Niditch on Keeping the Faith, and Hair

Submitted on Friday, 5/25/2018, at 4:16 PM

A recent article in Allure about women who keep their hair long for spiritual reasons turned to Susan Niditch, religion professor at Amherst College, for some context on the roots of faith-based hair practices.

“Hair is a common means of cultural expression because it offers such an easy way for people to advertise their identity and make a statement,” said Niditch. “We may not all wear the same clothes, but we all have hair. Uncut hair can suggest an embodied immersion into nature, which is so often intertwined with concepts of spirituality.”

The magazine spoke with women who keep their hair unshorn following Native American, Rastafarian, and Sikh traditions.

From Combat to Cooking

Submitted on Wednesday, 5/2/2018, at 12:33 PM

“Jen Ramirez isn’t happy sitting behind a desk,” writes Bay State Parent about Ramirez, one of Amherst College's cooks for Dining Services. A former US Army intelligence analyst, she later became one of the first women in the Army to be attached to a combat arms unit. She left active duty in 2007 and ultimately made her way to culinary school and fell in love with the field. She works as a cook at Amherst College during the school year, and cooks for campers and staff at Camp Ramah, a Jewish summer camp in Palmer, Mass., during the summer.

Art New England and the Mead's "Collecting 101"

Submitted on Wednesday, 5/2/2018, at 12:30 PM

Art New England gave a nod to the Mead Art Museum at Amherst College, in a recent article examining ways that museums are working on increasing accessibility and engagement, and focused on the interterm course “Collecting 101: Acquiring Art for the Mead.”

“Students selected prints, prepared proposals and advocated for their choices in a public event at which every person who attended had a vote. Paired self-portraits by Shivangi Ladha and Cedar Kirwin tallied up the most votes, closely followed by William Villalongo’s screenprint commenting on recent and historical racism. In a fairy-godmother turn of events, the program’s benefactor increased the acquisitions budget, and the museum acquired three publically approved prints,” wrote Art New England writer Laura Holland.

Acting in a Void: Jeffrey Wright ’87 Talks About Westworld

Submitted on Wednesday, 5/2/2018, at 12:27 PM

“Coming from the theater, I try to grind down and polish, define, and explore,” Jeffrey Wright ’87 told Backstage in a recent conversation about his acting work on the HBO’s sci-fi thriller Westworld [Warning: there are spoilers for those who haven’t seen the show].

“There were a lot of voids on the map,” says Wright of playing Bernard, a robot programmer.  of convincingly humanoid robots. “I ask enough questions [to the series’ creators] to be able to plot myself through the given scene. In the first month, that was kind of my routine question: What?”

Masha Gessen on Michelle Wolf, Civility and Authoritarianism

Submitted on Wednesday, 5/2/2018, at 12:24 PM

“There is a fiction that holds that journalists and their subjects can eat and socialize together and yet maintain the distance necessary to continue performing their professional roles,” wrote Masha Gessen, John J. McCloy '16 Professor of American Institutions and International Diplomacy, in a April 30 column in the New Yorker in which she pondered the controversy about comedian Michelle Wolf’s performance at the 2018 White House Correspondents’ Association dinner.

“Wolf’s routine burst the bubbles of civility and performance, and of the separation of media and comedy. It plunged the attendees into the reality that is, in the Trump era, the stuff of comedy. Through her obscene humor, Wolf exposed the obscenity of the fictions—and the fundamental unfunniness of it all,” she wrote.

NPR: The American Talent Initiative, with Pres. Martin

Submitted on Wednesday, 5/2/2018, at 12:20 PM

National Public Radio recently spoke with Amherst College President Biddy Martin and the heads of Ohio State University, the University of Michigan and the University of Wisconsin-Madison about their participation in the American Talent Initiative, an effort to strenuously expanding the number of talented low- and moderate-income students at America’s top-performing colleges.

Amherst was among was among 30 institutions that signed on to the initiative in 2016. To be able to belong, a college has to have a healthy graduation rate, 70 percent of their students in six years. About one third of the roughly 300 eligible institutions have signed on to the goal enrolling 50,000 additional low- and moderate-income students by 2025.

This commitment to economic diversity has a definite and positive impact on the life of a college, she said.

“I think the institutions have to let themselves be changed by the student bodies we have,” she said. “There's also a whole set of ways — including curriculum pedagogy and cultural dimensions of the place — that change as the student body changes, and that is a really wonderful and fascinating process to watch.”

Jeff Jordan '81 a Top Venture Capitalist

Submitted on Wednesday, 5/2/2018, at 12:17 PM

Jeff Jordan ’81 made #6 in a “Top 20” list of venture capitalists compiled by the New York Times and CB Insights, a research firm that follows the venture capital industry. 

Following a post-graduate (MBA, Stanford) career at firms including The Boston Consulting Group, The Walt Disney Company and, he joined eBay as Senior Vice President and General Manager, where he oversaw the acquisitions of Paypal and He subsequently went on to serve as president of Paypal and president and CEO of OpenTable. Since 2011 he has served as a General Partner at Andreessen Horowitz. The list marked notable investments including Airbnb, Pinterest and Instacart.

For the data-driven list, CB Insights looks at factors such as connectedness and returns after a start-up is sold or goes public. Investments in start-ups with valuations of $1 billion or more, called unicorns, are also taken into account. The actual list ranks 100 professionals, publishing details about the top 20.

Reviews of "Our Beloved Kin"

Submitted on Wednesday, 4/25/2018, at 2:05 PM

Lisa Brooks, associate professor of English and American Studies, continues to get press coverage concerning her new book Our Beloved Kin: A New History of King Philip’s War (Yale University Press), most notably a March 9 review in the Wall Street Journal (subscription only).

UPDATE: In an April 8 review in the Portland Press-Herald, William David Barry writes, "At last, in Lisa Brooks’ commanding, meticulously researched and elegantly readable new book, Our Beloved Kin: A New History of King Philip’s War, academics and general readers arrive at something of a fair understanding of the armed conflict between colonial New Englanders and Native Americans."

The Gift at Campaign's Launch

Submitted on Wednesday, 4/25/2018, at 2:05 PM

Amherst College’s new comprehensive campaign, Promise: The Campaign for Amherst’s Third Century, since launching publicly on April 7, was noted in a recent piece by Inside Higher Ed, both in a roundup of current capital campaigns, and a special note concerning the inclusion of a $100 million anonymous gift. The gift was announced as part of the campaign launch, to raise $625 million over five years.

UPDATE: The gift and the campaign were written up April 21 in Philanthropy News Digest, which quoted Suzanne Newby-Estes, the College's executive director of advancement and campaign operations. "We are just expanding the faculty, and it's important to recognize that the needs of the institution change over time, so it's not only just for STEM, it's just what the institution needs right now," she said.  "One hundred years from now it could be completely different."

Self-Immolation, Suicide and Protest

Submitted on Wednesday, 4/25/2018, at 1:54 PM

Following the April 14 suicide-by-immolation in Brooklyn of LGBT-rights advocate David Buckel, WBEZ-FM’s On the Media spoke with Andrew Poe, Amherst College professor of political science, on how this destructive act has evolved in the public eye as a manner of protest.

“I don’t think it’s an effective mode of protest in itself,” Poe told On the Media’s Bob Garfield. “It really is rare that such an act would provoke political transformation.”