Eight Questions for…Author and Assistant Prof. of English Sean Prentiss


December 2, 2015

Norwich University Assistant Professor of English Sean Prentiss’ book, “Finding Abbey,” was recently awarded the National Outdoor Book Award for history/biography. “Finding Abbey” is part-memoir, part-biography and centers on a two-year search for environmental writer Edward Abbey’s hidden desert grave.

Sean is in his fourth year at Norwich. He teaches Introduction to Creative Writing, Environmental Writing, Natural and Environmental Literature, Professional/Technical Writing and Composition. He is a co-founder of the Norwich University Writers Series and the faculty advisor to the student literary journal, The Chameleon.

What is Edward Abbey’s relevance to these times?

Abbey talked a lot about overpopulation and other environmental issues. With climate change, one of the major things we have to do is reduce our carbon footprint, which is pretty simple in theory: we just reduce it. But with the world population growing from under four billion when I was born to over seven billion now, it just makes it more and more tricky. And Abbey had a really complicated view – a problematic view – on overpopulation. He just wanted to stop people at the borders; he was Donald Trump before Donald Trump was Donald Trump. And that doesn’t work because all that does is we have overpopulation around the world and then fewer people in America. But I think his view on the need to consider overpopulation is a primary concern, and I would argue that is done by education. So, that was his stance on overpopulation. He also looked at wilderness issues and how humanity was overrunning America. And we can look at that again with the world and how much land humanity uses and how it has grown exponentially with the expansion of cities. So something’s got to change. Those were some of Abbey’s ideas, but again, he was complicated, he had ideas that many view as racist – he had ideas that many viewed as misogynistic, but his overall stance is valuable.

What drew you to him and/or his writings as a topic for a book?

He was one of the first authors who seemed like someone I would know – not like a friend, but like someone who fit my lifestyle, so that was a big part of it. But then the reason it was a book topic for me was: I was living in a city, and I don’t work well in cities, and I was trying to figure out – is it me, or do I just need to suck it up and figure out how to live in cities or should I leave the city and get a new job? I had a great job at a great university and I thought what I would do is chase down the spirit of Edward Abbey and in the end go searching for his hidden desert grave as a way to really just continue to question him on how he decided what home was. And I thought he’d be a good person to ask this because he spent his whole life bouncing back and forth between spots he did not want to live (normally around New York City) and spots he did (normally the Desert Southwest), and family and employment kept moving him back and forth, and I thought if anyone has wrestled with this question it is Abbey. So I went to a lot of places he lived, a lot of places he didn’t want to live and kind of interrogated him through his works and through his friend’s ideas and then I went searching for the grave, but the big reason was to try to figure out the idea of home and what I should do for home.

When did you discover Abbey’s writings?

My senior year of college, and it kind of transformed my worldview. I was a business major having no idea what I was going to do. And that was maybe the second major step towards an environmental focus. My mom was the first one and then Abbey was the second one.

How many books have you written?

I have one book, “Finding Abbey.” I have an anthology called “The Far Edges of the Fourth Genre: Explorations in Creative NonFiction” – that’s a book just about looking at creative nonfiction itself and that has a whole bunch of wonderful authors contributing essays.

Why did you choose creative nonfiction – what is it about this genre?

It’s my first love, and I think I fell in love with it as a young adult 19-25 when I was just writing journals because it really helps you learn how to be human and as a young adult I needed that. I needed to figure out who I was; why I was who I was; what I was. So, again, I was a business major coming out of college having no idea what to do. And then I went into the Peace Corps and then I somehow ended up building trails in the woods. And I’m making these big giant not just career leaps but also human leaps, and I’m just transforming myself trying to figure out who the heck I was. And I think creative nonfiction allows us to repeatedly look at an idea and kind of just circle around it and see it from all different perspectives. It helps me wrestle through my ideas, through my weaknesses, through my flaws, and that’s one of my big things I love about it. The other thing I love is that it’s real; I’m not inventing a story to highlight the human experience; I’m saying this is the human experience. This is Abbey’s experience here – the quagmires he got himself into, and here’s how I can directly relate it to my own experience. When I’m driving across country from Michigan to Colorado I envision Abbey sitting next to me and we’re having this conversation; that’s what’s going on in my mind. I’m interrogating Abbey – “can you help me out, help me figure this out, be a mentor of mine?” And that’s how we live life. So, I’ve written fiction; I write lots of poetry, but for me creative nonfiction is the most useful and the most beautiful form to me because it’s about the art of human experience.

What is your process for writing a book?

I do a lot of research; so a lot of times before I do any project, I will read many many many books. I will have this vision for a book to write, but I also am envisioning a pile of books around me, and I don’t want to start writing until I get maybe halfway through, so we’re talking about 30, 40 books. A lot of it is just understanding the subject.  I love Edward Abbey as a writer; I love his ideas, and people are starting to call me an Ed Abbey expert, which always seems so mind-blowing, [because] all I am is a fan who has read lots and lots of stuff and can tell you some cool stories. But I want to try to know my subject really well before I get too deep into it, especially for a big project. For the “Finding Abbey” book I planned an itinerary. I didn’t have it all mapped out, but alright I’m going to start in Home, Pennsylvania, where Abbey was born and where his parents are buried, and I’m going to go searching for their graves as a way to explore Abbey and his hometown and his family. So I kind of had a frame for that. And then after that okay then I’m going to go out west and I’m going to talk with David Peterson, Abbey’s editor and friend, and then I’d write it chapter by chapter based on these travels. And that for me was really doable because I didn’t have to think about building a book, I had to think about building an essay and then another essay next to it, and then another essay and then once I had all my essays lined I had to make sure they communicated with each other, that they flowed. Once I had transitions then the overall arc was building slowly upward and tension hopefully…I was thinking about size of scenes. So that was how I built “Finding Abbey,” research, then travel, then writing an essay, then as I had all those essays turning it into chapters that were thematically connected. Plot connected. Narrative connected. And then just a whole lot of revision. This book went through 50 or 60 drafts. I had many people read it and offer feedback. At one point I took out 90 pages spread throughout the book [because] there were a couple strands that were just not useful. And then, I sent it to a publisher and they liked it. So, from there, it was just copyediting, grammar stuff.

What do you tell your students about writing?

I tell my students that revision is the key, and what that means is – we revise everything everyday with what we do. If you’re in a band you practice playing guitar or drums whatever hundreds, thousands of days. If you’re on a football team or a soccer team – how many times have you kicked that ball or thrown that ball, and that’s all writing is. That first draft is often going to stink. That’s alright. If there are some kernels there, then they can keep drawing them out, drawing them out. And what’s really exciting for me is seeing what they can create by the end of the semester or the end of their time at Norwich and seeing these writers leave knowing that they can create beautiful things. So, I tell them revision is the key. And specificity. If we don’t see your world, then we can’t feel for your world.  Maybe divine inspiration hits every once in a while, but it only hits because of the thousands of hours we’ve put into writing already. There are all these stories out there and all we have to do is listen. They are always there but so many times we’re not thinking about stories, we’re thinking about groceries. We’re thinking about letting the dog out. I look out my window and I say – “That’s a poem right there! Just the way the wind hits across the lake. And it doesn’t come across as one big sheet of wind; it does these little wind dances, and because my job is to look at stories, I see that and I think ‘poem.’ Or someone says something, and I think: ‘short story.’ And it’s only because I keep my ears open and then I see what I can have the time to turn into a story. I have a lot of stories.

What are you working on currently?

The book closest to being done is a textbook on environmental nature writing, called “Nature and Environmental Writing: A Guide and Anthology.” The idea is that there is no great nature or environmental writing textbook, so in the classroom I teach this class, but I cannot find the book to teach with it. By next year, hopefully, there will be a book that you can use and it will have an anthology with it of all modern-day, all newer writers from across America, and it will deal with issues of environment and race; issues of climate change; issues of gender and environment. We are trying to go across the border with different types of pieces so students can find what they want – fiction, nonfiction, poetry. I am working on that with Joe Wilkins, a great environmental writer.

I have three books of poetry I’m working on, and when I say poetry, I only call them poetry because everyone understands what we mean when we say poetry. Otherwise, I might call them micro-essays because they’re all true. The first one is all about my years spent leading a trail crew in the Pacific Northwest and the Desert Southwest. That’s a memoir in poems. I have a book on Turtle Cove, where my wife, Sarah, and I live, and what I want to do is to write these poem/micro-essays that are really science-heavy about the world around us. The science of loons, of our bees, of bears who ate our bees. The third one I am calling, “Talking with the Ancients,” which will be responses to ancient Chinese poetry.

I am thinking about another anthology that deals with science and creative nonfiction – truth and how we perceive time and how that affects creative nonfiction. I am interested in this because we are told how to write but not why. We tell students to ‘show and not tell,’ but we don’t have the information to back up why that makes for better storytelling. I was always the kind of student who needed to know why we were supposed to do something a certain way.

Photo courtesy of Sarah Prentiss

Norwich Presents Hispanic Heritage Performance by Pulitzer Prize-Winning Photographer José Galvez

Photographer Jose Galvez holds a medium format camera

October 12, 2015

NORTHFIELD, Vt. – Norwich University presents Pulitzer Prize winning Latino documentary photographer and author of “Shine Boy,” José Galvez, in two separate presentations as well as an exhibit of his photography, which runs Oct. 11-25.

Presented by the Campus Activities Board, the College of Liberal Arts and the School of Architecture + Art, all events are free and open to the public.

On Tuesday, Oct. 13, Galvez presents “My Story,” an illustrated presentation at 8 p.m. in Dole Auditorium. The following day, Wednesday, Oct. 14, Galvez gives a gallery talk at his exhibit in the School of Architecture + Art’s Chaplin Hall at noon.

National Hispanic Heritage Month is observed from Sept. 15 – Oct. 15 and celebrates the histories, cultures and contributions of American citizens whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean and Central and South America.

About Norwich University

Norwich University is a diversified academic institution that educates traditional-age students and adults in a Corps of Cadets and as civilians. Norwich offers a broad selection of traditional and distance-learning programs culminating in Baccalaureate and Graduate Degrees. Norwich University was founded in 1819 by Captain Alden Partridge of the U.S. Army and is the oldest private military college in the United States of America. Norwich is one of our nation’s six senior military colleges and the birthplace of the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC). www.norwich.edu

In fulfillment of Norwich’s mission to train and educate today’s students to be tomorrow’s global leaders and captains of industry, the Forging the Future campaign is committed to creating the best possible learning environment through state-of-the-art academics and world-class facilities. Learn more about the campaign and how to participate in the “Year of Transformation” here: bicentennial.norwich.edu.

Media Contact:
Daphne Larkin
Assistant Director of Communications
Office Tel: (802) 485-2886
Mobile: (802) 595-3613

Two Vermont Book Award Finalists to Kick Off Norwich University Writers Series

Vermont Author Jessica Hendry Neslon
Norwich University Office of Communications

October 1, 2015

NORTHFIELD, Vt. – Norwich University’s 2015-16 Writers Series will bring acclaimed memoirist Jessica Hendry Nelson and short story writer Gary Lee Miller to campus for a double bill reading on Monday, Oct. 12, at 4:30 p.m. in Kreitzberg Library’s Multipurpose Room.

Nelson and Miller were both finalists for the inaugural Vermont Book Award. The event is free and open to the public.

Born in Philadelphia, Burlington resident Jessica Hendry Nelson is a professor at Burlington College and Champlain College. Her nonfiction essays appear in The Best American Essays, The Threepenny Review, The Carolina Quarterly, and The Los Angeles Review of Books.

Her debut collection of essays, “If Only You People Could Follow Directions,” explores experiences and themes surrounding her dysfunctional family, including her drug-addicted father, alcoholic mother, and a younger brother tormented by drug-addiction and jail time.

Writing in the Boston Globe, book reviewer Judy Bolton-Fasman described Nelson’s essays as “fresh and startling.”

Vermont short story writer Gary Lee MillerAlso reading at Norwich will be Montpelier-resident Gary Lee Miller, a Pushcart Prize-nominated short story writer and the creative director of Writers for Recovery, a writers’ workshop, which helps people overcome addiction.

Miller’s short story collection, “Museum of the Americas,” is also a finalist for the Vermont Book Award. His fiction appears in national literary magazines, including The Chicago Quarterly Review, The Florida Review, and Washington Square.

Miller has co-produced two documentary films and been nominated for a New England Emmy Award for documentary scriptwriting at WGBH/PBS Boston. He has been named a finalist in the James Jones Novel Fellowship Contest.

The Norwich University Writers Series is produced by the College of Liberal Arts and the Department of English & Communications. All events in the series are free and open to the public.

Books by Nelson and Miller will be on sale at the 2015-16 Writers Series event on October 12, and a book signing will follow the reading.

For more information, please visit the Writers Series website: writers.norwich.edu.

About Norwich University

Norwich University is a diversified academic institution that educates traditional-age students and adults in a Corps of Cadets and as civilians. Norwich offers a broad selection of traditional and distance-learning programs culminating in Baccalaureate and Graduate Degrees. Norwich University was founded in 1819 by Captain Alden Partridge of the U.S. Army and is the oldest private military college in the United States of America. Norwich is one of our nation’s six senior military colleges and the birthplace of the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC). www.norwich.edu

In fulfillment of Norwich’s mission to train and educate today’s students to be tomorrow’s global leaders and captains of industry, the Forging the Future campaign is committed to creating the best possible learning environment through state-of-the-art academics and world-class facilities. Learn more about the campaign and how to participate in the “Year of Transformation” here: bicentennial.norwich.edu.

Media Contact:
Daphne Larkin
Assistant Director of Communications
Office Tel: (802) 485-2886
Mobile: (802) 595-3613

5 Questions For … Surveillance and Media Culture Scholar Amy Woodbury Tease

Norwich University Office of Communications

September 18, 2015

Assistant Professor of English Amy Woodbury Tease began teaching at Norwich in 2011 after completing her PhD at Tufts. It was during her first year at Norwich that she joined the Council on Undergraduate Research, a faculty body dedicated to fostering undergraduate student research. She now serves as Program Director for the university’s Undergraduate Research Program. A modernist specializing in post-1950 British literature and film, Woodbury Tease focuses her own scholarship on surveillance and media culture. Among other projects, this fall she is co-teaching an honors course with Criminal Justice professor and terrorism expert Travis Morris called, “The Other Side of Innovation.”

Woodbury Tease sat down in her office in Webb Hall to discuss her research interests and why she is such a passionate supporter of independent student scholarship.

What questions do you explore in your research?

I’m really interested the ways in which the ubiquity of technology forces us into this space where we feel really comfortable with our devices. We feel as if they are part of us. But my theoretical perspective is this concept of difficulty. So the ways in which when technical difficulty happens, that’s when we become aware that our positions in the world are not as secure, not as comfortable. That they’re constructed. We are media subjects. Even if we think we’re off the grid. You’re still part of this culture where globally someone is able to see you, right? You can be found or traced in some way. Especially now and in ways we’re unaware of.

So I guess one of the questions is, what does it mean to be a media subject? What are our responsibilities as consumers of media? Things that we watch for entertainment have real world implications. Even if we’re watching a reality television show, there are things about it. What are we actually participating in? What stereotypes are being enacted on those programs? What are we OK with? What are we not OK with? How do we in some ways abandon our ethics and our morals to the screen? That’s one set of questions.

What’s another?

In what ways can surveillance help us? In what ways do these technologies add to our communication? I’m quick to say, and others are quick to say, the screen culture is harming us in more ways than it’s helping us. But in what ways does it allow us to communicate better and talk to people from across world and read text that we wouldn’t otherwise get to read? To share our work with people that wouldn’t necessarily get access to it? So thinking about what I call the possibilities and pitfalls of the media in our digital age.

Do you have a Facebook page?


Do you post actively?

I do, but it’s very selective. That’s the other thing. To recognize also that our Facebook selves are constructed. A lot of [my students] are like, huh? A lot of them have grown up into this world. What does it mean for them, too? Because in some ways, there is a generation gap that I’m going to have to deal with. They’re born into this world. Whereas, I’ve become accustomed to it. A lot of things I’ve resisted. With Facebook, I’m one of the few people where I’ve been grandfathered into this space where people can’t actually find me. So I was very paranoid about it when I first started teaching at the college level to allow anyone to see anything. Now I feel more open about it. I don’t post anything that I wouldn’t talk to my students about.

Shifting gears, why is undergraduate student research important?

I think it’s the most important aspect of their education. That they move from being a student in a classroom who is consuming information to being a producer of information. From my freshman students up, I tell them this is where you find your voice. This is where you ask your questions. I’m not going to give you a topic to write about. I’m going to give you a theme or a general sense of a direction, and you need to find what you want. You need to find the thing that inspires you, which is hard. Sometimes you have to sit with them and say, Ok, talk to me a little bit about the things that interest you in class. And you don’t always get what you’re looking for. But I think if students don’t feel like they have the agency or the ability to ask a question that you’re not asking, they’re not really getting the same level of experience.

I can tell them to think what I think. But then in the end, what do they get out of that? They get my particular thesis, which they’re going to get anyway. That’s not to say I don’t have an agenda in my classes. I do. But in the end what I hope is that they will be able to take whatever foundation I’ve given them and think about how they might apply it to something they’re interested in.

And of course those who go out into the field and get to do stuff and get their hands dirty, I think that’s great too.

Interviewed condensed and edited for length and clarity.


Undergraduate Research: A History Sleuth’s Eureka Moment

Senior Abigail Seaberg was one of 28 Norwich University undergraduates awarded Summer Research Fellowships to explore diverse topics across the arts, sciences and professional fields. Developed by the university’s Office of Academic Research, the competitive, six- and ten-week fellowships are funded by university endowments dedicated to supporting student academic investigation.
Norwich University Office of Communications

September 10, 2015

For years, they sat in a box under a bed in New Jersey. But in 2014, the collection of 100-plus watercolors, sketches, and oil paintings by 19th century Norwich alum William Brenton Boggs was donated to the university’s Sullivan Museum and History Center.

Abigail Seaberg, a rising senior history major and undergraduate Summer Research Fellow, set out to learn more about the paintings and the artist behind them.

Boggs was an early Norwich cadet who joined the Rodgers-Ringgold Expedition of 1853-1856. The four-year U.S. naval expedition sailed from Hampton Roads, Va., around the Horn of Africa on a Star Trek-like mission to boldly explore new civilizations and natural wonders of the Pacific.

Visiting Polynesia, Australia, Japan, China, and beyond, Boggs painted much of what he saw to capture a visual record of the expedition. Little is known about the expedition today or Boggs, it’s official painter.

Urged on by her faculty advisor, Dana Professor of History Gary Lord, Seaberg endeavored to see what she could uncover during a 10-week summer research fellowship.

The Air Force veteran and budding historian combed related archives and collections at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.; a “Raiders of the Ark” like Smithsonian warehouse in Virginia; and the Swem Library at William and Mary College in Williamsburg, Va. But material on Boggs was scant.

Visiting her grandmother, who lived in Williamsburg, Seaberg pondered her next steps. It was there that her grandmother invited Seaberg to the Rockefeller Library at Colonial Williamsburg, suggesting she investigate its large collection of documents belonging to the Carter family.

A member of the prominent Virginia clan, Robert Randolph Carter, had sailed on the Rodgers-Ringgold Expedition. Seaberg doubted anything would come of it, but went anyway to humor her grandmother, who volunteers at the library.

Seaberg started with a collection of 20 letters Carter penned to his wife in minute script on tissue-thin paper. Scanning microfiche copies for a reference to Boggs, Seaberg froze on the very first page of the very first letter.

Near the bottom, Seaberg saw the name Boggs. “It’s not really so bad,” the letter read. “For we all manage to laugh, joke, quiz and argue and Boggs to pun very much as men do when at their ease.”

Seaberg says she then erupted in a series of exclamations and fist pumps worthy of a touchdown celebration. She hadn’t found Boggs. But she had found the next best thing: His best friend on the expedition, a prodigious letter writer to boot.

“Boggs pops up in every single letter from that point forward,” all 20 of them, Seaberg says. Through Carter’s correspondence, Seaberg pieces together a portrait of Boggs.

“All of a sudden the man has a personality,” she says. “He tells horrible jokes, and we have horrible jokes written down for the rest of the world to see for all time. He’s a great artist.”

“It’s a huge discovery because nobody has looked at these [letters] in God knows how long. They were photographed and put on microfilm and then forgotten.”

Seaberg has written a lengthy research paper on her findings and notes wryly that her scholarship owes a huge debt of thanks to her grandmother. “It’s just a huge thing and it was shear dumb luck. Because my grandmother made me go to this [archive]. And now I have to thank her in whatever … I do.”

Of Seaberg’s scholarship, history professor and faculty advisor Gary Lord says, “It could be a lifelong endeavor.”

Related Articles on Undergraduate Summer Research Fellows:

Prof. Emily Fisher Gray’s 2015 Norwich University Convocation Address

Associate Professor of History Emily Fisher Gray earned her PhD from the University of Pennsylvania and won the 2015 Homer L. Dodge Award for Teaching Excellence at Norwich University. The award recognizes distinguished contributions to university life through outstanding teaching. Yesterday, Gray addressed the Norwich community at Convocation. A copy of her prepared remarks follows.

Norwich University Office of Communications

September 2, 2015

Good afternoon! It is such a privilege to speak with you today. It is humbling to receive the Dodge Award in the presence of the world-class scholars and first-rate teachers that are my colleagues on the Norwich faculty. It was also a pleasure to join many of you last Sunday for the Dog River Run. I would like to thank the Corps of Cadets for inviting the faculty to be part of that great Norwich tradition, and thank my fellow members of the Faculty Platoon. Can’t think of anyone I’d rather get sweaty, muddy, and soaked with.

The first time I witnessed the Dog River Run was soon after moving into my house, which has property that borders the river. It was a normal late-summer Sunday morning and my family was preparing to go to church when we heard some commotion in the river and cannons going off so we went down to see what was going on. (By the way, I moved here from West Philadelphia. It has taken me a while to get used to the idea that when you hear gunfire, it’s a good thing!)

As we watched the platoons of Rooks slog through the river, I could see that it had been a very difficult week for many of them. But I noticed one young man in particular who had clearly been pushed to his limits. He looked completely exhausted and it was all he could do to keep his Dog River Rock clutched tightly to himself with both arms. Then I noticed that he had a platoon member on either side of him.

These two young men’s faces also showed the strain of a difficult week, but they appeared to have been better prepared for this particular physical challenge. Each of them held their rock under one arm. Each had their free arm wrapped around the waist their Rook brother: one on one side, one on the other. These two young men were carrying their friend down the river. They would not let him give up. They would not let him fail to finish.

The image of these three Rooks has stuck with me. The two guys that wouldn’t leave their buddy behind has become for me a symbol of what makes the students I teach at Norwich so remarkable and so different from students I have encountered elsewhere. You talk about service to others before self, and you really mean it!

I can clearly recall the face of the Rook in the middle, the one who was having the most difficult day of his life. College in general, and Norwich in particular, is designed to give you experiences that push you to your limits. When we say “expect challenge”, we mean it! Those of you for whom Rook Week was a breeze are likely to find yourself challenged by Chemistry or Calculus or Chinese, or by long late nights in your Architecture studio. Some of you will encounter uncomfortable new ideas in your classes, which cause you to reassess what you thought you knew. Many of you will find yourself confronting impossibly difficult moral or ethical dilemmas: resisting an opportunity to cheat on a test or take the apparently-easy path of plagiarism on a paper. Or you might face the necessity of reporting wrongdoing in a fellow student, which may be the hardest thing you ever have to do.

When the time comes that you feel like that Rook in the river, stretched to your absolute limit, I want you to look to your right, and look to your left. You have friends here. We will help you, even if we need to carry you for a while. Hold on to your rock and keep going forward. Your friends, and your professors, and the university staff all want to see you walk across this stage in triumph and receive a diploma that signifies that you are a graduate of Norwich University.

None of us succeeds entirely on our own. Think of Harry Potter, he wouldn’t have made it out of Book 1 if it wasn’t for Ron and Hermione! Or how about the Justice League? Aquaman has some cool talents, but he’s not going to catch the bad guys without Green Lantern and Batman and Wonder Woman on his team. A few weeks ago there were three friends traveling on a train to Paris, who took down a terrorist by working together. Talk about superheroes!

We are all stronger when we have each other’s backs. This means that sometimes, you are the one who gets to step up and help somebody else. And let me tell you, these opportunities to be of service to another person rarely come when you are strong and well-rested and have lots of time on your hands. The timing is almost always awkward and inconvenient. You might feel like you are nearly at the end of your rope yourself. Don’t let that stop you.

I felt inspired this last week listening to an interview with the Army Ranger School graduating class that included the two first-ever female Rangers: Captain Kristen Griest and First Lieutenant Shaye Haver. A couple of the male graduates on their teams shared experiences from the final day of the grueling Mountain phase of Ranger training. 2nd Lt. Zachary Hagner had been carrying an automatic weapon for the squad for three days, and just couldn’t go any further. He asked each member of the squad if they would take it from him. He explained (quote) “Everyone said ‘no’. But [Griest] took it from me. She, just as broken and tired, took it from me. I guess she was really motivated.”

Similarly, Haver was also the only member of her squad who felt able to take on extra weight during the Mountain phase, helping a struggling 2nd Lt. Michael Janowski, who said (quote) “I probably wouldn’t be sitting here right now if not for Shaye.” How cool are these two women! In the midst of the toughest challenge of their lives, with the world watching and more than a few people waiting for them to fail, Kristen Griest and Shaye Haver both took on extra weight at a critical time to help their buddies so they could all earn a Ranger tab together. Seriously, who needs superheroes when we have the real thing right among us!

In closing, let me briefly thank my own “battle buddies” who have been right by my side on the great days and the tough days. My awesome husband Austin and kids Lucy and Gavin; my mother Suzanne Fisher and my in-laws Sharon and Howard Gray. Thanks guys, you’re the best. I love you.

As for the rest of you: study hard, get as much sleep as you can, don’t skip breakfast, and I’ll see you in class!

Related Articles

Emily Fisher Gray Wins Top Teaching Award
Undergraduate Research: Visiting Shakespeare’s Birthplace to Study Religious Tolerance

Student Research: Visiting Shakespeare’s Birthplace to Study Religious Tolerance

Senior Jesse Abruzzi was one of 28 Norwich University undergraduates awarded a Summer Research Fellowship to investigate diverse topics across the arts, sciences and professional fields. Nurtured by the university’s Office of Academic Research, the competitive, six- and ten-week fellowships are entirely funded by university endowments dedicated to supporting student academic investigation.
Norwich University Office of Communications

August 20, 2015

Jesse Abruzzi, a senior history major, has long been fascinated by the intersection of religion and politics. So as a 10-week Norwich University Summer Research Fellow, he chose to study the lives of English Catholics during the Protestant Reformation in the second half the 16th century.

Abruzzi focused on the small English market town of Stratford-upon-Avon in the Catholic hotbed of Warwickshire. While practicing Catholicism could be a capital offense, a number of Catholics held seats of power in town government.

To conduct original research, Abruzzi used funds from his $4,000 fellowship stipend to visit two storied archives in England: the British Library in London, the world’s largest, and the Shakespeare Birthplace Record Trust Office in Stratford-upon-Avon.

In Stratford, Abruzzi spent days pouring over ancient manuscripts full of details about village life in the 1500 and 1600s. A main source was the Minutes and Accounts of the Stratford Corporation, or town government.

Notes recorded in the 16th century tome describe an array of ordinances that illuminate the concerns of the growing market town. Decrees ranged from efforts to control dogs, trade, and firearms to rules that sought to advert religious tensions or keep tavern owners from watering down their beer.

“Everything I was looking over slowly began to change the questions I was having,” Abruzzi says. “My question changed from a religious one to a more political one.”

He refocused his scholarship on the central issue of how Stratford-upon-Avon formed an autonomous government in such a religiously charged era.

Abruzzi found that despite anti-Catholic rhetoric and actions by the monarchy in London, religion took a back seat to political and economic interests in Stratford-upon-Avon. “[This] fostered an environment that allowed a stable town to form,” he says.

“What I just found really interesting was how a religious reformation that began in Europe resulted in a political reformation in this small English town. [One] that ultimately created, oddly, this religious diversity” imperfect though it was, he says.

Norwich University Assistant Professor of History Emily Fisher Gray advised Abruzzi on his project.

“This is a story that has been investigated by other historians relating to the larger rural county of Warwickshire, but Jesse [is] the first to ask these questions of the town of Stratford,” Gray says.

To help him with his project, Gray visited the British Library and the Shakespeare Birthplace Record Trust Office ahead of time to secure research access and canvas source material on his behalf.

“Jesse was interested in researching the experiences of ordinary people,” Gray says. “I was excited because the stories of regular folks rarely get told, and they are often the most interesting.”

Of his research, Abruzzi says, “I was doing work that I’ll probably be doing at the PhD level one day. So it was great practice actually being in the ‘field’ on my own and getting firsthand experience having to solve certain problems without help.”

He says his greatest takeaway from his fellowship experience this summer was a greater sense of personal and academic independence. “I had some help in the archives the first few days,” he says. “But after that, I was on my own.”

Related Stories on Norwich Undergraduate Summer Research Fellowships:
Photograph courtesy Emily Fisher Gray, PhD

In Focus: Prof. Gina Sherriff Visits Madrid for Study Abroad Conference

By David Westerman, PhD
Norwich University Office of Academic Research

July 7, 2015

Norwich University Assistant Professor of Spanish Gina Sherriff snapped this picture of Madrid’s Gran Via upscale shopping street during a trip to the Spanish capitol to participate in an international faculty development seminar. Hosted by the Council for International Educational Exchange, the seminar focused on the importance of study abroad in the development of cultural competence. Her travel was supported by the Norwich University International Center, a Bride Family Foundation Fellowship, and Chase International Travel Funds.

The seminar explored the effectiveness of study abroad programs on cultural awareness, as well as pedagogical best practices for faculty leading programs abroad. Prof. Sherriff learned ways to help students navigate intercultural communication, recognize their own stereotypes and expectations while abroad, and set realistic linguistic and cultural goals for the study abroad experience. She met with colleagues around the world to share ideas about promoting intercultural competence through travel and study. Finally, the seminar exposed Prof. Sherriff to the most recent advances in intercultural learning, including the use of the Intercultural Development Inventory as a tool for program assessment.

Prof. Sherriff plans to use the knowledge she acquired to develop and lead a program to Nicaragua through Norwich’s Maymester Global Classroom series to begin May 2016.

About the Author: David S. Westerman, PhD, is the Charles A. Dana Professor of Geology at Norwich University and the Associate Vice President for Research in the university’s Office of Academic Research.

Norwich Writers Series to Host Iraq War Vet, Memoirist Kayla Williams

Norwich University Office of Communications

Updated April 13, 2015

NORTHFIELD, Vt. – The Norwich University Writers Series continues with Iraq War veteran and memoirist, Kayla Williams, author of “Plenty of Time When We Get Home: Love & Recovery in the Aftermath of War” (2014) and “Love My Rifle More than You: Young & Female in the U.S. Army” (2006). Williams will read on Tuesday, April 21, at 4 p.m. in the Chaplin Hall Gallery.

Williams has appeared in numerous media interviews including this radio piece on PRI’s The World from February 2014, and including an appearance on Jon Stewart’s The Daily Show during a segment dealing with claim backlog at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

Williams enlisted in the U.S. Army as an interpreter in 2000. She served as a sergeant and Arabic linguist in a military intelligence company of the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) for five years. During that time, she spent a year deployed in Iraq and Kuwait during the buildup to and ultimate invasion of Iraq in 2003. Williams served at the forefront of troops’ interaction with Iraqis while navigating the challenges of being part of the 15 percent female minority enlisted in the Army.

“Love My Rifle More Than You: Young and Female in the U.S. Army” is a memoir about Williams’ experiences negotiating the changing demands on today’s military. “Plenty of Time When We Get Home: Love and Recovery in the Aftermath of War” details Williams’ marriage to Brian McGough, who was wounded by a roadside bomb in Iraq. The book explores the effects of traumatic brain injury and PTSD.

Williams is a 2013 White House Woman Veteran Champion of Change, Truman National Security Project Fellow, and member of the Army Education Advisory Committee, and a former member of the VA Advisory Committee on Women Veterans. She currently lives near Washington, D.C., with her husband.

The Norwich Writers Series event is presented by the university’s Center for Peace and War, the College of Liberal Arts, and the Department of English & Communications. All events in this series are free and open to the public. Williams’ memoir will be on sale at the event. A book signing will follow the reading.

Media Contact

Daphne Larkin
Assistant Director of Communications
802-485-2886 or 595-3613(m)

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About Norwich University

Norwich University is a diversified academic institution that educates traditional-age students and adults in a Corps of Cadets and as civilians. Norwich offers a broad selection of traditional and distance-learning programs culminating in Baccalaureate and Graduate Degrees. Norwich University was founded in 1819 by Captain Alden Partridge of the U.S. Army and is the oldest private military college in the United States of America. Norwich is one of our nation’s six senior military colleges and the birthplace of the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC). www.norwich.edu

In fulfillment of Norwich’s mission to train and educate today’s students to be tomorrow’s global leaders and captains of industry, the Forging the Future campaign is committed to creating the best possible learning environment through state-of-the-art academics and world-class facilities. Learn more about the campaign and how to participate in the “Year of Service” here: bicentennial.norwich.edu

Undergraduate Research Highlights From the College of Liberal Arts

By Isabel Weinger Nielsen | College of Liberal Arts

December 5, 2014

Students in the College of Liberal Arts, working with faculty mentors, have been involved in many exciting projects at Norwich University. Some recent highlights:

Psychology major Ali Shahidy ’17 is the first student from Afghanistan to attend Norwich University. His summer research project, under the mentorship of Criminal Justice Professor Travis Morris, was titled “How is Jihad Marketed in Kabul, Afghanistan?” Shahidy was able to develop six typologies through which Jihadi information is disseminated, and concluded that Jihadi information circulates in Kabul on a regular basis, in multiple manners, and on a large scale. However, the study could not conclude that all texts are propaganda with a specific purpose to influence and encourage people to join a Jihadi movement; some texts or speeches on Jihad are ideological concepts that are taught as part of the religious studies, and therefore they can’t be defined as propaganda. Shahidy said, “I valued the opportunity to conduct one-on-one in-depth academic works with a faculty mentor who is an expert on the subject matter. The research project is a process through which I have learned tremendously about academic research from my mentor.” Shahidy will be staffing the Undergraduate Research information table as one of its new Ambassadors.

Wren and Gwynn’s London

Shaili Patel ’16 is a double-major in architectural studies and history who was mentored by Professor Emily Gray. Patel traveled to London this past summer on an Undergraduate Research Fellowship to conduct research in the British Library. She studied two architects who conceptually redesigned the city of London: Christopher Wren in the late seventeenth century, and John Gwynn in the late eighteenth. Patel’s paper has been accepted for presentation at the Phi Alpha Theta (history honors society) undergraduate research conference in November at Roger Williams University. Patel said “working on the project was an adventure; it was a story coming to life. I spent most of my time in the British Library looking at old maps. While I walked around the city, these maps became reality, and I could imagine how London looked and felt in the 17th and 18th centuries. The project was a limitless expansion of imagination and creativity. “

Nile Journal

Frank Carissimo, a double major in history and studies in war & peace with a minor in political science, will graduate in December 2014. Mentored by History Professor Rowly Brucken, Carissimo will present a paper based on his summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship at the Phi Alpha Theta conference. His paper, “War and Hardship on the Nile: The Journal of Frederick Charles Miller,” is based on a journal of Charles Miller that was donated by a Norwich alumnus to the University’s Archives and Special Collections. In 1885, Miller documented an expedition to rescue British Governor-General Charles George “Chinese” Gordon from the city of Khartoum, a subject which had never been studied by historians. Frank said, “The Miller journal of 1885, one of a collection of four, was fascinating to research, as each day brought more unstudied pages [to light]. The research was extremely rewarding as it was the first project I’ve completed thus far in which no other person or source-other than the 1885 Miller journal-could answer my questions.”

Post-WWII Japan

International studies major Jake Freeman ’17 was mentored by Dean Andrea Talentino. His summer research project, “From Destruction to Stability,” examined the methods and circumstances that led to the successful rebuilding of Japan after WWII through the national investment of social and economic resources by the United States for the purpose of developing a mutually beneficial relationship of security and economic interests.

Freeman’s study showed that economic policies promoting the middle class, combined with social institutions that continue to reinforce the outcomes of those policies, along with a mutual security interest make a successful mission. Freeman said, “The Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship and working closely with Dr. Talentino opened my eyes to research being a professional way to discover things no one else has and, that each person’s research is a small jigsaw piece to a [complete] picture of understanding.”

About Undergraduate Research

Norwich students have a wealth of options when it comes to learning. One of the most exciting developments in this area is the Undergraduate Research Program, which provides funding to students for summer research projects, original research, or creative work projects done during the academic year, as well as opportunities to present papers at professional meetings.

Each October, a Faculty Scholarship Celebration is held on campus featuring displays of faculty/student joint summer research fellowship projects. In December, an Undergraduate Research Symposium generates conversation about research methods across disciplines and gets students thinking about independent research. The symposium provides a collaborative forum for students to develop their research ideas and introduces them to a range of funding opportunities. In May, a Student Scholarship Celebration allows students the opportunity to display their research abstracts from the previous summer or academic year, and recipients of upcoming summer grants are acknowledged.

A recently created Ambassadors Program enlists Undergraduate Research fellows from the previous year to promote the program by visiting classes, attending department meetings, displaying their research posters in the Wise Campus Center, and providing information to future student researchers.

English Professor Amy Woodbury Tease and Criminal Justice Professor Travis Morris are the COLA representatives to the Undergraduate Research Committee.

Read more about Norwich Undergraduate Research.