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7 faculty members awarded Guggenheim Fellowships

Faculty members Mung Chiang, Emily Thompson, Serguei Oushakine, Claire Vaye Watkins, Meghan O’Rourke, Andrew Cole and Devin Fore were among the 178 winners chosen from a pool of almost 3,000 applicants to receive fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation.

Guggenheim Fellowships recognize accomplishments and propositions in academics, the arts or the sciences.

Winners receive grants to further their work in time blocks lasting between six and 12 months. Although recipients can spend their grant as they choose, they have to submit a report outlining their accomplishments once the fellowship concludes.

Applicants are assessed in groups according to their fields and examined by assigned experts whose final evaluations are forwarded to the selection committee, the foundation’s website explains.

“All of us at the foundation are thrilled with the 2014 Guggenheim fellows,” Director of Development and Public Relations at the Guggenheim Foundation Robert Hatter said, adding that the variety of academic backgrounds represented through Guggenheim fellows makes the fellowship particularly unique.

Oushakine, a member of the anthropology department, will be on sabbatical next year and plans to research the cultural development of former Soviet satellite states such as Belarus and Kyrgyzstan.

“I’m interested in how … they’re dealing with their sovereignty, how they’re trying to link their historical past and how people in these places are trying to reimagine recent history, how they’re trying to reinvent new, independent cultures,” Oushakine explained.

Oushakine also challenges the artistic nature of texts and tries to connect them to more general cultural practices, Philip Gleissner GS explained.

“He has a very broad overview of the field and he constantly generates new ideas whenever you talk to him,” he said.

Fore, an associate professor in the German department, shares an office hallway with Oushakine in East Pyne Hall and just published a new book, “All the Graphs: Soviet Factography and the Emergence of Avant-Garde Documentary.”

Watkins, a visiting assistant professor in the creative writing department, said she was encouraged to apply for the Guggenheim Fellowship by fellow writers at the University, including professor Chang-Rae Lee. Watkins said she submitted the first two chapters of a longer piece of writing as part of her application.

“I’m kind of too superstitious to call it a novel at this point, but it’s a long piece of fiction about the water crisis in the southwest US,” she explained. “It’s kind of got this mild, futuristic undertone to it.”

Professor Thompson, a professor in the history department, said she plans to spend the next academic year writing a book on the transition from silent to sound motion pictures in the American film industry. Thomson will be taking a sabbatical next year, and was also offered a fellowship from the Institute for Advanced Study.

“It was great news not only for the resources that it provides, but also because it’s a vote of confidence in my project,” she said of the Guggenheim Fellowship.

Electrical engineering professor Chiang is researching effective learning mechanisms on a massive scale. He said he hopes to use the fellowship to reach out to pedagogy specialists and people with learning disabilities such as attention deficit disorder.

Chiang is also the founding director of the EDGE Lab, which aims to bridge the gap between theory and practice in networking research.

“He cares about each of us, and he cares about what it is we want to do,” EDGE Lab member Christopher Brinton GS said of Chiang’s leadership in the EDGE Lab. “He has such an ability to bring in interest and even funding for different projects.”

Cole, an English professor, was recognized for his work, “The Renaissance of Late Medieval England,” and creative writing lecturer O’Rourke was recognized for her work, “What’s Wrong with Me: The Uncertainties of Chronic Illness,” the University website says.

Cole, O’Rourke and Fore did not respond to a request for comment.

The Foundation announced the winners on Thursday. However, fellowship recipients have not yet been notified of the particular duration or compensation of their individual fellowships.

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