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​Image credits: Blood test and cells: Photowitch@Dreamstime, Chaoss@Dreamstime; upper right: Birth of
Ecclesia with Chalice from Christ's Side, Detail from French Moralized Bible (Vienna Codex 2554), 13th
century; bottom: Detail of 6th-century BCE amphora, Sacrifice of Polyxena, Timiandes Painter
(British Museum).

​Interdisciplinary Faculty Seminar Focuses on Many Sides of ‘Blood’

Providence, R.I.—Seven Providence College faculty members are dedicating their scholarly and teaching efforts this semester to the study of “Blood.”

However, they are not just studying blood as it’s defined—the red liquid that circulates through the arteries and veins of vertebrate animals.

They are studying blood to understand how it’s portrayed in Socratic Greek thought and the sacrificial architecture of ancient Judaism; its central role in the Eucharistic traditions of medieval Christianity; how it has been employed in images, metaphors, and symbols by American poets; as it pertains to the status of vaccines for malaria; its co-opting for racist agendas; and how stem cell-derived blood cells for regenerative medicine offer scientific promise.

These are just a few ways the faculty members are studying blood as members of the 2012 Interdisciplinary Faculty Seminar (IFS).

Now in its sixth year, the IFS brings together up to eight faculty members from different academic disciplines in a collaborative teaching and learning experience annually. Participants devote an entire semester to a multidisciplinary study of a particular theme.

In its history, 46 faculty members have taken part in the IFS. Past seminars studied “Being Human,” “Color,” “Are We Free?,” “Beauty,” and “Relationships.”

The current participants are Dr. Joan R. Branham, professor of art history (seminar leader); Dr. Kathleen A. Cornely, professor of chemistry; Chard deNiord, associate professor of English; Dr. Ian Christopher Levy, associate professor of theology; Dr. Patrick J. Macfarlane, assistant professor of philosophy; Jane Lunin Perel, professor of English and women’s studies; and Dr. Charles R. Toth, associate professor of biology.

“Blessing to participate”

final-Macfarlane,Patrick09.jpgMacfarlane, the most junior member of the faculty serving on the IFS, called the opportunity to learn from colleagues from around campus “a gift.”

“All of them are accomplished scholars and teachers who bring their own particular expertise, but they are able to communicate that expertise in a genuine spirit of interdisciplinary exploration,” he said. “It’s a blessing to participate in the small, intense, and intimate setting of the IFS with such engaging colleagues.”

Branham agreed, saying the experience has been “exciting and energizing.”

“Discussion has been so lively and engaged that we have gone over time almost every week,” she said.

JB-FINAL.jpgBranham added that because the seminar participants represent diverse academic disciplines, the IFS has proven to be a “testing ground” for scholarly theories and teaching techniques.

“It’s a challenge to teach people from outside of your own discipline,” she said. “The IFS forces us to do this — mirroring what we do as teachers of undergraduates in some ways — but, here, with our very candid colleagues. It’s an honor to be teaching and learning in the group.”

Macfarlane said a major benefit of the IFS has been the connections he’s made, which have opened up more possibilities for cross-discipline collaboration and added classroom engagement.

“I’ve gleaned a lot of pedagogical insight from interacting with my colleagues, especially concerning an intellectually exciting seminar experience,” he said. “This might be the most important lesson that I’ve learned during my IFS experience.”

Cal-Davis Jewish History Professor to Speak as IFS Guest

Dr. David Biale, an expert in Jewish history who serves on the faculty at the University of California-Davis, will address members of the College Community on Thursday, March 22. Biale will deliver “For Blood is the Life: Jews, Christians, and the Meaning of a Bodily Fluid” as a guest of the IFS at 5:30 p.m. in the Feinstein Academic Center Room 400. A reception will follow in the Center for Teaching Excellence (CTE) in Feinstein Room 303.


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