As a part of Yale’s project to rethink the humanities, five Yale graduate students designed and taught undergraduate humanities seminars this semester.
The project, entitled “Re-imagining Humanities Education at Yale: an Integrated Approach,” was supported by a $1.95 million grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation in 2012. The four-year grant funded a new cross-disciplinary graduate concentration, which was offered for the first time to 12 graduate students during the 2013–14 academic year. In addition to taking a seminar, “Technologies of Knowledge.” the graduate students in the concentration were given the opportunity to collaborate in designing and teaching humanities seminars for undergraduates. Two seminars — “The Grid: Knowledge, Histories, Visualization,” and “The Classical Tradition, East and West” — were offered this semester as a result of the initiative.
Emily Greenwood, director of undergraduate studies in Classics and a member of the faculty team who taught the graduate concentration seminar last year, said that she visited “The Grid” classroom. The class, taught by Adrián Lerner Patrón GRD ’17, Anna Bokov GRD ’17 and Stephen Krewson GRD ’17, is a class that encompasses architecture, history, urban design, computer science, environmental studies and politics, according to its course description. Greenwood said she was impressed by how the instructors and students worked together to analyze the development of an electronically connected society.
“I saw two student presentations which were diametrically opposite. [They were] very, very confident, and they spoke to each other, ” Greenwood said. “It just struck me as a really good example of the way in which Yale liberal arts curriculum gives faculty and graduate instructors the freedom to explore.”
Students in the class have produced expository writing, cast cement in high density foam, composed poems, presented original research, and wrote code, Krewson said.
The other class, “The Classical Tradition,” was taught by Emily Hauser GRD ’17 and Geoffrey Moseley GRD ’16. Hauser said they aimed to bring together classical texts from both the West and the East and cross-examine their influences.
Greenwood said that by designing such interdisciplinary seminars, the graduate students are prepared for the changing direction of teaching and research in the humanities, both nationally and at Yale.
Students’ responses to the seminars were largely positive.
Hilda Huang ’17 said she enjoyed “The Classical Tradition” because it is a small and intimate class, with only four students enrolled. As a chemistry major, she said she chose the class because she wanted to try something different.
“[The course instructors] did a really good job in [bridging the East and the West tradition],” Huang said. “It is really important to use a holistic approach so I can better understand where history and humanism come from.”
The seminar instructors said that designing and teaching their own courses was a valuable experience.
Unlike teaching a section taught by Yale faculty, there was no pre-designed structure for the course, and as a result, Hauser said she and Moseley had to build the entire curriculum from scratch. Designing the course from the beginning required a lot of imagination, she said, adding that it offered her the freedom she would otherwise not have when teaching at Yale.
“The Grid” instructor Lerner Patrón also said the opportunity to design the course gave him more freedom as opposed to being a teaching assistant or teaching fellow. He added that because he was able to decide what assignments to give and what types of questions to ask, he felt a “more direct relationship” with the students.
The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation was founded on June 30, 1969.
Correction: April 23
A previous version of this article reported an incomplete name for the seminar “The Classical Tradition, East and West.”