Call for Faculty Proposals for 2021-22

A required part of the Brandeis Core, the First Year Experience includes a series of “Critical Conversations” based around a theme to introduce students to our academic community, to model the different types of intellectual inquiries available on the University Campus, to create a shared experience, and to invite students to think and talk about issues that are central to their educational development and the world around them.

In particular, Critical Conversations feature interdisciplinary conversations that highlight both the range and substance of intellectual activity on our campus, and the ways in which different disciplines present evidence and rhetorical arguments. Because diversity, equity, and inclusion are at the core of Brandeis’ history and mission, we value and are seeking participants with a variety of social identities as well as proposals that engage with ongoing conversations about diversity and social justice.


The Critical Conversations theme for 2021-22 is “Community.” We are calling for groups of three faculty volunteers (two presenters and one moderator) to participate in public conversations on the theme of “Community” to be scheduled in the early evening around the middle weeks of each semester, followed by opportunities to further engage with students in smaller settings (i.e., Small Group Discussions).

In addition to proposals to stage these public conversations for audiences of approximately 150-250 first year students and other members of the campus community, we are also interested in more experimental frameworks that encourage active student participation. Preference will be given to first time presenters.

We selected the theme of “Community” as we gathered together to think of our responsibility and responsiveness to one another, first, during the onset of the COVID-19 crisis and social isolation, and then during the #BlackLivesMatter protests as revelations of police brutality shocked our country and unveiled yet again structural racism and the inheritance of white supremacy. What a community is, what it does, and how it functions are among the many questions arising from the strain of our most recent and longest standing epidemics. While we are all members of overlapping communities of education, worship, cohabitation, race, and political affiliation, we too infrequently ask how we decide to structure our relationships, where our expectations for them come from, and how much we can hope to change them before they break.


We are interested in proposals from a range of academic disciplines that reflect on historical and current definitions of and inquiries into beliefs about the nature and operation of communities. 

For example:

We welcome proposals that pair discussants from different disciplines with a moderator from a third discipline, but we are also willing to hear from volunteers who want to be placed in a discussion if an appropriate topic and partners are available.

As discussed in the original Critical Conversations proposal, the moderator should plan to “interrupt” the conversation to help audience members notice rhetorical arguments or use of evidence, and to think about the argument/counter argument just presented.

Conversants might be asked if they would construct a written argument differently from an oral argument, or other such questions.

Proposals should be submitted online and should specify:

  1. The envisioned title of the Critical Conversation.
  2. The faculty participants.
  3. A two or three line description that would be shared with first year students and UWS instructors, and posted online.
  4. Any material or audiovisual needs.
  5. How the event supports the year’s theme.
  6. What you would hope for students to integrate from your presentation and argumentation into their writing.

For discussants, please include two to three sentences explaining what kind of a perspective you bring to your discussion of “Community”, what disciplinary framework your contribution will introduce, and what you think students may gain from the discussion.


Conversants will receive honoraria of $750 and moderators will receive $250.


Please submit your proposal by Dec. 4, 2020. Notifications for accepted proposals will be sent by the beginning of the Spring Semester.