Friday, July 20, 2012

Professor Deckman Named "Affiliated Scholar" At the Public Religion Research Institute

WASHINGTON, DC – Dr. Melissa Deckman, chair of the political science department at Washington College, is one of five “leading academic voices” named as the first Affiliated Scholars of the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI). She will regularly contribute insights to the Institute’s “Faith in the Numbers” research blog and will work with its senior researchers on peer-review articles.
Founded in 2009 as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, Public Religion Research Institute has become a leading resource for non-partisan analysis of the role of religion in public and political life and the opinions that members of religious communities hold about topical issues. The creation of the Affiliated Scholars Program enhances the Institute’s ability to provide perspective on the 2012 presidential election and the role religion and religious groups will play in shaping its outcome.
Deckman says PRRI is quickly establishing itself as a major source for news and analysis and she is excited about her new relationship with the organization.  “As a scholar of religion and politics, I am grateful to have access to their excellent survey data, especially as we gear up for an exciting presidential election race this fall.”

The Louis L. Goldstein Professor of Public Affairs at Washington College, Deckman has written or co-written three books and contributed to dozens of scholarly articles and book chapters. Her 2004 book, School Board Battles: The Christian Right in Local Politics, won the American Political Science Association’s Hubert Morken Award for the best work on religion and politics.  She edited a forthcoming volume about the politics of teaching the Bible and religion in public schools (slated for publication this fall), and her current research focuses on the nexus between gender and religion in the Tea Party movement.

Joining Deckman as 2012-2013 Affiliated Scholars at PRRI are Paul Djupe, associate professor of political science at Denison College and co-editor of the Cambridge Journal of Politics & Religion; Kerem Ozan Kalkan, incoming visiting assistant professor of political science at Stony Brook University; Laura R. Olson, professor of political science at Clemson University and editor-in-chief of the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion; and Mark J. Rozell, professor of public policy at George Mason University.
Robert P. Jones, CEO of PRRI, says the Institute is “thrilled to be able to provide not only additional original research but also more timely insights for better understanding the role of religion in this fall’s presidential election.” To learn about the Institute and its new Affiliated Scholars Program, visit

Read her first blog posting, "How an Evangelical College’s Lawsuit Could Help Romney."

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Summer Poetry Salon Features Sandra Beasley and Kevin Vaughn, Plus Music by the Pam Ortiz Band

Sandra Beasley, poet and author of
Don't Kill the Birthday Girl.

CHESTERTOWN, MD—The Rose O’Neill Literary House at Washington College invites the public to a “Summer Poetry Salon” Tuesday, July 24 from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m. with poets Sandra Beasley and Kevin Vaughn and music by the Pam Ortiz Band. The free event will take place Tuesday, July 24, from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m. at  the Literary House, 407 Washington Avenue.
Sandra Beasley is the author of two poetry collections —Theories of Falling (New Issues, 2008) and I Was the Jukebox (W.W. Norton, 2010) — and a memoir about coping with extensive food allergies, Don’t Kill the Birthday Girl (Crown, 2011). In addition, her work has been included in The Best American Poetry 2010 and other anthologies, and in journals such as Poetry, Blackbird, Gulf Coast, and Black Warrior Review.
Kevin Vaughn, the Cave Canem poet in residence at the Literary House for the month of July, has received numerous awards and fellowships and been published in a variety of journals and anthologies including WheelHouse Magazine, Naugatuck River Review, Mississippi Review, The Southern Poetry Anthology, Volume V and Cave Canem XII.
Singer-songwriter Pam Cardullo Ortiz once performed in packed coffeehouses in D.C. and Baltimore and recorded three albums with the group Terra Nova. Now she performs with husband Bob Ortiz on percussion, Ford Schumann on guitar and Nevin Dawson on fiddle.
For more information about the event, visit
or call 410-778-7899.

Lit House Welcomes Cave Canem Fellow Kevin Vaughn for Month of July

CHESTERTOWN, MD—The Rose O’Neill Literary House at Washington College welcomes poet Kevin Vaughn as its second Cave Canem Fellow. Vaughn will be in residence in Chestertown through July and will offer a free public reading from his work as part of a “Summer Poetry Salon” with fellow poet Sandra Beasley and the Pam Ortiz Band on Tuesday, July 24.
Literary House director Jehanne Dubrow, who selected Vaughn for this summer’s fellowship, says she is thrilled to have him on campus. “Kevin's work is informed by subjects as diverse as early Star Trek episodes, the challenges of translation, and Eastern European poetics,” she says.  “He brings a global perspective to the literary conversation taking place here at the Rose O'Neill Literary House.”
The well-traveled Vaughn, who lives in Paris, speaks four languages and was a J. William Fulbright Fellow at Jagiellonian University in Cracow, Poland. Earlier, he studied in Prague, Czech Republic, and in Athens, Greece. The recipient of numerous awards and fellowships, he has been published in a variety of journals and anthologies including WheelHouse Magazine, Naugatuck River Review, Mississippi Review, The Southern Poetry Anthology, Volume V and Cave Canem XII.
Established in 1997 to cultivate the artistic and professional growth of African American poets, Cave Canem offers book prizes, workshops, readings and other events. The month-long Cave Canem residency at the Rose O’Neill Literary House was introduced in July 2011. The first poet to visit Chestertown under the program, Arisa White, used her fellowship to work on a book of poems titled Hurrah’s Nest. Published in February by Virtual Artists Collective, the collection earned top honors for poetry in the 2012 San Francisco Book Festival’s best-books competition.
For more information about the event, visit
or call 410-778-7899.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Starr Center's New York Times Series Separates Fact from Fiction in Political Claims on History

CHESTERTOWN, MD—In an unprecedented journalistic partnership with one of the world’s foremost media outlets, faculty and students at Washington College have created a new online feature in The New York Times that will keep watch over the ways politicians and special interest groups use and misuse history. The series, which is titled Historically Corrected, launched on Sunday, July 8, with a broadside aimed at both Democrats and Republicans, casting significant doubt on claims that both President Obama and his opponent, Mitt Romney, have recently made on the campaign trail.
“History is often the language of American politics,” says Adam Goodheart, director of the College’s C.V. Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience, which is spearheading the project. “But whether it’s Democrats harking back to the New Deal or Republicans claiming the mantle of the founding fathers, fact and fiction are often much too easily confused.”

For instance, Mr. Obama’s standard stump speech usually hails past achievements such as Hoover Dam as examples of how Americans “built this country together.” But this week’s column reveals that the dam’s construction in the 1930s was far from what one might call a “kumbaya” moment. Washington College undergraduate Kathy Thornton, part of the faculty-student research team at work on Historically Corrected, unearthed a 1932 newspaper article documenting protests against policies banning Asian-American laborers from working on the site, while African Americans were relegated to a few menial jobs.

Meanwhile, Mr. Romney recently gave a speech celebrating the United States as “unique” and “exceptional in the history of the world” as the only nation that has never taken land through war. But as the Historically Corrected team points out, he made the comment in San Diego – which itself was seized by a U.S. force in 1846, invading what was then part of Mexico.

Co-directing the project with Goodheart is journalist and historian Manseau, a scholar-in-residence at the Starr Center. Beginning with a handpicked group of student associates this summer, the project will expand in the fall when Manseau’s “Writing for the Media” course will serve as a “newsroom” allowing students to track down leads, hone their fact-checking skills, and pitch topics for the series just as they might do one day at newspapers or television networks. “Working on a project affiliated with the New York Times is unbeatable real-world experience for any aspiring journalist,” Manseau says. “Students will come away from Historically Corrected with a better sense of how news and other media are created today, and the role they might play in that process.” 

With tens of millions of unique visitors per month, the newspaper’s Web site is one of the most-read media outlets in the world. Historically Corrected will run several times per month under the rubric of the Campaign Stops blog, one of the Times’ most high-profile online series. A condensed version of this week’s inaugural column also appears in the Sunday, July 8 print edition of the Times.

“The Times is excited to be able to include in our pages and online this valuable contribution to the political discussion,” says Clay Risen, senior editor in the paper’s Op-Ed department, which will oversee the series. “We expect that Adam Goodheart, Peter Manseau and the rest of the Washington College team will offer our readers a unique insight into American history, ironically via a medium — the Internet — that has only recently made such perspectives so quickly and widely available.”

Washington College president Mitchell B. Reiss sees the project as “a wonderful opportunity for our students to be engaged at the intersection of history and politics in a meaningful way. They will be learning from some of the finest historians in the nation, and their research will support journalism on one of the most widely read and influential Web sites in the world,” he adds.  “Adam and Peter are illustrating yet again how the work of the Starr Center can bridge the past and present and bring the insights of history to the forefront of the national dialogue.” 

Unlike existing fact-checking sites that simply declare a statement to be true or false, Historically Corrected is designed to encourage nuanced interpretation, discussion, and debate among readers. Nationally distinguished scholars will contribute comments to spark the discussions. The initial group of participating historians includes Richard Beeman of the University of Pennsylvania, the biographer and journalist Richard Brookhiser, and Ted Widmer of the John Carter Brown Library at Brown University, along with Washington College professors Melissa Deckman, Joseph Prud’homme, and Richard Striner.

“Readers will be encouraged to join the debate in the comments section and through social media,” Goodheart adds, “and the column will also offer a window into the past by providing primary sources—documents, letters, and images—gathered by Washington College students.”

This examination of how history is incorporated into today’s politics is at the heart of the mission of the Starr Center, which was founded in 2000 to encourage new approaches to studying American history, to draw connections between the past and present, and to make the work of first-rate historians accessible and inviting to the general public. The Center also creates unique opportunities for Washington College students both on-campus and far beyond; in addition to the new Times endeavor, it has developed longstanding partnerships with the Smithsonian, George Washington’s Mount Vernon, and other nationally eminent institutions.

Goodheart, who serves as the Hodson Trust-Griswold Director of the Center, is a historian, essayist and journalist. His recent book, 1861: The Civil War Awakening, was a national bestseller. A frequent contributor to the acclaimed New York Times online Civil War series  Disunion, he also contributes to numerous national publications, including Slate, National Geographic, The Atlantic, Smithsonian, and the New York Times Magazine. 

Manseau, the Center’s scholar-in-residence, is the author of several books on history and religion, including Rag and Bone: A Journey Among the World's Holy Dead and Vows: The Story of a Priest, a Nun, and Their Son, as well as the award-winning historical novel Songs for the Butcher’s Daughter. Manseau has written for publications including the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, and the New York Times, and is currently at work on a book about the forgotten influence of religious minorities in American history.
For more information on the Historically Corrected project and its research and writing team, visit
Project directors Adam Goodheart, left, and Peter Manseau, right, discuss
the first installment of Historically Corrected with student assistants
Maegan Clearwood and Kaitlin Tabeling.

Friday, July 6, 2012

"The Bolshoi of Barn Dancing" Provides Grand Finale for Riverfront Concert Series July 19

The Footworks dancers kick it up at the 2011 Shrewsbury Folk Festival.

CHESTERTOWN, MD—The internationally acclaimed Footworks Percussive Dance Ensemble, which The Washington Post called “the Bolshoi of Barn Dancing,” is coming to Chestertown July 19 for the final evening of the popular Washington College Riverfront Concert Series.

As was the case in the first two performances of the 2012 series, this one will include a special birthday tribute to American folk icon Woody Guthrie, who was born 100 years ago on July 14, 1912.

Based in Annapolis and inspired by the old-time buck dancers and flatfooters of North Carolina, Virginia and Tennessee, Footworks has been delighting audiences since 1979 with its explosive performances, “kicking out a dazzling array of hard shoe clogging routines from around the world,” according to The Scotsman, Scotland’s national newspaper.

Known for their innovative choreography and commitment to Southern Appalachian music and dance, they have explored the roots of the genre, collaborating with and enlisting the masters of traditional percussive dance from Irish and Scottish to African American traditions. They performed as guest artists in the London run of Riverdance and were one of eight groups chosen to represent American culture in Japan on a tour with the Smithsonian Institution. They have performed at the Kennedy Center, Lincoln Center and the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall.

The free public performance, hosted by the C.V. Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience, begins at 6:30 p.m. behind the Custom House, corner of High and Water streets in downtown Chestertown. Attendees are encouraged to bring their own blankets, lawn chairs and picnic dinners. Lemonade and cookies will be provided free of charge. In case of inclement weather, the event will take place in The Egg, a performance space in Hodson Hall Commons on the main Washington College campus.

Launched by the Starr Center in 2010, the Riverfront Concert Series builds on the Center’s longstanding interest in the musical traditions of the Chesapeake Bay and its rich heritage of storytelling. The series host is the Starr Center’s program manager, Michael Buckley, whose weekly radio program on Annapolis-based WRNR, 103.1 FM (Sundays, 7 to 10 a.m.) includes the acclaimed interview series “Voices of the Chesapeake Bay.” Special assistance for the Concert Series is provided by Yerkes Construction and Washington College’s Dance Program and Student Events Board (SEB), with additional support from the Maryland State Arts Council.

For more information about Footworks, visit their Web site at For information about the concert series and other Starr Center programs, visit or call 410-810-7161.
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Founded in 1782 under the patronage of George Washington, Washington College is a private, independent college of liberal arts and sciences located in colonial Chestertown on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. The college’s C.V. Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience is dedicated to fostering innovative approaches to the American past and present. Through educational programs, scholarship and public outreach, and a special focus on written history, the Starr Center seeks to bridge the divide between the academic world and the public at large.