Combating Childhood Hunger Christy Felling '93 puts her communications skills to work for a good cause.
“Yes, we’re the idealists, but we’re the idealists who are getting stuff done.”
Christy Felling ’93
Share Our Strength / No Kid Hungry
Christy Felling ’93 was born a “political junkie.” Growing up in small town in Delaware and inspired by her grandmother’s political activism, Felling always felt she was bound for Washington, D.C.
“When I was a little kid, my grandmother would sit me down, and we’d watch Watergate hearings together,” Felling said. “She was always protesting something or writing to members of Congress — it was just woven into the fabric of her life. She instilled in me this passion for politics and passion for trying to do something of value in the world. If you have the capability to help someone or make a difference, it’s your duty to do so.”
After attending a summer enrichment program at Washington and Lee the summer between her junior and senior years in high school, Felling “fell madly in love” with the university and applied early decision.
She arrived on campus in 1989 as part of the first class of students that would experience W&L as a fully co-educational institution. She majored in political science and also took a lot of history, English and Japanese courses, with the intention of pursing a career in political journalism.
“Getting to W&L when I did was huge for building the confidence and skills that I still use today,” she said. “At that time, it was not uncommon to only have one or two girls in a class or discussion group, which could be a little daunting. But the professors wouldn’t take that as an excuse to not speak up. I learned to get my ideas across, and to this day, in a board room or in meetings, I am rarely intimidated.”
Felling also credits Professor of History Emeritus Barry Machado for teaching her that power comes from working harder than anyone else. She said he was known for being really tough, turning students away who were late for class and insisting on excellence. Felling took every one of his classes she could fit into her schedule.
Professor Machado’s lessons would benefit Felling during one of her first positions after graduation. As the executive assistant for Executive Editor Al Hunt at the Wall Street Journal, Felling started out managing Hunt’s schedule and researching topics for his columns and television appearances.
“He was known for being a very smart, but very tough boss,” she said. “I knew I had to show him what I was made of while trying to learn as much as possible. I challenged myself to turn the position into more than it started out as. It became my professional bootcamp, and it really helped to build my career.”
Just as Felling began looking for her next career move, the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11 happened. Her office was just blocks from the White House, and the events of the day became a turning point in her career. Instead of reporting on what other people were doing to make the world a better place, Felling wanted to actually be doing it. She took a job as deputy director of strategic communication with the Center for American Progress, a progressive public policy research and advocacy organization.
“Over the course of my seven years there, my position changed several times,” Felling said. “I’m a big fan of pitching yourself. Bring your greatest skillset to the job at hand and adapt that job. I’ve found that I excel at the ‘giddy-up’ — when you’re ready to move the ball forward, I’ll come in and make it go.”
It’s this very skill — Felling’s self-proclaimed “action ninja” trait — that led her to her current position as the director of strategic communication for Share Our Strength/No Kid Hungry, a national nonprofit that works to end child hunger in America through its No Kid Hungry campaign.
“So many of the things you work on in D.C. — loud problems with a capital P — are too big or entrenched to change,” she said. “It was frustrating to me to never see the needle move. I wanted to have more of an impact and was ready for a change.”
After several professional contacts sent her the job opening for director of public relations for the organization, Felling decided to make the move. She eventually shaped the position into one that allows her to work on national messaging and political strategies for the organization.
“Childhood hunger is actually a solvable problem,” Felling said. “We’ve got the food, and we’ve got the hungry kids. Now we just need to connect the two. In one of the wealthiest countries in the world, we can figure this out.”
This fall, Felling was a host on the university’s Public Policy and Government Trip to Washington, D.C. Twenty students spent Reading Days visiting the workplaces of about 18 alumni, and Felling was excited to let the students see what it’s really like to work at the national office of a nonprofit organization.
“We’re run very much like a corporation — results-driven, fast-paced and action-orientated,” she said. “Making the world a better place is not something that is done only on the weekends or as a heartfelt hobby. It can be a career that is fulfilling. Yes, we’re the idealists, but we’re the idealists who are getting stuff done.”
– by Jenny Pedraza
Jennifer Peszka ’94 Named Arkansas Professor of the Year
Jennifer Peszka, a member of Washington and Lee University’s Class of 1994 and a psychology professor at Hendrix College, has been named the 2015 Arkansas Professor of the Year by the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) and the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.
Peszka’s selection was announced at a Nov. 19 awards luncheon in Washington, D.C., and presented at a congressional reception at the Folger Shakespeare Library that night.
“Whether she’s teaching an introductory or an advanced course, Dr. Peszka’s dedication to her students’ success and her enthusiasm for her discipline have inspired hundreds of Hendrix students,” said Hendrix Provost Terri Bonebright in a news release. “She is nationally renowned for her research and has ignited a passion for research among countless students, including several students who have followed her example in the classroom and in the lab.
“Not only has she worked tirelessly with her colleagues to develop the psychology program into one of the most popular majors on campus, she has served on countless committees whose work is responsible for some of the most significant advances in our academic program,” Bonebright continued.
A native of Harrison, Arkansas, Peszka joined the Hendrix faculty in 1999. She earned her doctorate from the University of Southern Mississippi.
CASE launched the U.S. Professors of the Year Awards Program in 1981 to highlight its support of, and belief in, the work of higher education institutions. That same year, the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching began hosting the final round of judging and in 1982 became the primary sponsor.
Go Generals!: Undefeated Football Team Faces Thomas More in NCAA Tournament
Washington and Lee will travel to Thomas More College in Crestview Hills, Kentucky, for a first-round playoff game in the 2015 Division III football championship on Saturday, Nov. 21, at 12:00 p.m.
Thomas More carries a 10-0 record and received an automatic bid from the Presidents’ Athletic Conference. The Saints are ranked ninth in the D3football.com poll and average 50.5 points per game.
W&L completed its first perfect regular season (10-0) in 54 years and is the recipient of an automatic berth from the Old Dominion Athletic Conference. W&L is ranked 17th in the D3football.com poll and averages 39.6 points per outing.
The winner of the first-round contest will take on the winner of a match-up between Wabash (10-0) and Albion (9-1) on November 28.
W&L and Thomas More met in a 2010 NCAA Tournament first round contest and the Saints claimed a 42-14 victory. The Generals are making their fourth appearance in the NCAA Tournament and carry an 0-3 overall record. W&L fell to Hobart (38-20) in its last NCAA appearance during the 2012 season.
The livestream broadcast of the game be shown on campus at 12:00 p.m. in the Stackhouse Theater of Elrod Commons. Members of the W&L community are invited to attend and may bring their own non-alcoholic beverages and snacks.
For more information, visit the W&L Athletics website.
James N. Falk ’77 Named Outstanding Fundraising Executive
James N. Falk, a 1977 graduate of Washington and Lee University, received the Outstanding Fundraising Executive Award on Nov. 13 from the Greater Dallas Chapter of Association of Fundraising Professionals.
Since 2001, he has served as president and CEO of the World Affairs Council of Dallas/Fort Worth, growing its membership from 350 to over 4,000 and its annual budget from $375,000 to $2.3 million. He began the council’s International Education Program, equipping over 1 million students and 8,000 teachers to better understand and relate global issues to their lives.
Jim has worked as a commercial banker and was an active volunteer with the Houston World Affairs Council, UNICEF, the United Way and the MS Society. In 2013 he was appointed honorary consul for the Kingdom of Morocco for Texas and is now starting an annual fundraising dinner to purchase portable toilets for girls’ elementary schools in rural Morocco, since girls over the age of 8 are prohibited from attending school due to the lack of facilities.
He first became a member of the AFP Houston Chapter and then the Greater Dallas Chapter in 1999, when he relocated to work for the National Center for Policy Analysis, raising in excess of $12 million annually.
He has held board positions with the Dallas International School and World Affairs Councils of America, was recently reelected to the national board of the World Affairs Councils of America and is director of the North Texas Commission. Jim is also adjunct professor of international relations at the University of North Texas.
W&L Law Prof. Victoria Sahani Appointed to Advisory Council for Legal Funding Association
The Alliance for Responsible Consumer Legal Funding (ARC) has announced the appointment of Washington and Lee law professor Victoria Sahani to its advisory council. The council provides leadership and advises the trade association and its members on matters pertinent to the consumer legal funding industry.
Consumer legal funding, sometimes referred to as third-party funding, is a new method plaintiffs involved in legal disputes use to finance the cost of litigation. In exchange for a share of the litigant’s future settlement award, investors give a lump sum to a plaintiff for the immediate relief of financial burdens such as medical bills and legal fees.
Sahani is one of the leading voices researching third-party funding, which she says is constantly evolving and sometimes controversial. The relationship between the funder, client and attorney can create conflicts of interest or erode the control the plaintiff has over the legal proceedings. Her most recent research suggests additional structures and regulatory models that can help resolve such issues in order to preserve what has become a valuable tool for those who lack to the financial resources to pursue a legal claim.
Sahani is an expert on domestic and international dispute resolution procedures, including civil procedure, negotiation, mediation, domestic arbitration, international arbitration and investment treaty arbitration. She has written extensively on third-party litigation funding in both domestic and international dispute resolution, including a book titled “Third-Party Funding in International Arbitration.”
Sahani is a Member of the Editorial Committee for the forthcoming 2015 Benchbook on International Law published by the American Society of International Law (ASIL). She is also a Member of the Academic Council of the Institute for Transnational Arbitration (ITA), made up of the top academics in the field of international arbitration from around the globe, and the Task Force on Third-Party Funding jointly organized by the International Council for Commercial Arbitration (ICCA), which is the premier international commercial arbitration policy and membership organization, and Queen Mary University of London.
Sahani served for five years as Deputy Director of Arbitration and ADR in North America for the International Court of Arbitration of the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC). In this capacity, she advised government attorneys, in-house counsel and law firm attorneys on all phases of arbitration, mediation and ADR, including negotiating and drafting dispute resolution clauses, selecting neutrals and enforcing arbitral awards. Shannon previously served as an Adjunct Professor at Fordham Law School
Prior to joining the ICC, Sahani served as an associate with Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP, where she specialized in complex tax credit and municipal bond financing arrangements for affordable housing and community development real estate transactions, as well as matters involving American Indian tribes. In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, she traveled to New Orleans in January 2006 to assist the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Fair Housing Project with two housing discrimination claims.
Sahani holds an A.B. from Harvard College and a J.D. from Harvard Law School. She is a member of the bar in New York and the District of Columbia.
W&L Economics Professors Win USITC Research Contract
Michael A. Anderson, the Robert E. Sadler Professor of Economics, and Martin H. Davies, assistant professor of economics, have been awarded a United States International Trade Commission (USITC) government research contract for work on the organization’s India Trade Project.
Anderson and Davies, working jointly with economists Jose Signoret of the USITC and Stephen L.S. Smith of Gordon College, are conducting research over the next year into the exporting behavior of Indian firms for USITC’s “Trade Analysis Research for the India Trade Project.”
“We are involved in an ongoing study to examine the exporting behavior of Indian firms,” Davies explained, noting that understanding firms’ exporting behaviors is one of the most important questions in international trade. “We use a dataset constructed from different sources, PROWESS and TIPS, which give us very detailed information about Indian firms, both in terms of their characteristics — their productivity, for example — the types of good they export, and to which countries the exports are sent.”
Davies explained that identifying the determinants of exporting behavior is crucial to understanding the pattern of trade — which countries export which goods — which has been a focus of economics since Ricardo’s theory of comparative advantage in the early 19th century.
“The export experience of the newly industrialized countries over the past 40 years suggests that export success may be a driver of economic growth. Those countries are characterized by high export growth and high income growth. China is included in that group, but India is not,” Davies said.
Dr. Pika Ghosh to Deliver Pamela H. Simpson Lecture in Art History
Pika Ghosh, associate professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, will deliver the Pamela H. Simpson Lecture in Art History on Nov. 17 at 5:30 p.m. in at the Wilson Hall Concert Hall. The event is free and open to the public.
Ghosh will speak on “Tales in Textile: Negotiating the Home and the World in Nineteenth-Century Bengal.” In her talk, Ghosh analyzes Bengali women’s vernacular art as practices of colonial resistance during the 1800s.
As one of the foremost scholars on late medieval Bengali art, her scholarship focuses on the region’s rich artistic traditions from temple architecture to quilting of the 17th-19th centuries. She’s authored and edited several books and received prestigious grants from the Getty, Mellon and The American Institute of Indian Studies, which have all funded her groundbreaking research projects. Her next monograph is “Fabricating Social Worlds: Women’s Embroidered Kantha from Colonial Bengal” (under contract).
Ghosh received her Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania’s Department of the History of Art.
The Pamela H. Simpson Endowment for Art, established in 2011, is a permanently endowed fund to support the hosting of distinguished academics and professional visitors to campus to work directly with students and faculty in Washington and Lee’s Department of Art and Art History.
Simpson served on the faculty of Washington and Lee University for 38 years. She was the first female tenure-track professor at W&L and the first female professor to receive an endowed chair.
Lesley Wheeler Communicates with “Radioland,” Her New Collection of Poems
Lesley Wheeler, the Henry S. Fox Professor of English at Washington and Lee University, has published her fourth full-length collection of poetry, “Radioland” (Barrow Street Press).
The title of her volume comes from “an imaginary place broadcasters referenced to gesture towards their far-flung listeners,” explained Wheeler. “I’ve been interested in how and why we communicate over huge gaps in time, space and understanding. These poems concern many of the ways people get urgent points across, including radio but also letters, cellphones, websites, newspapers, literary works and ghostly messages.”
The poems are also autobiographical, covering Wheeler’s 2011 sabbatical in New Zealand with her husband and two kids, during which her parents’ marriage unexpectedly fell apart back in the U.S.; her father’s remarriage, illness and death; a catastrophic house flood; raising teenagers; and other episodes of personal and historical violence. “Some of the trickiest communications in this book occur between my father and me,” she said. “He was born in Brooklyn in 1925, so the dated sound of the word ‘radioland’ also conjures the generation gap between us, as well as the similar difficulties I have decoding my own teenagers.”
One reviewer noted, “Lesley Wheeler’s ‘Radioland’ is a spellbinding examination of communication breakdown in all its guises. With seismic heft, Wheeler mines the metaphoric capabilities of tectonic shifts and fault lines, slurred pop lyrics, and the lexicon of new technologies. With a flair for received forms and an exacting ear, Wheeler has her finger on the pulse of all that stands in the way of straightforward transmissions, not only of the other but of the self.”
For Wheeler, this latest volume is “a big book for me. It’s the best work I’ve done, and I feel really proud of it. I’m eager to get it out in the world, but also trepidatious, the way you feel when you’ve put a lot of yourself into a project. My second book of poems was about my mother’s childhood in Liverpool, England, and my father was mad about that. He always said, ‘Why don’t you write a book about me?’ And here I have. He wouldn’t like it at all. But it feels like I’m delivering on material I’ve needed to write through for a long time.”
Despite the disconnect between people in Wheeler’s poems, her ultimate goal is to offer assurance. “I want people to be hopeful, to know that even though it’s ridiculously difficult to get through to other people, you can sometimes. The effort is worth it, and there’s beauty and love in the trying.”
On Display: Work by Rives Granade ’01
Rives Granade, a 2001 graduate of Washington and Lee University, has an exhibition of his work on display at Ochi Projects in Los Angeles through Dec 19.
The Ochi Projects website describes his work as “otherworldly, archaic, or maybe instead, futuristic.” Inspired by a piece he made in art school, Granade creates his paintings by first using a computer to transform characters to “forms that defy the logical rules of space.” Then, he paints the images he has created on canvas, resulting in a piece that is a “sexy kind of organic realism that is at once corporeal and synthetic.”
Granade has had exhibitions at The Underground Museum in Los Angeles, Marine Projects in Venice, California, and at the Gallery Lara in Tokyo, among a number of others.
Following his B.A. in philosophy at W&L, Granade earned an M.F.A. from The San Francisco Art Institute, where he currently teaches.
— by Wesley Sigmond ’16
Update on W&L Students in France
Sidney Evans, vice president for student affairs and dean of students at Washington and Lee, sent the following message to the University community today regarding Friday’s attacks in Paris:
“I am sure you are all aware of the terrible events that took place in Paris yesterday. The Center for International Education has confirmed the location and security of our students who are in France. We will continue to monitor the situation and be in touch with our students. Our hearts go out to the victims, their families and the people of Paris.
“The university community will gather at 5:00 p.m. Sunday in front of Lee Chapel for a candlelight vigil.”