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Winter-Spring 2005

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Ten Events That Shook the World
New Program in Paris
Ellison Center Inaugurated
Celebrating Distinguished Alumni
Tool Time for Art Students
An Evening of Jazz and History

Ten Events That Shook the World

Here’s a challenge for those who enjoy making lists: come up with ten events that have helped shape our world. Cover as many centuries and geographic regions as you like, with a few common themes linking the events. Now imagine turning these ten events into a lecture course for undergraduates.

That was the challenge facing James Felak, associate professor in the Department of History, when he agreed to develop and teach a new history course, “Ten Events That Shook the World.” Felak knew selecting and researching ten events would be difficult, but he welcomed the opportunity to delve into subjects beyond his own area of specialization, Eastern Europe. The course is being offered for the first time during Spring Quarter 2005.

James Felak. Photo by Nancy Joseph.

How did Felak choose his ten events? “I combined things I know about with things I wanted to learn about,” he says. “They didn’t have to be the ten biggest events in history, but ten events I felt were important. I looked for events that had a recognized impact at the time and played a role in shaping the world of today.”

As he pared down his initial list, Felak honed in on some common themes: war and revolution, democracy and dictatorship, and church and state. He admits that his list is heavily weighted to the modern world, with nearly half of the events taking place in the 20th century. “It’s what I find most interesting,” he explains.

So where does the course begin? With religion. Felak starts with the Edict of Milan in 313—“a big turning point in Christianity,” he says— followed by the First Crusade and the Protestant Reformation. He then turns his attention to revolutions—the American Revolution, the French Revolution, the Bolshevik Revolution, and Hitler’s rise to power. Along the way, he touches on the relationship between religion and politics through coverage of Darwin’s The Origin of Species and the U.S. Supreme Court ruling on Roe vs. Wade. The course ends with the fall of Communism in Eastern Europe in 1989, an area of expertise for Felak.

“I wanted things that were all in the same current, so they refer back to each other,” says Felak. “I didn’t try to cover the whole world.”

Felak began planning the course a year ago, and admits that the process has been surprisingly time consuming. “When you plan a new course in a field that’s not your own, it’s an enormous amount of work,” he says. “And there’s no textbook for a course you develop yourself in your own quirky way.”

But Felak admits there have been a few interesting benefits, including a free meal.

“I was at lunch with a former student who figured she could guess at least five
of the ten events on my list,” recalls Felak. “She offered to pay for my lunch if she couldn’t come up with five. She only guessed four of them, so I got a free


They'll Always Have Paris

It’s a class assignment any student would covet: sit in a café or park for two hours, observe your surroundings, then write a journal entry on the theme of public and private spaces. And—here’s the kicker— do this in Paris, France.

Ready to sign up?

A UW student strolls in the Jardin Des Tuileries during the Fall Quarter in Paris program. Photo by Matthew Salton.

Not surprisingly, when the Department of Comparative Literature introduced its Fall Quarter in Paris program last October—its first-ever study abroad offering—the response was overwhelming. Open to all UW undergraduates who had completed at least one year of French, it attracted majors in everything from art history to business.

“Before this, the University as a whole didn’t have a quarter-long program in Paris,” says Mikkel Borch-Jacobsen, professor of comparative literature, who co-led the program. “There is a year-long program in Nantes offered through French and Italian Studies, but that is geared toward language. This one has a broader focus.”

Borch-Jacobsen, who hails from Paris, led the program with comparative literature professor Jennifer Bean. Each taught a five-credit course—his an introduction to theory and criticism, hers a course on “Paris, Modernity, and the Arts.” Students also took a course in French language, with both second- and third-year French taught by UW graduate student Nidesh Lawtoo.

Paris's Musee d'Orsay. Photo by Matthew Salton

Bean was thrilled with the opportunity to integrate the city into her teaching. “The main materials for the class were in the city—its architecture, the way the urban space in Paris was constructed in the middle of the nineteenth century,” she says. “Paris became the model for the modern city. In my course, we looked at how this modern city led to transformation in the arts.”

Each course met twice weekly, with a third day reserved for field trips to galleries and other noteworthy sites, often building on course content. “I could never teach the same course here at the UW,” says Bean. “Being immersed in the culture was an important part of the experience.”

That immersion will be more pronounced when the course is offered in Autumn 2005. While students lived in dorms at the Cité Internationale Universitaire de Paris last year, they will have homestays with French families this time around.
The change was precipitated by dorm renovations, but Borch-Jacobsen believes
it will be beneficial for students.

“Logistically, the dorm housing went very smoothly and homestays will be more difficult,” he admits. “But the students need to be more exposed to French life. Now they will be. It should be a great experience.”


Ellison Center Inaugurated

Herbert Ellison. Photo by Mary Levin.

Although attention is now riveted to the Middle East, the UW’s interest in Russia—the land with the most natural gas, and nuclear warheads on Earth—has never waned. Now, with the establishment of the Herbert J. Ellison Center for Russian, East European and Central Asian Studies, the Jackson School of International Studies will be able to pump new activity into an area of study already considered a UW strength.

The Center, named in honor of Professor Emeritus Herbert Ellison, is funded through a $3 million endowment, built with donations from Ellison’s extended family and dozens of other contributors.

The UW made its name in Russian studies in the Cold War era and earned prominence more recently for its deep integration of the study of Russia with that of Central Asia. Ellison says the contacts he and other U.S. academics forged with Soviet counterparts made a tangible difference in shaping the post-communist transition. The need for engagement is no less great now, he adds, with U.S.-Russia relations at a crossroads and Central Asia representing a major front in the war on terrorism.

Steven Hanson, director of the Center and professor of political science, agrees. “We have not had a serious discussion of the state of the field [of Russian studies] since the collapse of the Soviet Union, and particularly since 9/11,” he says. “The Ellison Center should be at the forefront in setting this new direction. The time is ripe.”


Celebrating Distinguished Alumni

When the College of Arts and Sciences honors four alumni at the Celebration of Distinction on May 17, there will be some familiar names—and faces—in the group. All are tremendously accomplished, with a Nobel Prize winner and PEN/Faulkner Award recipient among them.

Now they will have another honor to add to the list: the College of Arts and Sciences Distinguished Alumnus Award. The award is presented each year to four alumni—one from each of the College’s four divisions—to recognize exceptional achievement. Honorees are nominated by Arts and Sciences departments and selected by the College’s Alumni Relations Council and divisional deans.

Brian Berry

Brian J. L. Berry (MA, ‘56, PhD ‘58, Geography) is credited with helping transform geography as a discipline, promoting it to a respected and competitive science. As editor-in chief of Urban Geography, the leading journal in geography and urban studies, he continues to influence and further the understanding of urbanism, public policy, and long-term waves of innovation and development. Currently the Lloyd Viel Berkner Regental Professor and Professor of Political Economy at the University of Texas, Dallas, Berry is the youngest social scientist ever elected to the U.S. National Academy of Sciences.

Linda Buck

Linda B. Buck (BS, ‘75, Psychology and Microbiology) received the 2004 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for her distinguished work and landmark discoveries involving olfactory receptors. Buck’s research has major implications for the understanding of the nervous system, and cancer. She joined Nobel Prize co-recipient Richard Axel’s lab at Columbia University for postdoctoral work and later became Professor of Neurobiology at Harvard Medical School. Buck is now an affiliate professor of Physiology and Biophysics at the UW, member of the Basic Sciences Division at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, and investigator at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.

David Guterson

David Guterson (BA, ‘78, MA, ‘82, English) is the celebrated author of several books, including Snow Falling on Cedars, for which he received the PEN/Faulkner Award for fiction. A native Seattleite, Guterson previously taught high school English on Bainbridge Island before beginning his successful career writing about the rich landscapes of the Pacific Northwest. His newest novel is Our Lady of the Forest.

Richard Karn

Richard Karn (BFA, ‘79, Drama) is familiar to many as beloved sidekick Al Borland on the television show Home Improvement and as the host of game show Family Feud. Karn is a Seattle native and graduate of the School of Drama’s Professional Actor Training Program. A Broadway veteran and published author, he also has starred in and produced many large and small screen projects. Karn returns to the Pacific Northwest each year to host a celebrity golf tournament that he founded in 1994, benefiting cancer research at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and Overlake Hospital.

All faculty, staff, alumni, and friends of the College are invited to attend the Celebration of Distinction. For more information, visit or call 206-616-4469.

Tool Time for Art Students

“Check out this blade,” Robert Shaw told a group of nervous students as he wielded a hefty knife in front of them. “Take a good look.”

Shaw was not threatening the students; he was teaching them how to create the perfect blade edge. It’s just one of the skills students learned in his course on toolmaking, offered through the School of Art’s Metals Program during Winter Quarter 2005.

Bob Shaw demonstrates a step in making a knife blade while students observe. Photo by Mary Levin.

Shaw, a visiting artist, has unique qualifications to teach such a course. An anthropologist who served as both the Alaska State Historic Preservation Officer and State Archaeologist, Shaw also has completed several public and private art commissions. And, appropriately, he is a past president of the Alaska Knifemaker’s Association.

A shared interest in archaeology and toolmaking makes sense, says Shaw. “You can talk about how people did things in the past, but you get new insights when you try to do these things with the tools you know they had available,” he explains.

Many students in Shaw’s class were art majors specializing in metals, with an emphasis on jewelry making. For some, making tools was a stretch. But Shaw insists that there are many similarities. “There’s the shared concept of craftsmanship,” he says. “There’s an element of aesthetic in toolmaking, just as there is in jewelry making.”

Shaw began the course by having students work with stone. They learned flint napping—flaking the stone, as you see on arrowheads—and then lapidary, or stone grinding. Each student was provided with a chunk of rock and taught to create a cabochon—a polished, shaped stone—using a diamond saw, grinders, and power sanders. Next they made burnishers, first out of stone and then steel, before learning to create a chisel, a knife, and a hammer.


“Making tools is a time-consuming process,” says Shaw. “We’re so accustomed to taking tools for granted. The students needed to plan ahead, paying attention to the sequence of production of the piece and the detail of surface finishes.” It helped, he adds, that the UW studio is so well equipped.

“With the equipment here, the number of techniques that are at students’ fingertips is astounding,” says Shaw. “And that’s just the stuff that’s here for the beginning students. There are things I can do here in ten minutes that would take a half a day in my studio.”

At the end of the quarter, students had not only gained new skills but also new tools made with their own hands.

“If they made a good hammer, they will still have it in forty years,” says Shaw. “There’s an emotional attachment to tools you make yourself.”

An Evening of Jazz and History

CJazz is a quintessentially American art form, its history linked to social and cultural changes in the African American community. On April 11, A&S faculty will explore those links at a special event at The Triple Door in Seattle.

“Charting Change: Jazz and African American Culture” will combine jazz performances by music faculty with presentations by history faculty, who will discuss facets of African American history using jazz as touchpoints.

The historians—Stephanie Camp, Quintard Taylor, James Gregory, and Nikhil Singh—will describe key events in African American history, from the harrowing Atlantic Passage through the civil rights and labor issues of the 1960s. They will touch on the changing nature and cultural importance of jazz in the 60s, including the role of the musician as social activist.

Throughout the evening, evocative examples of music will be performed by internationally recognized jazz faculty Marc Seales, Vern Sielert, and Tom Collier.

The event, sponsored by the UW College of Arts and Sciences and UW Alumni Association, begins at 7:30 pm. Tickets are $25; $20 for UWAA members, students, and A&S Dean’s Club. For information or reservations, call (206) 543-0540 or visit

[Winter-Spring 2005 - Table of Contents]