Wednesday, May 18, 2022

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Civic Skinny

Your tuition dollars at work. High-end home sales. New jobs for Dan Finney and Jason Clayworth.


Natalie Fixmer-Oraiz is an associate professor of communication studies at the University of Iowa, where she has taught for eight years. She makes $75,204 a year, according to state records. A year from now, she will take a one-semester sabbatical.

She will, according to a Board of Regents document, “complete research and writing on her current book project, New Grammars for Reproductive Justice, co-authored with Prof. Shui-yin Sharon Yam at the University of Kentucky. This book examines gender and language in the context of pregnancy, childbirth, and family formation—specifically, the tension between using women-centered and gender-neutral language….This project is a key component of Prof. Fixmer-Oraiz’s dossier for promotion to full professor and will provide new material for her instruction of students at the undergraduate and graduate level.”

The proposal is one of 72 sabbaticals approved by the Board of Regents, whose policy says sabbaticals — formally known as professional development assignments — are aimed at “promoting and supporting innovation in teaching, research, and economic development and promoting effective use of resources to meet institutional missions.”

The University of Northern Iowa did not seek approval of any sabbaticals because of budget difficulties, but the Regents approved 43 proposals for the University of Iowa and 29 for Iowa State University for fiscal 2022, which starts in July.

A sampling from the University of Iowa:

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Sabine Golz, an associate professor of German with 33 years of service, will spend the fall semester “working on her book ‘The Subconscious is in the Construction: Gender, Mimesis, and Poetic Architecture in Walter Benjamin’s Arcades Essays.’ With this book, Prof. Gölz revises a central assumption about the work of the important 20th-century theorist Walter Benjamin (1892-1940). …[S]cholars tend to read him first and foremost as a philosopher. Gölz shows that Benjamin’s strategies are instead quintessentially literary. She demonstrates that his theory of language derives from his three most important literary sources of inspiration: the works of German Romantics, French poet Charles Baudelaire, and Franz Kafka. From these, he adapts his theory of mimesis, his architectural metaphors in the notion of poetic ‘construction,’ and most importantly, his strategic use of gender. All of these remain invisible in a philosophical reading. Prof. Gölz’s analysis further shows that women writers and theorists, most importantly Austrian poet Ingeborg Bachmann (1926-1973), have developed a lucid critique and counter-model to the strategies of Benjamin and his literary predecessors.” Golz earns $67,430 a year.

Downing A. Thomas, a professor of French and Italian with 29 years of service, will work on a study called “Anchoring the Self: Judgment, Feeling, and Commonality in Early-Modern France.” Thomas “proposes to complete a book-length study focused on aesthetic reflection during the early-modern period prior to Immanuel Kant — a time when aesthetics was not primarily about art (as it was after Kant), but was instead a field of rich and varied approaches to understanding the mechanisms behind our acts of judgment and the human capacities that are engaged in that process. Professor Thomas’s focus will be on selected works written in France and across the channel in England from the 1660s through the 1770s.” Thomas plans to share the results of his research in undergraduate and graduate classes in the coming years. Thomas makes $103,145 annually.

Corey Creekmur, an associate professor of cinematic arts who has been at the university for 19 years, will spend the spring of 2022 researching and completing a book “on the American comic book as a material object.” His study “will be the first to fully consider this common publication format as an artifact with distinctive features that are culturally significant, irrespective of the narrative content they convey. This study therefore joins the growing field of Comics Studies with the History of the Book as well as Material Culture Studies to recover the importance of a familiar but easily undervalued product of American mass culture. The focused research supported by the PDA will allow for the completion and submission for publication of the project, which will enhance Prof. Creekmur’s visibility as a Comics Studies scholar.” Creekmur’s annual salary is $89,392.

Emilie Destruel-Johnson, a $79,530-a-year associate professor of French and Italian with seven years of service, will work on “Scales and Scalarity: Probability and Processing of Scalar Inferences in Native French and L2 English Speakers.” From her proposal: “The process of decoding a speaker’s intended meaning is known as pragmatic inferencing. Professor Destruel will complete research on this topic in native French speakers, aiming to test the empirical validity of a novel theoretical model. Prof. Destruel will adopt an empirical task designed over the year prior to the [sabbatical] and adapted from empirical studies present in recent literature. The proposed project will also examine how pragmatic inferencing is achieved and processed in native French speakers who are second language learners of English.”

And at Iowa State University:

Huifang Mao, a professor of marketing with four years of service, will work on an article entitled “Effects of Virtual Fitting Room Among Consumers of Varying BMI Levels.” The research ‘is focused on understanding how consumers process market information and make decisions….Mao will explore why virtual fitting rooms increase product sales among some groups, but not others, which will result in journal articles on this understudied topic.” Her pay in fiscal 2020 was $203,386.

Brandon Sams, an assistant professor of English with three years of service, will work on a book that “centers on the inner lives and experiences of English teachers as they read and prepare for class.” Sams makes $70,382 a year.

Michele Schaal, associate professor of world Languages and Cultures/Women’s and Gender Studies, will spend next fall working on “The Art of Genre- and Genderbending: Virginie Despentes’ Authorial Politics.” Schaal “will complete several original chapters [aside: what’s an unoriginal chapter?] for her monograph on Despentes, a major literary and feminist figure in the French-speaking world and globally, during the assignment. The work will benefit Iowa State students by providing new material for Schaal’s classes, and for the greater public that is increasingly interested in Despentes’ work.” Schaal’s annual pay is $72,846.

Meantime, as required, teachers from the three state universities have reported on the results of sabbaticals they took two years ago.

A sampling from each university:

Jeremy Withers, an assistant professor of English at Iowa State, “completed and published Futuristic Cars and Space Bicycles, the first book to examine the history of representations of road transport machines in American science fiction from the late 19th to early 21st centuries.” Withers makes about $73,000 a year.

Reinier Hesselink, a history professor at UNI, “wrote a first draft of his new book, The Suicide of Takenaka Uneme: Christianity and the Samurai in 17th Century Japan, which discusses the impact of Christianity on the samurai class of Japan in the late 16th and early 17th centuries. Dr. Hesselink’s draft manuscript is currently being scrutinized by a professional for the order of its composition and the details of its English style….The book will benefit the state and the citizens of Iowa through its engagement with the history of one of our state’s most important international trading partners: for the past half century Japan has bought a major portion of our yearly crops of soybeans and corn.” Hesselink earned $85,480 last year.

Steve McGuire, $138,000-a-year professor of art and art history at the University of Iowa, “created the project, Blue Dot Arrowhead – Single Speed. [which] is centered on riding the Arrowhead Trail, International Falls, MN, January 27, 2020, on a titanium bicycle he built for the event, documenting the creation of the bicycle, and then exhibiting the Bicycle (in a year) at Bespoked, the International Handmade Bicycle Show in Bristol, UK. In January 2020, McGuire built the titanium bicycle, Blue Dot, recording the process. On January 27, he participated in the Arrowhead 135 Ultra and recorded the 35h:37:00 event with satellite tracking. …He will use the video for instruction in the new course, TDSN 3250, Bicycle Design and History. Professor McGuire’s project comes on the heels of expanding the School of Art & Art History’s curricular relationship with the College of Engineering (COE) and his courses Fabrication & Design: Hand-Built Bicycle and Hand-Built Bicycle II being incorporated into the COE curriculum.” …

Media notes: Dan Finney, long-time Des Moines Register reporter and columnist who was laid off last year, now is working at Channel 5, WOI-TV. “My title is assignment editor,” he says, “but it’s more like air-traffic controller. Everyone at a TV news operation is in motion at top speed all the time.” He adds: “It seems strange to be a rookie again after 27 years as a newspaper reporter.” He’s also attending graduate school at Drake.

Jason Clayworth, the Register investigative reporter, is joining the start-up Axios Des Moines, a newsletter that launches Jan. 25. Former Register reporter Linh Ta is joining him on the two-person staff. Axios is a four-year-old, Washington-based news operation that puts out several newsletters daily but seems to specialize in politics. Its slogan is “smart brevity.” It has begun launching two-person local operations, with Des Moines among the first. It seems to be going head-to-head with the Iowa Capital Dispatch (where Ta has been working) and the Business Record’s newsletters. …

Seven homes in Des Moines sold for more than $1 million in 2020, probably the most ever. Five of the homes were South of Grand, two on Waterbury Road.

Jason and Susan Hellickson sold a 12-year-old contemporary home at 765 Foster Drive for $1,987,860 to Tanner Krause, the new chief executive of Kum & Go, the Krause family company. The two-story, 5,120-square-foot home is on a 1.5-acre lot. The home has 10 rooms, including five bedrooms. Jason Hellickson is a health-care executive, Susan Hellickson a marketing consultant. The new legal owner of the home is 765 Foster Drive LLC, a limited-liability company, but it’s clear that it is Krause’s house. Tax statements for the limited-liability company are sent to the Grand Avenue headquarters of the Krause companies. The agent for the limited-liability company is Steve Zumbach, a lawyer for Krause interests.

Janelle Holmes sold a 102-year-old, 7,260-square-foot brick home at 28 Foster Drive for $1,275,000, about the same as the assessed value. The house, with five bedrooms and three fireplaces and a pool and pool house, sits on 1.8 acres and backs up to Greenwood Park. The buyers were Anant Bhalla, the chief executive of American Equity, and Anubha Lal.

The Kathleen Fehrman trust sold a 3,529-square-foot, nine-room house at 3419 St. Johns Road for $1,200,000, well above the assessed value of $803,900. The three-story brick home was built in 1925 and sits on about two-thirds of an acre. Kathy Fehrman is a commissioner of the Department of Transportation and is married to Bill Fehrman, the president and chief executive of Berkshire Hathaway Energy, which owns MidAmerican Energy in Des Moines.

Terry Falk sold a 4,515-square-foot, one-story contemporary house at 331 31st Street for $1,160,000 to the Christine Lauridsen Sand revocable trust. The eight-room home is on a 4.2-acre lot. Christine Lauridsen Sand is chair of Des Moines Performing Arts, a board member of the Des Moines Airport Authority, and an executive at the Lauridsen Group. She is married to Rob Sand, the state auditor.

Kary and Kathleen Schulte sold a nine-room, 3,284-square-foot brick-and-stucco home on an acre of land at 5323 Waterbury Road for $1,150,000 to Matthew and Shannon Parker. The price is well above the $734,700 assessment. Kary Schulte is an orthopedic surgeon.

Tim and Toni Urban sold their 11-room home at 214 Foster Drive for $1.1 million to Aaron Matthew From and Deana Hoganson. The home, built in 1923, sits on nearly an acre and has 4,832 square feet. The Urbans have been business owners and Democratic political stalwarts. The buyers are doctors.

Tom and Carolyn Ruan sold a home two doors away from the Schulte home, at 5235 Waterbury Road, to Eric Boardman and Molly Gross for $1,075,000, again above the assessed value of $754,700. The brick home was built in 1918 and has 13 rooms spread across 4,555 square feet. Tom Ruan is a grandson of John Ruan, founder of the Ruan Cos., and works for the company. Molly Gross is a surgeon and Eric Boardman a perfusionist at Unity Point. …

Time flies: It has been nine years since Christopher Godfrey sued then-Gov. Terry Branstad and others, alleging discrimination and retaliation when they cut his pay after he refused to resign as head of the Iowa Workers Compensation Board. Godfrey, a Democrat and the only openly gay department head in the Republican administration of Branstad, hired lawyer Roxanne Conlin, and they filed suit on Jan. 11, 2012.

The pay cut amounted to about $150,000 over the four-and-a-half years remaining on his term. So far, the state has paid outside law firms nearly $3 million to defend it, and — at the moment at least — it is on the hook for a $1.5 million judgment awarded him in district court. If Godfrey prevails in the appeal the state filed with the Iowa Supreme Court, Iowa also will have to pay the fees for Conlin and her associates, which were more than $3 million by the end of the trial. Presumably the fees on both sides have been rising as they prepare for the appeal.

But the Supreme Court, hobbled by the virus, has yet to hear any arguments. ♦

One Comment

  1. Billy Bob says:

    Thank you UNI. Congratulations to Dan for his new job. The local newspaper continues to bleed talent and the reading public is the loser.

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