IDST 397 Humanities Fellows Seminar
Spring 2019

Dr. Abigail Cheever

Associate Professor of English and Film Studies

Sarah Brunet 115


Collaborating faculty

Dr. Joanna Drell

Professor of History

Sarah Brunet 134


Dr. Nicole Sackley

Associate Professor of History and American Studies

Sarah Brunet 126




The Humanities Fellows Seminar is the first step in the Humanities Fellows Program, a full description of which can be found on the program website: The spring seminar and field experience in Washington D.C. bring together a selective, close-knit, and interdisciplinary community of students and scholars to investigate critical and contemporary questions about human experience from diverse perspectives. Together, we will:

  • Explore the topic of HUMAN MIGRATION. In spring 2020 we will focus on how the movement of peoples and contacts among cultures shapes human experience. Through a series of case studies that draw out the complexity of migration and our collective responses to it, the seminar will introduce the humanities as both a collection of disciplines of study and also a larger lens through which to approach questions both timely and timeless. Together we will:
    • Think substantively and deeply about a topic at the forefront of national and international debate that challenges our capacities to reason, understand, and find meaning in human experience;
    • Experience the breadth and depth of humanistic inquiry while learning research and analytic methodologies that are fundamental to humanities disciplines;
    • Develop skills in critical thinking, argumentation, collaboration, written and oral communications, and project development.
  • Develop an immersive summer project. The seminar provides an opportunity to apply for an A&S Summer Research Fellowship to conduct mentored research or creative work with a faculty member. Over the course of the seminar, Fellows will:
    • Conceptualize a project and conduct preliminary research/creative work, locate sources and hypothesize possible outcomes, and formulate a plan for research;
    • Identify and recruit a faculty mentor.
  • Investigate professional opportunities and careers. Fellows will consider how the skills and aptitudes cultivated in humanistic inquiry lead to meaningful and satisfying careers and postgraduate lives.  Fellows will:
    • Participate in A&S NEXT, meet with Career Services and fellowship advisors, and connect with humanities alumni to learn about opportunities available to humanities students in wide-ranging professional fields;
    • Articulate the vital skills developed in humanities fields and learn to match and market those skills to future jobs and careers.

Course Plan (What are we doing all semester?):

The course is structured around four case studies in Human Migration: the pre-modern Mediterranean, the Great Migration of African Americans from the rural south to the industrial cities, the contemporary European migration “crisis”, and Border Cinema from the United States and Mexico. Our weekly class sessions will entail a combination of activities. We will discuss readings and learn new research methodologies, work collaboratively on projects, hear presentations from humanities faculty around campus on the ways Human Migration informs their research and scholarship, and cultivate your skills as humanists.

Additionally, there are a number of co-curricular activities that will enhance and deepen our investigations. These are listed on the syllabus and below with links to details on the websites. 

A&S NEXT (January 24th – 25th) 

Walls, Borders, and Partitions in a Global Perspective (February 28th)

University Dancers 35th Anniversary Concert (February 28th – March 1st)

Washington D.C. Site Visit (March 28th – 31st)

A&S Student Research Symposium (April 17th)


Books and Readings:

There are four required books for this course. These will be available from the bookstore and other retailers. We may add a few more texts as the course continues.

Arnesen, Black Protest and the Great Migration (Bedford/St. Martins)

Ferguson, The Harlem Renaissance: A Brief History with Documents (Bedford/St. Martins)

Toomer, Cane (Liverlight)

Larson, Passing (Penguin)

All other required readings will be accessible on the course blog:  The password for the private sections of the blog is: humanities20! [Don’t forget the exclamation point!!]


Class Engagement: 20%

Primary Source Study: 10%

Paired Research Assignment and Blog Post 5%

Analysis Paper: 15%

DC Curation Assignment: 15%

Annotated Bibliography: 10%

Elevator Speech:  5%

Research Proposal:  20%


Classroom Guidelines:

  • Attendance. Students are expected to be in class and on time. We will begin promptly at 10:30 PM each Tuesday and Thursday. Please consume all foods before class. Having a drink with you will be fine.
  • Participation. Students will be assessed on the basis of “quality” participation, which entails active engagement in class. Active engagement entails both contributing to class discussion as well as being an active and respectful listener. (See the rubric at the end of this document.) We expect students to have completed assigned readings and/or assignments prior to the date for which they are assigned and to be ready to discuss them. We reserve the right to call on students as we see fit.
  • Technology: Given the nature of this course, we will allow, and even encourage, students to bring laptops/tablets to class. However, laptops and tablets are to be used for class purposes only. Please do not check email, update social media accounts, or surf the web during class. No cell phone use is permitted. Please silence all devices before we begin.

Additional Points to Remember:

  • Please use the restroom before class. It is disruptive when students leave in the middle of discussion.
  • Office hours are by appointment. The easiest way to reach me is via email. Please allow up to 24 hours for a response.
  • Email will be our primary form of out-of-class communication. Please be sure to check your email regularly and carefully.
  • Extensions on assignments will be granted if a) there is a valid reason and b) if you ask well in advance. Please don’t assume you have received an extension unless you have received an affirmative response to your request. Late assignments will be penalized by one grade (e.g. B to B-) for each 24 hours the assignment is late.
  • Please proofread any materials to be handed in. Points will be deducted for typographical errors.