Visiting Professors Add Spice to College Life

Kathleen Coleman had never visited the United States before. So when Harvard's Classics Department offered her a year-long position as a visiting professor of Latin, Coleman, who teaches at Trinity College, Dublin, jumped at the chance.

"This seemed a wonderful opportunity," says Coleman, who has taught four classes during her stay in Cambridge.

About 75 professors from outside Harvard have visited the Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS) this academic year, filling named lectureships, using the University's library facilities and teaching courses while regular Faculty memberstake sabbaticals.

"A number of faculty would consider it an interesting opportunity," says Carol J. Thompson, associate dean of FAS for academic affairs.

Why Visit?


According to FAS Dean Jeremy R. Knowles, visiting professors come to Harvard both to advance their own research interests and careers and to serve the University's teaching needs.

Knowles cites four main reasons why outside scholars would choose to serve as visiting professors at Harvard.

Some named prestigious lectureships--including the Norton Lecture appointment, which rotates among scholars of art, music and literature--must be filled annually by visiting experts.

Into this category also fall practitioners who fill unnamed lectureships, often supplementing departments short of Faculty members. The vast majority of those appointments occur in the Department of Visual and Environmental Studies, which regularly features studio courses taught by non-academic working artists, Thompson says.

"Visiting lecturers are the title because nothing else quite fits that works for the studio people," she says.

When full-time Faculty take sabbaticals, Knowles says, a department will often hire a visiting professor to teach an introductory or otherwise popular course if no other Faculty member is interested.

"Usually the person or group who specializes in that area tries to think about who would best compliment the instructional balance," Thompson says.

In addition, Knowles says, some professors from other schools ask to spend a semester using the Harvard libraries and teach as well.

"It can be a sabbatical year where they want to do research but they're happy to spend half-time teaching," Thompson says.

Another category includes "people who departments would like to hear from," including scholars whose work Harvard Faculty find interesting, Knowles says.

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