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Monday, Mar 4, 2024

News in Brief: At the fall faculty forum, academic discourse across disciplines flourishes, in-person

Middlebury College hosted its fourth annual Fall Faculty Forum on Friday, Oct. 29, an event which gave professors and students an opportunity to learn more about projects and initiatives their fellow faculty members have been working on.

In true liberal arts fashion, the subject matter of faculty presentations was wide in scope. 

Topics ranged from discussions about democratic versus autocratic tendencies in Muslim-majority countries to lectures about mathematical modeling of neural networks.

The forum provided professors, who are usually focused on teaching classes and conducting research, a chance to explore topics in different academic disciplines than their own. The forum also allowed faculty to share findings from their own discipline with their colleagues and students.

Presentations began with a lecture given by a professor, followed by a panel discussion where audience members could interact with presenters and gain further insight into their research. 

Greg Pask, associate professor of biology currently beginning his second year at Middlebury, said that it was fascinating to discover what his colleagues were up to. 

Pask noted that it was exciting to see an increasing level of diversity on display at the forum, noting in particular the “Women Gaining STEAM” panel, which featured topics on an array of scientific disciplines, all led by women.

Other presentations included Assistant Professor of American Studies Ellery Foutch’s lecture about how history can be constructed, reconstructed and, potentially, lost.

Foutch’s presentation included a history on relic bells and furniture of the mid-1800s designed by Vermonter Henry L. Sheldon. Sheldon made these pieces out of old wood and coins to reflect history, but in the process, also destroyed pieces of history, raising questions about the construction of history.

Reflecting the sentiments of several panelists, Pask emphasized the benefits of the ability to exchange ideas in-person. 

“Because of the pandemic this past year, it’s been quite hard to keep up with everyone, and this event provided a great opportunity to reconnect with both professors and students,” Pask said.