2005 Kaplan Family Distinguished Faculty Fellows

John Weiss, Associate Professor, History, Arts & Sciences

Like the donkey who starved to death between two haystacks in the psychology textbooks’ illustration of an approach-approach conflict, John Weiss has bounced back and forth between research/teaching and civic activism for most of his adult life. While picking up degrees from Princeton and Harvard, and a commission in the United States Army, he played a small role in founding the Peace Corps, badgered Princeton into beginning its first serious teaching and research about African history and politics, and headed a task force for Ralph Nader that produced in 1971 the first comprehensive study of American Small Claims Courts.

Arriving at the Cornell History Department in 1974, he has taught 21 different courses about twentieth-century Europe. He has served twice as director of Cornell’s Institute for European Studies and is currently coordinator of the French studies program and chair of the University-ROTC relations committee. In 1988 he helped to found the Friendship Center, Ithaca’s drop-in center for the homeless and disadvantaged, and served as the president of its board for five years. During the war and genocide in Bosnia he delivered medical supplies, computer parts, and other aid items to the cities of Bihac and Tuzla. He continues to work with the Ghostbusters, a group of Bosnian teachers, conducting research on the construction of the public memory of the war.

Professor Weiss appears regularly on the local “Morning Report” talk show as guest commentator on international affairs. In May 2004 he and his wife Elaine launched a weekly half-hour television series on the public access channel which produced its 41st program last week. During that initiation to television production he became aware of the disaster in Darfur. He and Elaine then completed STOPPING GENOCIDE: DARFUR (SUDAN) 2004, which remains the most widely distributed video on that subject produced in America.

Like the donkey who starved to death between two haystacks in the psychology textbooks’ illustration of an approach-approach conflict, John Weiss has bounced back and forth between research/teaching and civic activism for most of his adult life. While picking up degrees from Princeton and Harvard, and a commission in the United States Army, he played a small role in founding the Peace Corps, badgered Princeton into beginning its first serious teaching and research about African history and politics, and headed a task force for Ralph Nader that produced in 1971 the first comprehensive study of American Small Claims Courts.

Arriving at the Cornell History Department in 1974, he has taught 21 different courses about twentieth-century Europe. He has served twice as director of Cornell’s Institute for European Studies and is currently coordinator of the French studies program and chair of the University-ROTC relations committee. In 1988 he helped to found the Friendship Center, Ithaca’s drop-in center for the homeless and disadvantaged, and served as the president of its board for five years. During the war and genocide in Bosnia he delivered medical supplies, computer parts, and other aid items to the cities of Bihac and Tuzla. He continues to work with the Ghostbusters, a group of Bosnian teachers, conducting research on the construction of the public memory of the war.

Professor Weiss appears regularly on the local “Morning Report” talk show as guest commentator on international affairs. In May 2004 he and his wife Elaine launched a weekly half-hour television series on the public access channel which produced its 41st program last week. During that initiation to television production he became aware of the disaster in Darfur. He and Elaine then completed STOPPING GENOCIDE: DARFUR (SUDAN) 2004, which remains the most widely distributed video on that subject produced in America.

Project Abstract

History 279, “Humanitarianism” will be taught for the first time in the fall of 2005. Expected enrollment: 15-40. It will be taught in a lecture/discussion format. A crucial component of the course, however, will be the “term paper” option that will entail service to refugee communities and refugee-assisting communities. In particular, enrolled students will be expected to participate in several ways in the Darfur Culture Video Documentation Project. Other humanitarian service learning options will be added later. Students may complete this part of the course, by previous arrangement with the instructor, in the summer before the lectures begin as well as during the period of lectures-reading-discussions. A field service journal, a paper critically evaluating what was learned and attendance at evaluation/revision/feedback workshops in the late fall will also be required.

Linda S. Rayor, Assistant Professor, Department of Entomology, Agriculture & Life Sciences

Linda S. Rayor grew up in Denver, Colorado. She got her undergraduate degree at the University of Colorado-Boulder (1978). Dr. Rayor went to graduate school at the University of Kansas-Lawrence in Systematics & Ecology (Ph.D. 1987) specializing in behavioral ecology. She did two postdoctoral research projects: one on social spiders in central Mexico and another on paper wasps in Arizona. Dr. Rayor directed and taught a ‘Tropical Ecology and Conservation’ program in Monteverde, Costa Rica for three summers. She was a professional educational ecotour guide in Peru, Costa Rica, and the Galapagos. Dr. Rayor is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Entomology at Cornell University where she teaches ‘Spider Biology’ and ‘Insect Behavior’. She currently studies social dynamics in the unusual Australian spiders that were the (spider) stars of the movie ‘Arachnophobia’. For the last eight years, Dr. Rayor and her students have run the ‘Spider Outreach Program: Eight-legged Ambassadors for Science Education’ program which acts as a speakers bureau to send Cornell students into local classrooms and community groups to talk about the biology of spiders and insects. To date, the program has reached over 380 classes and 12,600 people, and involved 34 undergraduates and 13 graduate students. Dr. Rayor’s lively ‘A romance with spiders’ is a free, 1-hour online video (http://cybertower.cornell.edu) available to the public.

Project Abstract

In 1998, the ‘Spider Outreach Program: Eight-legged Ambassadors for Science Education’ was developed as a Speakers Bureau that sends Cornell undergraduate and graduate students into local K-12 classrooms where they present age-appropriate presentations on either spider or insect biology and behavior. Participants have spoken to over 12,600 people since the beginning of this outreach program. Through these lively, enthusiastic, and well-grounded talks, we work to open the world of science to young people, enrich local K-12 science instruction, and simultaneously train Cornell students to communicate effectively about science. The goal is to instill the Cornell students with the mission of becoming scientific mentors who can attract future biologists with their sense of excitement and role as models.

In Fall 2005, the outreach program will greatly expand into a larger, interdisciplinary program with a course in “Naturalist Outreach in Biology.’ The goals are (1) to enhance the speaking, teaching and pedagogical skills of the Cornell presenters through more formal collaboration with members of the Communications and Education Departments and (2) to develop a broader range of inquiry-based natural history programs on vertebrates and invertebrates in association with members of other biology-oriented departments on campus. The course will seek to find a productive balance between science, and educational and service learning pedagogy. The director of the interdisciplinary ‘Cornell Naturalist Outreach Program’ programmatic responsibilities will change to accommodate this greater teaching and extension responsibility. In addition the Public Service Center has committed to support the outreach program and course through its ‘Curriculum Integration Project’.