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The Scarlet & Black

There and back again: professors return from sabbatical

There and back again: professors return from sabbatical

Students who studied abroad were not the only fresh faces on campus this January—some professors who took a leave last semester have returned as well. Angelo Mercado, Classics, Ralph Savarese, English and Pablo Silva, History, all spent time off campus this fall pursuing their various academic interests through research and teaching opportunities.

Mercado and Savarese were both offered opportunities to spend time at different universities.

“I went to Boston because my partner is there. I [was] also fortunate enough to get visiting scholar status at Harvard [University],” Mercado said. “[I] participated in the scholarly life; I did research, wrote a couple of papers and went to lectures.”

Mercado was excited to take advantage of the vast resources available to him at Harvard during his time there.

“I needed library access,” he said. “The Grinnell [library] is good, but not for my field of linguistics of Latin and Greek, [which] is highly specialized.”

Savarese spent the fall semester at Duke University. A recipient of the Humanities Writ Large Visiting Faculty Fellowship in 2012-13, he joined the Neurohumanities Research Group at Duke’s Institute for Brain Sciences two years ago. Last fall, he was invited back to teach in Duke’s English department.

This unique opportunity allowed him to explore cognitive science, a field of interest that hit close to home.

“Fifteen years ago, I adopted a non-speaking six-year-old boy with autism from foster care, and what we quickly discovered was that the existing research on autism was quite terrible, it was relentlessly pathological, relentlessly helpless and often wildly uninformed,” Savarese said.

“A lot of the work I did was showing how newer research is much … more accurate, more reflective of autistic possibility. Part of what got me interested in this subfield of cognitive approaches to literature was simply thinking about the science of autism better to help my son.”

While Savarese and Mercado chose to remain in the United States, Silva traveled further to Chile to continue conducting research on Chilean history and politics for a book he is working on. His familial ties sparked his interest in the country, and made his visit especially exciting.

“[I’m] interested in Chilean politics generally because of personal family history. I was born in Chile, my parents are Chilean,” Silva said. “I concentrated on … processing, reading and taking notes on stuff that I had [already] collected.” His book will focus on the politics in Chile that allowed for white-collar unionization.

Although their time away offered them unique and enriching experiences, all three professors expressed optimism about being back at Grinnell and are looking forward to this semester.

“To be honest, I was dreading my leave to end, but once I was back here in the classroom I was really excited. The leave let me recharge and feel invigorated,” Mercado said.

“I really enjoyed my time at Duke, but I’m quite pleased by the students I have at Grinnell,” Savarese said.

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