Saint Mary’s Announces 2022–23 Provost Grant Recipients

by Office of Faculty Development | February 23, 2022

Executive Vice President and Provost Corey Cook, PhD, is excited to announce this year recipients of the Faculty Research Grants. There were so many extraordinary proposals, the Committee on Teaching Learning and Scholarship was honored to learn about the incredible work of our colleagues. “It’s always a hard task to choose which proposals to fund,” explains Faculty Development Director Monica Fitzgerald, “because we are awed by the accomplishments and scholarship of all our colleagues. Faculty do incredible work here.”

Please join us in community on Friday, March 18, from 5 to 7 p.m. in the Soda Center for the Scholars Reception to celebrate these grant winners, sabbatical recipients, Annual Faculty Award winners, and all of the work our colleagues engage in across our campus. 

Dana Lawton

Dana Lawton | Performing Arts, SOLA
The Farallonites

The Farallonites is a new, multi-disciplinary dance production designed to immerse audiences in a sensory experience by weaving together choreography, original music, ambient sound, spoken word, projections, physical scenic elements, and lighting design. The project incorporates historical research, found text, and sound artifacts into a lyric documentary of the physical and human geography of the Farallon Islands from 1849 through the turn of the century. Themes of isolation, community, and duty are manifested in snapshots of the lighthouse keepers and their families who lived on the rugged and remote islands. During the evening-length work, audiences are urged to draw parallels between these themes from the past and our individual and collective experiences today.

Yin Yuan

Yin Yuan | English, SOLA
Alimentary Orientalism: Britain’s Literary Imagination and the Edible East

The Provost Research Grant allows me to finalize my book manuscript, now under contract with Bucknell University Press. The book examines how the representation of foreign, ingestible substances in long 18th century British literature facilitated a self-conscious mode of Orientalism that critics have failed to pick up on. I trace exotic ingestion as an Orientalist motif through which British authors not only imagined the Orient, but also critically diagnosed how that Orient functioned as a cipher for domestic fears and fantasies. This self-consciousness, I argue, facilitated Britain’s negotiations of its own cultural identity as imperial expansion led to porous national boundaries.

Zahra G. Ahmed

Zahra G. Ahmed | Politics, SOLA
Revolutionary Leadership: Social Justice Movement Building Through Radical Inclusivity

What is contemplative justice and how is it supported by a commitment to radical inclusivity? What can be gained by “scaling up” what are thought of as individual spiritual practices such as mindfulness and meditation? How can an organization innovate by encouraging individuals to see themselves as agents of transformative social change? This study investigates the leadership and pedagogical structures of the East Bay Meditation Center (EBMC) in Oakland, California, to determine how their structure and their leadership can serve as a model for radically inclusive organizing that includes spiritual practitioners and social justice organizations. This project utilizes theoretical and political analyses of Black feminist theorists as a way of analyzing the work being done by EBMC.  Grounded in this foundation, the project seeks to contextualize and frame what are often characterized as individual spiritual practices as powerful social justice interventions with systemic benefits, especially for members of marginalized groups.

Jessica Coyle

Jessica Coyle | Biology, SOS
Post-Fire Recovery of Lichens in California Chaparral

Lichens are a diverse and important component of California’s chaparral ecosystems, yet we know little about how lichens reestablish after wildfire in these fire-adapted habitats. The large-scale burning of chaparral habitats at the Quail Ridge Reserve (Napa County, California) in 2020 provided a unique opportunity to study how lichens disperse and establish themselves on vegetation after a fire. We are monitoring lichen growth on burnt and newly grown vegetation as well as using air filtration to detect microscopic spores of lichen-forming fungi and algae. This research is a novel and important step toward predicting how lichens will respond to anthropogenic and climate-driven changes in wildfire frequency in fire-prone ecosystems of the world.

Laura Alvarez

Laura Alvarez | Teacher Education, KSOE
“Seeing” Language: Unpacking Pre-Service and Novice Bilingual Teachers’ Conceptualizations of Language in Practice 

The work of bilingual teachers is inextricably linked to how they think about language. It impacts how they evaluate students, articulate pedagogical goals, and design learning experiences with the goal of supporting students’ learning and development across two languages. This project seeks to investigate how pre-service and novice bilingual teachers conceptualize language and enact these conceptualizations in their practice, as well as how their conceptualizations are shaped by their contexts and teacher education experiences. The research will focus on teacher candidates enrolled in Saint Mary’s Bilingual Authorization in Spanish program. By examining their lesson plans, video recorded lessons, analyses of their own students’ language, and retrospective interviews, I will examine how candidates conceptualize language, enact their conceptualizations in their teaching, and how their conceptualizations shift over their time in the program.

María Luisa Ruiz

María Luisa Ruiz | World Languages and Cultures, SOLA
Gender and Melodrama in Narco Narratives

The grant will support the completion of a book manuscript, Gender and Melodrama in Narco Narratives, which is under contract with Lexington Press. In this manuscript, I analyze the representation of Mexican women in the world of the drug trade in news stories, films, telenovelas, crónicas (short stories that mix fact and fiction) and novels published since 2001. I argue that the trend of women as protagonists in these modes of cultural production about the drug trade, both the fictional and the real, are strikingly similar and rely on conventions of melodrama. I redefine the concept of melodrama and instead reconfigure it as a socio-political narrative that becomes deployed across popular culture and social media, impacting how society interprets their lived reality besieged by constant cartel warfare. This project is a crucial line of inquiry for future Latin American Cultural Studies and Borderlands scholarship that is highly innovative and will undoubtedly provide deeper insights into Mexican society and culture.

Hilda Ma

Hilda Ma | English, SOLA
Refugee Interventions: Recoding Aesthetics in Vietnamese American Literature

My monograph approaches the work of contemporary Vietnamese American authors through the lens of Critical Refugee Study (CRS), an emergent field that reconceptualizes refugees as intentional agents acting on their own politics. Refugeeness, then, becomes a site of knowledge production and the refugee a fluid subject of social, political, and cultural critiques. Building on the premise of CRS, my study demonstrates that the field is ripe for an interrogation of aesthetics in Vietnamese American literature as it moves beyond cultural-nationalist parameters of identity formation, which have often been prioritized in theoretical and political work on Asian American literature. In each chapter, I interrogate literary form in the work of Vietnamese American authors and investigate how they negotiate refugee status in new and experimental ways. My research seeks to understand 1) how / to what extent contemporary refugee literature poses an intervention to institutions of power and 2) how, in doing so, each author contributes to the development of a theoretical and literary field of refugee aesthetics that initiates the necessary recoding of oppressive institutions. The study moves through various interventions and argues that such techniques attempt to recode the white literary canon of Western higher education, the rhetoric of violence in American culture, and the metaphors of Christianity to embrace a diasporic queerness. Support from the Provost Research Grant will be used toward completing chapters two and three of the monograph.

Manisha Anantharaman


Manisha Anantharaman | Justice Community and Leadership
Towards Pro-Poor Circular Economies

Bringing a critical, interdisciplinary lens to the circular economy, this research project explores how waste pickers and informal recyclers in Asian and African cities, relegated to the margins in modernized municipal waste management systems, are navigating global circular economy value chains by building partnerships with multinational brands, global development organizations and social enterprises. Examining specific case studies of informal sector inclusion in three countries, it will contribute to new knowledge on precarious urban work and the pathways toward pro-poor, sustainable urban economies.

Grant Rozeboom

Grant Rozeboom | Organizations and Responsible Business, SEBA
The Character of Equality at Work

Ethicists are increasingly convinced that the ideal of relational equality—of persons relating as one another’s moral equals—should play a foundational role in our theorizing about social justice. And while it is clear that this ideal requires persons to have certain character traits, by which they are disposed to regard one another as moral equals, there is no systematic account of what these character traits are, why it is important to have them, and how they can be realized across different social contexts. The first significant aim of my book project, then, is to provide a general account of the nature and justification of the character traits that help constitute relational equality, along with a framework for understanding how persons can enact these traits across a wide range of social contexts. Second, my project applies this account to the pervasive social context of the workplace, which holds both promise and peril for relational equality. While ethicists have started to critically examine workplace hierarchy through the lens of relational equality, they have not yet considered whether or how persons can sustain the character traits of relational equality while acting as superiors or subordinates in workplaces. And while there have been piecemeal investigations of certain egalitarian virtues (e.g., humility) in workplaces, they have not yielded a general account of how workplace participants can exhibit all of the relational egalitarian virtues. My project will fill these theoretical lacunae, providing a holistic account of relational egalitarian virtue in workplace settings.

Nicole Brown


Nicole Brown | Sociology, SOLA
Gendered Analysis of Black Women Victimhood Representation on Social Media Platforms

This paper investigates the gendered linguistic patterns of tweets discussing state-sanctioned and vigilante violence against Black women. The paper considers representations of Black women and Black female victimhood as engaged on the Twitter social media platform. The analysis of over 12 million tweets utilizes both qualitative content analysis and computational sentiment analysis and data visualizations. We utilize the theoretical frameworks of Patricia Hill Collins’ conceptualization of Black feminist epistemology and controlling images, Moya Bailey’s theorizing of misogynoir, and Kimberle Crenshaw’s intersectionality as analytic to understand the ways that Black women are discussed, remembered, and advocated for on social media platforms in relations to their male counterparts. We demonstrate a computational approach that is grounded in a Black feminist theoretical and conceptual framework that reveals when and where Black women enter (Giddings 1984) into discussions of state-sanctioned and vigilante violence.

Elizabeth Valentin

Elizabeth Valentin | Chemistry, SOS
Kinetic and Mechanistic Insights Into Microwave Assisted Hydrogenations With Frustrated Lewis Pairs

The overarching goal of this project is to incorporate green chemistry principles into novel synthetic methods to make them safer and more broadly applicable in undergraduate laboratory settings. Microwave irradiation has been proven to dramatically reduce reaction times in a vast number of synthetic transformations. This project is studying the influence of microwave heating in a specific subset of reactions, hydrogenations with frustrated Lewis pairs. Students will test the optimal reaction conditions under microwave heating and analyze any factors that influence the rate and the mechanism of these reactions.

Saint Mary's congratulates the 2022–23 Provost Award recipients.