Letter from IAS Director, Patricia Ingham

September 17, 2020

Dear Colleagues,

It’s a great pleasure to introduce myself to you in my role as the new Director of IUB’s Institute for Advanced Study. IU has given me the most incisive interdisciplinary intellectual community of my life, and as both a past recipient of IAS support and a member of the 2010 Remak Seminar, sponsored by the Institute, I am proud and honored to stand on the shoulders of past Directors.

On the one hand, I see myself as building on the work of an illustrious train of former directors—people like Henry Remak, Mary Ellen Brown, John Bodnar, and Eileen Julien. On the other hand, I have had personal experience of the extraordinary vitality of an interdisciplinary community during a residential year at the National Humanities Center in North Carolina. And so, I find myself very excited about the possibility of expanding such opportunities here on campus. IUB is filled with extraordinary researchers--and I see the IAS as an incubator for interdisciplinary exchange across the breadth of this amazing campus. I also look forward to continuing a number of the programs for which the Institute is known: the Repository Fellowships which support external scholars who want to come to Bloomington to work in one of our Libraries or specialized archives; the Remak Seminar and Distinguished Scholar lecture which brings prominent scholars, scientists, or artists fostering ground breaking collaborations; the interdisciplinary Branigan Lecture or Distinguished Wells Lecture; and some of the newer programs aimed at supporting the research of Associate Professors.

As to the immediate future, there are at least two things that I'd like to mention. Most immediately, I've decided to return the IAS to its role serving faculty at all ranks. We do remain committed to support for Associate Professors (particularly in coordination with the Office of the Vice Provost of Faculty and Academic Affairs in the Recently Tenured Working Group program). That said, our residential fellowship support will now be open to applications from research faculty at the assistant, associate or full levels. This is because I am committed to fostering interdisciplinary exchange across the ranks as well as the disciplines, and to bringing junior, mid-career, and senior scholars together whether in these residential fellowships or in seminars and symposia.

And on the topic of such workshops, I would like to announce the start of a new initiative, one we are calling "The Bloomington Symposia." These are meant to be cross-disciplinary events will bring together a 'team' of local scholars and researchers with a few invited outside scholars for a 2–3 day working group on a timely topic of mutual concern. I'm at present, priming the pump by organizing an inaugural Symposia convened under the title "Contagion," and at which we hope to feature scholars in Public Health and Epidemiology, of course, but also History, Philosophy, Sociology, Literature, Economics, or Art. My plan, which is based on interdisciplinary workshops I've led relative to my own field of Medieval Studies, will involve participants in collaboration on a common bibliography, read together in advance. At the workshop, members would share relevant examples, evidence, or artifacts from their own research specialty; and engage in common conversation about the diversity and range of disciplinary perspectives, and the methodological, conceptual and interpretative issues that emerge. Research outputs would vary depending on the resulting collaborations. I could see quite focused research inquiries resulting in white papers or collaborative publications; but I could also see other kinds of workshops that contribute to the cultivation of high level intellectual exchange on its own terms. I’d welcome your thoughts or questions about this new program. 

I also hope to continue the work begun already by past director, Eileen Julien and Associate Director, Suzanne Godby Ingalsbe, conferring with other such institutes located at other members of the Big Ten Academic Alliance. I think we can learn from the best practices at some of these similar organizations.

You may already know the signature advantages for faculty who engage and work with the IAS at IU, but let me list them, nevertheless. I want to reserve a word immediately for the marvelous IAS house, located at 624 E. 3rd street. The space itself is lovely and the offices and seminar room are both quiet--off the beaten campus path--and very near to the lively parts of downtown and the southwest corner of campus. We are very lucky to have such a hospitable and comfortable place--and once we are all back on campus full time, we look forward to continuing our in-person seminars, receptions, and workshops just beyond the French doors into our seminar room. One of the benefits of this space is that it is near to everything, but also stretches outside the units and departments in which faculty are appointed. This gives us all opportunities to connect to those you might not have occasion to come across on your normal teaching or research pathways.

I also hope to be available to faculty who wish to consult about the shape of an interdisciplinary project, about how or where to find the resources for your own work or how to promote collaborations that might not otherwise happen. And this year, in response to the felt need among researchers in the wake of our current distanced circumstances, we have reallocated some monies normally used for travel to provide additional sums for general research support. Applications for these monies are due October 1st, and the applications can be found on the IAS web page.

Finally, let me sing the praises of our incredibly impressive, and talented staff. In addition to Associate Director Suzanne Ingalsbe, Charlotte Forstall never ceases to amaze with her diverse, impressive talents in administration, organizational assistance, and graphic design. Faculty working at the Institute get to work with THESE amazing people, too.

I am really delighted at the opportunity to help facilitate the kind of sharp, engaging, entirely productive intellectual community that I have found for myself here at IUB. I look forward to coming to know this community all the better through the auspices of the IAS.


A photo of a signature that reads Patricia C Ingham
Patricia Clare Ingham
Martha Biggerstaff Jones Professor of British Literature
Director of IU's Institute for Advanced Study

The Institute's support of outstanding interdisciplinary scholarship provides a foundation for the intellectual vitality of our campus.

Catherine A. Pilachowski, IAS Advisory Board Member