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Civic Skinny

Blondie, Latin American sci-fi, lust, turtles in France and Brazilian women at play: Profs plan sabbaticals Also: Hotel Fort Des Moines is being sold


Your tax dollars at work:

Lauren Rabinovitz, a professor of American Studies at the University of Iowa, will be taking a sabbatical next fall. She will use her paid leave to work on a book, “Thrill Ride Cinema,” a book that “argues the amusement park novelty of motion simulation rides is an important multi-faceted mode of cinema.” The book will “redefine cinematic experience through its continuous involvement and evolution within multi-media spectacle.” Rabinovitz earned $116,000 in fiscal 2014.

At Iowa State University, Associate Professor Rachel Haywood Ferreira will spend the fall semester in Ames, Puerto Rico and California working on her book, “Latin American Science Fiction in the Era of the Global Space Age.” Her salary is around $70,000.

And at the University of Northern Iowa, Jeremy Schraffenberger, an associate professor of languages and literatures, will take the spring semester off to work on “What Passes,” a “book-length collection of poems and lyric essays that dwell on the various shades of meanings of the word ‘pass.’ ” Schraffenberger earns $65,000 a year.

Those are three of the 110 sabbaticals — academics call them “professional development assignments” — that the Board of Regents surely will approve at its meeting on Dec. 3. No one can recall the Regents ever turning down a request, be it the study of billiards in the Philippines or “gender difference in pay of working children in Bangladesh.”

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At Iowa, professors on 12-month contracts can apply for a semester off with pay after four years on the faculty, or a full-year sabbatical after eight years. Those with nine-month assignments can apply for a one-semester sabbatical after spending 10 semesters teaching. At Iowa State and UNI, the requirements vary.

The proposals must pass a “rigorous review process” within the universities before they reach the Regents. The sabbaticals are supposed to “provide direct application of expanded knowledge to students, Iowans, the nation and the world.” Those that passed the latest rigorous review process include:

At the University of Iowa…

Maria Jose Barbosa will work on a book called “Brazilian Women in/at Play: Gender, Race, and Popular Culture.” Her research “will connect four segments of Brazilian popular culture (street festivals, religions of African origin, a local martial art, and soccer) to tender historical perspective and to analyze social interactions.” Her salary is about $85,000.

Dorothy Johnson will “advance the research and writing of her book-in-progress, ‘Elective Affinities: Intersections of the Visual Arts and the Natural Sciences in France, 1750-1840.’ ”  She earned $148,000 in fiscal 2014.

Kembrew McLeod will work on two books on “the pop underground.” The first book “focuses on punk, disco, and late-1970s popular culture by examining Blondie’s 1978 Parallel Lines album.” The second book “will explore the links between a variety of downtown Manhattan’s alternative arts communities from the mid 1960s through the 1970s.” McLeod’s salary is about $88,000.

Ana Merino will complete a play that “involves a critical reflection on the decay of the planet and on environmental concerns.” It combines “the poetic perception of each of its five characters with an awareness of a precarious reality in which the past was much better than the present and the future.” Merino is paid about $90,000.

Christine Ogren will work on a book about what teachers do in the summertime. So far, in her research, she has discovered that in the summer teachers study or travel or work or rest. Ogren earns around $80,000.

Teresa Treat will work on a project called “Men’s Perceptions of Women’s Sexual Interest: Implications for Acquaintance-Initiated Sexual Aggression.” Among other things, she will “conduct an eye-tracking study to examine the role of eye-gaze behavior in men’s perceptions of sexual interest.” Treat was paid $98,000 in fiscal 2014.

Isaac West hopes to complete two chapters of a book, “We, the Persons.” The book is a “rhetorical history of the American conception of personhood.” West is paid about $68,000.

At Iowa State University:

Emily Godbey hopes to complete a book on the history of the postcard. “In addition to the book, the results of this work will be used to educate Iowa State students on the impact of early technology, how Iowans conducted their social and business lives through postcards, and their connection to current technologies such as Facebook, Twitter, and flickr.” Godbey earns about $61,000.

Teresa Paschke will study early American needlework and embroidery in the Upper Mississippi Valley. Paschke is paid about $66,000.

Nicole Valenzuela will go to France and work “to develop turtles as a model for human health.” She earns around $87,000.

 At the University of Northern Iowa…

Soo Hostetler is interested in a type of Korean traditional folk paintings called “Minhwa,” so she will use her sabbatical to “create modern expressions in the Minhwa style by interpreting the traditional symbolism of the characters through an illustrated narrative form of storytelling using digital technology and graphic design.” Hostetler earns around $60,000.

Chris W. Ogbondah will “make a critical analysis of global media coverage of terrorism in Africa.” He will visit archives in London and Nigeria. Ogbondah earns about $90,000.

M.D. Salim will work on “a web-based decision support system for optimizing snow removal assets in varying temperatures.” Salim earns about $82,000.

Meantime, the professors who took sabbaticals two years ago have reported back in.

John Cameron of the University of Iowa didn’t fare so well. He completed writing two television pilots with a partner, but the first “was abandoned due to artistic differences” and the second went through four rewrites but was declined by Sony Television Pictures. A third script, which he wrote alone, is “under consideration” by Sony. Still, “the work has expanded the Theatre Arts Department’s industry contacts and enhanced the placement network for our students.”

Armando Duarte “completed extensive on-site research in Brazil” for a book, “Dance, Samba and Carnival, the Choreography of the Brazilian Schools of Samba Parades.”

Michael Moore worked on a book called “Brief History of a Hatred: The Cadaver Trial of Pope Formosus.” The study “helped him to gain notice among historians internationally.”

Katherine Tachau set out to write a 200-page monograph called “Scientists, Painters, and Apothecaries: Making and Theorizing About Color at Paris in the 13th-14th Centuries.” It was, she reports, “an optimistic goal” that was only partly achieved. She continues to work on the project “at a slower pace.” The study’s “society benefits are primarily indirect.” …

More Regents news:

The University of Iowa plans to give an honorary degree next spring to Bill Bryson, the Des Moines native who moved to England and has sold more nonfiction books than anyone in British history. He was honored the other night at the annual Des Moines Library banquet as well. He is the son of Bill Bryson, long a sportswriter at The Des Moines Register, and Mary McGuire Bryson, long a writer there in what once was called the women’s department. Mary Bryson, who in 1935 was the first female editor of the Drake Times-Delphic newspaper as well as Drake Relays queen, is 101 and lives in Des Moines. Bill Bryson — the one being honored — is a Drake graduate.

The University of Northern Iowa plans to award an honorary degree to retiring Sen. Tom Harkin — an Iowa State graduate — and to Gayle Rose, a musician and businesswoman in Memphis whose achievements include, among other things, being “instrumental in bringing the NBA Grizzlies basketball team from Vancouver to Memphis.”  A third degree at UNI will go to Simon Estes, the great opera singer from Centerville. …

The Hotel Fort Des Moines, a storied fixture downtown that opened in 1919, is being sold by Jeff Hunter, who has owned it since 1999 and whose family has owned it since 1977. The buyer is the Patel family, the Burlington-based hotel owners who recently opened the Hampton Inn and Marriott Residence Inn downtown. The price is $5 million.

The hotel probably will become a Hilton, but it might keep the venerable Fort Des Moines name.

The hotel has been a political gathering place for decades, and guests have included Charles Lindbergh and Mae West and at least a dozen United States Presidents. It was designed by the once prominent architecture firm of Proudfoot, Bird and Rawson and is on the National Register of Historic Places.

CVA_27 PAGE 6Hunter met with employees Monday afternoon and introduced them to the buyer. The new owners will completely renovate the famed hotel, a renovation “that I had hoped to accomplish myself,” Hunter says. He says the sale is scheduled to close Dec. 15 and construction probably will start in the late summer of 2015.

“The Patels are as intrigued by the hotel’s history and its statewide role as I have been, and I think they will be good stewards for such an iconic building,” Hunter says. He’ll retain no ownership interest in the hotel but will keep his interest in the restaurant Django.

“Django stays as it is,” he says. CV

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