Home » Faculty Selected to Participate in SAIL Seminar, “Considering Animals,” in Washington, DC

Faculty Selected to Participate in SAIL Seminar, “Considering Animals,” in Washington, DC

Faculty Selected to Participate in SAIL Seminar, “Considering Animals,” in Washington, DC December 22, 2011

Next summer, 15 faculty will travel to Washington, DC, to embark on a cross-disciplinary exploration of the interconnections between animals and humans. “Considering Animals,” ACM’s inaugural Seminar in Advanced Interdisciplinary Learning (SAIL) on July 8-18, 2012, will utilize many of the significant places and resources related to animals in and around our nation’s capital.

The seminar participants come from six ACM colleges. A three-person leadership team from Lake Forest and Carleton Colleges was selected through a competitive process last summer to design the seminar syllabus and lead the group during its residency in DC. Following a call for participants in September, cross-disciplinary faculty teams from Beloit, Grinnell, Luther, and Macalester Colleges were chosen to participate in “Considering Animals.”


With a wide variety of disciplinary backgrounds in the natural sciences, social sciences, and humanities, the faculty will come to the seminar equipped with academic expertise and curiosity for the subject matter.

  • For Andrew Billing (Macalester College), the seminar topic aligns closely to his current research project, which focuses on the “moral and political values attributed to the animal/human distinction in the Enlightenment.”
  • Matt Tedesco (Beloit College) also found a ready connection between the topic and his own research interests, noting that his recent work on euthanasia “explicitly raise[s] the question of personhood: what does it mean to be a person, and how should we think about personhood in the context of both human and non-human animals?”
  • Vicki Bentley-Condit (Grinnell College), whose work in primatology relates to the seminar topic, looks forward to being in Washington, where the seminar participants might have opportunities to interact with decision-makers who address questions about the distinctions between animals and humans.

SAIL Seminar:

Considering Animals

July 8-18, 2012

Washington, DC

In some cases, members of the seminar group bring a practical passion that grounds their interest in the topic of animal studies.

  • Kristin Bonnie (Beloit College), for example, has recently become a volunteer puppy raiser for a local guide-dog organization, where she has “witnessed the powerful ways in which dogs can connect with humans around a single purpose, and the ways in which dogs can bring a diverse group of people together around a common goal.”
  • Ellen Drewes-Stoen (Luther College) and Scott Hurley (Luther College) also have years of experience as dog trainers. Hurley has worked with the Humane Society of Northeast Iowa, rehabilitating dogs for placements into homes; he looks forward to visiting the Dogs Deserve Better Good Newz Rehab Center during the seminar.

An important consideration in selecting the faculty teams was their potential for using the seminar to design and test cross-disciplinary curricular innovations for upper-level students on their home campuses. For example, the members of the Grinnell team plan to incorporate the seminar learning into their individual classes.  They also anticipate organizing an exhibition at Grinnell’s Faulconer Gallery, led by Lesley Wright, in conjunction with collection-based course modules and interactions for Jackie Brown and Vicki Bentley-Condit.

The Beloit team members, similarly, will pursue expansions and revisions to individual courses that they teach. They also plan to explore the possibility of creating a campus reading group on the topic of animals, and from there, generating ideas to “[build] on this larger interest in the topic at our campus.”

The SAIL seminars, funded by a generous grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, provide an intensive “study-away” opportunity for ACM faculty, in which they can explore a broad topic from multiple disciplinary perspectives in connection with a specific location. The cross-disciplinary nature of the seminar means that participants can approach a complex topic from the standpoint of both specialist and novice. “Considering Animals” will be the first of five annual SAIL seminars, which will alternate between domestic and international sites.

2012 SAIL Seminar participants

* denotes members of the leadership team

  • *Glenn Adelson, Associate Professor of Environmental Studies, Lake Forest College
  • *Janet McCracken, Professor of Philosophy, Lake Forest College
  • *Kim Smith, Associate Professor of Political Science and Director of Environmental Studies, Carleton College
  • Kristin Bonnie, Assistant Professor of Psychology, Beloit College
  • Kathryn Johnson, Assistant Professor of Biology, Beloit College
  • Matt Tedesco, Associate Professor of Philosophy, Beloit College
  • Vicki Bentley-Condit, Professor of Anthropology, Grinnell College
  • Jonathan (Jackie) Brown, Professor of Biology, Grinnell College
  • Lesley Wright, Director, Faulconer Gallery and Lecturer in Art History, Grinnell College
  • Brian Caton, Associate Professor of History, Luther College
  • Ellen Drewes-Stoen, Assistant Professor of Health and Physical Education, Luther College
  • Scott Hurley, Adjunct Professor of Religion, Luther College
  • Andrew Billing, Assistant Professor of French and Francophone Studies, Macalester College
  • Scott Legge, Assistant Professor of Anthropology, Macalester College
  • Eric Wiertelak, Professor of Psychology and Director of Neuroscience Studies, Macalester College


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