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College of Arts and Sciences

New graduate fellowships boost humanities, social science scholars

By: Kathy Hovis,  A&S Communications
September 27, 2019

Two new graduate fellowship awards in the College of Arts & Sciences will help graduate students in the humanities and social sciences further their research.

Elizbeth Lyon, a doctoral student in music, received the first Sadov Family Graduate Student Fellowship for graduate students doing work in the arts and humanities. Thomas Davidson, a doctoral student in sociology, received the first Josephson Family Graduate Student Scholarship for students doing work in computational social sciences. The one-year fellowships allows students to focus on their research without having to teach.

Elizabeth LyonLyon’s research focuses on the intersections of theology and music theory in the medieval period. “The Big Question guiding much of my research is, ‘How did people think about and use music in the medieval period as a tool in advancing spiritually?’ Lyon said.

“Lizzy’s dissertation is interdisciplinary in the best way possible,” said Ben Piekut, associate professor of music, who nominated Lyon for the award. “It makes real contributions to the history of philosophy and theology, even as it marshals those fields in order to shed still more light on the ways that musical practice transforms an aesthetic, sensuous experience into a theological, affective, and ethically efficacious one. Her formidable skill as a cellist underscores her commitment to understanding music in action.”

Lyon said the grant will give her time to finish her dissertation, finalize articles and apply for jobs.

“Though I love teaching, the extra time will ensure that these projects come to completion and will permit me to take my research in new directions,” she said. “One off-shoot of my dissertation I am excited about is a field study of how some of the musico-spiritual practices I've researched in my dissertation can be used by modern day religious practitioners.” 

Davidson is examining the role of social media in contemporary politics, focusing on social movements and political parties in the United Kingdom

Thomas Davidson“Tom's work combines classic sociological questions about the rise of extremism and social movement strategies with cutting-edge computational methods and digital trace data,” said Kim Weeden, the Jan Rock Zubrow ’77 Professor of the Social Sciences and director of the Center for the Study of Inequality. “He is helping us better understand how far right groups have leveraged Facebook and other social media to gain support for ideas that just a decade ago would have been seen as too fringe or extreme. His research could not be more timely.”

Davidson said the fellowship will allow him to devote time to completing his empirical analyses and writing up each chapter of his dissertation. It will also enable him to make progress on transforming the manuscript into a series of articles to submit to leading academic journals.

“I have thoroughly enjoyed my teaching experiences at Cornell,” he said. “The biggest challenge of managing research and teaching responsibilities for me has been the fact that the time commitments of teaching assistantships often fluctuate over the course of the semester due to exams and assignments.”

The gifts come from the Sadov and Josephson families. The Sadovs are parents of a current Cornell student and John Josephson ’83 was a College Scholar in Arts & Sciences and is a member of the College’s Advisory Council.

“Great researchers are essential to the reputation and academic standing of a world-class university,” Josephson said. “Endowing a graduate fellowship is one of the most exciting opportunities to make a difference for Cornell that I’ve been involved with and I’m thrilled that Tom will be the first recipient. His work is both topical and at the forefront in using computational techniques to drive the frontier of research in social science.”