Why I Teach: Jeffry Casey, Theater Professor

Photo: Jeffry Casey and theater Norwich student actors pose on the construction site of the future Pegasus Player theater.
Norwich University Office of Communications

December 4, 2017

Assistant Professor of Theater Jeffry Casey (third from left) is a playwright and director who joined the Norwich faculty in July. Teaching classes on theater, literature, writing and public speaking, he describes himself as the “Swiss army knife” of the English department. Casey directed student actors in the November 2017 Pegasus Players production of two Harold Pinter plays, “Party Time” and “The New World.” We recently asked Casey—seen here on the site of the new $24M Mack Hall construction project with students Sachi de la Cruz ’21, Nick Veldy ’21, and Nathan Ures ’21—what inspired his career.

Why I Teach:

“When I was in Kindergarten, I kept talking in class. One of the teachers tried to humiliate me by making me teach the class. It was this massively malicious sort of way of humiliating me to get me to stop talking. I think at that point, I spent the rest of my time in school, all two decades or however long it was, thinking about, Could I do this? … Could I do this better? was always my question.

I grew up in rural West Texas, where I endured lots of bad teaching. Whenever I would get angry at that, I always thought, How could this be better? How could this be improved? Long before I ever got a chance to teach, I was thinking about pedagogy. I mean we stick people in these classes for whatever it is, eight hours a day for twelve years, and we have been doing it the same way for how long? I always wanted to imagine just any sort of different way of doing it that would make it more exciting, because I was generally so bored.

By the time I got to college, I just loved the discussions. We were talking about all this stuff. You can see all my books. I’ve got philosophy, literature, theater, poetry, sociology. I just loved sitting down and talking about all of this stuff. It is something I actually can’t live without is that talking.

Hearing what students have to say is an important component of that. Every night during play rehearsals, a student would bring up something that I didn’t realize about the text. I think the nature of being good a teacher is just being a student with the students and discovering the text anew every time. Part of why I don’t really lecture is because I want [my students] to say things to me. Because I’m sick of my own voice. I’m sick of my own thoughts. I’m with them all the time.”

Photograph by Sean Markey

A Wild Conversation: Self-Will, Ancestors, Norwich & Nature (Video)

Screen Grab: John Hausdoerffer talks with Sean Prentiss
Norwich University Office of Communications

November 29, 2017

Go deep with NU associate professor of English and award-winning author Sean Prentiss as he interviews John Hausdoerffer. A writer and professor of environmental sustainability and philosophy at Western State Colorado University, Hausdoerffer visited the Norwich campus earlier this month as part of the Norwich University Writers Series, an appearance co-sponsored by NU’s Center for Global Resilience and Security. Watch:

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QDL0CnhsGTE?rel=0&w=560&h=315]

In Conversation: Former NYPD Commissioner Raymond Kelly

Photo: Two Norwich cadets interview former NYPD commissioner Raymond Kelly
Norwich University Office of Communications

November 27, 2017

Raymond Kelly led the New York City Police Department for 14 years under mayors David Dinkins and Michael Bloomberg, becoming the city’s longest-serving police commissioner while capping a 47-year NYPD career. Between appointments, Kelly oversaw policing in Haiti for the United Nations, worked for Interpol in Europe, and led the U.S. Customs Bureau. At the NYPD, he implemented many innovations, including the push to recruit police officers who speak 106 languages to serve one of the most diverse cities in the world. The counter-terrorism bureau he established at the NYPD in 2002 was the first of its kind for a metropolitan police force.

The author of the 2015 book, Vigilance: My Life Serving America and Protecting Its Empire City, Kelly visited the Norwich campus earlier this month to present the Fall 2017 Todd Lecture. During his visit, the former Marine and Vietnam War veteran sat down to talk about his life and career with Jess R. Hindman ’19 and John L. Smith ’18. Hailing from Mansfield, Mass., and Houston, Tex., respectively, the two Norwich cadets and criminal justice majors kicked off the conversation.

We’d like to ask you primarily about leadership, because that’s why we’re in the Corps and why we chose Norwich. Throughout your career, what’s been consistent in your leadership and management style?

Kelly: It’s a good question. I had three older brothers in the Marine Corps. They used to bring home their “72” gear, or field equipment, including a guide book for Marines. I probably saw this when I was 13. It’s been around since 1910. But they keep issuing new editions of it. It talks about leadership traits. The general principle is, “Hey, if you act like a leader, if you sound like a leader, if you do the things that good leaders do, you’re a leader.” Leaders are made. They’re not born. I sort of took that to heart.

Photo: Portrait of Raymond KellyThere are 14 leadership principles in that book. I have a Franklin Planner that I use. In one of the dividers, I have these 14 leadership traits. Obviously, you could write paragraphs, books, about each one of those things. But some of them are justice and judgment. How do you treat people who are working for you? What you ultimately want is respect from the people you work with. How do you get that respect? One of the ways you get it is by using these traits. There’s dependability, obviously integrity, decisiveness. There’s tact. There’s initiative, enthusiasm, bearing, unselfishness, courage, job knowledge, loyalty, and endurance. Now, if you look at all of those, and you try and emulate them as best you can, people are going to see you as a leader. Someone who they respect. That’s what I try to do. There’s certainly lots of challenges, in life, challenges as a leader. But it’s sort of worked for me. I know there’s a lot of different definitions of leadership. But I wanted to keep it simple in my head.

That is a little bit of my leadership secret. Also, I’m a hands-on leader. I’m not a micro-manager. But I am hands on. I want to do things that enable me to see what personnel are doing, let them know that I appreciate what they do. Also, you never want to become one of the boys or girls. A lot of people don’t realize that. There’s a price to pay for leadership. The expression, “It’s lonely at the top.” Yeah. It is—at every level. Again, you want that respect. If you are just one of the crowd and become sort of one of your subordinates, they’re not going to respect you. These are some of the things that I think work for me.

Taking counter-terrorism work as an example, you were able to effect great amounts of change in the NYPD. What would you say has been your most effective method for enacting that change and getting people to do what you want?

Photo: Norwich cadets interview Raymond KellyWell, let’s face it: The position of authority gives you the ability to affect change. Now the question is, is it lasting? Will people resist it? Will it somehow be undermined? Just having a position of authority enables you to initiate things. I think the respect element I talked about is what enables it to sort of take hold. You know, “This person is leading this effort. Because it’s this person, I think it has merit. I am buying into it.”

What are some ways that you’ve changed your leadership style over the years?

I think leadership to a certain degree is situational. It depends on what the work force looks like and what the immediate situation is. I think you need to be flexible in terms of how you approach it. If I have to use one word as to how I lead, I would probably say “authoritative.” I have that model because in an organization like the police department, you’ve got people working 24 hours a day. The department needs the structure, the people need that structure. I think in many things you have to have that authoritative style. But then there’s the coach, and then there’s the element of counseling people. So, depending on the situation you’ve got to be able to adjust to what you believe is the right leadership style. In an emergency situation, you have to use the authority that you have. People expect that. People want somebody in charge. You have to take that position. But you don’t have to go around flexing that all the time.

How have you dealt with people that didn’t like you or the decisions you’ve made and been able to move on?

You do just that—move on. I would say this, I did learn a lesson. I made a decision, and quite frankly I don’t remember what it was, but it had to do with constituencies. You have to think about the [ones] you have when making a decision. I made this decision that did not incorporate the union or the union position. You work with the public, the media, elected officials, the boss, the mayor, that sort of thing. I just didn’t think about the union. It came back to cause a problem.

Photo: Raymond Kelly stands with two Norwich cadets, holding challenge coin giftSo, I actually drew a decision wheel, and I put all these constituencies in it. “Did I think of this? Did I think of that?” So, I learned a lesson. If you have the time to do that, you want to use the capacity that you have to check in with people and see what their thoughts are. Sometimes you have to force your hand. But if you have the time and the opportunity, you check with your constituents.

Interview condensed and edited for length and clarity.

Produced, edited and photographed by Sean Markey

Video: NU Writers Series Hosts Former Al Qaeda Hostage Theo Padnos

Photo: Author Theo Padnos speaks to class at Norwich University
Norwich University Office of Communications

September 27, 2017

In 2012, American journalist and author Theo Padnos was captured by Al Qaeda forces in Syria, where he was tortured and imprisoned for two years. Following his unlikely release, he recounted his experience for the New York Times Sunday Magazine and later in the 2016 documentary film, Theo Who Lived.

A fluent Arabic speaker, Padnos had previously reported on Jihadi and Islamist radicalization in Yemen in the book, Undercover Muslim. An insightful thinker and writer, Padnos was invited to kick-off the 2017-18 Norwich University Writers Series lecture series. He visited campus on September 26 to speak with students and give a public talk about his work.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zvocQJKwJzw&w=560&h=315]

What I Do: Norwich History Professor Rowland Brucken

The ultra-runner and human rights scholar discusses his work in Zimbabwe, the country’s repressive political climate, and baseball.

Norwich University Office of Communications

 
May 5, 2017

Norwich history professor and ultra-marathoner Rowland Brucken rarely takes the easy or conventional path. Take the Ohio native’s lifelong devotion to the Cleveland Indians. Or the fact that he didn’t start a band during high school–he founded a chapter of Amnesty International. Today, Brucken serves as the human rights organization’s Zimbabwe country expert and testifies on behalf of Zimbabweans seeking U.S. asylum. At Norwich, he teaches courses on human rights and international law, civil rights, and the prosecution of human rights abuses, as well as surveys of U.S. foreign policy, U.S. history, and the history of baseball. In the classroom, Brucken strives to inspire his students to inform themselves, engage with peers, and reach their own conclusions. “If students have the ability and will to do that, then I’m the happiest professor ever.”

What questions do you explore in your scholarship?

The main question around a lot of my research now is, how can societies heal from mass trauma? Whether it’s torture, genocide, systemic human rights abuses—what are the alternatives? What are the options that victims and survivors have? A second larger question with the human rights work that I do is, how has international human rights law evolved, especially since World War II? In what areas, regions, and times has it been effective in deterring human rights abuses or holding people accountable? In what areas has it been ineffective?

You returned to Zimbabwe earlier this year. What were you doing there?

I gave a paper on truth commissions to a government-sponsored research conference, which was a bit awkward. I also met with civil society groups, human rights organizations, to talk about how Amnesty can best help them given that the next year is probably going to be particularly difficult in Zimbabwe. Lastly—and something unexpected—as part of a transitional justice working group, I gave some feedback to the parliament of Zimbabwe on a truth commission bill that they are now debating. What kind of truth commission to set up in response to past human rights abuses.

You said next year will be difficult there. Why?

There are national elections scheduled for 2018. Whenever there have been elections, the government has increased surveillance and repression of perceived political challengers, as well as human right activists who document human rights abuses. Also, the ruling party might implode; the opposition party is relatively fragmented; and the economy has bottomed out. All of those make for a very uncertain campaign. The government with a monopoly on violence can act unpredictably and arbitrarily in employing torture and detention, among other weapons.

How did your interest in Zimbabwe come about?

It started when I studied abroad when I was in college, during my junior year back in 1990. I wanted to go a country that no one in my college had ever been to. I was at a place called Ranche House College in Harare, the capital. But I also ended up hitchhiking all over the country on my own.

What distinguished that experience for you?

Zimbabweans are culturally an incredibly generous and kind people. For example, when you ask somebody here in the United States, “How are you?” They say, “I’m fine.” In Zimbabwe, it translates into, “I am fine—if you are fine.” There’s a communitarian emphasis. I met many Zimbabweans all over the country. People would be cooking by the side of the road. I would just stop off and have dinner with them. They took me in as a college student, a 20-year-old guy who didn’t really know what he was doing with his life. They took me in, and they gave me their food, their wisdom, their hospitality. I’ve never forgotten that. It’s a debt that I can never repay as a human being.

Did you run on your most recent trip?

I did. I did. I forgot that Harare was a mile above sea level. I ran the same distance, but was often out of breath and had to run slow. I’m not one to back down. I just adjust my pace.

Are you still training for ultra-marathons?

I am. I’ve got one more 100-miler left in me. I’m doing two marathons this [year]. I’m looking at doing another 50-miler in the fall. It’s foolishness is what it is.

You study the history of baseball. Did you play as a youngster? Were you a fan?

I played horribly in little league for two years. I grew up in Cleveland, and so I’m a lifelong Cleveland Indians fan. When I was in elementary and junior high school, the Indians would finish last or next to last every year. Rooting for a losing baseball team, it taught me a lot about life. About being grateful for small victories and about loyalty and that every opening day is a new year. So hope emerges every year right in springtime with flowers and trees. Baseball has such rich history. I couldn’t imagine teaching a course on football history that brings in so many cultural, economic, foreign policy, political, race, class, and gender aspects as baseball does.

Interview edited and condensed for length and clarity.

9 Objects: The Office of Amy Woodbury Tease

Photo of Amy Woodbury Tease setting at her office desk in the NU English Dept.
Norwich University Office of Communications

February 3, 2016

A specialist in modern British literature with a PhD from Tufts, Assistant Professor of English Amy Woodbury Tease has a soft spot for junk television and a fascination with surveillance culture. This year her courses include two new classes, “Art in the Age of Surveillance” and “Paranoid States,” which examine contemporary surveillance society, conspiracy, terrorism, and anarchy through the lens of art. Required reading/watching ranges from Joseph Conrad’s novel The Secret Agent to the Brazilian TV series 3%. Woodbury Tease also directs the Undergraduate Research Program at Norwich and is currently writing a book about surveillance society and culture. She shares the backstory of nine items found in her Webb Hall office:

Virginia Woolf pillow1. Assorted Virginia Woolf-abalia. Woodbury Tease wrote her undergraduate senior thesis on the 20th-century English author, sparking years of Woolf-themed gifts from friends and family. Today, her collection includes a finger puppet/magnet, a poster, assorted dolls, and a “creepy” pillow.

2. Nerd-Affirming Thermos. Swag from the 2014 Norwich University Undergraduate Research Symposium. Tease launched the symposium, known today as “From Students to Scholars,” to inspire early-career students to undertake ambitious, independent research with faculty mentors. “Undergraduate research is important to every student. But specifically students at Norwich, I think, because they are such active learners.”

Photo of Muriel Spark novel and framed picture of Amy Woodbury Tease and student Hannah Bell with Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy3. Muriel Spark’s The Girls of Slender Means. A gift from recent graduate and standout research mentee Hannah Bell ’16, who was the first Norwich student to present findings at the annual Posters on the Hill conference in Washington, D.C. “[Hannah] put it in the mail with a little note that said, ‘I was at a used bookstore unwinding, and I saw this book. It was the first book that I read in your class, and I couldn’t resist sending it.’”

Photo of Mark Rothko print with two children's drawings below4. Mark Rothko Print. A holdover from Woodbury Tease’s days as a graduate student. “It just brings light into the room. Underneath it, I have paintings that my son, who is now 3, did that I thought were Rothkoesque.”

Photo of tiny French mailbox5. Tiny Post Box Replica. Purchased at a vintage store, it’s a nod to French philosopher Jacques Derrida, author of The Postcard, among other works. “He does a lot with language and the ways in which language kind of circles around itself and there is no kind of outside to language. Some people find his work maddening, other people [like me] find it incredibly engrossing.”

Photo of cards and postcards tucked into fabric and ribbon holder6. Note cards. “I love sending cards to friends.” During finals, Woodbury Tease will steal a moment or two to write friends, family, and “sometimes colleagues who I think need a dose of humor.”

7. Squashy Armchair. In the morning, Woodbury Tease likes to relax with a cup of coffee and re-read text that she’ll discuss with students later that day. “That chair is really old, from an apartment I had in Queens before I got my PhD. It’s colorful, so it brings a little bit of brightness into the office.”

Photo of two children's books, "She Loved Baseball" and "Alice in Wonderland"8. Children’s books. Before starting her PhD program, Woodbury Tease spent three years working in New York as an editorial assistant in the children’s book division of Harper Collins. “I was actually really lucky, because my editor traveled a lot. So she gave me more responsibility.” A highlight was working with artists and seeing their original work.

9. Vintage Telephone, Circa 1930. The working phone was a gift from a grad school friend on the eve of Woodbury Tease’s English PhD defense. Her dissertation explored technology, technical snafus, Modernism, and machines. “I had several chapters that dealt with the telephone and phone calls,” she laughs. “So for a while I was known as ‘the call girl.’”

Photo of Amy Woodbury Tease standing at office door

 

Text and photographs by Sean Markey

What I Do: NASA Manager Dennis Davidson ’82

Photo: Formal head and shoulders studio portrait of Norwich alum and NASA manager Dennis Davidson
WHAT I DO:

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Dennis Davidson ’82
Manager, Program Control and Integration Office

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NASA Commercial Crew Program
Johnson Space Center

Mention NASA and most people think of astronauts and engineers. But any space program “starts with the budget,” says Norwich alum Dennis Davidson. “Without money, nothing’s gonna happen.” During the Shuttle era, Davidson was the no. 2 in charge of business operations for the $4 billion-a-year program. Today he manages 35 staffers and an annual budget of $1.2 billion for NASA’s crewed space flight program. The program’s main thrust is vehicle development contracts with commercial aerospace companies Space X and Boeing to send astronauts to the International Space Station and on other low-Earth orbit missions. He started his de facto NASA career shortly after his NU graduation, working for five years at Johnson Space Center while wearing an Air Force uniform. Thirty years on, he helps navigate Congress’s stopgap continuing budget resolutions to keep agency missions aiming for the heavens.

What’s your job at NASA?
In government lingo, program control is all the business functions. It’s procurement and contracting. It’s the finances. It’s IT. It’s security. Public relations. Legislative affairs. Interfacing with the center legal offices. We have a lot of oversight committees, seven or eight, including an aerospace safety advisory panel. It’s also about keeping the money flowing from fiscal year to fiscal year, so that the astronauts and engineers can go do their jobs and the contracts can perform.

Are you the top guy?
I am.

What’s it like to work at NASA? Any highlights?
There was a point in my career where I had an office in the same building as Mission Control. So being there every day, walking past Mission Control Center, being aware of that history. “Houston, we’ve got a problem” from Apollo 13. Or “One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” That all those words came to Houston first. Being a part of that going forward was just huge.

The second piece is just the quality of the workforce down here. I mean you come in every day and work with just awesome people, who are fun to be around, smart, [and] solving hard, hard problems every day. Being in a position to participate and at times just observe and see that take place has just been fascinating.

I’ve moved around to several different jobs. But I was in the Shuttle Program for the last few years that we were flying. Being a part of those last few missions, when you knew STS-133, STS-134, STS-135 were almost at the end. We finished assembling the Space Station. We were not going to fly these vehicles anymore. These were the last flights. Just knowing the importance of what was going on at that point in time and being a part of it.

What do you see when you look at the space exploration landscape today?
NASA on the whole is still doing in-house development for deep space exploration. Whether it’s the robotic spacecraft that are currently operating on Mars or the Orion crewed vehicle that’s being developed here that will be capable of going to the moon or to Mars. There’s also a new NASA rocket, called the SLS, the space launch system, that’s going to take the Orion into space.

What we’re starting to do commercially is operating in what we refer to as low-Earth orbit, so up to 250 to 300 miles. Primarily that’s the International Space Station. We’ve got three vehicles that they’re working on for cargo. Two of them are operational already. Then we’re working on the two vehicles with Boeing and Space X for crewed transportation, getting us away from reliance on the Russians. The big focus outside of NASA, a lot of it is what they call the tourist industry. Those folks would take passengers up to space, but not for long.

What’s driving advances in your field and what are the big hurdles?
The big hurdle is the cost of getting things launched. A couple of companies are working on reusable launch vehicles. It’s the single use vehicle—you got to build a new one every time—that drives the cost. With Shuttle, it was a multiuse vehicle. But because of the nature of it’s design, it was almost as expensive. So finding a reusable way [to launch]. Both Blue Origin and Space X have working concepts to land their first stage rocket. They do the launch. They bring it back. They can actually fly it back and land it on landing legs, where you then refuel it and use it again. That will be the biggest single thing that will open up the market.

Why does exploring space matter?
The simple answer is, what if Columbus never had a desire to set sail for India? What if Lewis and Clark had never set out to see all the country of the Louisiana Purchase? What if those people had never done that? What would we have missed out on? We’re taking the human race into that next unknown. Will we ever colonize another planet? Maybe. [We’re taking] that next step. Asking, is it possible? Could we colonize another body—the moon, Mars, or anywhere else—if we needed to?

Dennis Davidson serves on the Board of Fellows advisory panel for the Norwich University College of Science and Mathematics.

Norwich University Office of Communications

September 14, 2016

Ideas @ Work: #3 Safer Drinking Water

Photo of environmental chemist Seth Frisbie working with villagers in Bangladesh
33 ideas big and small from Norwich students, faculty, staff, and alumni that are transforming campus and the world.
The Norwich Record

Spring 2016

A series of math errors, rounding mistakes, and other miscues led the World Health Organization (WHO) to issue dangerous drinking water guidelines for inorganic toxic substances, including molybdenum, mercury, and uranium. Norwich environmental chemist Seth Frisbie and several colleagues caught the gaffs. In August 2015, they published their findings in the journal Environmental Health. Since then, the researchers have been working to improve the standards.

More Ideas@Work:

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Ideas @ Work: #24 NU Undergraduate Research Symposium

33 ideas big and small from Norwich students, faculty, staff, and alumni that are transforming campus and the world.
The Norwich Record

Spring 2016

What would a criminal justice system look like if we colonized Mars? How can we cure cancer? As research ideas, the questions are a bit raw. But that’s kind of the point of NUURS, a multi-day symposium designed to foster “scholarly inquiry and creative thinking” at Norwich. The brainchild of English professor Amy Woodbury Tease, the annual event encourages students to pitch their burning research questions. Fellow student and faculty scholars then offer advice on shaping those raw ideas into solid research proposals. Participants also learn more about the nuts and bolts of long-term research projects. Capturing the essence of what the program is all about, this year’s NUURS event was titled, “From Student to Scholar.”

Related Website:

Norwich University Office of Academic Research
academics.norwich.edu/academic-research/

More Ideas@Work:

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Ideas @ Work: #29 Whole Student Mentoring

33 ideas big and small from Norwich students, faculty, staff, and alumni that are transforming campus and the world.
The Norwich Record

Spring 2016

Last fall, Assistant Professor of Spanish Gina Sherriff and Assistant Professor of Criminal Justice Elizabeth Gurian of the College of Liberal Arts launched a new kind of mentoring program at Norwich. Drawing from a pool of over 60 applicants, the duo paired faculty and staff with students in a big-picture approach. Mentors focus not only on students’ academic success and career planning, but also on personal challenges and their overall well-being. Gurian says the program seeks to enhance the student experience, advance student outcomes, and improve the university community.

More Ideas@Work:

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