Earning tenure is a major milestone, and this year, five Gettysburg College professors achieved that milestone. Each of our newly tenured professors share an enthusiasm for education and strive to heighten the College’ intellectual climate through the various courses they teach and the research opportunities they pursue.
Read below to learn more about their research and scholarly achievements.
Prof. Cassie Hays’s research focuses on uncovering and understanding inequality by investigating the historical origins and contemporary relationships among race, place, and environment. She has recently started a project that explores the ways in which visitors to the battlefield and other Civil War-related monuments construct stories about their racial identities and the “racial story” of the war.
Hays said her lower middle-class upbringing and early-on exposure to financial struggles and inequality guided her advocacy for social justice, particularly racial and socioeconomic equality. She earned her first MA in environmental studies, and her second MA and PhD in Sociology—each from Yale University. Hays also completed a postdoctoral fellowship in African American & African Studies at the University of Virginia.
Combining her childhood experiences with her Yale education, Hays models and mentors empathy to her Gettysburg College students. “I am regularly inspired by my students’ resiliency, their insights, and their commitment to their education,” Hays said. “I feel so fortunate to be able to guide and support them as they start to examine their social worlds and learn to perceive issues of inequality and justice that spark their curiosity, aid their critical thinking, and inspire them to become active and concerned citizens.”
Prof. Henning Wrage studied German Literature, Linguistics, and Philosophy at Humboldt University in Berlin, Germany, where he earned his MA and PhD. He came to the U.S. in 2009 with a Feodor-Lynen Postdoctoral Fellowship at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and held positions at Haverford College and Middlebury College before joining the Gettysburg faculty in 2013. He is the 2019 recipient of the Luther W. and Bernice L. Thompson Distinguished Teaching Award. In addition to teaching, Wrage serves as the faculty mentor for the German House and is a member of several academic committees.
“Gettysburg has become my home, both personally and academically, and I am looking forward to continuing to work with the truly wonderful colleagues in my department to develop new courses, take students on the intercultural adventure that ensues when they learn more about Germany, and embark on new research in an environment that grants full academic freedom,” he said.
German literature and media dating back to the ’40s have been ongoing research interests for Wrage since he first explored East German television at Humboldt; an emerging interest is the history of interactive cultural forms, including digital games.
Prof. Kimberly Spayd earned her MA in statistics from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and her PhD in mathematics from North Carolina State University. “From first-year students to faculty, there is real excitement about learning and contributing to new knowledge,” said Spayd, who came to Gettysburg College in 2012.
Spayd’s area of research focuses on partial differential equation models, which aid in the solution of problems that involve functions of several variables, such as fluid flow, her main interest. “I consider partial differential equations that describe how two or more fluids move through a porous structure like the ground,” she said. “Applications include environmental remediation after a chemical spill and secondary oil recovery by water drive.”
Beyond her primary research, Spayd is also interested in using fractal geometry to characterize an instability that can occur when one fluid tries to displace another, and the intersection of math and art, especially “how famous artists incorporate mathematical elements into their work.”
Prof. Ryan Johnson was born and raised in Albuquerque, New Mexico, where his curiosity about space was “inspired by the clear night skies.” After earning his PhD in physics from Dartmouth College, Johnson began to focus on the study of galaxy clusters. “Individual galaxies hold billions of stars like the sun, but clusters are comprised of thousands of galaxies in a small region of space,” he said. He is currently researching the relative motions of these clusters when they merge, and hopes to reveal the true nature of how gravity acts on these objects in such extreme environments.
“The research that I do pushes the limits of current physical models and probes the most massive regions in the universe,” Johnson said. “It’s reassuring that such high-risk, high-reward work may be continually pursued at a liberal arts college.”
Johnson believes that creating an active learning environment is essential for meaningful learning, and knows there is no better venue on campus to achieve that than the planetarium. “I’ve seen astronomy inspire students to creatively think through questions more than any other discipline, and it is my goal to inspire curiosity in my students,” he said.
Prof. Tina Gebhart earned her MFA from Alfred University. She is passionate about ceramic artworks, particularly teapots and plates; her pieces are critically acclaimed and known for their lines of simplicity, variations on visual units, interrupting repetition, and an overall sense of functionality.
Gebhart’s art has been featured in national and international exhibitions for more than two decades, and is featured in permanent collections of the American Museum of Ceramic Art and the Schein-Joseph International Museum of Ceramics, as well as several private collections in Japan, England, Ireland, Switzerland, and across the United States.
In her teaching, Gebhart advocates for art-making and art studies that intersect with other disciplines, including ceramic glaze chemistry, art and technical writing, archaeology collaborations, and functional design solutions for objects and processes. “I encourage students to consider double majors in art, combining art and creative thinking in compelling and highly marketable ways,” she said.
In addition to teaching and creating, Gebhart is the cofounder of Empty Bowls, which couples art with service and has generated approximately $35,000 for local food banks since over the last six years. She also advises Gettysburg College’s Ceramics Club.
By Molly Foster and Kimberly Monitto ’20
Photos By: Miranda Harple and Shawna Sherrell