By Gerson Moreno-Riano, October 4, 2010 in Professional Development, ISI in the News
We escaped the echo chamber syndrome – the virus in which academics only talk to other academics who confirm and re-affirm what each believe to be true. At the most recent meeting of the American Political Science Association (APSA), the Lehrman American Studies Center sponsored two faculty initiatives: a short course and a working group on the topic of statesmanship and democracy. Both of these efforts are part of a substantive set of initiatives on the part of the Center to reach audiences beyond its traditional constituency. It is great to report that both efforts were quite successful.
I had the privilege of organizing, facilitating, and leading both of these initiatives with the support of the Lehrman American Studies Center and several Lehrman Fellows (i.e., Lee Trepanier, Glen Moots, and Joe Fornieri). The Center’s Executive Director, Ms. Kelly Hanlon, served an indispensible role in these efforts.
One of the most rewarding aspects of these initiatives was the ability to extend the reach of the Center beyond its traditional supporters. In both initiatives, scholars from various American and international universities were in attendance representing a variety of methodological approaches, sociopolitical contexts, and political traditions. It was this aspect of these initiatives that in my estimation made them so successful. For through these projects we were able to dialogue and collaborate with scholars very different than ourselves. We discussed some very important questions and engaged in some thorny areas of dialogue regarding statesmanship, democracy, and citizenship. Yet we did so among a group that was very diverse both ideologically and methodologically. We may never see these scholars again yet it is satisfying to know that our conversations caused us all to think and re-think as well as confirm and question various assumptions and conclusions about the topics at hand.
At the end of both initiatives, everyone walked away to their different areas of responsibility. I think, however, that we all walked away more refined through the critical engagement in which we participated. And, furthermore, I want to believe that we walked away having fulfilled in a small way the mission of the Center – shaping the academy for the betterment of the teaching and learning of American foundational principles. Not a bad day in the office after all!