Hiram College

In a powerful, exciting, and rewarding day, the 2008 MAIS candidates, slated to graduate on May 10 presented their Capstone Projects – the culmination of their years of graduate work in Hiram’s Master of Arts in interdisciplinary studies program to a packed house in Gelbke Fine Arts Center on Saturday, April 26. Family, friends, students, professors, and prospective MAIS students listened to five fascinating presentations, were treated to lunch, then listened to the remaining two presentations before everyone celebrated at a reception in the Art Gallery.

Jane Preston Rose, Dean of the Weekend College and Office of Graduate Studies, welcomed the crowd, and Janet Pope, Ph.D., Director of Graduate Studies and Associate Professor of History, introduced each student and his or her Capstone. One of the hallmarks of the MAIS program is the amazing variability students have in what they choose to study, and Saturday’s presentations illustrated this beautifully.

Scott Eastep, B.S., Miami University
Advisor: Jonathan Moody, Ph.D., professor of religious studies
“The Machinery of the Gods: Mechanisms of Religious Propagation”

Summary: Eastep examined religions and how they are born, grow, and survive, from a psychological/sociological and religious perspective. Eastep’s Capstone examined “memes” – small, self-replicating pieces of information, thoughts, concepts, and philosophies – related to religion. He noted that memes let humans make the jump from genetic relatedness (genetic relatives) to cultural relatedness, critical to religion. In the development, maintenance, and growth of religion, this use of memes to maintain and incorporate members into the faiths is very powerful, ensuring that the religions as entities survive and expand.


Howard Fencl, B.A., Denison University
Advisor: Mary Quade, M.F.A., assistant professor of English
“Vanishing Act: The Mobile Phone and the Sudden Disappearance of Space, Time and Decorum”

Summary: Fencl examined, from a sociological and literary journalism perspective, how the use of mobile phones has had positive and negative impacts on society. Fencl examined how the growing use and integration of mobile phones into our culture affects our interactions with others – and how we view ourselves. He discussed the phenomenon of “absent presence” when one is physically present, but due to use of the mobile phone, and nonetheless effectively removed him or herself, creating a relationship imbalance. He pointed out that while this is a challenge, it’s not all bad, and cites profound “citizen journalism” occurring now because of cameras and video capabilities in mobile phones. Regardless, there is no clear social protocol, and this results in what sociologists call “social lag,” Fencl concluded.

Wilhelmena Holmes, B.S., Savannah State University
Advisor: Vivien Sandlund, Ph.D., associate professor of history
“Profile of an Imagemaker: Ezra Jack Keats – Exploring the Power of Images in Picture Books”

Summary: Holmes examined the illustrated children’s book, The Snowy Day, by Ezra Jack Keats, from a historical and children’s literature perspective. The book is aimed at children younger than five or six, and depicts with bright colors a black child’s experience on a snowy day. Holmes explained that The Snowy Day was written in 1961 – a historical period of flux in social racial views of the 1950s and those vastly different ones of the 1960s – and many adults have historically viewed the book as racist. However, young children of all races have been consistently enamored by the book, because they can relate to and enjoy the story. They don’t see it as a story about a black child, but just a story about a child. Period. Holmes’ credits this with Keats having written the book to portray any “all-American” child, reflecting the vision of the 1950s civil rights movements – one of hope.

Andrea Karcic, B.F.A., Kent State University
Advisors: Jennifer Miller, Ph.D., assistant professor of education
Chris Ryan, M.F.A., assistant professor of art

“Children as Witness to Bullying: Can Art-Making Raise Empathy in the Classroom in Students and the Artist?”

Summary: Karcic examined, through artistic and sociological perspectives, how children’s awareness and artistic expression of bullying influenced not only their own empathy and behavior, but also how the adult teacher responded to the children. In her research with 6th grade students, she found that students grouped “bullying” into three categories: witnesses, bullies, and victims. Children were asked to write about and also artistically express these groupings. Karcic noted that over the course of the study, appeared to develop more awareness of bullying and empathy, and also that her own role in modeling empathetic behavior evolved, as well.

Gloria Lane, B.A., California State University, Fullerton
Advisor: Kim King, Ph.D., professor of sociology and anthropology
“The SMART Program: A Fuel Stop on the Road to Self-Sufficiency”

Summary: Using sociological and psychological perspectives, Lane examined how the Single Mothers Achieving Real Triumph (SMART) program, was a strong positive influence in building confidence and self-sufficiency. The program was developed to support single mothers who want to attend college, leave the welfare system, and become self-sufficient. Members take classes as a cohort, and have a strong social identity with their compatriots. Three main themes came out of Lane’s research. These were that the SMART women, once the enrolled in the program, felt a new sense of community, found themselves on equal footing with their peers, and discovered and embraced the power of their minds. These elements combine to lead the SMART women new discovery of themselves, what they are capable of accomplishing, and how they perceive themselves.

Hilda Pettit, B.A., Malone College
Advisor: Natalie Sydorenko, M.A., instructor of communication
“The Communication of Social Identity through Media Images: A Survey of Appalachian Students and Perceptions of Mediated Images of Appalachian Culture”

Summary: Using a social psychology and communication perspective, Pettit examined how college students in Appalachia were – or were not – effected by media portrayal of Appalachian culture. Her research found that for the most part, although they qualified from a geographical standpoint, many students did not identify themselves as Appalachian, and stated that they were proud of their heritage. They viewed media images, especially derogatory ones, as “not them” – they did not identify with them, and were not offended by them.

Virginia Taylor, B.S., Alderson-Broaddus College
Advisors: Janet Pope, Ph.D., associate professor of history
Mary Quade, M.F.A., assistant professor of English
“Requiem for a Castrato”

Summary: Examining the issue from a historical and literary journalism perspective, Taylor delved into the lives of castratos (men castrated before puberty), who for millennia were part of human culture. They were highly sought after for many reasons, not the least that the physical changes of castration often resulted in a high soprano voice in the castrati. While there are currently no known castrati (the last known one died almost a century ago), their disappearance is a very new facet of recorded human society. Through her research, Taylor found that there is a long history of eunuchs throughout various cultures, and also a long history associated with religion. During the extended time where eunuchs were part of society, there was consistent gender stereotyping (eunuchs were treated much as women).