LA&S Faculty Earn Provost Awards for Excellence
College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Professors David Appelbaum and James Halpern have earned the prestigious Provost Awards for Faculty Excellence, which recognize their outstanding achievements in fulfilling New Paltz's educational mission. Appelbaum was awarded the Provost Award for Excellence in Scholarly/Creative Activity and Halpern earned the Provost Award for Excellence in Professional Service.
In his over 40 years at New Paltz, Appelbaum has authored 11 books on philosophy, edited six more, and written and published dozens of poetry volumes. He is the editor of Parabola magazine, founder of an independent press publishing spiritual and mythical works, and a noted authority on postmodernism.
In his introductory remarks at Appelbaum's Faculty Excellence Speaker Series lecture, held Nov. 12 in the Honor's Center, Provost Philip Mauceri said Appelbaum "exemplifies the New Paltz scholar."
Appelbaum, a Philosophy professor, delivered an erudite and poetic meditation on voice, authenticity and language, entitled, "A Voice of One's Own." Appelbaum said he first became interested in the subject of voice after two "traumatic experiences" in college, in which he attempted to speak, but could not. While some might have dismissed these incidents as stage fright, or an attack of nerves, Appelbaum found a subject worthy of scholarly attention. "The impression of the absence of voice forcibly struck me," he said.
In 1990, he continued his work in a monograph which aimed to "trace the voice that I speak back to its proper origin." Appelbaum found the idea that individuals possess a unique identity undermined by the "polyvocal" nature of voice, which makes the "I a multiple voice, a multitude of voice."
Appelbaum again explored the nature of the author's voice in his book, Jacques Derrida's Ghost, which he described as a "feverish dictation" from a mysterious source. "The work of all serious writers is 'ghost writing,'" Appelbaum said of the creative process. "The author is always a plagarist."
In the absence of an author's signature voice, questions of reliability and authenticity arise. Appelbaum referenced Plato's last book of the Republic, in which he imagined an ideal state structured on the concept of justice, but with no room for poets, whose contact with this "other" voice made them the subject of suspicion.
In the question and answer portion of the lecture, Associate Professor of History Hamilton Stapell asked Appelbaum if he felt there were always more questions than answers in his career studying the nature of voice, language and subject.
"The work uncovers the fact that reconciliation and resolution are only masks for something beyond our comprehension," Appelbaum answered, adding humorously that his colleagues "shouldn't draw a conclusion of hopelessness or resign early."
A member of the New Paltz faculty for over three decades, Halpern has served in a variety of service-oriented roles on-campus, nationally, and abroad. In events that have had some of the most profound impacts of our time – the 9/11 bombings, Sandy Hook School shootings, Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy - Halpern has offered his professional expertise in counseling those directly affected by tragedies.
Halpern, a Psychology professor, said his work allows him simply to provide needed help. "We have an opportunity to be useful and helpful in a time in people's lives when they most need it, and it's very rewarding."
In 2004, Halpern established the university's Institute for Disaster Mental Health (IDMH), which specializes in developing trainings in evidence-based disaster mental health interventions for those impacted by mass casualty events, natural disasters and other catastrophic events.
The IDMH hosts annual conferences that attract some 300 first responders and mental health professionals, and provides support to a number of state agencies, including the New York State Department of Health, Office of Mental Health and the New York-New Jersey Preparedness and Emergency Response Learning Center. In June, IDMH earned a Hudson Valley Psychological Association's Healthy Community Award for its work with disaster relief and preparedness.
Recently, IMDH has embarked on an ambitious project funded by the US Agency for International Development (USAID) to promote harmony in the Middle East, by training Palestinian and Israeli mental health professionals and educators to teach their countrymen to "cope effectively with stress without resorting to extremist ideologies."
In January, Halpern and his team will host a conference in Israel near the Dead Sea designed as a train the trainer program. The conference will assist professionals in helping citizens who live under the constant threat of violence. IMDH has prepared psychoeducational materials and leaflets, translated into Hebrew and Arabic, for conference participants to take back to their home countries.
Halpern said that despite historical differences, most Israelis and Palestinians are receptive to compromises that will bring peace and an end to violence. "I feel very privileged to do that kind of work," he said.
LA&S Professors Earn Prestigious Fulbright Awards
Two College of Liberal Arts and Sciences professors, Salvatore Engel-DiMauro (Geography) and Michael Vargas (History) received the prestigious Fulbright Award for the 2013-14 academic year from the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, which provides grants to graduate students, scholars, and professionals to study, teach and conduct research, exchange ideas, and contribute to finding solutions to shared international concerns.
Engel-DiMauro's project is titled "People-environment Relations, Urban Gardens, and Heavy Metal Contamination in Rome." He will be traveling to Italy after classes conclude next spring to deliver graduate level lectures, seminars, and workshops on urban environmental issues at the University of Rome La Sapienza. Among other things, his work will focus on human exposure to trace elements from eating food produced in the recently and rapidly expanding urban gardens of Rome. The Fulbright will also involve research on the factors fostering trace element movement from urban garden soils to crops. By combining teaching and research, the project will help broaden the university curriculum, integrate academic activities with local grassroots initiatives, raise awareness, and improve scientific knowledge about trace element contamination in urban environments.
Vargas is currently on sabbatical in Barcelona, Spain. An expert in medieval history, he received a Fulbright Senior Scholar grant to pursue his studies there at the Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas – Milà i Fontanals. His paper "Pondering Dysfunctions in Heritage Protection: Lessons from the Theft of the Codex Calixtinus," will be published in an upcoming issue of the International Journal of Cultural Policy. He has just completed a paper "Measuring Dominican Influence: Some Conceptual Problems and Potentials," to be published in an upcoming collection on the influence of the Order of Preachers in Medieval Spain. His current projects include "Medieval History as a Creative Act in Modern Catalunya," and ongoing studies on Catalan control of Sicily and Sardinia in the late Middle Ages.