An umbrella for faculty development activities, including interdisciplinary centripetals, colloquies, and special programs developed in support of creative and critical thinking.
For 30 years, the University Studies Program (USP) has supported faculty development of innovative interdisciplinary interactions that foster faculty networking across traditional lines and the development of interdisciplinary projects that serve the entire campus and community. In addition to providing an infrastructure and incubator for the colloquies, USP provides support for other faculty-initiated interdisciplinary activities. These activities have led to a community of scientists, scholars, and other creative professionals. USP has historically been supported by the discretionary budget of the Chancellor.
The USP is guided by a Steering Committee consisting of the five most recent recipients of the University Studies Award for Outstanding Contributions to Interdisciplinary Scholarship. Each member serves for five years and the core is replenished by the latest award recipient. The Committee works in concert with an advisory panel of faculty and emeriti who are, or have been, actively engaged in interdisciplinary projects. The Committee approves new colloquies and applies their collective wisdom to organizing and implementing new initiatives. The Committee also nominates Centripetals speakers and the USP Scholar. The University Studies Office does extensive scheduling and public relations work for every kind of event and provides support for USP-associated projects, including websites and weekly campus newsletters on interdisciplinary activities and opportunities for faculty development. The Office works with administrative support groups such as the Creative Services Department to facilitate faculty activities related to the USP. Additionally, it maintains memberships in national organizations.
Each month of the academic year one of our faculty colleagues engaged in interdisciplinary activities of unusual interest presents their work at a lecture/discussion luncheon. The entire University community including emeritus faculty is invited, and participation is by reservation. The atmosphere encourages free, often spirited exchanges of ideas, enlarges the community of mutually respectful faculty, and occasionally is the catalyst for new faculty undertakings. Faculty emeriti have traditionally been guests of the Chancellor.
University Studies Colloquies are interdisciplinary groups of faculty that meet regularly to explore a specific topic of mutual interest. There are currently six active colloquies:
- “Spirituality and Critical Inquiry” has hosted nationally recognized guests and provided a complete, well-attended course for the Oak Ridge Institute for Continuing Learning (ORICL). Activities include designing a symposium on the spiritual background to contemporary critical inquiry and following up on an invitation to His Holiness the Dalai Lama that was co-sponsored by the Chancellor of UTK and the Director of ORNL. If the Dalai Lama chooses to make UTK/ORNL a venue for presenting his views on initiatives such as neuroscience, alternative energy, international peace, or humanitarian relief efforts, we expect that would serve as a “lightning rod” for numerous convergent interests. In addition, major support would be sought from the Templeton Foundation and federal agencies.
- “Colloquy on Applied Phenomenology” has been active in support of faculty and graduate research in applied phenomenology for several years. The colloquy was a material supporter of a well-received book, “Listening to Patients,” authored by Colloquy participants Sandra Thomas and Howard Pollio. At present, the group will undertake a phenomenological analysis of scientists and other professionals pursuing critical and analytical inquiry; working title, “Phenomenology of the Spirit of Scientists.”
- “Colloquy on Neuroscience and Society” is not presently active, but left a legacy of collaborative programs between the UT Medical Center and College of Arts and Sciences (Dougherty and Greenberg) that supports a funded research program (Cole Center project), a graduate student and provides internships for College Scholars.
All activities across traditional administrative boundaries engender faculty networking. Past USP activities that facilitated networking and faculty awareness of encouragement have traditionally been organized by USP at the pleasure of the Provost or Chancellor. These activities targeted senior faculty and junior faculty in specific ways.
- “Overtures” is a reception held at the faculty club that introduces new faculty and researchers from all colleges, centers, and institutes to the opportunities for interdisciplinary collaboration and highlighted active colloquies. The Chancellor typically presided.
- Salons facilitated focused networking for accomplished senior faculty in a congenial atmosphere, where brief introductions set the stage for spirited discussions enhancing mutual understanding and respect. This has been notably productive of collaborative undertakings (Colloquy on Phenomenology, Neuroscience and Society, and the Environmental Semester).
Timeline and Project Milestones
University Studies is an ongoing enterprise involving both measured, program-related awareness of exemplary interdisciplinarity (Centripetals, symposia), and opportunities for networking and the exploration of interdisciplinary projects that extend ongoing work in the context of an experienced administrative infrastructure.
- Convergent support. One of the indices the USP uses to gauge both the breadth and depth of success in our interdisciplinary undertakings is the extent to which University administrative units such as centers, departments, or colleges are able to make material contributions. This is always a balance of collegiality and self-interest, but we seek to maximize both by facilitating interactions that will generate professional development.
- Papers, presentations, and proposals. The most recent conference, “Literature and the Sciences,” conceived in the “Colloquy on the History and Philosophy of Science and Technology” is having presentations collected and prepared as an edited volume (Stephen Blackwell and Bruce MacLennan).
- Special Project: The Emeritus Speakers Bureau (ESB). USP is often an incubator for new or innovative programs. One that has been under active discussion is an ESB. Faculty development does not end abruptly at retirement and an ESB will serve the need of faculty emeriti and University outreach. The USP office could host the initial year of an ESB, which fills a recent void created when Arts and Sciences terminated their speakers’ program. It has been extensively researched and would be based on known best practices.
Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
College of Arts & Sciences
F241 Walters Life Science Building
The University of Tennessee
Knoxville, TN 37996-1610
Phone: (865) 974-3599
Posted: Nov. 01, 2010 | Modified: Nov. 01, 2010 | Category: Interdisciplinary
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