1999 Faculty Awards for Excellence in Graduate Teaching
Paul Friedrich, Professor Emeritus in Anthropology, Linguistics and the Committee on Social Thought
By William Harms
Paul Friedrich challenges Ph.D. students to think about their dissertations as potential books that people will want to read and reread.
When I talk to them about the topics they want to pursue, I suggest they think about what would make a good book, one they can envision being on the rack at the Seminary Bookstore, one that many people would want to read and not just a group of six or so professors, said Friedrich. In fact, dozens of his students theses have become good books.
Friedrich is a Professor Emeritus in Anthropology, Linguistics and the Committee on Social Thought and a Research Associate in Slavic Languages & Literatures. Currently, he is primarily active in the Committee on Social Thought, although his doctoral advisees are scattered throughout a half-dozen departments. He encourages his students to pursue topics that give them free range to be themselves, to follow their instincts and their deep involvements.
When students get stalled while writing their dissertations, Friedrich urges them to think outside an outline and to write about what they feel a particular urgency about at that moment. What they write might be the beginning of another chapter other than the one theyre working on, but I want them to follow what is in their hearts.
Friedrich, who has been a faculty member since 1962, works with small groups of students and pursues topics intended to draw all students into the discussion. He tries to remove the hierarchy of the professor being the sole person imparting wisdom.
Through asking questions, we often find unexpected angles on a text as we look together for something truthful, he said. My goal is to have a discussion that is centered on a topic, not focused on me but on students talking with each other. It often becomes a sort of dialogic magic that arises from a blending of minds. If a half-dozen students put their minds to a problem, there are better results than if one teacher lectures.
Friedrich said he is particularly pleased if a shy student becomes more open in class and eager to offer ideas. Im also pleased when students come to class having talked with each other outside class about the topics we pursue and then talk through the breaks as well, he said.
This interchange often prompts more scholarly exploration for Friedrichnew ideas contribute to his scholarship and feed on research he has done.
I have often set up a course that would relate to research ranging from one on Sappho to another on Mexican politics. I am grateful to Chicago for the freedom to maximize research and the teaching connection; in both anthropology and the Committee on Social Thought, there has been great flexibility. This Chicago freedom partly accounts for his 13 books and monographs.
His current courses deal with a wide range of issues, from Henry David Thoreaus Walden and Emily Dickinsons poetry to Russian poetry. He also has taught courses on Homers Odyssey that have helped students to experience emotional and intellectual journeys of their own.
I benefit from what students bring up in class. We were reading a poem by the Russian poet Aleksander Pushkin when one of my students mentioned sources of his work in verses from Isaiah in the Bible, Friedrich said. I never had noticed it before, but I explored the topic and ended up writing an article about the connection.
Besides my students, I also am grateful to the pedagogical intensity and inventiveness of my father, Carl Friedrich, a teacher at Harvard for four decades, and my wife, Domnica Radulescu, who teaches French at Washington and Lee.
Both gave me bright ideas and fired my motivation, Friedrich said.
Lloyd Rudolph, Professor in Political Science
By William Harms
One of Lloyd Rudolphs biggest changes in his teaching style came in 1964 when he left Harvard to join the Chicago faculty and had to give up his lecture notes.
At Harvard, giving a good lecture was considered the most important thing for a professor to be able to do, recalled Rudolph, Professor in Political Science, who has received a 1999 Faculty Award for Excellence in Graduate Teaching.
I gave good lectures, reasonably witty ones, and had a stack of lecture notes which I never used again, because at Chicago, the emphasis is on getting students to discuss ideas in class and thats how I teach, he said. Lecturing is essentially a passive activity for students. Teaching with discussion is much better as the students become more involved in what they are learning.
What I usually do is have the students do presentations on the readings and think up their own questions, he said.
Rudolph emphasizes creativity and individuality and oversees a range of projects that go beyond his own primary research interest, the politics of South Asia.
Theres a tension between having students learn the latest paradigms in the discipline and having them do their own, original work that reflects the questions they have and their own views on a problem, Rudolph said. I tend to think its more important that students have the freedom to do their own work and to be creative than it is to have them conform to a particular paradigm or set of methods.
If you put too much emphasis on following the current fashion in scholarship, the students run the risk of being like everybody else when they go into the job market, he added.
Those fresh ideas help make the discipline grow, he said, and give him rewards as a professor.
One of the pleasures and rewards of graduate teaching is the way it keeps you on your toes intellectually, he said. Young scholars tend to have fresh ideas and to work at the cutting edge of research problems and paradigms. Being able to respond to them and to guide them means that you have to do better than run in place.
He also enjoys the experience of having a constantly renewable academic family. Doctoral students spend six to seven years at the University and become part of a faculty members life as a result. They tend to remain friends as well as colleagues after they leave the University to take up their careers elsewhere, Rudolph said.
Rudolph will be on research leave in India during the upcoming academic year, so he has worked with a group of graduate students eager to complete, defend and propose Ph.D. topics before he leaves.
Their topics suggest the range of subjects that I, like other members of the Political Science Department, have the opportunity to work with, he said.
Those defending over the Spring and Summer Quarters include students with topics such as modernist national identity and its demise in Turkey, stalled transition to democracy in Algeria, contesting economic discourses in Algeria, county government in China, the ‘salary man in Japanese society and politics, state formation in Bulgaria and the violence in British imperial wars of the 19th century.
Proposals also are broad in their reach.
I have been particularly impressed in recent years at how transnational students are in their perspectives in class and in the topics they write about, he said.