Do animals make us human? This question and a host of others that emanate from a consideration of animals will be the springboard for ACM’s first Seminar in Advanced Interdisciplinary Learning (SAIL), which will take place in Washington, DC, in summer 2012.
“Animals” was chosen as the topic for the 2012 seminar through a competitive selection process from among several proposals submitted by faculty from ACM colleges. An interdisciplinary team from Carleton and Lake Forest Colleges proposed this compelling topic and site, and will also design and lead the seminar. The leadership team includes:
- Glenn Adelson, Associate Professor and Director of Environmental Studies, Lake Forest College;
- Janet McCracken, Professor of Philosophy, Lake Forest College; and
- Kimberly Smith, Professor of Political Science and Environmental Studies, Carleton College.
“Understanding animals allows us to understand better what it means to be human,” the seminar leadership team explained. “The topic is also deeply interdisciplinary and current — indeed, it’s ‘hot,’ drawing on most of the traditional [humanities and science] disciplines … as well as media studies, art history, the visual arts, and theater and dance.”
In early September, ACM will release a call for participants for the inaugural SAIL seminar. Cross-disciplinary teams of faculty from all 14 ACM colleges will be invited to apply. Twelve faculty will be selected and, together with the seminar’s leadership team, will engage in the ten-day investigation of animals.
As the leadership team noted, Washington, DC offers a unique confluence of resources for this topic. The agenda is not finalized, but possible seminar activities include:
- Meetings with local agricultural and veterinary experts from the University of Maryland and the National Zoo;
- Discussions about the depiction of animals in art, literature, and film; and
- Day trips to important animal-related sites, such as Good Newz Rehabilitation Center (Michael Vick’s former home) and Polyface Farms (the successful organic, clean-meat farm mentioned by Michael Pollan in Omnivore’s Dilemma).
Participants will also engage in discussions with one another about designing assignments, course modules, or whole programs, in which their own disciplinary expertise will be enriched by the cross-disciplinary and multi-faceted learning that takes place throughout the seminar.
This will be the first of five annual summer seminars — intensive, off-campus study experiences for ACM faculty. The SAIL Seminars, funded by a generous grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, will immerse ACM faculty in a setting that encourages multiple perspectives and cross-disciplinary collaboration. The program aims to create insights and resources to support faculty in developing innovative coursework for advanced, liberal arts students.