What's News
AS Perspectives / Winter 1998

Migration Inspires Collaboration
A Ten-Week Legislative Session--On the Web
Roethke Reading Celebrates 40 Years
New Life for Disappearing Languages
Arts Festival Explores "Spheres"
Alumni to be Honored at Celebration Dinner on May 8

A Saturday Session for High School Scholars

Migration Inspires Collaboration

The fourth graders stand in rows, spinning and crouching on cue as music fills their school gymnasium. UW dance students stand nearby to help those who forget a step or fall out of position. By the end of the hour, the class has learned another section of a dance they will perform in April.

  Fourth graders rehearse a dance inspired by Jacob Lawrence's paintings. Photo by Karen Orders.

The dance performance will be the culmination of a project developed by the Pacific Northwest Ballet (PNB), involving three elementary schools— John Muir, Rose Hill, and Eastgate. Inspiration for the project was The Great Migration, a series of Jacob Lawrence paintings that illustrates the migration of African Americans to the North in search of a better life. The fourth graders first learned about the paintings and then learned a dance that expresses the migration story through movement.

UW art history major Katie Henry led the discussions about Jacob Lawrence’s work. “I wanted to give the students a broader context, including some background on the Harlem Renaissance, that could make the work more meaningful,” says Henry. But once she met with the fourth graders, she found that focusing on the paintings themselves had the greatest impact. “Bringing it back to the visual—discussing what they were seeing—seemed to work best,” she says. Other art history students worked with the children to create sets and costumes for the performance.

The dance instruction was led by PNB dancers, with UW students assisting at Rose Hill and Eastgate Elementary Schools. Each fourth grade class met with the dancers several times each week for six weeks.

“This project gave UW students teaching experience and gave the elementary students a better student-adult ratio,” says Kellie Knox, graduate student in dance and the University’s dance contact for the project. “While the PNB teachers provided the structure and basic instruction, the UW students worked with the children individually. They got to see what works, what keeps the children engaged.”

The UW students—most of whom are dance majors or minors—were required to keep a journal of their observations, attend seminars to discuss the project, and create a final project that evaluated some aspect of the experience. For their efforts, they will receive academic credit through the UW Pipeline Project.


Jamie Stults, a dance major, decided to participate for one reason: it sounded like fun. “I really liked the idea of being out in the community, taking dance out to kids,” she says. “I love the idea of kids being comfortable in their skin. Dance is such a good way to get there.”

Stults had never worked with this age group, and she found it enlightening. “Their individual personalities really come out,” she says, “and their questions are very revealing. One boy asked me, ‘Why do you do this? Is this your sport?’ I said, ‘Sort of, but it’s also my art, my expression’ and I explained to him what that means to me. Dance is the last thing to be talked about as an art in school. I was thrilled to have that conversation.”

The fourth graders will perform at Kirkland Performance Center in early April, with each school performing on a different day. Knox hopes this will lead to other collaborations between the UW Dance Program and K-12 schools.

“It would be terrific if we could go into schools with no arts funding and introduce them to dance,” she says. “We’re all doing this for the first time, so we’re learning as we go.”


A Ten-Week Legislative Session—On the Web

In the upcoming congressional debate on lowering the drinking age to 18, sponsor Lech Radzimski will argue the change would curb alcoholism and encourage self-control.

Radzimski’s bill has been given a decent chance of passing the House, and if you haven’t heard of it, that may be because “Rep.” Radzimski is not a real congressman—he plays one in a simulated Congress known as LEGSIM that is giving students a vivid taste of political life.

John Wilkerson. Photo by Mary Levin.  

The simulation was created by John D. Wilkerson, associate professor of political science, to enable students to experience complex political action—action that gets so intense, students sometimes take it personally.

“I have found that the simulation becomes less artificial and more personal over time,” says Wilkerson, who has already used it in three courses.

“Members” of Congress—about 100 students in Wilkerson’s course—represent districts, serve on committees, introduce and debate bills, and strive to withstand much the same kind of political horse-trading, arm-wrestling, and mudslinging that accompanies real public service.

It all unfolds during a 10-week legislative “session.” While Radzimski’s drinking-age bill has youth appeal, other current bills mirror debates raging in the real Congress, including euthanasia, drug coverage, and the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Students research each proposal, then “jawbone” a committee chair to get it on the agenda.

“The students know that they will run for reelection at the end of the quarter and that another student is their desig-nated opponent,” says Wilkerson. “From the beginning, they know they are being watched!”

Measures costing money must withstand the scrutiny of the Budget Committee, and then LEGSIM adds the price tag to the national debt—forcing lawmakers to come up with spending cuts or new taxes (one way the simulation departs from the real world).

“I’ve learned things that I never experienced in textbook classrooms,” says political science major Joel Merkel Jr., who is heading toward law school and a career in public service. “It’s the political calculations you have to make.”

This multi-layered intensity has made LEGSIM popular with students, and although Wilkerson created the simulation for his own course, he thinks it also could become popular with other instructors because the software can be adapted to mimic any state legislature, national parliament, or international body.

Unlike other simulations, LEGSIM puts all the action—debating, voting, research—on the Web, so legislators can legislate at all hours, with a 24-hour window for votes. LEGSIM tracks each bill’s progress around the clock, which also gives Wilkerson and his teaching assistants real time data on student activity.

As to the chances that the real U.S. Congress will lower the drinking age, well, any simulation has its limits.


Roethke Reading Celebrates 40 Years

When poet X. J. Kennedy reads his poetry at the Theodore Roethke Memorial Poetry Reading on May 22, it will be the 40th anniversary of the reading, created in 1963 as a tribute to a truly memorable poet and professor.

Roethke applied for a teaching job in the UW Department of English in 1947. A former employer told the department that Roethke was “an extremely complex, temperamental and somewhat eccentric person,” adding that, “if the University of Washington can take his eccentric personality, it will acquire one of the best teachers I have ever seen.”

Roethke proved to be an inspiring— if unorthodox—teacher. Stories of his exploits abound, including the day he danced an Irish jig and then crawled out a third-story window during class. But through it all, he was “one of the most valuable of all our faculty members,” according to Robert Heilman, then chair of the department.

Although Roethke struggled with bouts of manic-depression, he never stopped writing poetry. His awards include the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry and a National Book Award, and he was famous for his wonderful poetry readings.

It is fitting, then, that the Roethke Reading—co-sponsored by the Department of English, the UW Graduate School, and the Theodore Roethke Memorial Fund Committee—is held each year around Roethke’s birthday.

The 2003 Roethke poet, X. J. Kennedy, has published six books of poetry—his most recent, The Lords of Misrule, was published in 2002—plus children’s books, anthologies, and textbooks. The reading will be held at 8 p.m. on May 22 in Roethke Auditorium, Kane Hall. For more information, call (206) 543-2690.


New Life for Disappearing Languages

Students in Alice Taff’s linguistics course lean over a thick notebook, its fragile pages yellowed with age, in the UW Libraries’ special collections area. The book, dating back to the 1920s, contains detailed notes about a Native American language that is no longer spoken. Looking at the handwritten pages, one wonders what else was lost along with the language.

  UW Libraries archivist Gary Lundell shows linguistics students notebooks dating back 80 years, which include notes on a language that is no longer spoken. Photo by Kathy Sauber.

“Languages have subtle nuances that cannot be translated,” says Taff, lecturer in the Department of Linguistics. “There’s a lot of cultural information there. They embody the philosophy of a people.”

That information is lost when a language disappears—and linguists estimate that half the languages spoken today will disappear within the next century. Taff is among those trying to reverse the trend, and she developed her UW course, “Revitalizing Endangered Languages,” to raise awareness of the problem.

The course explores how languages become endangered and what is being done to revitalize them. Taff’s own research focuses on two Native Alaskan languages—Aleut and Deg Xinag—but she can name dozens of other languages, from other parts of the world, in similar peril. “Gaelic languages have been in various stages of disrepair for a long time,” Taff offers as an example. “Now people are working to revitalize them.”

Languages become endangered for many reasons, but geopolitical domination of one culture over another is usually a major factor. “A language shift can be sudden or it can be subtle, taking place over several generations,” says Taff.

Revitalizing a language is a complicated endeavor. The most effective programs, says Taff, are “bottom up, where the genetic descendents feel an emotional need to know the language.”

Sometimes only a few native speakers still exist, as with the Deg Xinag language, spoken fluently by just 15 people. Taff teaches an unusual course through the University of Alaska that brings together these native speakers and students intent on learning Deg Xinag—by conference
call and video conference. Taff’s UW students had an opportunity to observe the class by video conference in February.

And languages with no remaining speakers? Those must be resurrected using written materials, with the help of a linguist. “The language will be different than it was before,” says Taff, “but people can still get that important connection with their ancestors.”

Taff’s UW students are not expected to resurrect a language, but they do complete
a project that contributes to language revitalization efforts. Last year, one student taught a summer course on Tsimsham to children in her Alaskan village. This year, the class is planning a workshop that will bring members of Native American tribes to campus to learn more about their languages, using materials from the Manuscripts, Special Collections, University Archives Division of UW Libraries.

The students gain an appreciation for the diversity and fragility of languages—and more. When the student of Tsimsham heritage learned about endangered languages in Mexico, Australia, and
Africa, “she was really surprised,” recalls Taff. “She said, ‘It’s happening all over. I thought it was only us.’”


Arts Festival Explores “Spheres”

From Leonardo da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man to Buckminster Fuller’s geodesic dome, humans have been tantalized by the seductiveness of the circular form. The 2003 UW Summer Arts Festival will explore Spheres in a celebration of art, history, and science to be held July 16-19 on the UW’s Seattle campus.

The Festival, now in its fourth year, is an opportunity to welcome renowned artists to campus and showcase University faculty and students. Visitors can choose from dozens of offerings including music and dance performances, theatre productions, exhibitions, screenings, workshops, readings, symposia, lectures, and children’s workshops.

A highlight of this year’s festival is the Northwest premiere of Sun Rings, a multimedia concert to be performed by Kronos Quartet. The concert—which combines the music of the string quartet with a chorus, space sounds collected by an astrophysicist, and images from the Voyager I and II missions to Jupiter—will be a tribute to the astronauts who died in the recent space shuttle explosion, including A&S alumnus Michael Anderson.

For more information about the Festival or to order tickets, visit www.summerartsfest.org or call the Festival office at 206-685-6696.


Alumni to be Honored at Celebration Dinner on May 8

To salute the College and its exceptional alumni, the College of Arts and Sciences will hold its annual Celebration of Distinction on May 8. Four alumni—one representing each division in the College—will receive the College’s Distinguished Alumnus Award at the evening gala. The awards are an inspiring reminder of what is possible with a strong liberal arts education.

Jane Lubchenco  

Jane Lubchenco (MS 1971, Zoology), honoree in the natural sciences, is an Oregon State University professor, former president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and national spokesperson for marine conservation.

  Darryl Johnson

Darryl N. Johnson (MA 1960, English), honoree in the humanities, is U.S. Ambassador to Thailand and a former Peace Corps volunteer in Thailand.


Charles Johnson  

Charles W. Johnson (BA 1973,Economics), honoree in the social sciences, is a Washington State Supreme Court Justice, first elected to the Court in 1991.

  Patti Warashina

Patti Warashina (BFA 1962, MFA 1964,Art), honoree in the arts, is an internationally renowned ceramic sculptor and UW professor emeritus whose works can be seen in major museums and other public collections.

All alumni and friends of the College are welcome to attend. For information, visit www.artsci.washington.edu/cod2003/ or call 206-616-4469.


A Saturday Session for High School Scholars

It’s Saturday morning. While most high school students are sleeping late, taking a break from classes and homework, 55 tenth and eleventh graders are headed to the UW for yet another class—and eager to do so.

The students are participants in the University of Washington Young Humanities Scholars Program, a new offering sponsored by the Simpson Center for the Humanities. The program is designed to expose academically high-achieving students to topics in the humanities that are not often covered in high school classes.

“Students arriving in college know what physics and chemistry are,” says Marc Lange, professor of philosophy and organizer of the program. “They’ve taken them in high school. History too. But when they see a list of course offerings in ethnomusicology or linguistics or philosophy, new students are often uncertain. What will these courses be like? I certainly didn’t know anything much about philosophy when I arrived in college. I had no idea what I was getting myself into.”

The program addresses this situation by offering courses in a wide range of humanities topics, all taught by UW faculty. To allow students to pursue a topic in depth, each participant is enrolled in a single course for the seven-week program.

Lange and others involved in the program hope this experience will encourage exceptional students to pursue studies in the humanities.

And if this small taste of a UW education leads them to apply to the University? All the better, says Lange.

[Winter/Spring 2003 - Table of Contents]