The College of Arts and Sciences (A&S) announced that Heidi Hehnly, Associate Professor of Biology, is the first Renée Crown Professor of Science and Mathematics and Karin Nisenbaum, Assistant Professor of Philosophy, is the first Renée Crown Professor of Humanities. The chairs are made possible by a generous gift from the family of esteemed alumni and trustee emeritus Renée Schine Crown ’50, H ’84.
In 2002, a contribution from the Crown family enabled an ambitious overhaul of Syracuse University’s honors program. Over the past two decades, Renée Crown University’s honors program has helped countless high-achieving students become socially conscious, globally informed leaders and find solutions to real-life problems. The Crown family has now renewed their commitment to the program with a donation to establish the Crown Honorary Professorships in A&S.
Hehnly and Nisenbaum were chosen for the new positions by a selection committee led by former dean of arts and sciences Karin Ruhlandt and Danielle Taana Smith, honors program director and professor of African American studies at A&S. Hehnly and Nisenbaum will each serve a three-year term, teaching honors courses and helping to guide honors students in their thesis research projects.
“The Chairs will provide an intellectual space in which honors students from diverse disciplinary backgrounds can pool their experiences to conduct research on interdisciplinary themes,” said Smith. “Students will engage with these themes by attending lectures given by scholars in their fields, embarking on experiential learning journeys, preparing academic and creative assignments, and disseminating their research, all under the direction of Professors Hehnly and Nisenbaum.”
Vice-Chancellor and Vice-Rector Gretchen Ritter says the new chairs will expand the interdisciplinary breadth and depth of the honors program.
“These new chairs enrich the experience of honors students through innovative learning approaches,” says Ritter. “We thank Renée, her husband Lester and the entire Crown family for establishing the Crown Honorary Professorships, which will ensure that the best and brightest professors have the time and resources to teach and mentor honored students. while continuing their cutting-edge research and scholarship.”
Hehnly and Nisenbaum’s proven track record in designing and delivering dynamic undergraduate college experiences, including research and professional development, makes them the perfect candidates for the new positions, says Acting Dean Lois Agnew from A&S.
“As Crown faculty, they will showcase the unique strengths of the honors program and continue to ensure that its curriculum exemplifies best practice and is fully aligned with the University’s academic priorities,” says Agnew. “We are thrilled that honors students can participate in new, innovative learning opportunities led by exemplary faculty such as Professors Hehnly and Professor Nisenbaum, who are leaders in their fields. »
An integrated approach to learning
Heidi Hehnly, a professor of biology at Syracuse University since 2018, specializes in the mechanics of cell division and how and when cells in the body choose to divide. Before coming to Syracuse, Hehnly was an assistant professor at SUNY Upstate Medical University.
With nearly $3.5 million in federally funded research grants from the National Institutes of Health and the Department of Defense, among others, Hehnly and his team members are addressing the urgent health needs related to brain disorders. development, genetic mutations and carcinogenic genes.
In addition to laboratory research, Hehnly has helped foster unique interdisciplinary learning opportunities for Syracuse students. She and Boryana Rossa, professor of film and media art at the College of Visual and Performing Arts, co-taught the university’s first bio-art course (Bio400/600 and TRM500) in spring 2022, where students in STEM joined art majors to create science. works of art based on their personal research interests.
Hehnly says integrated courses such as Bio-Art that combine techniques and insights from the sciences with the visual and textual expression of the arts are key to helping students understand and appreciate the natural world. By transforming biological samples into traditional illustrations, paintings, or murals, students can use art to bring abstract theories, such as cellular processes, to life. She aspires to incorporate similar courses into the Honors Program curriculum.
“One of the things I love most about being on a campus like Syracuse University is the interdisciplinary studies that can take place,” Hehnly says. “This chair gives me the time to make sure I can run a class like Bio-Art that integrates art into STEM-based learning.”
“This chair offers the opportunity to create welcoming courses for a wide range of students,” says Hehnly. “Whether they are interested in science, art, or both, students will gain a lot of experience in these courses with microscopy and other advanced biological techniques.”
Foster philosophical thought
Karin Nisenbaum has been a faculty member of the Department of Philosophy at A&S since 2021. Prior to joining Syracuse University, Nisenbaum was Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Colgate University (2016-21) and Boston College (2020-21 ), and a postdoctoral fellow at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem (2014-16).
His research focuses on topics at the intersection of metaphysics and ethics in Kant, German idealism and modern Jewish thought. More recently, she is the author of “For the Love of Metaphysics: Nihilism and the Conflict of Reason from Kant to Rosenzweig” (Oxford University Press, 2021).
Nisenbaum’s courses address questions such as: What is the ultimate goal of moral action? If we affirm the existence of God, what kind of arguments can we provide in support of the idea that God exists? What is the value of hope and how can we maintain it, especially when faced with evil?
During the 2022-23 academic year, Nisenbaum plans to teach two honors classes: Introduction to Ethics and Philosophy and Literature.
In Introduction to Ethics, students will face life situations that require difficult decisions and discuss how to answer questions such as: What is the morally right or wrong thing to do? What would a virtuous person do? What are my duties towards others? By being introduced to different ethical theories, thinkers, and concepts, students will challenge, defend, or clarify their own ethical beliefs, as well as those of others.
Philosophy and Literature will invite students to consider the philosophical significance of fundamental literary works such as Plato’s “Republic”..” In this dialogue, Nisenbaum says that Plato banished the poets from the ideal city and thus established the traditional separation of literature from philosophy, fiction from truth, and logical argument from persuasion. By examining the literary style of selected philosophical texts, Nisenbaum will ask students to consider how different modes of writing can answer traditional questions of philosophy and illuminate important features of human existence.
For Nisenbaum, exploring human experience with students is one of the most rewarding aspects of being a professional philosopher.
“Aristotle said that philosophy begins with wonder. But sometimes it can be hard to maintain that sense of wonder when I’m deep in the weeds of my own research or concerned about the job prospects of my graduate students,” she says. “My undergraduates help me focus on the big questions, like: what do I know? What should I do? What can I expect? What is man? These are the four most important philosophical questions, according to Kant.
Nisenbaum, who is currently working on a manuscript on perfectionism and the greater good in post-Kantian German idealism, considers it a privilege to work and interact with some of the most dedicated and accomplished students of Syracuse University. “I look forward to doing whatever I can to foster their intellectual development and personal formation, to help them contribute to our global society,” she says.
Through close faculty mentorship and meaningful collaboration and interaction with fellow students, Hehnly and Nisenbaum believe the Chairs will help honors students grow academically, professionally, and personally.
Learn more about Renée Crown University Honors Program.
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