College of Charleston students are debating their professors and reviewing books and articles on some of the most popular and heated topics in their field. It is happening in reading or work groups, which are very common at universities, but most are open only to professors and/or graduate students.
“It really is a very unique opportunity the College offers,” says Todd Grantham, professor and chair of the philosophy department. “Involving undergraduates in these discussions not only develops the relationship between students and professors, but helps prepare students for the discussions they will participate in after they graduate.”
[Related: Learn about careers in philosophy.]
The Department of Philosophy hosts a very active interdisciplinary group, called the Aesthetics Work Group. They meet several times a month to discuss theoretical works about and in the arts. Topics in the past have ranged from participatory art to the “suburban sublime” and Tibetan poetry.
Philosophy Professor Jonathan Neufeld, group moderator says, “A few weeks ago a student gave a presentation and the discussion was of such high quality, and so lively, that it was easy to forget that these weren’t grad students.” One of my colleagues remarked, “I figured it must be your group when I heard, through the closed door, people talking so animatedly about ontology.”
[Related: Find more topics on the Aesthetics Work Group blog.]
Typically this group reads works in progress from participants – both students and professors. But, they have also had professors from other universities present works and plan to have professors from Utah Valley State, UC Davis School of Law, and Columbia University join via Skype to discuss their works.
Readings are distributed a couple of weeks in advance by the person who will lead the discussion, usually the author of the readings. When the group meets, the author gives a quick background on the paper, then the group begins asking questions and discussion usually lasts for about an hour and a half.
“Even though it is a philosophical group, we have regular participants from many departments,” Neufeld explains. “German Professor Morgan Koerner presented a paper to AWG and said that he received extremely helpful feedback that prepared him well for the national meeting of the German Studies Association that he attended shortly after.”
For more information about the Aesthetics Work Group, contact Jonathan Neufeld at firstname.lastname@example.org.