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Faculty Research Grant and Faculty Fellowship Winners


Faculty Fellows and Grantees Help Grow Research at Fordham

Faculty Research Grant and Faculty Fellowship Winners

Rachel Annunziato

For Rachel Annunziato, Ph.D., assistant professor of psychology, a Fordham faculty research grant to investigate post-traumatic stress (PTS) and depression in cardiac patients came at just the right time.

The assistant professor of psychology already had created and implemented a screening program for ethnically diverse cardiology patients at Elmhurst Hospital Center in Queens, to identify patients who also needed mental health care. She and a team collected data on some 1,000 patients.

Preliminary information showed that when a mental health practitioner is embedded and available right in the cardiac clinic, cardiac patients are more willing to seek psychiatric help for depression or PTS.

Now, Annunziato will launch a longitudinal study of the same patients to see how much those cardiac patients who originally suffered from PTS have seen their physical condition worsen. The study will be one of the first of its kind to measure the effect of psychiatric symptoms in heart patients over time, Annunziato said.

“There is data to say that folks who are depressed are more likely to experience negative physical consequences after a heart attack, such as re-hospitalization, or even death,” she said. “Our group is suggesting that it is the same with PTS.”

Because of the huge potential for negative results in patients with a cardiac condition, it is important to identify those whose risk may be exacerbated by a mental health issue, Annunziato said.

Eventually, Annunziato will seek to publish the results of “A Prospective Investigation of Posttraumatic Stress, Depression and Medical Outcomes in Cardiac Patients,” in a top-tier journal.

—Janet Sassi

Orit Avishai

When Orit Avishai, Ph.D., heard that one of her friends was attending a faith-based “Marriage Boot Camp,” she was not all that surprised.

The assistant professor of sociology, who had already studied marriage in the Orthodox Israeli community, was aware of an enormous increase in faith-based marriage education programs in the United States. In fact, the trend was something Avishai thought bore more scrutiny.

“The thinking is that we have a crisis in marriage and high divorce rates that prove people don’t know how to be married,” she said, “and that they need to be trained to do so.”

Through her research project, “Holy Unions: Faith-Based Marriage Education and the Remaking of American Religions Traditions,” Avishai will examine marriage education programs in two congregations in the New York metropolitan area—one evangelical and one non-immigrant Catholic. It will include interviews with program developers and participants, observations of the programs and analysis of the materials.

The move among congregations to offer marriage education, Avishai said, is rooted in the desire to preserve religious traditions that are constantly bumping up against the pressures of modern culture.

“Our view of marriage is based on our authentic traditions, and yet the language and rationales in the narratives draw much from popular culture, like Men are From Mars, Women are From Venus,” she said. “My interest is in what authentic tradition means to today’s institution of marriage.”

—Janet Sassi

Jonathan Crystal

Until the banking crisis began, the word nationalization was seldom used in reference to the United States. Now it is so ubiquitous, it has gotten confused with protectionism. Jonathan Crystal, Ph.D., associate professor of political science, wants to untangle that.

“I want to distinguish between protectionism, or the efforts on the part of interests and workers to protect their economic position, and nationalization, which is an ideology that promotes the unity, autonomy and identity of the nation,” he said.

Crystal examined the consequences of foreign companies venturing into the United States in Unwanted Company: Foreign Investment in American Industries (Cornell University Press, 2003). He will use his faculty fellowship to focus on reactions to controversial foreign corporate takeovers such as the attempt by DP World—based in the United Arab Emirates—to take over management of six United States ports in 2006.

The ways in which integration into the global economy affects politics within countries has been a major theme of his work, so it makes sense to compare how, for instance, Spain reacts to a German takeover of a Spanish company, to the aforementioned takeovers of American companies.

Political science has been oriented to people, groups and countries pursuing interests that are defined in materialist terms, such as money, jobs and power. But Crystal said scholars are rethinking how people define their interests by beliefs and emotions.

“By looking at different parts of the world and comparing the response to globalization, I think it’s possible to tease out which element is nationalistic,” he said.

—Patrick Verel

Laura Gonzalez

Laura Gonzalez, Ph.D., assistant professor of finance, studies the information content of bank loans, and bubbles.

As part of her doctoral research, she examined how banks made loans to private tech firms during the bubble of the late 1990s. She concluded that banks were good at screening the potential of their high-risk borrowers before their initial public offerings (IPOs). She also studied loans made to public firms; even though most public firms have bank loans, the market still shows surprise and welcomes press announcements of those loans.

With her research grant, Gonzalez will look at bank loans during the recent lending bubble of 2005 to 2008, and examine the effect on the financial press and capital structure across industries.

According to prior evidence, banks gather and produce information on each approved loan candidate. This “positive-private” analysis is much like a letter of recommendation in the financial market.

“It’s positive because it means that the banks see potential in you,” Gonzalez said. “And it’s private because only the lending banks really know that information.”

Gonzalez will ask the question: When the financial press reported on the waves of bank loans during the recent aggressive lending bubble, was it “caught in the bubble?”

“The Fed and other regulators’ roles in the current crisis are under scrutiny, and credit agencies—to satisfy a pool of investors that needed safe labeling—were excessively positive in their assessments,” Gonzalez said.

—Janet Sassi

Abner Greene

The law is the law, and because it’s the law, you should obey it.


Not so, says Abner Greene, the Leonard F. Manning Professor of Law at the Fordham School of Law. Greene will use his faculty fellowship to finish, “Against Obligation: A Theory of Permeable Sovereignty,” which will argue that:

• Citizens don’t have a moral duty to obey the law.

• The state should, therefore, treat sovereignty as permeable rather than plenary.

• This extends to include all sources of value, even interpretive obligation either backward via precedent or upward to a Supreme Court.

“You wake up; you go through your day; and you make decisions as you go,” Greene said. “You might think a little about the law if you’re driving and you think about speeding, or when you’re paying taxes, but more often you think about how you were brought up, your religion, your family values or your colleagues.”

This isn’t to say that people should be given free license to steal and murder, he said. It merely means other forces are in play when it comes to human behavior.

Greene has written extensively on the role of two provisions of the United States Constitution dealing with religious freedom, and so the second half of the book deals with how to apply this concept to the courts.

“Government should pay attention to sources of value, such as religious, philosophical, tradition or family, which are how people develop value, and what you think makes for right and wrong, apart from the law,” he said.

“The government should be more open to providing exemptions and accommodations for people to live according to their own sources of value.”

—Patrick Verel

Jo Anna Isaak

Jo Anna Isaak, Ph.D., the John L. Marion Chair in Art History, Painting and Sculpture, will use her faculty fellowship to complete her book, Greening of the Avant-Garde.

The volume will trace the development of the environmental movement in art from the period of modernism—when art was being accused of aesthetic solipsism—to the current engagement of artists in the ecological reform movement.

“I’m concentrating on artists who are trying to work with the environment in one way or another,” Isaak said. “Sometimes it just means going to exhibitions of their work, but sometimes it’s actually going to site-specific places. It can be something as un-exotic as a landfill.”

The suggestion that art could become useful again—that it may, in fact, be in the process of being reintegrated into everyday life, and that artists may be necessary for our successful stewardship of the environment—may be the most radical of modernism’s avant-garde gestures, Isaak said.

“It’s an interesting thing to realize that we created this myth about artists that they’re separate from the rest of us, that they are somehow out of the loop of the real concerns of daily life. I think that’s a disservice to artists,” Isaak said.

“Much more in the last 15 years, many more artists have rejected that ‘art-for-art’s sake’ status and started exploring ways in which they can engage in real social issues, or they may have just been provoked to engage in real social issues by accident.”

Isaak has gotten her students involved in the art and environmental reform. This past March, two of her classes helped curate And for all this, nature is never spent, an exhibit of environmentally themed art at the Pelham Art Center.

—Gina Vergel

Daniela Jopp

Daniela Jopp, Ph.D., assistant professor of applied developmental psychology, is researching how students entering college deal with their new life situations.

She became interested in studying the new college student as a result of her work at Heidelberg University and the Georgia Institute of Technology, where she studied the interplay between personal resources, strategy use and self-referent beliefs.

“I studied the way these factors helped people develop in life, but particularly in adults of older age, also in centenarians,” she said. “I studied how they set general goals and pursued those goals, how much they were supported by their social resources, as well as their beliefs—what gave them the motivation to think they could do something or whether they felt helpless in certain situations.

“Having explored those elements with respect to adults at old age, I came to wonder, ‘How does it come to be that way? How do we develop those strategies? Do we bring some from our primary families or do we learn about those things when we are in difficult situations?’”

The subject of study—students entering college—is a means to examine, through both subjective and objective measures, the efficacy of specific mechanisms involved in adapting to social stressors.

Jopp plans to conduct an empirical study on 200 students. And, yes, Fordham students are her target study group.

“We will assess them at the beginning of the semester and the beginning of the second year,” Jopp said. “The idea is to have a look at how they experience the situation of starting here, what they have in terms of resources and strategies available when they come, and how much they get stressed in the beginning.”

“Using that information, we hope to figure out whether there have been changes in their resource repertoire, strategies and beliefs. Increase in these factors hopefully shows a positive effect so that they are better able to deal with the situation,” she said.

—Gina Vergel

Nicholas Paul

Men did the bulk of the fighting during the crusades, but their families, including women, helped inspire them. How they passed on the stories of the crusades is of interest to Nicholas Paul, Ph.D., assistant professor of history.

"We can find examples of families in which no one has ever been on crusade, but when one of them marries a woman whose family does have a tradition of crusading, that interest becomes common to both families," he said. "It's suggested that this diffusion of interest is the result of some sort of transmission of ideas. I want to know what those ideas were and how they were transmitted."

During his faculty fellowship, Paul will finish Crusade and Family Memory, a book that will show how 25 prominent European families passed on stories about their participation in the crusades during the 12th and 13th centuries, a time of intense crusading activity.

Whether they were fighting in the Holy Land or elsewhere, such as in Spain, Paul noted that families such as the Dukes of Austria would have been constantly reminded of their family commitments and traditions of crusading by stories and memorabilia, such as banners, weapons and other objects associated with crusading.

"I'm interested in the significance of storytelling within medieval cultures. I think that family traditions of crusading are based, in part, on stories that families told about themselves," he said.

The book will be built upon archival research he conducted with the support of a prior Fordham faculty research grant at Archivo de la Corona de Aragón in Barcelona, the Archives Départmentales de la Haute-Vienne in Limoges, the Archives Départmentales de Maine-et-Loire in Angers, and the Bibliothèque Nationale de France and Bibliothèque de Saint-Geneviève in Paris.

—Patrick Verel

Ian Weinstein

Ian Weinstein, professor of law and director of clinical education, is a former staff attorney for the Federal Defender Services Unit of the Legal Aid Society for the Southern District of New York. He intends to use his faculty fellowship period to research the weight of law as opposed to the weight of procedure.

The idea for his project, which is still being developed, comes in large part from his work supervising Fordham Law students in the clinical program in Manhattan Criminal Court.

“In lower courts, there is a vast number of cases that are resolved through litigation focused almost entirely on procedural questions,” Weinstein said. “In very, very few of the cases is there really any examination of what happened, who might have been harmed and how that harm should be redressed.”

While some say this is because of the sheer volume of cases in the system, Weinstein said he has observed ways in which the courts are resistant to greater efficiency and in which players in the system continually revert back to procedural issues and shy away from factual issues.

“This permits the system to function with very little input from law enforcement and a variety of witnesses,” he said. “In one light, there’s a kind of efficiency in that, but in another light, it means that really important voices and interests are simply ignored.

“So our lower criminal courts end up resolving many, many cases for ease and convenience and self-identity of the particular players in the system with almost no reference to what those affected by the original transgression might want.”

—Gina Vergel

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