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Fall 2002

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President’s message
Curiosity and creativity

This summer the Skidmore Shop’s “campus authors” section was bursting its seams with titles like:

  • Charles M. Joseph’s Stravinsky and Balanchine—A Journey of Invention (which made the cover of the New York Times Book Review)

  • Kathryn Davis’s novel Versailles (also a New York Times and New Yorker pick)

  • Sheldon Solomon’s In the Wake of 9/11: The Psychology of Terror

  • Mason Stokes’s The Color of Sex: Whiteness, Heterosexuality, and the Fictions of White Supremacy

  • Roy Ginsberg’s European Union in International Politics: Baptism by Fire

  • Jennifer Delton’s Making Minnesota Liberal: Civil Rights and the Transformation of the Democratic Party

     These are just a few of the faculty-authored volumes published recently (for descriptions, see “Books” in this and past issues of Scope). And books are only one manifestation of scholarly productivity. This academic year alone, Skidmore faculty and students have pursued scholarship in topological graph theory, with applications in computer chip design; analysis of early childhood literature and reading among U.S. and South African students; curating of Tang Museum exhibits on the genetic revolution, body adornments in Africa, and Victorian book illustration; community justice principles in Vermont and at Skidmore; and myriad other subjects.
     Why do we care that faculty are writing books, conducting research, and generating artistic work? The simple answer is that it’s good for the students and it’s good for the faculty—and so it’s good for Skidmore.
     Studying alongside faculty who are doing serious work in their fields shows students what it means to be intellectually creative and rigorous. Students see their teachers frame a question, master a complex body of knowledge, debate and challenge findings, develop their perspective critically and imaginatively, and communicate ideas cogently. They see the discipline and curiosity—and the frustration, dead ends, and redirection—inherent in serious research. Perhaps best of all, they see people they respect pursuing their passions to that magical point when work turns into joy.
     Students enroll at Skidmore because they will study with terrific teachers whose scholarship contributes to the richness of the students’ experience and because they will learn and live with other bright, creative students. Faculty join the college because they will collaborate closely with students and colleagues who share their excitement about engaging in creative thought. When these fine minds interact, they spark new ideas, which catalyze new scholarship, which enhances Skidmore’s reputation for excellence. Along with making you proud of Skidmore, each wave of accomplishment and recognition helps the college attract even better students and faculty, and so it goes.
     A false dichotomy is sometimes posited between teaching and scholarship, as though they were disconnected. Not here. In fact, at Skidmore the classroom is often the wellspring of faculty scholars’ hypotheses, experiments, and questions. Their scholarship in turn engages their students in the most challenging and real learning experiences. Chuck Joseph has said that the idea of probing the partnership between Stravinsky and Balanchine grew out of his classes, and that his insights on the subject were honed in seminar discussions with his students.
     Likewise, the creative energies that generate faculty Fulbright Scholars (most recently Mary-Elizabeth O’Brien in German film) also beget student Fulbright Scholars, such as Robert Ingenito ’01 and Kelly Sullivan ’02 (both featured in this issue of Scope). And the Lubin Professorship for Women in Science, which supports Mary Crone’s advances in astronomy, also helped Skidmore obtain Clare Booth Luce Scholarships for women studying science, the first recipients of which are Bond Caldaro ’04 and Michal Pinkham ’04 (also featured in this Scope). All across campus, our students are the direct beneficiaries of our investment in their teachers’ scholarship and creativity.


© 2002 Skidmore College