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Picture of group of students with architecture art

Students Portia Silver, Katelyn Jones, Jess Long with artist Simon Anton, viewing his work at the Biennale Architettura in Venice, Italy. | Photo by Andrea Wolk Rager


It’s been a remarkable few months for faculty and students in the Department of Art History and Art:

Elizabeth Bolman, PhD, the Elsie B. Smith Professor in the Liberal Arts, was awarded the 2023 Tsiter-Kontopoulou Foundation Prize, which recognizes important research contributions in the fields of Byzantine studies, the history of ideas and cultural history. Bolman spent two weeks in residency at the Institute of Byzantine and Modern Greek Studies, University of Vienna in July, and was asked to invite a doctoral student to spend a month in Vienna. Her selection: Marina Mandrikova, who presented her dissertation research.

Elina Gertsman, PhD, the department’s acting chair, a Distinguished University Professor and the Andrew W. Mellon Professor in the Humanities, received the Otto Gründler Book Prize for The Absent Image: Lacunae in Medieval Books. The award recognizes a monograph on a medieval subject that has made an outstanding contribution to the field. She also received the 2023 Medieval Academy Award for Excellence in Teaching Medieval Studies, for which she was nominated by her graduate students.

Andrea Wolk Rager, PhD, associate professor of art history, and eight students contributed to the 2023 Biennale Architettura in Venice, Italy, a top international architecture exhibition. Rager and several of the students went to Venice this summer as programmatic partners with the local nonprofit art gallery, SPACES, the commissioning agent for the Biennale’s U.S. Pavilion. The students also organized events in Cleveland to spur discussion around the pavilion’s theme, Everlasting Plastics, which put an artistic spotlight on global petro-chemical plastic proliferation and waste.

Illustration of a chemistry bond

Image by Getty Images


Shane Parker, PhD, received a five-year National Science Foundation Faculty Early Career Development Program (CAREER) grant to develop computational methods using chemistry, physics and mathematics. 

The assistant professor of chemistry and his team will use those methods to run advanced simulations of light-triggered chemical reactions. 

Possible applications range from designing improved materials for solar cells to making better cancer-therapy dyes that reduce tumors when light is shone on them. 

“This power of light in chemical reactions is what changed the course of my research when I was a PhD student,” Parker said. “We know a lot about organic chemistry, but once you add light into the mix—which is essentially a condensed packet of intense energy hitting the molecule—all the rules of chemistry are upended.”


Two College of Arts and Sciences faculty members are Case Western Reserve’s inaugural Distinguished Scholars in the Public Humanities, chosen for their social impact—and potential for more. 

Public Humanities integrate humanistic disciplines and civic engagement to foster empathy, creative thinking, problem-solving and debate, and build a more just society. 

The scholars are Erin Benay, PhD, associate professor of early modern art, and Deepak Sarma, PhD, professor of religious studies and professor of bioethics. Both are also involved in off-campus initiatives. 

Benay has worked with local nonprofits to incorporate art history into community-engaged initiatives. 

Sarma serves as a cultural consultant for Netflix, Moonbug, American Greetings and other companies, helping them avoid perpetuating unintended stereotypes and inequalities.

Portrait photo of Dr. Weiss

Gillian Weiss


A National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) fellowship is giving history professor Gillian Weiss, PhD, the opportunity to spend this academic year researching and writing her book, The Money Launderer’s Daughter: A Sephardic Woman and a Slave Rumor in the Seventeenth- Century Mediterranean. 

“It’s pretty thrilling to receive the NEH fellowship,” Weiss said. “This was my third try.” 

The book focuses on a previously unknown Arabic-speaking teen brought to Marseille in the late 1600s and forced to convert to Catholicism—that is, according to a rumor spread by a Muslim galley slave, which triggered a diplomatic crisis between France and Ottoman Tunis. The book reflects on what we know about the past and, Weiss said, “how we can learn more about the people who get left out of traditional historical narratives.”


During the last 20 years, suicide rates have climbed 24% in the United States, with the largest increases in females ages 10-14 and Black children ages 5-11. 

But one particular intervention may help reverse that trajectory. Arin Connell, PhD, a professor in psychological sciences, led a study funded by the National Institute of Mental Health examining results from Family Check-Up (FCU), a prevention program that another academic expert created years ago. 

Families received information about positive parenting practices, for example, and could participate in sessions covering effective family management, self-care and family problem-solving. 

Analyzing data from 2,322 families, researchers found the youth had significantly lower suicide risks than those in the control group, which continued for up to nine years. The impact didn’t differ by race, ethnicity or gender, suggesting FCU was equally effective for reducing suicide risks across youth populations.

Picture of Rafique with his computers and instruments

Rafique Illyas-Watson | Photo by Maria Amador


Rafique Illyas-Watson, a historical musicology graduate student and self-taught electronic musician, produced music that’s woven into two local documentaries. 

One is an 11-minute short documentary, Make Your Mark, directed by Kalim Hill, about two artists collaborating with teens to create a mural on East 130th Street in Cleveland during the pandemic. The other, The House Next Door, directed by John P. Vourlis (CWR ’89), is about the foreclosure crisis in Cleveland. Hill incorporated music Illyas-Watson already produced, while Vourlis asked him to create new music. 

Illyas-Watson is writing his dissertation about humor in hip-hop and wants to do more community-focused work. “Everybody should have access to musical knowledge,” he said.


Jeremy Bendik-Keymer, PhD, a professor of philosophy, wrote Nussbaum’s Politics of Wonder: How the Mind’s Original Joy Is Revolutionary. The book, with illustrations by Misty Morrison, engages with the work of Martha C. Nussbaum, PhD, a prominent philosopher, to develop a democratic approach for wondering together.

Timothy Black, PhD, a professor of sociology, and co-author Sky Keyes received this year’s Scholarly Achievement Award for a Book from the North Central Sociological Association for It’s a Setup: Fathering from the Social and Economic Margins

Francesca Brittan, PhD, an associate professor of music, is a 2023 senior research fellow at the Vossius Institute for the History of Humanities and Sciences at University of Amsterdam. She is tracing the role of musical instruments in shaping conceptions of brain physiology and function during the last 400 years. 

Lauren Calandruccio, PhD, the Louis D. Beaumont University Professor in the Department of Psychological Sciences, co-authored the fifth edition of Essentials of Audiology with Stanley A. Gelfand, PhD, a professor at The City University of New York. 

Daniela Calvetti, PhD, the James Wood Williamson Professor in applied mathematics, was named a 2023 Fellow of the Society of Industrial and Applied Mathematics for her outstanding research and extraordinary mentoring. 

Michael Clune, PhD, the Samuel B. and Virginia C. Knight Professor of Humanities in the English department, wrote “The Anatomy of Panic,” a personal history published in Harper’s Magazine

Lee Hoffer, PhD, an associate professor of anthropology, received a multi-year contract from the Ohio Department of Health to provide Syringe Service Programs (SSP) across Ohio with a standardized data-collection system his research team developed. 

Christopher Jenkins, a PhD student in historical musicology, wrote Assimilation v. Integration in Music Education. The book includes the voices of Black and Latinx students and recommends a new approach for diversifying Western classical music. 

Lydia Kisley, PhD, an assistant professor of physics, received a 2023 Cottrell Scholar Award, an honor recognizing innovative research programs and potential for academic leadership. 

Jessica Wolfendale, PhD, a professor of philosophy, wrote “The Erasure of Torture in America,” published in the Case Western Reserve Journal of International Law.

Page last modified: January 16, 2024