Before Mai-Linh Hong became a professor of English, she practiced law. Not surprisingly, she asks her students to
examine thorny legal issues in the works
they read. She’s interested in the legal,
historical and political context behind
American literature, particularly
how minority groups experience the
Among the books her students read
is Louise Erdrich’s The Round House,
which examines the rape of a Native
American woman that may have taken
place on a reservation.
“The fact that the location cannot be
pinpointed is critical because, due to
limitations of Native sovereignty, a
non-Indian cannot be tried in an Indian
court for a crime that took place on
tribal land,” she explains.
Hong includes poetry, film, art,
news, law, policy and social protest,
as well as literature, in her classes. “I
want to give my students the tools
to critically analyze anything they
encounter,” she says.
Literature written by members
of minority groups often shows that
feelings of personal identity transcend
geographical borders, Hong notes.
Benjamin Alire Sáenz’s Everything Begins
and Ends at the Kentucky Club depicts a
bar in a border town where many lives
and identities intersect. “The stories
spark discussions about complicated
issues, including issues of race, class
and sexual identity,” she says.
Her students also examine the Harlem
Renaissance through the poetry of
Jamaican-born Claude McKay. Many
of his concerns as a black man and an
immigrant living in the United States
are just as relevant today as they were
a century ago, she says.
“I challenge my students to openly
discuss uncomfortable issues such as
racial inequality, rape and political
injustice,” Hong says. “My goal is
to create a safe space where honest
conversation, intellectual risk taking
and personal discovery happen.”
An Open Book
Race, class and sexual identity are explored in the literature Mai-Linh Hong introduces.
By Paula Franken
Rob Jacob ’97
When Professor Rob Jacob ’97, geology, arrived at Bucknell
as an undergraduate, he planned to be an engineer. But he
also knew he enjoyed working outdoors, and his first-year
adviser encouraged him to try geoscience. “I took a geology
class in my second semester, and that was it,” says Jacob,
who specializes in noninvasive methods of studying
Jacob now advises student-initiated projects on glaciers,
cemeteries and the study of faults within bedrock to resolve
structural questions. “Students used microgravity to locate
and better understand what the fault looked like in the
Nippenose Valley [north of Lewisburg]. We also worked with
Professor [Mary Beth] Gray ’84 on that project. The result of
that research was a published paper in 2013 with a student
as the co-author,” he says.
Students also help Jacob
radar research by gathering
data to image subsurface
water-flow locally. The local
data is being compared to
data he collected previously in Rhode Island and Massachusetts. He hopes that these efforts will lead to the creation of
devices that minimize the amount of water used to grow
crops with deep root systems.
“I enjoy being a near-surface geophysicist,” he says.
“There are many projects that need geophysics and may
be initiated by students.” — Rhonda Miller