Saturday, October 7, 2017

WSU grads inspired to give back

Check out the fall issue of Worcester State Magazine

Go to: 

Page 23 for my profile of underachiever-turned-overachiever Samantha Santiago; 

Page 24 for my write-up of Eugene Bah, a dual MD/PhD student inspired by his Cameroon upbringing; 

and page 25 to meet Jolene Jennings, a self-described "late bloomer" whose mission is to help illiterate adults learn to read and write.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Artscope: Greg Lookerse, inspiration from the written word

Greg Lookerse: Literary Soil at Fruitlands Museum

By Taryn Plumb

Harvard, MA – “Moby Dick”: Herman Melville’s classic tale of obsession. Adored by academics and mere lovers of the English word; abhorred by others forced to dissect and regurgitate it in high school and college.
But for Greg Lookerse? It’s not only an inspiration for art — it is art.
For his solo exhibition, “Literary Soil,” the California-born artist tore pages from his copy of the 1851 classic, then smeared them with pigments to simulate roiling waves or thick oil slicks, and grew salt crystals atop them to create a briny, crusty sensation.
The end result is a tactile representation of the written word.
“Overall the show for me is about the roots and ideas that come from reading,” said Lookerse, “and so each piece is somehow tied to a specific book or story or legend or myth.”
The exhibit will be on display at Fruitlands Museum in Harvard, Mass., through August 20; the work was crafted during Lookerse’s 2017 artist-in-residence at both Fruitlands and The Old Manse in Concord.
Lookerse, who describes himself as a “reader who does not know how to write,” creates complex, thought-provoking pieces that intertwine elements of classic literature and religious practices, and explore what he calls the “incongruities” between the physical and metaphysical planes.
“A huge influence of my work is looking at western art history and the ways in which religion and philosophy intermix,” said the artist. “I’m trying to come full circle and think about all of these different disciplines, all of these different ideas, and see how it works within the context of the literature pieces.”
For example, in one piece he cut and folded pages from Ralph Waldo Emerson’s “Nature and Other Essays,” arranging them in a mandala pattern that could be a flower — or an ornately-decorated cathedral window.
Meanwhile, Henry David Thoreau’s journal is transformed into a labyrinth encircling and curling around a stark praying bench.
Other pieces in the show — around 30 in total — include a wall of 50 black icons with a kneeling bench, and rocks of various sizes, colors and shapes encased under glass domes.
Lookerse, who identifies as a sculptor, painter and performance artist (among other descriptors,) embraces abstraction. Words, after all, he said, are just that.
“Abstraction as a whole I think is really misunderstood outside of the academic art culture,” he said.
He added that, “There’s a level of absurdity through all art, and then there’s the artist asking the audience to have a bit of faith in what they’re presenting,” whether that’s purely enjoying the aesthetics, thinking about its implications, or developing their own interpretation.
Lookerse’s particular style of abstraction arises not only from his themes, but his process.
He describes himself as “a little like a Swiss Army knife,” using whatever tools and materials he needs in the studio — manipulating them to explore their limitations and figure out new ways to use them – to bring tangibility to an idea. There’s a lot of tinkering; a lot of mistakes.
“It’s a process of exploring and trying new things,” he said. And eventually, “you find a little nougat of ‘Hmmm, that was interesting.’”
(“Greg Lookerse: Literary Soil” remains on view through August 20 at Fruitlands Museum, 102 Prospect Hill Rd., Harvard, Mass. For more information, call (978) 456-3924.).

Original story link. And the artist's website

Monday, February 13, 2017

Jan/Feb Artscope: Phantom Punch

Culture Shock at Bates
Jan/Feb 2017

Taryn Plumb

An image of an outdoor mural depicts what would no doubt be a culture shock for many westerners: Eight swords, flanked by elegant Arabic writing, pointing at two women — one completely veiled in black, the other uncovered, long hair falling to her shoulders.
The latter? Marked with an “X.” Her properly-dressed, anonymous counterpart, meanwhile? Given full approval with a check mark.
As if in contrast, a group of young girls, all dressed in frocks of various shades of pink, are hard at work adding their own illustrations to the painting — yet as a looming reminder, they are overseen by a shapeless, faceless figure enshrouded in black.
A still from Saudi artist’s Njoud Alanbari’s “Elementary 240,” it is all at once eerie, haunting, ironic, unexpected — even a little playful.
Such is the nature of “Phantom Punch: Contemporary Art from Saudi Arabia in Lewiston,” on view at Bates College Museum of Art through March 18. The exhibit features the unexpected and though-provoking work of more than a dozen Saudi artists.
To read more, pick up a copy of our latest issue! Click here to find a pick-up location near you or Subscribe Here.

Making a Difference Half the World Away

Global Impact


Wellington, New Zealand

Its history and culture are a rich fusion of influences; its people are proud, innovative, and environmentally fastidious; its picturesque harbor greets looming mountains that are home to an array of exotic and endangered plants and animals. Many factors make Wellington a unique and unrivaled location. That’s what ultimately convinced professor of organizational studies Michael Elmes that it would be a prime spot for one of WPI’s project centers. After visiting the country as a Fulbright Scholar in 2005, he championed the Wellington Project Center, and students have been visiting and working there for four years.
“It’s really quite a dynamic place for being such a small country,” says Elmes, who runs the center with assistant teaching professor Ingrid Shockey. “It’s a great place to visit, and it’s a great place to do interesting, challenging projects.”
In those four years, IQP teams have been involved with more than two dozen such initiatives—among them, researching endangered dolphins, investigating prospects for hydrogen fuel, studying the food rituals of native birthday parties, raising awareness of tsunamis, and examining flood and climate change.
Mechanical engineering major Paige Myatt ’17, who spent the winter of 2016 at the center, said of the experience, “I felt like I’d found another home.” Students are very often struck by what Elmes calls the starkly beautiful natural environment, plus the country’s high happiness index and quality of life. “They do have some kind of secret formula there,” he says.
The center works with diverse sponsors, from the Māori communities, to the Greater Wellington Regional Council, to the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tonga-rewa. Elmes says it’s a mutually beneficial relationship, and a way to show off WPI’s excellence.
“We have so many repeat project sponsors because they’re so impressed with the quality of the work that our students do. I can’t tell you how many times people over there say, ‘Your students are just great.’”
Myatt was in a group that created a feasibility report for a hydroponic greenhouse that would tap excess electricity from a micro-hydro power system operated by Māori in the rural town of Horohoro. The experience had such a profound impact on her life and career path (she intends to go on to study renewable energy) that she’ll be going back in winter 2017 for her MQP. Her plan is to work with that Māori community again to help them design the greenhouse for which she and her IQP teammates created the feasibility study.
She recalls a Māori proverb: “What is the most important thing in the world? It is people, it is people, it is people.” Not, she emphasized, that people are more important than the natural world and its creatures, but that they are ultimately responsible for taking care of it.
“The Māori try to be very aware of how they’re impacting their environment. They’re efficient with their resources,” Myatt says of the Māori and of kiwis at large. “It’s a very refreshing viewpoint to experience.”

Original story link

Peer Recognition: The Best Kind

Professor Joseph Sarkis Among “Highly Cited Researchers”

Foisie Business School department head frequently referenced in academic scientific publications

January 13, 2017

Being recognized by your peers is probably one of the most satisfying accomplishments one can experience as a professional.
In that respect, Professor Joseph Sarkis has distinguished himself. A department head within the Foisie Business School, Sarkis recently made the esteemed “Highly Cited Researchers” list for 2016. The distinction is based on Thomson Reuters’s vast database of research journals and articles, which is used to identify writers who are frequently referenced in academic scientific publications. The mass media firm ultimately calls the group the “Most Influential Scientific Minds.”
“It’s the first time I’ve received it,” Sarkis says, adding, “I was surprised, actually.”
The list names a total of 3,200 researchers whose work varies widely in discipline. “The database for Thomson Reuters is very exclusive,” says Sarkis, who is one of only 150 researchers to be listed in the engineering category. “It’s typically used as gold standard for journal indexing in which only the top journals in each academic discipline are included.”
His inclusion is based largely on his research in the burgeoning field of green and sustainable supply chains. He has authored and co-authored hundreds of publications, and his 2004 paper, Relationships Between Operational Practices and Performance Among Early Adopters of Green Supply Chain Management Practices in Chinese Manufacturing Enterprises, is his most highly referenced—it’s been cited 1,333 times, according to his Google Scholar page.
Additionally, Sarkis has been identified by a publication in Scientometrics as the most productive researcher in the field of supply chain management from the years 1995 to 2015.
I was one of the early people involved in researching the area,” says Sarkis. “The field is still young. There are lots of possibilities.”
As he explains it, the work so far has been highly focused on China, as the majority of supply chains have ties to the emerging superpower. Emphasis has been on promoting “good practices,” investigating various pressures to supply chains, and identifying ways to manage those supply chains in efficient ways. His research has also focused on developing models to help businesses and organizations reduce their environmental footprint, as well as manage hazardous waste materials use and resource depletion.
Essentially, it’s going beyond the financial aspects and the business aspects in the supply chain to think about ethical, social, and environmental issues,” he says.
More recently, the work has broadened to include developing suppliers, helping them to be greener and more proactive about their business practices when it comes to the environment. “The environment needs to be considered by industry because of all the damage that’s occurring,” says Sarkis. As he notes, the question becomes, “How do you help suppliers become greener or more environmentally sound?”
Ultimately, it’s a rewarding field of study he says he plans to keep focusing on for years to come. “One of the things that attracts me to this research is that it’s doing good,” he says. “Social good and impact is an important aspect of this research.”

- By Taryn Plumb

Original story link

Thursday, November 10, 2016

And the Boston Globe "Good Life" cover on "Haunted Boston"

Boston Globe story on my book, "Haunted Boston"

Are these Boston spots haunted?
OCTOBER 28, 2016

Let’s all take a seat around the campfire (metaphorical, if you will). It’s time for some ghost stories.
The Boston area is known for its abundant history, culture, and innovation. But centuries also leave behind ghosts, bizarre legends, and events that simply defy explanation. Terrifying, baffling, even amusing, they are woven into the tapestry of local history.
Here are some dark and spooky stories from around the Hub and its environs, culled from this writer’s book, “Haunted Boston: Famous Phantoms, Sinister Sites, and Lingering Legends.”
Scared? You should be.

Fort Warren
The wife of a captured Confederate soldier, the infamous “lady in black,” is believed to haunt this historic fort on Georges Island where both she and her husband were felled in a botched escape attempt. Her willowy specter, dressed in the garish gown she was hanged in, has purportedly been seen flitting around with a lantern, has tapped shoulders, and yelled threats to those entering the dungeon. Her ghost is said to have choked one horrified sentinel. Perhaps the darkest detail? She was the one who accidentally shot her husband while trying to free him — and was summarily hanged for being a traitor.

Boston Common
Today, it is a destination that teems with sunbathers, tourists, historical reenactors, and food carts — but Boston Common has quite a grisly past. Established in 1634, it was the site of public executions for more than 175 years. Puritan settlers regularly hanged those believed to be sinful; today, it is said that the ghosts of their victims can be seen dangling from the trees, accompanied by the eerie sound of creaking rope. Some have also reported spotting a weeping woman in colonial dress, believed to be Quaker martyr Mary Dyer, who was strung up by the neck in 1660 — reflecting the hypocrisy of the Puritans who came to America in search of religious freedom.

Cocoanut Grove
It has gone down in history as one of the deadliest nightclub fires: In November 1942, flames consumed the Cocoanut Grove lounge, killing 492 people and injuring dozens more. Today, all that remains is a memorial plaque in Bay Village. But its victims are said to linger: Shadowy souls in burned clothing have been seen aimlessly wandering the area and the nearby Revere Hotel. Meanwhile, exotic dance instructor Wendy Reardon, who previously had a studio adjacent to the site, has on several occasions videotaped glowing shapes that appear to be moving right along with her – the spirits of Cocoanut Grove patrons, perhaps, who haven’t yet tired of dancing?

Copp’s Hill Burying Ground
Boston is replete with cemeteries, the final resting places of some of the country’s founding fathers and mothers, to soldiers, to the forgotten men and women who shaped the evolving city. And while a few frightful stories surround all of them, Copp’s Hill Burying Ground in the North End is considered to be the spookiest. Perhaps that’s because its dead have so often been robbed of their slumber. Grave diggers and vandals did their work over the years, while torrential rains exposed coffin lids. Gravestones were ripped out of the ground to be used as roof tiles, in foundations and road improvement projects, and, in one grotesque instance, as a baking plate by a cook. Visitors to Copp’s Hill over the decades have reported apparitions of little girls, shadows cast by no discernible beings, as well as orbs, streaks, and blurs. It seems some may not rest as comfortably as others.

The Old Manse of Concord
It was the one-time home of Nathaniel Hawthorne, as well as a gathering place for some of the most famous literary minds of the mid-1800s, including Henry David Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson. And, some say, a few lesser-knowns congregate there as well. Hawthorne himself wrote of what he believed to be the ghost of a pastor who could be heard sighing deeply and who would brashly sweep through the middle of company. There was also a servant maid who he could hear banging around the kitchen “at deepest midnight.” More contemporary visitors have claimed to see a lady in Victorian dress sitting in one of the Manse’s windows. Others say they’ve heard loud raps and taps without origin, and, like something out of a James Wan film, books alighting off shelves and flying across rooms.

The Bridgewater Triangle
This swath of land stretching roughly from Abington to Freetown to Rehoboth has allegedly been the setting for a plethora of creepy, strange, frightening, and unexplained phenomena. Those have included sightings of ghosts of sinister little boys, Bigfoot, UFOs, enormous snakes, raptors with 12-foot wingspans, mythical humanoid creatures, phantom hitchhikers and truckers with otherworldly road rage. Much like its namesake Bermuda Triangle, it is quite a confounding place.

Gloucester’s Dogtown
t was meant to be a prosperous settlement in a burgeoning fishing town. But after the Cape Ann population was decimated by the Revolutionary War, it soon devolved into a haven for the destitute, homeless, outcasts, and others who shunned (or, in turn, were shunned by) society. Stories began to circulate about witches who hexed, murdered, and used dark arts to steal goods from passing carts. By 1830, Dogtown was abandoned, its houses and streets lost to nature; today, the 3,600-acre expanse is preserved by the nonprofit Essex National Heritage area. But many believe that its motley assortment of inhabitants never truly left — there have been reports of disturbing sounds such as beating drums, wailing women, and the howling of dogs and wolves. Adding another layer of the bizarre, the area is punctuated by giant boulders carved with inspirational sayings: “Be on time,” “Use your head,” and “Study.” They are the result of a Great Depression work program — but seem to hark back to the settlement’s less-fortunate inhabitants.

Taryn Plumb can be reached at She is the author of “Haunted Boston: Famous Phantoms, Sinister Sites, and Lingering Legends,” published by Globe Pequot Press.

Original story link