Faculty Fellows:

Athena Aktipis
Associate Professor, Department of Psychology; Director, Interdisciplinary Cooperation Initiative

Project: There are two primary areas of my work and service that resonate greatly with the Fellowship opportunity. The first is my interest in the idea of “fake news” as a phenomenon that is not just limited to journalism, but rather as a process that can manifest across many different biological and social systems. The second is my interest, broadly speaking, in different ways of knowing, and how to bring together diverse disciplines to explore important questions.

Evan Berry
Assistant Professor of Environmental Humanities, School of Historical, Philosophical, and Religious Studies

Project: Environmental activists and advocates assert that the scientific facts should guide societal responses to climate change. They are not wrong, but this view of climate politics fails to consider how religious frames of reference shape the different ways that communities understand climate change and imagine their responses to it. My project examines the tensions between scientific and religious epistemologies of climate knowledge and seeks outcomes that can help change-makers navigate these different ways of thinking.

Paul Carrese
Professor and Founding Director, School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership

Project: As late as the 1960s a broad consensus existed in America that basic truths about justice undergirded the American political experiment; Martin Luther King, Jr. invoked the Declaration and Constitution in the 1963 “I Have A Dream” address, affirming self-evident truths about human nature and human affairs.  Academia has led the way in repudiating such “essentialism” and other modern, and pre-modern, ideas about human affairs; largely voices from the left, some from the right.  Will the obvious costs of such repudiation now support renewal of ideas about Socratic argumentation as shared pursuit of truth, and renewal of an intellectual principle of moderation or avoiding extremes and single-mindedness, thus appreciating the complexity of truth and truth-seeking?  Will these costs support renewal of the civic analogue of such truth-seeking – the civil disagreement and civic friendship that sustains reasonable argumentation about public affairs, along with shared commitment to the spirit animating the First Amendment, of robust inquiry and reasonable debate across philosophical views, interests, institutions?

Julio Cisneros
Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Professor of Practice in Health News, Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication

Project: I want to explore the extent to which society, the media, religious institutions, and governments mold our perceptions of reality. Does an ultimate universal truth exist, be it in the realm of science or at the more mundane human level?  Excess of information, social influence (individuals adapt their opinion, revise their beliefs, or change their behavior as a result of social interactions with other people,) fake news, social media, subliminal messages in movies, TV commercials, music, culture, art, and other factors, such as economic status or political views, affect people’s opinions or perspectives or reality.

Syed Hussain
Assistant Professor, Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication

Project: Hussain’s research is about social influence and persuasion. His publications include the use of narratives (storytelling) to improve attitudes towards immigrants, role of moral outrage and compassion fatigue on social media, and potential of personal and national nostalgia in the context of immigration crisis on the U.S. border. Hussain is a mixed methods researcher and teaches social media engagement, and audience research & behavior courses at the Cronkite School.

Jennet Kirkpatrick
Associate Professor, School of Politics and Global Studies

Project: Common wisdom holds that politicians often lie and that their deceits harm democratic politics. My project explores if this bit of common sense is correct. It asks whether politicians in a democracy should be more concerned with truth or should act as truth-tellers. Is truth essential in some capacity to democratic politics and, if so, why? What do we give up on in democratic life when we give up on the truth? What might we gain?

Jacob Nelson
Assistant Professor, Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication

Project: Many in journalism are pursuing a variety of efforts to improve the public's trust in the news that they publish. As part of the Recovering Truth Project, I would like to research how journalists determine the most truthful presentations of the news in the first place, as well how they reconcile their notions of the truth with those of their readers, who increasingly seem to disagree.

Daniel Rothenberg
Professor of Practice, School of Politics and Global Studies; Co-Director, Center on the Future of War

Project: I am working on a book with the tentative title, In __ We Trust which explores the particular forms of truth encoded within narratives and the special significance of stories that concentrate concern and exhibit powerful motivational potential within social contexts characterized by high levels of mistrust. It reviews a series of case studies drawn from contemporary U.S. society including disputes about Barack Obama’s birth certificate, climate change denial, and the opposition to the science of childhood vaccinations, among other issues. The project engages how these and other narratively grounded truth claims encode and enable experiences of mistrust, construct communities bound by the telling and re-telling of these stories, and present special social demands which I believe can only be addressed through accepting the civic challenge of creating and reinvigorating mechanisms of trust.

Karen Taliaferro
Assistant Professor, School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership

Project: My project is an investigation of medieval Christian and Islamic metaphysics and epistemology with the aim of ascertaining whether such metaphysics are capable of responding to the contemporary crisis of knowledge--a Scylla of relativism and Charybdis of narrowly defined knowledge as empirically verifiable fact. I am especially interested in Duns Scotus and Ibn Sinna at this point.

Sarah Viren
Assistant Professor of Languages and Cultures, College of Integrative Sciences and Arts

Project: I am working on a researched memoir that is also a loose retelling of Plato’s “Allegory of the Cave.” Autobiography of Shadows centers on stories of conspiracy theories and false accusations, but the narrative also investigates other shades of deception, from being in the closet to writing a memoir.