Life of Learning: Game Changers

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New and senior faculty flourish with support from Davidson family.

Finding Home

Malcolm O. Partin Endowed Professor Joseph “Piko” Ewoodzie

Malcolm O. Partin Endowed Professor Joseph “Piko” Ewoodzie

Junior and senior faculty members from the Africana Studies department gather weekly at a local coffee shop in the interest of friendship, growth and scholarship. They sit around a table together, and they write. For Joseph “Piko” Ewoodzie—the newest member of the group—it’s a small thing with huge impact.

Ewoodzie, who is wrapping up his first year teaching courses in qualitative methods, sociological theory, culture, race and urban sociology, values relationships in all aspects of his career; and getting to know his students is priority one. He spends his office hours in one-to-one conversations with students, learning more about their uncertainties, their convictions and their families.

“The more I know about them, the more examples I can find to connect their lives to what I’m teaching,” he says. “It’s an important step in moving from summarizing something you read to being able to analyze, create arguments and find connections. If I know my students, I can guide them through that process in a more meaningful way.”

Ewoodzie was awarded the Malcolm O. Partin Endowed Professorship, which will allow him to continue and expand upon his research over the summer. The work will build upon his dissertation, titled “Getting Something to Eat in Jackson,” a study of everyday eating practices among socioeconomically diverse African Americans living in Jackson, Miss.

“Broadly speaking, this award means I get to dream bigger about my project,” he says. “I get to ask ‘What can I do?’. It’s rare, and a real privilege, to hold an endowed position at this stage in my career.”

The professorship was established by a gift from Will Mathis ’88 and honors the late Malcolm O. Partin, who was a beloved history professor at Davidson for many years. It recognizes pre-tenured faculty members who demonstrate a love of classroom teaching, lectures meant to both educate and enthrall, and commitment to instill a lifelong devotion to learning.

Ewoodzie, who relocated to the United States from Ghana with his family at age 13, is committed to teaching at Davidson and looking to call North Carolina home after having moved around often.

“During my two-year residency at Kenyon College following my Ph.D. program at the University of Wisconsin, I rediscovered that I loved teaching,” he says. “I’m excited by teaching, and I get smarter by teaching, because I can’t skip anything. I have to read to understand.”

Ewoodzie is inspired by the caliber of students at Davidson, and he’s already witnessing growth in repeat students.

“The students here are intelligent, and they want to be challenged,” he says. “Seven students in my classes this semester chose to take me again after being in a class last semester. That’s the greatest compliment, and it makes me want to be even better.”

Creating Community

Boswell Family Faculty Fellowship recipient Jane Mangan

Boswell Family Faculty Fellowship recipient Jane Mangan

When Jane Mangan arrived at Davidson from Harvard in 2004 as an assistant professor in the history department, she was the first, and is still the only, full-time Latin American historian on the faculty. Twelve years in, she has led change for the college and in the lives of her many students. Among her contributions: the development of the Davidson in Peru program as well as the Latin American Studies Department.

Throughout the next academic year, as the latest recipient of the college’s Boswell Family Faculty Fellowship, Mangan will spend time continuing her research in Peru and possibly in Spain—a rare opportunity, as college policy supports just a half-year salary for sabbaticals.

The award was established in 2005 by Tom and Cheryl Boswell, parents of three sons who graduated from Davidson. Mangan’s research will build upon her most recent book, published just last year: Transatlantic Obligations: Creating the Bonds of Family in Conquest-Era Peru and Spain.

Primarily a social historian, Mangan’s research centers on colonial Peru, and she is interested in culture and power within families. She will create a database from her research in four Andean cities to aid the study of indigenous family networks in those cities. She plans to use digital tools, particularly mapping and network analysis, to present her findings.

“The concepts of culture and power are applicable today and in any field,” Mangan says. “I pull headlines from current newspapers, and we spin backwards to find connections in Latin American history. There’s quite a range of areas we can study, so it never gets boring.”

Creating community over a semester is a chief goal for Mangan, and she embraces the many different interests her students bring to the classroom. Mangan, who says her classes cover “from 1492 to NAFTA,” teaches upper-level courses on colonialism, gender, immigration, U.S.-Latino history and revolution, in addition to survey courses on colonial and modern Latin American history.

“Davidson students are bright, and they do the reading I assign,” she says. “I couldn’t create the necessary environment if the classes were larger, or if the students weren’t committed to the curriculum. They are enthusiastic about the coursework, and that allows me to engage with old material in new ways. Their differing perspectives are necessary as we explore history. I love to ask questions and watch them reach new levels of thinking.”

When Mangan decided to come to Davidson, she was most excited about the opportunity to balance teaching and research; in 12 years on campus, she hasn’t been disappointed. One unique experience has been a course team-taught with Professor Magdalena Maiz-Pena in the Hispanic Studies Department. Taught in Spanish, the course is about Latin American cities, from both cultural and historical perspectives.

“Co-teaching has changed my pedagogy more than any other experience I’ve had in my career,” says Mangan. “I had no idea sharing a teaching space would teach me so much. It’s a laboratory for learning how to teach, and it’s wonderful of Davidson to allow this kind of collaboration and growth.”

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About Author

Danielle Strickland

Danielle Strickland concentrates on development-related stories, and she enjoys making connections with Davidson’s most engaged alumni and friends. She holds a bachelor’s degree in communication from James Madison University and a master’s in higher education leadership from the University of Arkansas. Thankfully, after seven years working as a Razorback, her red-heavy wardrobe allowed for a smooth transition to life as a Wildcat.

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