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Three Profs Granted Tenure

By Katie Pelletier ’03 on May 13, 2016 03:10 PM

Prof. Sarah Schaack [biology] specializes in mobile DNA.

Congratulations to three members of the Reed faculty who were granted tenure this year:

Prof. Morgan Luker [music]

Prof. Luker joined the music department in 2010 as Reed’s first ethnomusicologist. His research focuses on the cultural politics of Latin American music, with special emphasis on contemporary tango music in Buenos Aires, Argentina. “We often think that aesthetics are just aesthetics, or that a musical style is just a musical style, but music in fact carries a tremendous range of meanings and functions, serving as both a symbol and generator of other forces in social life and history,” he says.

Prof. Luker teaches courses in music and politics, the cultural study of music, Latin American music, and sound studies. He says, “I incorporate a lot of research methodology into all of my courses and teach several classes focused exclusively on research methodologies. I do everything I can to show students how they can participate in—and not just observe—the scholarly issues and debates that matter to them. That seems like the most empowering thing I can do for them given my position, and I end up learning a lot from them as well.”

His forthcoming book, The Tango Machine: Musical Culture in the Age of Expediency, traces the many ways Argentina draws upon tango as a resource for a wide array of economic, social, and cultural—that is to say, non-musical—projects. In doing so, he illuminates new facets of all musical culture in an age of expediency when the value and meaning of the arts is less about the arts themselves and more about how they can be used. In 2013 he launched the annual Tango for Musicians at Reed College, which has grown to be North America’s leading tango workshop for musicians. Prof. Luker earned a B.A. in music history from the University of Wisconsin and an M.A. and Ph.D. in ethnomusicology from Columbia University.

Prof. Sarah Schaack [biology]

Prof. Schaack [biology 2011-] is a genomist known for her teaching style that relies on examples from primary literature, current events, humor, and metaphor. Her courses include introduction to biology; genes, genetics and genomes, and mobile DNA. Prof. Schaack specializes in mutation and mobile DNA, and her current projects include studies of genome evolution in rattlesnakes (Crotalus mitchelli) and water fleas (Daphnia pulex). About Reed, she says, “I don’t know of a better environment at the undergraduate level to study biology. The dedication to student learning, student involvement and the respect between professors and students to work with each other is unparalleled; I’ve never seen anything like it.”

Schaack, who speaks Spanish and KiSwahili, often teaches outside the classroom and laboratory, taking students on off-campus research trips near and far, in the US and East Africa. As a Fulbright Scholar in 2013-14, she coordinated a genome sequencing project with collaborators in Nairobi, Kenya. She received her Ph.D. in biology from Indiana University, MS in zoology from University of Florida, and a BA in biology from Earlham College.

Prof. Nick Wilson ’99 [economics]

Prof. Wilson first came to Reed as an undergrad, where he took a class with Prof. Denise Hare [economics 1992–], a class, he says, that changed the way he sees the world. Now, he studies fundamental puzzles about human behavior using economics as a conceptual framework, primarily in the context of health and development. Can drought affect domestic violence? Why do people put off minor medical procedures like vaccinations because of inconvenience or discomfort—even when the procedures are proven to save lives and reduce illness?

Wilson has recently received grants to conduct studies to examine such questions through the lens of economics in Sub-Saharan Africa and Zambia. After earning his BA in economics from Reed, he went on to receive his MA and PhD in economics from Brown University, and an MPA in international development from the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard. He returned to Reed to join the department of economics in 2013. “Reed students bring a healthy dose of skepticism. They don’t just believe what you tell them. You have to convince them. They push back,” he says. He teaches introductory economics, health economics, and health in poor countries, in addition to supervising senior theses.