Tag: Humanistic Studies

Wisconsin Public Radio sings praises of Philosophers’ Café

Tune in to WPR Friday morning (6:45 or 8:45 a.m.) and you’ll hear reference to the monthly Philosophers’ Café program organized by faculty members at UW-Green Bay. We’re told that last month’s Philosophers’ Café – a discussion of higher education’s relationship to social inequality – attracted the attention of WPR’s Wisconsin Life producers. The show, which first aired on Wednesday, consists of an overview of the Philosophers’ Café series, an interview with Denise Bartell of Human Development, who presented at the Café, and Christopher Martin of Humanistic Studies, who organizes it. Wisconsin Life does a thorough job capturing the community connection, depth of topics, and comradery that the Café series has fed for the last five years. For a link to the story and WPR segment.
If you’d like to learn more about the Café.

Poet laureate Kort had UW-Green Bay ties


Author Ellen Kort died Tuesday in Appleton at age 79. Kort had ties to UW-Green Bay, back in the days when the official Wisconsin poet laureate position was new and the University held the honor closely. Former Prof. Denise Sweet of Humanistic Studies and First Nations Studies, of course, held the title with distinction from 2004-08, but before her it was Kort, the very first laureate, who occasionally taught poetry courses here. Friends remember that she touched many lives with her poetry and compassion.

Voelker’s ‘Environmental History’ class plans cleanup walk for Earth Week


The students of the American Environmental History course taught by Associate Prof. David Voelker invite the campus community to participate in a cleanup walk to commemorate Earth Day. Although Earth Day is on April 22, the walk will take place on Tuesday, April 21, from 9:30 to 10:45 a.m. (rain or shine). Participants should meet outside of the Cofrin Library on the side nearest the Environmental Sciences (ES) building, near the plaque that celebrates the Wisconsin Idea. Participants will be provided with small garbage bags and will be asked to return at 10:30. Participants will be encouraged to walk across campus to enjoy the arboretum trails. The walker who picks up the most trash will receive, as a green badge of honor, a UW-Green Bay T-shirt donated by the Phoenix Bookstore. Participants who are unable to walk on the arboretum trails are welcome to use scooters or wheelchairs on paved or gravel walkways (as appropriate) and will be paired with a partner to pick up trash. If you have any questions, please contact David Voelker.

Text: Prof. Gregory S. Aldrete’s acceptance speech for UW System teacher of the year

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UW-Green Bay Prof. Gregory S. Aldrete shared a lesson on the value of history and the humanities with the UW System Board of Regents when he received the 2015 Regents Teaching Excellence Award at the board’s meeting in Waukesha on April 10.

In his acceptance speech, Aldrete (shown with students in the file photo above, during an outdoor demonstration of ancient battle formations) told the Regents he doesn’t employ textbooks in his Greek and Roman history classes, preferring his students read and analyze original texts by people of the times. He went on to describe the three fundamental skills he seeks to encourage in his students — organizing and assessing information, communicating effectively and thinking critically — and why they’re essential in any career. He also urged the board never to lose sight of the core values of history and the humanities and the role of universities as places where questions are asked.

The full text of Aldrete’s prepared remarks:

I would like to thank the Board of Regents for honoring me with this award. I am very grateful and humbled to be selected out of so many fine teachers. I’d also like to express my appreciation to all the students that I have shared a classroom with over the last 20 years at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, as well as my colleagues there in the departments of History and Humanistic Studies. Working in such an environment and with such terrific students and dedicated faculty has been an immensely gratifying experience. Finally, I would like to offer my deepest thanks to my wife, Alicia. She is my collaborator in the classroom, the co-author of several books with me, and my partner in all things.

I’m an ancient historian, and I’d like to begin my brief comments by sharing a bit of trivia about antiquity and the discipline of history itself. The very first time that the word history was used with its current definition of “a record of past events” was by the Greek writer Herodotus, who lived over 2,000 years ago. In the opening sentence of his famous account of the wars between Greece and Persia, he stated, “These are the histories of Herodotus of Halicarnassus which he writes in the hope of preserving the memory of what human beings have done.”

However, the Greek word that he uses here, “historia,” did not originally mean “a record of the past.” Prior to Herodotus’ usage in this sentence, “historia” had simply meant “asking questions.” I have always been very strongly attracted to this original meaning of history as an act of asking questions, and, in fact, view it as being squarely at the core of my philosophy, both of teaching and of doing research. To me, the essence of teaching is the methodology pioneered by another famous person from the ancient world, Socrates, whose pedagogy consisted entirely of posing questions to his students and getting them to formulate and defend arguments.

I employ no textbooks in my classes. In all of them, the reading consists entirely of material written by the actual people that we are studying. And when I read these ancient texts with my students, we are not passively absorbing information: we actively engage the texts, we aggressively interrogate them, we rip them apart and look both for the meanings that the author intended to convey as well as those he or she did not, we consider issues of bias, and think about what sources the author had to draw upon, and we always ask, can we believe what the author says, and why, or why not.

When examining historical events, it is not a matter of memorizing what happened, but rather exploring WHY things happened, trying to understand how earlier events influenced later ones. We look at history not as an inevitable succession of discrete events, but rather as a complex network of interrelated paths taken and not taken. Discussion, argument, and analysis play a key role in these investigations, and I always try to encourage lively debate in the classroom.

In this endeavor, content is important, and the students naturally tend to think of classes in terms of what factual information they have learned, but more important is the skills that I hope they acquire in the course of this process. There are three fundamental sets of skills that I try to emphasize in all classes: First, information management: how to collect, organize, and assess information. Second, communication skills: how to express yourself clearly and persuasively, both in speech and in writing. Third, critical thinking: developing the habit of constantly evaluating information according to rigorous, objective standards, and being open to re-assessing your own beliefs according to those same standards.

These are skills that are essential and useful in ANY career, not just ones directly related to history or the humanities, and even more than that, these are valuable and beneficial to being an engaged, happy, and productive citizen, and making a positive contribution as a member of society generally.

One of the original ideas behind the foundation of the university, when they were first created as institutions during the Middle Ages, was that exposing people to this sort of Humanistic education fundamentally transformed them, and actually made them better human beings and citizens.

As a historian working in an interdisciplinary humanities department, I have to confess that there is something a little bittersweet about the timing of this award. As you are all too well aware, we live in a moment when, across the nation, the value of a university education, and especially, the value of the humanities within that education, is being challenged.

You are the Board of Regents, and the future of the UW system is in your hands. In whatever ways this wonderful education system ends up being transformed or changed over the coming years and decades, I hope that we never lose sight of the original core function of the university, which was to be a place in which informed, thoughtful citizens are forged, and above all, as a place, where questions are asked.

Thank you for your time.

Award-winning Aldrete to Regents: History isn’t history, it’s asking questions

UW-Green Bay Prof. Gregory S. Aldrete gave the UW System Board of Regents a little history lesson upon receiving the Regents Teaching Excellence Award Friday at the board’s meeting in Waukesha. He told them he favored the ancient Greek usage of the word “historia” — the asking of questions — over the more modern sense that it’s a record of past events. Aldrete told the Regents he doesn’t employ textbooks in his classes:

“The readings consist entirely of material written by the actual people that we are studying. And when I read these ancient texts with my students, we are not passively absorbing information: we actively engage the texts, we aggressively interrogate them, we rip them apart and look both for the meanings that the author intended to convey as well as those he or she did not, we consider issues of bias, and think about what sources the author had to draw upon, and we always ask, can we believe what the author says, and why, or why not.”

Aldrete went on to describe the three fundamental skills he seeks to encourage in his students — organizing and assessing information, communicating effectively, thinking critically — and why they’re essential in any career. He also urged the board never to lose sight of the core values of history and the humanities and the role of universities as places where questions are asked. We’ll have a link to Aldrete’s archived remarks in our next issue of our weekly community e-publication, the Log Extra.

Timing, webcast of Aldrete award presentation

Previously in this space, we’ve told you (several times) about Prof. Gregory S. Aldrete and the 2015 Regent Teaching Excellence Award he’ll receive during the Friday (April 10) Board of Regents meeting in Waukesha. We’ve also noted that, as always, the monthly meeting will be live-streamed from 9 a.m. to 11 or noon or so (depending on the agenda). If you’re interested in viewing the presentation, the best we can tell you is to pull up the cast, check periodically or keep it droning quietly in the background, and watch for the awards presentations which are scheduled for well into the meeting. Here’s the agenda order:

1) Calling of the roll
2) Approval of minutes
3) Report of the Board President
4) Report of the UW System President
5) Report and approval of actions taken by Research, EconDev and Innovation Committee
6) Education Committee
7) Business and Finance Committee
8) Capital Planning and Budget Committee
9) Audit Committee
10) Presentation: 2015 UW System Federal Agenda
11) Presentation of Board of Regents 2015 Teaching Excellence Awards
a. Prof. Gregory S. Aldrete, UW-Green Bay
. Prof. Shubhangi S. Stalder, UW-Waukesha
. Department of Mathematics, UW-La Crosse
12) Presentation and Discussion: One System, One Library
13) Resolution of appreciation to host campus
14) Regent communication, petitions and memorials
15) Adjourn

April 27 ‘Into the Archives’ workshop targets humanities, with visiting UNC prof


Reid Barbour, an award-winning author and professor of English at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, will be on the UW-Green Bay campus Monday, April 27, to lead “Into the Archives! A Pedagogy Workshop.” The program runs from 4 to 5:30 p.m. in the University Archives and Area Research Center on the 7th floor of the Cofrin Library. Assistant Prof. Rebecca Nesvet, a member of the Humanistic Studies faculty and UNC alumna, arranged the workshop through a Teaching Enhancement Grant from the Center for the Advancement of Teaching and Learning. She says serious, historically oriented research in the humanities is making a comeback, as open-access digital archives allow instructors in all fields to teach primary texts. Barbour’s workshop for educators is informed by his UNC graduate course Into the Archives, and will cover strategies and readings that:

• empower students to believe in the value of archival work
• encourage them to pursue independent research
• unlock and analyze physical and digital archives
• engage the issues and choices at stake
• and effectively utilize UW-Green Bay archival resources

Nesvet says participants are invited to come to the workshop with ideas for taking UW-Green Bay students into the archives, or to generate ideas during and after the workshop. There are 15 workshop places available. To RSVP, or ask questions, contact Prof. Nesvet.

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More on Barbour — Worth mentioning about Prof. Reid Barbour, the guest presenter at the April 27 teaching development workshop, is his honorable mention recognition in the 2014 Modern Language Association competition for Best Scholarly Edition. He was recognized for Complete Works of Lucy Hutchinson, Volume One: The Lucretius Translation (OUP, 2011). The recipient of several awards for undergraduate and graduate teaching, he has written or edited books including Sir Thomas Browne: A Life (Oxford UP, 2013) and, for the Oxford edition of his complete works, Sir Thomas Browne’s Religio Medici.

Russian Luncheon tickets, on sale


If you haven’t yet bought your ticket for the April 23 Russian Luncheon, you’ll need to make that purchase at the University Ticketing and Information Center by noon on Monday, April 20. There is a coupon in the faculty/staff phone directory if you haven’t used it yet, that will get you $1 off your meal. Prof. Heidi Sherman is the guest speaker. To check out the menu.