Dear Alumni and Friends,

At the University of Chicago, we take great pride in the fact that the most senior members of our faculty teach and advise students at all levels—from incoming undergraduates to doctoral candidates. Our students benefit, and so do the faculty members whose research is enriched by teaching. As any instructor will tell you, the opportunity to exchange ideas with a thoughtful group of students can prompt new insights and reveal surprising interpretations; a class in which the participants connect on multiple levels can be one of life’s most rewarding experiences, for both instructor and student.

This winter I will teach in the undergraduate Core for the first time since I became dean. In contrast to previous years, when I mostly taught seminars related to my expertise in Akkadian, I will be one of several faculty members leading a section of Reading Cultures—a yearlong sequence that uses literary and visual texts to explore how cultures transform. This will be a new course for me; in fact, I read some of the syllabus materials for the first time this past summer. Yet it presents an exciting opportunity to cover subjects outside my research area, to hone my skills as an instructor, to engage with a new group of students, and to ask vital questions relevant to all humanities fields.  

The emphasis UChicago places on introductory courses and senior scholars teaching in the Core demonstrates our commitment to building the foundational knowledge that is critical for our students’ success. In my elementary Akkadian course, students learn the cuneiform signs and basic grammar that allow them to read the texts and understand the nuances of these ancient documents. Similarly, first-year College students in Reading Cultures confront works of all kinds from different eras—folktales, novels, films, music—to develop the skills of interpretation and close reading that are crucial to humanities scholarship and to their future endeavors beyond the University.

We train the strongest scholars and citizens by giving them the strongest foundations. In this issue of Tableau you will find examples of students, faculty members, and alumni who are making distinctive contributions as teachers and researchers. Whether they work in a suburban community college, an archive in Berlin, or our campus language laboratory, they share a dedication to the pursuit of knowledge and to making an impact on the world. And for many of us, that pursuit begins when we engage with, inspire, and learn from the next generation of University of Chicago students.

With best wishes,

Martha T. Roth
Dean of the Division of the Humanities



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