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From OSU student to PhD candidate: a brief history on Aimee Davila Hisey


John Grade Emeritus Sculpture – A Glow-in-the-Dark Wonder


#5 cadet in the nation, Sophia Schmiedt on the benefits of ROTC and economics at OSU




This is a multimedia story. The video story is also found here

Nino Paoli 
June 2, 2023


The 2023 Associated Students of Oregon State University Inauguration occurred in the Student Experience Center Plaza on June 1.

Carissa O’Donnell, the incoming ASOSU president, and Dakota Canzano, the incoming vice president spoke to the audience of students and loved ones, and were sworn in by Judicial Council Chair Maya Sonpatki.

Incoming Student Fee Committee Chair Matteo Paola, ASOSU senators and and SFC liaisons were sworn in for the 2023-24 year as well. 


June 1 also marked the departure of a bicameral system; in effect, the ASOSU House of Representatives was dissolved, and Speaker of the House Madelyn Neuschwander symbolically retired the Clerk’s Gavel.

From OSU student to PhD candidate: a brief history on Aimee Davila Hisey

Corvallis-born historian, Hisey researches the history of Jewish medical practices during the Spanish Inquisition.

Photo by Blake Brown/ Oregon State University, College of Liberal Arts


Photo from Aimee Davila Hisey

Aimee Davila Hisey

During her MA in interdisciplinary studies, Hisey wrote a thesis that looked at relationships outside of marriage in colonial Spanish America.


Hisey’s favorite thing about teaching is “to counter historical myths with historical realities,” or help students become aware of their own biases and biases that have been taught to them.


Though the history of science PhD program covers a broad spectrum, Hisey’s interest has always been further back than the 20th century. “I was never going to focus on nuclear history.”

By Nino Paoli

Dec. 13, 2022

Aimee Davila Hisey is passionate about her research.


Hisey, a history instructor and academic advisor for the applied humanities program, is currently researching the circulation of medical knowledge among Jewish practitioners in Spanish America in and around the 1640s. Hisey explains that there was a subset of Inquisition tribunals called the “protomedicato,” which regulated medical practice.

It began in 1492. After unifying their Christian kingdoms and fighting alongside Portugal to defeat The Moors, spouses Isabella I of Castile and Ferdinand II of Aragon sought to consolidate their power in the region of present-day Spain. As Christopher Columbus set out on his first voyage funded by Isabella, she began a series of royal decrees ordering people of Jewish and Muslim faith to convert to Catholicism or leave Castile.

By the 17th century, many crypto-Jewish – secret Jewish – people still living in the Iberian Peninsula had become medical practitioners, because the profession was portable, in case they had to flee to the recently colonized, Spanish-populated regions called “viceroyalties” in what we now know as Mexico, Central and South America.

But, as a growing number of people came to Spanish America, the Spanish Inquisition, a system designed to “purify” Catholicism in every region the Spanish ruled over, created tribunals to try and persecute the Jewish medical practitioners that had hoped for something better on a different continent.


Though, in some ways their hopes were realized.


Though the Inquisition set out to thoroughly police and regulate medical practices, Hisey says that it was next to impossible to regulate an area of land stretching from present-day Mexico to South America with such an influx in population during the time.

Hisey says that though Jewish people could not practice their faith openly, many of the practitioners would either become New Christians – forcefully converted Jews – try to appear Catholic or Christian by joining confraternities, or just not speak out against the Catholic faith. In private, some would attend makeshift synagogues hosted in a Jewish person's home.

Despite Inquisition surveillance, the medical field in Spanish America was a melting pot of knowledge.


“We have indigenous healers – curanderos and curanderas – healers trained in Afro-based healing, because of the slave trade, university-trained European physicians, and European surgeons who were trained during apprenticeships,” Hisey said.


She explains that this mixture of experience and background made a dynamic medical landscape.

“As far as attitudes towards Jewish medical practitioners, for centuries in Europe, before contact with the New World, there was actually a belief that you wanted your practitioner to be of Jewish descent because of the prevalence of Jews in this profession,” Hisey explained. “There was a belief that they made better doctors.”

Hisey adds that the people who cared about policing the medical field were only those in power, not those in need.


“The population at large didn’t care at all if their practitioner was university-educated or whether they were African, indigenous, or Jewish as long as their remedies worked.”

Hisey will travel to Mexico soon to look at archives regarding some of the practitioners; it will be her third time in Mexico since she started working on her PhD in history of science in 2018. She has also visited Cartagena this past summer, and the last trip she’s making to complete her research will be in January, 2023, when she travels to Madrid and Seville in Spain. Hisey notes that her last trip will mark the third continent she will have traveled to in order to complete her dissertation.

Though Hisey plans to defend her dissertation before or during next fall, her research, funded by the National Science Foundation, the Memorial Foundation for Jewish Culture, and the American Academy of Jewish Research, is also intended to create an online database to catalog the circulation of knowledge of the 30-some Jewish medical practitioners she is following.

Hisey was born in Corvallis and completed a BA in history with a minor in Spanish as well as an MA in

interdisciplinary studies, where she studied history, anthropology, and Spanish, at OSU. Now, in addition to her PhD research, she teaches Latin American history for OSU Ecampus and is the academic advisor for the applied humanities online degree.

Hisey likens the applied humanities degree to the interdisciplinary degree she earned in graduate school, in that it allows students to gain a well-rounded liberal arts education.


“We have a number of courses in English, writing, philosophy, history, and religious studies,” Hisey said. “This is not just another history degree.”

The applied humanities degree is in its first term ever this fall, and Hisey says it is a flexible degree that can be used by students who are already starting a career.


“The degree is something (students) can do online and use it for application in their already-established work lives,” she stated.

Though Hisey sees herself as an instructor first, she has an incredible fascination with the history of Latin America, even outside of work. She recently had the revelation that her maiden name, Davila, was a famous crypto-Jewish name. She is currently trying to trace back her lineage to find where and when the Davila name started, noting that her dad’s side of the family is from Mexico.


As her areas of interest and education converge with her genealogical history, Hisey may find that she has more of a personal stake in her PhD research than she previously anticipated; which gives her beliefs on historical research an especially resonant message.


“Every researcher is going to have their own biases and is influenced by their own experience in some ways… (as historians) try not to project present-day lenses or discourses on the past, and conceptualize and analyze things in their specific context.”

John Grade "Emeritus" sculpture – a glow-in-the-dark wonder

New suspended, glow-in-the-dark sculpture in the MU Quad installed with the help of OSU students inspires reflection on how art is seen in the community


By Nino Paoli

Dec. 4, 2022



The wayfarer

stands proudly,

back against



Oregon sky.



Their hands, chest high, are dutifully latched onto a set of straps, which support the guitar on their back. How long have they been walking like this? Skin smooth, features weathered and dull; whether design or time had more of a hand in this, their body tells most of their story anyway. The wayfarer, opaque and resolute, has been slimmed by their travels. Still, they persevere. We can tell by the way their right foot is placed slightly in front of the left. Their comrades, four other similarly shaped sculptures, are set about the edges a paved loop that outlines a grassy oval outside the International Living-Learning Center on Oregon State University’s campus. The wayfarer accepts its destiny in guiding us. But where? We aren’t sure.


With help from the College of Forestry, and other organizers and students at OSU, John Grade, a Seattle-based sculpture artist, installed a new sculpture called “Emeritus”, on the edge of the Memorial Union Quad, in October 2022. As art projects such as Emeritus encourage active participation in art on campus and foster public interest, it is important to understand how the student body sees and perceives art, and how art sculptures and structures can be even more impactful to OSU.





















On a technical level, Emeritus is a collection of 100,000 individual pieces of cast resin and Alaska yellow cedar threaded into clusters, reminiscent of pinecones, which are stung to various levels of netting suspended between a grove of three giant sequoia trees on the northeastern edge of the MU Quad. The cascade of “forms,” as Grade refers to the clusters, cloud around a column of empty air, leaving center void as a metaphor for the ghost of a tree among its towering brothers.


Photo by Nino Paoli


Photo by Nino Paoli


The idea for Emeritus was born when Grade was invited to OSU’s campus to look at a couple locations in which he would compose a sculpture for. It didn’t take long for him to find his muse.


Photo by Nino Paoli

A video by the College of Liberal Arts explains Grade’s vision for Emeritus.

“We started with the sequoia grove, and I just found it so interesting that I didn’t need to look anywhere else,” Grade said. “I think the reason why I got so excited about that grove is the way in which there’s that space inside, between the three trees that’s beautifully empty.”


Grade returned to campus in early October, after his studio went through the arduous, month-long process of creating the 100,000 individual pieces as well as the nets they would hang from. It took much more than just the Grade team to assemble these pieces and suspend them in the sequoia grove, though.


A volunteer sign-up form was posted on OSU Today on Oct. 5, asking for community members to help the John Grade Studio team with the installation. Joy Jensen, Research Program Coordinator at the OSU Center for the Humanities, stepped in as the volunteer organizer for a process that would span six intense – and fun, she says –days, from Oct. 8-13.













According to Jensen, over 200 OSU students and community volunteers clocked in over 320 volunteer hours the week of installation. In two- to-three-hour shifts, they were tasked with stringing the pieces made by the Grade team with fishing

line to form the clusters, which were then affixed to frames by Grade himself. Tree-climbing College of Forestry volunteers would then fasten the eight nets to the tree trunks, spacing them out by 10 feet. Jensen said the assembly line was made up of art students, students of

other disciplines, athletes, faculty, and people of the larger Corvallis community, to name a few groups.


“It was an astonishing and beautiful symphony of coordinated action,” Jensen said.


Yung-Hsiang Lan, a research associate with a PhD from OSU’s College of Forestry, was one of a small group of climbers recruited for the installation. Lan has been climbing trees and installing scientific mechanisms in them for 17 years, so she found the installation routine more than anything.


“I just like to climb,” Lan said. “For me, it’s not about setting the sculpture or equipment. Climbing was the most exciting part.”


In addition to the nets, Lan and four other climbers installed dendrometers and bioacoustics to one sequoia trunk below the first net, above the top net, and one equidistant to both. These instruments will record trunk growth and nearby bird noises. Lan is most interested in the scientific contribution that Emeritus will bring.


Julia Bradshaw, an associate professor in Art and Art History, also volunteered and appreciates the participatory element of the Emeritus installation.


“It’s almost like being in a knitting circle in the old days,” said Bradshaw. “You’d just sit down around the table with people who you may know or may not know, and you’d talk and construct and think about it.”


Bradshaw says that Emeritus models a shift in how art interacts with other disciplines on campus, and how coordination between many departments promotes public interest and student engagement. The appeal to a scientific audience gives the piece a larger reach, she says.

“It’s the artist thinking about how to include scientific data with something visually interesting,” Bradshaw said. “It works for our university which has a strong science component.”


However, what most excites Bradshaw is how the installation helps to rebuild a culture on campus that may have been lost.


“In the last two or three years, because of COVID, students have forgotten or don’t know how to participate and meet face-to-face for projects like these,” Bradshaw said.


Now more than ever, commissioned artists are catering to the wants of students and to developing their art within this framework, Bradshaw says. This can be seen through the planned renovation for Cordley Hall, and how the Ohio-based artist, Ann Hamilton, tasked with making the artwork for the building, held workshops with students that take classes there for input.


As construction on campus continues, the involvement of the Oregon Percent for Art Legislation grows even more important for promoting art at OSU. This is evident in the construction of a new $70 million arts and education complex being built off Southwest 15th Street and Washington Way.


Though Bradshaw states that construction projects like these emphasize the importance and necessity of public art, and Grade’s Emeritus is gleaming example of getting people from different backgrounds involved in art on campus, the two aren’t directly related. Bradshaw explains that the new arts and education complex is funded by the university, whereas Grade’s piece – art that is not connected to the erection of a new building on campus – is privately funded. This key difference makes participatory art projects like Emeritus hard to come by.


“It would be nice for something like this to happen every year, so that every student could get involved in art on campus,” Bradshaw said.


Even if more participatory art projects occurred at OSU, Bradshaw remains skeptical regarding student interest. Though these projects are assisted by their scientific or novel ideas and processes, Bradshaw fears that most of the student body remain ambivalent to the artistic happenings on campus.


Stella Luong, a fourth-year undergraduate in chemical engineering hadn’t heard of the installation of Emeritus.





















Upon seeing it for the first time, Luong said, “I like how it’s all white and then wood (at the bottom). I don’t know if that’s intentional.”


In fact, Grade explained that the difference in material and color from top to bottom is “mimicking wood being on fire with smoke rising above it.”


“I think it’s cool, but it’s lacking context,” Luong said. “You don’t know what it’s about when you’re just passing by.”

When Grade was asked what he hopes passersby take from Emeritus, he said: “Ultimately, I’m perfectly happy if people don’t understand why I made it, so long as they find it compelling, and it gets them to think about that natural environment in a way they wouldn’t have.”


So maybe the wayfarer and their comrades outside of the ILLC are just physical embodiments of students’ curiosity for art on campus: unsure of where to go, but adventurous, nonetheless. Will this unguided wonder, this beacon of light that is Emeritus at night, glowing and inviting strangers to come watch, be enough to create a more artistically motivated community on campus?


Photo by Nino Paoli


#5 cadet in the nation, Sophia Schmiedt on the benefits of ROTC and economics at OSU

Schmiedt talks the community of ROTC, her decision on double-majoring, and life after graduation.

Photo from Sophia Schmiedt


Photo from Sophia Schmiedt

Sophia Schmiedt

Loves going to sports games at OSU, and tries to go to every Beaver baseball game if she can.

Favorite place to work out: Dixon Rec on campus.

Favorite restaurant in town: El Patron (her go-to order is the carne asada burrito).

Encourages people just joining ROTC to “sign up for everything,” and participate in the program as much as possible.

By Nino Paoli

Nov. 11, 2022

Sophia Schmiedt is no stranger to Corvallis.


During her childhood, Sophia Schmiedt would travel from Manteca, California to Corvallis to visit her uncle. Schmiedt says the two small-ish towns share a homey and rural-esque charm, so when she applied to OSU as a civil engineering undergraduate, “it just felt right.”

Now in her fourth year at OSU and on track to graduate in June 2023, Schmeidt is also one of the top five Reserves Officers Training Corps (ROTC) cadets in the nation, and will soon receive not only her Bachelor of Science in civil engineering, but also a B.S. degree in economics.

Though Schmiedt had no familial connection to the military, she instantly fell in love with the ROTC program at OSU.


“I really like the bond, how it was just instantly a group of people all working to get physically fit together and working to serve their country together,” Schmiedt said.

This enthusiasm in the program, along with determination in her studies, paid off when Schmiedt was ranked number five among every cadet at junior-standing or higher in colleges across the country. With around 6,800 cadets eligible to be ranked in ROTC, she placed extraordinarily high due to a combination of factors: her GPA (3.95), extracurricular activities, time and effort spent in the ROTC program, and a slew of online interviews.

The rank is not just a bragging right, though. These ranks will heavily influence the jobs of the ROTC cadets after graduation. Schmiedt is hoping to be an officer in a field artillery unit, specifically at the duty station Fort Campbell, which is near Nashville, Tennessee.

For Schmiedt, OSU has been a place of multiple successful experiments. Not only did she find community and a secured job after graduation through ROTC, she also expanded her academic boundaries.

“I started just as a civil engineering student, and then COVID and BLM happened; it was a very tumultuous time,” Schmiedt said. “During that time, I decided law was something I was really interested in and I enrolled in some econ classes under the law and policy option to see if I liked it.”

She indeed liked it, enough to add it as a second major.

Stories like these are all too familiar to Todd Pugatch, associate director of economics.


“Our introductory classes fulfill requirements for 40 majors and 15 minors across campus, so we have students from all kinds of backgrounds, interests, and disciplines learning about economics, and many of them find that they want to learn more," Pugatch said.

Schmiedt enjoys the Law, Economics and Policy Option because it helps quantify human behavior.


“It's about the real world, but

there’s still math behind it,” she said. “So you are analyzing the way people are making decisions and the way they are reacting to things with math equations and graphs. I just think that’s fun.”

Laura Relyea, academic advisor for economics, echoes Schmiedt’s enthusiasm for economics, and clarifies that economics is much more than what many students believe it is.

“Some people are afraid of economics, which usually stems from misinformation that they’ve heard from people along the way,” Relyea said. “‘It’s just about money’, ‘it’s just another version of a business degree’, ‘it requires tons of math to get a degree’, ‘it requires a graduate degree in order to get a job’: no; economics is none of these.”

In reality, she said, the list of current occupations of former economics students at OSU range from traditional trajectories such as business and finance to government and the military, healthcare, environmental science and sustainability, to name a few.

“Economics is an excellent pre-law degree,” said Relyea. “You get deductive and inductive reasoning skills, and analytical and critical thinking with economics.”

In fact, Schmiedt intends to go to law school in an army program after her post-graduate officer job is complete. She believes that her law and policy option in economics background will serve her well in law school, and then later as a lawyer.


“It’s the variety, the versatility of an economics major that I think does draw a lot of people,” Relyea said.


And, she adds, with a bit of long-term planning for an economics degree, people have a lot of room to explore other fields, majors, and minors.

Photo from Sophia Schmiedt

“Though economics will help towards my law degree, I think that just in terms of a larger scope, economics has allowed me to think about things like ‘how do people think rationally, what are rational behaviors, and how do they make decisions?’” Schmiedt said. “And that helps in the army, as you’re in stressful situations, making decisions and trying to see how other people are going to react and how they’ll make decisions, too.”

Schmiedt firmly recommends ROTC to anyone who “wants to get stronger mentally and physically, and wants to serve their country.”

Schmiedt has no regrets in her decisions she has made from coming to OSU from Manteca to joining ROTC.

“I’m going to leave college debt-free and I have a secure job afterwards with an organization that I’m very fond of.”

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