Sept. 23, 1999
Vol. 19 No. 1

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    Society of Fellows builds on current strengths of Harper-Schmidt Program

    By Jennifer Leovy
    News Office

    In 1975, Charles Oxnard, then Dean of the College, initiated a program to support the general-education teaching of humanities and social sciences courses in the College. Now known as the Harper-Schmidt Program, this initiative has brought to Chicago a succession of postdoctoral instructors who have contributed to the vibrancy of core sequences for nearly 25 years. College students have consistently ranked these postdoctoral instructors as among the best teachers in the College.

    Despite their impact on the College, Harper and Schmidt instructors never have been collectively affiliated with a particular organization on campus––until now.

    Building on the success of the postdoctoral program of the past quarter-century, the College has established the Society of Fellows in the Liberal Arts. Harper and Schmidt instructors will comprise the fellows of this society.

    The organization will provide Harper and Schmidt instructors with a home base in Gates-Blake, where they may discuss pedagogy, general education in the College and their own research. The society also will organize scholarly conferences and professional workshops to promote collaboration among its fellows and the broader University community.

    “Harper and Schmidt instructors play a vital role in the life of the College,” said John Boyer, Dean of the College. “The Society of Fellows will provide them with resources to advance their research and writing as well as develop a greater sense of community.”

    The Dean of the College will appoint 10 Senior Fellows, who will serve as the Board of Senior Fellows. These tenured faculty members have a distinguished record of commitment to the College’s general-education courses and will serve as informal mentors and departmental liaisons. In addition, the Masters of the Humanities Collegiate Division and the Social Sciences Collegiate Division will serve as ex officio members of the board.

    Senior Fellows are David Bevington, the Phyllis Fay Horton Professor in the Humanities and Professor in English Language & Literature, Comparative Literature and the College; Bertram Cohler, the William Rainey Harper Professor in the Social Sciences Collegiate Division and Professor in Psychology, Education, Psychiatry and the Divinity School; Sheila Fitzpatrick, the Bernadotte E. Schmitt Distinguished Service Professor in History and the College; Daniel Garber, the Lawrence Kimpton Distinguished Service Professor in Philosophy and the College; Gary Herrigel, Associate Professor in Political Science and the College; John Kelly, Associate Professor in Anthropology and the College; Jonathan Lear, the John U. Nef Distinguished Service Professor in Philosophy, the Committee on Social Thought and the College; Anne Robertson, the Claire Dux Swift Professor in Music and the College; Katie Trumpener, Associate Professor in Germanic Studies, Comparative Literature, English Language & Literature and the College; and William Wimsatt, Professor in Philosophy, the Committees on Evolutionary Biology and Conceptual Foundations of Science, and the College.

    Bevington and Kelly will co-chair the society.

    “The work life of Harper and Schmidt instructors is in the College, and it is time for them to have a real place of their own there,” said Kelly. “We want to support them as colleagues. We can be resources whenever they need them. We can be mentors if they want them.”

    Likewise, Kelly believes Harper and Schmidt instructors help the College with creative input to general-education courses. “They have good ideas about how to improve the core because they teach three-quarter sequences and are extremely familiar with what works,” said Kelly, who is a former Harper Instructor.

    Kelly added that as the society takes shape, the fellows would play the key role in determining their needs and organizing the society to support those needs.