Columbia College Core Curriculum: Call for Visiting Professor Applications

Columbia University invites applications from tenured faculty members who have an active interest and accomplishments in liberal arts teaching and curricular development for an appointment in the 2018-2019 academic year as Visiting Professor in the Columbia College Core Curriculum.

Visiting Professors in the Core Curriculum will receive a salary of up to $90,000 for a year-long appointment in one of Columbia University’s Humanities or Social Science departments within the Faculty of Arts and Sciences. They will also be eligible for University housing or receive a housing stipend.

Responsibilities during the year-long appointment include:

  1. Teach one course per semester in the Core Curriculum and possibly one departmental course in the year;
  2. Pursue a scholarly project related to liberal arts education or a text taught in the Core Curriculum;
  3. Participate in weekly Core faculty meetings;
  4. Develop a curricular plan for implementation at the home institution;
  5. Participate in a summer institute the summer following the academic year in which the recipient returns to his or her home institution.

The Columbia College Core Curriculum

Since 1919, the Core Curriculum has been the centerpiece of the undergraduate intellectual experience at Columbia College. The Core Curriculum consists of five required courses in important books and works of art and music in the Western tradition. The courses are meant to prompt students to grapple with fundamental questions of human existence and to think deeply about how the contemporary world has been shaped by the past. With an emphasis on oral and written expression, the courses also hone students’ skills of analysis, clear and cogent argumentation, and persuasive exposition.

The Core Curriculum is taken by all undergraduates at Columbia College in small seminars of around twenty students each. Two of the courses are year-long, allowing students the rare opportunity to read and discuss important books with the same instructor and the same group of peers for an entire year. Visiting Professors will teach one of the year-long courses in the Core Curriculum: Literature Humanities or Introduction to Contemporary Civilization, and possibly one course in a home department.

Literature Humanities (whose formal name is Masterpieces of Western Literature and Philosophy), is taken by all first-year students in the College. Beginning with Homer, students read and discuss, chronologically, one important book each week, up to the present. As in all Core courses, each section of Literature Humanities has a maximum of 22 students, and every section reads the same syllabus in tandem.

Introduction to Contemporary Civilization in the West (or simply Contemporary Civilization) is the original Core course and has been offered without interruption since the year 1919. Contemporary Civilization is taken by every College sophomore. Beginning with Plato’s Republic, and advancing chronologically, students read classics of moral and political philosophy, including the Hebrew Bible, the New Testament, and the Holy Qur’an, up to the present.

Every week, the teaching staff of each of these courses meets over lunch to discuss the text to be taught the following week. These faculty meetings bring together instructors from nearly all humanities and social science departments in the University and from every stage of the academic career: retired professors, tenured faculty, junior faculty, postdoctoral lecturers, advanced graduate students, and adjunct professors.

Courses in the Core Curriculum share four basic characteristics which, together, embody the College’s intellectual and institutional commitment to liberal arts education: 1. they are required courses with a shared syllabus; 2. they focus on primary texts, eschewing secondary or scholarly literature; 3. they are small, discussion-driven seminars; and 4. they are taught by an interdisciplinary faculty.

Ultimately, the Columbia Core Curriculum aims to cultivate the capacity for reasoned judgment in complex human matters. Students examine texts and works of art that confront them with fundamental questions of the human experience. By analyzing complex and challenging works closely and discussing them in small groups, the Core aims to develop in students a deep capacity for inquiry and a life-long habit of self-examination and honest engagement with the world. Our approach to learning aims to make students more deeply aware of the premises that inform their views and of the ultimate values that guide their decision-making. This awareness heightens the intensity with which students pursue the rest of their studies at Columbia and shapes how they go about organizing their lives beyond their college years. In this way, the Core Curriculum seeks to cultivate virtues of both intellect and character. Our focus is not on the mastery of particular bodies of knowledge, but on the development of the human capacities required for a life of self-reflection, deliberative action, and freedom. The small classes and intimate discussions promote an intellectual and affective integration in students that carries beyond the classroom and into the rest of their lives. The Core educates by affirming each student’s intellectual freedom, irreducible worth, moral autonomy, and dignity.

Application Materials

Applications should be submitted beginning December 1, 2017.
Click here to submit application.

  1. Proposal for Scholarly Project (1000-word maximum)
    Please describe the scholarly project you will undertake during the Fellowship. Projects should investigate any aspect of the history, state, and prospects of liberal arts education. Projects may also focus on a work commonly taught in liberal arts programs.
  2. Curriculum Development Plan (1000-word maximum)
    Applicants should demonstrate a commitment to the development and implementation of liberal arts curricula. Columbia is interested in the creation, extension, enrichment, or revision of programs within the applicant’s home institution. An ideal curricular plan would enjoy institutional support for core text courses that are required of all students. But the Selection Committee is interested in any approach to broad-based liberal arts education that would benefit from exposure to Columbia’s Core Curriculum.Please describe your curricular plan and how the Visiting Professorship will help you in thinking about and acting on curriculum development initiatives at your home institution. The promise and viability of the curricular plan and the level of support it enjoys at the home institution will be significant factors in the selection process.
  3. Curriculum Vitae (CV)
  4. Two References
    Applicants should secure two references that speak to the candidate’s teaching record and commitment to liberal arts and humanistic education.
  5. Letter of Support for Curricular Plan
    A letter of support from the relevant senior academic officer at the home institution should accompany the Curriculum Development Plan.

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