Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University has just announced its selection of fifty 2016-17 fellows. I have learned so much from the scholars, scientists, and artists who gather at Radcliffe through producing 15 videos for the Institute in the past several years.
Interdisciplinarity is one of the key features of the Radcliffe experience. Each fellow is dedicated to their singular project but they meet for weekly lunches, work groups, fellows' talks, and lots of informal interactions. It has been fascinating to hear about law professors learning from literary critics, biochemists being inspired by composers, and writers gaining insight from scientists.
2014-15 Radcliffe Institute Fellow Ben Miller, a writer who explores urban Iowa, described the twice-weekly fellows' lectures as "a white river raft trip at high speed: knowledge is spraying in your face and you’re reacting to it, and you’re finding out about your own mind. I found things out here about my own mind at a rather advanced age – discoveries that were very nice to make."
Having a year to focus deeply on their independent project – with the support of the Institute and the inspiration of a diverse range of colleagues – seems to generate turning points for many of the fellows. Several talked about how useful it was to examine their narrow specialty through a broader lens. "All of us, whether we were artists or social scientists or humanities people, we're in the truth business," says 2014-15 Lisa Goldberg Fellow, John Tasioulas in our new video. "And it’s important to realize that there are different ways to get at those truths."