Research News in the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences


Spanish Civil War photography in focus for this year's Woodyard Lecture

Monday, April 01, 2019

LAWRENCE — The 2019 George and Eleanor Woodyard Lecture is taking a look at Spanish Civil War photography.

Sebastiaan Faber, professor and chair of the Department of Hispanic Studies at Oberlin College, will speak from 4:30-6:30 p.m. Thursday, April 4, at the Malott Room in the Kansas Union. Faber will present “The Humanist as Image Detective: Spanish Civil War Photography from Metonymy to Metaphor & Back Again.”

The event, which includes appetizers and refreshments, is open to the public. 

The KU Department of Spanish and Portuguese is sponsoring the event, which is made possible by funds endowed by the late George Woodyard, the first dean of international studies, and his wife, Eleanor.

Visit or contact for more information.


Scholars revive Langston Hughes Review

Monday, April 01, 2019

LAWRENCE – Writer and social activist Langston Hughes lived from 1901 to 1967. The Langston Hughes Society published the semiannual scholarly journal The Langston Hughes Review from 1982 to 2011. So why is it being revived now, under the editorship of Tony Bolden, University of Kansas associate professor of African & African-American studies?

“What we want to try to do is project Langston Hughes – his vision – into the 21st century, to engage his views in the here and now, and see how and where those perspectives intersect,” Bolden said.

The first new edition of the revived Langston Hughes Review will be published this month by Penn State University Press, and Bolden said he already has a couple of years’ worth of topics planned for the journal to explore.

Bolden said he is pleased that the inaugural issue of the new phase of LHR will have a “prestigious lineup” of contributing scholars. Wallace Best, professor of religion and African American studies at Princeton University, is the edition’s guest editor, and the issue grew out of a conference Best organized in 2017 titled “Remembering Langston Hughes: His Art, Life and Legacy 50 Years Later.” Best is the author of the 2017 book “Langston’s Salvation: American Religion and the Bard of Harlem” (New York University Press). Hughes biographer Arnold Rampersad (“The Life of Langston Hughes,” 1986, 1988, Oxford University Press) has also contributed an article.

“The essays address a range of different issues related to Hughes,” Bolden said. “They're looking at Hughes in retrospect, from the vantage point of the 21st century. …  and what you find is that there are a lot of issues have yet to be settled. For instance, his sexuality. The guest editor states flat out that this is simply unsettled, that there's no definitive positionality, as we understand it today, that seems to fit him, other than he was sexually free. Another author, Carma Williams, discusses his autobiography, ‘I Wonder as I Wander,’ and she talks about his many liaisons with women. So the writers engage a number of different things about him.”

The next issue Bolden is working on will focus on Hughes’ relationship with fellow 20th-century writer and race man Amiri Baraka.

“Hughes was the elder statesman, and Baraka was the young upstart, if you will,” Bolden said. “Publicly, Hughes praised Baraka. But privately, in some of his letters, he was critical of some of the contradictions that Baraka had, particularly during his cultural nationalist phase. But there was a mutual respect. Hughes saw Baraka’s talent. That was clear to everyone. And I think as the years passed, Baraka saw the value of Hughes.”

Other forthcoming editions of the journal that Bolden will edit will focus on the late black feminist writer Ntozake Shange, a collection of Chinese scholars’ perspectives on Hughes, and an issue commemorating the theme of black love in Zora Neale Hurston’s novel “Their Eyes Were Watching God.” Bolden said his job as journal editor is to project a vision for LHR, create new discursive forums related to Hughes and his contemporaries, and cultivate “good material” from contributors.

“You have to figure out a niche forum that attracts people that have something to say,” Bolden said. “It’s been fun, but it’s a challenge.”

Bolden said the review’s former editor retired a few years ago, and the society had been casting about for a new home and editor ever since 2011. He said the fact that Hughes grew up in Lawrence, that KU has respected scholars in English, American studies and African and African-American studies departments, including several who have been working on a documentary film about Hughes, made the university “a logical place.”

The new edition of the journal will extend the numbering system of the old one. The forthcoming edition will thus be Volume 25, Number 1. It will be published both in physical form and online, Bolden said.

Beyond Discourse symposium examining human trafficking research

Tuesday, April 02, 2019

LAWRENCE — An interdisciplinary symposium examining human trafficking research is coming to the University of Kansas Lawrence campus April 4 and 5. Beyond Discourse: Critical and Empirical Approaches to Human Trafficking is sponsored by the Institute for Policy & Social Research. 

Kamala Kempadoo of York University in Toronto will open the symposium with a keynote address at 4 p.m. Thursday, April 4, at the Spencer Museum with a reception to follow. April 5 will feature panels by regional and national scholars, including Amy Farrell of Northeastern University as well as a closing keynote at the Hall Center for the Humanities by Sally Engle Merry of New York University.

While often constructed as a universally abhorred form of violence, the concept of human trafficking continues to raise contentious debates in activism, policy and scholarship. Mired in divisions around the role of the state, gender and sexuality, labor exploitation and migration, factions disagree over definitions of trafficking. Some urge abandoning the term altogether.

"Most people have heard of human trafficking, and, even across the political aisle, agree that it’s something we should fight," said Stacey Vanderhurst, assistant professor in the Department of Women, Gender & Sexuality Studies. "However, what we really mean by this term varies from group to group, with real consequences for how we should act to stop it. This conference will bring together dozens of experts from around the world to figure out how human trafficking is defined, policed and prevented so that our research can support policies that better protect the rights of migrants, sex workers and other people affected by these issues."

This two-day conference will apply the contributions of critical antitrafficking scholarship to the demand for empirical research on human trafficking in local communities and around the world. It uses the insights of discursive critiques to conduct better research on the prevalence, nature and prevention of social problems that have become known as human trafficking. Scholars seek interdisciplinary and intersectional conversations to better understand the continuities and ruptures across investigations of human trafficking, building toward more just and effective frameworks for research on exploitation and violence.

"The Anti-Slavery and Human Trafficking Initiative is the hub for research on human trafficking at KU, and we are focused on developing strategies for preventing vulnerability and exploitation," said Hannah Britton, associate professor in the departments of Political Science and Women, Gender & Sexuality Studies. "Our hope is that this conference brings researchers into conversation about developing better research techniques to understand the forces driving vulnerability."

For more information, email Christie Holland at

Book traces 'abortion regret' narrative from origins to center of anti-abortion movement

Tuesday, April 02, 2019

LAWRENCE — One of the primary arguments of the U.S. anti-abortion movement is that women who have abortions will experience a profound sense of regret, mental anguish, anxiety and all manner of problems stemming from the decision.

However, that narrative is not new, and a book co-written by a University of Kansas professor traces its origins from the 19th century to the leading strategy of abortion opposition today and how it has made its way into policy, law and advocacy.

“Abortion Regret: The New Attack on Reproductive Freedom” examines the idea historically, socially and politically. Alesha Doan is an associate professor of women, gender & sexuality studies and a faculty member in the School of Public Affairs & Administration at the University of Kansas. Doan co-wrote the book with J. Shoshanna Ehrlich of the University of Massachusetts-Boston.

“We examine the abortion regret narrative, tracing its origins and the mainstream opposition’s adoption of it,” Doan said. “One consequence of the regret narrative is that it paints women as ill-informed about their reproductive health and encourages the state to step in to protect women through anti-abortion legislation, which ultimately restricts women’s access to abortion.”

The authors argue the regret narrative is a longtime paternalistic, protectionist strategy. It came to prominence in the mid-19th century by elite doctors in the U.S. as part of the first push to outlaw abortion. While the practice was legal at the time, it was not necessarily safe or well-regulated. That strategy was successful but eventually faded as the main tactic of abortion opponents once the practice was outlawed.

Roe v. Wade legalized abortion in 1973, and by the early 1990s, the anti-abortion movement was gaining a reputation as radicals who bombed clinics, assassinated doctors and did not care about the well-being of women. The book traces how leaders in the movement realized they needed a softer image, one that could appeal to more centrist citizens.

They made the decision to place the grieving mother at the center of their message to show the anti-abortion movement’s commitment to the well-being of women and the fetus. Leaders framed new anti-abortion laws as a way to save women as well as the fetus from grievous harm.

“Abortion Regret” traces how the newfound mainstream narrative has also found its way into policy, analyzing  laws in states that regulate providers through tactics such as dictating details about clinic signage, what information must be provided to women seeking abortions, limiting clinics with restrictions on hallway sizes, admitting privileges to hospitals and requiring “informed consent” before the procedure can take place.

While those tactics may be new, they come straight from the abortion regret history book that assumes women cannot or are unable to make decisions about their own bodies and health care, the authors write. Ehrlich explains that “by linking the current effort to limit abortion rights based upon the regret narrative to the physicians’ anti-abortion campaign, the book makes clear that abortion restrictions have always been about managing women’s bodies and not simply about protecting potential life.”

“Abortion regret is based on a very strict understanding of women, which views them as divinely created for motherhood,” Doan said. “From this perspective, opponents view abortion as being at odds with a woman’s true calling to motherhood, so the only reason she would have one is that she’s ignorant about abortion or was pressured into having one.”

In addition to tracing history and evolution of the narrative, the book analyzes several court cases that have influenced abortion rights or opened the door for restrictive laws at the state level. Interviews with crisis pregnancy center staff and content analysis of state anti-abortion policies detail the growing influence of the regret narrative and its use of the “grieving mother" figure at the center of its approach.

While some women who have abortions experience regret, Doan said, the danger lies in assuming their individual experiential knowledge applies to everyone and makes a sound basis for policy.

Economists from US, abroad convening on Lawrence campus

Wednesday, April 03, 2019

LAWRENCE — The Chinese Economist Society (CES) North America Conference, together with the 2019 Kansas Econometrics Workshop, will be April 6-7 at the University of Kansas.

The Department of Economics is host of the gathering, which is organized by Professor of Economics Zongwu Cai, the CES president.

The conference is expected to attract specialists in econometrics, macroeconomics and financial economics. More than 150 students and faculty have registered to participate and present, with distinguished speakers including KU's William Barnett, Xiaohong Chen of Yale University, Jerry Hausman of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cheng Hsiao of the University of Southern California and Guofu Zhou of Washington University in St. Louis.

The conference will include a special event honoring the late Shu Wu from 8:15-9 a.m. Saturday, April 6, in 3139 Wescoe Hall. Wu, a KU professor of economics and associate chair of the department, died in May 2018. Wu was also a member of the CES board of directors.

More information about the conference, including a schedule of events, is available online.


Gift from KU alumnus establishes military history professorship

Wednesday, April 03, 2019

LAWRENCE — A University of Kansas alumnus with an interest in history and experience in the Army Reserve has established a professorship in military history at KU.

David Pittaway, of Naples, Florida, created the professorship through a $500,000 gift.

“Military history, including the study of battles and war that have greatly influenced civilization, tends to be less emphasized by history departments,” Pittaway said. “By establishing this professorship, KU can continue to be an educational leader in this area for generations to come.”

Pittaway, a Kansas City, Kansas, native, received a bachelor’s degree in history from KU in 1972. He also earned both a law degree and an MBA from Harvard University. He served for 20 years in the U.S. Army Reserve and retired as a major. His fascination with history combined with his Reserve experience naturally led to the motivation to create a professorship in military history.

The professorship gives an educator the opportunity to teach and research military history in any period and any region in the world with a focus on operational aspects of the military and strategic decision-making that affect military operations.

Adrian Lewis, professor of history at KU and a retired soldier in the U.S. Army, is the first recipient of the professorship, which he says is significant because it ensures that KU will maintain a strong military history program.

“KU’s program plays an important role in educating future and current military leaders,” Lewis said. “KU graduate and doctoral alumni teach at military academies and graduate-level military colleges across the country, including here in Kansas at the Army Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth.”

Clarence Lang, interim dean of the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences at KU, expressed gratitude to Pittaway for his gift and the opportunities it provides to students.

“I am grateful for David Pittaway’s generosity to KU and programs in the liberal arts and sciences,” Lang said. “KU has a rich legacy of military history research, and this gift is critical in enhancing and solidifying that reputation.”

Pittaway is vice chairman, senior managing director and chief compliance officer of the private equity investment firm Castle Harlan in New York, N.Y. He has been with the firm since its founding in 1987 and now works out of New York while living in Florida with his wife, Jeannine DuFresne Pittaway.

He is responsible for the firm’s current ownership investments in Gold Star Foods, a Los Angeles-based food distributor to K-12 schools; Caribbean Restaurants Inc., the Puerto Rico Burger King franchise operator; and Shelf Drilling Inc., a Dubai-based oil and gas drilling rig operator. He also is a director of The Cheesecake Factory, and he owns the Five Guys Burgers and Fries franchise in Michigan, with 30 stores.

In 2012, Pittaway made a gift that established the David B. Pittaway Director of Debate professorship, currently held by Scott Harris. Under Harris, KU Debate won the 2018 National Debate Tournament Championship.

KU Endowment is the independent, nonprofit organization serving as the official fundraising and fund-management organization for KU. Founded in 1891, KU Endowment was the first foundation of its kind at a U.S. public university.

Study compares community, campus sexual assault response teams

Thursday, April 04, 2019


LAWRENCE — As sexual assault gains more recognition as a public health crisis, communities and campuses are increasing their focus on response to victims and prevention. Campus response teams have unique challenges and can learn from community response teams in responding to the problem, and a group of University of Kansas researchers has written a study comparing the missions of the two response teams, how they respond and what they can learn from each other.

Communities have a long-standing history of having dedicated response teams that respond to sexual assault. College campuses have a unique set of challenges, with certain procedures mandated by Title IX and a relatively newer focus on the problem. To compare the two response teams, authors reviewed eight studies of the respective organizations. In time for Sexual Assault Awareness Month in April, the report compares the two response teams in four domains: Defined purpose, activities to achieve the purpose, membership and challenges to functioning.

Published in the journal Trauma, Violence & Abuse, the study was authored by Juliana Carlson, assistant professor of social welfare; Marcy Quiason, graduate research assistant; Alesha Doan, associate professor of women, gender & sexuality studies and faculty member in KU’s School of Public Affairs & Administration; and Natabhona Mabachi, associate professor at KU Medical Center.

Among the biggest differences, campus response teams tended to have larger, broader membership, more organizational barriers and a tendency to not evaluate efforts’ effectiveness. Community response teams are referred to as Sexual Assault Response Teams, or SARTs, and campus response teams as Campus Team Approaches, or CTAs.

“One of the things we’re very clear about is, instead of just trying something without evaluating it, there needs to be a measurement of its effectiveness,” Carlson said. “We didn’t see any of that in the literature.”

The study grew out of a grant project the researchers are conducting called the Heartland Sexual Assault Policies and Prevention on Campuses Project. Funded by a grant from the Department of Health & Human Services’ Office of Women’s Health, the project is working to improve sexual assault awareness and response on eight campuses in Kansas, Nebraska and Missouri.

“Our whole goal and purpose in this grant is to increase our campuses’ capacity in prevention and to increase policies around sexual assault response,” Carlson said. “We want to know what we can learn from community SARTs and how we can apply that knowledge to campuses specifically.”

The analysis showed community SARTs tended to have a more clearly defined purpose as “coordinating direct services for survivors.” Campus response teams often cited varied scopes of violence, such as sexual assault, domestic violence or gender-based violence. SARTs had a narrower scope of activities focused on improving coordination and delivery of services to survivors, while CTAs had a much broader range of strategies that included goals such as assessing campus needs, prevention and awareness programming, and developing collaboration and communication. In terms of membership, SARTs tended to be smaller with core organizations represented such as law enforcement, health care professionals and the justice system. CTAs had a larger, broader membership from a number of campus units and community representatives. As for challenges, both cited role confusion and conflict, but SARTs also said maintaining confidentiality was a unique challenge and organizational barriers were a bigger problem for CTAs.

Given those revelations, the researchers recommend several steps campus response teams and policymakers can take to improve services to sexual assault survivors. Among them, campus response teams could be well-served to focus more on responding to and serving survivors, instead of splitting focus between response and prevention.

“We think that’s probably not entirely helpful,” Carlson said of the wide focus. “Your campus team approach doesn’t need to do everything. If you’re focusing on multiple aspects, you might not be as effective at any one of them as you could be. We’re not saying that domestic violence isn’t important or that you shouldn’t think about prevention, just that a sexual assault response team needs a clear, discrete focus.”

Campus response teams could also learn from SARTs’ history of effective collaboration among agencies and communication in developing strategies to address the organizational barriers they face, the researchers write. Campuses, home to researchers, could also rigorously evaluate the effectiveness of sexual assault only and more broadly focused CTAs to add data to their evaluations. Policymakers could support that research by making more federal research funding available to study sexual assault and could also assist by making such response teams mandatory on university campuses, instead of something they opt into.

As part of Sexual Assault Awareness Month activities coordinated by the Sexual Assault Prevention & Education Center, KU is presenting a screening of the film “Roll Red Roll” and Q&A with director Nancy Schwartzman at 6 p.m. Wednesday, April 10, in Woodruff Auditorium. The film focuses on the rape of a young woman at a high school football party in Steubenville, Ohio, and the aftermath that exposed a culture of complicity and how peer pressure, denial, machismo and social media played into the tragedy. Carlson will also present a research impact talk April 18 in the Kansas Union Big 12 room on stopping violence before it starts, including how to translate sexual assault research into practice for communities and organizations.

The film screening and talk all can help shed light on the crisis of campus sexual assault, how rape culture allows it to happen and how the problem can be addressed.

“Survivors are not always believed, or sometimes they are viewed as creating a problem for the institution,” Carlson said. “We believe it is in campuses’ best interests to have good collaboration, communication and robust sexual assault response teams. It’s good for both students and campuses. We need to understand this is a campus community issue, not just a personal issue, and we need to think about what’s going on in our society that allows sexual violence to happen and be thought of as normal. It’s not enough to understand violence happens to our students. If we know it’s happening, how are institutions responding?”

The "Roll Red Roll" screening is sponsored by KU’s Department of Women, Gender & Sexuality Studies; School of Social Welfare; School of Journalism & Mass Communications; School of Public Affairs & Administration; College of Liberal Arts & Sciences and Department of American Studies.

Video: A trailer for the documentary "Roll Red Roll," a film about a notorious rape case in Steubenville, Ohio. The film will be screened with a Q&A with the director following April 10 at KU as part of Sexual Assault Awareness Month events. Credit: 

Visiting scholar will explore the intersection of science and economics

Tuesday, April 09, 2019

LAWRENCE — A Phi Beta Kappa Visiting Scholar will examine economics' influence on science during a lecture at the University of Kansas.

Paula Stephan will present "How Economics Shapes Science" at 5:30 p.m. April 15 at 1111 Capitol Federal Hall. The lecture is free and open to the public.

Stephan is a professor of economics at Georgia State University and a research associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research. Her work focuses on the economics of science and the careers of scientists and engineers.

Author of "How Economics Shapes Science" and co-author of "Striking the Mother Lode in Science," she serves on the National Academies Committee on the Next Generation of Researchers. Stephan is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and member of the Board of Reviewing Editors, Science. She was named ScienceCareers’ first Person of the Year in 2012.

The Phi Beta Kappa Visiting Scholar Lecture at KU is sponsored by the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences, the Department of Economics, the Institute for Policy & Social Research, the Center for Science, Technology & Economic Policy and the Office of First-Year Experience.

This academic year, the 15 men and women participating in the Phi Beta Kappa Society’s Visiting Scholar Program will visit more than 90 colleges and universities like KU with chapters of Phi Beta Kappa. The program strives to contribute to the intellectual life of institutions by making possible an exchange of ideas between the visiting scholars and the resident faculty and students. 

Presentation will explore Kansas murals

Monday, March 25, 2019

LAWRENCE – Explore the artists, meanings and stories behind the state’s rich collection of public murals with Kansas artist Dave Loewenstein at a talk next month at Lawrence Public Library.

The University of Kansas Humanities Program, KU Department of Visual Art and the public library will host “If These Walls Could Talk: Kansas Murals” at 7 p.m. April 2. The event is free and open to the public.

Loewenstein will explore the history of murals and examine the efforts that go into capturing a community’s story in public art. From the iconic John Steuart Curry murals in the Kansas Statehouse to the post office murals of the New Deal, these works tell us much about the people involved. 

“Kansas has more than 1,000 murals,” Loewenstein said. “They are our great outdoor museum and tell us much about our history, hopes and dreams.”

Loewenstein is a muralist, printmaker, arts organizer and co-author of "Kansas Murals: A Traveler’s Guide." In addition to his more than 20 public works of art in Kansas, Loewenstein has created work elsewhere in the U.S., Northern Ireland, South Korea and Brazil.

“If These Walls Could Talk: Kansas Murals” is part of Humanities Kansas's Movement of Ideas Speakers Bureau, featuring presentations and workshops designed to share stories that inspire, spark conversations that inform and generate insights that strengthen civic engagement.

For more information, contact the KU Humanities Program at 785-864-3011 or visit

Study explores why 'progressive teetotalers' may emerge from college engineering programs

Monday, March 25, 2019

LAWRENCE —  First-year engineering students who gravitate toward progressive ideas, including about gender equity in the workplace, tend to drink less alcohol, according to a study by a University of Kansas researcher. The findings could inform efforts to recruit underrepresented students to engineering as well as work to reduce problem drinking at colleges.

"The way they think about themselves shows to be a protective factor against drinking and buffers them against problems of alcohol that they can be drawn into," said Margaret Kelley, associate professor in KU's Department of American Studies. "Another way to think about it is this behavior becomes in conjunction with the more progressive attitudes they display about women in the profession."

Kelley's study, "Using Prosocial Schemes and Beliefs about Gender Roles to Predict Alcohol Use for Engineering Majors," was recently published in The Sociological Quarterly. She collected two waves of survey data from first-year engineering students at a large Midwestern university in 2014 to examine the relationship among their prosocial schemas, beliefs about gender roles and alcohol use.

Sociologists consider prosocial behavior to include defending one's beliefs or valuing being truthful, reliable and sincere — all characteristics that tend to help students manage the complexities of college and navigate the competitive environment of engineering.

Researchers have examined gender in understanding patterns in educational choices. Specifically, engineering school administrators in recent years recognized the recruitment and retention of women into engineering programs is not on par with efforts to recruit and retain male students, Kelley said.

Other factors that contribute to the gender gap in engineering include the environment for women in college programs to be "chilly" due to a lack of role models and poor attitudes toward women in science among others, such as a biased curriculum and pedagogy and male epistemologies, she said.

"The progressive idea about equality in the workplace is important in this environment because the students are in a place which is traditionally very unequal," Kelley said.

In conducting the research, she wanted to examine the social climate of engineering and its implications for efforts at gender and social equity. She studied the students' perceptions of themselves, perceptions of typical engineers, and views on women on the workplace, leading her to find a connection among these perceptions and their coping behaviors that included drinking alcohol.

She said the idea that more progressive and prosocial attitudes led to less drinking was not entirely surprising.

"The ideas have historically been opposed to drinking and those problems," Kelley said. “In some ways it makes sense. The ideas work together. If you believe in improving situations, then you are moving away from a problem, and you are willing to challenge whether or not something is normal."

The findings could have implications for engineering schools recruiting to close gaps among gender and race or ethnicity.

"Some of those programs could incorporate some of those buffering ideas about identity and about prosocial characteristics as something to achieve and strive for in that outreach," Kelley said.

The research could also be pertinent for university leaders and parents seeking to reduce levels of problem drinking, she said.

"For people who aren't really involved in drugs and alcohol research or education, just the very low level of drinking by engineering students can be surprising," Kelley said.

She said further research should likely examine prescription drug abuse among these students but that the alcohol finding itself is important given the deeply ingrained drinking cultures on most large college campuses.

"Given the traditional party life on campus," Kelley said, "the fact that these students were somewhat removed from that can also be surprising and is positive news."



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