Auspex (Latin for augur): a diviner and priest of ancient Rome who interprets the flight patterns of birds
The diviners of ancient Rome were highly honored, supernatural messengers of the gods. Augurs, in particular, were consulted on all political and public decisions. Augurs read the flight patterns of the birds in an occult practice called “taking the auspices.” The will of the gods was divined through this medium, which could influence war, public policy, or the selection of a new king. Favorable or unfavorable auspices could invoke either pax deorum (divine peace) or ira deorum (divine wrath) on the Roman people. During the creation of Warren Wilson’s first interdisciplinary journal of undergraduate research, we have spent months observing and interpreting the work of seven undergraduate researchers, Warren Wilson owls, and have only found favorable auspices.
For the first volume of the journal, we have made a few choices that reflect our commitment to interdisciplinary studies. Each piece remains in its original style to highlight the subtleties of each academic discipline. In addition, we have arranged the pieces by geographical distance in order to emphasize the range of experiences among Warren Wilson students. We begin with Gordon Jones and Elena Wertenbaker, who study pasture quality and soil carbon content, respectively, on the Warren Wilson College farm. We next move to Morganton, North Carolina, where Abra Johgart examines the remains of Native American structures. In Nashville, Tennessee, Devon Malick spends a semester with the Music City Rollergirls studying gender performativity. Drew Thilmany considers representations of masculinity in comic books, and here geography is a bit harder to determine; we have settled on New York as home to the largest comic publishing houses. Two essays take us outside of the United States. In Guatemala, Lillyanne Daigle analyzes the failure of the 1996 Peace Accords. Finally, reaching back to England a century ago, Hannah Jacobs looks at gender in the work of Beatrix Potter.
We have found that the journal not only exemplifies undergraduate research in a professional format, but also highlights interests and issues unique to the Warren Wilson community – sustainable living, gender analysis, and cross- cultural understanding. For faculty, Auspex provides useful examples of professional, well-written theses. For students, Auspex serves as an outlet for personal academic exploration. To the general reader, Auspex displays an impressive example of Warren Wilson’s academic excellence.
We see Auspex as a much-needed opportunity for interdisciplinary discourse on our campus. Auspex gives students the chance to explore and engage in campus research outside of their majors. When Natural Science Seminar and Gender Studies theses appear side-by-side, academic magic happens; we begin to probe the interconnections between academic disciplines that ultimately lead to the whole, the liberal arts education. We invite the Warren Wilson community to read Auspex with interdisciplinary discourse in mind and to consider the influence of undergraduate research on the important local and global issues the authors present.From Auspex, Volume One, 2012