Shrine Shrine, view to south (upper photo) and view to north (bottom). The modern village of Wadi Rum is in the distance on the lower image

Wesley Matlock ’08 and Professor of Anthropology Gary Rollefson are investigating Chalcolithic open-air desert sanctuaries in Wadi Rum, Jordan. Ellen McCleery ’08 and Assistant Professor of Biology Chris Wallace will examine the cellular mechanisms by which information from individual experience is stored in brain cells. Jessica Marks ’07 and Professor of Religion Jonathan Walters are exploring the conversion to Tibetan Buddhism by Westerners through the lens of ethnic Buddhists.

Whitman’s tradition of student-faculty research, an essential element of the college’s educational experience, is marked again this year by dozens of innovative collaborations between professors and their students. Thirty-four undergraduate scholars received in-house awards to explore their interests and hone their research skills in collaboration with faculty.

Perry Summer Research Scholarships

Twenty-two students will supplement their studies during the regular academic year with Perry Summer Research scholarships. Matlock and Rollefson’s project offers the most exotic work site: a sprawling desert valley cut into the sandstone and granite rock in southwest Jordan, land of “Lawrence of Arabia.”

“Wesley and I hope to investigate what appears to be a small shrine that seems to be the ‘goal’ of a winding processional leading from one of the sanctuaries,” Rollefson said in an e-mail message from Jordan.

The Perry scholarships were established to honor Louis B. Perry, Whitman’s eighth president (1959-1967) and an emeritus member of the Board of Overseers. This year 18 student-faculty teams including Rollefson-Matlock received Perry funding for collaborative scholarship. The others are:

  • Sharon Alker (English) and Beth Frieden ’08
  • Allison Calhoun (Chemistry) and Kathryn Corwith ’08
  • Heidi Dobson (Biology) with Geoffrey Liu ’08 and Becky Como ’08
  • Frank Dunnivant (Chemistry) and Jake Ginsbach ’09
  • Keith Farrington (Sociology) and Hannah Sherrard ’08
  • Jack Iverson (Foreign Languages and Literatures, French) and Rosie Brownlow ’09
  • Michelle Janning (Sociology) and Caitlyn Collins ’08
  • Doug Juers (Physics) and Jessica Bruhn ’09
  • Kari Norgaard (Sociology: Environmental Studies) with Aaron David ’08 and Emily Davis ’08.
  • James Russo (Chemistry) and Ellen McCleery ’08
  • David Schmitz (History) and Anne Conners ’08
  • Lynn Sharp (History) and Patrick Herman ’08
  • Nicole Simek (Foreign Languages and Literatures, French) and Andrew Hill ’09
  • Brooke Vick (Psychology) with Rachel Hahn ’10 and Emily Shubin ’08
  • Melissa Wilcox (Religion) and Erin Flaucher ’09
  • Walter Wyman (Biblical Literature) and Carly Lane Rue ’07
  • Paul Yancey (Biology) with Joanne Ishikawa ’08 and Marina Heppenstall ’08

Abshire Research Scholar Awards

Nine Whitman students received Abshire Research Scholar Awards for the fall. The projects they will work on in tandem with faculty are wide-ranging and nuanced.

  • Sharon Alker (English) and Kim Trinh ’08: Defoe Society project
  • Frank Dunnivant (Chemistry) and Jake Ginsbach ’09: Research for environmental book
  • Keith Farrington (Sociology) and Asteria Valusek ’09: History of 20th century pop music
  • Chas McKhann (Anthropology) and Alan Waxman ’08: Research on D.C. Graham
  • Kirsten Nicolaysen (Geology) and Tamara Carley ’08: Research on Missoula flood deposits
  • Jason Pribilsky (Anthropology) and Suzanne Morrissey (Anthropology: Gender Studies) with Benjamin Kegan ’09 and Kika Pyclik ’08: Documentary on birth practices and indigenous identity in Ecuador
  • Pat Spencer (Geology) and Kate Logan ’08: Research on last glacial maximum in upper Grand Coulee
  • Chris Wallace (Biology) and Ellen McCleery ’08: Study of cellular mechanisms

Abshire Awards are given each semester. Students are nominated by Whitman professors and selected on the basis of merit. No discipline receives priority.

Dublin Award

Marks and Walters earned this year’s Adam Dublin Award for the Study of Global Multiculturalism. The working title of their project is “Viewing Us through the Eyes of the Other: Religious Change, Ethnic Buddhists and Convert Buddhists Within American and Sikkimese Tibetan Traditions.”

“Jessica embodies the sincere approach to understanding others, which this award so importantly promotes at Whitman,” said Walters. “Working with her, I learned a great deal about the Tibetan Buddhist diaspora and was made to rethink my own work and experiences in Sri Lanka.”

Marks’ work directly addresses the ambiguities of Western appropriations of Tibetan Buddhism. “She courageously locates herself in the middle of this encounter rather than remaining exclusively an outside observer,” said Walters, whose own work touches on similar phenomena in the Theravada Buddhist world of Sri Lanka and Southeast Asia.

The Dublin Award was established in honor of the late Adam Dublin ’96 by Kari Glover ’72, a member of the Board of Trustees, and her husband, Thaddas L. Alston. The award supports scholarly or creative work relating to multiculturalism in the United States and abroad.

Nord Award

Nord Award winners Carly Spiering ’10 and Kyle Martz ’07 worked during the school year with faculty advisers Andrés Lema-Hincapié and Robert Tobin, respectively, on projects that culminated in presentations near the end of the spring term. The annual award, given in honor of David Nord ’83, pairs students and faculty in work on issues in the gay community.

All of the research awards complement an impressive collection of national honors that Whitman students received during the 2006-07 academic year. Students earned a school-record 10 Fulbright Awards, a Truman Fellowship, a Beinecke Scholarship, three Humanity in Action awards, two Projects for Peace fellowships and a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship.


Keith Raether
Office of Communications, Whitman College