Allegheny Welcomes New Faculty

From a former resident of nearby Townville to a fantasy football player to a dedicated amateur chef, Allegheny’s new faculty members bring many unique backgrounds and qualities to the teaching table in the fall of 2018. Let’s meet each of them briefly:

Catherine Allgeier
Visiting Assistant Professor of Economics

Catherine AllgeierAs a visiting assistant professor of economics, Catherine Allgeier comes to Allegheny with her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Clarion University of Pennsylvania.

After graduation, she taught at a business college and then worked in the corporate world as a chief financial officer and a human resources director. “I realized that I missed the interaction with students and started teaching part-time in addition to my CFO role. I now have been teaching full-time for eight years (most recently at her alma mater) and use my corporate background to provide real-world accounting examples and experiences to my students,” says Allgeier.

“I am interested in information systems and communication, as they relate to costs and effectiveness in health-care diagnoses, such as using Watson as a diagnostic tool and the implications in not only a more timely diagnosis but also more cost effective,” she says.

She also has a green thumb. “My ‘other’ career would be in landscape and interior design,” says Allgeier. “I quit counting at 40 houseplants.”


Timothy Bianco
Assistant Professor of Economics

Tim BiancoTimothy Bianco joins Allegheny as assistant professor of economics, having taught previously at Bowling Green State University, where he also earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees. He also obtained a master’s degree and his doctorate from the University of Kentucky. He also has worked as an analyst at the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland for five years.

“I enjoy teaching economics and researching cutting-edge financial and monetary economics, focusing on corporate credit,” says Bianco.

Bianco and his wife, Victoria, grew up in northeast Ohio “so moving to northwest Pennsylvania has been a smooth transition. I am a Cleveland sports fanatic and I enjoy traveling to Cleveland to catch a game from time to time.

“An unusual combination is that I have been known to apply cutting-edge econometric techniques to playing fantasy football,” he says.


Paula Burleigh
Visiting Assistant Professor of Art History

Paula BurleighPaula Burleigh joins the Allegheny community as visiting assistant professor of art history and director of the Penelec, Bowman, Meghan Art Gallery. She earned her Ph.D. in art history at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York.

She earlier earned a master’s degree at Case Western Reserve University and a bachelor’s degree at Emory University.

“I’ve taught undergraduate courses at City University of New York Baruch College, Bard High School Early College, and at Bard College, and I’ve taught adult education courses at the Museum of Modern Art (New York) and at the Whitney Museum of American Art, where I was a teaching fellow for several years before coming to Allegheny,” says Burleigh.

Burleigh specializes in art history and visual culture of Europe and the United States, from 1945 to the present. Her research interests include visionary architecture, feminism and gender as they relate to art, and utopian/dystopian themes in art and popular visual culture.

“I love to cook, and I didn’t let a decade of tiny New York City kitchen life stop me from elaborate culinary experiments — some failed, many succeeded, all were eaten at least an hour later than I intended,” she says.


Kimberly Caldwell
Visiting Assistant Professor of Psychology

Kimberly CaldwellKimberly Caldwell joins the college as a visiting assistant professor of psychology. She earned her Ph.D. in behavioral neuroscience at the University at Buffalo, “so my background is a blend of psychology and neuroscience.”

She has taught introductory psychology and biopsychology, “and I am excited to be teaching a new course this semester that I developed called ‘Ingestive Behavior,’ which will explore the neuroscience behind eating and drinking. My research interests are broadly focused on how the brain controls eating and drinking, thus the inspiration for my new class. I am particularly interested in a peptide system called ghrelin that is capable of influencing both behaviors.

“Along with behavioral neuroscience, I have always enjoyed the arts and took several art classes through high school and even a couple here at Allegheny as a member of the Gifted Program — I don’t know if they still call it that, it’s been a while since I was in high school — at Maplewood,” she says.

“This brings me to my fun fact, I grew up locally in nearby Townville and took classes at Allegheny in art and dance while in high school.”


Michael Michaelides
Assistant Professor of Economics

Michael MichaelidesMichael Michaelides joins the Economics Department as an assistant professor. He has a bachelor’s degree in accounting and finance from the University of Essex, a master’s degree in accounting and finance from the London School of Economics, a master’s degree in economics from Virginia Tech, and a doctorate in economics from Virginia Tech.

Prior to attending Allegheny, Michaelides spent one year as a visiting assistant professor at Sweet Briar College in Virginia. His research interests include: Financial econometrics, empirical asset pricing, time series econometrics, applied econometrics, behavioral finance, volatility modeling, and financial risk forecasting.

“My research has focused on exploring the behavioral biases of investing through the quantitative application of statistical and mathematical models. Yet, my research has been so strongly influenced by the philosophy of science literature,” says Michaelides.

When not in the classroom or on a research mission, Michaelides is a Liverpool Football Club supporter.


Matthew Mitchell
Visiting Assistant Professor of Philosophy and Religious Studies

Matthew MitchellRight out of college, Matthew Mitchell traveled to Japan and taught English as a foreign language for six years. He had earned a bachelor’s degree in religious studies, with a minor in chemistry, from Illinois Wesleyan University. As an undergraduate, he also found time to sing in the university choir and teach rock climbing.

Mitchell later completed an M.A. in Asian religions from the University of Hawaii at Manoa and a Ph.D. from Duke University’s Graduate Program in Religion. “I spent a lot more time in my office writing than on the beach,” he said of his two years in Hawaii.

Mitchell’s teaching experience includes posts at the University of Hawaii, Duke University, the University of Nebraska at Omaha and Creighton University. And he worked at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, helping to bring Chinese students and scholars to the institution for short-term and degree programs.

Mitchell’s research interests include Asian religions — especially Japanese Buddhism, social history, and women and gender in religion. This year in the Religious Studies Department, he will be teaching a number of courses across traditions from Asian religions to Islam. He is currently studying the social, financial and legal activities of a group of Buddhist nuns in Japan’s 17th–20th centuries. “One of the biggest surprises people have is the diversity of the nuns’ activities,” he says. “Most people tend to think of nuns as cloistered, not active, and certainly not involved in gambling or lawsuits.”

Along with Japan’s importance to Mitchell’s research, the nation holds other special meaning for him: it’s where he met his wife and it’s the birthplace of his oldest daughter.


Pamela Runestad
Assistant Professor of Global Health Studies

Pamela RunestadPamela Runestad likes to know how things work.

“I found I could fold all of my interests — infectious disease, nutrition, culture, Japan, writing and narrative, and film — together through becoming a medical anthropologist,” she says. “These combinations will be at the heart of my courses in global health studies here at Allegheny.”

Runestad holds a B.A. in biology and English — with a minor in psychology — from Augustana College (now University) in South Dakota and an M.A. in Japanese language and society from the University of Sheffield in the United Kingdom. She also earned an M.A. and Ph.D. in medical anthropology with a focus on Japan at the University of Hawaii at Manoa in Honolulu.

Her doctoral research focused on socio-cultural responses to HIV/AIDS in Japan and how those have an impact on health. Her current research project explores institutional food for pregnant and postpartum mothers in Japan.

Runestad’s life and work experiences outside of the continental U.S. give her unique perspective. “I grew up in Anchorage, Alaska, and I lived in Nagano, Japan, for 10 years,” she says. “So at this point, I’ve only lived about one-quarter of my life in the ‘lower 48’ — Alaska-speak — or the ‘mainland’ — Hawaii-speak. That time was spent in South Dakota, Nebraska and North Carolina.”


Yee Mon Thu
Assistant Professor of Biology

Yee Mon ThuYee Mon Thu describes herself as “a scientist who likes to learn how the natural world works — and an amateur artist who likes to use imagination.”

Before arriving at Allegheny, Thu taught biology at her undergraduate alma mater, Grinnell College. She earned a B.A. in biology with a concentration in global development studies there before completing a Ph.D. in cancer biology at Vanderbilt University.

“I am interested in how cells maintain genome stability in the face of intrinsic and extrinsic factors that can cause DNA damage,” Thu says of her research. “I am also fascinated by the involvement of these pathways in cancer.”

When away from the classroom and laboratory, Thu enjoys visiting national parks.


Birgit Weyhe
Max Kade Writer in Residence

Birgit WehyeAs a graphic novelist, Birgit Weyhe uses both her writing and drawing to explore historical and political incidents. She’s primarily interested in migration and the definition of home and identity. In addition to authoring several books, Weyhe has a monthly page in a Berlin newspaper where she draws the “lifeline” of a person who has changed places of residence often.

Weyhe was raised in Uganda and Kenya and came back to Germany at the age of 19. “I consider all three countries as my home,” she says. After returning to Germany, she earned a master’s degree in German literature and history from the University of Hamburg and a Diplom in illustration from the University of Applied Sciences, also in Hamburg.

Since 2012, Weyhe has taught at the Universities of Hamburg, Kiel and Düsseldorf in Germany and at the National Art School in Maputo, Mozambique. She also has led workshops at the German Cultural Center (Goethe Institut) in Argentina, Uruguay, Brazil, Finland, France and Canada.

Wehye said that she is a passionate reader. On a three-month trip to Patagonia last year, she and her husband read 15 novels to each other. “We praised the invention of eBooks,” she says. “Otherwise our backpacks would have been very heavy.”


Tarah Williams
Visiting Assistant Professor of Political Science

tarah williamsTarah Williams uses survey and experimental methods to understand how social identities —partisan identities, racial identities and many more — shape individual political behavior, for better or worse. Her current research explores whether and when individuals will confront prejudice and discrimination in their daily lives.

“As a shy person, I often struggled to speak up as a student,” she says. “My job now requires me to help students find ways to participate in class, and because I needed to work to find my voice, I have become committed to helping others find theirs. Similarly, my research is concerned with how we can encourage people to speak up to confront prejudice.”

Williams earned her B.A. and Ph.D. in political science from the University of Illinois. Before pursuing graduate school, she worked in state government as a researcher for the Illinois Legislature. She has taught courses in politics and policy at Washington University in St. Louis, Miami University in Ohio and the University of Illinois.

Along with her teaching and research, Williams enjoys walking, cooking, musical theatre and — since arriving at Allegheny — exploring Meadville.

Source: Academics, Publications & Research

Nationally Known Religious Leader to Visit Allegheny

The Rev. Dr. Nancy Wilson, retired global leader for the Metropolitan Community Churches and a renowned leader in the LGBT Christian community, will visit the Allegheny College campus in March for a 10-day residency.

Rev. Wilson, a 1972 graduate of Allegheny, will be the keynote speaker for a workshop titled “Ministry With Trans Persons” from 8:30 a.m. to noon on Saturday, March 10, in the Tippie Alumni Center. The workshop will focus on the subject of transgender persons becoming more visible in society and in churches and how to better provide ministry for – and with — them. The workshop is open to the public, but registration is required.

On Thursday, March 8, at 12:15 p.m., Rev. Wilson will speak on “Faith and Climate Change” in Carr Hall Room 238. On Sunday, March 11, Rev. Wilson will be the guest preacher at an 11 a.m. interdenominational service in Ford Memorial Chapel. Her sermon title is “When Thoughts and Prayers Are Not Enough: Let the Children Lead!” Both the talk and the service are free and open to the public.

The Rev. Wilson also will be co-teaching with the Rev. Dr. Jane Ellen Nickell a short course titled “Queer Folks and the Church” during her visit. “With Chaplain Jane Ellen Nickell, I will be presenting a perspective on the continuing challenge of actually welcoming queer people into our faith communities, and the rich diversity and history of the queer faith movement — not only here, but around the world,” Rev. Wilson said.

Rev. Wilson served as global leader in the Metropolitan Community Churches position from 2005 until her retirement in 2016. She was the second person, and the first woman, to serve in that role since MMC’s founding in 1968.

In 2011, President Barack Obama appointed Rev. Wilson to the President’s Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, and in 2012 she was the only openly gay clergy to participate in the Inaugural Prayer Service at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. In 2014, Rev. Wilson was named as one of the spokespeople for Blessed Tomorrow, a team of 21 top ecumenical and interfaith leaders in the United States to spearhead an effort to mobilize religious communities to address environmental concerns.

In May 2014, Rev. Wilson was one of four honorees to be recognized by Intersections International for her humanitarian work in the area of social justice. In honor of International Women’s Day in 2014, the Huffington Post selected Rev. Wilson as one of the 50 “powerful religious leaders … making change in the world.”

Rev. Wilson has published numerous articles and the books, including “Outing the Bible: Queer Folks, God, Jesus, and the Christian Scriptures;” “Outing the Church: 40 Years in the Queer Christian Movement;” “Our Tribe: Queer Folks, God, Jesus and the Bible;” and “I Love to Tell the Story, 100+ Stories of Justice, Inclusion and Hope.”

For more information or to register for the March 10 workshop, call (814) 332-2800 or email srl@allegheny.edu.

Source: Academics, Publications & Research

Krone Presents Papers at American Academy of Religion Meeting

Assistant Professor of Religious Studies and Director of Jewish Life Adrienne Krone recently presented two papers on her research at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Religion, which was held in Boston, Mass., November 17–21. She presented a paper about a beekeeping program at a Jewish organization in Canada called Shoresh entitled “Humans and the Humble Bees” and a paper about Jewish agricultural settlements in nineteenth-century North Dakota called “The Lure of a Land Based Utopia.”

Source: Academics, Publications & Research

Olson’s Latest Book Published

Professor Emeritus of Philosophy and Religious Studies Carl Olson’s latest two-volume book, “Sacred Texts Interpreted: Religious Documents Explained,” has been published by ABC-CLIO. The two volumes are collections of primary source texts from religions around the globe accompanied by Olson’s commentaries and introductions to the literature.

Source: Academics, Publications & Research

Allegheny Sophomore Attends Democracy Forum in Greece

It’s one thing to have classroom discussions about the challenges facing democracy.

It’s quite another to have those same discussions in the country where democracy was born.

Allegheny College sophomore Jesse Tomkiewicz was one of 23 students representing 11 different countries who participated in the Athens Democracy Forum in Athens, Greece, in September. The goal of the annual forum, hosted by The New York Times, is to bring students together from around the globe at the American College of Greece to discuss the challenges facing democracy that year. Students work together in teams to write a white paper on the chosen challenges, this year, climate change and inequality.

The different backgrounds, experiences, viewpoints and ideologies of the participants — and how those differences shaped the discussions — was eye-opening, said Tomkiewicz, a political science and philosophy double major from rural Freeport, Pennsylvania.

“It was an incredibly diverse group,” he said. “That was probably the most valuable part of the experience, talking to people from all over the world.”

Being with like-minded students interested in talking about and shaping the future of democracy — in Athens, of all places — was exhilarating, he said.

“This is about going to a place where I’m with a dream team,” of fellow participants, Tomkiewicz said. “These individuals are not just really bright; these are some of the best students I’ve been around. It was truly intellectually challenging.

“I benefitted more than anyone at the conference because I (had) never left the U.S. Here I focus on the judicial process and political theory. I had no experience in international politics. … I learned more in those nine days (in Athens) than I would have taking a semester’s worth of classes.”

The trip was one of many firsts, including Tomkiewicz’s first plane ride out of the country. He swam in the Aegean Sea, attended a speech by former Secretary General of the United Nations Kofi Annan, and stood at the top of the Acropolis.

“It was enchanting being on top of the Acropolis, knowing that people like Socrates had physically been there,” he said. “I’m from a country where our history is a few centuries. We’re talking about a place that goes thousands of years back. Being in a place with that kind of history, that was really something.”

Tomkiewicz is already heavily involved in campus and local politics — he’s the vice president of Allegheny’s College Democrats and a field director for the Crawford County Democratic Party — but left the conference wanting to do more to further democracy, particularly for voters in rural places like his hometown.

“There has to be grassroots, bottom-up efforts” to address the challenges facing rural voters, Tomkiewicz said.

Source: Academics, Publications & Research

Olson’s Essays Published

Professor Emeritus of Philosophy and Religious Studies Carl Olson’s invited essay titled “Ways of Healing and the Roles of Harmony, Purity, and Violent Rhetoric in Japanese Shinto and Shamanism,” has been published in Better Health through Spiritual Practices edited by Dean D. VonDras (Santa Barbara: Praeger, 2017, pp. 97-118). A second invited essay of Olson’s titled “The Problematic Nature of the Third Chapter of the Yoga Sutras and its Discussion of Powers” has been published by the Journal of Yoga and Physiotherapy 3/1, 2017, pp. 1-8. A third invited essay entitled “Demons, Devotees and Symbolism of Violence in Hindu Mythology” has been accepted for publication in Modern Hinduism in Text and Context edited by Lavanya Vemsani and published by Bloomsbury Publishing.

Source: Academics, Publications & Research

Olson Publishes Essay in ‘On Meaning and Mantras’

Professor of Philosophy and Religious Studies Carl Olson’s essay “The Shadow of Kali Over the Goddess Kamaksi and Her City” has been published in “On Meaning and Mantras: Essays in Honor of Frits Staal” edited by George Thompson and Richard Payne and published in Berkeley, Calif., by the Institute of Buddhist Studies and BDK America. This volume is a memorial book dedicated to the memory of Frits Staal, a longtime professor of Sanskrit at the University of California, Berkeley. The volume contains contributions from many famous Indologists from around the globe.

Source: Academics, Publications & Research

Olson essay published in journal, another forthcoming in book

Professor of Philosophy and Religious Studies Carl Olson‘s essay, “Place, Play, Escape, and Identity: A Reconsideration of the Thought of Yi-fu Tuan in Light of the Work of Ramanuja and Zhuangzi” has been published in the International Communication of Chinese Culture.

His essay “Violence, the Demonic, and Indian Asceticism” also has been accepted for publication in a forthcoming book, “Modern Hinduism in History and Practice,” edited by Lavanya Vemsani and to be published by Bloomsbury Publishing.

Source: Academics, Publications & Research

Allegheny Chaplain Shares Her Methodist Roots

Jane Ellen Nickell

A desk seldom separates the Rev. Jane Ellen Nickell from visitors in her office.

Rather than sequester herself behind furniture, the Allegheny College chaplain much prefers to sit adjacent to her guests, the room encased with bookshelves and filled with gentle, dim light.

Nickell’s office is as warm and inviting as her presence is on Allegheny’s campus. The ordained United Methodist minister oversees the Office of Spiritual and Religious Life, leads Sunday worship services, advises student groups and teaches religious studies courses.

Nickell accepted her position at Allegheny 11 years ago. Her history is widespread geographically – she grew up in West Virginia, moved from Pennsylvania to Illinois and to Tennessee, back to West Virginia, then to New Jersey before settling in Meadville. She has also traveled so far as to Israel, Mexico and Romania.

Graduating first as an English major from West Virginia Wesleyan College, she began a career at the University of Illinois’ Krannert Center for the Performing Arts. She took courses in the university’s musicology program while working but still retained her Methodist roots. Eventually she decided to transition into the ministry, but didn’t see it as a drastic change. She said both vocations were about “bringing people into experiences that touch their spirits and their souls.”

After completing seminary at Vanderbilt Divinity School in 2000 and working at a church for three years, she attended Drew University in 2003 to complete her doctorate in religion. She came in 2006 to Allegheny, which she appreciated for its fostering of interfaith work, and open discussions on challenging topics between people of all faith backgrounds.

During her years at Allegheny, Nickell has embraced the increase in diversity on campus—in race and ethnicity, gender identities, and religious preference. She says that it’s important to have a worship area, like the College’s Ford Memorial Chapel, that is welcoming to all members of the community.

The chapel has become one of her favorite places on campus. “Obviously that’s where I do a lot of my work,” she says, “I find it a really warm and inviting space. But I was also involved in the renovation of the building seven years ago, and doing that was able to learn a lot about the history.” She is equally fond of the Prayer and Meditation Retreat, the red house next to Arter Hall, where Hindu, Muslim and Buddhist students have created a welcoming space.

Nickell’s scholarly work also has focused on the significance of diversity. She has been published in various books and journals, such as “Worship Arts,” “Ecospirit” and “The Prophetic Voice and Making Peace.” Many of her writings focus on gender and sexuality as they pertain to religion. Her dissertation – “We Shall Not Be Moved: Methodists Debate Race, Gender, and Homosexuality” – is her attempt to “understand why people in the same church or same family read the Bible very differently.”

Nickell’s book by that title is now on this year’s United Methodist Women’s reading list, and she has also given various talks on the subject.

Nickell says she sees herself not as a frontrunner for pushing her beliefs, but as a mediator to find out “what’s at stake for people on both ends of the spectrum” in hopes of closing the gap. “What I can contribute to this is scholarship,” she adds.


The following are excerpts from a recent interview with Nickell:

What is something most people don’t know about Allegheny?

“One of the things is that we’re United Methodist affiliated. I hear people say ‘well loosely’ or ‘we used to be,’ but we are. We’re on the list of 120-or-so affiliated schools. And I don’t think that needs to be a scary thing. There’s a lot of common ground. I look at things like their Imagine No Malaria campaign, and work with the World Health Organization. And we have a global health department. We’re concerned about the same things. We’re concerned with social justice. And also, we bring faith into conversation with academics and intellectual life. John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, was an Oxford tutor. His faith was always very intellectual. Methodism brings reason and faith together; we are pressed to question things, rather than just taking things at face value. It’s an inquisitive faith.”

Who is your favorite musician?

“James Taylor. I should be saying something classical, having worked in the performing arts, but I love J.T.”

What instruments do you play?

“I play piano, I studied piano all through graduate school, and have done a lot of choirs, and choral singing. I was in the band too, but it’s been a long time.”

What do you do in your spare time?

“I spend time working in my yard, cooking, watching the Food Network; either learning about or doing food. I spend time with my cats – I have two cats who love to play, and snuggle lots. Just doing things with friends and with my family; I’m closer to my family, I’ve lived farther away so it’s nice to be close.

Where is your favorite place you’ve traveled to?

“The place that I really want to go back to is Israel. Eric (Pallant, professor of environmental science) led a faculty/staff trip about four years ago, and part of it was the group I went with, but it was also just such a fascinating place, layers and layers of religious history and tension, but just really wonderful. We spent several days in Jerusalem itself. We were in Capernaum, and it was ‘here’s Peter’s house, and here’s the synagogue where Jesus preached, and here’s the Sea of Galilee,’ and I just went, ‘oh my gosh – Jesus was here!’ And it kind of overwhelmed me.

“We also visited the Arava Institute, and that’s where we send a lot of students working on environmental issues. Arava intentionally brings Israeli, and Arab, Palestinians together to work on issues of water and energy. All the things that are pressing all of us but especially in a country with limited resources. We hear students from the institute say ‘in 20 years the wars are not going to be over religious issues; they’re going to be over water.’”

What is your most important advice for today’s college students?

“Take time. Take pauses. Students should find whatever helps them slow down, and reflect, and pause, and give themselves time to absorb. Technology has allowed us to process so much information, but I don’t think our brains, and definitely not our spirits, have caught up. Give yourself that time to just take it all in.”

Source: Academics, Publications & Research

Routledge Press publishes Palmer essay

Professor of Philosophy Eric Palmer’s essay “Less Radical Enlightenment: A Christian Wing of the French Enlightenment” was published this past January by Routledge Press in Reassessing the Radical Enlightenment (Steffen Ducheyne, editor). The volume concerns the influence of the radical ideas of Benedict Spinoza upon European thought and the work of historian Jonathan Israel concerning such “radical enlightenment.” Palmer’s contribution traces a group of scientific writers and intellectual journalists of the early Eighteenth century whose contribution to the conversation is now obscure because it was effaced later in the century by the victors of Enlightenment culture – Voltaire, Diderot and Hume in particular.
Information at https://www.routledge.com/Reassessing-the-Radical-Enlightenment/Ducheyne/p/book/9781138280045

Source: Academics, Publications & Research