A new faculty lecture series rolls out with the mission of fueling cerebral life on campus.
By Mary Jo Patterson
An intellectual feast, with food and drink and an occasional visiting star. That’s the concept guiding the creation of the Drew Faculty Seminar set to debut February 21.
Four deans and eight faculty members spent the fall designing the series, intended to draw in faculty and staff from the entire Drew community. “It will be a mix of scholarship offered by Drew faculty, outside speakers of some prominence and panel discussions,” says Robert Ready, interim dean of the Caspersen School of Graduate Studies, one of the planners. “The idea is to create a more vibrant intellectual culture in this university.”
The first seminar, “Behavior, Ethics and Computations in the Brain,” is scheduled next Tuesday at 4 p.m. in Mead Hall’s Founders Room. The panel includes Graham Cousens, assistant professor of psychology; Minjoon Kouh, assistant professor of physics and Elias Ortega-Aponte, assistant professor of Afro-Latina/o religions and cultural studies.
The new seminar is actually a reinvigorated version of a very old Drew institution, the Aquinas Seminar, which launched in the fall of 1970 and held its final meeting Oct. 3, 2011. For 41 years interested faculty and staff gathered regularly to hear lecturers that included British philosopher Owen Barfield and University of Pennsylvania sociologist Philip Reiff, a specialist on Freud.
During its first three years, the seminar examined the relationship between psychology and history, a topic requested by its early funder, the Aquinas Fund of New York. Later it took on all kinds of annual themes, chosen by a steering committee. They ranged from “Self and Identity” and “Events That Transform Thinking” to “Dimensions of Global Awareness,” following 9/11.
“It was always very exciting. I always felt as if I was on the cutting edge of all these different intellectual currents,” says trustee emerita Shirley Sugerman, a psychoanalyst and former Drew adjunct in religion who coordinated the Aquinas Seminar from its inception. But in recent years attendance declined, especially among new faculty members. “It was losing its luster. We needed new people, new energy.”