Parents and Families
A diverse group of Bowdoin faculty spent two days over spring break getting to know an often invisible side of the community.
During their intensive “field trip,” 11 professors met with representatives of a number of Brunswick- and Portland-based nonprofit and civic organizations that work on behalf of immigrants, refugees, children, the poor or the homeless.
The faculty participants come from a range of academic fields: government, Spanish, education, anthropology, theater, dance, music, economics, math, history and chemistry.
The McKeen Center for the Common Good Director Sarah Seames and Associate Director for Courses and Research Janice Jaffe, with Senior Faculty Fellow Nancy Jennings, organized and led the trip. One of the priorities of the McKeen Center is to help professors explore topics of public concern through connections with the community and to assist faculty who are interested in incorporating community issues into their teaching or scholarship. This recent field trip was a pilot program that Seames hopes to continue offering to faculty members, particularly recent hires.
“The goal was to give faculty the opportunity to get to know the community better, the issues in the community, and the partnerships we’ve developed with community organizations,” Seames explained. “Beyond thinking about courses, we wanted to just give faculty the chance to make connections based on their own interests in the community.”
Katie Byrnes, a visiting assistant professor of education who went on the field trip, said she benefited from meeting many community partners that serve disadvantaged youth and adults. “My take-away was that there are endless possibilities to incorporate community engagement in courses,” she said, “and it reinforced how powerful it is for us and for students to connect theory and practice in the learning process.”
Assistant Professor of Economics Erik Nelson said the trip was an opportunity to hear about and temporarily glimpse some of the conditions under which the more marginalized members of the Midcoast Maine/Portland community live. “These are human stories that I would have never experienced otherwise. Also, as someone who never spent any time in Maine before accepting the Bowdoin position, it did give me exposure to some of the equality, cultural and public policy challenges in Brunswick and Portland that as an “outsider” I was not aware of,” he said.
The trip started off with a presentation at the Brunswick Housing Authority by Executive Director John Hodge and Craig McEwen, Bowdoin’s Daniel B. Fayerweather Professor of Political Economy and Sociology Emeritus. The Authority helps find affordable housing for low-income people. Over the years, McEwen’s students have provide it with surveys and data on its clients and programs.
“[McEwen] was able to talk about how he incorporated research into his courses and built this long-term relationship with John Hodge,” Seames said. “It was good to hear from a faculty member who has done this and hear what he saw as the reward for his classes.”Seames said she consistently hears positive feedback from students whose classes become engaged with the community. “Students appreciate being able to connect theories and philosophical concepts they’re learning in the classroom with concrete situations,” she said. “They are able to apply this knowledge to ‘real life.’ The students volunteering in the soup kitchen and also taking a class in economics start to make stronger connections.”
The rest of the field trip included meetings with representatives from Tedford Housing, Mid Coast Hunger Prevention Program, ArtVan and the United Way of Mid Coast Maine, all Brunswick organizations. The group also heard from staff from four organizations that help immigrant and refugee communities in Portland, including Immigrant Legal Advocacy Project, Portland Adult Education, Community Financial Literacy, and the City of Portland Refugee Services Office. They also went on a tour of Preble Street, a homeless advocacy and assistance organization in Portland, with Executive Director Mark Swann ’84. And they spoke with the Portland mayor, the Portland superintendent of schools, and a staff member of The Mitchell Institute.
The group spent the night in Portland and ate out at local restaurants. “It was a really full two days,” Seames said, likening the program to the community-service trips that students go on during Orientation or for Alternative Winter and Spring Break trips. “We tried to make the whole experience our version of community immersion for faculty.”
With the benefit of having had an early sneak peek at the Per Kirkeby exhibition opening this week at the Bowdoin College Museum of Art, Dean for Academic Affairs Cristle Collins Judd offers context to the Danish artist, his background in geology and their appropriate convergence against a backdrop of the liberal arts. This is the first in a series of columns by Dean Judd about happenings in the academic program at the College.
“To count nature a familiar acquaintance and art an intimate friend….” That line from The Offer of the College has a special resonance this spring at Bowdoin as the Bowdoin College Museum of Art opens this week a spectacular exhibition of the work of the Danish painter Per Kirkeby. Bowdoin is the only other U.S. venue for this exhibition, which originated at the Phillips Collection in Washington, D.C., to rave reviews (and a recent nod to the exhibition catalogue in The New York Times highlights the opening here).
Having just enjoyed the privilege of a sneak preview as the installation was going up, I can confirm that the paintings and bronzes of the exhibition will speak boldly to art lovers and museum-goers in a beautiful presentation in our stunning museum. The art and the building — and the ability of one to relate to the other – have arguably never looked better. But viewers of the exhibition here at Bowdoin will have an opportunity that the Phillips Collection simply couldn’t provide: a deep and rich context for the appreciation of these works. By doing what we do best as the home of a college art museum – making connections across and throughout the curriculum – Per Kirkeby’s art will engage the campus in programming that will not only provide revelations on the artwork, but in which art and the way we understand it will speak directly to our contemplation and study of nature and science and vice versa.
By doing what we do best as the home of a college art museum – making connections across and throughout the curriculum – Per Kirkeby’s art will engage the campus in programming that will not only provide revelations on the artwork, but in which art and the way we understand it will speak directly to our contemplation and study of nature and science and vice versa.
Per Kirkeby was originally trained as a geologist and spent time on expeditions to the arctic circle. Both of those circumstances have immediate connections for Bowdoin. We have a long and storied history of arctic exploration and study and were delighted to learn that Kirkeby had spent time in Peary Land! At the end of May, the Peary MacMillan Arctic Museum will present Peary’s and Kirkeby’s photographs of Peary Land side by side in the exhibition Views of Peary Land. And we posses a deep connection to the founding of geology as a discipline.
We often highlight the significance of the bequest by James Bowdoin III of old master drawings and federalist portraits in 1811, which formed the nucleus of what was to become one of the oldest and most prestigious art collections in the country. Less well known, perhaps, is the fact that James Bowdoin III also left the College an impressive collection of mineral specimens, technical writings and scientific instruments. At about the same time, Parker Cleaveland was appointed to the Bowdoin faculty (1805) as the first professor of “mathematics and natural philosophy.” Bowdoin’s distinguished mineral and instrument collection served as an important resource for Cleaveland’s work. Ultimately he gained a reputation as one of the founding fathers of the study of geology in North America for his textbook An Elementary Treatise on Mineralogy and Geology (first published in 1816). In the process, he built for the College an extraordinary collection of geologic specimens, which were joined to those bequeathed by James Bowdoin III. In the latter part of the 19th century these were displayed in the upper floors of Massachusetts Hall in what was known as the “Cleaveland Cabinet.”
So for us, understanding and responding to the art of this Danish geologist and arctic explorer resulted in a companion exhibit, Sense of Scale, Measure of Color: Art, Science and Mathematics of Planet Earth, organized by Mellon Postdoctoral Curatorial Fellow Sarah Montross in conjunction with faculty members Collin Roesler, Emily Peterman and Mary Lou Zeeman. This exhibition displays and engages many of the historic specimens in our collection as well as the contemporary work of these scientists in relation to understanding the shared role color, pattern and scale take on in science and art. Seeing the crystalline structures of the natural world opens our eyes to the abstract patterns of Kirkeby’s paintings. And Kirkeby’s paintings open our interpretation for the kinds of evidence with which scientists interpret our world. A rich array of programming across the semester will include gallery talks by faculty from a number of disciplines, culminating with a dramatic reading of texts by Per Kirkeby, who is also an accomplished poet, in the galleries.
A lot has changed since the days of James Bowdoin III and Parker Cleaveland: the Museum enjoys a beautifully renovated building in which it hosts spectacular exhibitions like these. And Geology as earth system science has been reimagined in a thriving department of Earth and Oceanographic Science. But core values of understanding the value of the arts and the natural world around us remain central to the academic enterprise at Bowdoin.
“To count nature a familiar acquaintance and art an intimate friend….” Come enjoy Per Kirkeby: Paintings and Sculpture and the associated exhibition Sense of Scale, Measure of Color: Art, Science, and the Mathematics of Planet Earth. I hope you’ll find yourself moved, challenged and excited by the dialogue and synergy between these familiar acquaintances and intimate friends.
Conly is the author of the new book Against Autonomy: Justifying Coercive Paternalism, which argues that recent research by psychologist and behavorial economists shows we don’t always rationally choose the best options for ourselves.
“It’s not always worth it to intervene, but sometimes, where the costs are small and the benefit is large, it is,” Conly writes. “That’s why we have prescriptions for medicine. And that’s why, as irritating as it may initially feel, the soda regulation is a good idea. It’s hard to give up the idea of ourselves as completely rational. We feel as if we lose some dignity. But that’s the way it is, and there’s no dignity in clinging to an illusion.”
According to Steve Ostrow, a top executive at social news organization Mashable, startups could be they key to changing the culture of the workplace in America to one that maintains a healthy work-life balance. Forbes explains why the founders of these small companies could be catalysts for happier work environments.
William Pitt Fessenden, Class of 1823, is one of Bowdoin’s most illustrious alumni, having served as a U.S. Representative and Senator, and as President Abraham Lincoln’s treasury secretary. He’s also considered one of Portland’s most famous citizens—there are three city streets named after him—so it was a great surprise when a portrait of Fessenden was discovered hidden away in the attic of Portland City Hall.
You’re just going to check Facebook and then you’ll buckle down and crank it out. Coworkers at the water cooler? Must join. This other, less important task is somehow begging for your attention.
You’re not alone. Procrastination can be a powerful obstacle, but understanding it is half the battle. So, don’t delay — read about theories for why we put things off, and learn eight tricks to stay on task amid the many distractions.