They’re wonderful! They're great! Without them, the Honors Program at OWU wouldn't exist. Here is our homage to our wonderful faculty directors:
Dr. Mark Allison
Associate Professor of English
Office: Sturges Hall 216
Dr. Allison grew up in Evansville, Indiana and the suburbs of Syracuse, New York. He knew that he wanted to attend a small liberal arts school with a strong English department; that led him to Kenyon College, where his love of literature competed with new interests in philosophy, political theory, and utopian thought. Eventually, he recognized that he could pursue these other passions through the study of literature. Philosophy, history, politics, visions of better societies—all find their way into novels, poems, and other forms of literary expression.
After completing the honors program at Kenyon and graduating with degrees in English and Philosophy, Dr. Allison spent several years working in the Literature department at the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) in Washington DC. He went on to complete his MA in Humanities at the University of Chicago and his Ph.D. in English at the University of California, Berkeley. He joined the OWU faculty in 2007. Dr. Allison is delighted to find himself, once again, at a small liberal arts school in Ohio with a strong English department—and many other strong departments besides.
Dr. Allison’s research centers on the relationships between literature, politics, and what we would now call social justice movements, especially in the 19th century. He is completing a book entitled Imagining Socialism: Aesthetics, Anti-Politics, and Literature in Britain, 1817-1918, which argues that British socialism is distinguished from other national traditions by its interest in using the resources of the arts to overcome the deadlocks of traditional political practice. In his spare time, he enjoys being made fun of by his two daughters, watching Indiana Pacers basketball, and planning overstuffed itineraries for his next trip to Great Britain.
Dr. Allison’s focus within the Honors program is on student activities and recruitment. He collaborates with the Admissions Office to enroll new Honors students, advises the Student Honors Board, and oversees residential life for Honors students. Additionally, he works closely with Drs. Downing and Sokolsky to administer the program as whole.
“Participating in an honors program as an undergraduate changed my life,” he says. “The OWU Honors Program provides a rich community for students who are passionate about learning and eager to fulfill their personal and intellectual potential. The quality and originality of the work of our Honors students is a source of pride and inspiration.”
Dr. Amy Downing
Alumni Professor of Zoology
Office: Schimmel/Conrades Science Center 325
Growing up on the north shore of Lake Superior, Dr. Amy Downing has always been fascinated by the beauty and complexity of water and nature. These passions led her to pursue her bachelor’s degree in biology at Lawrence University and her PhD from the University of Chicago with a focus on the ecology and conservation of freshwater and marine ecosystems.
Dr. Downing’s research explores the role of biodiversity for the functioning and stability of ecosystems, using freshwater ponds as a model ecosystem. Her work has received support from the National Science Foundation and has resulted in over 20 scientific papers, including some in top tier scientific journals such as Science andNature.
Dr. Downing enjoys teaching courses such as Marine Biology and Conservation Biology and has traveled with her students to places such as the ponds of Michigan, the coasts of North Carolina and the Duke Marine Laboratory, the glaciers of Alaska, the mountains and rainforests of Ecuador, the land and waters of the Galapagos Islands, and the coral reefs of the Caribbean. In 2007 she won the Sherwood Dodge Shankland Award for the Encouragement of Teachers. When she is not teaching or doing research, Dr. Amy Downing enjoys spending time with her husband and two daughters who also share her passion for nature and the outdoors.
Dr. Downing is primarily responsible for building and managing the Honors curriculum, consisting primarily of freshmen Honors Tutorials and Honors Courses. She communicates with students and faculty about current offerings in the curriculum and encourages students to engage with the Honors curriculum. She helps students understand and complete the requirements to graduate with Department Honors or University Honors.
“The Honors Program is an opportunity for students to challenge themselves by taking rigorous courses with a community of students and faculty who are curious and excited to explore new ideas. When students engage fully with the curriculum they will be rewarded with close and intense interactions with faculty and with a breadth of knowledge that ranges far outside their primary focus of study. The Honors curriculum allows students to develop critical minds and a deep understanding of how multi-disciplinary approaches are needed to solve the complex challenges of the world.”
Dr. Anne Sokolsky
Associate Professor of East Asian Literatures
Chair of the Comparative Literature Department
Office: Sturges Hall 213
I am very honored to serve as one of the co-directors of the Honors Program. I have been teaching East Asian Literature and Film in the Comparative Literature Department at Ohio Wesleyan University since 2006. I am chair of the Comparative Literature Department as well as a faculty member in both the Women and Gender Studies and the East Asian Studies programs.
My field of specialty is Japanese literature, but my research extends beyond Japan to Taiwan and China. I speak and read Japanese and have a basic knowledge of Chinese. I used to speak Moroccan Arabic as a result of living in Morocco for two years as a Peace Corps volunteer where I taught high school English.
My education has been rather eclectic. I graduated with high honors from the University of Michigan with a B.A. in Psychology. I got a Masters Degree in International Education from Harvard University, and my Ph.D. from U.C. Berkeley is in Japanese literature with a sub-specialty in Women and Gender Studies.
My first book From New Woman Writer to Socialist: The Life and Selected Writings of Tamura Toshiko from 1936-1938 (Brill, 2015) is about one of Japan’s most famous, if not scandalous, women writers. I am currently working on two projects. One focuses on Taiwanese colonial literature. The other is a biography of my grandfather, George E. Sokolsky, who was a journalist in China during the turbulent decades of the 1920s and 1930s. My research time during the summer months is now spent at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, where 390 boxes of my grandfather’s papers are stored.
Aside from my book, my scholarship has also been published in The U.S.- Japan Women’s Journal, Japan Studies Association Journal, Asian Theatre Journal and The Japan Review. I also have book chapters in anthologies published by Columbia University and Oxford University Press.
At Ohio Wesleyan University, I have taught two freshmen honors tutorials (“Bad Girls: The Making of the Femme Fatale in Japanese Literature” and “Literature of the Silk Road”). Both of these tutorials reflect my own research interests in East Asia. In the future, I would like to teach a tutorial on Japanese literature and environmentalism. I also teach two honors classes (“Freedom and Constraint” and “Love and Sexuality in East Asian Literature”). Outside of the Honors program, I teach courses about all of East Asia (China, Taiwan, Korea, and Japan), pre-modern and modern, as well as thematic courses that focus on gender theory, race and identity politics, eco-literary criticism, and translation theory.
I have been the recipient of several academic fellowships including a Fulbright-Hayes Doctoral Dissertation Fellowship to finance a year of research in Japan when I was a graduate student. More recently, I was awarded a Mellon Foundation Grant to participate in a faculty study trip to Korea and a grant from Taiwan’s Ministry of Education to support archival research at Academia Sinica and Taiwan’s National Library. As a result, I am very familiar with writing fellowship applications and I am eager to share what I have learned about the application process with Ohio Wesleyan students.