Prof. Travis Morris’s 2017 Norwich University Convocation Address

Photo: Prof. Travis Morris addresses NU's Class of 2021 at Convocation.
Norwich University Office of Communications

August 30, 2017

Associate Professor of Criminal Justice Travis Morris is a terrorism and policing scholar, who directs the Peace & War Center at Norwich University. He is the author of the recent book Dark Ideas, an exploration of how violent jihadists and neo-Nazis ideologues have shaped modern terrorism. On Tuesday, Morris addressed the Norwich community at Convocation. A copy of his prepared remarks follows.

President Schneider, Provost Afentio, deans, faculty, staff, guests, and most importantly the class of 2021: It is indeed an honor for me to be here today.

Incoming students, let me again welcome you to Norwich University. It’s a well-known fact that the audiences rarely remember what a speaker says. So with that in mind, I’ll be direct.

Each one of you is taking a risk by sitting there. Let me explain.

You face numerous challenges over the course of four years. And as you know, every challenge has two sides, success or failure.

As you think about your upcoming four years at Norwich, expect to be tested, intellectually, ethically, and some of you, physically. Expect to ask numerous questions. Expect to learn who you really are and make lifelong friends. Expect to emerge from Norwich more informed, service oriented, and a better person. I know that you have already thought about this and this is why you chose to come to Norwich. Norwich has been in the business of producing some of finest leaders, who have impacted countless lives around the globe and by sitting in those chairs, you aspire to join their ranks. You, however, are at the beginning of this journey, but you are not on this journey and risk taking alone.

The administration, faculty, and staff want you to succeed. We want you to excel and make us proud. But at the same time, we want you to be challenged, so that you leave here with the ability to make the world a better place. We know that some of you sitting here will reach the top positions in the military, government, corporations, academia, the arts, technology, engineering, medicine, law enforcement, and non-profits. We also know that some of you will face tremendous academic, personal, relational, and professional challenges during your four years. However, thousands have gone before you. But as General Sullivan states, “Hope is not a method.” You won’t make it back to these seats for graduation four years from now based on hope.

Taking risks is really a Norwich tradition. “I Will Try,” our motto, is really about taking a risk. That’s it. Norwich’s motto means that you take risks. You either make the shot or not. You either graduate or don’t. You pass the test or not. You either save the life or don’t. I also believe that “I will try” was never meant to be said in a comfortable chair or in a lackadaisical tone. Often the Norwich motto is uttered in stressful, uncertain situations with high stakes.

The first Norwich risk taker was our founder, Capt. Alden Partridge. You’ll pass his statue who knows how many times during your four years at Norwich. His ability to face challenges and take risks have impacted thousands. And you and everyone else sitting here today is part of his legacy. However, his actions took place a long time ago and have normalized over time. The courage required or the consequences of failure is often forgotten or taken for granted. It’s hard to picture Capt. Partridge sitting at his desk in 1866 after … the impact of the Civil War. He began the fall semester with only 19 students. Imagine the risks involved! Or Dr. Homer L. Dodge, former Norwich professor and president, was also a risk taker. Like Capt. Partridge, he challenged teaching conventions of the day.  He also visited a young man in Omaha, Nebraska, named Warren Buffet, before Buffet became one of the richest men in the world. Dr. Homer L. Dodge liked what he heard and invested thousands of dollars based on this young man’s advice, and guess what? That risk paid off. His thousands became millions. Taking risks can end in success sometimes.

If you allow me to offer you some points from my perspective that may be of benefit to you as you take risks and face the upcoming challenges during your time at Norwich. In some small way, I hope to share some lessons learned. These points are meant to assist you and come from serving as a Ranger-qualified infantry officer with the 10th Mountain Division, my years as a police officer, and as a criminologist at Norwich.

You cannot do it alone. You cannot do it alone. The United States Army Ranger School is one of the toughest training courses the Army has to offer. To me, a 22-year-old at the time, Army Ranger School was a lifetime of challenges, with the very real risk of failure crammed into a few months. Ranger students train to exhaustion, pushing the limits of their minds and bodies. Ranger School students learn whether they can lead or follow when tired, hungry, physically on the edge of exhaustion, and pushed to their often previously untested limits. Ranger School was more like getting into a car wreck. It was a collision, not a jostle. I learned that it is possible to actually sleep and walk at the same time.  At one point in the school I thought the sunset was a mountain rock ledge that I continually tried to step under but later realized that it really was a hallucination caused by carrying over a hundred pounds of gear, starvation, sleep deprivation, pushed physical limits, and the stress of being evaluated. To be sure, any soldier who attends Ranger School will be a better leader for it.

You see, no matter how prepared you are mentally or physically, you will break down at some point. You’ll have moments where you think you just can’t go any farther, and you need someone to tell you that there is only one mile left, someone to take 25 pounds of equipment off your back so you can make it up the mountain or through the swamp. You have a Ranger buddy, someone who you are paired with throughout the entire school if you both make it through. Your Ranger buddy not only helps, but becomes someone you don’t want to let down. You actually can do more than you imagine because someone is there to push and support you. Being a lone ranger is not the goal, and my Ranger buddy is a lifelong friend. There is a reason that some of you call each other Rook buddies—you need them.

You may not know this now but you soon will: You are surrounded by some of the finest faculty and staff in the United States. I’m honored to know them and call them colleagues. They are here to push you, challenge you. But also assist you to carry your academic load when you feel like you can’t go any further. Notice I said, “assist.” You still have to shoulder the weight. But they will both encourage you and hold you to a standard. They will see potential in you that some of you don’t currently. Some of them will spark an idea, offer a word of encouragement, challenge you in such a way that it will alter your life path. Some of you will stay in contact with them for the rest of your lives (or theirs), because they played a pivotal role in impacting you during your time here. So remember: You cannot do it alone. Depend on others. Find a mentor.

Own your mistakes. Some of you have been pulled over by a police officer. In another life, before academia, I used to be that guy who met you by the side of your vehicle. I have heard every excuse imaginable and those even unimaginable. These include, after finding drugs in a suspect’s pants pocket, being told with a straight face that these were not his pants. He just put them on at a party he just left. I never asked why he wasn’t wearing pants at the party in the first place. What I learned from those thousands of interactions with the public was that some people were honest, despite what they had done, and told the truth. They owned that they had broken the law. They had moral courage and recognized they had made a mistake when they, in fact, had.

You will make mistakes at Norwich. Some of you more than others. However, be honest and tell your professors, cadre, RA, parents, friends that you made a mistake. Corruption begins at the smallest levels at first, and then it will grow. Own your mistakes. Learn from them. Deal with the consequences and move on. Show yourself to be someone that others can trust.

Small tasks turn into large ones. Some of you in the distant future will write a dissertation for a PhD. While some of you this year will feel like you are working on a dissertation, you can be certain that the faculty will tell you that you are not. I look to my colleagues, who know how arduous, psychologically challenging, and difficult the dissertation process can be. Fifty percent of PhD students don’t finish and most of it has to do with not being able to finish the dissertation. During the dissertation process, you have a committee that reviews your work. When I was almost at the end of my dissertation, a committee member told me that I had to make certain changes. However, these changes would take over a year to complete. A year or more. The next day, as I sat looking at an empty computer screen trying to move the project forward and wondering how I was going to support my family, progress started with one small task. Putting words on a page. Words were soon typed on the screen, which then become sentences, which became pages, which become chapters and moved the project ahead one day at a time or really one word at a time.  The dissertation was successfully defended and that chapter closed.

Translation to you… . Don’t get overwhelmed by the challenge of your papers, projects, or labs. Pick one thing you can do, be consistent, and do it. These small things will eventually lead to completing a larger, much more complex project.

Put yourself in unfamiliar territory. In 2017, news about the nation of Yemen, which is located at the southern tip of the Arabian Peninsula, involves war, al Qaeda, ISIS fighters, or the biggest cholera outbreak in decades. However, I was able to do some research there several years ago. Yes, those news headlines are unfortunately true. But they’re not the only Yemen. Just like there is never one side to a cube. One cannot simply paint a nation, region, or a people group with broad brush strokes. To me, Yemen reminds me of some of the most hospitable people I’ve ever met, amazing mountaineers, unsurpassed scenery, kindness, and a remarkable history. Being in unfamiliar territory can often challenge your own biases or assumptions. You leave seeing yourself and that territory with enlightenment.

You are in unfamiliar territory right now. NU is unfamiliar to you, the Corps is unfamiliar, university academics is unfamiliar, and Vermont may be unfamiliar. But, believe it or not, this will soon become your new normal. You and your environment will equalize. Don’t become stagnate when it does.

There are [many] nations represented at Norwich. Make it a goal of yours to welcome them, learn from them, and ask them questions. Going overseas does not have to involve physical travel. It can begin with the international student in your residence hall, classroom, or platoon. Study overseas if you can. And if you can’t, spend a semester overseas, participate with NU Visions Abroad or another overseas NU experience. Continue to find unfamiliar territory for you to explore.

Believe that you are talented. Every one of us is talented. Some talents are more visible and valued than others, but we all have them. I can remember a student in class a couple years ago who may represent, in some way, the way some of you may think right now. When I asked a question during class, he would almost always raise his hand and give a well-thought, articulate answer. One day after class, we had a conversation, and I was shocked to hear him describe himself as being “not that smart.” I disagreed and questioned why he thought this way and was told that he was not a good test-taker. He was told by a teacher in high school that he was not intelligent and should focus on athletics. Maybe he needed to learn how to take tests more effectively. Maybe others only saw his kinesthetic intelligence. Maybe he did not know the most effective way to process information. But somehow along the way, they missed that he was intelligent. Although this may not be the case for you, it’s important for you to find your true talents and be proud of them.

It is critically important for you to know that you are talented and to be confident in whatever it is you can do well, even to the point when others tell you the opposite. For some of you, you’ll discover your talents here at Norwich. You’ll find that you can write, translate, solve, interpret, mediate, create, make, and the list goes on. Believe in your talents.

Make the most of every situation. Like it or not you now live in Vermont. Make the most of your time here, enjoy it. This will become easier after your rook year. There are always positive rays of light no matter where you are. I agree, sometimes, depending on the circumstances, the rays can be very dim, but they are there. The challenge is to find them, but you can. But for you, you’re in one of the most beautiful parts of the country. Don’t become numb to the beauty around you, no matter what the season, and chose to make the most of this special place you now reside. Making the most of every situation is more about a philosophy than Vermont. Some of you, though you don’t know it now, will find yourself in very tough and unwelcoming places. Make the most of it, and try to see the best in others.

Class of 2021, you are beginning a journey that involves risk, but it will change you. Four years from now you will not be the same person. One of the rewards staff and faculty share is to see how you change from first year students to seniors. You will face challenges. You will fail and you will succeed. But in the end, when you are sitting here once again for graduation, you will be prepared to lead others through some of the most difficult circumstances this world can throw at you. Becoming that type of person does not happen by hoping it does or without thoughtful planning. For almost 200 years, Norwich University faculty and staff have helped students like you give the world hope and set an example of what it means to be a leader, work hard, make the right choice, and get the most out of life. When you walk past Capt. Alden Partridge’s statue remember that he was a risk taker. He worked with others. He was honest, talented. He made mistakes and made the best of situations. Your Norwich journey started a few days ago when you arrived on campus. Remember that you are not alone in this process. Use all of Norwich’s resources to prepare you to lead, serve, and impact the world. Four years will go by fast. So make the most of your time at Norwich. Make us proud now and in the future. We’ll see you in the classroom tomorrow.

Norwich Forever!

Video: Why First-Year Science Majors Read “The Martian”

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Norwich University Office of Communications

September 21, 2016

Incoming freshman in Norwich University’s College of Science and Mathematics discuss Andy Weir’s blockbuster about survival, science, engineering, and leadership on the Red Planet. Prof. David Westerman discusses why he recommended the book and NU Board of Fellows member and UVM polymer chemist Chris Allen leads the discussion.

Norwich Commencement | The Graduates: Hannah Bell ’16

Photo: Hannah Bell speaks to an unidentified cadet in a Norwich classroom

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Hannah Bell ’16

Hometown: Newberg, OR
Double Major: International Studies + Spanish
Minor: English
Student Path: Civilian
Activities:

  • Rugby Team Senior Captain
  • Four-time Women’s Rugby Div. I National Champion
  • Three-time Women’s Rugby All-American
  • Academic Achievement Center Peer Tutor
  • Undergraduate Research Ambassador

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What Norwich Taught Me

I am driven person in part because I like to be in control….a lot of life is out of my hands and … I need to be at peace with that. Norwich taught me to time-manage and problem-solve efficiently through leadership opportunities like captaining the rugby team.[/content_band]

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On Academics:

The research I conducted the summer after my sophomore year was my first scholarly experience. I learned so much about process during this time. I also put together a really polished product, which is one of my accomplishments I am most proud of. I was selected to present this research … analyzing prominent, Western women novelists of the 20th century at the selective Posters on the Hill event [in Washington, D.C.]. I spoke with congressmen and their staff about my research and the importance of undergraduate research, which was an amazing experience.

Also, presenting my senior thesis for International Studies was a very proud moment. I discussed immigration policy and border security in Spain, which was a timely topic considering our own political rhetoric and the refugee crisis.[/content_band]

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On Athletics:

The second national championship I won in a Norwich jersey in North Carolina … It was incredible to come from behind in the final and defend out title. We came back from a 12-point [deficit]—winning in the final two minutes. Our team that year was made up of such exceptional players and people and that tournament was so much fun.[/content_band]

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Future Plans:

I will be heading to San Antonio to attend induction for the Teach For America San Antonio Corps. For two years I will be teaching in an under-served elementary school in San Antonio. I grew up in a household committed to social justice. My father is a Presbyterian pastor, and I always planned on … nonprofit work. I have been inspired by many great educators throughout my career and have had so much fun learning. I want to be able to help other kids fall in love with learning like I did. Ten to twenty years from now, I want to be a state prosecutor or a family doctor. I plan on taking the next two years to figure out which path to take.[/content_band]

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:

Norwich University Officially Opens $6.8M Newly Renovated Kreitzberg Library

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Norwich University representatives gathered with building contractors and partners to celebrate the official opening of the campus’s newly renovated Kreitzberg Library today. A ceremonial ribbon-cutting event was held to mark the occasion.

The $6.8 million renovation is the first completed project under the Forging the Future campaign. Announced at Homecoming in 2014, the university’s largest comprehensive fundraising effort aims to raise $100 million in the five years leading up to the university’s bicentennial in 2019. To date, the campaign has raised nearly $68 million.

“This campaign is all about improving academics, so what better place to start than the library – a place used by the entire Norwich community,” President Richard W. Schneider said. “Its impact on students, staff, faculty and the surrounding community of Northfield will be enormous.”

At the Sept. 1 event, the Norwich community was introduced to its newly transformed library and its many major enhancements, including new workstations, group-study and collaborative-learning areas, new technology-enabled classrooms and a café.

Additional improvements include two new conference rooms, and a 77% increase in the number of seats, from 249 to 440. The new library also boasts a 10-fold increase in data speeds and capacity and state of the art collaborative tools, thanks in part to a $125,000 grant from the George I. Alden Trust given to support technology upgrades.

The library is named for principal donors Barbara and Fred Kreitzberg ’57, who were unable to attend the event, but who sent in a statement.

“Barbara and I have loved this library since its dedication in 1992,” Fred Kreitzberg ’57, said. “We know that students have enjoyed using this library and hope that with the new renovations it will be even better-suited for our technologically advanced students.”

Construction began Dec. 17, 2014, with approximately 40 Vermonters working on site on an average day. At times that figure climbed to 60. The construction was primarily completed by Vermont firms employing Vermont workers, including EF Wall, Bates & Murray Electrical, Vermont Mechanical and Red Thread.

Demonstrating Norwich’s commitment to sustainability, the vast majority of installed lighting use LED bulbs, subsidized by Efficiency Vermont, with an estimated energy efficiency of 80%-90%. In addition, air handling units were upgraded, low volatile organic compounds (VOC) paint was used, and virtually all construction debris was recycled.

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
(802) 485-2886; (m) 595-3613
dlarkin@norwich.edu
Follow us on Twitter @NorwichNews

 

Undergraduate Research: Digging into Geology Fieldwork to Learn Science

This summer, geology major Christopher Eddy (pictured center) spent 10 weeks as a Norwich University Summer Research Fellow investigating the boundary between two ancient mountain formations. He describes it as a “non-stop learning experience.”
Norwich University Office of Communications

August 26, 2015

Where some see ordinary rock or stone, geology major Christopher Eddy sees clues. Clues that reveal titanic clashes of the earth’s crust or date bedrock to eras long before the dinosaurs.

This summer, the rising junior spent 10 weeks in the field and lab investigating the boundary between two ancient mountain building events in central Vermont.

Known as the Richardson Memorial Contact, the region separates the 480 million-year-old Taconic mountain building event, or formation, from the younger 320-million-old to 330 million-year-old Acadian mountain building event.

Geologists have puzzled over this complex boundary for nearly a century, trying to understand its geologic backstory.

Seeking to add more data to the science debate, Eddy and his faculty advisor, Assistant Professor of Geology G. Christopher Koteas, performed detailed geologic mapping and lab-based microstructural studies of rocks along the boundary structure.

“My research project really stemmed from an urge to do science and really dive into the field,” Eddy says.

He applied to the NU Undergraduate Research Program to become a Summer Research Fellow. Administered by the Office of Academic Research, the program awarded 38 Norwich undergraduates stipends up to $4,000 to cover six- and ten-week research projects across the arts, sciences and professional fields this year.

Fellows are paired with faculty advisors and meet regularly over the course of the summer with fellow student researchers to share findings and the highs and lows of their research experience.

The program is entirely funded by university endowments from alumni dedicated to supporting academic student investigation.

Over the summer, Eddy and Koteas visited 86 field sites along transects of the boundary in central Vermont to gather map data and field samples. Rock samples in hand, they returned to the lab to analyze and interpret their data.

“Geology is pretty great in that everything that happens on a grand scale also happens down to the grain scale, and you’re going to see every mineral preserving those motions,” Eddy says.

Preliminary data revealed the presence of rocks under very high strain, indicating a shear zone, Eddy says.

The rising junior arrived at Norwich after spending six years in the Air Force, where he served as an inflight cryptologic Arabic linguist largely based at Offutt AFB near Omaha, Neb.

At Norwich, he’s been passionate about geology ever since his first intro class. Faculty describe him as a mature, driven and highly capable student

Eddy says the summer has been a nonstop learning experience. His biggest insight: “Sometimes you just don’t know. But that doesn’t mean you haven’t contributed something useful. Just that there is more work to do.”

He adds that working with Prof. Koteas has been an honor, describing him as a excellent scientist, mentor and friend.

Eddy says his project is in the final stages of initial research. Together with Prof. Koteas, he has submitted a poster to the Geological Society of America. If accepted, it would be presented at the Society’s national meeting in Baltimore this coming November.

Related Articles on Undergraduate Summer Research Fellows:

Student Research: A 3,000-Mile Architectural Journey Through the Desert Southwest

In June, senior architecture major Keith Stipe joined 27 other Norwich University undergraduate Summer Research Fellows who undertook in-depth research projects across the arts, sciences or professional fields. Awarded 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

August 24, 2015

This summer, senior architecture major Keith Stipe toured the desert southwest to explore ancient and modern examples of earthen and rammed earth architecture and to speak to leading architects in the field.
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Beginning in Denver, Colo., Stipe drove some 3,000 miles over the course of three weeks, exploring sites in Colorado, New Mexico, Utah and Arizona.

Building styles ranged from thousand-year-old kivas built by the Pueblo peoples at Chaco National Historic Park in Chaco, New Mexico, to modern sculptor Paolo Soleri’s Cosanti home and studio in Paradise Valley, Arizona.

“One of the reasons this research is relevant and important is that even in our current day, a third to half of the world’s population lives in earthen buildings,” Stipe says.

“There’s a huge population of the world that relies on the availability and the easy use of earthen building materials. So it’s something that’s worth continuing to explore and develop in the future.”

His first stop was the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo., designed by I.M. Pei, a concrete structure that uses soil and pigment to make a visual connection to the surrounding Colorado landscape.

Other sites included the 30,000-square-foot PERA office building in Sante Fe, the largest rammed earth building in the southwest; Georgia O’Keefe’s Abiquiu, NM, home and studio; and the Lemuria Earthship, an off-the-grid rammed earth home near Taos, New Mexico.

At each site, Stipe studied the architecture’s technical and aesthetic qualities. He sketched site layouts, photographed architectural elements, and measured wall thicknesses to estimate thermal mass and passive heating and cooling abilities.

The aspiring architect also observed the buildings’ relationships to place and landscape, noting how the structures earthen building materials provided a poetic connection to the landscape.

In Arizona, Stipe interviewed influential rammed earth architect Eddie Jones.

Danny Sagan, an associate professor of architecture and program director for NU’s School of Architecture + Art, served as Stipe’s research advisor. “Architecture is uniquely difficult to study in that many of the examples we use to teach the principles of the subject are not located in Vermont,” he says.

He adds that architecture of place must be derived from regionally appropriate building technologies. Stipe’s trip into the arid Southwest allowed him to explore architecture informed by different influences.

“By traveling into an new environment, Keith was able to see the subject of architecture with new eyes,” Sagan says. “Every architecture student should travel to see architecture in a place very different than the places they know. It makes their studies much broader and therefore much more relevant.”

Stipe documented his trip via social media and photography. He plans to produce a book as his final research product, one that synthesizes his visual impressions with research findings and analysis.

Stipe’s research budget of $3,940, which covered food, lodging, travel expenses, and a new digital SLR camera, were covered by his Summer Research Fellowship stipend.

“Architecture is an art which arises not only from an instinctual need for warmth or shelter, but also from a human desire to synthesize and create at a level which is in harmony with landscape and environment,” Stipe notes.

Modern building approaches often involve demolishing a landscape, building suburbs, then replanting trees—a process that doesn’t acknowledge place, he says. “We try to change the environment to fit our perceptions or needs, rather than using the environment as a tool [for] showing us how to live in an area.”

His fellowship now complete, Stipe will spend the fall semester studying architecture and design in Berlin, Germany, at Norwich University’s City Lab: Berlin micro campus.

Related Articles on Undergraduate Summer Research Fellows:

Geologist Rick Dunn, Unearthed

Norwich’s newest Dana Professor of Geology sees ancient worlds with fresh eyes
By Sean Markey | 2015 Annual Academic Research Report

 
December 18, 2014

Early one morning in late August, Richard Dunn prowled the grassy expanse of Groningen Garden, a large public park in downtown Tel Aviv. Part of an international research team, the geologist was in Israel to look for a pre-Roman harbor in the ancient city of Jaffa, the storied Biblical port of Solomon. With a coring rig due later that morning, Dunn and his colleagues opted to canvass the site with ground-penetrating radar in the predawn light. Less than an hour into their survey, air raid sirens wailed to life. Dunn, who played semipro baseball in college with an eye on the majors, scrambled for the nearest air raid shelter, hitting the dirt with his colleagues when they found the door padlocked. Overhead, Israeli Defense Force missiles intercepted a Palestinian rocket. As the team dusted themselves off after the attack, they decided it might be a good time to retreat to a local café.

That day in Tel-Aviv stands out in Dunn’s memory as a dramatic moment in the midst of a busy, semester-long, research sabbatical. Earlier that summer, Dunn had visited several sites in Greece, where he is currently involved in four distinct projects with colleagues from UCLA, Vanderbilt, the Field Museum of Chicago, and other institutions.

Deep Geologic Time

An expert at reconstructing ancient landscapes and environments, Dunn chairs the Earth and Environmental Sciences Department at Norwich University. In 2014 he was named the University’s 21st Charles A. Dana Professor. The author of more than a dozen papers (with a half-dozen more in press), several book chapters, and scores of conference presentations, Dunn majored in geology and anthropology at the University of Minnesota Duluth, which housed a leading archaeometry lab at the time. It was an era, begun in the 1970s and continued in the 80s, when geology and archaeology began to overlap, converging into a dedicated field known as geological archaeology.

Hooked, Dunn earned a master’s in geology from Wichita State University in Kansas and a Ph.D. in geology from the University of Delaware. Fieldwork in Florida, Belize, Cyprus, and Greece helped him hone his expertise at reconstructing ancient coasts. Combing geologic fieldwork and mapping with lab analysis of ancient pollen and marine organism microfossils from core samples, he teased out clues about previous landscapes and environmental conditions.

Today, his research follows a transect of deep geologic time, informing the work of archaeological projects throughout the Mediterranean and, more recently, Easter Island. His recent and current projects include a Neolithic cave site and archaeological sites of the Phoenicians, Egyptians, Romans, and ancient Greeks. Providing geologic insight, Dunn seeks answers to important questions, such as the best place to dig for Roman tombs in a dynamic coastal zone, or where the former inhabitants of a long-ago vanished city may have found a plentiful source of freshwater.

Solving Puzzles

The city in question is Korphos-Kalamianos, a 3,500-year-old Bronze Age site on the Aegean coast of Greece. “According to archaeologists, this was one of the sites named by Homer as having sent ships to Mycenae that then went to Troy to get back Helen,” Dunn says. The site was unusual because the walls of its many buildings were exposed, as if archaeologists had abandoned it after 25 years of digging. Dunn was enlisted, in part, to explain why. “It had been covered in this really thick bramble,” Dunn says. “There had been a fire, and it burned off, revealing the ancient port city.”

Korphos-Kalamianos clings to a rocky coast backed by hills and mountains. There is no stream, river, or other obvious source of freshwater. Archaeologists had assumed residents stored rainwater in large underground cisterns, but had yet to unearth any of note.

“That was kind of problematic,” Dunn recalls. He had mapped the site’s basic geology with Norwich undergraduates Devin Collins ’09, Greg Miller ’10, and Ethan Thomas ’11. “We realized that the bedrock had this pattern of fractures in it.” A chat between Dunn and a Greek fisherman hinted at places where freshwater flowed from the seafloor. “Springs, right? Aha!” Dunn hypothesized that groundwater was moving underground from the hills down through the fracture system to upwell at Korphos-Kalamianos. The archaeologists were skeptical, believing that the site’s rocky fissures carried salt water from the Aegean Sea, whose waves crashed ashore just 10 yards away.

A quick taste test proved he was right. Once the team mapped the site, they saw a pattern to the buildings: two rows separated by a blank zone. “Those lines of buildings were situated right on top of these two big fractures. Basically people didn’t want to walk very far to get their freshwater,” Dunn explains, “so they built their homes along this sort of artesian well system.”

Challenging Conventional Wisdom

More recently, Dunn has upended the conventional wisdom at an archaeological site on Easter Island, where a team co-led by Jo Anne Van Tilburg from UCLA is investigating Rano Raraku, the ancient quarry that supplied the stone for the islanders’ iconic moai statues. The team is the first to investigate the site since a 1955 Norwegian archaeological dig.

“His work is fundamental in establishing the probable location of those quarries and helping us to pinpoint the location of the next phase of our investigations,” Van Tilburg says, from Easter Island.

One task Dunn undertook was to produce the first-ever geologic map of the quarry, steep slopes that flank a freshwater lake in what was believed to be a collapsed volcanic cone. Yet Dunn’s fieldwork pointed to a different geologic story altogether—namely, that the site occupies the collapsed basin on the flank of a much larger, older volcano, now nearly completely eroded away. Dunn presented his findings at the Geologic Society of America conference to wide acclaim.

“Things like Easter Island, we think we understand—or the Grand Canyon, or something. It turns out that often not as much work has been done as we think, and we’re still trying to figure these things out,” Dunn says.

“[Easter Island] was a classic example of falling back on literally the things I learned as an undergraduate. The most basic tools, you know… Taking the puzzle pieces from that and putting together the right story. Rather than starting out with what I thought the picture already looked like, [asking] does that make sense?”