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Faculty Stories

Dr. Hallie Baker

Dr. Hallie BakerDr. Hallie Baker has been teaching at Muskingum since 2009, but her roots go much deeper than that. Although she earned her undergraduate degree from Miami University of Ohio, her maternal grandmother and all six of her siblings attended Muskingum!

Baker says, “While none of their children or grandchildren came to Muskingum, we all knew about the College and grew up with tales about it. When I interviewed here the whole family was excited and the running joke was if I was offered a job I had better take it! Otherwise I'd have seven Muskies haunting me the rest of my life! Needless to say, I took the job, but it wasn't out of fear of the ghosts; instead, I felt like it was coming home when I visited here back in March 2009, even though I'd never been here before.”

Baker teaches in the Psychology, Sociology and Health Science Departments; she teaches both traditional undergraduate and MAP (Muskingum Adult Program) courses. Baker enjoys the diversity of students she is able to work with – young adults, adult learners, and first-generation college students, as well as the small class sizes she teaches.

In October of 2012, Baker published her dissertation, Aging with a Disability Versus Disability with Age: A New Theoretical Model to Conceptualize Clients with Disability. She explains, “The focus of the book is trying to conceptualize disability in a new way. Traditionally we see disability as a one-time event without looking at the context around it. As a social worker I often was able to find the strengths and needs my clients brought with them to a new health issue that could help personalize and maximize their outcomes. The book discusses the proposed theoretical model which looks at a new disabling event in the context of a life time of events which can help or hinder a client's ability to recover.”

Dr. Shelley Amstutz-Szalay

Dr. Shelley Amstutz-SzalayDr. Shelley Amstutz-Szalay is the most recent recipient of the William Oxley Thompson Award for Excellence in Teaching. Dr. Amstutz-Szalay, who primarily teaches biology and health science courses, joined the faculty in 2008. She earned her bachelor’s degree from Baldwin-Wallace College, her M.S. in Biological Chemistry at the University of Michigan, and her Ph.D. in Public Health – Epidemiology from Walden University.

One thing that sets Muskingum apart from other institutions where Amstutz-Szalay has taught is “the amount of time and effort we spend getting to know our students and guiding them through their four years.” She also appreciates good faculty relationships and the “deep sense of community, both with the campus and New Concord.”

For Dr. Amstutz-Szalay, the time spent getting to know students and “watching the transformation from first-year students to graduating seniors” is also a highlight. “The best feeling is when one of our seniors lands the job they really wanted or gets into the graduate program of their choice.”

Amstutz-Szalay has been working to develop a major in Public Health Studies, which is currently under full curriculum review. “This is an exciting new opportunity for our students to get exposure to a rapidly growing field that can lead them into a rewarding career right after graduation or on to graduate school in public health or a related area.”

Dr. Alistair Hattingh

Alistair HattinghDr. Alistair Hattingh, Professor of History, has been teaching at Muskingum since the fall of 2002. During the 2009-10 academic year, he spent eight months living and researching in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Hattingh’s research “looks at the relationship between Argentina's federal government and the provinces during the 1930s,” a time when “The government used fraud and intimidation to control the opposition and managed this through its support of friendly politicians in the various provinces.”

Hattingh previously spent over a year in Argentina during 1996-97, working on his dissertation through the University of California Santa Barbara. His dissertation “examined the relationship between Buenos Aires and the provinces of San Juan and Mendoza.”

Since beginning his dissertation, Hattingh has returned every few years to research as he builds his dissertation into a book-length manuscript.

During his most recent trip, Hattingh worked to “examine other key provinces during this period. While I was able to gather a substantial amount of information in the capital, I was also able to use my time in Argentina to travel to several other provinces that I had not visited before, such as Catamarca, Tucumán, and Santiago del Estero.”

In addition to conducting research during his sabbatical, Hattingh also used the time to travel to other parts of South America, and to reconnect with friends made on his previous visits, including both professional colleagues and fútbol friends. They met biweekly to play soccer together.

Dr. Beth Butler

Beth ButlerOne mark of the outstanding faculty at Muskingum University is their continued commitment to research and scholarship. Spanish professor Beth Butler demonstrates this well.

In April, Butler attended the Kentucky Foreign Language Conference (KFLC) in Lexington, Kentucky. She presented the paper “Narrando la anorexia en la ficción española: intertextualidades artísticas y literarias” (“Narrating Anorexia in Spanish Fiction: Artistic and Litarary Intertextualities”).

Butler explains, “This paper reframes a portion of my 2009…and demonstrates how the artistic and literary intertextual references in a selection of Spanish novels illustrate many aspects of anorexia and lead the reader to a greater understanding of the illness. My interest in this line of research was sparked during my doctoral studies at Florida State University; I read several contemporary novels whose characters suffer from eating disorders and I began to question their presence in Spanish literature. This is an intriguing area of research and I plan to develop my research into a book on the subject.”

Butler also led Muskingum students in studying this line of research. In the fall of 2009, Butler explored this topic with her Senior Seminar students.

Earlier in April, Butler also presented a paper at the Southeast Coastal Conference on Languages and Literatures in Savannah, Georgia. Butler’s paper, “Debunking the Myths Used against Women: Isabel Allende’s City of the Beasts” “explores the manner in which Allende’s characters defy a number of patriarchal myths that limit the space of women, suggesting new possibilities for the characters and readers alike. This paper joins my love for one of Latin America’s great female writers, Isabel Allende, and my interest in feminism and women’s studies.”

Butler recently completed her fourth year of teaching at Muskingum.

Dr. Karen Dunak

As Long as We Both Shall Love by Karen DunakKaren Dunak, a professor in the History Department, has been teaching at Muskingum University for three years. One thing that sets Muskingum apart, she says, is that “More than any other school I’ve taught at, I think Muskingum fosters a real connection between faculty and students. There are many more opportunities for student/faculty interaction, and I think there’s a real opportunity to cultivate close and long-lasting relationships over the years a student attends Muskingum.”

Dunak teaches U.S. history courses, as well as upper-level courses on gender and sexuality, the 1950s, youth in modern America and the American dream. She focuses on “the social and cultural history of the 20th century, with special focus on media and celebrity, youth culture and activism, and gender and citizenship.”

Dunak has written a book entitled As Long as We Both Shall Love: The White Wedding in Postwar America. “It stems from the research I conducted for my dissertation. I became interested in the wedding, in part, because I started getting invited to a lot of weddings when I was in my mid-twenties, and it seemed strange to me that a celebration marked by what I saw as very traditional and even old-fashioned components had maintained so much power despite tremendous social change.”

Dunak researched wedding traditions back to the 19th century and found that many traditions popular in weddings today were invented by the wedding industry in the early 20th century. “The biggest transformation, I argue, is in the increased authority of the bride and the groom to shape elements of the celebration to fit with their personal values and their individual ideas of what their celebration should be.”

Dunak’s book is scheduled to be published in summer 2013.

Dr. Steve McGuire

Sociology professor Steve McGuire recently showed his documentary, “1948 and Counting” at the Cinema Verde Film Festival in Steve McGuireGainesville, Florida. The film “reports on Costa Rica’s ability to manage without a military since 1948, despite invasions based in Nicaragua.” The film also “addresses the role of private armies serving multinational corporations, and whether the country’s civil guard is a military by another name. [It] places Costa Rica in the context of Central and Latin American populist struggles against U.S. backed regimes” in other Central and South American nations.

“I’m intrigued with the concept of peace culture,” McGuire says, explaining his motivation for filming the documentary. McGuire spent Spring Break one year interviewing and filming in Costa Rica with the help of his wife, Diane Donato. The film is 31 minutes long.

Another project in the works is a similar documentary about Norway, “which has been designated the only modern industrial ‘peace culture’ by political scientist Marc Howard Ross,” McGuire explains.

A previous documentary, “A Day in the Life,” was screened at two film festivals and was awarded second place in the experimental category at The Indie Gathering Film Festival in Hudson, Ohio.

McGuire’s interest in creating documentary film developed when he saw a film his colleague, David Tabachnick, had created.

Dr. Peter GosnellDr. Peter Gosnell

Dr. Peter Gosnell, Professor of Religion, spent his sabbatical last year researching the book Learning Good from Knowing God, which is a book of "descriptive biblical ethics…, describing the major lines of ethical thought in biblical writings."

"This arose out of the need I sensed for my biblical ethics course here at Muskingum. I have been working on versions of this for the past 6 years, gradually introducing these to students in the ethics course."

When Muskingum hired Professor Gosnell in 2002 and he began teaching the course, "None of the books I tried worked, so I decided to see what would happen if I used only the Bible. A student from Korea tried to take the class. He said he was totally intrigued with what I was teaching, but that he was having a hard time processing what I was saying in class. If only there was something he could read, to help him recall what went on in class. That's what he told me. He ended up dropping the course. Because of that I decided to write the book. The rest is history."

Learning Good from Knowing God will be published early next year (2014) with InterVarsity Press.


Dr. F.J. WehageDr. Franz-Joseph Wehage

Professor Franz-Joseph Wehage recently co-authored a business German textbook, Geschäftsdeutsch: An Introduction to German Business Culture. There was a necessity for this one-of-a-kind text for undergraduate students because, at last count, 86 U.S. colleges and universities offer Business German courses. The textbook has already been adopted at a dozen colleges across the country, including Penn State, Stanford University and UCLA. The book, which focuses primarily on language with a content emphasis on the German economy, is appropriate for both the German and International Business major.

The accompanying website, which Dr. Wehage created himself, contains companion video and audio materials and internet assignments that enrich the book’s content.


Dr. Bil KerriganDr. Bil Kerrigan

History professor Dr. William Kerrigan recently published Johnny Appleseed and the American Orchard: A Cultural History, a book about "the meaning of Johnny "Appleseed" Chapman's life and the environmental and cultural significance of the plant he propagated."




Dr. Harsha AbeyaratneDr. Harsha Abeyaratne

Harsha Abeyaratne, professor of music, performed at Carnegie Hall's Weill Recital Hall on Friday, December 14, at 7:30 p.m.

In addition to his teaching responsibilities at Muskingum, Dr. Abeyaratne is an active collaborative pianist and soloist. In recent years, he has appeared as a soloist with the National Symphony Orchestra of Sri Lanka and the Southeastern Ohio Symphony Orchestra. Also active as a chamber musician, he performs regularly as a member of The Alato Trio.

Abeyaratne appreciates the opportunities that teaching at Muskingum affords him in allowing him to attend regional and national conferences..

"I think one of the biggest benefits for Muskingum students is the chance they are given to travel overseas with a Muskingum teacher. Every year, there are overseas trips to Spain, France, England, and Argentina, among other places."

Dr. Rick NuttDr. Rick Nutt

Dr. Rick Nutt, professor of religion and current chair of the Religion and Philosophy Department, recently published a book entitled An Historical Study of United States Religious Responses to the Vietnam War: a Matter of National Morality with Edwin Mellen Press.

"The book examines the attitudes and actions of both Christians and Jews toward the war in Vietnam," Nutt explains. Looking at the statements of church denominations and faith organizations, as well as national figures such as Billy Graham and Martin Luther King, Jr., Nutt found that "although people both opposed and supported the war effort for moral reasons, few did so on the basis of traditional just war thought."

The book is groundbreaking in that it is the first "comprehensive study for religious responses to the Vietnam War." This drew Nutt's interest, as well as his "longstanding interest…[in] the relationship of faith to U.S. society, especially matters of national security and war."

In addition, Nutt was honored in May 2012 as a Distinguished Alum at his alma mater, Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary.