Sosc prof leads collegium to bring foreign scholars to campus

In efforts to extend humanities and social sciences collaborations on campus and abroad, David Nirenberg will lead the new Neubauer Collegium.

By Jon Catlin

A new center for interdisciplinary research and collaboration will provide a physical meeting place for Hum and Sosc outside the Core.

The Neubauer Family Collegium for Culture and Society, which will start its programming in fall 2013, aims to increase the amount of joint research between U of C faculty and researchers abroad. The Collegium will be housed at the corner of 57th Street and Woodlawn Avenue in a building that the University purchased in early 2011 from the Meadville Lombard Theological Seminary.

To fulfill its mission, the Collegium will function on a grant system to host international conferences and offer fellowships for visiting scholars to teach and collaborate with Chicago researchers.

The initial idea for the Collegium sprang from Jim Chandler, the director of the Franke Institute for the Humanities, who observed a need among faculty for an “umbrella” of support for collaboration with a wider geographical scope and more long-term nature than Franke currently provides.

“Chicago generates an amazing number of ideas in the humanities and social sciences but has relatively little compared to its peers in terms of resources to bring scholars from other universities to campus, to help explore and disseminate those ideas,” said David Nirenberg, the Collegium’s founding director and a professor in the Committee for Social Thought.

In lieu of yet another independent humanities center, Chandler proposed a hub for humanistic research on a global level. The proposed Collegium then became a reality thanks to a donation from Joseph Neubauer (MBA ’65), a U of C trustee and Chairman of the Aramark Corporation, and his wife, Jeanette Lerman-Neubauer.

While emphasizing the U of C’s strong tradition in the humanities and social sciences in his push for the actualization of the Collegium, Nirenberg also cited its collaborative nature compared to similar centers of scholarship.

“Other places have institutes that bring people from abroad to do their own research. What we’re trying to create is a Collegium where people come to work with us, to work on a project that was born here or out of relationships our faculty have with researchers elsewhere, and carry out the exploration here,” he said.

With U of C development abroad, Nirenberg wants to bring research home. “You can’t think big at Chicago if you can’t think the whole world. So the Collegium is meant to do that—to let us here at Chicago think the whole world and bring the whole world here.”