• SAH Graduate Student Lightning Talks Introduces Virtual Workshops

    Graduate Student Lightning Talks Co-Chairs
    Feb 19, 2021

    Zoom gallery view of graduate student lightening talks

    "Politics of Historic Preservation" Graduate Student Lightning Talk Workshop


    The Graduate Student Lightning Talks at the SAH Annual International Conference have been welcoming student presenters at all stages of their graduate student careers for a number of years. In the session, each presenter delivers their talk in 5–7 minutes, thus condensing a great volume of research and information into a clear and succinct argument. The session has grown tremendously since its founding, making the conference accessible to an ever-expanding number of graduate students across the United States and overseas. This year, with the benefit of our increased virtual meeting capacity, the Lightning Talks also included a series of four virtual workshops—an opportunity for students to receive feedback from established scholars in the field of architectural history and preservation, as well as from their peers and co-chairs. The first two sessions, "Global Modernisms" and "Politics of Historic Preservation," took place in late January and early February, and the remaining will commence prior to the annual conference. The session and workshop co-chairs are Aslihan Gunhan of Cornell University, Leslie Lodwick of UC Santa Cruz, Chelsea Wait of University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, and Hongyan Yang of University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

    The first session, “Global Modernisms,” was co-chaired by Aslihan Gunhan and faculty mentor Dr. Esra Akcan of Cornell University; presenters included Rebecca Lemire, Ernesto Bilbao, Kimberly Gultia, and Ciprian Buzila. The themes ranged from Indigenous cultures and production of modernism in the US to Pan American Conference in Quito, from Filipina Mestiza identity and post war housing to museums and nation building in Romania. Prof. Akcan provided a brief introduction to what the audience may expect from a five-minute talk, and how to balance content, analysis, and arguments. She further offered bibliographical suggestions for the authors, and extensive feedback for each of the projects. Tensions in cross-cultural exchanges, afterlives of buildings, womanhoods, racial and Western hierarchies of historiography, different forms of post-colonial identities, microhistories, were among the topics that Prof. Akcan raised. The workshop went far beyond providing feedback for the conference talks, and instead cultivated rich intellectual discussions on recent scholarship. Participant Rebecca Lemire commented, “I am now seeing how I can really improve my presentation for the talks in April.”

    The second set of graduate student presentations, “Politics of Historic Preservation,” was co-chaired by Leslie Lodwick and the faculty mentor was Dr. Jeffrey Klee, Vice-President and Senior Director of Architecture for the Classical American Homes Preservation Trust. Presenters included Pamudu Tennakoon, Enam Rabbi Adnan, James J. Fortuna, and Delnaaz Kharadi. Themes featured the architectures of luxury boutique hotels in Colombo, Sri Lanka, and their relationship to the ruins of colonial bungalows, Panam Nagar as a colonial settlement and the role of its domestic architecture in narratives of colonization, the political goals of the architectural renovations of Ellis and Angel Islands, and the Parsi fire temples in Udvada, India. Each panelist posed urgent questions about the stakes and implications of preservation for their sites and Dr. Klee offered graduate students valuable feedback on their own work, as well as guidance on effective presentation styles. In his feedback, Dr. Klee urged panelists to continue to consider and develop the political implications of these issues of preservation at their sites. Presenter Enam Rabbi Adnan agreed, “Preservation doesn’t get top priority,” and gestured toward the sites being demolished in Panam Nagar, Bangladesh—part of why his own activism and scholarship argues for the preservation of these nuanced places in order to better understand issues of local and national identity and agency.

    The Graduate Student Lightning Talks will host two more virtual workshops. The first, “Methodologies,” will be co-chaired by Chelsea Wait and the faculty mentor will be Dr. Sahar Hosseini of the University of Pittsburgh; presenters will include Sophia Triantafyllopoulos, Xiaohan Chen, Teonna Cooksey, and Gunce Uzgoren. The final session, “Architectural Epistemologies,” will convene just before the annual conference. The session will be co-chaired by Hongyan Yang and the faculty mentor will be Dr. Kateryna Malaia of Mississippi State University. Panel presenters will discuss how ancient theories, modernization, and technologies contributed to the development of different architectural epistemologies, featuring Harriet Richardson Blakeman, Jonathan Duval, Lorena Quintana, and Annie Vitale.

    During the SAH Virtual Conference, attendees will be able to tune into the Graduate Student Lightning Talks to view polished presentations growing out of the workshop series. The session will convene on April 15, 12:30–2:40 PM CDT. More information is available at https://app.oxfordabstracts.com/events/1344/program-app/session/17402.

    Zoom gallery view of a graduate student lightening talk

    "Global Modernisms" Graduate Student Lightning Talk Workshop
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  • Revising the Institutional Survey: Less Can Lead to More

    Sarah M. Dreller
    Jul 20, 2020

    Welcome to The SAH Data Project’s process blog, a series of short-form reflections and interviews about the Society’s study of architectural history in higher education. By Sarah M. Dreller, Postdoctoral Researcher in the Humanities. #SAHDataProject

    Like many of you, the SAH Data Project team has also spent the past few months assessing which aspects of our work might contribute to our community most and developing strategies to continue in ways that don’t overburden the people we’re trying to serve. The factors to consider are varied, interconnected, and constantly shifting and we are a small team with limited resources. But we are definitely trying and I thought sharing some new details here about one part, how we tightened up the institutional survey, might be of particular interest.

    If you haven’t already heard, the institutional survey is what we originally referred to as the survey for department chairs and program administrators. This is the keystone in the structure of the project’s public-facing data gathering effort. It’s where we’re asking core quantitative questions about who has been teaching and studying the history of the built environment in the United States over the past decade, what forms that work has taken, and the ways in which institutions have supported their faculty and students in the process. Our ability to share meaningful observations about the health of our field in the final report will necessarily rely on the amount and quality of the information you provide via this survey now.  

    I’m going to be honest with you here. Our concerns back in March about the pandemic leading to reduced response rates have unfortunately proven correct. And, more recently, doing the urgently important work necessary to increase equity in American life might also be leaving little mental space for doing something like our institutional survey. The result is that the current data set just isn’t as robust as it might have been during a more typical spring term. It’s understandable, but still not quite what will satisfy the project’s full potential.

    So, what concrete steps are we taking to turn this survey into a task that you can more reasonably complete within the context of today’s chaotic living conditions? A task that will leave you feeling it was worth your investment of time and intellectual labor?


    This is a visual representation of the SAH Data Project’s Institutional Survey showing the type and number of questions that have been retained. The base diagram shows all of the questions as originally distributed in the survey; each question is a separate cell in this diagram with questions that focused on change over time data represented as a trend chart and those that requested current “snapshot” data indicated with a camera. Removed questions have a gray semi-transparent layer here, retained questions do not. This question-by-question assessment process resulted in a revised Institutional Survey that is approximately 35% shorter than its original pre-pandemic iteration. Infographic by Sarah M. Dreller.


    Last month’s process blog post by Advisory Committee chair Abby Van Slyck outlined one major change, which is to expand the criteria for who can complete the survey on behalf of their department. We’ve also set up open support times on Zoom so that anyone can drop in to ask questions and get help directly from me. We’re extending the closing dates for all the project’s surveys to give you a chance to track down the information you need. And we’re doing other more behind-the-scenes things, too, to make sure as many different kinds of people as possible hear what the SAH Data Project is about. But the part of all this that I’m especially excited about at the moment – and what I suspect might really help more of you contribute your voice now – is what the team has done over the past month to strategically reduce the density of the information we’re asking from you. In retrospect, we took a kind of “less is more” approach, auditing the survey question-by-question to identify and retain only those questions most likely to address the project’s fundamental focus on change over time. The newly released institutional survey has a much stronger emphasis on how enrollments, faculty and student demographics, and course offerings have evolved over the past ten years, data we hope we’ll be able to synthesize into descriptions of our field’s key academic trends.

    Trimming back the survey to its most essential components was easier in some ways and harder in others. On the one hand, we were very grateful to those of you who have already completed this survey because your responses provided some very useful data about the paths that different kinds of respondents have been cutting through it. Things like who skipped which types of questions, how the wording of certain questions early on led to confusion later, etc. really helped us be strategic. On the other hand, the decision to keep some questions and cut others wasn’t as simple as mapping the preferences of past respondents. Rather, it was primarily about evaluating questions from the point of view of people like most of you, the survey’s potential future respondents, to determine whether the information we were likely to get from any given question would really add enough to the project to justify asking you to spend your time answering it. This was a tough thing to do, but the team ultimately decided that about twenty-five percent of the survey could be removed without jeopardizing the data that we really need.

    I should add that we absolutely did the same thing meticulously, repeatedly in the fall, too. Our expectations calculus was different then, however. Everyone has more on their plates now, a whole lot more, in some cases. So, we’re offering a new leaner version of the institutional survey in hopes that you’ll give it a serious look.  And, if you are in a position to complete it, we hope you find both it and the process of completing it substantive in all the most meaningful ways. Thank you, in advance, for your contribution.

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