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Faculty Recognition: Spring 2016 Selections

Payam Bakhshi

Associate Professor, Department of Construction Management

Book Selection

Personal Statement

The Shahnameh is one of the Iranian literary masterpieces written by Ferdowsi over 1,000 years ago. This enormous epic poetry which is comprised of nearly 60,000 verses nicely describes Iranian culture and imparts social and moral values. Reading the Shahnmaeh can provide one with Iran’s cultural values and history."

Robert Cowherd

Professor, Department of Architecture

Book Selection

Personal Statement

Between World War II and the 1970s, architecture progressed in isolation as a profession of building design independent of larger contexts and considerations. Planning was considered a separate profession and increasingly evolved away from the physical design of landscapes, cities and regions. The social sciences routinely generalized knowledge of economics, politics, social and cultural forces, as if they applied uniformly to individual and distinct nation states. In the final decades of the 20th century, rising concerns over the decline of cities, expanding suburban sprawl, endemic social injustice, increasing inequality, and global climate change compelled many to peer over the boundary walls they had so carefully created around each distinct discipline. At the same time as disciplinary borders were being crossed, new technologies for visualizing space have allowed fine-grained examinations of quality of life indicators and the factors that most impact the well-being of distinct communities from the regional, to the urban and even to the architectural scale. The multiple threats posed to the well-being of future generations continuously force us out of our carefully constructed comfort zones (“A”rchitecture), and misleading assumptions embedded in our language (the middle class).

In order to effectively address the burning questions being asked by young professionals in the face of 21st century challenges, we are increasingly called upon to consider the larger geographies and powerful forces operating on and through architectural constructions large and small. In this book, Neil Brenner has brought together some of the most significant foundational writings of the 20th century (Lefebvre and Harvey) and challenged some of the most provocative thinkers of the 21st century (McGee, Merrifield, Goonewardena, Friedmann) to engage these geographies and forces using the ever-changing understandings of the multiple processes operating in relation to the term “urbanization.”

It is and honor to present this volume to Wentworth’s community of students and instructors so that we might better engage with and influence the interplay of these forces in the best traditions of Wentworth’s role in the shaping of Boston, New England, and increasingly, the world.

Peter Greenberg

Associate Professor, Department of Interior Design

Book Selection

Personal Statement

Translations from Drawing to Building and Other Essays demonstrates my debt to one of my mentors, Robin Evans. Robin was an original thinker on topics that other critics had thought was settled territory; Robin was brash and unafraid to challenge the most fundamentally accepted canonical interpretations; he was a great and inspiring lecturer; he was a great and encouraging teacher; he was uninterested in traditional hierarchies and he became a friend as well as a mentor. He died young, in his forties, but his work has been hugely influential and a model for how to be a thoughtful and compassionate professor and thinker. The critical essay in this collection is Mies van der Rohe’s Paradoxical Symmetries, a brilliant essay that models how to approach even the most settled topics. Written just after the 1986 reconstruction of Mies’s Barcelona Pavilion by a team of Spanish architects who faithfully followed Mies’s 1929 original construction drawings, specs, and quarry sources, the essay proposes a way to reconsider one of the most important monuments in the modernist canon. Though the Pavilion stood for just six months before it was demolished, it became hugely influential for what Evans demonstrates were the wrong reasons. Instead of a demonstration of rationality and the clear separation of structure and interior space division, Evans shows the Pavilion to be what it is: a structure of self-aware materiality and phenomenal spatial effects, a hall of mirrors of material effects, a place that demands to be visited and experienced. These are broad lessons: to visit real space, to not be satisfied with photographical evidence, and to challenge canonical interpretations of great work with original vision, thought, and experience.

James R. McCusker

Associate Professor, Department of Electrical Engineering and Technology

Book Selection

Personal Statement

This book was a cornerstone of my daughter’s nightly story selection and is a perfect representation of the fact that all of my motivation and support is drawn from my family. On an almost nightly basis, my daughter would pull this book from her basket of children’s stories and sit on my knee as I read it to her. It became commonplace for her to quote the book to express her affection for my wife, her grandparents and her little brother. Along with looking forward to reading this with my son and our newest addition that will be joining our family in the coming months, this story will continue to symbolize the inspiration I draw from my children, wife, parents, and siblings. All of my successes are because of, and for, them.

Gloria Monaghan

Professor, Department of Humanities and Social Sciences

Book Selection

Personal Statement

When I am asked to pick out a book for the students of Wentworth, I am stunned. It is hard to pick one book for young people to read. I am, after all, and English professor and poet. I immediately think of Neruda, the most accomplished poet in the world. He was an ambassador, a diplomat, a lover and most of all a magnificent poet. I thought of The Captain’s Verses, a book written toward the end of his life. Written perhaps on his beloved Isla de Negra, or perhaps it was in Capri in the early 1950’s. In any case, near the sea, which he loved and adored regardless of the weather or temperament. But what do young people want with an aging poet writing about lost love and the sea? Perhaps I need to look down the corridor of my own troubled, lonely, romantic youth to find my inspiration

When I think of my own college days spent in the library at Loyola in Chicago, I find myself hunched between rows of books. As usual, avoiding the work I was supposed to by doing for class- lost in the poets, friends of poets, lives of poets, work of the poets. I was especially fond of reading authors that were absent from my very specific curriculum: Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, Pound, Alice Toklas, John Berryman, Rilke, Anna Akhmatova, Mandelstam, Wilde, the list is too extensive to mention. However, it brings me to the point that I would not have read these people with such curiosity if they would have been introduced to me in the classroom. Today anything is available to students on the Internet. I found these writers all waiting for me in the rows and rows (or stacks) of books. I found them no doubt out of a lingering desire to avoid my work at all cost, but also as an extension of learning. It was the idea that these writers were not somehow playing by the rules that they were not included in the curriculum. I only realized much later that all good writers learn to find their own path that usually deviates from the main road

Many of the books as we know them are being replaced with digital text, e-text, kindle, etc. While I have no strong argument against these forms of printed word (they are lighter to carry, people can access more information in smaller space, older people can actually read the text without a magnifying glass.) I would like to make a plea for the actual book. There is the smell of the page. There is the feel of the page, so thin between your fingers. Finally, there is the presence of the book-, which harbors no radiated quality, dim lighting or distracting glare. It simply exists- a compilation of someone’s hard work. Perhaps the book was in someone else’s hand before yours. And will be in another’s hands when you are through. The nature of the book then is to travel from one gorgeous human to another. In this sense the book connects us, our energy, our suffering, our pleasure, to each other.

Finally, I come to the point of the thing, that is, the book I choose- Selected Poems of Rainer Maria Rilke.

“I can tell by the way the trees beat, after
So many dull days, on my worried windowpanes
that a storm is coming,
and I hear the far off fields say things
I can’t bear without a friend,
I can’t love without a sister.”
---The Man Watching

Rilke’s lines and his direction are so natural to me that it seems he is guided by the divine toward humanity. The same divinity that leads him to Rodin in Paris and to write in the ‘Archaic Torso of Apollo,’ you must change your life. When I see these words in the poem as a 19-year-old girl, everything makes perfect sense. There is something so exquisite and beautiful about being that age- not a child, not yet existing in the expectations of the adult world. You are free, but nothing is expected of you yet. There is something protected, precious and expansive about this space. It is what makes all art possible; the interior mind. For Rilke we live in the interpreted world. We are separate from the angels and from the animals here. “Being apart and lonely is like rain.” Perhaps this line alone describes what it is to be young and feel old. This is the world of the in between-call it a sacred space.

Mark Pasnik

Professor, Department of Architecture

Book Selection

Personal Statement

This book awakens an entirely new thinking about architecture and exposed me to the wider philosophical beliefs with which architecture resonates.

Elaine A. Slater

Professor, Department of Humanities and Social Sciences

Book Selection

Personal Statement

This book is a tale filled with all the elements that I consider critical in the making of a riveting story that is also a superior piece of literature. It is an imaginative rendering of historical fictional, magical realism and moral questioning.  The extraordinary relationship between a single father and his blind daughter during the last few months of World War II expanded my understanding of the best of what humanity is capable of under the most dreadful of times.  My interest in historical fiction has been long lasting as the best of it contains careful research of facts and context but entwined with a human interest narrative that brings a sense of intimacy to the reader.  In that way we have a chance to get just a step closer to real empathy for times and situations that we have not experienced but can only deeply imagine through the eyes of its characters.  This book won the National Book Award of 2014 and richly deserved it! (If you like Gabriel Garcia Marquez, you will love this as much as I did).

Illie Talpasanu

Professor, Department of Mechanical Engineering

Book Selection

Personal Statement

The book is of particular significance to me since while working in its preparation as co-editor I have had the opportunity to work with leading experts and practitioners in biomedical devices from Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Boston, MA, USA; University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, TX, USA; Northeastern University, Boston, MA, USA; Lahey Clinic, Burlington, MA, USA; Tufts University, Medford, MA, USA; Oakland University, Rochester, MI, USA; University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada; LENS European Laboratory for Non Linear Spectroscopy, University of Florence, Firenze, Italy; University of Applied Science, Konstanz, Germany; Institute of Applied Mechanics and Biomechanics, Bulgarian Academy of Science, Sofia, Bulgaria; Beijing National Laboratory for Condensed Matter Physics, Chinese Academy of Science, Beijing, China; University of Medicine and Pharmacy, Iasi, Romania, Polytechnic University of Bucharest, Romania, Physical Sciences, Inc., Andover, MA, USA; Brooks Automation, Inc., San Jose, CA, USA; Agilent Technologies, Inc., Santa Clara, CA, USA.

Mira Yun

Associate Professor, Department of Computer Science and Networking

Book Selection

Personal Statement

I started my teaching career at Wentworth Institute of Technology as an Assistant Professor in August, 2011. I still remember all of my very first days and students. This book was the textbook for my first course that I developed and taught in my first semester at WIT. That first teaching experience was not easy and smooth, but it was full of learning and excitement. This book always reminds me of all of these first teaching and learning opportunities I had.

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