Monday, December 29, 2014

Fall Recap

I've been meaning to write a recap of my activities this fall, but the suddenness of the fall semester's completion as well as the totality of holiday diversions subsequent have conspired to delay me. For now, a few words will have to suffice; put directly, the fall was wonderful: I found working with new students and colleagues at Bryn Mawr and Haverford (and beyond) delightful; now I look forward to many years of continuing work and collaboration with confidence and excitement.

Teaching "Modern Political Philosophy" this fall proved even more of a pleasure than I anticipated. I had taught versions of this course at both Carleton and Deep Springs and I was eager to see how students on the Mainline would respond to my narrative of "freedom and the state." I could not have anticipated, however, the richness of reflections and the earnestness of engagement I would find in the Bryn Mawr and Haverford students I was fortunate enough to have in the course. They brought energy and curiosity throughout the semester; their final projects, both presented in the last week of classes and submitted ten days later in written form, displayed the terrific progress they made as political thinkers over the course.

I also grew a great deal as a teacher through my participation in the Teaching and Learning Institute's Pedagogy Workshop led by Alison Cook-Sather. Over the course of the semester, I met weekly with Alison as well as new faculty colleagues from Bryn Mawr and Haverford. These meetings provided a space to reflect various facets of my pedagogy as well as the broader goals of a liberal education. I also met weekly with a Haverford student who served as my "learning consultant." She attended my class meetings once a week and provided observational notes; her notes allowed me to revisit my teaching as an observer and our meetings gave me space and time to develop new approaches ranging from classroom activities to course design. Now my consultant and I are collaborating on a revised syllabus for my "Power" course for next semester -- and which I hope to post here soon -- that will incorporate some of our insights from our work together.

Over the whole fall I wrote a series of reflections on teaching, ranging in topics from what it means to me to teach political theory to how I approach issues of identity in the classroom. I found these writings deeply important to my process of adjusting to Bryn Mawr as well as coming to know myself as a teacher (and a learner) anew. As I reread and try to put together these reflections, I plan to post a longer reflection on "lessons learned" during my first semester teaching at Bryn Mawr in the coming weeks.

While I focused primarily this fall on integrating into the Bryn Mawr community, I also found time to write and collaborate on some ongoing projects. Stefan Dolgert and I wrote a paper which he presented at this fall's Association for Political Theory conference; it's now on the cusp of submission for publication, thanks in part to the comments we received there. I drafted an essay on Herodotus and materialism -- "Only Things Endure: Toward a Herodotean Materialism" -- which I presented to my department as well as to the Bryn Mawr Classical Studies Colloquium. In December I returned to North Carolina to present a revised version of my essay on Don DeLillo's Cosmopolis and the politics of literature at UNC Chapel Hill's Political Theory Workshop. I received terrific comments from that outstanding group of political theorists; I hope to complete revisions and submit the article in early 2015.

With the publication of What Would Socrates Do?, I suddenly found myself on the hook for more book reviews as well as manuscript reviews for journals and scholarly presses. I completed two book reviews, which are forthcoming in Polis and The Review of Politics in early 2015. I joined the Editorial Board of the Bryn Mawr Classical Review and read and reviewed articles for Political Theory, Columbia Teacher's Record, and the University of Chicago Press. I also read and commented on numerous draft articles from friends and colleagues.

One unanticipated but hugely significant bonus of joining the Bi-Co community has been finding such convivial colleagues at Haverford. Paulina Ochoa Espejo and I have started a Bi-Co Political Theory Colloquium for faculty working on political theory to present works-in-progress. We also applied for and were granted a Mellon Brainstorming Grant to host a dinner for Tri-Co faculty (BMC, HC, and Swarthmore). From this initial meeting we hope to develop a broader community of political theorists at liberal arts colleges in the area.

Thus went the fall: full, challenging, rewarding. Stay posted for more on projects in 2015, including continued writing on Herodotus and materialism, a roundtable on What Would Socrates Do? slated for this spring's Western Political Science Association conference, and a talk at SUNY Oneonta on Socrates, James Baldwin, and liberal education. Many thanks to all who made this such an excellent past four months!