Fiss’s Fanciful Frolicking at the History of Science Society Virtual Festival

Andrew Fiss
Andrew Fiss

Andrew Fiss presented a research paper titled “Singing Songs of HSS: Joking about the Standards of our Discipline” on Dec. 9 as part of the History of Science Society Virtual Festival.

Fiss’ paper analyzed a History of Science Society meeting and a related alumni reunion that occurred in Bloomington, Indiana, on Oct. 31, 1985. It argued that singing together in educational communities has led to heightened experiences of belonging.

He also chaired the virtual session “Sites of Science,” with contributed papers about tribal medicine of Santhal, India; Berzelius’ home laboratory in Sweden; agricultural stations of Hainan and Guangdong provinces, China; and environmental farming practices of Bihar, India.

41 North Film Festival, Nov. 2-5

Presenting another year of cinematic explorations and provocations, the 41 North Film Festival returns November 2-5 to the Rozsa Center for the Performing Arts. With a lineup of over 20 films, the festival includes panels, special guests, music, and more. This four-day event is free and open to the public.

The opening night film, Time Bomb Y2K (Becker/McDonald, 2023), takes a sometimes hilarious look back at a significant moment of global technological anxiety. Assembling archival footage from 1997-2000 as the world prepared to face the “Y2K millenium bug,” the filmmakers offer both a time capsule and an opportunity to reflect on technological dependency and its implications. Continuing the discussion about technology on Sunday with a different set of questions is Another Body (Hamlyn/Compton, 2023), about a college student who takes us on an investigation into deepfake pornography after she finds herself a victim of it. Both films will offer panel discussions following the films. 

Elephant 6 Recording Co., Friday, 11/3, 7:30 p.m.

On Friday night, the spotlight turns to the Elephant 6 Recording Company (Stockfleth, 2022), an inspiring story about the music collective that gave rise to such bands as Neutral Milk Hotel and the Apples in Stereo, among many others. Core member of the collective, Robert Schneider, who is now part of the Michigan Tech faculty in mathematics, will be joined by Schneider and producer Daniel Efram for a Q&A. A reception will follow this film in the Rozsa Lobby with music by Liquid Mike, helmed by alum Mike Maple (CCM ’19).

Saturday afternoon offers films that expand our field of view on history, culture, and current events. In King Coal (Sheldon, 2023), Elaine McMillion Sheldon takes a poetic look at the people and places of central Appalachia where she grew up; Black Barbie: A Documentary (Davis, 2023) examines Black female representation through the history of Black dolls; and The Mission (McBaine/Moss, 2023), investigates the legacy of colonialism and the death of John Chau, whose missionary zeal led to a fatal encounter in 2018.

The Erie Situation, Saturday, 11/4, 7:30 p.m.

Saturday evening, the festival presents The Erie Situation (Ruck, 2022), which takes a hard look at the confluence of science and politics around a great lake’s toxic algae problem. Co-sponsored by the Great Lakes Research Center, the film will be followed by a panel discussion and Q&A with filmmaker David Ruck.

32 Sounds, Sunday, 11/5, 7:00 p.m.

More lyrical and contemplative offerings this year include the charming Hummingbirds (Castaños/Contreras, 2023), which follows two friends (one documented, the other not) on their adventures in Laredo, Texas, and the festival’s closing night film, 32 Sounds (Green, 2022), a meditation on the power of sound.

In partnership with the festival, MTU Film Board will be offering Wes Anderson’s Asteroid City in Fisher 135 over the course of the weekend.

Major sponsors of the festival include the department of humanities, the department of visual and performing arts, and the college of sciences and arts. For more information, contact Erin Smith,

From STC to a Future Career in Environmental Law

Krysten Hergert ’14 graduated with a degree in scientific and technical communication from Michigan Technological University. She was recently featured in the Muskegon County legal News, where she talked about her future in environmental law, as well as her start writing proposals for architectural and engineering firms. We wish Krysten good luck as she wraps up her final year of law school.

Laura Fiss’ “The Idler’s Club” To Hit Shelves January 31

Portrait of Laura Kasson Fiss holding "The Idler's Club"
Laura Kasson Fiss explores Victorian humor through the cast of literary figures that contributed to the Idler literary magazine in The Idler’s Club.

The Idler’s Club: Humour and Mass Readership from Jerome K. Jerome to P.G. Wodehouse, written by faculty member Laura Kasson Fiss, is set to be released on January 31, 2023, from Edinburgh University Press. A release party will take place Friday, February 3, from 12-1 PM at the Van Pelt and Opie Library to celebrate the publication.

The Idler’s Club explores the humor of the key contributors to the Idler literary magazine, “. . . finding connections between people that we don’t really think of today as being connected.” Fiss explains, “They were all in this social network.” By creating humor around the idea of the Victorian social club while simultaneously using “The Idler’s Club” column to create one of their own, authors from Arthur Conan Doyle (Sherlock Holmes stories) to J.M. Barrie (Peter Pan) to Israel Zangwill (whose book, Melting Pot, inspired the oft-used metaphor) created these social and literary connections.

“A lot of them were outsiders, trying to foster social mobility at one point or another.” Fiss observes that the club was “. . . a kind of double-edged sword” that could be both appealing and damaging, and “often both at the same time.” But humor offered these writers and contributors a way to convey multiple meanings simultaneously.

Fiss’ passion for Victorian literature and humor began as an undergraduate, when she studied both English and Music and wrote a thesis for each, both centered around the comedic theatrical partnership Gilbert and Sullivan. Her graduate studies continued to focus on the topic of humor, which would lay the groundwork for The Idler’s Club.

“I’m really proud of it! I’m really excited to have other people read it, and I’m really hoping to have more people take up the topic of Victorian humor.”

Readers can save 30% off Idler’s Club by pre-ordering the book before its official release date on Tuesday using the code NEW30 on the Edinburgh University Press web site.

Laura Vidal-Chiesa Inducted into AAC&U Future Leaders Society

portrait of Laura
As a finalist for the K. Patricia Cross Award, Laura was recently inducted into the AAC&U Future Leaders Society.

Humanities PhD candidate Laura Vidal-Chiesa has been inducted into the American Association of Colleges and Universities Future Leaders Society, presented at the AAC&U Annual Meeting in San Francisco Jan 18-20 2023.

“First of all, I would like to thank Dr. Andy Fiss and Dr. Maria Bergstrom for the nomination to the K. Patricia Cross Award. While I wasn’t a winner, I was selected as one of the finalists, which means I have been inducted into the AAC&U Future Leaders Society. I’m very excited about all of the resources that come with it, and looking forward to bringing as many of those back into our department and sharing them with our instructors and faculty,” said Vidal-Chiesa.

According to AAC&U’s web site, “The Inductees into the AAC&U Future Leaders Society share a profound commitment to high-quality teaching and learning, equity, and community engagement.” Membership includes access to “unique, cross-disciplinary opportunities for professional development, networking, and mentorship” as well as training and development resources for future educators.

“The American Association of Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) is a global membership organization dedicated to advancing the democratic purposes of higher education by promoting equity, innovation, and excellence in liberal education. ”

Laura is a fourth-year PhD candidate in the Rhetoric, Theory, and Culture (RTC) Program, as well as the Assistant Director for the Composition Program. In addition to writing and composition, her research includes topics like emotional labor, organizational communication, feminism, and diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI.) She hopes to graduate this upcoming summer, 2023.

Congratulations, Laura!

Fiss Wins 2023 CCCC Technical or Scientific Communication Book Award

Humanities faculty member Andrew Fiss has been awarded Best Book in Technical or Scientific Communication by the Conference on College Composition and Communication for his 2020 book Performing Math: A History of Communication and Anxiety in the American Mathematics Classroom.

Performing Math discusses the history of mathematics education in nineteenth-century American colleges, the anxiety that surrounded (and still surrounds) the subject, and the often performative nature of mathematics teaching and learning. In a review for the book Amir Alexander, author of Proof! How the World Became Geometrical, said “Through an impressive array of evidence and historical accounts, Performing Math convincingly shows that mathematics education has often had a significant theatrical component. Without a doubt this book illuminates mathematics and its place in American culture in new and surprising ways.”

In a press release for the award, the CCCC selection committee noted “Compelling, well-researched, and a very interesting read. Though Fiss’s book focuses on the historical instruction of math, his ideas about classroom performance can be translated to other fields.” And, “While it is historical, it covers a technical topic and anxiety in a way that provides some insight into the resistance seen with technology projects and tools. The takeaways from the book … can be applied broadly to pedagogy, workplace, and any other situation where anxiety exists.”

In light of the award, Fiss reflected on Performing Math, “…its first printing was in November 2020, so it wasn’t possible to acknowledge the COVID-19 pandemic or the changes in education as a result. Specifically, though I talk about written testing in math, I feel like the book does privilege oral, face-to-face communication (including in student songs and plays about math). What those historical stories mean for education has changed since 2020, as the general expectations of post-2020 education are still developing.”

Andy also expressed pride in being able to bring the award back to the Humanities department, and gratitude for the inspiration received from prior Humanities award recipients. Works like Bob Johnson‘s Romancing the Atom (which also won the TSC Best Book) and the multiple awards both won and inspired by the work of Beth Flynn all had an impact on Fiss. “It was so inspirational! I hope this news similarly helps other people along in their work.”

The award will be presented at the CCCC Annual Convention in Chicago on Friday, February 17. “The Conference on College Composition and Communication, with more than 4,000 members and subscribers, supports and promotes the teaching and study of composition, rhetoric, and communication skills at the college level, both in undergraduate and graduate programs.”

Canevez Wins 2023 Meheroo Jussawalla Research Award

New Humanities faculty member Richard Canevez has won the 2023 Meheroo Jussawalla Research Award, presented by the Pacific Telecommunications Council at their annual conference for the best participant research paper.

Canevez’s paper, “All-Encompassing War: An Exploration of Information Disorder Countermeasures Through Smooth and Striated Space,” discusses the various measures both taken and in consideration by Western states to combat disinformation and malinformation originating from adversarial states like Russia, China, and Iran in an evolving digital information landscape. Canevez uses the concept of smooth and striated spaces to explore how information—particularly with harmful intent—flows through digital space, how measures to combat disinformation and malinformation struggle with the unique challenges of digital information flow, and how this evolution is changing the nature of warfare to more closely integrate state, military, civil society, and private industry in a way that contrasts traditional, centralized notions of war.

“These changes in the way that war is fought stand to have a fundamental change in the structure of society we are still coming to grips with. In wartime, and in peacetime.” Canevez posits that where warfare was once a binary comprised of physical states of “at war” or “at peace,” we are transitioning into more of a spectrum of aggression, where states are always involved in some level of information aggression or defense. Add to this that the target of information warfare is, most often, civilian, and “when we fight wars, we fight them as a whole society, rather than as the domain of the state.”

Canevez will present his paper at the Pacific Telecommunications Council annual conference on January 17th as the culmination of a two-year postdoctoral fellowship with the University of Hawaii, Manoa. His fellowship was funded by the Computing Innovation Fellows program, which sought to offset the negative impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the academic job search for new PhD graduates in computing. (See a blog post that Richard made about the evolution of his research for CIFellows here.)

“I must express infinite gratitude to my postdoctoral mentor, Jenifer Sunrise Winter, and to the CIFellows program for preparing me for a faculty position in a way that I was not previously ready at the end of my graduate studies.” Of the award, Richard said, “It’s certainly validating! I’m honored to have my work associated with Meheroo Jussawalla, who contributed so much to the telecommunications field.”

Canevez hopes to take the energy and enthusiasm from this work as he begins his time at Tech in the spring 2023 semester.

The 41 North Film Festival returns Nov. 3-6

All That Breathes
All That Breathes (Sen, 2022) on Saturday, 11/5, 3:00 p.m.

The annual 41 North Film Festival will be held Thursday, 11/3, through Sunday, 11/6, at the Rozsa Center for the Performing Arts. The festival once again offers an exceptional opportunity for people to gather together and watch thought-provoking, entertaining, and award-winning films from around the world that explore a range of issues, ideas, and personalities. Along with over 20 films (both features and shorts), there will be special guests, educational panels, and other attractions.

The festival has something for everyone, with films that examine the progress and perils of scientific research, as well as those that shed a light on the achievements and challenges of small communities much like our own. This year’s cast of characters includes artists and art thieves, hockey players and range riders, big wave surfers and social justice warriors, as well as a beleaguered laundromat owner who finds herself plunged into the metaverse.

High school students are the focus of two films in the program: Hockeyland (Haines, 2021), which follows high school players on the Iron Range in Minnesota, and Boys State (Moss/McBaine, 2020), a timely and rollicking tale about the lessons of civic engagement at the American Legion’s annual Boys State competition in Texas.

Highlights from this year’s program include 2022 Sundance award winners All That Breathes (Sen, 2022), The Territory (Pritz, 2022), Fire of Love (Dosa, 2022), and I Didn’t See You There (Davenport, 2022). Reid Davenport, who won Sundance’s U.S. Documentary Directing Award and has cerebral palsy, provides us with a literal point of view focused on his daily encounters with ableism, along with his meditation on the legacy of the circus freak show. A panel discussion will follow on disability and being looked at without being seen.

I Didn't See You There
I Didn’t See You There (Davenport, 2022) on Saturday, 11/5, 12:30 p.m.
Hockeyland (Haines, 2021) on Friday, 11/4, 7:00 p.m.

The festival will also present several films that focus on scientific research including The Human Trial (Hepner/Mossman 2022). Lisa Hepner and Guy Mossman tell a very personal story about the patients and scientists seeking a cure for diabetes with an up-close look at research development. Fire of Love profiles French volcanologists Katia and Maurice Krafft and their life-long love affair with volcanoes, while All That Breathes takes us to New Delhi where two brothers attempt to save the black kite population being devastated by the city’s collapsing ecology. Michigan Tech researchers and community members will participate in Q&A sessions following these films.

Indigenous land rights and culture are taken up in several films this year, including The Territory, which provides an on-the-ground look at Uru-eu-wau-wau people’s fight against the encroaching deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon. Two Michigan stories, Bad Axe (Siev, 2022), and The Sentence of Michael Thompson (Anderson/Thrash, 2022), examine social justice issues closer to home.

See the full line-up of films and events at: The festival is free and open to the public. Students will need to bring their HuskyCard. No ticket is necessary for others attending the festival this year. For more information, email festival director, Erin Smith, at Major sponsorship for the festival is provided by the Department of Humanities, the Department of Visual and Performing Arts, the College of Sciences and Arts, and the Rozsa Center for the Performing Arts.

Summer Undergraduate Research Fellows Study Amtrak

Three Humanities undergraduates have been awarded Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowships (SURF) for 2022. All three will be carrying out their research in conjunction with the study-away program, “Amtrak Tourism: Trains, Cities, & Sustainability” led by Mark Rhodes, Assistant Professor of Geography in Michigan Tech’s Social Sciences department. Students in the Amtrak Tourism program travel on Amtrak for a three week tour of the western United States and study topics related to human geography, sustainability, and the urban environment along the way.

Lena Lukowski’s project, “Locating Tourism Rhetoric: A Comparative Study” pays attention to the connection between location and tourism rhetoric in different cities across the United States. She is interested in seeing how the way in which tourism is discussed changes with the landscape and location. Lukowski is pursuing a double degree in Mechanical Engineering and Scientific and Technical Communication.

Riley Powers’s project, “Public Tourism Infrastructure and Accessibility: Comparison of Metropolitan, Micropolitan, and Rural Structures” will focus on public tourism infrastructure accessibility design, with a particular focus on the infrastructure encountered by students participating in the Amtrak Tourism study-away program. Powers’ work includes consulting with those who plan and design infrastructure as well as those who are impacted by disparities in accessibility. Results of the study will be shared with stakeholders locally in the Houghton/Keweenaw area, with the aim of highlighting ways to improve accessibility for public tourism in our own community. Powers is a Scientific and Technical Communication major.

Davi Sprague’s project, “Understanding the Relationship Between Rail Communities and Rail Infrastructure” seeks to answer the question, how did rail and train stations influence the urbanization, industrialization, and deindustrialization of rail communities and how are these communities planning for the future? Sprague, a Scientific and Technical Communication major, will combine archival research with filmmaking to produce a short video documentary that features historical and contemporary sources as well as highlights from the study-away program itself.

The SURF fellowship program is administered by Michigan Tech’s Pavlis Honors College. Fellowship recipients conduct a research project under the guidance of a Michigan Tech faculty mentor during the summer semester and, at the conclusion of their work, present their research at the Michigan Tech Undergraduate Research Symposium, or at a professional conference in their field.