The Raft Debate

2016 Raft Debate will be held on Monday, October 3 at 6:30 pm in PBK Hall.

Raft Debate 2015

 

                 

Described as a “delicate balance of comedy and lecture”, the annual Raft Debate features four W&M faculty members from diverse disciplines, stranded on a desolate island with only a one-person life raft for escape to civilization.  Which faculty member should survive for the sake of humanity?  Based on the volume of applause, the audience chooses the sole survivor as the professors cajole, plead, pontificate, and resort shamelessly to props and costumes.

The quirky event originated in the mid-1900s and was revived during the 2000s by the Graduate Center, the A&S Office of Graduate Studies and Research, and the A&S Graduate Student Association.  Faculty participants represent the Humanities, the Social Sciences, or the Natural and Computational Sciences.  The Devil’s Advocate, who argues sarcastically that none of the academic disciplines are worth saving, has on rare occasion emerged victorious.

This year’s survivors representing their disciplines and the fate of humanity are:

Humanities: Associate Professor Elena Prokhorova [Russian Studies & Film/Media Studies]. Born in the Soviet Union and educated in the US, she is interested in the historical and cultural forces that shape our everyday experiences, social relations, understanding of selves and others. Her primary research focuses on the media and popular culture. She has published on the history of Soviet cinema and television, post-Soviet media and ideology, as well as a variety of genres of visual culture and the “work” they do in society. Prokhorova was a recipient of the Phi Beta Kappa Faculty Award for Excellence in Teaching and the Alumni Fellowship Award at the College. Her courses range from Russian and world cinema, to memory and mythology of WWII's Eastern Front, to the Russian language.  She enjoys traveling, Vietnamese food, and occasional coding.

Social Sciences: Assistant Professor Marcus Holmes [Government].  Prof. Holmes studies international relations and specializes in diplomacy. He is particularly interested in understanding under what conditions personally meeting face-to-face with a leader from an enemy state can result in cooperation or exacerbate conflict. While a social scientist, Holmes is sympathetic to the natural sciences and even draws upon social neuroscience and biology to make many of his arguments. He runs the Political Psychology and International Relations lab in which his students conduct independent and group research projects at the intersection of international politics and psychology. Holmes is also an avid marathoner and ultra-marathoner and hopes to complete a 50 mile race soon.

Natural and Computational Sciences: Professor Rowan Lockwood [Geology].  Prof. Lockwood is a paleobiologist who specializes in the effects of climate change and mass extinction in the fossil record. She and her students use data from fossil shellfish to predict how biodiversity in the oceans will respond to future changes in temperature, harvesting, and ocean acidification. In the past three years, she has published in Science and Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, been awarded two National Science Foundation grants, and been invited to present her work at the 2017 American Association for the Advancement of Science conference in Boston. Lockwood has won several prestigious awards during her career, including a British Marshall Scholarship, Thomas Jefferson Teaching Award, Plumeri Award for Faculty Excellence, and was named one of the top 300 professors in the U.S. by Princeton Review. 

The Devil's Advocate will be played by Associate Professor Ryan Vinroot [Mathematics].   Prof. Vinroot joined the William & Mary Mathematics Department in 2008.  His research is in representation theory and combinatorics, which is the math more like Dungeons & Dragons, rather than anything useful or applied.  He's pretty sure that's why he was asked to be the Devil's Advocate.

 The Judge will be played by Virginia Torczon, Dean of Graduate Studies and Research, Arts & Sciences.

Previous participants:

Victory for Vishton:

Victory for Vishton:  Peter Vishton, associate  professor of psychology, waves goodbye to his fellow castaways after winning the 2015 Raft Debate.     
October 2015:

Natural and Computational Sciences: Christopher Del Negro, Professor, Applied Science
Humanities: Katherine Preston, Professor, Music
Social Sciences: Peter Vishton, Associate Professor, Psychology
Devil's Advocate: Christopher Freiman, Assistant Professor, Philosophy   

Summary of the 2015 Raft Debate

October 2014:

Natural/Computational Sciences: Patricia Vahle, Associate Professor, Physics
Humanities: Charles J. Palermo, Associate Professor, Art and History
Social Sciences: Rob Hicks, Professor, Economics
Devil’ s Advocate: Andreas Stathopoulos, Professor, Computer Science
Judge: Virginia Torczon, Dean of Graduate Studies and Research

October 2013

Natural/Computational Sciences: Dan Cristol, Professor, Biology
Humanities: John Riofrio, Assistant Professor, Hispanic Studies
Social Sciences: Thomas Linneman, Associate Professor, Sociology
Devil’ s Advocate: Sarah Day, Associate Professor, Mathematics
Judge: Virginia Torczon, Dean of Graduate Studies and Research

September 2012:

Humanities, Anne Charity Hudley, Professor, Community Studies, and English and Education,
Natural/Computational Sciences, Oliver Kerscher, Associate Professor, Biology,
Social Sciences, Christine Nemacheck, Associate Professor, Government, 
Devil's Advocate, Arthur Knight, Associate Professor, American Studies and English, 
Judge, John Swaddle, Dean of Graduate Studies and Research

September 2011:

Humanities,Vassiliki Panoussi, Associate Professor, Classical Studies
Natural/Computational Sciences, Larry Leemis, Professor, Mathematics
Social Sciences, Andrew Fisher, Associate Professor, History
Devil's Advocate, Pamela Eddy, Associate Professor, Education
Judge, Laurie Sanderson, Dean of Graduate Studies and Research

September 2010:

Humanities, Richard Palmer, Professor, Theatre, Speech & Dance
Natural/Computational Sciences, Lisa Landino, Associate Professor, Chemistry
Social Sciences, Lee Kirkpatrick, Associate Professor, Psychology
Devil's Advocate, Scott Dodson, Associate Professor, Law
Judge, Laurie Sanderson, Dean of Graduate Studies and Research

September 2009: 

Humanities, Giulia Pacini, Associate Professor, Modern Languages and Literatures
Natural/Computational Sciences, David Armstrong, Professor, Physics
Social Sciences, David Feldman, Professor, Economics
Devil’s Advocate, Jeremy Stoddard, Assistant Professor, Education
Judge, Laurie Sanderson, Dean of Graduate Studies and Research

October 2008: 

Humanities, Steve Holliday, Associate Professor, Theatre, Speech, and Dance
Natural/Computational Sciences, Mark Forsyth, Associate Professor, Biology
Social Sciences, Danielle Dallaire,  Assistant Professor, Psychology
Devil’s Advocate, Laura Heymann, Assistant Professor, Law
Judge, Laurie Sanderson, Dean of Graduate Studies and Research

October 2007: 

Humanities, Robert Scholnick, Professor of English and American Studies
Natural/Computational Sciences, Deborah Steinberg, Professor of Biological Sciences, VIMS
Social Sciences, Matt Liebmann, Assistant Professor of Anthropology
Devil’s Advocate, JC Poutsma, Associate Professor of Chemistry
Judge, Laurie Sanderson, Dean of Graduate Studies and Research

February 2007: 

Humanities, Scott Nelson, Associate Professor of History
Natural/Computational Sciences, Deborah Bebout, Professor of Chemistry
Social Sciences, Clay Clemens, Professor of Government
Devil’s Advocate, Emmett Duffy, Professor of Biological Sciences, VIMS
Judge, Hans C. von Baeyer, Chancellor Professor of Physics, Emeritus

October 2005: 

Humanities, Ron Schechter, Associate Professor of History
Natural/Computational Sciences, Hugh Ducklow, Professor of Biological Sciences, VIMS
Social Sciences, Simon Stow, Assistant Professor of Government
Devil’s Advocate, Philip Daileader, Associate Professor of History
Judge, Hans C. von Baeyer, Director of the Graduate Center and Chancellor Professor of Physics

October 2004: 

Humanities, Monica Potkay, Associate Professor of English
Natural/Computational Sciences, John Wells, Dean of the School of Marine Science and Director of the Virginia Institute of Marine Science
Social Sciences, Joel Schwartz, Director of the Charles Center and Associate Professor of Government
Devil’s Advocate, David Holmes, Professor of Religion
Judge, Hans C. von Baeyer, Director of the Graduate Center and Chancellor Professor of Physics

October 2003: 

Humanities, Jennifer Taylor, Associate Professor of Modern Languages
Natural/Computational Sciences, Chuck Bailey, Associate Professor of Geology
Social Sciences, John Nezlek, Professor of Psychology
Devil’s Advocate, Eric Jensen, Professor of Economics
Judge, Hans C. von Baeyer, Director of the Graduate Center and Chancellor Professor of Physics

October 2002:

Humanities, Anne Rasmussen, Associate Professor of Music
Natural/Computational Sciences, Robert Welsh, Professor of Physics
Social Sciences, John Nezlek, Professor of Psychology
Devil’s Advocate, Tom Heacox, Associate Professor of English
Judge, Hans C. von Baeyer, Director of the Graduate Center and Chancellor Professor of Physics