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Chapman scholars reach for the stars in newly launched blog

July 6, 2010

Anna Leahy at the National Air and Space Museum. Photo/Lofty Ambitions

Aviation, the legacy and future of space flight, the Cold War, science and the delicate art of writing as a husband-and-wife team may seem like a lot of cargo to pack into one place.

But two Chapman University scholars have done it in a new blog they’ve christened Lofty Ambitions.

“We recognize that we’re definitely casting a fairly broad net with the mission statement. That’s one of the things you can do with a blog and the Internet,” says Douglas Dechow, Ph.D., associate librarian at Leatherby Libraries and co-creator of the the blog with his wife, Anna Leahy, Ph.D., associate professor, Wilkinson College, Department of English, and director of Tabula Poetica.

Douglas Dechow during a recent trip to Washington, D.C. Photo/Lofty Ambitions

The blog, built on the WordPress platform, launched last week with a post about the couple’s nostalgic return this summer to the National Air and Space Museum, the site of their first outing as young post-grads at the University of Maryland. Even then the poet and the scientist – Dechow is a former research computer scientist – were passionate about aviation and space-related topics.

Within weeks of that first visit, Leahy began her MFA in poetry and started building a body of work that often uses the language and metaphors of aviation and science. Her poetry collection Constituents of Matter won the Wick Poetry Prize. Dechow soon went to work at the NASA Center for AeroSpace Information (CASI). Since then they’ve collaborated on academic articles and presentations on representations of World War II in aviation museums. And Dechow is managing the application process and paperwork for Leatherby to acquire space shuttle artifacts. (The seeds for a special collection were planted last spring, when Roger M. Boisjoly, the engineer who detected the O-Ring flaws that caused the 1985 Challenger disaster, donated his papers to the library.)

With Lofty Ambitions, the thread continues.

“One of the things that I hope the blog can accomplish is to — in its own small way — continue to memorialize the remarkable past achievements of the manned space flight and to help promote its future,” Dechow says.

But the two hope to enter the mainstream with the blog, offering viewpoints of both a scientist and an artist but without the parameters of academic writing.

“We’re trying to extend our research and widen our scope and hopefully this will fuel interest in these topics. … I already experiment in different modes and genres and this is just one more way to do that,” Leahy said.

The couple are also optimistic that they live in the perfect place and time for this new venture. Aerospace was one of Southern California’s defining industries, and, yes, they plan to post lots of photos from their visits to local aviation museums and historic sites, as they tell the story of this aviation legacy. But with the White House’s recent unveiling of its new National Space Policy and the shuttle program’s impending retirement, Lofty Ambitions’ timing is also unique, Leahy says.

“We don’t know what’s next for manned space flight, so indeed it’s a time for conversation,” she says.

And time, perhaps, for new poetry and thinking about what that “final frontier” will look like for the next generation.

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