Ghosh named director of new Humanities Scholar Program

Durba Ghosh, professor of history and director of the feminist, gender and sexuality studies program in the College of Arts & Sciences, has been named the director of the College’s new Humanities Scholars program.

Ghosh said her professional and academic experiences have centered around the liberal arts — she attended a small liberal arts college as an undergraduate and then taught at small liberal-arts colleges before coming to Cornell.  

“These were really formative experiences for me,” Ghosh said.  “We — students and faculty alike — often think of small colleges as different from Ivy-league universities because of the size. With an 8:1 ratio of faculty to students — the same as many small colleges —  the College of Arts & Sciences offers the kind of undergraduate experience of a smaller school, except we are a university with a dairy bar and nearly 4,000 courses.”  

The Humanities Scholars Program, funded through a $6 million gift, aims to offer a curated small college experience with the substantial resources of an Ivy-league research university.  In the spring semester of their sophomore year, 30 students will be selected to join the program, where they will receive mentorship from faculty and postdoctoral associates; grants for research and internships; space in the A.D. White House for collaboration; and workshops on research topics and professional skills. Students will make use of Cornell’s extensive libraries, museums, archives and other special collections. It will be the first time that undergraduates will be immersed in the work of Cornell’s Society for the Humanities.

The program will also offer gateway courses that will provide a broad introduction to the humanities.

Ghosh is excited for the unique curriculum and academic freedom the program will provide for students. “I hope that the program provides students with the opportunity and support to pursue original research in the humanities,” she said. “The goal is to empower students to pose big questions and generate critical and informed responses that are based on rigorous research.”

This unique design of seminar teaching allows for more independence and student-led academic focus, Ghosh said.

“Most of us know that Cornell students are excellent students who can do the assignments we set for them, whether we ask them to take exams or write essays to the prompts that we as faculty generate,” Ghosh explained. “I am really looking forward to what happens when we offer students the opportunity to design their own humanities projects.”

The program is launching this school year, with gateway courses in both semesters and an application process for the first class of students in the spring. The first cohort of humanities scholars will begin their work next fall.

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