When critics attempt to describe his two novels, David Treuer often cringes.
Both featuring American Indian families, Treuer said, the books are sometimes seen as ethnographies of American Indian life, not as works of fiction.
Treuer’s experiences led him to question how critics and the public read American Indian literature.
Last week, the University recognized Treuer and 10 others for their research ideas. Through McKnight Land-Grant professorships, the professors will each receive two $25,000 grants and a one-year leave from teaching.
The recipients were chosen from a pool of 30 relatively junior professors picked by their respective departments to conduct groundbreaking research in their fields.
“The goal of the program is to recognize people with promise in the field,” said James McCarthy, chairman of the committee that identified professors with revolutionary research ideas.
The recipients’ specialties range from co-occurring mental disorders to nonlinear partial differential equations.
Recipient James Druckman, a political science professor, said he will use his leave and grants to conduct research to study how media affects political preference.
Haidee Wasson, a cultural studies and comparative literature professor, said she will research the emergence of film museums after World War II.
With her yearlong leave and grants, Wasson said, she will study film archives in New York, Los Angeles, London and possibly Paris.
The time and money provided by the professorship gives many professors a much-needed boost to conduct their research, McCarthy said.
“In life, it’s time and money,” he said. “It’s the freedom that the money brings as well as the time to get your research done.”
Marc Hirschmann, a geology professor who received the professorship in 1999, used the grants and leave to further his research on upswelling in the earth’s interior.
With financial help from the professorship and a five-year grant from the National Science Foundation, Hirschmann and two others simulated the melting of the earth’s interior in a University lab.
Even more important than the time he spent in the lab or the money he used to purchase his equipment is the vote of confidence the professorship signifies, Hirschmann said.
“Getting the McKnight is a real big ‘atta-boy,'” he said. “It means people think you’re doing well.”