The Quirky Comedy of Aparna Nancherla ’05E

Submitted on Wednesday, 6/13/2018, at 4:04 PM

Aparna Nancherla ’05E “is unassuming, soft-spoken, reflective. Character traits that might not make it easy for one to rise in the testosterone-charged comedy world,” wrote the Washington Post in a recent profile of the comedian.

“But perhaps because of that, she caught audiences by surprise, offering up observations she’d been filing away throughout her lifetime of quietude,” the Post wrote, describing her success despite, or because of, her shyness:

“If you had told Ananth Nancherla that his painfully shy second daughter would some day make a living performing hilarious 30-minute monologues in front of hundreds of people, that she would star in her own television specials and have half a million online followers devouring her insights, he would have said, ‘Keep dreaming.’ A future in intergalactic space travel might have seemed more likely. Except . . . There were flashes. Not of humor, always, but persistence.”

Elliott Arkin '83 and the Ten-Foot Picasso

Submitted on Wednesday, 6/13/2018, at 4:03 PM

“If you walk or bike along the Brooklyn Greenway this month, you’ll probably see something very unexpected: a 10-foot-tall sculpture of Picasso mowing a lawn,” Artnet News recently reported, describing Elliott Arkin’s “cartoonish lawn gnome of the world’s most famous painter.” 

The sculpture is part of the 1983 Amherst graduate’s series of sculptures whimsically depicting famous artists as lawn gnomes.

“I used to say that if Picasso was around today he would have to mow lawns for a living,” he said. “The art world has changed that much.”

“Many of his works for the publication are ‘insider’s jokes’ about figures in the art world that wouldn’t be known by the general public,” writes the Brooklyn Daily Eagle.

Chimaway Lopez '20: Making The Case With Song

Submitted on Thursday, 6/7/2018, at 4:03 PM

To protest cuts to the Santa Barbara Unified School District’s music programs, Chimaway Lopez ’20 chose not to simply speak to her hometown’s Board of Education, but sang instead.

The Santa Barbara Independent recently reported that Lopez, in a trio also made up of Santa Barbara High School students Ashley DeLepaña and Iyana Brown, stole the show at a board meeting with a rendition of Sam Cooke’s 1964 song, “A Change Is Gonna Come.”

“We just wanted to show what a musical education means to us,” Lopez said.

Getting Inside Their Heads With Alex George

Submitted on Thursday, 6/7/2018, at 4:00 PM

On campus, Philosophy Professor Alexander George is known for getting inside our ideas —ethics, value, knowledge and other philosophical questions— but, as the Daily Hampshire Gazette recently discovered, he also gets inside our heads. You see, after hours he moonlights as a mentalist, or mind reader.

“I think I’ve learned more about how to put together a mentalism show from being a professor than anywhere,” George told the Gazette. “There’s a kind of performative element and interactive element to my day job that is intimately connected to mentalism.”

His ability to read people, he said, is based “90 percent on body reading and the rest on following a hunch … we don’t realize how much we give away through body language.”

Stavans on Snapping and Clapping

Submitted on Thursday, 6/7/2018, at 3:56 PM

Are you a snapper or a clapper? 

In a recent piece about finger-snapping as a sign of approval, Simplemost’s Bonnie Azoulay quotes Ilan Stavans, Lewis-Sebring Professor of Humanities and Latin American and Latino Culture, about students snapping instead of clapping.

“I’ve made an effort to study the finger-snapping behavior, and I’ve reached an early conclusion: Finger-snapping is done delicately, respectfully, democratically, always in the middle of an event, whereas hand-clapping, which is by definition louder and more disruptive, is invariably reserved for the end,” he said, in a piece originally published in the Chronicle of Higher Education.

Laura Draucker Discusses the Solar Pact

Submitted on Thursday, 6/7/2018, at 3:18 PM

Laura Draucker, Amherst College’s director of sustainability recently appeared on WGBY57’s program “Connecting Point,” as part of a panel discussing the New England College Renewable Partnership.

Amherst, Bowdoin, Hampshire, Smith and Williams colleges are partnering with a subsidiary of NextEra Energy Resources, a leading clean energy company, which will construct a utility-scale solar power facility that annually will create enough electricity to power about 5,000 New England homes.

Each of the colleges will purchase zero-carbon electricity from the Maine site to reduce carbon emissions from campus electricity use. The facility is expected to open in 2019.

The collaborative effort was the subject of recent articles in Masslive.comDaily Hampshire Gazette and University Business.

President Martin Elected to the Harvard Corporation

Submitted on Thursday, 5/31/2018, at 1:26 PM

The Harvard Gazette and the Daily Hampshire Gazette recently reported that Amherst College President Biddy Martin has been elected to the Harvard Corporation, the smaller (13 members) of the two governing bodies of Harvard University, the other being the 30-member Board of Overseers.

According to Harvard’s website, the Corporation “exercises fiduciary responsibility with regard to the University’s academic, financial, and physical resources and its overall well-being,” and serves as a confidential sounding board for Harvard’s president and other officials.

The Harvard Corporation will be the first and only board President Martin has joined since becoming Amherst’s president. Martin and former U.S. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker will start in July.

“I think I will learn a lot from this experience and it will help me with my responsibilities at Amherst College,” she told the Daily Hampshire Gazette.

Javier Corrales on Venezuela's Fraught Election

Submitted on Thursday, 5/31/2018, at 1:26 PM

As the world watched for the results in the May 20 election in Venezuela, news outlets time an again turned for perspective to Javier Corrales, Dwight W. Morrow 1895 professor of Political Science at Amherst College.

Some observers characterized the election, which ultimately re-elected incumbent Nicolás Maduro to second six-year term, as a sham, having the lowest voter turnout in Venezuela's democratic history. 

Despite these concerns heading into the election, Corrales urged in a May 15 editorial in the New York Times that Venezualans should vote, regardless. “The correct question to ask is not whether voting is ideal — it certainly is not. We should be asking whether voting is better than doing nothing. To me, the answer is yes,” he wrote. “By doing nothing, that is, abstaining, Venezuelans will essentially vote for Mr. Maduro, giving him an easy victory.”

Articles in The Wall Street Journal, The Conversation, WLRN Public Radio, The Chicago Tribune, The Guardian, and the Associated Press quoted his Times piece, sought his opinions, and cited his recent study on Venezuela’s electoral system.

Amherst Finds the Right Mix

Submitted on Thursday, 5/31/2018, at 12:55 PM

For an article on higher education attempts to enroll more low-income students, Market Watch turned to Amherst as an example of a school that has successfully improved the mix.

“At Amherst College, increasing the size of its incoming class was among many strategies the school embarked on several years ago to open up the small liberal arts college to students it hadn’t traditionally served,” wrote Market Watch reporter Jillian Berman. “In addition to working to diversify the school’s applicant pool and establishing more generous financial aid policies, the school also chose to increase its freshman class size by 25 students every year for four years.”

“So far, it appears that the steps to increase diversity, including growing the class size, have worked. In the fall of 2006, the Amherst student body was made up of 1,613 students, 15.4% of whom were eligible for Pell grants. At the start of this academic year the college had about 1,846 students and 24.5% are Pell-eligible.”

Sarat: Death Penalty Dwindling

Submitted on Friday, 5/25/2018, at 4:17 PM

A recent piece in the Christian Science Monitor on the decline in use of the death penalty turned to Amherst’s Austin Sarat, William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Jurisprudence and Political Science, an expert on capital punishment, for perspective.

“We are in a period of national reconsideration of capital punishment … The death penalty is not just on the decline but [its proponents are] on the defensive,” he said.

The piece cited statistics from the Death Penalty Information Center (DPIC) indicating that the United States carried out 23 executions in 2017, down from 98 executions in 1999.

“Driving this sharp decline is a host of factors including concerns about human rights, discrimination, potential wrongful convictions, and its effectiveness as a deterrent,” the Monitor wrote.