors in a very special environment.
Peter von Hippel
Professor emeritus of chemistry
We are now up to some eighteen active labs, each ranging in size from six to twenty graduate students, postdocs, and staff. This success has exacted a price: No individual scientist can now hope to be familiar with (or even to be aware of) all the subdisciplines that have grown up within molecular biology nor can anyone know and be in personal contact with all the workers in even a small subfield within this enormous cosmos. We don’t pretend to cover everything, but we do expect that graduate students and postdoctoral fellows who come here will continue to have the opportunity to work within a representative cross-section of modern molecular biology at a world-class level.
The University administration, as well as the funding agencies, have strongly supported us in this, and this has made it possible to bring in young people in a variety of exciting new fields—fields which didn’t even exist in the early years of the institute.
Being a young assistant professor these days isn’t easy. You have to get grants, you have to attract excellent students to your lab almost from day one, and, working with these students, you have to create a body of research work in five to six years that has worldwide impact! Yet the people whom we have hired have managed to do this, and to remain broad and interesting human beings at the same time.
Colleagues who were recruited (almost all as beginners) in the 1970s, 1980s, and early 1990s all created outstanding research laboratories and are now becoming our senior leaders as well as scientific leaders on the national scene. These include Brian Matthews, Rick Dahlquist, Rod Capaldi, Tom Stevens, Karen and George Sprague, Diane Hawley, Jim Remington, Eric Selker, Bruce Bowerman, and Alice Barkan, as well as Chris Doe, who came somewhat later. Furthermore, in the past four years (and against amazing odds, since most of our top choices had multiple competing offers elsewhere at the best institutions and with more money) we have managed to recruit a wonderful group of new assistant professors in Bea Darimont, Eric Johnson, Karen Guillemin, Ken Prehoda, Andy Berglund, and now Tory Herman. These new people have again brought us brand-new and exciting fields of science, and are uniformly wonderful colleagues, great teachers, and inspiring laboratory leaders. Clearly the future of the institute is in good hands. Of course many things will change, but thanks to the continuing legacy of the founding fathers the important values will remain the same. The next half century of the institute should be as exciting and fulfilling for those fortunate enough to be here as the first half century has been for us!
A Pathway to Graduation
PathwayOregon opens the doors to the UO for low-income Oregonians, many the first in their families to attend college.
Aloura DiGiallonardo grew up in a small farming crossroads in California’s Central Valley, a place where kids attended school in trailers and most never planned on higher education. Though her family had little money and neither of her parents went to college, somehow she always knew she would go.
DiGiallonardo, who moved with her mother and two brothers to North Bend on the Oregon coast just before starting high school, is one in the first cohort of 415 students who entered the UO in the fall of 2008 under the auspices of PathwayOregon. The program is the UO’s promise to cover four years of tuition and fees for lower-income Oregonians who meet federal Pell Grant eligibility requirements while providing a program of comprehensive advising, academic support, and career guidance. Resources for PathwayOregon come from federal, state, and University programs, including funds provided through private donations.
“I am really grateful for PathwayOregon,” DiGiallonardo says as she prepares for her sophomore year. “It’s given me an opportunity to go to school with less stress about how to pay for it.”
DiGiallonardo’s story is familiar to her PathwayOregon peers. Like her, nearly 43 percent of the first class were also first-generation college students, compared with about 12 percent of all UO freshmen last year. And collectively, their families’ median adjusted gross income was just over $28,000 a year. Yet many of these students were just as certain they would find a way to attend college.
That certainty usually comes loaded with debt—mounting bills that often end college careers prematurely. Low-income students historically drop out of college to a much greater extent than middle- and upper-income students, according to Carla Bowers, Ph.D. ’07, PathwayOregon coordinator. For the most recent five classes graduating from the UO, for example, the average difference in four-year graduation rates between these two groups of students has ranged from 10 percent to as much as 17 percent. “We’re trying to address that disparity,” Bowers says.
But the program provides much more than a check. The architects of the program, including Susan Lesyk, director of the University Teaching and Learning Center, and Elizabeth Bickford, director of the Office of Student Financial Aid and Scholarships, as well as former senior vice president and provost Linda Brady, recognized early the need for a strong advising element as a part of PathwayOregon.
“They didn’t want to just hand students money,” Bowers says. “That doesn’t work. It doesn’t help facilitate their success once they’re here, especially if they don’t understand the collegiate environment.”
PathwayOregon encourages students to meet with an adviser either from the program or from the department of their academic major. Last year, the program’s two advisers, Bowers and Mimi von Rotz, saw 80 percent of all PathwayOregon students.
One of those students was DiGiallonardo. She’d struggled with choosing a major, at one point considering thirteen possible choices. Bowers, along with a departmental academic adviser, helped her separate her passions from her milder interests. Eventually, DiGiallonardo picked international studies.
Much of the work of the advisers is to direct undergraduates to the array of learning and counseling resources available to all UO students. To foster those connections, the program’s offices are strategically housed within the University Teaching and Learning Center at Prince Lucien Campbell Hall, where specialists teach, tutor, and advise through classes, workshops, math and writing labs, and one-on-one appointments.
PathwayOregon students must maintain the same academic requirements that apply to all UO students, as well as their Pell Grant eligibility. In addition, they must sign partnership agreements in which they pledge to meet with advisers at least once each term during freshman year, draft a four-year graduation plan, complete at least one writing course, and take four courses toward their general education requirements. Other pledges follow in subsequent years.
Since the awards continue for twelve terms or four years, advisers track students’ progress on their pledges as well as toward their graduation requirements. DiGiallonardo got help here as well, charting her four-year road map to graduation. At the start of each term, the advisers call any students not enrolled full-time and gently but firmly prod them, if necessary. When it comes to keeping students on the path to success, Bowers says, “Our philosophy is to be very proactive.”
With the first class of PathwayOregon students entering sophomore year, Bowers already sees evidence the program is meeting its goals. For one, 402 of the initial 415 students were still enrolled by spring, a retention rate she considers high. This year’s class of PathwayOregon freshman is near 440.
She points to other early indicators of success. Indebtedness rates are down. Nearly 93 percent of the freshman class completed Writing 121, a general education requirement many students often postpone. The group earned a cumulative GPA of 3.01, an improvement from the grades historically achieved by Pell Grant–eligible recipients.
On a more personal level, Bowers gauges the program’s impact in the faces of the students. “We see every day in our offices that it’s working,” she says. “There’s never a day we don’t have contact with students.”
DiGiallonardo is looking forward to immersing herself in her international studies courses this year. Not one to shy away from extracurricular work, she’s also active on the speech and debate team and this year joined the ASUO department finance committee. With her international studies major, DiGiallonardo eventually wants to work in developing countries, and sees her academic focus both as a way to use her talents to help people and to return the gifts she’s received.
“If you have the ability, you have the responsibility to help people,” DiGiallonardo says. “PathwayOregon has granted students like me the opportunity to pursue a higher education. Without that opportunity, there’s no way a lot of these students could give back to their communities. PathwayOregon is important not only to the students but to the places these students come from. I am really grateful for the gift, the opportunity that PathwayOregon has provided.”
—Michael F. Tevlin, M.A. ’81
Are a Lot of Us Potential Extremists?
Editor’s note: We found the following entry by the distinguished George Washington University professor of political science Lee Sigelman posted on the political science research blog The Monkey Cage (themonkeycage.org).
A fascinating new study of militant extremism contains a useful model of the major components of the military-extremist mindset and suggests an unsettling answer to the question posed above.
The study, by [UO psychology professor] Gerard Saucier, [UO doctoral student] Laura Geuy Akers, [UO doctoral student] Sepaphine Shen-Miller, Goran Knezevic, and Lazar Stankov, appears in the May 2009 issue of Perspectives on Psychological Science.
Militant extremism, as Saucier and his colleagues define it, involves “zealous adherence to a set of beliefs and values that combine advocacy of measures beyond the norm and intention and willingness to resort to violence.” From their study of a diverse array of militant-extremists around the world (for example, the Baader-Meinhof Gang, the IRA, Shining Path, Theodore Kaczynski, and Timothy McVeigh), a profile of sixteen prominent themes emerged. These themes are summarized in the following composite narrative:
“We have a glorious past, but modernity has been disastrous, bringing on a great catastrophe in which we are tragically obstructed from reaching our rightful place, obstructed by an illegitimate civil government and/or by an enemy so evil that it does not even deserve to be called human. This intolerable situation calls for vengeance. Extreme measures are required . . . We must think in military terms to annihilate this evil and purify the world of it, and we cannot be blamed for carrying out this violence. Those who sacrifice themselves in our cause will attain glory, and supernatural powers should come to our aid in this struggle. In the end, we will bring our people to a new world that is a paradise.”
The authors map the distribution of these sixteen themes across the militant groups and individuals they study. No two groups or individuals fit the same profile in terms of their acceptance of these themes, indicating that “militant extremist represents not just one, but an orchestra of responses working in concert.”
“This prototype composite storyline,” the authors concede, “may seem like a dramatic comic-book plot . . . . but for psychological reasons, the plot sells. Such a plot is highly attention-engaging and may be profoundly motivating to many individuals.”
That last observation provides a springboard for broadening the analysis from militant extremists to the general population:
“If militant extremism caters to what many people find psychologically attractive, then aspects of militant-extremist thinking should be at least modestly manifest even in normal-range populations. This hypothesis runs against the common-sense assumption that militant extremists are completely different from other citizens and that they hold bizarre and incomprehensible views.”
To test this hypothesis, the authors administered questionnaires to college students in the United States and advanced high school students in Serbia. Each of the sixteen militant-extremist themes was represented in the questionnaires by two items. The basic finding?
“When presented with statements that are in fact extracts of militant-extremist thinking, the typical response was somewhere in the range between ‘moderately disagree’ and ‘not sure.’ No one responded in a fashion one would expect from the most prototypical militant extremist: strongly agreeing with all indicator items. But respondents generally failed to strongly disassociate themselves from the sentiments found in these items. Thus the base rate of fanatical thinking patterns in the population does not appear to be low.”
And among the implications?
“Although militant-extremist leaders no doubt play a key role, it is probably not necessary for participants in militant-extremist movements to be brainwashed or severely indoctrinated. All that may be required is an intensification and an orchestration of sentiments and of ‘framings’ that many people are already . . . at least moderately sympathetic toward.”
All of which puts me in mind of that legendary Ernest Hemingway–Scott Fitzgerald exchange:
“You know, the rich are different from you and me.”
“They have more money.”
Militant extremists may not be so different from the rest of us as we would like to think.
Donald A. Tykeson Senior Instructor of Business
On the first day of his Introduction to Business course David Dusseau puts each student in charge of his or her own imaginary $40 million manufacturing company. The course functions like a high-tech version of Monopoly with the student CEOs responsible for making all company decisions about research and development, marketing, production, and finance—and accountable for the profits and losses associated with those decisions. Performance is measured daily. The game is highly competitive as the students are pitted against one another as well as cleverly programmed opponents.
The fate of each company rests entirely on the student’s ability to make smart business decisions, a skill developed through success, hard knocks, and working with Dusseau.
In classroom discussions, he asks his students to consider the subtleties of business dilemmas: Should Company X, for example, purchase additional equipment? Doing so would increase manufacturing capacity and potential profits, but it would also add to the company’s debt load. He asks students to weigh the costs and benefits and then submit their answer electronically with a hand-held iclicker, instantly sending the information to a tallying device. Dusseau uses this immediate feedback to gauge what lessons the class most needs and tailors his comments to address those specific areas. As the term progresses, the problems and tough decisions each student must address become more complex and challenging.
The aim, Dusseau says, extends beyond the classroom: “Students gain an understanding of the system”—the interplay of ideas, knowledge, decisions, and results. In doing so, “they gain understanding about what forces shape their lives both in relation to business and as individuals.”
At the end of ten weeks, some companies have flourished, some have scraped by, and others have experienced difficulty. But regardless of the state of their company when they “retire,” each of Dusseau’s students leave his classroom with a greater understanding of the complex way in which, in business and in life, one decision informs the next.
Name: David Dusseau
Education: B.S. ’75, Ohio State; M.B.A. ’85 and Ph.D. ‘92, UO
Teaching Experience: Began as a graduate teaching fellow in the UO College of Business Administration in 1987; full-time instructor since 1992.
Awards: Voted “Best Professor” in a 2009 Oregon Daily Emerald student poll; Thomas F. Herman Faculty Achievement Award for Distinguished Teaching in 2009; Lundquist College of Business Undergraduate Teaching Award in 1995, 1997, 2002, and 2008; Faculty Above and Beyond Award 2008–9; Harry Jacobs Distinguished Teaching Award in 1998, 2005, and 2007; Williams Fellow, 2002; Donald A. Watson Award in 1993, 1994, and 1996.
Off-Campus: Dusseau enjoys spending time outdoors on his property on the McKenzie River. He and his wife undertake cross-country bicycle trips, the most recent of which was to Maine.
Last Word: “Simple ideas can act together in powerful ways.”
Michael Posner, UO professor emeritus of psychology, was among nine winners of the 2009 National Medal of Science, the highest honor given by the U.S. government to scientists, engineers, and inventors. President Barack Obama presented the medal to Posner, a pioneer in cognitive neuroscience, in a White House ceremony.
Thirty-four grants totaling $12.3 million have been awarded to UO researchers (as of early October) under the federal government’s American Recovery and Reinvestment Act—this represents approximately one-eighth of UO applications (totaling $99.4 million) under ARRA, with the majority of requests still under review.
Adell Amos, J.D. ’98, UO law professor and director of the Environmental and Natural Resources Law Program, has been named deputy solicitor–land and water in the U.S. Department of the Interior for her expertise in water and land management.
The UO is one of only three of America’s 100 largest universities to receive a top rating from Greenopia, an independent assessor of green services and products. The ranking is based on building design, waste programs, water conservation, renewable energy usage, and other environmental criteria.
Based on July 2009 Oregon bar examination results, UO law grads’ first-time exam passage rate is 84 percent, seven percent higher than the statewide first-time average of 77 percent.
UO archaeologist Dennis Jenkins, Ph.D. ’91, who discovered 14,000-year-old fossilized human feces in a southern Oregon cave [see “Dr. Dung’s Discovery,” Autumn 2008], has won this year’s Earle A. Chiles Award from the High Desert Museum in Bend.
Bruce Springsteen fanatic Al Stavitsky, longtime journalism professor and director of the UO’s George S. Turnbull Portland Center, was in seventh heaven recently, serving as guest DJ on E Street Radio, a satellite radio channel dedicated to The Boss.