With a triple-threat array of information initiatives, the Baldy Center for Law & Social Policy is expanding its reach, inviting new scholars into the discussion, and building upon the interdisciplinary relationships that make it unique.
A new podcast series, blog, and online magazine will extend the visibility of the meaningful and timely scholarly work done through the Baldy Center, a signature research arm of the law school and the university. These new initiatives are being managed by the center’s new associate director, Caroline Funk, who holds a doctorate in anthropology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and also is a research assistant professor in UB’s Department of Anthropology.
"Our purpose is to find multiple ways of sharing the voice of the researchers," says Funk, who has been associated with UB since 2011. "People cognitively access information differently – they read, they listen – and we’re accessing the time and the intellectual space of people from first-year college students all the way to emeritus faculty members, in multiple disciplines. So we’re working to make sure that the scholars’ voices are heard or read."
She adds that because academics often find it challenging to keep up with the multiplicity of scholarly journals, quick-hit exposures like blog posts and podcast episodes are an attractive way to stay current with their field. "These are short, digestible, scholarly pieces that are meant to introduce people to these scholars," Funk says. "There’s so much published now that it’s not easy to follow everything in law and social policy. This is a way for people to see what’s happening without investing weeks of their lives in reading everything."
The Baldy Center’s director, School of Law Professor Samantha Barbas, says the initiatives grew out of necessity as the world moved online in response to the coronavirus pandemic. "We wanted to continue to find a way for all the researchers to engage with each other and with the academic community," she says, "and we figured these new media would be a great way to do that. What’s exciting is that we’ve gotten more people involved in Baldy activities, from new voices to people who hadn’t been involved recently, so we’ve been able to extend our work and engagement."
Funk has previous experience with the Baldy Center, having worked with scholars to make their grant applications successful. Her own scholarly work includes projects in the western Aleutian Islands off southwest Alaska, where she performs archaeological excavations to learn about past Unangam lifeways and environmental history. She works with teams of biologists, geologists, and other social scientists.
It’s that kind of discipline-crossing work that characterizes the Baldy Center and its public outreach. (The blog and podcast series are live on its website now; the online magazine debuts this month.)
So, for example, the podcast has featured Professor Mark Bartholomew on the privacy tensions inherent in virus contact tracing technology; William J. Magavern Faculty Scholar and Professor Irus Braverman on the holistic approach of medical posthumanities; and Louis A. Del Cotto Professor David Westbrook and his co-author, Professor Mark Maguire of the National University of Ireland Maynooth, discussing their book Getting Through Security: Counterterrorism, Bureaucracy, and a Sense of the Modern. Likewise, the blog, with new posts twice a month, has featured entries on disability segregation, the Chinese school system, and the importance of norms in the separation of political powers featuring Professor Matthew Steilen.
Two students are instrumental in the productions: Azalia Muchransyah, a doctoral candidate in media study, who hosts and produces the podcast segments; and third-year law student Aldiama Anthony, host and producer of the Center’s blog. The new products are the result of collaboration among the full Baldy Center team, including Laura Wirth, assistant director; Cecilia Meyer, third year law student; Rebecca Dingle, fourth year College of Arts and Sciences undergraduate student; and Debra Kolodczak, website manager.