All good things must come to an end, and as summer break approaches, it’s time to say good-bye to some of our visiting faculty. FM asked a few of these professors toshare their thoughts on teaching and living at Harvard.
Philip J. Deloria, Carroll Smith-Rosenberg Collegiate Professor, Department of History, University of Michigan
Harvard courses: “American Indian History in Four Acts; An Introduction to Issues in American Indian Studies: Black Elk Speaks”
1. Favorite and least favorite aspect of Harvard: I’ve enjoyed an amazing network of support, from the libraries, the Peabody Museum, the History Department, and programs like the Harvard University Native American Program and the Committee on Ethnicity, Migration, and Rights, among others. On the downside, who would have thought that winter in Boston would be more challenging than winter in Michigan?
2. Favorite food in the Square: Since I’m in Robinson Hall, I love to sit at the tables in the atrium at the Fogg Museum... close by, and the food is really good!
3. Piece of advice for students: Can I have two pieces? The first would be: Now that you know that American Indian people are absolutely central to both the past and present of the United States, you have to find ways to act on that knowledge. And the second would be: Paying unnaturally close attention to everything is not just a methodological admonition. It’s a way of life!”
Paul A. Cantor, Clifton Waller Barrett Professor of English and Comparative Literature, University of Virginia
Harvard courses: “Shakespeare and Politics”
1. Favorite and last favorite aspect of Harvard: My favorite aspect of teaching at Harvard is the quality of the students. It means that I can pitch my lectures higher and probe the subjects deeper. My one regret is that there are fewer opportunities to interact with students today, compared to when I was an assistant professor in the 1970s. The house system was more vibrant then; I, in fact, lived in Lowell House the six years I was an assistant professor, and had much more contact with students. I very much enjoyed speaking at a dinner in Kirkland House just last night.
2. Favorite food in the Square: I confess to a hankering for the fried rice and shrimp with lobster sauce at the Kong—a taste developed way back in the 1960s when I was an undergraduate.
3. Advice for students: My advice would be to focus more on your college studies and stop worrying about saving the world and building your resume. These may well be the best years of your lives, if you’ll take advantage of the opportunity to open yourselves up to the world of the liberal arts, and especially literature, art, music, and philosophy. And, above all, learn from your classmates—they’re the best thing about Harvard.
William R. Johnston, Professor of History, East Asian Studies, and Science in Society, Department of History, Wesleyan University
Harvard courses: “Japan and the Atomic Bomb in Historical Perspective
1. Favorite and least favorite aspect of Harvard: My favorite aspect of teaching at Harvard is the resources. The collections of books, manuscripts, and maps—the range of available information in Hollis and in the various databases is astounding. I always loved walking the stacks in Widener, and still do, but the digital resources and “Get It” options through Hollis make otherwise obscure materials quickly available both for classroom use and for research alike. I also like talking with the students individually, which gives me an opportunity to get to know them and help them with their work. There are many other resources that have been put to very good use—there are people in the administration who are working hard to do the most good possible. And who are succeeding. My least favorite aspect is something that friends here had told me about before, which is the tendency for students simply to go for the highest paying jobs upon graduation rather than look for ways in which they can make a positive contribution to the world around us. They are very bright and hard working but I’m astounded how many step immediately into Wall Street and other finance jobs. I keep looking for the students who want to work for Partners in Health or to take on the problems of climate chaos and environmental deterioration but haven’t found many yet—although I assume they are around.
2. Favorite Food in the Square: I’m a great fan of Santouka. Pretty much the best ramen I’ve had outside Japan, and I’ve eaten a lot of ramen there. Happy that Charlie’s is still there. Also like the kale salad at Tory Row. A brew? Still like John Harvard’s Brew House.
3. Advice for students: The one bit of advice I hope my students might absorb is to guide their lives based on principles of compassion, empathy, generosity, and openness to a broad range of ideas. And cultivate your curiosity. It is a big and wonderful world, while also one in which we, as humans, face an unprecedented crisis with the reality of climate chaos and environmental destruction. We need to work together to address those problems.
Adam Hosein, Assistant Professor, Department of Philosophy, University of Colorado
Harvard courses:" Philosophy of Law," "Moral Theories"
1. Favorite and least favorite aspect of Harvard: I’ve really enjoyed teaching at Harvard. It’s been a pleasure to interact with students in class, where I’ve found them very thoughtful, but also to learn a little bit about other aspects of their lives, for instance during office hours and at faculty dinners. I’m often impressed by what they do outside of class. Here’s something I posted on Facebook for my friends a little while back (obviously, the first line is tongue-in-cheek): “What’s with undergrads these days? One of them told me this morning about his extremely creative and socially useful startup. And later another told me about her successful efforts to help develop an entirely student-run shelter for at risk youths. Both of these activities would’ve conflicted with my rigorous extracurricular schedule at 19 of reading novels in bed.”
2. Advice for Students: The classes I teach are mostly about morality, including the morality of public policy and law. My goal isn’t to get students to adopt any particular view, but to have them understand and argue with a range of theories. What I hope they’ll take away is not any particular bit of advice but a general disposition to think independently about the major moral questions of our time.