How does understanding animals help us understand what it means to be human? Do animals have emotions? What are the scientific, ethical, and economic considerations surrounding livestock production? How do artistic representations of animals shape our understanding of animals and humans?
These and a host of other questions will be the springboard for the first Seminar in Advanced Interdisciplinary Learning (SAIL), which ACM will sponsor in Washington, DC in summer 2012. This is the first of a series that aims to immerse ACM faculty in a setting that encourages exploration of a topic from multiple perspectives. They will also foster collaboration across disciplines and lay the foundation for innovative, cross-disciplinary coursework for juniors and seniors.
ACM faculty will be invited to apply to participate in the inaugural SAIL seminar. In early September, ACM will release a call for participants. Cross-disciplinary teams from the ACM colleges will be invited to apply, and twelve faculty members will be selected. Together with the seminar’s leadership team, they will travel to Washington, DC next summer for the ten-day intensive seminar in animal studies.
“The topic is deeply interdisciplinary and current,” the seminar leadership team explained. “Indeed, it’s ‘hot.’ It draws on most of the traditional [humanities and science] disciplines … as well as media studies, art history, the visual arts, and theater and dance.”
Animal Studies emerged as the topic for the 2012 seminar from a competitive selection process over the summer. The winning proposal was submitted by an interdisciplinary team from Carleton College and Lake Forest College. 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.
Adelson, McCracken, and Smith will lead the seminar during a ten-day residency in Washington, DC. They will also work with ACM staff to complete the seminar design, recruit participants, and coordinate follow-up activities.
Washington, DC offers a unique confluence of resources for this topic. The agenda is not finalized, but seminar activities will likely include:
- Meetings with local agricultural and veterinary experts from the University of Maryland, governmental and non-governmental agencies, and the National Zoo;
- Discussions about the depiction of animals in art, literature, and film, using resources such as the National Gallery; and
- Day trips to important animal-related sites, such as Good Newz Rehabilitation Center for dogs (on the site of Michael Vick’s former home) and Polyface Farms (the successful organic, clean-meat farm discussed by Michael Pollan in Omnivore’s Dilemma).
The seminar will also engage participants in discussions with each other on how to use what they’ve learned about cross-disciplinary approaches for curricular innovation on their home campuses. They’ll look at creating 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 seminar will be the first of five annual summer seminars — intensive, off-campus study experiences for ACM faculty. The SAIL Seminars are funded by a generous grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.