STRENGTHEN: Supporting Scholars, Growing Connections

At the heart of Obermann’s philosophy is our support for scholars of all ages, at all stages of their careers, and across institutions. One way we fulfill our primary mission—to support research at the University of Iowa—is to provide our faculty and graduate students with opportunities to work actively with scholars from outside of our campus. We also believe that strengthening academia and the work of the mind beyond the walls of the UI benefits us all.

Lisa Ortiz

It is a pleasure to see these relationships bear fruit. Lisa Ortiz came to the University of Iowa as a Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow working with the Imagining Latinidades Sawyer Seminar. Working out of the Obermann Center, Ortiz served as a project manager for the grant, which included multiple visiting speakers and events, as well as a podcast and frequently updated website. She also had several opportunities to share her research about education and rural Latinx communities in Illinois. Now, Ortiz is a 2020–21 Provost Postdoctoral Faculty Fellow with the Department of Gender, Women’s, and Sexuality Studies and the Latina/o/x Studies Program. Her research juxtaposes representations of Puerto Rican migration in the media with narratives of intergenerational individuals engaging in rural-to-rural migration between the islands and the United States in the twenty-first century.

Catherine Stewart speaking at 11/14/19 Obermann Conversation, “Domestic Stories,” at the Iowa City Public Library

As space allows, non-UI researchers are included as Obermann Fellows-in-Residence. Last year, Catherine Stewart, a history professor at Cornell College and the recipient of a National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) Fellowship, spent two semesters at the Obermann Center working on a book project, The New Maid: African American Women and Domestic Service During the New Deal. Stewart was not only a generous member of the Fellows’ bi-weekly seminar, in which Fellows share their work with each other and provide feedback, but she also served as an active colleague, mentor, and/or reader for several scholars. She participated in an Obermann Conversation about race and household workers and another talk at the UI Libraries’ Iowa Women’s Archives. She also presented her research nationally via interviews on C-SPAN and the New Books Network.

One project that was started at the Obermann Center many years ago by a non-UI fellow recently came to fruition. During 2013–14, Andrea Charise was a postdoctoral fellow at the Obermann Center via funding from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council. During her year at Obermann, she worked with director Teresa Mangum to host a daylong symposium, Health Humanities: Building the Future of Research and Teaching, and worked on a book project, which has now been published as The Aesthetics of Senescence: Aging, Population, and the Nineteenth-Century British Novel (SUNY Press, 2019). The book investigates how nineteenth-century British literature grappled with a new understanding of aging as both an individual and collective experience, which has come to have far-reaching ideological, ethical, and aesthetic implications. Now a faculty member in the Department of Health and Society at the University of Toronto-Scarborough, Charise has additional cross-appointments in that school’s Faculty of Medicine’s Department of Psychiatry, the University of Toronto’s Department of English, and the Collaborative Graduate Program in Women’s Health at the Women’s College Research Institute.