The campus was buzzing with anticipation of Homecoming Weekend, but before that fanfare, in a small corner of campus, another celebration was happening. The Proudian Interdisciplinary Scholars—an academic honors program with a reputation for dynamic outcomes—took a moment to mark its 40th year and celebrate those who helped it become and remain a reality.
Students, alumni, and faculty gathered at the University Club for the celebration. Proudian alumnus, former program student assistant, and current Alumni Outreach and Involvement Coordinator Joe Bruner ’16 championed the event because he and other scholars—past and present—wanted to see the interaction they enjoyed with peers during the program continue between current students and alumni.
“The program added a wide variety of views and diversity of ideas to my experience at U of R, and in it creative writing majors learned from math majors and literature majors debated with chemistry majors,” Bruner said. “A reunion this year and in future years will encourage the program’s community to stay connected.”
The Proudian (pronounced prood-ee-uh-n) program chooses a cohort each year of 12 to 15 sophomores who wish to explore interdisciplinary study as part of their U of R experience. Dr. Kathy Feeley, professor of History and program director, explains it best.
“Interdisciplinary study is experienced differently by each student, depending upon their scholarly training and interests,” she says. “Interdisciplinarity is the practice of bringing together the various disciplines to transform and/or transcend traditional intellectual boundaries and practices and to question, examine, and understand the construction of knowledge and therefore our understanding of the world.”
Feeley says Proudian is not the only program/department to support and promote interdisciplinary work. “What is unusual and highly prized about Proudian is that it provides a space for sustained engagement—across three academic years—of a cohort of intellectually ambitious and diverse students who might likely otherwise not encounter each other because of their widely divergent areas of study and extracurricular interests. Proudian creates an intellectual community that comes to mean so much because of the opportunity to learn together and work together inside and outside the classroom.”
The program’s seminar room—Hall of Letters 200—is home to much more than some shared classes. “It is where the scholars form lifelong bonds to each other and to intellectual ambition, bravery, and diversity,” she says. “Proudian prepares scholars for life beyond graduation in a variety of settings—industry, law, the clergy, education, politics, the arts, the media, the academy, publishing, the military—by providing them the intellectual, moral, and social ballast and skills to challenge the status quo and live productive, innovative lives.”
With a big smile and perhaps shedding a tear or two, Feeley, who currently serves on the Media and Visual Culture Studies Program advisory group and formerly served on the Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Program advisory committee, appeared nostalgic as she thanked the students, colleagues, and those directors who led before her—founding director Jim Hester, 1977-1982; Bill McDonald, 1982-1999; and Daniel Kiefer, 1999-2016.
McDonald noted that the climate in which the program began was much different from the current climate. “Interdisciplinary was kind of extra credit then,” he says. “Now it is the opposite.”
The recently selected Proudian Class of 2020 includes: Brandyn Alvarez, María Paula Cevallos Crespo, Margaret Eronimous, Drew Garbe, Rochelle Jordan, Jean Baptiste Kwizera, Maxine Mchunguzi, Giselle Martinez, Hiba Salih, Kristen Sauceda, Margaret Sherline, Hannah Shimizu, Tracie Spann, Sharon Tso, and Anastasia Wright.
A self-described “hungry learner,” Wright says she hopes being a Proudian Scholar provides her the chance to challenge herself: “I hope to become more comfortable with being uncomfortable in academic spaces. Sometimes I don't know the answers. I hope that this discomfort will fuel my desire to keep growing and absorbing information and ideas from my Proudian peers and elsewhere.”