Clark celebrates 25 years of the Higgins School of Humanities

♦ Fall Symposium to focus on ‘Why We Educate’ ♦ 

This fall, Clark University’s Higgins School of Humanities will celebrate 25 years since its founding by Alice Coonley Higgins.  Since 1986, the Higgins School as provided a wealth of support through grants for humanities faculty research, sponsored innovative interdisciplinary seminars, and convened innumerable public programs, conferences, faculty talks, exhibits and community conversations.

“Alice Higgins was a remarkable friend to Clark, and the Humanities School she endowed has grown and flourished in a variety of ways since its inception in 1986,” said Sarah Buie, director of the School.  Buie says the School has created “a community of humanists strongly woven into the larger community of the University and beyond, one that aims to be a public forum—a place of exploration and conversations for everyone across the issues that most concern us.”

Events in the symposium aim to “renew the deep purposes of higher education." ~ Sarah Buie

A participatory installation devoted to Higgins, “Thanks to Alice,” will launch Clark’s Fall Difficult Dialogues Symposium, “Educating…for what?”  Events in the symposium will make use of funding Clark received from the Mellon Foundation to have a "dialogue" between the humanities and Clark’s Liberal Education and Effective Practice (LEEP) curriculum reform initiative.

A complete list of symposium events follows. Unless otherwise stated, all events in this symposium are sponsored by the Higgins School of Humanities and the Difficult Dialogues Program. For more information on any of these events, call 508-793-7479.


  • “Twenty-five years of the Higgins School of Humanities”/“Thanks to Alice” exhibit                    
  • Friday, Sept. 23; 4 to 6 p.m.
  • Dana Commons, second floor lounge 

A participatory installation celebrating Alice Coonley Higgins and the humanities center she founded.


  • “Revolutionizing Teaching and Learning with Digital Visualizing Technologies” -  The “Wired!” Experiment at Duke (From the Frontiers in the Humanities series)
  • Monday, Sept.  26; 4:30 p.m.
  • Dana Commons, second floor lounge

Caroline Bruzelius, of Duke University, is conducting groundbreaking work in digital humanities in her teaching and research on medieval architecture. Four years ago, a team of art historians, computer scientists, and engineers launched an experiment to see if visualization technologies could be integrated with teaching art and architectural history. The results are establishing a new paradigm for studying the past that integrates scholarly research with courses and course projects.

Professor Bruzelius, academic lead of the project, will share the team's experiences with our audience.  Bruzelius is Anne Murnick Cogan Professor of Art and Art History at Duke University, where she has taught since 1981.  She is an historian of medieval architecture and sculpture in France and Italy; her research interests include monastic architecture and planning, city planning, death and burial in the middle ages, and mendicant architecture.


  • “Effective Practice”
  • Tuesday, Sept. 27; 7 p.m.
  • Dana Commons, second floor lounge

John Makransky, Professor of Buddhism and comparative theology at Boston College and a teacher in the Dzogchen tradition of Tibetan Buddhism, and Alan Lightman, physicist, writer and activist, and adjunct faculty member at MIT, will host a conversation about practice.  They both have lives profoundly rooted in questions of practice.


  • “Questions of Meaning and Purpose”
  • Wednesday, Oct. 5; 7 p.m. 
  • Dana Commons, second floor lounge

As part of the fall dialogue symposium, Arthur Zajonc, professor of physics at Amherst College, will participate in a conversation with Diana Chapman Walsh, former President of Wellesley College, about questions of meaning and purpose.  Zajonc has taught at Amherst College since 1978; he currently directs the Center for Contemplative Mind in Society, which supports appropriate inclusion of contemplative practice in higher education.  In their work and their writing, they both inspire and ignite conversations around the issue of integrative education.


  • “How we teach (thanks to Alice)”
  • Wednesday, Oct. 12; 6:30 p.m.
  • Dana Commons, second floor lounge

The Higgins School has had an important impact on pedagogical practices at Clark over the years, through both the Higgins seminar program and the Difficult Dialogues initiative. Betsy Huang, Scott Hendricks, Sarah Buie and John Sarrouf will share their experiences, followed by conversation among all those present.


  • “Educating… for What?  (The Student View)”
  • Thursday, Oct. 13; 4:30 p.m.
  • Dana Commons, second floor lounge

How do some recent Clark graduates now see their undergraduate experience? Does it serve them as they move into the rest of their lives? Which of its purposes (as they understand them) were fulfilled, and which were not? Jane Androski ’02 and Abhishek Raman ’09 will anchor a conversation with other Clark alums on how they understand the purposes of undergraduate education, from the perspective of their postgraduate experiences.


  • “Livelihood and Vocation”
  • Tuesday, Oct. 18; 7 p.m.
  • Dana Commons second floor lounge

Lynn Pasquerella, President of Mount Holyoke College, and David Angel, President of Clark University, will engage in a conversation on livelihood. 


  • “Ancient Criticisms Of Presocratic Cosmology” - featuring Daniel W. Graham, Brigham Young University
  • Thursday, Oct. 27; 4 p.m.
  • Beck House, Seminar Room, 11 Loudon St., Worcester

Just as Presocratic cosmology was coming into its own, it was attacked by critics for theorizing about phenomena beyond any possibility of verification and for concerning itself with matters irrelevant to the most pressing human concerns. To what extent are these criticisms justified? And what can be learned from this dispute about the relation between the sciences and the humanities today? The lecture will consider these questions. Sponsored by Clark’s Department of Philosophy. For more information, call 508-793-7414. 


  • "Two Stages of Early Greek Cosmology" with Daniel W. Graham, Brigham Young University
  • Thursday, Oct. 27; 7:30 p.m.
  • Lurie Conference Room, Higgins University Center, 950 Main St.

It is usually supposed that the earliest stage of Greek cosmology—that of the so-called Presocratic philosophers—is nothing more than a collection of disparate theories bearing no developmental relations to one another. Professor Graham will argue that there is a clear line of development caused by profound advancements in observational astronomy. The issue is important not only for the history of Greek thought but also for our conceptions of the nature of scientific progress and of the change of scientific theories. Sponsored by Clark’s Department of Philosophy. For more information, call 508-793-7414. 


  • “Engagement and Citizenry”
  • Thursday, Nov. 3; 7:30 p.m.
  • Dana Commons, second floor lounge                                

A conversation with long-time activist Tom Hayden, the primary author of the Port Huron Statement of Students for a Democratic Society, which became known for its advocacy of “participatory democracy,” and Clark Sociology Professor Robert (Bob) Ross,  who participated with Hayden in the founding of SDS. This is sponsored by the International Studies Stream, the Department of Sociology, the Higgins School of Humanities and the Difficult Dialogues Program. For more information, call 508-793-7479.


  • “Inquiry and Reflection”
  • Wednesday, Nov. 16; 7 p.m.
  • Dana Commons, second floor lounge

Frederick Luis Aldama of Ohio State University, a prolific scholar of wide-ranging interests, and Cynthia Enloe, research professor at Clark—whose work is characterized by her subtle and provocative curiosity, and the asking of good questions—will discuss inquiry.   


  • “Generically Human”
  • Thursday, Nov. 17; 7 p.m.
  • Dana Commons, second floor lounge

Alexander F. Chamberlain (1865–1914) came to Clark in 1890 to study with Franz Boas and in 1892 received the first doctorate in anthropology in America. Later that year, when Boas moved to Columbia University, Chamberlain succeeded him in teaching anthropology at Clark.

In his lecture, "Clark’s Alexander F. Chamberlain as 'restless reformer,' Professor John David Smith focuses on the nexus between Chamberlain’s anthropological research and his reform writings. A “restless reformer,” Chamberlain tirelessly challenged racial hierarchies, championed African American life and culture, and criticized American imperialism at the fin de siècle. John David Smith is the Charles H. Stone   Distinguished Professor of American History at The University of North Carolina at Charlotte,   where he teaches courses on the American South, the Civil War, and African American slavery and emancipation. Professor Smith has been a fellow of the American Council of Learned Societies and received the Myers Center Award for the Study of Human Rights in North America.  This event is part of the African American Intellectual Culture Series.   For more information, contact the Higgins School of Humanities at 508-793-7479.


  • "Poetry of Resilience” (documentary screening)
  • Wednesday Nov. 30; 4:30 p.m., 7 p.m. and 9:30 p.m.
  • Thursday Dec. 1;  noon
  • Dana Commons, second floor lounge

"Poetry of Resilience" is a documentary by Academy Award-nominated Katja Esson about six international poets who individually survived Hiroshima, the Holocaust, China’s Cultural Revolution, the Kurdish Genocide in Iraq, the Rwandan Genocide, and the Iranian Revolution. These six artists (Li-Young Lee, Lillian Boarks-Nemetz, Majid Naficy, Alexandre Kimenyi, Yasuhiko Shigemoto and Choman Hardi) present us with a close-up perspective of the “wide shot” of political violence. Each story is powerful, but the film’s strength comes from the collective voice: different political conflicts, cultures, genders, ages, races—one shared human narrative. As we follow these survivors into their past and present we learn that they write for different reasons: to remember, to take revenge, to curse, to forgive, to honor, to commemorate, to transcend. For all, poetry was the gift that restored.


  • “Creativity and Resilience” 
  • Thursday, Dec. 1; 7 p.m.
  • Dana Commons, second floor lounge

A conversation by filmmaker Katja Esson, poet Li-Young Lee, and co-producer Alison Granucci. They are collaborators on the new film "Poetry of Resilience," which will be shown on November 30 and December 1.

Clark’s Difficult Dialogues program is part of the National Difficult Dialogues Initiative to create a culture of dialogue on college campuses. In 2006, Clark was one of twenty-seven independent programs nationwide, selected from over 700 colleges and universities to have their original dialogue initiative program funded by the Ford Foundation.