News @ the Beach

NEH Grant Funds Research on Slavery in Late Spanish Empire

Emily Berquist Soule, a faculty member in the history department, recently received a grant of $50,400 from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) to fund her research on the politics of slavery and antislavery in the late Spanish Empire.

“I’m really excited to be able to move forward on my second book,” said Berquist, a former Fulbright Scholar. “I’m ready to write it and it’s great to have the time to do it.”

Berquist, Emily

Emily Berquist Soule

Berquist hopes her second book, tentatively titled “The Politics of Slavery in the Late Spanish Empire,” will be a major contribution to the scholarship of the period with its overview of the political stance of the Spanish Empire towards slavery in the late 18th and early 19th centuries.

“What make the story really interesting were the paradoxical politics,” Berquist said. “On one hand, the Spanish Empire was trying to become increasingly involved in the slave trade as the plantation economies developed in the Spanish Caribbean. On the other hand, there was a growing if small abolitionist movement in the Spanish Peninsula and some of the laws allowed by the Spanish government actually promoted anti-slavery sentiment and policies. For instance, the royal government officially allowed manumission or self-purchase by slaves. They also allowed slaves to keep plots of land for their own personal use. This book will explore the tensions between the promotion of slavery and the opposition to it.”

Berquist’s NEH grant will fund a full year’s leave from her teaching responsibilities with the goal of finishing her book’s first four chapters. “So far, I’ve performed a third of the archival research I need,” she said. “I’ve made several trips to Spain to work in the archives in Madrid’s Naval Museum and Seville’s Archive of the Indies. Some of the most interesting documents I’ve found include a captain’s log that detailed an ill-fated expedition to found a slave depot off the west coast of Africa in what is today Equatorial Guinea. It was a disastrous mission that included everything from sabotage to mutiny.”

Berquist’s prior major research awards include $30,000 from the American Council of Learned Societies and a $50,000 Dibner Research Fellowship in the History of Science to fund a fellowship at the Huntington Library in Pasadena. She has also been awarded funding from the American Historical Association, the Atlantic History Seminar at Harvard University, and the American Society for 18th Century Studies and the Spanish Ministry of Culture, among others.

“Academic Spanish is the foundational requirement, which I practiced by reading and studying Spanish Golden Age literature while in college,” she said. “I’ve traveled and read complex documents but the most important skill is actually finding the documents. That takes time but it is a skill I have practiced for 10 years.”

She’s grateful to the history department and the College of Liberal Arts for their support. “We’re very fortunate to be allowed to accept these research grants,” she said. “I’m grateful to both our outgoing and incoming chairs and to Dean David Wallace.”

Her first book, “The Bishop’s Utopia: Envisioning Improvement in Colonial Peru,” which appeared this year from the University of Pennsylvania Press, helped prepare Berquist to write her new book despite some real differences in the subject matter. “However, the subject of my first book was a contemporary of the events I deal with in the second,” she said. “Bishop Martínez Compañón was a dedicated reformer who spent his entire life in Peru trying to help the indigenous people. He tried to improve their ability to work, their education and their living conditions.

“But as I continued my work on him, I realized that a third of the population of his bishopric was Afro-Peruvian — but he never mentioned them, much less tried to help them improve their lives. This got me thinking, why spend all this time reforming but never even mention people of African descent? What was the position of 18th-century Spanish reformers toward slaves and people of African descent? I found out that, basically, they had no position, not one they spoke of publicly, at least. The question that began my book was, why is there this void in the historical record that has been reflected in the scholarship? I think it came from tension between the economic interests the crown was trying to promote and a growing antislavery movement.”

She feels one reason the NEH recognized her research was the intriguing nature of her topic. “In terms of scholarly literature, there is not yet a book that explores this subject for the late colonial period which represents a major hole in colonial Latin American scholarship,” she said. “This is an advantage for scholars working on colonial Latin America — it is not like studying colonial America where there are multiple takes on everything. We still have major holes in our understanding. A book like this fills those gaps and therefore serves both the classroom and other scholars.”

Berquist received her B.A. cum laude from Vassar College in New York and her Ph.D. in Latin American history from the University of Texas at Austin.

The NEH grant comes as part of $17.9 million in grants this year for 233 humanities projects. Created in 1965 as an independent federal agency, the NEH supports research and learning in history, literature, philosophy and other areas of the humanities by funding selected, peer-reviewed proposals from around the nation.

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Textile Waste Not a Waste at All

Some look at textile waste and think of disposal. Yu-Fu Ko, a member of the faculty in the civil engineering and construction engineering management department, looks at textile waste and thinks of opportunities.

Ko’s recent research focuses on seismic retrofitting of existing structures with an eye to using textile waste to support civil infrastructures.

“I’m looking at how they might be used to reinforce concrete structures such as buildings and bridges,” said Ko. “If the preliminary research results were successful, it could be applied to retrofit earthquake-damaged structures in the future. In current practice, carbon fiber reinforced polymer composites (CFRPs) are used to retrofit buildings and bridges. But making these reinforcing fibers can be hazardous. Workers who make carbon fibers breathe in the materials. That’s not good. Plus, carbon fibers are expensive. I hope, by mixing textile waste with bio-derived resin matrix, they will deliver the equal strength of CFRPs at a reduced environmental impact.”

Based on Ko’s recent research, it will be doable and practically feasible in the future. Not only would textile waste patch up an aging infrastructure, it would offer a substitute for diminishing global resources.

“The material diminishing the fastest is timber,” he said. ”I see less every year. The same is true for reinforced concrete and steel. Typical buildings and bridges today still use all these materials. That won’t be the case in the future.”

When he teaches undergraduate and graduate students, Ko stresses the potential for the use of new materials.

“If you inject carbon nanotubes into a structure, it can multiply the strength of the original structure,” he said. “Look at the process of filling concrete with rebar. The carbon nanotubes play the same role as the rebar. It offers additional reinforcement. In decades, there will be limited resources to make rebar. In addition, the carbon nanotubes offer many times the strength offered by rebar reinforcement. We are talking about superstructures in the future.”

Developing new computational modeling is also Ko’s research focus. He uses computational algorithms to perform the numerical tests, which will be calibrated by performing the mechanical tests that could characterize the materials used in the analysis and design of buildings, bridges, and other infrastructures.

“I work to develop new computational programs so an engineer or a student could input numbers and parameters and immediately estimate the mechanical properties of the materials used in their daily design,” he said.

Ko believes that it is very important to understand the materials used in modern construction at both microscopic and nanoscopic scale. Also an applied mechanics researcher, he studies the material’s behaviors both mechanically and numerically.

“It is important to come up with the right equations and computer programs so that engineers or students could understand the material’s fundamental parameters,” he said. “With these kinds of studies, we can make predictions about the material’s behaviors and we can use these data to analyze and design for buildings, bridges, infrastructures, cars, airplanes, etc.”

Prior to joining CSULB, Ko was a postdoctoral researcher and lecturer at UCLA as well as a senior structural design engineer at Englekirk and Sabol Consulting Structural Engineers, Inc. Ko is a registered Professional Civil Engineer in California and received his B.S. degree in structural engineering from National Taiwan University of Science and Technology in 1997 as well as his M.S. and Ph.D. both at UCLA in 2001 and 2005, respectively.

“New materials are always under development,” said Ko. “New materials would change current analysis and design philosophy of structures. If you understand the material behaviors at the microscopic and nanoscopic scale, you can understand the macroscopic behaviors of the materials and easily utilize these materials. The engineering students need to know both microscopic and nanoscopic and macroscopic behaviors of materials. It is important to provide engineering students with that knowledge in their education.”

Ko feels his theoretical and practical experiences help him in the classroom. “CSULB offered me many opportunities in teaching and research to guide engineering students to learn both theories and practical experiences,” he said. “CSULB engineering students will be very well prepared for the competitive job markets.”

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CSULB Students, Faculty and Staff Earn Presidential Community Service Honor for Engaging with Long Beach Community

By Susan C. Mills

From introducing K-12 girls to adventures in engineering  to developing job skills training programs, thousands of Cal State Long Beach (CSULB) students, faculty and staff reached out to the Long Beach community and have been honored for their efforts. CSULB has earned a place on the 2014 President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll for public works conducted during 2012 – 13. The recognition distinguishes colleges and universities engaged in helping solve social and economic problems, achieving meaningful outcomes on behalf of the regions they serve. CSULB has received the distinction four times since the award originated in 2006.

“We are delighted to once again be named to the President’s Community Service Honor Roll. When students engage in service, everyone benefits,” said Jane Close Conoley, president of CSULB. “College students who are taught to apply classroom learning to life off campus are nearly three times as likely to be more engaged in their workplace and the surrounding community upon graduation.”

The Center for Community Engagement, housed at CSULB, reports that approximately 12,109 students engaged in some form of community service in 2012-13, including 5,311 who were involved in academic service-learning. In total, these students logged more than 1.2 million community service hours during that time. It is also believed that roughly 800 CSULB faculty and staff were involved in some kind of community service that same year.

“At Cal State Long Beach, we are continually emphasizing our commitment to service-learning and working together with various community-based organizations in Long Beach and the surrounding area,” said Juan M. Benitez, director, Center for Community Engagement, CSULB. “Many of our students, faculty and staff are from the region and they are strengthening their communities by engaging with their neighbors through service.”

Examples of service at CSULB include students, faculty and staff hosting more than 1,000 K-12 girls through the Women In Engineering Outreach Program, as part of a national initiative to increase the number of women working in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), and working with Century Villages to develop job skills training programs for its homeless clients. They also helped rebuild the natural physical landscape, re-establish drainage trenches and remove non-native plants from the city’s Colorado Lagoon and participated in leadership training workshops.

According to a report conducted by Volunteering and Civic Life in America, 3.1 million college students participated in 118 million service hours in 2012. Their work provided $2.5 billion in value to communities throughout the U.S.

The President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll is part of the Corporation for National and Community Service’s (CNCS) strategic commitment to engage millions of college students in service and celebrate the critical role of higher education in strengthening communities. It has administered the award since 2006 and manages the program in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Education, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the American Council on Education and Campus Compact.

Established in 1993, CNCS is a federal agency that engages more than 5 million Americans in service through its core programs — Senior Corps, AmeriCorps and the Social Innovation Fund — and leads President Obama’s national call to service initiative, United We Serve.

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Cal State Long Beach Ranked Nation’s 11th Best Value for Universities Under $30,000 Per Year by Kiplinger’s

Cal State Long Beach has been named to Kiplinger’s Personal Finance Magazine’s 2015 list of the top universities costing under $30,000 per year, coming in at number 11 in the nation.  The ranking recognizes four-year institutions that combine outstanding education with economic value. Overall, CSULB was ranked 75th up from 82nd last year and 98th the year before. CSULB was the 8th best in California behind only University of California institutions.

“Many of our students are the first in their families to attend a university and their experience here is life-transforming. We pride ourselves in the value of our education and student outcomes here at Cal State Long Beach. To have our success in that important mission recognized by a prestigious national publication is certainly satisfying,” said CSULB President Jane Close Conoley, who noted that the high tuition and high selectivity of a university does not necessarily equate to value, quality and excellence.

Kiplinger’s assesses quality according to measurable standards, including the admission rate, the percentage of students who return for sophomore year, the student-faculty ratio and the four-year graduation rate. Cost criteria include sticker prices, financial aid and average debt at graduation.

“We salute this year’s top schools,” says Janet Bodnar, editor of Kiplinger’s Personal Finance magazine. “Balancing top-quality education with affordable cost is a challenge for families in today’s economy, which is why Kiplinger’s rankings are such a valuable resource. The schools on the 2015 list offer students the best of both worlds.”

The complete rankings, including the top schools overall as well as the best values in public schools, private universities and private liberal arts colleges, are available online at kiplinger.com/links/college. The rankings will also appear in the February 2015 issue of Kiplinger’s Personal Finance, on newsstands Jan. 6, 2015. Web visitors will find special features, including a tool that lets readers sort by admission rate, average debt at graduation and other criteria for all schools, plus by in-state and out-of-state cost for public universities; a slide show of the top 10 schools in each category; archives of previous years’ rankings, and an FAQ about the ranking methodology.

To come up with the best values, Kiplinger’s starts with data on nearly 1,200 public and private four-year schools provided by Peterson’s College Guide, then add their own reporting. The list is narrowed based on measures of academic quality. Then each school is ranked using cost and financial aid measures. Quality criteria account for 55 percent of total points, and cost criteria account for 45 percent.

For nine decades, the Kiplinger organization has led the way in personal finance and business forecasting. Founded in 1920 by W.M. Kiplinger, the company developed one of the nation’s first successful newsletters in modern times. The Kiplinger Letter, launched in 1923, remains the longest continuously published newsletter in the United States. In 1947, Kiplinger created the nation’s first personal finance magazine.

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