Faculty Seminars in the Humanities Strengthen Programs and Pedagogy across the Country

Strong programs in the humanities are a hallmark of CIC member institutions. To support teaching and research in these crucial disciplines, CIC has offered seminars for faculty members in a variety of humanistic fields since the early 2000s. Long-running seminar programs have brought together scholars and teachers in classics, American history, and art history; more recently, interfaith understanding has been added. The mix of seminar topics continues to evolve. After years of providing opportunities for professional development and intellectual enrichment for faculty members in American history and classics, those seminars will wind down in 2019. The seminars in art history and interfaith understanding will continue with the support of new grants. Highlights from CIC’s 2019 seminars demonstrate once again the importance of professional development and collegial study for faculty members at CIC institutions.

Teaching Interfaith Understanding

This summer, CIC and Interfaith Youth Core (IFYC) cosponsored the eighth Teaching Interfaith Understanding seminar in a series generously supported by the Henry Luce Foundation. Twenty-five CIC faculty members from various fields participated in the seminar, held at DePaul University (IL) in Chicago, Illinois, June 16–20, 2019. Led by Eboo Patel, founder and president of Interfaith Youth Core, and Laurie Patton, president of Middlebury College (VT) and a distinguished scholar of South Asian religions, the seminar was designed to help faculty members develop new courses and resources to strengthen their teaching.

Laurie Patton and Eboo Patel stand with participants or group photo standing on stairs
Seminar leaders Laurie Patton and Eboo Patel (front, left) with CIC faculty members in DePaul University’s (IL) Arts and Letters Hall during the 2019 CIC/IFYC seminar on Teaching Interfaith Understanding.

Narrative case studies served as the foundation of plenary discussions throughout the week and allowed participants to explore methodologies and pedagogies appropriate to interfaith topics. Throughout the seminar, participants examined the substantial theoretical questions inherent in helping students develop interfaith understanding and discussed the practical work of translating these ideas into courses.

To experience the way site visits can be effective pedagogical tools for teaching interfaith understanding, participants toured DePaul University’s sacred and interfaith spaces and visited the Chicago-based Inner-City Muslim Action Network (IMAN), which uses religious values to facilitate transformational change in urban communities. Seminar participants then considered the benefits and challenges of site visits in the context of their own teaching.

Kirk VanGilder, associate professor of religion at Gallaudet University (DC), noted that the seminar provided “an open environment for us to tackle difficult issues in a constructive manner. The degree to which we were able to collaborate to provide peer advisement to one another was encouraging. Similarly, Eboo and Laurie kept themselves open and available to us on a variety of topics ancillary to the main content of the seminar.”

Thanks to a generous grant from the Lilly Endowment Inc., CIC and IFYC are developing a new series of Teaching Interfaith Understanding seminars. The first Lilly-funded seminar will take place in June 2020 and will be announced this fall. View more information on the Interfaith program.


​Alaska Pacific University
Lisa Unterseher, Professor of Religious Studies

Albertus Magnus College (CT)
Karreem Mebane, Lecturer in Religious Studies

Augsburg University (MN)
Matthew Maruggi, Associate Professor of Religion

Bethany College (KS)
Alan English, Assistant Professor of Education

Bethune-Cookman University (FL)
Alice Wood, Associate Professor of Religion and Philosophy

Butler University (IN)
Brent Hege, Instructor in Philosophy, Religion, and Classics

Concordia College (MN)
Mona Ibrahim, Professor of Psychology

Dominican University (IL)
Frank Spidale, Assistant Professor of Art

Elizabethtown College (PA)
Badiah Haffejee, Assistant Professor of Social Work

Fresno Pacific University (CA)
Darren Duerksen, Associate Professor of Intercultural and Religious Studies

Gallaudet University (DC)
Kirk VanGilder, Associate Professor of History, Philosophy, Religion, and Sociology

Gustavus Adolphus College (MN)
John Cha, Associate Professor of Religion

Keuka College (NY)
Jennifer Mealey, Associate Professor of Social Work
​King’s College (PA)
Matthew Eaton, Assistant Professor of Theology

Luther College (IA)
Guy Nave, Professor of Religion

Naropa University (CO)
Elaine Yuen, Associate Professor of Wisdom Traditions

Northwest Nazarene University (ID)
Jay Akkerman, Professor of Theology

Saint Leo University (FL)
Marc Pugliese, Associate Professor of Philosophy, Theology, and Religion
St. Edward’s University (TX)
Emma Woelk, Assistant Professor of Languages, Literatures, and Cultures

Texas Lutheran University
Carl Hughes, Assistant Professor of Theology, Philosophy, and Classical Languages

Tusculum University (TN)
Ronda Gentry, Assistant Professor of Religious Studies

University of Denver (CO)
Sarah Pessin, Professor of Philosophy and Judaic Studies

University of Redlands (CA)
Sana Tayyen, Visiting Assistant Professor of Religious Studies

Warren Wilson College (NC)
Matthew Hoffman, Instructor in Religious Studies

Wingate University (NC)
Christy Cobb, Assistant Professor of Religion

American History Seminar

After speaking extensively on panels, presentations, and ceremonies over the course of the four-year sesquicentennial of the Civil War, Yale University professor David W. Blight and many other prominent historians had the sense that perhaps interest in the Civil War might decline. But the 2015 church shooting in Charleston, South Carolina; the 2017 white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia; and many other recent controversies surrounding Confederate flags and monuments, have demonstrated that “History,” as Blight said, “is always waiting for us. History is always waiting to surprise us.”

As controversies surrounding these monuments continue, historians and other faculty members have been increasingly called upon to weigh in as experts on the issues. That is why CIC, in partnership with the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, offered a faculty seminar on “The Civil War in American Memory” in 2018 and 2019. David Blight, Class of 1954 Professor of American History and director of the Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance, and Abolition, led the seminar both years. With generous support from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, 25 faculty members from CIC member institutions participated in the 2019 seminar at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut, June 23–28.

The seminar opened with a discussion on why the Civil War, emancipation, and Reconstruction retain a hold on the American imagination. Throughout the week, Blight and participants discussed a variety of readings—such as Pierre Nora’s “Between Memory and History: Les Lieux de Mémoire,” Robert Penn Warren’s novel Wilderness: A Tale of the Civil War, and Ta-Nehisi Coates’s essay “Why Do So Few Blacks Study the Civil War”—and considered how monuments have meaning and why they matter.

Lauren Thompson, assistant professor of history at McKendree University (IL), reflected: “It was extremely helpful to read, discuss, and analyze this important and central topic in American history. It is very difficult to teach. Despite research and publications on the topic, it still causes some backlash from students...especially when the facts do not align with the ‘stories’ they heard growing up. The seminar helped me realize I am not alone in my anxieties, and that other faculty members experience similar setbacks and frustrations teaching such controversial topics.”

During the week, participants ventured outside of the seminar room to reflect on monuments extant in historic New Haven and beyond. Blight led participants on a tour of New Haven’s Grove Street Cemetery, Yale’s Woolsey Hall Memorial, the Amistad Memorial, and the Connecticut Civil War Monument. Another field trip took participants to the recently restored Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument atop East Rock, and then to the Connecticut 29th Regiment (“Colored”) Monument in the Fair Haven neighborhood. Participants also were able
to visit Yale’s Sterling Memorial Library special collections department, where they met with Bill Landis, head of public services in manuscripts and archives.

The seminar allowed participants to meet with colleagues from similar institutions and to share teaching strategies. As Ellen Eisenberg, Dwight and Margaret Lear Professor of American history at Willamette University (OR) and chair of the history department, put it: “The seminar was a wonderfully renewing experience…. Having the opportunity to engage with peers teaching similar courses and facing similar challenges on campuses like my own is incredibly helpful. The opportunity to engage with David Blight, who led the seminar brilliantly, also was a real gift.”


Allegheny College (PA)
Alyssa Ribeiro, Assistant Professor of History and Black Studies

Austin College (TX)
Felix Harcourt, Assistant Professor of History

Bethel College (KS)
Brad Born, Professor of English

Butler University (IN)
Antwain Hunter, Assistant Professor of History and Anthropology

Caldwell University (NJ)
Katie Kornacki, Assistant Professor of English

Cedar Crest College (PA)
Megan Monahan, Assistant Professor of History

Colby-Sawyer College (NH)
Randall Hanson, Professor of History and Political Studies
College of St. Benedict/St. John’s University (MN)
Shannon Smith, Assistant Professor of History

Ferrum College (VA)
Nicole Greer Golda, Assistant Professor of History

Hawai‘i Pacific University
Jon Davidann, Professor of History and International Studies

Lee University (TN)
Andrew Bledsoe, Assistant Professor of History, Political Science, and Humanities

Mars Hill University (NC)
David Gilbert, Assistant Professor of History

McKendree University (IL)
Lauren Thompson, Assistant Professor of History
Millikin University (IL)
Ngozi Onuora, Associate Professor of Education

Monmouth University (NJ)
Christopher DeRosa, Associate Professor of History and Anthropology

Notre Dame of Maryland University
Jennifer Erdman, Assistant Professor of History

Quincy University (IL)
Megan Boccardi, Associate Professor of History

Regis College (MA)
Deborah Breen, Assistant Professor of Digital Humanities

Saint Francis University (PA)
Denise Damico, Associate Professor of History and Political Science

Southern New Hampshire University
Ken Nivison, Professor of History

Texas Lutheran University
Rebecca Czuchry, Professor of History

Tusculum University (TN)
Jeffrey Perry, Assistant Professor of History
University of Northwestern-St. Paul (MN)
Jonathan Den Hartog, Professor of History
Valparaiso University (IN)
Samuel Graber, Assistant Professor of Humanities and Literature

Willamette University (OR)
Ellen Eisenberg, Dwight and Margaret Lear Professor of American History

Ancient Greece in the Modern College Classroom

The 14th and final seminar in CIC’s Ancient Greece in the Modern College Classroom series was held at the Center for Hellenic Studies in Washington, DC, July 25–29, 2019.

These seminars began in 2006 in partnership with Harvard University’s Center for Hellenic Studies (CHS). Initially supported by the Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation and the Center for Hellenic Studies itself, they have continued since 2012 with generous support from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Intended for non-specialists, the seminars have been designed to encourage the teaching of classical texts “across the curriculum,” especially on campuses with small classics programs. Over the years, their programs have addressed the Iliad and Odyssey; lyric poetry and the poetry of Hesiod; the Histories of Herodotus; Athenian drama; and other topics. Led by Greg Nagy, Francis Jones Professor of Classical Greek Literature, professor of comparative literature, and director of CHS; and Kenneth Scott Morrell, professor of Greek and Roman studies at Rhodes College (TN), Ancient Greece in the Modern College Classroom seminars recognize the centrality of classical texts to the humanities and the liberal arts.

Kenny Morrell and Greg Nagy sit with participants for group photos
Professors Kenny Morrell (second row far left) and Greg Nagy (front row far right) and participants in the “The Ancient Greek Hero” seminar at Harvard University’s Center for Hellenic Studies in July.

This summer, 20 faculty members from as many institutions focused on “The Ancient Greek Hero”. The seminar was based on Nagy’s legendary Harvard course, taught since the late 1970s and now a popular HarvardX MOOC. Participants examined the Odyssey, selected passages from the Iliad, Aeschylus’ Oresteia, and two dialogues of Plato (the Apology and Phaedo) to study classical concepts of the hero and how those concepts inform modern understanding of the human condition. One of the highlights of the experience was discussion of a set of exercises designed by Keith Stone, a research associate at CHS for instructional design and the comparative study of ancient texts. The exercises focused on laments, tragic plot structure, the two-dimensional representation of ordeals in vase paintings, and dialogues with other-worldly interlocutors, all features of narratives related to ancient Greek heroes. The seminar also explored ways of incorporating ancient Greek verbal and visual art associated with heroes into the classroom.

Kerri Tom, professor of English at Concordia University Irvine (CA), noted: “This was the kind of educational experience that all college professors should have the opportunity to participate in. Professors Nagy and Morrell were exemplary instructors, both in terms of their wealth of knowledge and their modeling of sound teaching practices. I learned so much about the culture of ancient Greece and the performance and poetic aspects of epic, as well as new ways to engage my own students in the material.”

Emphasizing the value of professional development for intellectual renewal, Kristen Waha, assistant professor of English at Grove City College (PA), reflected, “This was such a unique academic experience—providing time to think deeply about a subject and a set of texts that I love dearly and teach regularly, but in which I do not have graduate-level training. It is rare that academics get an opportunity to learn in this way, and I am grateful for the privilege.... It is invigorating to go into the fall term with new ideas and a renewed commitment to engage students in critical and compassionate conversation about those questions that are core to our humanity.”


Alderson Broaddus University (WV)
Irina Rodimtseva, Assistant Professor of English and Literature Humanities

Brescia University (KY)
Ellen Dugan-Barrette, Professor of English

Caldwell University (NJ)
Rosa Mirna Sanchez, Associate Professor of Spanish Language, Literature, and Culture

Carlow University (PA)
Sigrid King, Professor of English and Theatre

Concordia University Irvine (CA)
Kerri Tom, Professor of English

Concordia University Wisconsin
Brian Harries, Associate Professor of English
Doane University (NE)
Dan Clanton, Associate Professor of Philosophy and Religious Studies

D’Youville College (NY)
Jeffrey Glodzik, Associate Professor of History

Fresno Pacific University (CA)
Pamela Johnston, Associate Professor of History
George Fox University (OR)
Guadalupe Garcia McCall, Assistant Professor of English

Grove City College (PA)
Kristen Waha, Assistant Professor of English

Jacksonville University (FL)
Erich Freiberger, Professor of Philosophy
McDaniel College (MD)
Gretchen McKay, Professor of Art History

Mercyhust University (PA)
James Snyder, Associate Professor of Philosophy

Methodist University (NC)
Morgan Dancy, Instructor of English

Mount St. Mary’s University (MD)
Sean Lewis, Associate Professor of English

St. Edward’s University (TX)
Chris Flynn, Associate Professor of English

Thomas More University (KY)
Sarah Blackwell, Instructor of English

Wheeling University (WV)
Paula Makris, Associate Professor of English

Teaching European Art in Context

From the mid-18th century to the mid-19th century, British art reflected the dynamic energy of a period of historical and social change.

Twenty-two CIC faculty members participated in a seminar on “Art and Society in Britain, Hogarth to Turner (1730–1851)” held at the Yale Center for British Art (YCBA) in New Haven, Connecticut, July 21–26, 2019. The seminar offered participants the chance to immerse themselves in British art from the age of William Hogarth, who came to prominence in the 1730s, to the death of William Turner in 1851, the year of the Great Exhibition. Generously supported by the Samuel H. Kress Foundation, the seminar was led by Tim Barringer, Paul Mellon Professor of the History of Art and chair of the department at Yale University.

Tim Barringer leads participants in examining art
Tim Barringer, Paul Mellon Professor of the History of Art and chair of the department at Yale (pointing), and seminar participants examining special collections at the Yale Center for British Art. (Photo courtesy of Yale University)

Throughout the week, participants looked at British art in its cultural context, considering such themes as portraiture and social status; London as a world city; taste and the Grand Tour; art and empire; the industrial revolution; and Romanticism and nature. Among the highlights of the seminar was a private tour of the galleries and special collections of YCBA, where they met with Chitra Ramalingam, associate curator of photography and acting head of prints and drawings. In addition, Milette Gaifman, associate professor of classics and history art at Yale, led participants through the Yale Art Gallery’s ancient art collection and connected several Greek vases and statues to the 18th- century British context of the seminar.

Participants also took to the road for one day to visit Yale University’s Lewis Walpole Library in Farmington, Connecticut, one of the world’s great collections of the works of Hogarth and of satirical prints by many artists; and to historic Wethersfield, Connecticut, to visit the Webb-Deane-Stevens Museum—a group of three 18th century homes owned and operated by the National Society of Colonial Dames. These visits provided a rich sense of the geographical and cultural context of the art and artists they were studying.

Amy Weldon, professor of English at Luther College (IA), remarked, “The collegial connections were priceless. I connected meaningfully with colleagues at Yale and from other independent institutions, sharing our professional experiences and learning more about the challenges we face and about the excitement and dedication we share for our students and our fields. The models of good teaching and scholarship on display for us were inspiring; watching Tim Barringer ‘walk us through’ a painting or rare print in YCBA’s gallery and study rooms was like a master class in teaching engagingly and well.”

Thanks to a new grant from the Samuel H. Kress Foundation, CIC will be able to offer another seminar in art history in summer 2021 that will be held at Oberlin College’s (OH) Allen Memorial Art Museum. CIC will announce details about the seminar and the application process in fall 2020.


​Benedict College (SC)
Jasmin Cyril, Professor of Art History

Berea College (KY)
Ashley Elston, Assistant Professor of Art History

Bluffton University (OH)
Cynthia Bandish, Professor of English

Carthage College (WI)
Anne Cassidy, Professor of Art

Concordia University Chicago (IL)
Sandra Krohnert, Assistant Professor of Art

Converse College (SC)
Nicole De Armendi, Assistant Professor of Art History

DePauw University (IN)
Robert Dewey, Professor of History

Eureka College (IL)
Christopher Wille, Assistant Professor of Art

Fresno Pacific University (CA)
Rebecca McMillen, Assistant Professor of Art

Luther College (IA)
Amy Weldon, Professor of English

Lyon College (AR)
Dustyn Bork, Associate Professor of Art
Methodist University (NC)
Cameron Dodworth, Associate Professor of English

Nebraska Wesleyan University
Lucienne Auz, Assistant Professor of Art History

Pacific Lutheran University (WA)
Adela Ramos, Associate Professor of English

Saint Xavier University (IL)
Mary Beth Tegan, Associate Professor of English

Siena College (NY)
Karen Sonnelitter, Assistant Professor of History

Texas Christian University
Jessica L. Fripp, Assistant Professor of Art History

The College of Idaho
Susan Schaper, Professor of English

Thomas University (GA)
Richard Curtis, Assistant Professor of Art

Viterbo University (WI)
Sherri Lisota, Professor of Art

Westminster College (PA)
Patricia Clark, Associate Professor of History

Young Harris College (GA)
Mary Slavkin, Assistant Professor of Art History