Lehigh University
Lehigh University


Fellowships help faculty change direction

Kathy Olson, associate professor of journalism and communication, plans to study “issues of personal identity and cultural commodification that transcend legal doctrine.”

Recognizing that disciplines and research programs evolve during a faculty member’s career, the College of Arts and Sciences has awarded New Directions Fellowships for Mid-Career Faculty to two professors.

The awards, available for full professors and for associate professors nearing promotion, provide $10,000 a year for two years to support scholars who would like to pursue new directions in their research.

“Research often takes faculty down unexpected, yet exciting new paths and as careers and disciplines evolve, research programs must adapt to these developments,” says Donald E. Hall, Herbert and Ann Siegel Dean. “These fellowships provide the support faculty need to expand on their respective experiences and add to the academic discussion in their particular disciplines.”

This year’s recipients are Kathy Olson, associate professor of journalism and communication, and Vera Stegmann, associate professor of German in the department of modern languages and literatures.

Olson has focused on intellectual property law and its impact on free speech. Her primary research has concentrated on issues surrounding copyright, with an emphasis on the mechanisms that help strike a balance between property rights and protection of First Amendment values. Olson plans to expand on this research to investigate the right of publicity, focusing on how the law of publicity rights is influenced by economic, historical and political factors and how it reflects societal values.

“The Constitution requires Congress to set limits on the rights of copyright owners in order to protect the public domain,” Olson said. “But the right of publicity exists at the state level and is rooted in the common-law right of privacy, so First Amendment-based protections are inconsistent.

“The right of publicity is basically the idea that your persona is property that can be bought and sold. This brings up issues of personal identity and cultural commodification that transcend legal doctrine. It’s something new for me in terms of my research, and I find it fascinating.”

From exiled authors to immigrant writers

Stegmann has historically studied exiled German authors who were force to flee Germany during WWII and the Nazi period and who settled in the United States or Latin America. In the postwar era, Germany has become a country of immigrants, with the largest number coming from Turkey, and Stegmann has focused on the works of Turkish-German writer Emine Sevgi Özdamar. With New Directions funding, she will expand her analysis of Özdamar’s work and will investigate the works of other Turkish-German writers. Stegmann’s research will provide a new understanding of Turkish-German intercultural space from both German and Turkish perspectives.

“In 2011 Germany commemorated not only the 50th anniversary of the building of the Berlin Wall in 1961, but also remembered the arrival of the first Turkish immigrants in West Germany that same year,“ Stegmann noted.

“In the last half century Germany has changed dramatically from an emigration to an immigration nation, and this shift is reflected in the country’s literature and culture. I plan to study new texts by contemporary authors and explore the environment in which they work.

“The support offered by the New Directions Fellowship will be invaluable and essential for these research endeavors.”


Story by Robert Nichols

Posted on Monday, February 13, 2012

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