New Currents in Teaching Philosophy

About the Institute

UPDATE on the 2022 institute

The next New Currents in Teaching Philosophy Institute will meet in Baltimore, Maryland, on July 24–28, 2022. Details about the 2022 Institute—including a call for participants and the nomination deadline—will be announced in fall 2021. Nominations will be due in January 2022.

​About the Institute

At a time when so many voices clamor that a college education must be “practical”—and allege that philosophy is anything but practical—persuading students to take philosophy courses at most colleges and universities can be a daunting task.

New Currents in Teaching Philosophy is designed to help philosophy instructors at smaller liberal arts colleges address this high-stakes challenge. Philosophers know that a successful immersion in philosophy offers undergraduate students a distinctive experience. Philosophy trains them to be exceptionally clear, precise, and rigorous thinkers and writers. It instills the skills and habits of mind that students need to identify and navigate the deep sources of uncertainty and ambiguity that pervade modern life. It also provides a model for successful argument and communication across profound differences of opinion. Unfortunately, fewer and fewer students at smaller institutions are reaping the intellectual and personal benefits of philosophy.
I have never experienced anything quite like this workshop … the experience was overwhelmingly positive, as well as being deeply useful professionally.
—Participant in the 2021 Institute
New Currents in Teaching Philosophy helps meet this challenge by bringing together the most dedicated philosophy instructors from CIC member institutions and introducing them to a group of highly innovative, field-tested philosophy courses, through intensive, collaborative sessions led by the original course designers. The broad topics for the inaugural Institute in 2021 included: teaching current moral and social issues; philosophy as a guide to “the good life”; the intersection of mind and machine (where epistemology, neuroscience, and artificial intelligence collide); and theories of justice in a world of inequalities. Additional sessions were devoted to specific pedagogical approaches that faculty members can apply to many philosophy courses. The Institutes in 2022 and 2023 will explore similar topics.

Participants will leave the Institute with new knowledge from burgeoning fields of philosophical inquiry, novel strategies for teaching philosophy, and concrete plans for new innovative courses. The ultimate goal is to attract more students to philosophy courses, recruit more minors and majors, sustain and strengthen the philosophy programs at independent colleges and universities—and push back against a blinkered view of philosophy’s value.

This initiative has been made possible through generous support from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, with supplemental funding in 2021 from the National Endowment for the HumanitiesAny views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this program do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities..

Institute Director

Ned Hall headshotNed Hall is Norman E. Vuilleumier Professor of Philosophy and chair of the philosophy department at Harvard University. He is a leading scholar of metaphysics, epistemology, and the philosophy of science. Hall was educated at Reed College and Princeton University, where he received his PhD in philosophy. His books include Causation: A User’s Guide, co-authored with L. A. Paul (2013). Hall served for five years as the faculty chair of Harvard’s Standing Committee on General Education and in 2019 was named a Harvard College Professor in recognition of his commitment to research and transformative teaching.

Themes and Presenters (2021)

Mark Schroeder headshotCurrent Moral and Social Issues

Mark Schroeder is professor of philosophy at the University of Southern California, where he teaches the general education course “Current Moral and Social Issues” and graduate courses in philosophy pedagogy. He is the author of Noncognitivism in Ethics (2010) and Slaves of the Passions (2007).

Meghan Sullivan headshotPhilosophy as a Guide to the (Good) Life

Meghan Sullivan is Wilsey Family College Professor of philosophy at the University of Notre Dame and director of the Notre Dame Institute of Advanced Study. She is author of Time Biases: A Theory of Rational Planning and Personal Persistence (2018) and God and the Good Life with Paul Blaschko (forthcoming).

Eric Swanson headshotMinds and Machines

Eric Swanson is professor of philosophy and linguistics at the University of Michigan, where he teaches the popular “Minds and Machines” course, and faculty affiliate at the university’s Weinberg Institute for Cognitive Science. He has written widely on the interfaces between language and epistemology, language and metaphysics, and language and ethics.

Ron Sundstrom headshotNarratives of Freedom and Justice

Ronald R. Sundstrom is professor of philosophy at the University of San Francisco, where he also teaches in the African American Studies program and the Honors College. His research embraces philosophy of race, mixed-race identity and politics, political and social philosophy, justice and ethics in urban policy, and African American and Asian American philosophy. He is the author of The Browning of America and The Evasion of Social Justice (2008) and Just Shelter: Integration, Gentrification, and Racial Equality (forthcoming).

Mara Harrell headshotArgument Mapping in the Philosophy Classroom

Mara Harrell is teaching professor of philosophy at the University of California San Diego. She specializes in philosophy of science, philosophy of physics, epistemology, and the use of technology to teach philosophy. She is the author of What Is the Argument? An Introduction to Philosophical Argument and Analysis (2016) and received the 2018 Prize for Excellence in Philosophy Teaching, presented jointly by the three leading national philosophy associations.

Best Practices in Teaching Philosophy at Small Colleges

Representatives from the philosophy departments of two CIC member institutions will explore this topic: Connecticut College’s Simon Feldman, associate professor of philosophy and former department chair, and Derek Turner, Class of '43 Professor of philosophy and acting chair; and The College of Wooster’s John Rudisill, department chair, and Elizabeth Schiltz, Raju Chair of East-West Philosophy.

Location and Expenses

The 2022 Institute will be held at the Royal Sonesta Harbor Court Hotel in the Inner Harbor of Baltimore, Maryland. Lodging, most meals, and other expenses will be covered by CIC and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Participants or their institutions will be expected to provide transportation to and from Baltimore, although CIC will provide participants with a stipend to be used toward travel-related expenses.

 ‭(Hidden)‬ Nomination Process

​Up to 30 participants will be selected by competitive nomination. Participants must be full-time, ongoing faculty members in philosophy and related programs—so that what is learned during the Institute will benefit the institution for many years to come. CIC member institutions that nominate individuals must be in good standing and committed to renewing CIC membership for the 2020–2021 membership year.

The chief academic officer of the nominee’s institution must nominate the faculty member who wishes to participate. Each institution may nominate one faculty member. Faculty members of all academic ranks are eligible to participate.

Please read all of the guidelines before preparing nomination materials. Complete nomination packages should be submitted online and will consist of the following:

  1. Nomination letter from the chief academic officer explaining how the institution’s teaching of philosophy will benefit from the nominee’s participation in the institute;
  2. Completed nomination form;
  3. Nominee’s curriculum vitae; and
  4. Nominee’s statement of reasons for wishing to participate in the Institute, which should address the current challenges facing the institution’s philosophy program and describe the expected impact of the seminar on the development of new courses and revision of existing courses (two pages).

Nomination Deadline

Please submit nomination materials online by January 24, 2020. The selected participants will be notified by March 2020. New Currents in Teaching Philosophy will be offered again in 2021 and 2022.

Contact Information

​For questions about the Institute or nomination process, contact Philip M. Katz, director of projects, Council of Independent Colleges, at (202) 466-7230 or

Additional Resources for Philosophy Instructors

​On July 27, 2020, CIC hosted a special webinar—"Teaching Philosophy in Troubled Times"—for faculty members who were nominated to participate in the inaugural Institute. A recording of the webinar is  available. During the webinar, Ned Hall (Harvard University) discusses the unique challenges and enduring value of studying philosophy in times of crisis. Meghan Sullivan (University of Notre Dame) describes the evolution of Notre Dame’s innovative "God and the Good Life" course. And Paul Blaschko (University of Notre Dame) offers a practical workshop on designing or transforming philosophy courses for an online or hybrid format—with a focus on engaging students and making the best use of digital technologies. The webinar will be useful to faculty members in many liberal arts disciplines, not just philosophy.