Chair and Professor of History
True confessions. The new format for Strategic Visions was not my idea. The CENFAD colloquium was not my idea. The major research initiatives were not my idea. Indeed, in certain fundamental respects, I’m losing my grip on CENFAD. I could not be more delighted.
In the past several issues of the newsletter, I’ve used this column to write something intended to provoke thought and conversation about contemporary issues of great concern to our membership. I will continue to do so; we live in global environment about which those of us who study force and diplomacy can’t help but speak up. That’s not what I’m going to write about this time, however; I’m going to confine myself to my confessions.
Why is Strategic Visions now written and produced by the graduate students? Because they wanted to do it, and for what I consider the best of reasons. Over the past several years Greg Urwin had done a great job as editor. We all owe him a great debt, and that debt will grow because of his involvement as faculty advisor. But we owed the graduate students as well. We were not living up to what we promised. Many students come to Temple primarily because of CENFAD. We offer an institutional structure within a Department of History distinctive from anything available at other top-flight universities. Yet to a great extent, the graduate students, a remarkably talented group of young scholars, were forced to the sidelines. They remained on the outside looking in—as CENFAD’s faculty associates, its invited guests, its members, had all the “fun.” We gave presentations, we brainstormed about research projects and wrote grant proposals, we arranged for lectures and workshops—and yes, we published a newsletter. In the fall the graduate students approached Regina Gramer and me. We don’t really feel part of the CENFAD community, they complained. The undergraduates have SCENFAD. We don’t have anything other than our classes (and in the fall we offered too few).
We met together, and out of this meeting sprang what I think can be safely described as the beginnings of a revolution in the CENFAD “culture.” That Strategic Visions is now the collective product of the graduate students is integral to that revolution. We (especially Greg) are around always to kibbutz, of course. But the students, working together, decide the content. In many ways, those decisions reflect their development as scholars and concerned students. We will learn from them. I personally think this will be a very salutary and instructive reversal of roles.
The proposal to launch a CENFAD Colloquium actually predated this meeting—the students proposed it without any input from the faculty. They wanted more intellectual stimulation than we were providing. Their appetite was insatiable. They honored me by asking me to speak at the inaugural colloquium. Imagine how I reacted to the full house in attendance—students, faculty, and members. And look what has happened since. Ideas for different colloquia came in so rapidly and in such volume that we ended up overscheduling ourselves. These colloquia include talks and roundtables focusing on the research initiatives spearheaded by Regina Gramer with the vital assistance of, yes, graduate students (Drew McKevitt and Wendy Wong deserve special kudos). But no one has complained of too much of a good thing. Still, next fall we’ll try to be more patient and put together a more reasonable schedule. We have many semesters ahead of us.
I can’t wait.