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Spotlight on Faculty

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Zack Furness

Credit: Penn State
Dr. Zack Furness, Associate Professor of Communications, will present “Warring Representations of the NFL, Football Masculinity & Broken Bodies” at Penn State University Park on Friday, April 21, 3:30 to 4:30 in 276K Rec Hall. 

Furness says that “one hardly has to be a sports fan to know that the NFL recently settled a landmark class action lawsuit filed against it on behalf of thousands of pro football veterans suffering from football-related head injuries and brain disease. What is arguably more historic than the lawsuit itself is the way in which the so-called ‘concussion crisis’ has transformed public consciousness about the safety of football and also threatened to permanently tarnish the image of the NFL as America’s Game. This is a significant turn of events for an organization that spent decades strategically and successfully crafting its own televisual image while simultaneously cultivating a durable mythology of pro football within the broader popular culture. While such images and discourses helped to propel the NFL to incomparable popularity in the U.S., they are now being actively challenged by representations of pro football that call into question not only the NFL’s practices, but the broader media façade that masks the political, economic, and corporeal realities of the game.”

His talk examines this process in detail by exploring how recent documentaries and fictional films – most notably “League of Denial” and “Concussion” – are contesting the dominant cultural meanings of pro football, as well as the NFL’s latest attempts to manage both its brand and the fallout from the concussion crisis.

Furness is author of the book, "One Less Car: Bicycling and the Politics of Automobility" (Temple University Press, 2010). He also is editor of Punkademics (Minor Compositions / Autonomedia, 2012), co-editor of "The NFL: Critical/Cultural Perspectives" (Temple University Press, 2013), and contributor to several edited collections, journals, and nonacademic publications including Bitch, Souciant, and Punk Planet. Furness was a longtime editor and contributor to Bad Subjects, one of the pioneering publications on the Internet, and has played in punk bands since 1997.  He currently sings in BARONS, a punk band based in Pittsburgh, Pa.  


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Jim Jaap

Credit: Penn State

Penn State Greater Allegheny Senior Instructor in English James Jaap is co-directing Beyond Nebraska: Willa Cather’s Pittsburgh, the 16th International Willa Cather Seminar, to be held at Duquesne University on June 11-17, 2017.  Four students from Jaap’s English 487: Senior Seminar will be presenting at the seminar.  

Willa Cather, one of the country’s greatest novelists, spent ten years in Pittsburgh between 1896 and 1906, working as an editor, teacher, reviewer and freelance writer.  She published hundreds of profiles and reviews, short stories, poetry, and a collection of stories.  Pittsburgh was very important in her life, but much remains undiscovered, and the seminar will explore the influences of Pittsburgh on Cather’s life and work.  The conference is currently seeking proposals on various topics related to Cather and Pittsburgh. 

Pittsburgh educator and entertainer Rick Sebak is the keynote speaker.  Sebak has written, produced, and narrated more than 40 documentaries about the people and places of Pittsburgh.  Also featured will be tenor Jonathan Blalock, writer and editor Steve Smith, and award-winning composer Gregory Spears.  Panel discussions, paper sessions, round table discussions, and tours will be offered as well. 

Jaap, who has studied Cather extensively and written several papers on her, said, “While only six of her stories are set in the city, including the famous story ‘Paul’s Case’, Pittsburgh was a big influence on Cather’s career. In many ways, her Pittsburgh years served as her apprenticeship and prepared her for her career as a writer of fiction.”

Penn State Greater Allegheny is a sponsor of the event, along with The Willa Cather Foundation, Duquesne University, The University of Nebraska - Lincoln, California University of Pennsylvania, and Saint Francis University. 

Jaap earned his bachelor of arts degree from the University of Dayton, a master’s degree from Duquesne University, and a Ph.D., also from Duquesne University.  His teaching interests include the American novel, humor and satire, banned books, Willa Cather, and Pennsylvania literature.  In addition to his research on Cather, Jaap also researches Pittsburgh literature and history, American comedy and the American novel.  He has been published in a number of newsletters and reviews, including: “Willa Cather and Augustus Saint-Gaudens: Idealism and the Artist.” Willa Cather Newsletter and Review 58.3 (Spring 2016): 7-12; “Note on Exact Date of Willa Cather’s Arrival in Pittsburgh.” With Timothy Bintrim. Willa Cather Newsletter and Review 58.3 (Spring 2016): 31; and “Willa Cather, E.L. Blumenschein, and the Painting of To-morrow.” Cather Studies, Volume 11, Fall 2016.


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Doug Charles, associate professor of history

Credit: Penn State

Doug Charles, associate professor of History, recently discussed his research in a talk given at Penn State Behrend.   

He also contributed to a documentary released by Yahoo News.  Investigative correspondent Michael Isikoff produced the documentary, "Uniquely Nasty: The U.S. Government's War on Gays," in anticipation of the U.S. Supreme Court ruling on same-sex marriage. In an accompanying article, Charles explained why the "war" metaphor was appropriate in regard to government actions and the consequences to individuals. (See the article here.)

Charles regularly uses his Twitter account @DouglasMCharles to educate the public, filling in glaring gaps in history. 

Charles is an historian of the United States (broadly speaking) who researches and publishes on the history of the FBI and its intersections with gay and lesbian history, obscenity regulation, and American politics and diplomacy.  He has published multiple books and numerous articles and has appeared on C-SPAN, the History Channel, and in a Yahoo News documentary. He has also given talks across the United States and in Europe. Charles has been referenced in the New York Times, Le Parisien Magazine, NBC News, Yahoo News, Time Magazine, and PBS News Hour while contributing multiple OpEd and historical pieces as a public scholar to illuminate popular understanding of contemporary events.

Charles has won the Penn State Greater Allegheny Excellence in Research Award (2015) and was the first winner of the Penn State Commission on LGBT Equity Academic Achievement Award (2015).  He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Edinburgh, a Master of Arts degree from Marquette University, and a bachelor of arts from Penn State.



Lori Hepner

Lori Hepner, whose artwork is featured in "Doubt," an art exhibit running Feb. 10 through March 26 at SPACE Gallery in Pittsburgh.

Credit: provided by Lori Hepner

Associate Professor of Integrative Arts Lori Hepner’s work is featured in Doubt, an art exhibition at SPACE Gallery in Pittsburgh.  The exhibit runs Friday, February 10 through March 26.  The exhibit was featured in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Hepner’s work has also been featured in Time Magazine’s Lightbox blog, UK-based Next Level Magazine, and in Wired Magazine and has been exhibited in places such as the Houston Center for Photography, the Carnegie Museum of Art, Duke University, the Brooklyn Museum. One of her Twitter portraits from Status Symbols will be sent to the moon by CMU’s entry into the Google Lunar X Prize sometime in 2017.   

Hepner earned a master’s degree in fine arts in digital media from the Rhode Island School of Design and a bachelor’s of fine art in fine art photography from the Rochester Institute of Technology.




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Liz Mazur

Credit: Penn State

Associate Professor of Psychology Elizabeth Mazur has begun blogging for Psychology Today.  Her recent posts discuss information on dating with a disability, how to deal with children asking questions, and building a positive disability identity.  

Mazur was also recently quoted in the Washington Post.  The article, "What is It Like to Date While Blind?" was written by Alexandra E. Petri, a writer for National Geographic Traveler, examines the challenges of dating, particularly online dating, with a disability.

Mazur received her B.A. from  Amherst College, Massachusetts, and her Ph.D. in Developmental Psychology from the University of Michigan. Her research has focused on family stress and coping, especially as regards to physical disability, emotional disability, and parenting, and her current projects address emerging adulthood, online dating for persons with disabilities, and elderly persons online.  She has published studies on adolescents and emerging adults’ social interaction on the Internet. She is currently in her third year as a member of the Committee on Disability Issues in Psychology of the American Psychological Association and chairs the Instructional Resources Award Committee of the Society for the Teaching of Psychology (APA, Division 2).


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Millie Mickle

Credit: Penn State

Associate Professor of English Mildred R. Mickle recently edited a book, Maya Angelou: Critical Insights.  The book includes a biographical sketch of Angelou by Mickle that features an overview of the poet's life, accomplishments, and more. 

In addition, four of Mickle's paintings are included in a showing at the John A. Hermann Museum. The exhibit will be up until April 30, 2017.  

Mickle is also Co-Head of Letters, Arts, and Sciences; Head of African and African American Studies; and Coordinator of Theatre, the Creative Writing Certificate, and the Africana Certificate Programs at Penn State Greater Allegheny.  Her areas of expertise are African-American studies and creative writing. She has published two books and several essays on a variety of African American literary topics and is a published poet.