A Word from the Chair
John P. Birkelund Distinguished Professor of European History and Professor of History and Professor of German Studies
My third and last year as chair was dedicated in large part to implementing the hiring plan agreed upon by the department in 2010. As a result of a successful search in the previous year we were joined this year by our new Medievalist, Assistant Professor Jonathan Conant. Two other searches launched last year were successfully concluded this fall: we will therefore be joined next fall by Professor Beshara Doumani as the new Director of the Middle East Center and as member of the department; and by Associate Professor Rebecca Nedostup as our new specialist in Modern Chinese History. Yet another search, launched this year, and efficiently conducted by Hal Cook, culminated in the hire of Assistant Professor Jo Guldi, who will join us in 2013 as our new expert of Modern British History, after spending her last year at Harvard’s Society of Fellows. Along with the Department of Portuguese and Brazilian Studies, we were also engaged in a search for a position in the “History of Portugal and the Portuguese Empire (15th-18th centuries),” ably chaired by Jim Green; we hope very much to make an appointment in the near future.
Other on-going recruitment efforts by the department may yet bear fruit even as we move into the next phase of implementing the hiring plan, currently being revised and updated under the firm direction of Hal Cook as chair of the Priorities and Planning Committee (PPC). These efforts to expand the faculty and bring in new, energetic, and diverse faculty members, in a variety of fields and interests, will clearly change the face of the department in the future. Unfortunately, we have also had to contend with the retirement of Engin Akarli, along with the departure, at the end of this year, of Elliott Gorn and Karl Jacoby. Following a year of leave, we will also bid farewell to Carolyn Dean. As we warmly welcome our exciting in-coming colleagues we wish the very best to our cherished departing colleagues in their new chosen paths.
The department also saw the implementation of our new graduate program, led by our intrepid Director of Graduate Studies, Robert Self. Thanks to a series of readjustment of the teaching program, negotiations with the Graduate Dean, mentoring of current and recruitment of prospective graduate students, the department can now boast an effective and streamlined graduate program at whose core are numerous superb students. In the next phase, we also hope to implement an entirely new MA program. The department also turned its attention to the undergraduate program, which has seen the combined effects of a cultural and economic shift that resulted in diminishing enrollments. We are now in the midst of redesigning our teaching program so as to better confront these challenges and enhance the interest of Brown’s students in history.
In all these undertakings the department has shown both great unanimity of spirit and a readiness to spend much time and energy on continually improving our collective scholarly and teaching profile. At the same time, our faculty have remained at the forefront of research and publication, thereby preserving Brown’s Department of History as one of the very best in the country. As I prepare to step down after three most rewarding, if rather exhausting years as chair, I salute my colleagues and wish us all a restful and productive summer.