New Report Highlights Value of CIC Faculty Seminars

Faculty Seminars report coverA new report explores the impact of professional development seminars offered by CIC since the early 2000s for faculty members in a variety of core humanities disciplines including, most frequently, American history, classics, and art history. In the report, CIC’s Faculty Seminars: Promoting Professional Growth, Thomas Falkner, former provost of McDaniel College (MD) and an experienced evaluator of CIC programs, highlights the intellectual enrichment and value of these seminars.

“Falkner’s report demonstrates that a relatively small amount of money can significantly strengthen faculty development and enhance teaching, especially when faculty members’ dedication both to their students and to their fields of expertise is unwavering,” said CIC President Richard Ekman.

CIC faculty seminars create vital intellectual connections both among participants from member institutions and with nationally-distinguished scholars at research universities and are designed to link their outcomes to the realities of teaching and course development. Participants include established scholars and those at earlier stages in their careers, both specialists and generalists. The result is typically a group with a broad range of backgrounds and perspectives who share a keen interest in the topic and are eager to engage in collaborative study to enrich their courses.

Falkner looks in detail at the most recent in a series of American history seminars offered through CIC’s long collaboration with the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, generously supported by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. “The Civil War in American Memory” took place at Yale University in June 2018 and was led by David Blight, Class of 1954 Professor of American History and director of the Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance, and Abolition at Yale. Blight is the author of numerous award- winning books, including Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom (2018), which the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and Time named a top-ten book of the year. Twenty-five faculty members from CIC member institutions in 15 states participated in the seminar.

Blight has written that “not only is the Civil War not over, it can still be lost.” To this day, battles rage over how Americans remember and commemorate the Civil War; recent struggles over Confederate monuments offer painful examples of the timeliness of the topic. Falkner’s report shows how the seminar helped participants engage this contentious and multi- faceted topic.

Organized around the 50th, 100th, and 150th anniversaries of the war years of 1861–1865, the seminar invited participants to study works of history, literature, film, photography, and sculpture to examine the persistence of the Civil War in American memory and to understand how it has been commemorated by successive generations. Readings included writings from Friedrich Nietsche to Ta-Nehisi Coates, and seminar activities included visits to several monuments and cemeteries to analyze the “landscape” of commemoration.

Participants testified to the deep impact of the approach. Matt Barbee of Siena Heights University (MI) reflected, “This seminar…has been one of the most useful and productive professional development opportunities of my career.” Participants are encouraged to integrate the seminar experience into their teaching and scholarship in innovative ways. Some have developed courses based in local history and teach students to analyze nearby Civil War monuments. Other participants have developed curricula in such fields as visual culture or public history. Others have created public humanities programs that include community tours and public exhibitions. Many participants also have introduced new perspectives into their existing courses on related topics. Kelly Franklin of Hillsdale College (MI) reflected, “This course has helped me see the way Northern, anti-slavery literary voices participate in an incomplete narrative about the Civil War,” while another participant described plans to introduce the seminar’s memory- centered approach into his work on World War I.

As Falkner shows, “The Civil War in American Memory” seminar demonstrates the vital role humanities faculty members can play by bringing disciplinary expertise to bear on issues of immediate civic importance in both campus and community settings. Kristin Anderson-Bricker of Loras College (IA), remarked that the seminar experience was “exhilarating. To be in conversation with 25 enthusiastic, intelligent, and well- prepared faculty was a rare opportunity for learning.”

Read the full report.