This fall AMEC welcomed Dr. Bill Cooke and Dr. Karen Williams to the faculty team and congratulated Dr. Evan Peacock on his new position as Interim Director of the Cobb Institute. In this blog post, we hope to introduce these three faculty members and to welcome them into their new positions.
Dr. Bill Cooke: Interim Department Head
Dr. Bill Cooke is serving as the interim Department Head for AMEC. Dr. Cooke spent the last several years as head of the Geosciences Department at MSU. His plan was to step down as department head of Geology in order to return to research, teaching, and his work with the extension service. However, with the departure of Dr. Michael Galaty in the spring, Dr. Cooke was asked by the Dean of Arts and Sciences to fill the vacancy. While Dr. Cooke was greatly looking forward to getting back to teaching and research, he happily agreed to come serve the AMEC faculty. Through his previous experience with AMEC, he knew that he liked the people here. AMEC welcomed him with open arms and gave him a tour of the Hester Site which gave Dr. Cooke a chance to nerd out about stratigraphy. As a lifetime learner, he is most excited to learn more about the world class research being done by AMEC faculty.
Dr. Cooke’s previous research projects are too numerous to list here. One of the projects he talks most about is predictive modeling of wildfire locations considering human behavior as a variable in order to predict locations susceptible to arson. However, if money was no object, Dr. Cooke would most like to return to his epidemiological research using geospatial sciences to help understand the relationship between disease spread and the environment (specifically pollution) for predictive modeling. His hope is that this research will help humans decrease the amount of ecological damage we do while mitigating economical and health concerns as well. It seems like he will fit right into the applied approach AMEC is centered around.
In addition to his duties as department head, Dr. Cooke plays tennis and is a member of a local band. He considers himself equal parts academic, athlete, and musician. If you ask him which one he would give up he can’t even decide. Each of his passions feeds greatly into the others and they have become inseparable. For instance, being a tennis coach for years before returning to academia shaped his classroom demeanor. And his love for creating music taught him patience, persistence, and the importance of having fun. In any conversation with Dr. Cooke, you can sense the sincerity in his voice when he talks about how excited he is to be a part of AMEC and how much he looks forward to the next year here.
Dr. Evan Peacock: Interim Director of the Cobb
Dr. Evan Peacock has been a part of the AMEC faculty for many years but this year Dr. Peacock took on a new role as interim Director of the Cobb Institute. He will serve the Cobb in this position for two years while a permanent director is found.
Dr. Peacock first became interested in archaeology after finding an arrow head on his family farm when he was ten. This find prompted him to read countless books and ask many more questions. He came to MSU for his Bachelor’s degree before earning both his Master’s and PhD from the University of Sheffield in England. He is currently working on many different research projects but is so enthusiastic about each one that he is unwilling to contract his to-do list. His current projects include writing a book about the Lyons Bluff site, studying freshwater mussels in the Yazoo Basin, and studying chemical sourcing of shell and shell tempered pottery. If he had all the money in the world to dedicate to a project he would choose the chemical sourcing research. Shells have held a special place in his heart since his time as a graduate student.
In Dr. Peacock’s new position in the Cobb Institute he hopes to continue the mutually reinforcing relationship that the Institute has with the Department and looks forward to planning the Cobb’s future, specifically expanding the interdisciplinary work already being done. Although Dr. Peacock is not new to AMEC, we congratulate him on his new position and are excited to see what the future has in store.
Dr. Karen Williams: newest AMEC professor of Cultural Anthropology
Dr. Karen Williams, a cultural anthropologist, comes to us from the City University of New York (CUNY) with a PhD in Anthropology. But did you know she got her B.F. A. in Fashion Design and Performance Art and her M.A. in Performance Studies? However, Dr. Williams explains that her background in the Arts is not unrelated to her work now. While the medium has changed, the theme has stayed the same as she continues to look at the criminal justice issues impacting our communities.
Her primary research is focused on programs inside prisons that are meant to help transition the formerly incarcerated back into society. She says that coming to the South offers a new challenge, as she is more familiar with the re-entry programs of the Midwest. The differences are something she is excited to explore, while keeping in mind the ethos of the South, what’s being done here in terms of reintegration initiatives, and how the programs inside prisons work. When asked what she might research beyond her current interests, given time and money, Dr. Williams says mindfulness comes to mind. As a practitioner herself, she’d like to explore its impact on people of color and athletes. Perhaps something to look forward to!
Dr. Williams says her passion started early in her career, when she was part of Insight Arts, a community arts organization. There, her performance art delved into such topics as social inequality, gentrification, police brutality, and the death penalty. From here her interests for these and other social issues began. This was further cemented when Dr. Williams found herself at a Critical Resistance conference she attended in 1998. Listening to activists at the conference blew her away with the passion they had working on social issues. “This is it,” she recalls feeling. “This is the work that I want to continue to do.” This conviction shows that we can look forward to many great things from Dr. Williams in the future, in addition to the amazing work she has already accomplished. We’re lucky to have her and wish her the best in all future endeavours.
Help us welcome these three to their new postitions in AMEC! For more information on these and other AMEC faculty visit our website (http://www.amec.msstate.edu/people/faculty/)