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Faculty Spotlight 2023

February 2, 2023 - Professor David Shapleigh - Art

Professor David Shapleigh, chair of Art, has a new exhibit entitled The Potential of Space at the Borgia Gallery in the Mary Dooley College Center at Elms College, 291 Springfield Street in Chicopee, beginning on February 21st and continuing through April 6th.  There will be an opening reception on February 28 from 12:15 to 1:15 pm.

David explains: "The work is about the potential of a shape and how a shape can interact with others to make an image.  These shapes that I refer to are pieces left over from other pieces of work.  I did not alter these shapes / pieces when used to create a piece of work.  The images created do not have a central focal point, but one's eye travels through or back and forth between the white and black shapes allowing one to see the potential of a shape and the whole image as one object."

The Borgia Gallery hours are 9:00 am - 5:00 pm, Monday through Friday.

February 2, 2023 - Dr. Imo Imeh - Associate Professor - Art

Dr. Imo Imeh has two exhibitions of his work coming up.

The first is a new solo exhibition entitled The Hope of Radiance, which will  open at the prestigious August Wilson African American Cultural Center in Pittsburgh, PA on Friday February 17th. Dr. Imeh will be in attendance for the opening. The show runs through April 2nd. The following link has more information about this exhibition: https://awaacc.org/exhibition/the-hope-of-radiance/

Dr. Imeh explains the new exhibition:The Hope of Radiance, whose title is borrowed from an essay that I wrote in 2021, will be the largest and most comprehensive exhibition of my work to date, featuring works from two recent projects Benediction and in his name, and including collaborations with musician and composer Haneef Nelson and Springfield-based poet Aaron Joseph St. Louis. My recent projects have been made possible largely through the Mass Cultural Artist Fellowship, which I received alongside a distinguished cohort of visual artists in 2022. At the thematic center of this collection of works is the question of the Black male's body as a site of trauma and beauty, and his transcendental emergence into new realms of resplendence, power, and elevation."

The Hope of Radiance will be at the Claude Worthington Benedum Gallery in the August Wilson African American Cultural Center in Pittsburgh from February 17, 2023 – April 2, 2023

The second exhibition includes an excerpt of Dr. Imeh's series 17 Years Boy: Epilogue and will be featured in an upcoming group exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary African Diaspora Arts (MoCADA) in New York City. The exhibition, titled Beyond Rage, considers the works of Black and Latino contemporary artists whose work addresses the recurring cycle of violence perpetrated against Black and Brown men. This show runs from February 16, 2023 – April 23, 2023.

Congratulations on both exhibitions, Dr. Imeh!

January 30, 2023 - Dr. Alina Gross and Dr. Marijoan Bull (emeritus faculty) - Geography, Planning and Sustainability

Congratulations to Dr. Alina Gross and Dr. Marijoan Bull (beloved emeritus faculty member) whose book Housing in America: An Introduction was released in its 2nd edition at the beginning of this month:


Their work provides important insight into how many in America find their housing choices constrained due to cost, discriminatory practices, and physical features not aligning with their needs among many other factors:

Title: Housing in America: An Introduction

Marijoan Bull and Alina Gross

(Introductory textbook geared towards undergraduate students)

Housing is a fundamental need and universal part of human living that shapes our lives in profound ways that go far beyond basic sheltering. Where we live can determine our self-image, social status, health and safety, quality of public services, access to jobs, and transportation options. But the reality for many in America is that housing choices are constrained: costs are unaffordable, discriminatory practices remain, and physical features do not align with needs. As a society, we recognize the significant role housing plays in our overall quality of life and the stability of our communities. We have made a national commitment to decent housing for all yet this promise remains unrealized.

Bull and Gross's introductory textbook, Housing in America, provides a broad overview of the field of housing, with the objective of fostering an informed and engaged citizenry. The evolution of housing norms and policy is explored in a historical context while underscoring the human and cultural dimensions of housing program choices. Specific topics covered include: why housing matters; housing and culture; housing frameworks and political ideologies; housing and opportunities; housing and the economy; housing discrimination; and housing affordability. Readers will gain an understanding of the basic debates within the field of housing, consider the motivations and performance of various interventions, and critically examine persistent patterns of racial and class inequality.  With an exploration of theoretical frameworks, short case studies, reflective exercises, and strong visuals, this introductory text explores improving housing choices in America.

January 20, 2023 - Dr. Roderico Acevedo - Assistant Professor - Chemical and Physical Sciences

Dr. Roderico (Rico) Acevedo was featured in an ASBMB Today (the member magazine for the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology) article for the work he will being doing at the society's 2023 annual meeting.  Rico will be leading a workshop about using open-source molecular docking and visualization tools to explore protein–ligand interaction in the classroom.

Here's a link to the article at ASBMB Today.

Faculty Spotlight 2022

November 21, 2022 - Dr. Michael Filas - English

Dr. Michael Filas of the Department of English, was featured in The Daily Hampshire Gazette this morning, highlighting his efforts with his son, Huxley, and their family.  Michael, son and family were featured for their litter clean-up efforts in the meadows near the Connecticut River in Northampton.

Here's a link to the article: https://www.gazettenet.com/MeadowsCleanup

Thank you, Michael and family for being a fine example of community service!

November 1, 2022 - Professor James McNamara - Theatre Arts

The Berkshire Theatre Critics Association have nominated this summer’s production of PASS OVER at the Chester Theatre Company for their annual Berkie award for Outstanding Production of a Play or Musical. They also nominated Theatre Arts Associate Professor and Chair James McNamara for the award for Outstanding Sound Design for a Play or Musical for his work on the production. 

Prior to coming to Westfield State University, James was a fulltime faculty member in the Theatre and Dance program at Franklin Pierce University (FPU), serving as the lighting designer and technical director for the program, James also taught Audio Production in the Mass Comm department of FPU. Over the last 19 years he has worked professionally throughout the county as an educator, designer, assistant and technician. James has been the Assistant Lighting Designer on Productions at the Guthrie Theatre Center, The McCarter Theatre, Yale Repertory Theatre, The Clarence Brown Theatre and Bard SummerScape. He has designed extensively for the Chester Theatre Company and Lost Nation Theater and was the resident Lighting Designer for the Sankofa Dance Project. Other designs have been with LaMaMa ETC (NYC), The Pilgrim Theatre Company, CompanyOne, New World Theatre, The Commons Group VT, World Myth and Music and New Century Theatre.

November 1, 2022 - Dr. Sophia Sarigianides - English

Dr. Sophia Sarigianides has come out with a series of recent publications including, “Who is the “young adult” in young adult literature? Critically analyzing conceptions of adolescence in texts designed for their consumption,” in How Young Adult Literature Gets Taught: Perspectives, Ideologies, and Pedagogical Approaches for Instruction and Assessment. (Routledge) and “High Fidelity: Factors Affecting Pre-service Teachers’ Commitment to Antiracist Literature Instruction,” written with Carlin Borsheim-Black in English Education. Dr. Sarigianedes will be presenting her work this fall at the National Council of Teachers of English and the New England Association of Teachers of English. Dr. Sarigianides presented at the Faculty Center last week with Dr. Carol Bailey, “When Texts use the N-Word.” 

November 1, 2022 - Dr. Tracy McLeod - Education

Dr. Tracy McLeod, of Education has recently had her article “Parent-Educator Partnerships in Special Education Services Provision: A Thematic Exploration of Challenges Faced by Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Families”, published in the International Journal of Special Education

Prior to coming to Westfield State University, Dr. McLeod was the Special Education Coordinator and an Assistant Professor at The Sage Colleges, Troy, NY.  She has taught courses on effective practices in special education to special and general education majors and non-educational majors. Some of these courses focused on topics such as, Diagnosis and Assessment, Response to Intervention, Universal Design for Learning, Differentiated Instruction, IEP Development, Inclusive Models of Teaching, and School-Based and Family Partnerships. Her research areas of interests are issues surrounding immigrant families, school-based and family partnership, disproportionality, multicultural education, and equities within the education system. 

October 21, 2022 - Dr. Elizabeth Preston - Communication

On Oct. 21 at Homecoming, faculty and staff were happy to celebrate the outstanding 32-year career of our recently retired and highly esteemed colleague Dr. Elizabeth Preston (Communication, former Interim President and Vice President of Academic Affairs) at the Homecoming Alumni Scholarship Dinner. The dinner celebrated the establishment of a new endowed scholarship in Dr. Preston’s name.

October 19, 2022 - Dr. Nicholas Aieta - History

Dr. Nick Aieta has published, The White Church of Blandford, a visual history of a local Western Massachusetts church. The photographs, memories and, and stories of Blandford residents, past and present, helped develop the tale of this church's birth, physical  decline, and eventual resurrection as a center of the community. With the help of The Blandford Society, the White Church’s history will be preserved as a regional treasure. Divided chronologically into 6 chapters, the text runs from 1735 to the present day, celebrating the deep history of the White Church of Blandford and its impact on local history.

Dr. Aieta will discuss his book The White Church of Blandford as part of the Ely Library Faculty Author Series on Monday, November 7, at 4pm, in the Emilee Dawn Gagnon Event Space. For those unfamiliar, the event space is located in the back right corner of the library’s first floor. Light refreshments will be served.

To learn more about the historic church and Dr. Aieta’s fascinating work, visit Blandford’s Old White Church Celebrates 200 Years.

October 4, 2022 - Dr. Jason Ramsay, Assistant Professor - Biology

Westfield State's own Dr. Jason Ramsay of Biology appears on a five-part series on sharks on ABC6, Rhode Island.  Dr. Ramsay, a shark expert, has quite a bit to say about what makes sharks unique and fascinating.

You can view the first episode here.

Dr. Ramsay's general research examines evolutionary transitions in vertebrate form and how form promotes physiological performance within a specific environment. He is particularly interested in research on the form of feeding and locomotor systems, for they govern the types of food (resources) that can be used by various organisms, along with the ability to move and navigate through environments. Such systems are directly linked to fitness, and therefore should be under heavy selection for specific feeding and locomotor features that facilitate the capture and consumption of an organism’s natural prey, species distribution, habitat use, foraging ability, mate location and predator avoidance. He works, primarily, with fish, more specifically elasmobranch fish or what you may know as sharks, skates and rays.

September 22, 2022 - Dr. Imo Imeh, Associate Professor - Art

In 2018, the University Museum of Contemporary Art at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst (UMCA) acquired a limited-edition reproduction of Imo Nse Imeh's painting Butterfly Girl (2017), a work that is part of a series he developed in response to the 2014 mass abduction of approximately 278 girls from Chibok, Nigeria by the terrorist group Boko Haram.

Next week, the UMCA is opening a carefully curated and comprehensive exhibition of their permanent collection in a show titled 60 Years of Collecting: An Anniversary Exhibition Celebrating the UMCA Art Permanent Art Collection. His painting will be featured in the section "Art and Politics: Changing Hearts and Minds."  In this section, Dr. Imeh's work will be in the company of world-renowned artists such as Betye Saar, Fred Wilson, Andy Warhol, and Radcliff Bailey.

The Opening Reception for this exhibition is next week on Thursday, September 29, from 4:30 - 7:30 pm. The exhibition brochure is available here.  It includes the details of the exhibition and the accompanying symposium next day, Friday, September 30th.

For more information regarding this exhibition, please visit: www.umass.edu/umca

September 19, 2022 - Dr. Shoba Rajgopal, Professor - Ethnic and Gender Studies

We celebrate the publication of "Fiery Sparks of Change": A Comparison between First Wave Feminists of India and the U.S. by Dr. Shoba S. Rajgopal in the Journal of International Women's Studies from Bridgewater State University (Vol. 24, Issues 2, 2022).  Her piece is a foundational intersectional work from a post-colonial perspective.  Dr. Rajgopal examines race, class, gender, and ethnic subcultural change in the context of voting rights globally.  Here's the abstract: 

"Abstract:  The celebration of the centenary of the 19th Amendment in 2020 has seen the resurgence of interest in the struggles of the Suffragette/Suffragist movement. This article examines the representation of first wave feminism in the developing world, with a focus on the Indian Subcontinent, from a postcolonial feminist perspective. As such, it critiques the colonialist perspective regarding women’s movements of resistance in the developing world and links it to the critique of racism within the women’s movements in the West. It discusses early feminists from India such as Tarabai Shinde whose spirited exposé of the double standards women were subjected to appeared almost a century before Simone De Beauvoir’s landmark analysis and compares their movement to that of the suffragettes in the West. It argues too that, contrary to much of mainstream representation, Dalit feminism is a part not just of the current era of feminism but also of the first wave in India."

Dr. Shoba Rajgopal's article can be accessed here.

September 8 - 10, 2022 - Professor Eric Parness - Theatre Arts

Professor Eric Parness, Theatre Arts, had a professional reading of his new play For the People’s Good performed at Shakespeare & Company in Lenox, MA on September 8, 9, and 10.

Global Majority Shakespeare Company presented the reading of For The People's Good and it was directed by Mel Cobb and featured the actors Duane Boutte*, Noelle Franco*, Jeremy Funke*, Laura Poe*, Naire Poole*, and C. Frederick Secrease* (*appeared courtesy of Actors' Equity Association).

Inspired by Henrik Ibsen's classic An Enemy of the PeopleFor The People's Good is set in an alternative reality where absolute conformity of thought is demanded. When a theoretician discovers a truth that threatens to unravel societal dogma, a family must weigh the serious consequences it could have on them and their community. 

May 25, 2022 - Dr. Imo Imeh, Associate Professor - Art

It is a proud week for the Arts at Westfield!  Congratulations to Dr. Imo Nse Imeh, Associate Professor of Art & Art History and Chair of the Art Department, for being named a Painting Fellow by the Mass Cultural Council. The honor comes with an Artist Fellowship Award of $15,000. 

Mass Cultural Council’s Artist Fellowships recognize exceptional work by Massachusetts artists. These awards catalyze artistic advancement and pave the way for creative innovation.

Below is an image from Dr. Imo Nse Imeh's Benediction series, honored by the Mass Cultural Council.

May 1, 2022 - Dr. Felicia Barber, Associate Professor, Music

The Westfield State University Choral Ensembles will present their spring concert with music celebrating African American composers and arrangers.  The concert will feature the work The Seven Last Words of the Unarmed by Joel Thompson with string orchestra on Sunday, May 1, 2022, at 3:00 pm with a pre-concert lecture with the composer beginning at 2:00 pm.  The concert will be held in the Catherine Dower Center for the Performing and Fine Arts, located at 715 Western Ave, Westfield, MA 01085 in Room 134, with overflow room 127.  Dr. Felicia Barber, Director of Choral Activities at Westfield State, noted that after a year and a half of virtual classrooms due to COVID, we are excited to be back.  Along with our current students, the concert will also feature both WSU faculty and alumni performers. 

A variety of musical genres from the African American tradition will be represented in the first half including spirituals, anthems, and gospel music; the second half will highlight the featured work.  Thompson’s Seven Last Words of the Unarmed, is a powerful and challenging composition that depicts the final phrases and statements of seven African American men who lost their lives due to police brutality or through “citizen’s arrests.”

  • Movement 1 - “Officers, why do you have your guns out?” Kenneth Chamberlain ~ age 66 
  • Movement 2 -  “What are you following me for?” - Trayvon Martin ~ age 16 
  • Movement 3 -  “Mom, I’m Going to College” - Amadou Diallo ~ age 23 
  • Movement 4 -  “I don’t have a gun! Stop shooting!”  - Michael Brown ~ age 18 
  • Movement 5 -  “You shot me.  You shot me!” - Oscar Grant III ~ age 22 
  • Movement 6 -  “It’s not real.” - John Crawford ~ age 22 
  • Movement 7 -  “I can’t breathe!” - Eric Garner ~ age 43 
April 27, 2022 - Faculty Showcase

Living Traditions: Songs and Singing Games from Guatemala and Nicaragua.
Dr. Rachel Gibson, Professor, Music

An investigation into living musical traditions, Rachel Gibson learned children’s songs and singing games from teachers, families, and children living in Guatemala and Nicaragua for ten months.  Her book ¡Canta Conmigo! Songs and Singing Games from Guatemala and Nicaragua was published by Oxford University Press in 2021 and contains 90 songs in Spanish and Kaqchikel, a Mayan language, along with biographies of contributing musicians and the Guatemalan illustrator.  To further frame the song collection, chapters are included on the history of Central America, music in Central America, song histories and background, and how to responsibly incorporate the repertoire in to school curriculums with culturally relevant and sustaining pedagogies.

“For The People’s Good” – A Pandemic Play.
Eric Parness, Assistant Professor, Theatre Arts

The theatre industry was one of many that ground to a halt during the pandemic, forcing theatre artists who thrive on collaboration into isolation.  Professor Parness used his time in lockdown to redefine his role as a storyteller and channeled his creative energy into writing his first full-length play.  At the presentation, Professor Parness will discuss his inspiration for the piece, share about the writing process, and perform selections.

Mutation bias reflects natural selection in Arabidopsis thaliana.
Dr. Mao-Lun Weng, Assistant Professor, Biology

“Mutation creates genetic variation, which provides the raw materials for evolution to occur.  To fully understand evolution, we must decode mutation.  Mutation has long been assumed to be a random process.  However, recent studies have challenged this convention.  In my presentation, I will share my recent co-authored publication that uncovers the non-randomness of natural mutations in a plant species.  In this international collaboration, we showed the mutations did not randomly occur in the genome and essential genes were less likely to accumulate than non-essential geneses.  These findings have significant implication in biology and medical research.”

A New Perspective for the use of Dialect in African American Spirituals: History, Context, and Linguistics.
Dr. Felicia Barber, Associate Professor, Music

The interpretation of a piece of music is dependent on several factors, which may include its melody, harmony, and rhythm.  However, in choral music it is the text that serves as a defining characteristic.  The pronunciation and interpretation of text is key to understanding its meaning, as well as cultural interpretation.  One of the persistent problems found in the performance practice of African American Spirituals is its dialect.  This presentation will review the history of the languages and dialects that developed out of the African Diaspora; discuss the sociolinguistic impact of the AAE dialect on practice; discover how to apply the chief phonological features found and instruct teachers on how to employ these finding to enhance the performance practice of spirituals.

April 26, 2022 - Historical Journal of Massachusetts - History

The Historical Journal of Massachusetts was presented with a Governor's Citation in "recognition of 50 years of publication and...tireless efforts of Westfield State University students and faculty to create such an impactful historical archive that has become an invaluable resource in understanding the history of Massachusetts and the United States" on April 26, 2022 at the Concord Historical Society in Concord, MA. This citation was accepted by Professor Michael Konig (retired), former editor of the Historical Journal of Massachusetts from 1997-2008.

The Historical Journal of Massachusetts was founded in 1972 by Westfield State's Dr. Martin Kaufman.  Since 2008, the Journal has been led by Dr. Mara Dodge of Westfield State's History Department.  One of the hallmarks of Dr. Kaufman's initial leadership of the Journal was the training of more than one hundred students as editorial assistants, a pedagogical practice still employed today.  The Historical Journal of Massachusetts is a highly labor-intensive endeavor.  As a peer-reviewed or “refereed” journal, every article that is submitted is read by two editors and two outside expert “peer reviewers” before it is accepted.  Even after the initial review, most articles go through three to four drafts before a final version is ready for copy-editing, several rounds of proofreading, and then, finally, printing.

April 7, 2022 - Dr. Imo Imeh, Associate Professor, Art

This exhibition of the PFF Collection surveys work by Black artists who have grappled with questions of American identity, allegiance, and belonging in their practice. The selected artworks aim to affirm the role of Black Americans in shaping our national identity and to elevate civic engagement and constructive patriotism as a valid and healthy expression of a love of country. Some notable artists being featured in this exhibition are Elizabeth Catlett, Faith Ringgold, Kehinde Wiley, and world-renowned photography artist Dawoud Bey. 

The Sigal Museum is presenting In Conversation: Imo Nse Imeh, a virtual studio talk in which I will contextualize my painting Feeding the Veins of the Earth with my current studio projects. The talk, which will take place in my art studio, is for patrons of the Sigal Museum; but the institution is extending participation to our Westfield State Community by waiving the viewing fee. I hope that you will consider joining us on April 7, 5:00 PM.

Dr. Imeh utilizes his practice of visual art and research in art history to examine historical and philosophical issues around the black body and cultural identity. He has contributed to visual arts conversations with publications, lectures, and provoking studio art projects that interrogate the ways in which black bodies are imagined, installed, ritualized, and transformed. Recently, his art has been recognized by PBS News Hour, New England Public Media, Orion Magazine, and the contemporary art and culture magazine Art New England.

His current studio project, Benediction, tells the story of a group of angels that have been cast down to earth, and bound to the skins of black boys and men. Their task is to serve as witnesses to the traumas and triumphs that they experience while in this guise. Dr. Imeh considers this series as his personal response—as a black man—to the global pandemic, and the many horrific realities of black existence that the darkness of this plague has elucidated for the entire world to witness.

Dr. Imeh’s Feeding the Veins of the Earth, part of the Benediction series, is currently on display at NCHGS’s Sigal Museum, as part of the exhibit Another American’s Autobiography: Selections from the Petrucci Family Foundation Collection of African American Art.

March 22, 2022 - Dr. Roderico Acevedo, Assistant Professor and Dr. Karsten Theis, Professor - Chemical and Physical Sciences

Special Microsymposium: Learning in 3D with Pymol and Proteopedia during a pandemic: enzyme catalysis and conformational change

Professors Acevedo and Theis of Chemical and Physical Sciences have had an abstract for their presentation at the  XXV IUCr (International Union of Crystallography) Congress published in Acta Crystallographica, Section A

Abstract: Crystal structures of proteins are three-dimensional, but most depictions of them, in textbooks and in the scientific literature, are not. When students are on campus, they can interact with physical models, discuss structures in the computer lab and experience the properties and functions of proteins in the biochemistry lab. We describe two projects that support interactive, collaborative and experiential learning in a remote setting. In the first project, students explored metabolic enzymes using the visualization software Pymol.

Starting with crystal structures in the Protein Data Bank, students learned the basics of Pymol: they superimposed structures representing different stages in the catalytic mechanism, highlighted non-covalent interactions, identified bonds broken and made, and discussed the active sites of these enzymes in the context of the protein fold. In weekly meetings, students shared their progress and setbacks amongst each other, and used peer-to-peer learning to elevate their chemical and graphical design skills. Individually, they created different scenes and made them into a short video for which they provided an explanatory voiceover. Students wrote about their progress in weekly reflections. Many students reported being “excited and challenged” about learning a new technique at the outset. Later, deeper learning strategies emerged such as searching the primary literature or comparing existing videos to see how one might position an active site. The help-seeking behavior also became more sophisticated, for example asking for a video tutorial showing how to add or remove functional groups from a model. Overall, students were actively engaged in their projects and were eager to share what they had learned in discussions with their peers. The second project, housed on the public science site Proteopedia.org, aims at presenting examples of conformational change in a more interactive way. We wrote a series of Jmol scripts (storymorph.spt) to make it easier to superimpose structures and create morphs (fictional trajectories connecting conformational states). Using an algorithm that combines rigid-body movement with linear interpolation, morphs are made on the fly, allowing the visitor to change parameters (such as the timing of distinct parts of the conformational change or the initial superposition) to get a better feel for how the conformation might change. It is also possible to slow down or pause the morph, allowing visitors to explore the suggested intermediates in three-dimensions, including potential clashes or unrealistic bond lengths or angles. Morphs made available through this project include hexokinase binding to glucose, RNA polymerase transitioning from early to late initiation, conformational changes in calmodulin, and the pre-fusion to post-fusion transition of the coronavirus spike protein. Together these two projects highlight simple ways to keep science-learning interactive, collaborative, fun, and — most importantly — three- dimensional in spite of the limitations caused by a pandemic. Keywords: catalysis, conformational change, interactive learning.

March 2, 2022 - Dr. H. Zahra Caldwell, Associate Professor - Ethnic and Gender Studies

Roberta Flack & Quiet Fire Talk and Listening Party 

Wednesday, March 2rd from 3:30 - 5:00 p.m. in the Faculty Center* (in person!)

Our colleague, Zahra Caldwell, Associate Professor of Ethnic and Gender Studies, recently wrote the liner notes for the 50th Anniversary pressing of Roberta Flack's pivotal third album Quiet Fire. Zahra will share her insights and research on Flack's musical production and cultural labor. We will also reflect on the songs themselves in a live listening party and analysis.

February 16, 2022 - Dr. Sophia Sarigianides, Professor - English

AACTE (American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education) today announced that Letting Go of Literary Whiteness: Anti-racist Literature Instruction for White Students, coauthored by Carlin Borsheim-Black, Ph.D., and Sophia Tatiana Sarigianides, Ph.D., is the winner of the 2022 AACTE Outstanding Book Award. This annual award recognizes a book that makes a significant contribution to the knowledge base of educator preparation or teaching and learning with implications for educator preparation. Sponsored by the AACTE Committee on Research and Dissemination, the award is given to a book that is well-written and offers a fresh lens on current assumptions or practices, reorients thinking in the field, and shows potential for significant impact on policy or practice in educator preparation. The authors will be recognized formally with the award at the AACTE 74th Annual Meeting on March 4.

In their frank discussion, the authors draw upon experiences from their own and others’ classrooms to give discipline-specific practices for implementing anti-racist literature instruction in White-dominant schools. Some of the topics this book examines include designing literature-based units that emphasize racial literacy, selecting literature that highlights voices of color, analyzing Whiteness in canonical literature, examining texts through a critical race lens, managing challenges of race talk, and designing formative assessments for racial literacy and identity growth. Letting Go of Literary Whiteness: Anti-racist Literature Instruction for White Students, published by Teachers College Press in 2019, was also nominated for the Grawemeyer Award for Education (2020).

February 8, 2022 - Dr. Paul Higgins, Assistant Professor, and Dr. Paul Cacolice, Associate Professor - Sports Medicine and Human Performance

PeerJ, an online publisher of seven scientifically based open-access journals, has published Westfield State University research into how bilateral back squat strength could be increased during an undulating resistance-training program. The research was conducted by Paul Higgins, DPT, and Paul Cacolice, Ph.D., Westfield State assistant professors of sports medicine and human performance; Westfield State alumnus Troy Doming ’17, Springfield Public Schools science teacher; and Jason Sawyer, Ph.D., assistant professor and chair of the Rhode Island College Department of Health and Physical Education.

The article, “Bilateral back squat strength is increased during a three-week undulating resistance training program with and without variable resistance in DIII collegiate football players,” explored strength development strategies and techniques in a short timeframe, and utilized members of the Westfield State University football team.

The investigation determined that appreciable gains in muscle strength may be achieved in as little as three weeks using a specific type of training program while still performing pre-season, sport-specific activities. These findings could have a profound impact on injury prevention and optimized performance, according to Cacolice.

January 12, 2022 - Dr. Mao-Lun Weng, Assistant Professor - Biology

Dr. Mao-Lun Weng, Biology, has co-authored a published Nature article about genetic mutation entitled "Mutation bias reflects natural selection in Arabidopsis thaliana."

Abstract: Since the first half of the twentieth century, evolutionary theory has been dominated by the idea that mutations occur randomly with respect to their consequences.  Here we test this assumption with large surveys of de novo mutations in the plant Arabidopsis thaliana. In contrast to expectations, we find that mutations occur less often in functionally constrained regions of the genome—mutation frequency is reduced by half inside gene bodies and by two-thirds in essential genes. With independent genomic mutation datasets, including from the largest Arabidopsis mutation accumulation experiment conducted to date, we demonstrate that epigenomic and physical features explain over 90% of variance in the genome-wide pattern of mutation bias surrounding genes. Observed mutation frequencies around genes in turn accurately predict patterns of genetic polymorphisms in natural Arabidopsis accessions (r = 0.96). That mutation bias is the primary force behind patterns of sequence evolution around genes in natural accessions is supported by analyses of allele frequencies. Finally, we find that genes subject to stronger purifying selection have a lower mutation rate. We conclude that epigenome-associated mutation bias2 reduces the occurrence of deleterious mutations in Arabidopsis, challenging the prevailing paradigm that mutation is a directionless force in evolution.

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