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Academic Affairs presents new series

Evelyn Huang | Monday, November 4, 2013

Students now have an opportunity to hear from professors outside of the classroom through the First and Last Lecture Series.
The Department of Academic Affairs invites professors every semester to speak as if it were their first or last lecture at the University.
Sydney Zepf, the coordinator for Last Lectures, said this is a great way for students to learn from professors in a new way.
“We ask professors to imagine what they would say if they could only give one more lecture in their life, and then give them the opportunity to present it to students,” she said. “This lecture series is unique because it allows students to hear from professors about something other than the professor’s traditional area of study.”
Often, professors lecture on important lessons that they have learned throughout their careers, Zepf said.
“Professors tend to lecture about the ways that they have gained their success and important lessons that they have learned. However, the time of the lecture is completely theirs – we give professors no restrictions.”
While anyone can attend these lectures, the series serves as a connection between students and professors, Zepf said.
“This lecture series is beneficial for the ND community because it gives students an opportunity to take advantage of the knowledge of their teachers in a new way.  It also serves to bridge the gap between professors and students and to help students get to know their professors in a new way. Many professors have amazing stories that students just don’t get to hear in a classroom setting. “
These lectures are held twice a year, and anyone is allowed to attend, Zepf said.
The First Lecture series is a new addition to the Academic Affairs Department.
Timothy Kirchoff, the coordinator for First Lectures, said this series gives students the opportunity to listen to new professors talk about their fields of specialty, and why they came to the University.
“It seems to me that, when a professor comes to Notre Dame specifically in order to participate in Notre Dame’s mission as a Catholic University, we should take note of that in some way, and that is what the First Lecture is designed to do,” he said. “It is an opportunity for a professor to discuss their field of expertise and why they wanted to come to Notre Dame – to place their own work in the context of Notre Dame’s mission as an institution that seeks to bring faith and reason into conversation.”
The Notre Dame identity is an integral part of this series, Kirchoff said.
“Maybe this is a cliched line, but Notre Dame is a unique institution, and professors – like many students – come here believing that they can be part of something truly special. They are not just joining the faculty of one of America’s top universities, but the faculty of a uniquely Catholic university,” he said.
These lectures may also have many benefits for the future, Kirchoff said. Specifically, he said he hopes to see the First and Last Lectures set a precedent for student-professor engagement outside the classroom.
“If each individual First Lecture sends the message to the speaker that students are interested in this kind of engagement and encourages both the speaker and students to pursue it more deliberately, I would consider it a success. As a series, though, I would like the First Lecture to help both students and professors develop a deeper appreciation for and willingness to participate in Notre Dame’s unique identity and mission,” Kirchoff said.
The First Lecture series begins with a talk from Professor Deneen of the Department of Political Science on Nov. 11.