University of Vermont

College of Arts and Sciences

Professors Luis Vivanco and Alec Ewald Selected to Attend Wye Faculty Seminar

The Aspen Institute’s Wye Faculty Seminar, which looks for a cross-disciplinary selection of faculty with strong commitments to scholarship, teaching and service, has selected anthropologist Luis Vivanco, who also directs the Global and Regional Studies Program, and political scientist Alec Ewald among just 20 participants who will take part in their summer program, “Citizenship in the American and Global Polity.”

The seminar is an opportunity to both explore and experience the meaning of liberal education. Sessions are based on intellectually rigorous discussion and reflection of classic literature from antiquity to the present, exploring ideas that touch on fundamental issues of society that deepen and broaden the vision participants bring back to their campuses and classrooms.

Past readings, organized into sessions on topics such as “What is a Good Society?”; “Leadership” and “Globalization and Responsibility,” have ranged from selections from John Winthrop, Aristotle, Confucius and Rousseau to Ralph Ellison, Tillie Olsen and the five pillars of faith in the Quran.

“The Wye Faculty Seminar is one of the nation’s most prestigious professional development opportunities for liberal arts faculty,” says Antonio Cepeda-Benito, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences.  “I am delighted for Alec and Luis; their selection reflects extremely well not only on their accomplishments but also on the very high quality of the UVM faculty.

Vivanco, whose research focuses on understanding the cultural and political dimensions of environmental change and sustainability, is passionate about both teaching and liberal education. “I’m always thinking about the broader global context in which the things that I teach about are taking place,” he says, “but I’m also looking for ways to enhance global citizenship for my students, get them involved in service learning projects and then tie that to the liberal arts.” For Vivanco then, the seminar’s combination of citizenship with a global outlook is a unique fit.

“In my teaching and research,” says Ewald, I’ve been interested in citizenship both as a formal category and as a more general question of civic belonging.” He has written about voting rights and taught classes on race, criminal justice and constitutional law. He, like Vivanco, is a strong believer in the liberal arts model of education, in “sitting in a room together talking and listening and writing and thinking about hard questions and solving problems.” But he knows there are genuine questions about the model that he hopes this seminar will help him address and articulate.

Ewald also sees a benefit in taking a role that’s closer to that of a student, a reminder of having someone else run the discussion, having someone else say, “good job” and realizing it feels good. “Or being ignored when you had your hand up,” he says. “Those experiences are often at least as valuable as some new thing I learned about John Locke.”

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