THOSE WHO CAN
Exceptional students deserve an exceptional faculty. As part of its commitment to quality, MTSU provides students the opportunity to interact with and be guided by the nation’s leading educators and practitioners. Here are some recent examples of faculty members at MTSU achieving great things.
A Herd Mentality
Dr. Warren Gill has spent his career using farmer’s instincts and academic detective work to keep Tennessee’s cattle healthy. Gill in the early 2000s got to the bottom of a mysterious illness plaguing Tennessee-bred calves. He linked affected herds’ rough coats to copper deficiency, discovered forage was high in sulfur, and ultimately identified coal-burning power plants as the culprit.
That discovery led Gill to an improbable partnership years later with a geneticist from Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, Dr. James West, to develop a skin test for copper deficiency. Now their work together has taken on new dimensions—global, human, and life-saving. And it’s all part of their effort to build a better cow.
In 2013, Gill attended a conference addressing challenges of developing livestock that could withstand the scorching temperatures typical of so many of the world’s impoverished regions. Brahman cattle raised there are heat-tolerant with short, white coats, but are inefficient for the amount and quality of beef produced. Angus cows, bred for cooler climates, are opposite in every way. What we need, Gill thought, is a short-haired, white Angus.
Conventional genetics would take too long, with the global population estimated to hit 9.6 billion by 2050. Gill floated the idea to West about using genetic material from various cattle breeds to create “overnight” what would have taken decades. By November 2015, the first fertilized white Angus eggs were transferred to their bovine incubators with calves expected in mid-summer 2016.
A Medieval Mindset
The soaring popularity of HBO’s Game of Thrones, based on the best-selling medieval fantasy books by George R.R. Martin, speaks to a modern obsession with the Middle Ages. It also provides a hearty new platform for researchers like MTSU English professor Amy Kaufman, who studies medievalism, a mythologized version of the Middle Ages. “Pardon the pun, but medievalism is really experiencing a Renaissance,” Kaufman says.
Kauffman is trained in traditional medieval studies—studying works from the Middle Ages like Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales—but she also looks at how the entertainment that Americans consume portrays the time period. Typically, there’s a disconnect between those “worlds.” Kaufman and others in her field have determined that medievalism seems to gain traction in popular culture when audiences feel insecure, unstable, and threatened by rapid change.
Kaufman’s focus in studying Game of Thrones has been on the way the show normalizes sexual violence. Although the high level of sexual violence is supposed to make the show “authentic, gritty, and real,” rape was a serious crime in the Middle Ages. Today’s examples of medievalism also generally diminish the role of women, playing into the idea that the Middle Ages represent a more authentic manhood. Kaufman surprisingly found examples in medieval literature of heroic women, women who won tournaments dressed as knights, and highly educated women arguing from positions within the church.