Luther Agora

Luther Agora
Friday, November 1, 3:00 – 5:00 p.m.

Valders Hall of Science Concourse and Sampson-Hoffland link

The Agora was the ancient Athenian marketplace of ideas. The Luther Agora is an opportunity for informal, invigorating conversation about research and creative works underway on the Luther campus.

The class schedule for Friday has been modified as follows to allow everyone to participate in Luther Agora:

Regular Schedule      Modified Schedule
11:00–12:00               11:00–11:50
12:15–1:15                 12:00–12:50
1:30–2:30                     1:00–1:50
2:45–3:45                     2:00–2:50

Luther Agora

Overview and instructions:  3:00 p.m.
First set of sessions:  3:10 – 3:55 p.m.
Break 3:55 – 4:10 p.m.
Second set of sessions:  4:15 – 5:00 p.m.

  • Sessions are arranged alphabetically by department, beginning with “Africana Studies” at the west end of Valders and ending with “Visual and Performing Arts” in the Sampson-Hoffland link. 
  • Participants will have 8 minutes to engage with a topic of their choosing.  After 8 minutes a bell will ring, and there will be 2 minutes to move to another station. The idea is to visit four stations between 3:10 and 3:55 p.m., and four more between 4:15 and 5:00 p.m.

First session:  3:10 – 3:55 p.m. 

1-A            Africana Studies and History

Kelly Sharp, Assistant Professor of Africana Studies and History, with Tamar Tedla '20 (Social Work)

The Lives and Labor of an Enslaved People
Opulence, splendor, grandeur:  all words that describe the lifestyle of one of the wealthiest slave traders in the United States. We are using historical and archaeological evidence to reconstruct the lives and labor of the enslaved people who lived at Nathaniel Russell’s home, now a top tourist destination in Charleston, SC.

2-A            Anthropology; Museum Studies

Destiny Crider, Collections & Lab Manager for Anthropology and Museum Studies Instructor, with Dominique Alisa Stringer ‘22 (Anthropology) and Madeline Perreard ‘22 (Psychology)

Documenting the Refugee Resettlement Program of the 1970s-1990s in Northeast Iowa
We have been conducting video interviews that focus on refugees fleeing communist retaliation, predominantly Hmong, but also Thai Dam, Vietnamese, Lao, and European refugees that arrived in Decorah as part of their resettlement to the United States. Our goal is to understand the experiences of people participating in this program, both from the immigrant perspective and from those in the Decorah community that supported, taught, and befriended the incoming families.

3-A            Biology

Eric Baack, Associate Professor of Biology

Evolution and Agriculture: What Happens when Crop Genes Move into their Wild Relatives?
The current project examines hybrids between crop sunflowers and their wild relatives from the Dakotas to Texas, and compares them to nearby wild populations.  We examine traits of plants from different populations growing together in the field in Iowa; collaborators at the University of Georgia are studying the genetic differences.

4-A            Biology

Kirk Larsen, Professor of Biology, with Lena Schmitt '20 (Biology)

Celebrating Diversity in all its Forms
As Luther continues to celebrate and strive for human diversity on campus, a little-known fact is that Luther actually has some of the highest diversity of any college in the nation--its biodiversity! We will highlight some of the biodiversity of Luther's unmatched natural areas, particularly the moths of our prairies and woodlands.

5-A            Biology

Brian Hiester, Visiting Assistant Professor of Biology, with Kendra Weirens '20 (Biology)

Can we Learn More about Cancer by Investigating how Worms Move?
In my lab we use genetic manipulation of the small nematode C. elegans in order to unravel the cellular and molecular mechanisms of human diseases, including cancer and neurodegeneration.

6-A            Chemistry

John Jefferson, Professor of Chemistry, with Jack Jagielski ’19 (Chemistry)

Evidence That Α-Synuclein Inhibits Sphingomyelinase; a Possible Connection with Parkinson’s Dementia
The protein α-synuclein has been implicated in the development of Parkinson’s dementia and one of the hallmarks of this neurological disorder involves changes in lipid metabolism. But there is little known about the nature of this connection. We investigated the sphingolipid composition of brain samples from genetically altered mice and found evidence consistent with a model in which α-synuclein inhibits the enzyme sphingomyelinase.

7-A            Chemistry

Molly Wilker, Assistant Professor of Chemistry

Trapping and Relocating Electrons
Our research is focused on designing new materials that absorb light and use the resulting moving electrons to drive chemical reactions. Specific properties of our materials are used to direct the movement of electrons in order to maximize the light energy conversion efficiency.

8-A            Classics

Mark Thorne, Visiting Assistant Professor of Classics

Why was Julius Caesar's Most Important Victory the Most Difficult to Celebrate?
Why was Julius Caesar's most important battlefield victory the most difficult to celebrate? How did he try to do so anyway, given that this was a victory over his fellow Romans in a civil war? How did later Romans remember and respond to the controversy? Come find out!

9-A            Communication Studies

Thomas C. Johnson, Associate Professor of Communication Studies

Marieke, a Documentary Short Film
(2017), a documentary short film, explores the life and craft of Marieke Penterman, acclaimed Dutch Gouda cheesemaker from Thorp, Wisconsin. Produced and Directed by Thomas C. Johnson; edited by Thomas C. Johnson and Jack Ross '17; Cinematography and Color - Aaron Lurth, Assistant Professor of Art and Visual Communication; Location Sound - Jack Ross ’17; Music - Brooke Joyce, Associate Professor of Music and Composer-In-Residence.

10-A          Computer Science

Shafqat Ali Shad, Assistant Professor of Computer Science

UAVs for Mining and Safety
Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) are redefining work sites and occupational safety management in various industries such as construction, transportation, and mining. UAVs are used for inspection, traffic, emergency response, and surveillance. We are working on a novel application of drones (UAVs) combined with advanced analytical approaches and deep learning to address worksite and occupational safety issue in the mining industry.

11-A          Economics, Accounting and Management

Samuel Bird, Assistant Professor of Economics

Smallholder Farmers’ Returns and Learning from Subsidized Inputs in Uganda
If you wanted to encourage farmers to adopt a new technology, how would you do it? This field experiment studies how adoption varies with subsidy levels and learning networks in the context of Uganda’s agricultural input subsidy program.

12-A          Education and Music

Jill Wilson, Associate Professor and Coordinator of Music Education, with Jackson Churchill '20 (Music Education)

The Role of Leadership in Ensemble Motivation and Engagement
My goal was to observe leadership in action in order to identify behaviors that music directors and sports coaches display to engage and motivate students. A predetermined list was used to tally behaviors during 19 hours of rehearsal and practice observations. Additionally, I interviewed participants regarding characteristics they perceived to be essential for increasing their students’ motivation.

13-A          English

Lindsey Row-Heyveld, Associate Professor of English, with Abby Trewin '22 (Management)

‘My Strength is Found in Weakness': Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Disability
This project, emerging out of Abby Trewin's Paidiea 112 research paper, explores the influence of disability and disabled people on Dietrich Bonhoeffer's theology and ministry.

14-A          Environmental Studies; Psychology; Nursing

Jon Jensen, Professor of Philosophy and Environmental Studies; Ann Mansfield, Project Director, Northeast Iowa Food and Fitness Initiative; Loren Toussaint, Professor of Psychology, with Carina Hansen '21 (Psychology and Biology) and Abbie Jo Madson '20 (Psychology and Biology).

Trends and Potential Causes of Obesity Among Preschoolers
For over a decade the Northeast Iowa Food and Fitness Initiative has worked to enhance health and well-being across the region. Head Start, Mayo Clinic, and Luther College, as partners with the Northeast Iowa Food and Fitness Initiative, are collaborating to understand trends in obesity and its potential causes in preschoolers.

15-A          Mathematics

Philip Iversen, Associate Professor of Statistics

Evidence of Climate Change in Polar Ice
Data obtained from polar ice core samples show that atmospheric CO2 and air temperature fluctuated together at least during the last four ice ages beginning 400,000 years ago. Current CO2 and global average temperature measurements have been rising above those historic levels since the 1980s.

16-A          Modern Languages, Literatures, and Linguistics

Laurie Iudin-Nelson, Professor of Russian Studies, with Annelise Myers '20 (German), Zachariah Mayer '21 (Music Education), and Emma Everitt '21 (Communication Studies)

The Luther College Balalaika Ensemble
The LC Balalaika Ensemble is a collaborative venture that merges the study of Russian language, culture, music, and service. The group, now in its 28th year, has performed hundreds of concerts coast to coast, and has raised approximately $15,000 for charitable causes.

17-A          Music

Jonah Elrod, Visiting Assistant Professor of Music, with Julia Ferris '21 (Music)

Composing the Soundscape
Creating a collection of sound installations and electronic music compositions that are inspired by and interact with the localized soundscapes of the Luther College campus.

18-A          Music

Virginia Strauss, Professor of Music, and John Strauss, Professor of Music

Music Publishing in Vienna Then and Now
Our research on lesser-known 18th century Viennese composers began during our first sabbatical leave in 1983. The original intent was to rediscover "lost masterworks" for chamber music performance, but it soon evolved into an ongoing international publishing project. As of October 2019, we have more than 40 editions in print.

19-A          Nursing; Psychology

Angela Kueny, Associate Professor of Nursing, and Loren Toussaint, Professor of Psychology, with Shannon Lunn '20 (Nursing)

Fibromyalgia in Spanish and United States Men: A Comparative Study of Pain and Fatigue Symptoms
Fibromyalgia syndrome (FMS) is a chronic centralized pain disorder with insufficient research portraying men’s experience. With academic and practice partners from Spain and Mayo Clinic, we interviewed men in Spain and the United States with FMS. This presentation reveals men’s experiences with FMS symptoms are inconsistent across gender and culture.

20-A           Philosophy

Holly Moore, Associate Professor of Philosophy

Seeing the Unseen, a Sabbatical Research Journey
How do scholars come to see the blindspots within their disciplines? One way is by looking at familiar things in unfamiliar places. I will share how my study of depictions of slaves in Classical Greek pottery illuminated a longstanding blindspot in Plato scholarship.

21-A          Physics

Jeff Wilkerson, Professor of Physics, with Owen Johnson '22 (Physics)

Photometric Monitoring of a Single Stellar Field
We observe the same 1600 stars every clear night from March to October each year, looking for subtle brightness variations that would be missed by more intermittent sampling. These variations in signal yield information on properties and evolution of the stellar population.

22-A          Religion

Jim Martin- Schramm, Professor of Religion, with Kristen Erickson '21 (Social Work)

Christian Ethics: A Case-Method Approach
The 5th Edition of Christian Ethics: A Case-Method Approach will be published by Orbis Books in 2020. New cases on genetic engineering, gun violence, sexual ethics in a hook-up culture, transgender rights, and U.S. immigration policy. Updated and revised cases on abortion, capital punishment, domestic abuse, euthanasia, executive compensation, oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, responsible consumption, sustainable development, and water rights.

23-A          Visual and Performing Arts

Kate Elliott, Associate Professor of Art History

Spaces Between: First Contact Imagery in American Art from Catlin to Russell
First contact images appear in American history painting, some speaking blatantly of conquest, some suggesting far more nuanced messages. With their focus on beginnings rather than conclusive action or a determined outcome, they are potentially fertile ground for profound yet undefined meaning. My book on this subject is due out Winter 2020 from University of Oklahoma Press.

24-A          Visual and Performing Arts

Jane Hawley, Professor of Dance, with Cory Eull ’21 (Dance), Abbie Grinager ’20 (Dance), Viola Niyizigama ’20 (International Studies) and Julia Simpson ’20 (Dance)

Movement Fundamentals: Liberating Practices for Dance Artists | Movement in Life & Art
Movement FundamentalsⓇ began in 1996 with the intent to create a fundamental and moving paradigm that trains dancers as artists and empowers people to love and feel gratitude for their bodies. Today, MF Artists deepen and refine their practice in a myriad of ways within their individual disciplines for cultivating | thinking | liberating | self | body | artistry. Visit:

Second Session:  4:15 – 5:00 p.m.

1-B            Anthropology; Women & Gender Studies

Maryna Bazylevych, Associate Professor of Anthropology and Women & Gender Studies 

The Role of Labor Movements in Health Care Reform
My current research focuses on the labor movement in health care. Specifically, I conducted research on trade union mobilization linked to Ukraine’s current health care reform efforts. I look at the ways in which particular notions of justice and welfare are mobilized by various stakeholders in the health care reform debates.

2-B            Biology

Stephanie Fretham, Associate Professor of Biology, with Meretta Hanson '20 (Neuroscience)

Dopamine, Insulin, and Worms
We use a tiny nematode worm to understand fundamental processes common to multiple neurologic diseases including the relationship between insulin signaling and dopamine.

3-B            Biology

Molly McNicoll, Assistant Professor of Biology, with Shaubhagya Khadka ’20 (Biology) and Annika Jensen '21 (Biology and Education)

Luther's Land Stewardship and Land Care Interns
Our college mission statement encourages us to practice joyful stewardship where river, woodland, and prairie meet. Land stewardship interns manage the health of our natural areas and conduct ecological restoration research. Land Care interns encourage others to connect with our natural areas, with an additional focus on girls in science.

4-B            Biology

Jodi Enos-Berlage, Professor of Biology, with Jorge Chavez '20 (Biology) and Max Eness '20 (Philosophy, Environmental Studies)

Pathogens and Potential Sources in Northeast Iowa Streams, Springs, and Wells
This study utilized new technology to address two central questions: What disease-causing organisms, if any, are present in Northeast Iowa waterways, and what source organisms are they coming from? Data indicated that pathogens are present in Northeast Iowa ground and surface waters, but also uncovered a number of unexpected results.

5-B            Biology

Beth Lynch, Associate Professor of Biology, with Biology majors Laura Hamilton '20 and Brennen Russell '20

Assessing the Resilience of Midwestern Forest Ecosystems to Environmental Stressors
I use paleoecological methods to reconstruct vegetation and fire histories from fire-dominated ecosystems in northwestern Wisconsin to show changes in forest composition and fire regimes over the past 5000 years and gain insights about resilience of these ecosystems to climatic change. I also provide opportunities for students in Bio 365 (Ecology) to engage in the research process through investigations of ecological interactions in forest remnants of northeastern Iowa forests.

6-B            Chemistry

Ben Tokheim, Visiting Assistant Professor of Chemistry, with Chemistry majors Madeline Kroeger ’20, Michaela Lindemann ’20, Noah Mayer ‘20, and Jam Riyan Hamza ’21

Reclaiming Rare Earth Metals from Electronic Waste
We are designing and making new asymmetric molecules to help improve our ability to reclaim valuable rare earth metals from electronic waste.

7-B            Chemistry

Olga Michels, Professor of Chemistry

Pedagogy: Using IRT (Item Response Theory) to Understand the Factors that Impact Exam Difficulty
We are studying why questions are answered differently by students based on where they are found within a 70-item test and what effect removing questions from a test may have.

8-B            Communication Studies

Sarah E. Wilder, Associate Professor of Communication Studies

The Role of Supportive Communication on Breastfeeding Experiences
Infant feeding is heavily debated, and despite benefits for mother and baby, persistence rates are relatively low in the U.S. My current research focuses on better understanding the role of supportive communication on breastfeeding experiences and the impact on the relationships in which the support (or lack of) is enacted.

9-B            Economics, Accounting and Management

Amanda Lindsay, Assistant Professor of Economics

Environmental and Economic Consequences of Marine Fisheries Blue Growth Policies
Blue growth policies are a type of sustainable development policy focused on marine economic sectors, such as fisheries. My research considers the impacts these policies could have on rural areas of Indonesia.

10-B          Economics, Accounting and Management

Rob Larson, Associate Professor of Management, with Haley Hoffman '22 (Accounting)

Are Student Debt and Net Tuition Prices Predictors of Undergraduate Enrollment?
Population changes are causing significant challenges for institutions of higher education. This research focuses on independent variables that may affect enrollment performance at public and private Title IV eligible colleges and universities. This study analyzes the relationship between enrollment as the dependent variable with student debt and net price as the independent variables.

11-B          Economics, Accounting and Management; Sociology, Anthropology, and Social Work

Brittany Cord, Assistant Professor of Accounting and Management, and Britt Rhodes, Associate Professor of Social Work, with Sabrina Marken ’20 (Social Work) and Bryanna Sandvik ’21 (Accounting)

Social Impact Research Program
The Social Impact Research Fellowship program is an opportunity for Luther students to use research and their skills to provide resources and support to a local nonprofit to help further their mission. Faculty advisors mentor the students as they research to solve problems and build relationships between Luther and the community.

12-B          Education

Deborah L. Norland, Professor of Education and editor, the Oneota Review Journal, with Emily Anderson ’20 (English); Cassandra Michel ’20 (Elementary Education); Marri Saunders ’20 (Spanish, Elementary Education); Natalie Brown ’22 (Elementary Education); and Emma Busch ’20 (English)

Oneota Reading Journal
The Oneota Reading Journal is an open-access, refereed journal published at least once a year through Luther College. This fall, four articles, thoroughly vetted by professional referees of the journal, and multiple book reviews by professionals, Luther students, and others, will be published. The articles were written and submitted by Luther College students.

13-B          Education and Music

Jill Wilson, Associate Professor and Coordinator of Music Education

Curricular Revision in Music Teacher Education Programs: Motivations and Obstacles
In the last decade, several researchers have again called for thoughtful consideration of the challenges that face today’s music classroom. Substantive change has yet to occur. During Phase I, a nationwide sample of music education program coordinators were surveyed. In Phase II, interviews provided further insight regarding the revision process.

14-B          English

Amy Weldon, Professor of English, with Shannon Baker '20 (English, Spanish) and Levi Bird '21 (Nordic Studies)

Advanced Fiction Writing: A Writer’s Guide and Anthology
The textbook I’m proposing for Bloomsbury (Advanced Fiction Writing: A Writer’s Guide and Anthology) will feature excerpts from students’ stories and their words about the process - including current and former Advanced Creative Writing students Levi Bird and Shannon Baker.

15-B          English

Andy Hageman, Associate Professor of English

Imagining Infrastructures of the Future: Science Fiction & Innovation
Let’s explore how science fiction can capture, refract, and/or shape attitudes about how infrastructural design connects with ecological and political economic resilience and justice. A focus on U.S. and Chinese science fictions.

16-B          Environmental Studies

Rachel Brummel, Associate Professor of Environmental Studies/ Political Science, and Jon Jensen, Professor of Philosophy and Environmental Studies, with Collin Kern ‘20 (Political Science) and Leif Savereid ‘22 (Environmental Studies)

Community Flood Resilience in the Upper Iowa River Watershed.
This 3-year project is a partnership with the Iowa Flood Center to understand the impacts of flooding on communities in our watershed as well as to help communities be more resilient to future floods.

17-B          Health Promotion and Exercise Science

Kris Agena, Instructor & Clinical Education Coordinator of Athletic Training

Are Functional Movement Screen Scores, Core Stability Endurance Tests and Breathing Techniques Related?
The Diaphragm - muscle with breathing and postural functions. The Core - muscles that stabilize the spine. The Functional Movement Screen (FMS) - 7 tests used to assess general movement capacity. This doctoral applied research project aims to determine if there is a connection between core stability endurance tests, breathing technique, and FMS test scores.

18-B          History

Anna Peterson, Associate Professor of History, with Anne Wilson '20 (Religion)

The Bethany Indian Mission: Foreigners Assimilating the Indigenous
From 1884 to 1955, Norwegian immigrants and their descendants -many of whom were Luther alums - engaged in the ambiguous work of offering religious and secular instruction to Native American tribes of Wisconsin, mostly Oneida and Winnebago (Ho-Chunk), at the Bethany Indian Mission.

19-B          International Studies - CANCELLED

Victoria Christman, Professor of History, with Piper Wood '20 (Environmental Studies, International Studies) and Kristen Hansen '20 (Women & Gender Studies)

Peacemaking and Dialogue in an International Context
This summer, Luther students Kristen Hansen and Piper Wood, and Prof. Victoria Christman participated in the Peace Scholar program in Norway. With 12 U.S. students and 17 international students from 15 countries around the world, they learned dialogue methods pioneered by the Nansen Center for Peace and Dialogue in Lillehammer.

20-B          Music

Juan Tony Guzman, Professor of Music

Latin American Choral Music
My arrangements and compositions published by Boosey & Hawkes, Oxford University Press, and Gehrmans Musikförlag facilitate the interpretation of Caribbean and Latin American vocal music for choral ensembles of different levels around the world.

21-B          Music; Library & Information Studies

Andi Beckendorf, Double Bass Instructor and Professor, Library and Information Studies, with Zachariah Mayer '21 (Music Education)

From Rehearsal to Performance: Verifying What Mozart Wrote
An inconsistent orchestration in the cello-bass part of Mozart’s “Paris” Symphony made us wonder what sources had informed the edition currently owned by the Luther orchestra program. We will talk about the sources we consulted, questions we encountered, and what our conclusion is on how the part should be played.

22-B          Nursing

Jayme Nelson, Associate Professor of Nursing

“Place-making” in a Digital Age
Luther College students and graduates describe a remarkable affinity for Luther College. My current research seeks to understand how Luther College evokes a strong sense of “place” and how “place-making” may be fostered in a student body increasingly engaged with social media and digital technology.

23-B          Philosophy

Storm Bailey, Professor of Philosophy

Believing Differently
Rather than considering interfaith work as an optional college activity, what if college itself is seen as interfaith activity? Such a vision serves interfaith goals and deepens the intellectual life of the college, but it depends upon the idea that religious "exclusivism" is essential--not corrosive--to interfaith engagement.

24-B          Psychology

Loren Toussaint, Professor of Psychology, with Psychology majors Anila Bano ‘21, Carina Hansen ‘21, Ingrid Christensen ‘21, Sarah Eachus ‘20, Anh (Aaron) Nguyen ‘22, Abbi Jo Madson ‘20, Noor Bibi ‘21, and Mitchell Sack ‘22

Exploring Forgiveness and Health
The Laboratory for the Investigation of Mind, Body, and Spirit consists of a network of students, alumni, colleagues, and friends of the laboratory that investigate the psycho-spiritual antecedents, correlates, and outcomes of health. Our primary topic of interest is in forgiveness and health.