Studying the Past, Present and the Future of the Earth

December 11, 2009

by Gregory Campeau ’11

Wednesday afternoons, the second-floor seminar room in the McGuire Life Sciences building, whose large windows look out on the brilliant HolyokeRange, becomes a hub of discussion about the past, present and future of the Earth around us.

"The Connection Between Sound and Place"

By Katherine Duke '05

Throughout her college years, Deidra Montgomery ’10 has been meeting up with other enthusiasts to raise her voice in a singing tradition called Sacred Harp. Now she’s conducting a formal study of her fellow singers. “I’m looking at who the Western Mass [Sacred Harp] community is, who makes it up and what a regular singing is like,” she says. Phil DuPont ’12 has been attending three Catholic Masses every week, at two different churches in Holyoke, Mass., listening to the differences in the songs and prayers at English- and Polish-language services. The singings and the churches are just a few examples of “Pioneer Valley Soundscapes.”

A Poetic Homecoming

April 27, 2009

When a reader searches Richard Wilbur’s name on The New Yorker magazine’s Web site, an incredible 99 results mentioning the prolific poet and member of the college’s Class of 1942 appear. (To put that in context, look up “Robert Frost” and 56 links pop up, while “Emily Dickinson” generates 75.) The pieces themselves are quite impressive, not surprisingly: They include Wilbur’s poems, reviews of his books and translations and other miscellaneous references, such as an intriguing letter by Norman Mailer that cites in passing an invitation Jackie Kennedy made to said Amherst alumnus in the 1960s.

Consuming Happiness

Barbezat
Professor Daniel Barbezat 

If there ever was a sobering time to teach an economics course titled "Consumption and the Pursuit of Happiness," it might be during the worst downturn since the Great Depression.

The course, being taught this semester by Economics Professor Daniel P. Barbezat, aims to open students’ eyes about the link between well-being and consumption, and how government policies and economic conditions can impact that well-being. To help students gain insight, he’s also introducing elements of mindfulness into the course, and leading meditation exercises as well.

Professor Barbezat recently sat down with Director of Public Affairs Peter Rooney to discuss the class, as well as his thoughts about the current downturn and how it might impact our own sense of happiness. (He also spoke with Kimberly Palmer ’01 about the course for a piece she wrote for U.S. News & World Report.)

Listen to the full interview:

Highlights

Q: It’s a very intriguing title, given the times and the unraveling of the economy.  To what extent are you incorporating the downturn into the course or discussion?

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History of Homes

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History Professor Kevin Sweeney points out architectural details on the Dickinson Homestead.

History professor Kevin Sweeney is a historian of “material culture” which involves researching archeological sites, estate sale records, wills and census reports to uncover clues about consumption and use of goods ranging from food to furniture to firearms.

Sweeney’s firearms research alone has yielded surprising insights. For example, he’s found that gun ownership in the original colonies was surprisingly varied – relatively low in regions like Delaware, Pennsylvania and New Jersey, and comparatively higher in the New England and Southern States.

He has used this approach to study the life of Lord Jeffery Amherst, and over the years also has become an expert on the history of the American home. This semester, he’s sharing that knowledge, in a course he’s teaching titled "The Material Culture of American Homes."

Professor Sweeney recently sat down with Director of Public Affairs Peter Rooney to discuss the class.

Listen to the full interview below or download it here:

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Highlights

Q: What is “Material Culture?”

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