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Feature

Michael Goldman

Michael Goldman is one of the U's five newly minted McKnight Presidential Fellows.

U of M turns telescope on rising stars

Top scholars tapped for McKnight Presidential Fellowships

By Deane Morrison

Published on September 13, 2005

As he was teaching a class one October evening in 1991, University of California, Santa Cruz, graduate student Michael Goldman found himself in the midst of an earthquake. Today Goldman is an associate professor of sociology at the University of Minnesota, and he's the one shaking things up. He has just published a book critical of the World Bank, and he is one of five newly minted McKnight Presidential Fellows. Not bad for his first year at the U.

The McKnight Presidential Fellows awards single out the most promising faculty who hold tenure and the rank of associate professor. The awards include three year of financial support. Goldman arrived last fall from the University of Illinois, where he spent six years. "I came here because it's a great university and a great city," he says. "I'm in two departments--sociology and the Institute for Global Studies [IGS], which are both excellent." IGS is probably the only program of its kind in the country, says Goldman, and its interdisciplinary mix of history, geography, women's studies, anthropology, comparative literature, and other fields appeals to him. So does its international character. "The IGS starts from the assumption that we all live in this world together," he says. "That's unique. Other places are experimenting with institutes that offer such breadth, but I don't think any other has achieved this kind of success." In his book, Imperial Nature: The World Bank and Struggles for Social Justice in an Age of Globalization, Goldman argues that the large-scale projects funded by the World Bank often achieve the exact opposite of their stated objectives, namely to improve the living conditions of the poor in developing nations, and wreak environmental havoc. A common pattern is that millions of dollars are allocated for, say, an irrigation project in an arid land. Wealthy, elite people move into the area to administer and benefit from the project, and the farmers get lost in the shuffle. The only people who make money are these already affluent administrators and the Western companies contracted to build the irrigation system. "The World Bank maintains its legitimacy because it's deemed acceptable because we [in the West] profit so much from it," says Goldman. "I think it should be closed down."

One of his current projects takes Goldman to India to study the specific ways these kinds of development policies unfold and become an object of resistance.

The other McKnight winners are: * Claudia Schmidt-Dannert, director of graduate studies in the department of biochemistry, molecular biology and biophysics. Her interests center on directing bacterial cells to evolve the means to produce new molecules useful as drugs or in other functions. * Fernando Porte-Agel, civil engineering. His specialties lie in land-atmosphere exchange processes, turbulence and computational fluid dynamics, hydrology, and water resources engineering. * Krishnan Mahesh, aerospace engineering and mechanics. He is tackling the challenge of computing how fluids mix under turbulent conditions, such as fuel and air in combustion chambers. * Theodore Schoen, music, UMD. He teaches applied clarinet and saxophone and classes in arranging and music technology. Schoen also frequently plays with the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra and is heard on the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra's recordings of Mahler symphonies and the Mozart Requiem.

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